(Florida) — Despite a numbingly cold, murky-green Gulf of Mexico, the cremated remains of three people were laid to rest Monday in 42 feet of water 13 miles off Sanibel.
Divers James Sheehan and Kevin Kopas spent 139 minutes on the bottom, stacking concrete blocks that contain the remains to build what is now the first memorial reef of Poseidon’s Garden, a Cape Coral-based sea burial service.
For $1,800, people can can have their loved ones’ ashes mixed with cement and cast in 12-inch by 12-inch by 18-inch blocks.
Individual blocks are lowered to the sea floor and connected to others, creating artificial reefs of as many as 100 blocks.
“When you’re cremated and put in an urn, you don’t know where you’re going to end up,” Poseidon’s Garden founder Matt Blaisdell said. “But this way, you know you’ll be out there as long as the reef is out there.”
On Monday, memorial blocks contained the remains of Blaisdell’s parents David Blaisdell, who died in May 2009, and Gloria Pandelli, who died in June 2009, as well as a Massachusetts woman whose name Blaisdell would not release.
David Blaisdell came up with the idea for the company two years ago.
“He needed a liver transplant, and we thought he was dying,” said Matt Blaisdell, owner of Shining Spaces cleaning service. “Then he got better and said that when you’re that close to dying, you think a lot about life. He said he wanted to be put in the ocean after he died to create a reef.
“At first I thought it was odd, but then the idea grew on me. I like the idea of providing life after you die.”
When David Blaisdell’s health improved, father and son, along with David Blaisdell’s father Fillmore Blaisdell founded Poseidon’s Garden.
They started advertising and got their first client.
“But two weeks later, Dad died, and six weeks later, Mom went,” Blaisdell said. “So we put on the brakes and stopped marketing.”
Now, Poseidon’s Garden is back in business.
One at a time Monday, blocks were lowered from the charter boat Fish’n Xpress II out of Fort Myers Beach, and the two divers stacked them into a pyramid.
Monday’s deployment was 14 blocks, 11 of which contained no remains but were used to fill out the 1,800-pound, 4-foot-tall pyramid.
“It was pretty tough,” Kopas said of the diving conditions. “The visibility was not good, 3 to 4 feet, and the water was cold, 58 degrees. With the visibility, it was tough to find everything, but once we did, it went OK.”
Dumping material into the Gulf of Mexico without permits is illegal; Lee County holds state and federal artificial reef permits at 20 locations in the Gulf and Charlotte Harbor and is allowing Poseidon’s Garden to deploy memorial reefs at its Dean Hicks site.
“Anybody can say, ‘Hey, I’d like to put something down out there,'” said Mike Campbell, the county’s artificial reef coordinator. “But they have to comply with state and federal regulations on what you can put down. Not too many people say, ‘I’ve got a lot of stuff to put out, and I want to pay to do it.'”
Although Lee County staff was on site Monday, Poseidon’s Garden covers all costs of deployment.
“Technically, we don’t have to be here,” Campbell said. “But it’s in our best interest to make sure the reef is placed properly. As the permit holder, we’re liable for anything they put out here.”
When the new reef was in place, family members scattered red rose petals on the green water.
“Mom and Dad loved the ocean and the beach,” Blaisdell said. “This will be a place for divers and fishermen, anybody who loves the water. “In a few months, I’ll come check it out. That will be my certification dive, and I’ll see Mom and Dad again.”
For more information on the concrete reef visit http://www.poseidonsgarden.com/index.html