The SS Sapona: A Spooky Uncommon Attraction in Bimini
The Caribbean does not adhere to traditional Halloween tricks and treats. If you’re traveling during the Halloween season and want to get your fright on, though, there are lots of spooky attractions to choose from. The wreck of the SS Sapona is one of my favorites.
Built for Battle
A concrete cargo vessel designed by Henry Ford, the Sapona was originally commissioned by President Woodrow Wilson during WWI. (Steel was pretty scarce during the war, thus the choice for concrete.) The Sapona, though, wasn’t completed until 1920, long after the last WWI shots were fired.
For a time, the vessel was used to store oil. Famed South Florida developer Carl Fisher also owned it briefly. He planned to convert it into a private floating club in the Florida Keys. When that idea fizzled, Fisher sold the Sapona in 1924 to a mysterious one-armed man with a plan: Bruce Bethel.
SS Sapona Spirits At Sea
It was the era of Prohibition in the United States. Old Bruce was flourishing as a big-time rum runner in The Bahamas. With the Sapona, he aimed to expand his operations. More specifically, Bruce planned to use the ship as a massive floating liquor warehouse to supply rum and whiskey to the eastern United States.
Unfortunately for Bruce, though, the ship ran aground while being towed to Bimini. Undeterred, Bethel opted to turn the Sapona into a floating nightclub. No doubt, the attraction would have successfully lured many a drink-starved American across the scant 53 miles of open water separating South Florida and the Bimini Islands.
All Bethel’s plans changed in 1926, however, when a hurricane destroyed the Sapona. The storm split the stern from the rest of the ship. This ensured the vessel would remain right where you can find it today. Bethel lost all his booze, money, and the ship.
In an ironic twist of fate, the Sapona was later used for target practice by U.S. Armed Forces training during World War II. This, of course, contributed greatly to the Sapona’s hollowed, spooky appearance.
Visiting the SS Sapona
These days, the Sapona is mainly known as a prime spot for snorkeling. Maximum depths are only about 20 feet, visibility is good, and there’s tons of sea life both in and around the hull.
So yeah, snorkeling here is pretty ideal.
In terms of the spooky/creepy factor, it’s only amplified from the inside…
Pretty amazing how those massive wooden pillars have survived all these years despite the bombings and harsh sea conditions. As for the concrete, though, most of it is gone.
Atop the vessel, thrill-seeking visitors delight in leaping the 30 or so feet to the sea. On our visit, air horns would sound from pleasure boats anchored just off the wreck prompting each jump. In a country as flat as The Bahamas, this may be the best (only?) spot for any kind of cliff diving…
Back to the undersea fun, though, currents running through the Sapona during my visit were pretty slight. This made the snorkeling a breeze, even with one of my nine-year-old twins in tow. You’ll want to be wary of jellyfish that tend to congregate here, though. You’ll also want to bring along some old stale bread to feed the fish. My friend, Leann, was sharp enough to remember, providing a cool little show for the kids.
The SS Sapona is almost impossible to miss if you’re traveling to Bimini island in The Bahamas by boat. It sits off the southern coast of South Bimini Island, roughly three nautical miles from the shore. Check it out for unique snorkeling, the popular dive spot it’s become, and a history lesson with just a tad tinge of spooky intrigue.