Harbour Island, Bahamas is a beautiful place, full of colorful plants and brilliant sea life and sparkling waters. What, then, could this crude, dilapidated structure be doing standing in the waters some miles south of South Bimini? This eerie, intriguing wreckage belongs to the S. S. Sapona, a ship originally designed for World War I. While it departs dramatically from most people’s image of a tropical vacation, it’s actually quite popular for fishing and diving.
During The Great War, Woodrow Wilson ordered the creation of more ships to help with the war effort—due to the shortage of steel, ships like the S. S. Sapona were constructed out of concrete. However, she was finished too late to be much help to the war effort. Instead, she was sold to a Florida developer. Used to store oil, the owner had a plan to convert her into an offshore nightclub. But, he ended up selling her instead.
Bruce Bethel, a former captain, purchased the ship in 1924, and took her to the Bahamas to store a new kind of precious cargo: rum. Running rum during Prohibition was lucrative. Bethel too dreamed of turning the Sapona into a floating nightclub where people could enjoy liquor beyond the reaches of the 18th amendment, but Mother Nature had other plans: a 1926 hurricane ripped through the Bahamas, partially destroying the boat and running it aground.
The wreck finally served military purposes during World War II. Its damaged condition is not due only to neglect and erosion, but also to the target practice taken by ships and bomber planes during the 1940s.
Today, the Sapona has finally caught a break. She stands south of Bimini and is a popular destination for both tourists and locals for exploring the waters.
Swimming Off Sapona
Shipwrecks are famously beloved by sea creatures, who use them as makeshift habitats complete with hidey-holes for safety (or for ambushing prey). This makes the Sapona a great draw for those looking to play among the sea creatures. The water is rarely deeper than 20 feet here, and the currents are usually fairly weak. There are plenty of marine wildlife to come see, making it a great place to snorkel. It’s an especially great swimming spot for kids, who love exploring the old wreckage. Some fishermen take advantage of the high population of fish to go swimming nearby, although the wreck itself is often too populated by people to make good hauls there.
Behold the Bahamas
If you want to see all of this and more, take an extended stay in Harbour Island, Bahamas with a tropical rental home and live the tropical paradise life everyone dreams about. With our charming rentals, from six-bedroom homes great for families to seaside one-bedrooms perfect for honeymooners, there’s a rental for every need.
We’re native Bahamians ourselves, so count on us to get you the best spots in the islands. Book one of our incredible Bahamas vacation rentals today!