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Local Dive Sites

Pensacola is one of the hidden secrets of diving. Offering 100's of sites ranging from historic wrecks, planes, tanks, natural bottom reefs to modern reefing in the form of rubble and substrate from local bridges and piers and the largest artificial reef in the world the USS Oriskany.

Below is a list of some of the most popular dive sites and some of our personal favorites at Bay Breeze

For a list of artificial reefing with GPS coordinates CLICK HERE for the Escambia County artificial reef list.

 

Dive Spots:

Brass Wreck

This wreck is an unidentified 250 foot wooden hulled schooner from the 19th Century. The remains of the ship lie in 90-95 feet of water about 15 miles ESE from Pensacola Pass. The wreck's name comes from the many large brass pins that stick out from the ship's ribs like tree limbs. Based on the size of the ship, it is believed that the vessel once weighed over one thousand tons and had four masts.

The wreck includes the ships iron ribs, ballast, four-by-eight windlass, a pile of chain, and two large anchors. Flounder, grouper, and snapper swim amongst the wreckage while amberjack and barracuda linger above. This is a popular spot because of the variety of marine life.

Waypoint: BRASSWLatitudeLongitude
Degrees 30.2142166666667 -87.0536
Degrees/Minutes
N 30 12.853
W 87 3.216
Degrees/Minutes/Seconds
N 30 12 51.180
W 87 3 12.960

 

 

Catherine

The Catherine was a three-masted ship built in Canada in 1869. She was nearly 200 feet long and over 30 feet in beam. The ship was originally named Eliza and made commercial journeys out of New Brunswick. She was sold to a Norwegian firm in 1890 and continued as a merchant vessel, but under the new name of Cathrine. The records of the ship show her name spelled as Catherine or Catharine also.

In August of 1894, the Catherine ran aground offshore of Santa Rosa Island. Her crew of 17 was safely rescued but the boat was too damaged to ever sail again. Some fittings and riggings were removed by salvors before the surf finally pulled the vessel underwater. She now rests in about 15 feet of water, 1000 feet out from Fort Pickens. A 30-foot section of bronze-plated hull is usually visible as it protrudes about five feet out of the sand. The amount of debris visible nearby changes as storms and tides move the sand.

The waters in which Catherine rests are part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Since 1994 the State of Florida and the University of West Florida have worked together with the national park to investigate this wreck along with another much older wreck on the inshore side of Santa Rosa Island.

Although some strong swimmers may be able to reach this divespot swimming from shore, it is recommended to take a boat to the site. The tidal currents and surge are strong in this area and boat traffic is often heavy.

Waypoint: CATHSRLatitudeLongitude
Degrees 30.3118333333333 -87.2656666666667
Degrees/Minutes
N 30 18.710
W 87 15.940

 

 

Chevron Oil Rig

 In 1979, petroleum companies began a "Rigs to Reef" program in which retired natural gas and oil structures (platforms) were placed in designated offshore sites to create artificial reefs. The open structure of these old rigs have proved to be very effective in attracting fish.

The Chevron rig is two platform jackets that were donated by the Chevron Oil Company and deployed in 1993. The two sections sit side by side at a depth of 137 feet. The structure rises 50-80 feet off the bottom. The structures attract a tremendous amount of marine life making it a spectacular dive and fishing site as well as a favorite for lobster hunters.

Waypoint: CHVOILLatitudeLongitude
Degrees 30.0707333333333 -87.0353
Degrees/Minutes
N 30 4.244
W 87 2.118
Degrees/Minutes/Seconds
N 30 4 14.640
W 87 2 7.080

 

 

 

Joe Patti Barge Memorial Reef

The Joe Patti barge was successfully deployed on July 31, 2013 by Walter Marine/Reefmaker. Deployment took place approximately three miles east of the Pensacola Pass. This location is not far from the beach in 50' of water and is about 35' to the top of the wreck. The 180' barge was covered with artwork to create an underwater art gallery that will make this dive a little more interesting for both beginner and seasoned divers. The barge is also close enough to the beach for kayaks to use.

Waypoint:LatitudeLongitude
Degrees    
Degrees/Minutes
 N 30 17.330
 W 87 13.755

 

 

Liberty Ship- Joseph Meeks

The Joseph L. Meek, a 480 foot long Liberty ship, was built for the Maritime Commission by the Oregon War Industries Ship Building Company in 1942. She was of the many "Ugly Duckling" ships rapidly constructed in civilian shipyards during World War II. Liberty Ships were used to transport troops and cargo to the Allied Forces in Europe. The Joseph L. Meek was launched on November 16, 1942 and became part of the James River Reserve fleet.

In 1976, she was removed from service and sunk as an artificial reef by the Department of Commerce. The Joseph L. Meek now rests in 95 feet of water seven miles out of Pensacola Bay. The ship sits upright with her sides rising 20 feet off the bottom. Many large game fish inhabit this area making it a popular spot for fisherman.

Waypoint: JLMEEKLatitudeLongitude
Degrees 30.2730666666667 -87.1595666666666
Degrees/Minutes
N 30 16.384
W 87 9.574

 

 

Pete Tides II

n 1993, the 180-foot long oil field supply boat was sunk by Escambia County as an artificial reef. The ship sits upright on the bottom in 102 feet of water approximately 12 miles south of Pensacola pass. The ship's tower rises to 60 feet.

This site is home to large schools of snapper, grouper, and amberjack. Divers can also find the occasional dolphin, wahoo, and blackfin tuna swimming nearby.

Waypoint: PETETDLatitudeLongitude
Degrees 30.146 -87.2336666666667
Degrees/Minutes
N 30 8.760
W 87 14.020

 

 

Russian Freighter/San Pablo

The SS San Pablo was a refrigerated cargo steamer built in Belfast, Ireland in 1915 and was owned by the United Fruit Company and was part of the "Great White Fleet". She was 315 feet long, 44 feet wide, weighed 3300 Gross Tons and had a service speed of 15 Knots. The San Pablo typically operated in the Caribbean transporting fruit but also had many stops at Ellis Island in the Mid-1920's. Like many vessels of the merchant fleet during WWII she fell prey to a German U-Boat (U-161 sank her with 2 torpedoes) and was sunk while at pier in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica on July 3, 1942. In early 1943 the San Pablo was raised and then towed back to the US. From here the story gets sketchy, she either sank inadvertently while being towed in for repairs or was used as target practice by the US Army.

The San Pablo commonly referred to as the Russian Freighter (Know one's sure how she came to be known as this) now sits in 75-85 feet of water approximately 9 Miles South of Pensacola Beach. Her wreckage is very scattered and her boilers which are still recognizable are one of her most recognizable features. The wreck holds a lot of fish and is favorite among Photographers and Spearfisherman. Care should be taken when diving this site as it can be easy to become disoriented in lower visibility without site of the boilers. Visibility usually ranges from 20-80 feet.

Waypoint: SANPABLatitudeLongitude
Degrees 30.1888166666667 -87.2181333333333
Degrees/Minutes
N 30 11.329
W 87 13.088

 

 

Sylvia

Sunk in 1990 as part of the Escambia County Artificial Reef Project, this 65-foot long tug boat sits on the sandy bottom in 82 feet of water, eight miles south of Pensacola pass. As of 2002, the wheelhouse and upper deck have disappeared according to the Escambia County Marine Resources Division.

Fish swim in abundance around the wreck, greeting divers as they approach the ship. The sand surrounding the wreck is littered with starfish, shells, and sand dollars. The Sylvia is said to be one of the best dives in the Pensacola area.

Waypoint: SYLVIALatitudeLongitude
Degrees 30.185 -87.2366666666667
Degrees/Minutes
N 30 11.100
W 87 14.200
Degrees/Minutes/Seconds
N 30 11 6.000
W 87 14 12.000

 

 

Tenneco Oil Rig

After a 275 mile journey atop a barge, two massive 500 ton structures were used to create an artificial reef, the first to be done using a complete platform. The two rigs, a gift from the Tenneco Oil Company, were sunk in 175 feet of water. Depths along the rig range from 90 to 175 feet and visibility is often close to 100 feet.

This is a favorite site for spearfisherman and lobster hunters as the Tenneco rigs attract a wide variety of marine life. This is also a favorite training site for technical dive courses.

Waypoint: TENPENLatitudeLongitude
Degrees 29.99555 -87.0851833333333
Degrees/Minutes
N 29 59.733
W 87 5.111
Degrees/Minutes/Seconds
N 29 59 43.980
W 87 5 6.660

 

 

Tex Edwards

This large, intact deck barge was intentionally sunk in 1982 as an artificial reef. It lies in 65 feet of water about 6-1/2 miles east of Pensacola pass. Divers can find snapper, grouper, triggerfish, amberjack, and numerous species of tropical fish including blue angels swimming about the wreck. This site is considered by many local divers as one of Pensacola's safest dives.

Waypoint: TEXEDWLatitudeLongitude
Degrees 30.2689666666667 -87.1692833333333
Degrees/Minutes
N 30 16.138
W 87 10.157

 

 

Three Coal Barges

In 1974, three 300-foot long coal barges were sunk to form an artificial reef. The site makes an excellent area for safe, easy diving as the wrecks lie end-to-end on the white sand bottom. The tops of the barges lie 15 feet under the surface while depths to the sand are about 50 feet.

The site is not only an excellent place to spot a vast amount of marine life, but also a great spot for shell collecting as the surrounding sand is covered with large sand dollars and shells. Loggerhead turtles have been known to frequent the area during the summer. Visibility in the area ranges from 30 to 40 feet.

Waypoint: 3BARGELatitudeLongitude
Degrees 30.2908333333333 -87.22095
Degrees/Minutes
N 30 17.450
W 87 13.257
Degrees/Minutes/Seconds
N 30 17 27.000
W 87 13 15.420

 

 

USS Massachusetts

Among the largest and most advanced ships of her time, the Massachusetts was a heavy-caliber battleship and one of the first to be assigned a hull number by the US Navy. Officially commissioned on June 10, 1896, The Massachusetts was over 350-feet long, with a beam of 69-feet and a displacement of over 10,000 tons. In a world still dominated by wooden ships, the massive steam-powered Massachusetts was nothing short of awesome. She was equipped with an impressive array of firepower, including 13-inch gun batteries, 8-inch secondary batteries, two Colt Gatling guns, three torpedo tubes and a number of smaller weapons.

The Massachusetts saw her first battle duty during the Spanish-American War, where she sailed to Cuba to help blockade the ports of Cienfuegos and Santiago. In the following years, the Massachusetts performed a variety of duties, conducting military exercises in several different ports. Despite her impressive technology and size, the vessel had several flaws in her design. One of the most serious was her low freeboard, which made the guns difficult to operate in heavy seas.

By the start of World War I, she was relegated to light duty as a training vessel and later decommissioned in 1919. In 1921, she was towed to Pensacola, scuttled in shallow water and used as a target for coastal artillery batteries.

The site was dedicated as an underwater archaeological preserve on June 10, 1993, on the 100th anniversary of the ship's launching.

Today, the USS Massachusetts sits in 30 feet of water with portions of the hull still exposed. Despite the battering of more than 100 artillery rounds, the hull remains remarkably intact. This beautiful dive is awash in emerald-green water, partially buried on a white sandy bottom.

Despite her shallow depth, the Massachusetts can be an unpredictable and often difficult dive because of her close proximity to Pensacola Pass. This area is subject to strong currents and poor visibility. Plan your dives closely around the tides.

Waypoint: USSMASLatitudeLongitude
Degrees 30.2966666666667 -87.3121666666667
Degrees/Minutes
N 30 17.800
W 87 18.730
Degrees/Minutes/Seconds
N 30 17 48.000
W 87 18 43.800

 

 

 

USS Oriskany

After nearly two years of delays caused by hurricanes and permitting issues, the USS Oriskany was successfully sunk on May 17, 2006, to become the world's largest intentionally created artificial reef. Hundreds of boats passed by the "Mighty O" after she was towed to the deployment site about 22 miles offshore of Pensacola. The U.S. Navy used more than 500 pounds of plastic explosives in controlled charges to blow holes into the 888-foot aircraft carrier. Boaters watching from a mile away saw the flashes of explosives and smoke before the stern went under. The bow lifted into the air, the rusty flight deck slipped under the water and the Oriskany was sunk in just 37 minutes.

The massive aircraft carrier rests in 212 feet of water in a north-south orientation on the sandy bottom. The flight deck is at 130 feet (original reports claimed it was 150 feet -- a bit too deep for recreational divers). With an overall height of 151 feet, there is plenty of ship to view within recreational dive limits. The "island" where the bridge and flight deck control are located along with eight decks rises above the flight deck. Divers checking the site the day after Oriskany's sinking reported seeing the tower from the surface and underwater visibility of 100 feet.

The USS Oriskany was launched in late 1945 and served admirably in both the Korean War and in Vietnam. The carrier housed a crew of nearly 3500 and 80 aircraft. The Oriskany was one of the ships used as a show of force by President Kennedy during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and was the carrier from which Senator John McCain launched his plane before being shot down over Vietnam.

The Oriskany is the first warship to be sunk under a pilot program to deploy old naval ships as artificial reefs. The cost of the project was $20 million. It is hoped that this "Great Carrier Reef" will boost tourism to the Pensacola region as well as serve as a habitat for the growth of marine life.

NOTE: The GPS coordinates provided are for the uppermost structure.

Waypoint: ORISKNLatitudeLongitude
Degrees 30.0425 -87.0063833333333
Degrees/Minutes
N 30 2.550
W 87 0.383

 

 

YDT #14

The Navy Dive Tender YDT-14, a 132'steel ship, was scuttled on April 1, 2000, approximately 18 miles SE of Pensacola Pass, Escambia County, Florida. The ship now lies mostly intact in 90 feet of water. Divers will enjoy a nice vertical relief of about 28 feet.

Waypoint: YDT14LatitudeLongitude
Degrees 30.0888333333333 -87.1606666666667
Degrees/Minutes
N 30 5.330
W 87 9.640

 

 

 

Antares

The Antares

The Antares, a 400-foot freighter, is 21 miles southeast of Pensacola Pass in 130 feet of water just west of the Oriskany. Populated with moray eels, red snapper, grouper, cobia, and amberjack, the Antares is a favorite spear fishing spot. The massive freighter broke apart and was scattered by Hurricane Opal in 1995, which makes a trip to the Antares seem as if divers are exploring several wrecks at once.

 

Ft. Mcray Jetties

Details Coming Soon

 

Ft. Pickens Jetties

The Jetties at Ft Pickens National Seashore Park are one of the most dived spots in Pensacola and for that matter the Panhandle of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas. The Jetties are located on the Pensacola sound side of the park in the are of the old Fort.

The Rock Jetties on the East side closest to the Public Fishing Pier are the least prominent of the two but the West Jetti

 

Greens Holes

The Greens Holes or Mr. Greens Holes is a natural bottom site

 

Lost Tug (Mad Dog)

Details coming soon

 

Timber Holes

Details coming soon

 

 Triple Deck Barge

Details coming soon

 

YDT #14 &  #15

These are two 132 foot long retired US Navy Dive Support Vessels that lay approximately 450 feet from each other in a depth of 90 feet about 16 nautical miles offshore. YDT-14 is listed as dive four on the Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail because she still stands upright and has the biggest relief of the two wrecks. Hurricanes that have struck the Gulf Coast since their sinking in 2000 have caused the YDT-15 to sink up to her main deck into the seabed. Both wrecks are very similar in design and are an excellent place for Lionfish spearfishing. For some reason, this invasive species has decided these two wrecks are perfect to fit their lifestyle. Many formations of Oculina Robusta or Gulf of Mexico Staghorn Coral grow all over the decks of the ships creating plenty of habitat for small and colorful tropical fish. Octopus also inhabit many of the pipes and fittings on the wrecks. The galley in the bow of the YDT-14 still holds the stainless steel cabinets, sinks, and fixtures however they are barely recognizable with all the marine growth. This is an excellent photo opportunity for divers due to the multitude of colorful fish that inhabit the wrecks and the numerous swim through opportunities with port holes to look through.

 

Dredge Avocet

29:58.399' N/87:12.630'W
Location: In artificial reef site #20 which is approximately 19.5 miles on a 166-degree course from sea buoy. This huge 2,640 ton, 247-foot clam shell dredge built in 1943 is one of the largest and best wreck dives on the Gulf Coast. The top of the third deck wheelhouse rises 68 feet from a depth of 115 feet. The vessel was sunk as an artificial reef in May of 1991. You'll enjoy a scuba dive here. 

 
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