Key Largo, Florida
Depth Range: 40 to 140 feet
Experience Level: Advanced to Expert
Sunk August 1985
The Cayman Salvage Master was originally a lighthouse buoy tender for the U.S. Coast Guard. Built in 1936, this steel hulled vessel measures 186 feet in length, with a 37 foot beam. Her most distinctive feature is the cable pulley built into her bow.
Neglected for years, she eventually sank in the Navy Harbor at Key West. In 1985, she was refloated and her superstructure was removed in preparation for sinking as an artificial reef. While she was being towed to sea, the cable snapped and the unlucky derelict sank. She settled to the bottom on her side and remained that way until a powerful undersea surge from Hurricane Kate flipped her upright.
Today, the Cayman Salvage Master is one of Key West's most popular wreck dives. Her proximity to Key West and her depth make her ideal for recreational open water dives. She sits almost upright on a sand bottom, with the stern in 92 feet of water. Her decks are at 70 feet and most of the vessel's interior compartments and engine room are at 80 feet.
One of the lures of the Cayman Salvage Master is that she has become home and haven for several Jewfish. A small, 120 pound Jewfish is often seen in the engine room, while a much larger 800 pound behemoth sometimes appears loitering under the vessel's stern. The great fish are wary of divers; they are often seen but less often photographed.
Other fish that hang out in the engine room area include Snook and, occasionally, a grouper. A large Green Moray can be found living in or under the cable pulley mounted on the vessel's bow. It makes a great photo because the wheel is encrusted with colorful sponges and corals. Hanging above the wreck is a single Barracuda, motionless but alert.
Photos: W. Poelzer, www.unterwasser-