CAPE MAY — The sea is too rough to sink a ship.
Rough seas have delayed the intentional sinking of the famed Coast Guard ship Tamaroa, which was scheduled to become an artificial reef 26 miles off the South Jersey coast Tuesday.
The 74-year-old ship was featured heavily in the book and film “The Perfect Storm” and is the last surviving vessel from the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.
A rescheduled date for the sinking has not been set. The earliest it could happen is late this week, state officials said Monday.
The 205-foot Tamaroa, which served the Navy under the name Zuni during World War II, will become part of the Del-Jersey-Land Inshore Artificial Reef.
The Coast Guard decommissioned the boat in 1994. Three years earlier, the ship’s crew saved seven people during two rescue missions near Massachusetts. The events formed the basis for “The Perfect Storm.”
Artificial reefs are used to attract fish, and subsequently fishermen and divers.
All manner of vessels have been used as reefs over the years, including a 1901 steamboat that later served as a floating Hooters restaurant on the Philadelphia waterfront and stainless steel New York City Transit Authority subway cars.
The state’s artificial reef program returned last year after a five-year hiatus prompted by the federal government’s concern commercial fishermen were impeding recreational anglers on the reefs.
Delaware officials said Wednesday the Tamaroa had been cleared for deployment after inspections by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Coast Guard.
Initially, officials from Delaware and New Jersey had said they were expecting to sink the vessel before the end of last year.
Work had to be done on the ship to remove interior paneling and insulation and to empty and clean the vessel of all fuel and fluids, according to a statement from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, which is the lead agency in the deployment.
Other military ships have been deployed at the Del-Jersey-Land reef, including the SS Arthur W. Radford, the Gregory Poole and the Shearwater, according to the DNREC.
Artificial reefs attract wildlife and become hubs for fishermen and divers, DEP spokesman Larry Hajna told The Press of Atlantic City in October.
“They allow a surface for barnacles, mussels and sea stars to attach themselves to,” Hajna said. “They, in turn, attract smaller fish that will sort of peck away at them.”