Palmetto Bay resident Jana Sheeder, who teamed up with renowned marine artist Guy Harvey to sponsor mooring buoys in Biscayne Bay, was honored during a cocktail reception and lecture on Thursday, Apr. 9, at the University of Miami’s Marine Science campus on Virginia Key.
The Miami Dade Reef Guard Association and Miami-Dade County’s office of Environmental Resources Management (DERM) hosted the event that was attended by more than a hundred people.
The lecture by Professor Michael J. Beach focused on the history of the schooner-yacht Germania, a two-masted, 366-ton steel vessel built in 1908. It was a wedding gift from Bertha Krupp, daughter of the shipyard owner, to her husband, the Count von Bohlen und Halbach.
It had just arrived in England for the 1914 Cowes yacht races when World War I was declared and her captain was ordered to return home by the Imperial German Navy. He put into Southampton for water and the yacht was seized immediately as a prize of war by British Customs officials. Auctioned off and renamed Half Moon, it was caught in a violent storm off Cape Charles, VA in 1922 and nearly sank. Bought by a new owner it was towed to Miami to be used as a floating restaurant and dance pavilion, moored on the Miami River.
It endured the hurricane of 1926 but was damaged and sank in the river shortly after. Soon raised, it was acquired by Captain Ernest D. Smiley of Miami, who moored it to an offshore reef and used it as a fishing barge and cabaret (reportedly a prohibition- era speakeasy). In 1930, during a severe storm, Half Moon broke free, ran aground on a shallow sandy shoal off Key Biscayne at the entrance of Bear Cut, and sank. It became an artificial reef.
Jana Sheeder’s company, 1-800 Yacht Charters, and the Guy Harvey Foundation joined forces to sponsor reef buoys above the wreck for the use of pleasure boaters and divers. In an eerie coincidence, one of the new vessels available for charter through Sheeder’s travel company is the S/Y Germania Nova, an exact replica of the 1908 schooner that was built to the original blueprints and that has brought the glory of a bygone era back to life.
“I was so thrilled to discover the connection,” Sheeder said. “Protecting our local reefs was our primary priority, but I’m still amazed at the serendipitous way we got involved. I recalled someone in our office thought the original yacht sank during a storm in Miami. So we did some research, located the wreck of the Germania and reached out to the folks at Reef Guard to sponsor the two mooring buoys currently located above the wreck.
“It was great to share photos of our ‘new’ yacht Germania Nova, and compare them with archive photos of the original Germania.What a fun, unique opportunity to educate local residents about a piece of Miami’s history,” she said.
Maintaining the buoys is costly and the help is appreciated, according to Jason Bacon, treasurer of the Miami Dade Reef Guard Association.
Dean Klevan, board member of the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation addressed the group about the charitable work done by the famed marine artist and praised the efforts of the Miami Dade Reef Guard Association. “We believe firmly in these buoys,” Klevan said.
“We believe they should be throughout the Caribbean. So I commend you for what you’re doing and we will continue to support you.”
Sheeder said that the reef buoy project especially appealed to her because of what it meant to the area.
“Being in the private yacht charter industry, we’ve come to understand the importance of protecting our coral reefs and the need to establish artificial reefs,” Sheeder said. “Reefs generate tourist dollars via recreational fishing and diving and provide a valuable habitat for fish and other marine life.
“Our goal in sponsoring these buoys is to provide recreational boaters with a safe way to visit the reefs without causing any damage to the ecosystem,” she added. “Because our company gives back with every yacht charter and our clients wanted to protect the ocean, this was a winwin situation for taking care of the reefs and making a difference.”
For more information visit www.reefguard.org.