Finz Wreck Dive is the best way to experience our amazing artificial reefs. Key West is home to the second largest artificial reef in the world. USNS Hoyt S Vandenberg. At over 520 feet long and 70 ft wide she is the most popular wreck in the lower keys and the favorite of our crew. The main deck is at 100ft and is the perfect depth to utilize Nitrox on your dive. The satellite dishes are mostly intact and huge! Fish life is abundant and the wreck is filled with species only seen on deeper dives. Sharks are often seen on our dives along with Goliath Grouper, Rays, Barracuda, and many other species.
Finz is the fastest dive boat in Key West so we are usually the only ones on the wreck on our first dive of the day. The first divers on the wreck get to see the wildlife undisturbed. Thousands of divers have explored the wreck since 2009 when she was sunk and is a must dive.
Nighttime Wreck Diving
Most of our divers choose the reef for the night experience but if you are advanced open water certified or higher we offer a night dive on our flagship wreck, The Vandenberg! This is an experience like no other. The current moves water across the many structures on the wreck and lights it up with the natural bioluminescent. It is impossible to describe the beauty of this dive. When the crew of Finz want to go out for a night dive we almost always choose the Vandenberg as our destination. Come experience it for yourself.
The following shipwrecks compose the Florida Keys Shipwreck Trail and can be explored in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary & the surrounding area:
The second largest vessel intentionally sunk as an artificial reef is the latest addition to the “wreck trek,” the 524-foot General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, a decommissioned Air Force ship that once tracked Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space launches off Florida. It saw cinema duty as a Russian science ship in “Virus,” a 1999 release starring Jamie Lee Curtis, William Baldwin, and Donald Sutherland. The $8.6 million ship-to-reef project was completed May 27, 2009, when the Vandenberg was sunk about seven miles off of Key West. The bottom of the ship’s hull rests on sand in depths that average 145 feet. But the ship is so massive that the superstructure begins about 45 feet below the surface.
Today, the Cayman Salvage Master is considered one of the more popular sites when scuba diving Key West. The benefits are that she sits at a reasonable diving depth, in upright and good condition. Coral is developing on the ship and a vast assortment of tropical and Florida game fish frequent this artificial wreck. Several large goliath grouper and moray eels have also set up permanent residence in her hulking mass of steel. Even though this Key West diving site is extremely popular with anyone Key West wreck diving, it’s reserved for the advanced or technical diver due to the proximity to the Gulf stream, which means the currents will be strong and unpredictable. Plus, there are still obstructions that can entangle a Key West diver, even though the ship is intact and was properly cleaned.
This old vessel, Joe’s Tug, a 75′ shrimp boat located 6 miles south of Stock Island suffered considerable damage after Hurricane George swept through the area in 1998. The strong winds and waves eventually broke the old shrimp boat apart, and the remnants of the bow and stern are positioned about 30 feet apart. The ship sits upright, so even though the wheelhouse has decayed somewhat, Key West divers can easily access it along with the aft deck and hull. The abundant variety of marine life and the clear water is one of the reasons she’s a popular dive site for avid underwater photographers.
The Amesbury was built for military combat and is better known in Key West as Alexander’s Wreck. A former destroyer escort that is broken into two sections 200 yards apart, it lies five miles west of Key West in 25 feet of water.
To the west of Looe Key in the Lower Keys lies the 210-foot freighter Adolphus Busch Senior. Since Dec. 5, 1998, divers have been exploring this artificial reef approximately five miles southwest of Big Pine Key.
A wreck believed to be the North America lies in 14 feet of water on Delta Shoals east of Sombrero Light. The ship was lost Nov. 25, 1842, while carrying dry goods and furniture.
The Thunderbolt was donated to the Florida Keys Artificial Reef Association by Florida Power and Light Co., which purchased the vessel in 1961 for use in researching electrical energy and lightning strikes – hence its name. The Thunderbolt lies in 120 feet of water four miles south of Marathon and was intentionally sunk March 6, 1986.
Located off Marathon, the Thunderbolt’s superstructure is coated with colorful sponges, corals, and hydroids, providing refuge and sustenance to large angelfish, jacks, cobia, tarpon and a variety of deep-water pelagic creatures.
The three-masted bark Adelaide Baker lies south of Duck Key in 20 feet of water. The ship also is called the Conrad.
The Eagle, a cargo transporter, was sunk as an artificial reef in 1985. It lies off Islamorada’s Lower Matecumbe Key in 110 feet of water.
The San Pedro was a member of the 1733 Spanish treasure fleet and is the oldest wreck on the Florida Keys Shipwreck Trail. It is located off Islamorada’s Indian Key in 18 feet of water. Early shipwreck salvors known as wreckers inhabited Indian Key in the early 1800s, finding it a convenient midway station in the chain of islands and a safe harbor in bad weather.
Off the coast of Key Largo in 25 feet of water is the City of Washington, a two-masted sailing vessel used for passenger transport and cargo trade between New York, Cuba, and Mexico. It sank July 10, 1892.
The Benwood, a merchant marine freighter, also lies off Key Largo in 25 to 45 feet of water. It sank in 1942 after a collision with another vessel. Both were traveling without any lights as a precaution during World War II blackout conditions.
Two significant artificial reefs located in the sanctuary beckon divers as well. The Spiegel Grove, a 510-foot Navy landing ship dock, is the third largest ship ever intentionally sunk to create a new reef for divers. Positioned about six miles off Key Largo in 130 feet of water, the ship has attracted divers, fish and other marine life since its sinking in May 2002.
The Duane, off Key Largo in 120 feet of water, was named for Secretary of the Treasury William L. Duane, who served under Andrew Jackson. The vessel was sunk as an artificial reef Nov. 27, 1987.