As the monument to their son sank, the spirits of Scott and Martha Harris soared.
“This is the happiest day I have had since Andrew died. I put on my Facebook page in capital letters: WE DID IT!,” said Scott Harris, speaking of his 26-year-old son who drowned June 8, 2014 doing what he loved — snorkeling in the Jupiter Inlet.
After two failed attempts, workers Thursday afternoon used a crane to lower nearly 40 concrete modules about 40 feet deep into the Atlantic Ocean about one-and-one-quarter miles northeast of the Jupiter Inlet. The artificial reef will attract fish and plants and be a destination for divers and fishermen.
“Joy. Overwhelming. Honored. Grateful. I felt so much love. This reef will forever honor our son,” Martha Harris said. The couple, along with several friends, was aboard the Kinzua. The 58-foot Hatteras, owned by the couple’s friend Dave Anderson, had a couple dozen spectators aboard to watch the lowering.
The mission to drop the modules — each about the size of a shower stall weighing between 4,000 and 6,000 pounds — came after two failed attempts, one on Wednesday and the other on Thursday morning. A north 2-knot current caused both tries to be abandoned.
Described as “a potato chip and peanut butter sandwich,” the modules have dozens of nooks and crannies to attract sealife. Made of cement and held together by fiberglass mesh, they also take pressure off natural reefs by giving anglers, divers and snorkelers another option for exploration.
“This area is a flat plane of bright, white sand. It’s a lot like the Bahamas,” said Scott Harris, standing on the rocking deck of the Kinzua. The sandy bottom was clearly visible in the 40-foot deep water.
Having the reef so close to shore gives both experienced and new divers an alternative to diving in the Jupiter Inlet, said Albrey Arrington, a diver and executive director of the Loxahatchee River District.
“The heavy boat traffic and strong currents make the Jupiter Inlet a very dangerous place to dive,” Arrington said.
The Harris reef is one of about 70 artificial reefs off Palm Beach County. Money raised through the Harris Foundation will be used to build more artificial reefs off Palm Beach County, Scott Harris said. The couple raised about $100,000 to build the Harris Reef.
Artificial reefs are a growing part of north county’s eco-tourism business, said Russ Ruskay, Jupiter’s director of business development.
“The more reefs are built the more divers will use our hotels, restaurants and beaches,” said Ruskay, who came out Wednesday for the first attempt to drop the modules.
Have a Jupiter issue you’d like to see The Post tackle, or a story idea? Contact Bill DiPaolo at BDiPaolo@pbpost.com.