The USCG Duane, a wreck located in the Key Largo area, is frequently overlooked by technical divers despite being a favorite among advanced and technical divers who have dived to its depths.
While the Spiegel Grove, Queen of Nassau, and Northern Light also attract divers in the area, the Duane stands out for its deeper depths, reaching around 120 feet and requiring a certain level of diving experience.
A Brief History of the USCG Duane
The US Coast Guard's USCG Duane was a Treasury-class cutter, a type of vessel known for its dependability and versatility as a warship.
At 327 feet in length, the Duane served the US Coast Guard for a impressive 49 years before it was decommissioned on August 1, 1985. The decision to retire the ship was due to its age and the increasing difficulty in finding replacement parts. At the time of its decommissioning, the Duane was the oldest US warship still in active duty.
After being taken out of service, the Duane was stored in Boston for a couple of years before it was sunk in 1987 to create an artificial reef off the coast of Key Largo. The Duane was sunk alongside its sister cutter, the Bibb, as part of an effort to preserve these historic ships and create new underwater habitats for marine life.
Today, the wreck of the Duane is a popular diving site for technical divers, who are drawn to its deeper depths and the opportunity to explore the remnants of this once-proud vessel.
The USCG Duane is listed on the US National Register of Historic Places.
A challenging dive for Advanced and Technical Divers
The USCG Duane is a fantastic wreck for experienced divers. Located outside the reef line at a depth of around 120 feet, this wreck is often visited by advanced divers due to the strong currents and reduced visibility that can occur at different times of the day or year.
These conditions can be challenging, especially for those who are not in good physical shape, so it is not recommended for new divers. However, if you are prepared for the effort it takes to dive in these conditions, the Duane is worth the effort.
There are times when the currents are calm and the visibility is excellent, making for a stunning dive with plenty of marine life, clear water, and large swim-throughs on different deck levels. Visibility can reach up to 100 feet on these occasions. If you're an advanced diver looking for a challenging and rewarding experience, the USCG Duane is definitely worth a visit.
Be prepared for a beautiful Wreck
The USCG Duane is much smaller than the Spiegel Grove which provides an opportunity to see most of the ship in a single dive.
The vessel is a photographer’s dream and fun to explore. The Duane has a flag on the mast "flying" which makes for a stunning photo. As she’s sitting upright, it can appear as though the Duane is steaming right along the bottom. This makes the view descending onto and ascending off of the wreck quite memorable.
The Duane was well prepared to be an artificial reef with doors and big openings cut out. This makes it easy to navigate and provides a heap of great swim throughs.
There’s plenty to see at different depths. As it’s been submerged since 1987, there’s plenty of coral growth and an abundance of marine life in and around the wreck. There's a huge variety to see from Barracuda swimming in the current to turtles and lots of other fish, eels, and Grey Nurse sharks.
3D Dive Maps of the USCG Duane
If you want to make the most out of your dive at the advanced site of the Duane, some pre-planning is key. One helpful tool to consider is a waterproof 3D map, which can be found on online stores such as Amazon. These maps provide a detailed layout of the ship and suggest great swim-through routes to enhance your diving experience.
By doing a little bit of preparation beforehand, you can ensure that your dive at the Duane is as enjoyable and informative as possible.
Do your homework on Dive Operators
Before diving at the Duane, it's important to do some research on local dive operators. Different operators can offer vastly different experiences at the same dive site, so it's worth taking the time to find one that aligns with your level of experience and comfort.
This is especially important at the Duane, which is a deep dive with the potential for strong currents. A knowledgeable dive master who is familiar with the currents and layout of the ship can make a huge difference in your overall experience. So be sure to choose a dive operator that suits your needs and gives you the confidence to take on this challenging dive site.
Florida Keys Dive Report - "Know Before You Go"
Before diving in the Florida Keys, it's always a good idea to check the local conditions. A great resource for this is the Keys Dive Report website, which provides real-time updates on reef and wreck conditions for divers and snorkelers in the region from Key Largo to Key West. The information on this website is collected by United States Coast Guard Dive Boat Captains while they are out on the reefs and wrecks, so you can trust that it is accurate and up-to-date.
In addition to providing information on the sea temperature, visibility, and sea conditions, the Keys Dive Report also includes current photos of the offshore locations. By using this resource, you can be better prepared for your dive and ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.
Is the Duane worthy of Bucket List status?
Even on days with strong currents and low visibility, there is still a lot to see on this dive at the USCG Duane. If you have the opportunity, be sure to add it to your list of must-dive sites in the Keys.
While it may not be as well-known as the Spiegel Grove or the Northern Light, the Duane is definitely worth a visit. Some divers may criticize the site, but it is sure to impress those who take the time to explore it. Don't let its lower ranking on some lists deter you from experiencing this fascinating dive site for yourself.