LEE COUNTY, Fla. - Outstanding visibility and proximity to another popular dive site are what make the Pegasus Southwest Florida's number one dive site, according to WINK viewers and News-Press readers.
WINK News meteorologist and resident diver Katie Walls and News-Press partner Kevin Lollar plunged 90 feet below the surface to the Pegasus. Fourteen years on the Gulf floor have taken a toll on the 110-foot steam tugboat, but her deterioration and evolution make the ship even more alluring.
"It just looks like a good ol' shipwreck. It's coming apart a little bit but has a spooky factor," said Lollar, who was one of the first divers on the Pegasus after her deployment July 9, 1999. "It's a pretty vessel. It was pretty before it went to the bottom, and it's still very pretty."
According to Steve Boutelle with Lee County DNR, the Pegasus was built in the late 1920s and served in New York Harbor as a steam tug. As technology transitioned away from steam, she was retired and spent time in Miami as a dinner boat. Her tenure ended in Matanzas Harbor as a ticket booth for a casino boat. After the casino boat stopped running, the Pegasus began accumulating dock fees. Dock fees were waived in exchange for the owner donating the boat to Lee County to become an artificial reef. Hundreds of volunteer hours helped prepare the ship for deployment. Any bills were covered by boater registration fees.
Lynne Casey, Vice President of the Caloosa Dive Club, has completed three dives on the Pegasus, each better than the last.
"I was very surprised to see the pink coral there and how much is on the Pegasus...it was awesome," said Casey.
Large openings in the deck allow advanced divers to enter the interior and explore what is left of the Pegasus.
"There are a couple spots where you can swim in, and you can see your way out. Openings are very big on both sides, so you can go in and come out without worrying about getting lost or hung up," said Lollar.
The Pegasus is far enough offshore, 30 miles from Red Fish Pass, and in deep enough of water, 90 feet, that visibility more often than not is outstanding. Plus, just 500 feet from the Pegasus is the USS Mohawk CGC Veterans Memorial Reef, southwest Florida's fastest growing artificial reef.