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Mexican Navy ship to become Baja’s first artificial reef



artificial reef

Divers plan to sink former Mexican naval vessel off the coast of Rosarito Beach

For three decades, the Uribe served as a patrol boat for the Mexican navy. Now, the 220-foot vessel has a new destiny, 90 feet under the sea, as Baja California’s first artificial reef.

After six years of knocking on doors, filling out permits, commissioning studies and raising funds, Francisco Ussel and fellow members of Baja California’s diving community are preparing a major step forward: sinking the ship off the coast of Rosarito Beach on the 21st November.

Scientists estimate it will take at least two years for a full-blown underwater habitat to develop on and around the vessel, with kelp, strawberry anemones, octopus, lobsters, and schools of fish.

“The sinking of the ship will be the beginning of a dream,” said Ussel, a 60-year-old architect and Tijuana restaurateur, who is president of Baja California Divers.

The long-term vision is the creation of an underwater park that would be the centerpiece of a new tourism sector for Baja California, bringing in visitors during off-peak months, fall through spring, when the conditions are best for diving. The natural market would be Southern California divers.

In planning the Uribe’s sinking, the Baja California diving community found a strong ally in San Diego’s scuba diving community: Dick Long, former president of the California Oceans Foundation, and founder of Diving Unlimited International. An early adviser to Baja California Divers, he continues to champion their efforts.

“People are going to see Mexico as a place other than to drink margaritas,” said Long, whose group was behind the sinking of the Canadian destroyer HMCS Yukon off Mission Beach in July 2000. “It’s going to bring tourism to Mexico.”

According to California Ships to Reefs, an organisation that promotes the creation of artificial reefs, the Yukon brings an estimated $4.5 million a year to the San Diego economy, as visiting divers book local hotel rooms, dine at restaurants, and rent boats and diving gear.

The Uribe was named for Virgilio Uribe, an 18-year-old Mexican sailor who died in 1914 while defending Veracruz against U.S. occupation. Built in Spain, the vessel suffered irreversible damage to its bridge and other areas during a fire in November 2011. Ussel, who also heads the Artificial Reef Foundation of Baja California, was able to secure the donation of the ship to Rosarito Beach, which is lending it at no cost to the foundation.

So far, the foundation has spent more than $600,000 toward the sinking of the Uribe. Just moving it from the mainland port of Manzanillo cost approximately $100,000. A good portion of the funds have paid for scientific studies of the area to determine the most suitable location for the ship’s sinking.

The Uribe’s steel hull will rest about two miles offshore in an area of fine sand and mud, in Bahia El Descanso off the community of Puerto Nuevo, said Luis Alvarez, an oceanographer with the Ensenada Center for Scientific Research and Higher Education, or CICESE. To determine its suitability, scientists studied a wide range of other factors, including depth, incline, turbidity, the strength of currents, and the direction of waves.

The project has also awakened the interest of CICESE researcher Victoria Diaz. A specialist in benthic zones, a term describing the lowest levels of bodies of water, Diaz plans to follow the development of the reef around the Uribe.

“It’s an interesting project, because it will attract tourism, and give us a chance to study how the reef is colonized,” Diaz said.

Support from all levels of government – federal, state and local – has been critical to the project’s progress, Ussel said.

Baja California Gov. Francisco Vega de Lamadrid, a certified open-water diver, was quick to back the ship’s sinking, and the state’s tourism, economic development and fishing secretaries all have lent support.

The city of Rosarito Beach, whose economy is heavily dependent on tourism, has been the strongest champion, Ussel said, as successive mayoral administrations have embraced the project. Under current Mayor Silvano Abarca, the city has contributed more than $300,000, said Juan Tintos, a former Baja California tourism secretary who is now an adviser to the city.

“It’s been a learning experience,” said Tintos. “We’ve never sunk a ship in Baja California before. We’ve never promoted scuba diving before.”

The vessel’s sinking would be only the first step. Ussel and his fellow divers are planning a 100-acre underwater park, with a ship graveyard in the deepest section that would feature the Uribe and three other vessels. A shallower section would be covered with pyramids, busts and statues to evoke a pre-Hispanic Atlantis. Another would pay homage to the Titanic, with chimneys, propellers and other pieces of wreckage. A museum on shore would allow non-divers to learn about the project.

Ussel said his love for the ocean dates to his Mexico City boyhood, when he read Jules Verne’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” He has lived in Baja California for 33 years, but it wasn’t until 18 years ago that he made his first dive and got hooked.

He recently celebrated his 60th birthday by scuba diving in Acapulco and traveled with his wife to dive in Florida’s Key West to celebrate their 40th anniversary.

“It’s a passion to see this growth, to see these fish, to see the colours, to see God’s hand here,” he said.

Ussel said the project has already sparked interest in promoting scuba diving. Hotels are offering packages that include trips to dive in the Coronado Islands. Rosarito Beach has seen the opening of its first dive shop, and a hotel owner is planning to build a marina to serve tourists who come to dive.


Photo: John Gibbins


WIN a Beuchat Air Light Bag!!!



For this week’s competition, we’ve teamed up with our good friends at Beuchat to give away an Air Light Bag!

The Air Light Bag from Beuchat is a practical travel bag that takes up minimum storage space.

  • Material: 600 denier and 1,000 denier nylon/PVC
  • Soft roller bag, easily stored in its mesh bag
  • Internal retaining straps
  • Zip fastener with eyelets for padlocks
  • Side compartment for fins
  • Outer document pocket with coated zip and carry strap
  • Backpack style straps concealed behind the foam back-plate
  • Drainage vents
  • Red over-moulded wheels; detachable wheel block

To be in with a chance of winning this awesome prize, all you have to do is answer the following question:

In a recent post on (which you can read here), we reported that the Philippines have been recognised as the World’s Leading Dive Destination at the 27th World Travel Awards. In the article it states how many islands make up the Philippines… how many are there?

Is there:

  • A) 7,209
  • B) 7,532
  • C) 7,641

Answer, A, B or C to the question above:

Beuchat Air Light Bag December 2020

  • Enter the country you live in
  • Terms and Conditions: This competition is open to all visitors to except for members of the Scubaverse team and their families, or employees of Beuchat and their families. A valid answer to the competition’s question must be entered. If no valid answer to the competition’s question is entered, your entry will be invalid. Only one competition entry per entrant permitted (multiple entries will lead to disqualification). Only one prize per winner. All prizes are non-transferable, and no cash alternative will be offered. In the event that the prize cannot be supplied, no liability will be attached to When prizes are supplied by third parties, is acting as their agents and as such we exclude all liability for loss or damage you may suffer as a result of this competition. This competition closes on 13/01/21. The winner will be notified by email. The Editor-in-Chief’s decision is final.

  • The following fields are optional, however if you fill them in it will help us to determine what prizes to source in the future.

  • Date Format: MM slash DD slash YYYY
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Gear News

Quick Scuba Tips #1: How To Prep A New Mask for Scuba Diving (Watch Video)



How To Prep A New Mask for Scuba Diving. Can’t I just take my new mask diving straight out of the box? Well, actually, no. It needs a little work to make it dive ready.

In this, the first in our new scuba diving quick hints and tips series, I’m going to show you how to prepare a new mask for scuba diving with three quick techniques, all aimed at stopping your scuba mask from fogging.

Yes, this link is an affiliate link. Purchases made through these links may earn me a small commission at no extra charge to you.

Dive safe, dive often!


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Sharks Bay Umbi Diving Village is a Bedouin-owned resort with stunning views and a lovely private beach. It is ideal for divers as everything is onsite including the resort's jetty, dive centre and house reef. The warm hospitality makes for a diving holiday like no other. There is an excellent seafood restaurent and beach bar onsite, and with the enormous diversity of the Sharm El Sheikh dive sites and the surrounding areas of the South Sinai, there really is something for every level of diver to enjoy.

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