Diving in the US Virgin Islands gives you a little bit of everything: tropical fish, sharks, healthy coral, fascinating reef structures, and a whole lot of wrecks. For wreck diving enthusiasts, the Virgin Islands are a bucket list kind of destination and whether you’re swimming through the five levels of the WIT Shoal or searching for that one carousel horse to take a selfie with, you’ll find something you like while wreck diving in the USVI.
The Cartanza Senora (or Cartanzar Senior) is popular for many reasons. It’s easy to get to in the nicely sheltered Buck Island Cove, aka. Shipwreck Cove, and is protected as a National Wildlife Refuge. The dive is great for both novice and advanced divers, making it a great spot if you’re chartering a yacht and have different level divers in your group. The 190 foot freighter is 20-60 feet down and was split into 3 pieces by hurricane Hugo, so there’s a lot to explore and access. From here, you can also do Wye Reef and see lots of turtles, nurse sharks, and interesting fish.
Butler Bay Shipwrecks
While technically, there are 6 shipwrecks in a ¼ mile, they are most logically divided into two dives. The deep shipwrecks, Wreck of Coakley Bay and Rosaomira (Rosa Maria), lie a couple hundred feet from each other and are 60-100 feet deep. The second dive would be to the shallow shipwrecks, Suffolk Maid, Virgin Islander, Agiers Habitat, and Northwind. These ships are between 40-60 feet down and make for a fun adventure.
Resting fully upright in 100 feet, the WIT Concrete is a 350 foot bulk carrier which was likely used to transfer fuel in the Pacific. It was wrecked in 1995 by hurricane Marilyn near Crown Bay, but it was actually moved by the US Army Corps of Engineers to around two miles south of Porpoise Rocks because it’s a better spot for an artificial reef. Experienced divers who visit the WIT Concrete will be treated to horse-eye jacks, lots of fish, occasional large reef sharks and, of course, the ship itself, encrusted with sponges and corals.
Miss Opportunity is a 300 foot hospital ship sitting on its side, making for some interesting perspectives as you swim through. She cracked open when she hit the bottom in 1985, giving lots of access to advanced divers. It’s 90 feet deep, but reasonably close to shore and protected, so there’s no tidal current, meaning you can almost always dive there. You’ll likely see some sharks and even a large resident goliath grouper.
Possibly the most famous wreck dive in the USVI, the WIT Shoal has a little mystery and a lot of marine life swimming inside her. This 325 foot cargo ship was built in 1943 and was involved in a number of beach landings in WWII. It ended up sinking in Tropical Storm Klaus, but was raised to be relocated and scrapped. Along the way, it sank, much to the eventual joy of local divers, who discovered her location after some time spent searching for the mysterious vessel. Although it rests 90 feet down, the ship is 70 feet high, so it covers a large area. Divers can swim through all 5 levels and see some well-preserved details. If you can find a way in, the engine room is quite interesting, as is the wheelhouse and crane. Because the site can have 2 knot currents, you can sometimes catch the vibrant colors of coral feeding.
The SS Grainton is where you should go if you’re looking for the eerie feeling of watching big fish swimming around a wreck. Divers regularly see nurse sharks, barracuda, and eagle rays here and at 110 feet, it’s a deep dive. The cargo vessel is 410 feet long and initially sank after hitting rocks off of Saba Island in 1928. It was eventually refloated, but sank while being towed to St. Thomas.
If you are limited in time, you might not get a chance to see these wrecks, but if you’ve been wise enough to book a nice long sailing vacation in the US Virgin islands, these are worth a visit.
Wreck of General Rogers
50-75 feet deep, this 180 foot Coast Guard tender is teeming with fish and marine life. Lots of coral and sponges make this a beautiful night dive for experienced divers.
In 1986, this 147 foot craft barge (used to take people to and from USS John F Kennedy) sank just off the coast. It’s 65 feet deep and is a great spot to see Southern stingrays and giant sea anemones.
At 45 feet down, these two anchors are a cool little dive. One, a 200 year old 8 foot anchor is likely from sugar plantation days and the second, at 55 feet, is lodged and covered in corals. Overall, this is a great spot for lots of tropical fish in healthy coral.
There are 5 US Navy housing barges that were sunk in 1961 you can now visit, ideally in June, during shark breeding season when they are known to congregate in this area. You’ll also see lots of snapper and grunts.
While Cane Bay, of course, is a diving destination in and of itself with the Cane Bay Wall, if you’re out that way, make sure you hunt for a sunken carousel horse, affectionately called Sea Biscuit.
Wreck diving in the USVI, or the Caribbean as a whole, is getting more and more interesting as efforts to encourage reef growth continue through artificial reefs. Some of the wrecks mentioned above were sunk purposely in specific places as artificial reefs to help with biodiversity and rich marine life. These reefs provide stable shelter and attract marine life quickly, which in turn creates food sources and increases marine populations. Plus, they are a lot of fun to explore!
Now that you have a list of all of the wreck diving in the Virgin Islands to cross off, start planning your trip! Learn more about the USVI destination or contact Navigare Yachting for more details about a sailing vacation in the USVI.