2017 USCG Duane – Is this the best wreck for Advanced divers in the Keys?

USCG Duane Flag

There’s no question among advanced and technical divers who have been down to the wreck of the USCG Duane, that this is one of the great dive wrecks in the Key Largo area.

At around 120 feet, it’s a deeper wreck and you need to be an experienced diver to do this one. There’s much debate around whether the wreck of the Spiegel Grove or the Duane is the better wreck to dive on.

The USCG Duane is much smaller than the Spiegel Grove giving you the opportunity to see most of the ship in a single dive.


Where is the USCG Duane?

The wreck of the USCG Duane is located near Key Largo off the Florida Coast. She lies approximately 1 mile south of Molasses Reef. Her co-ordinates are 25°0′25.98″N 80°20′47.22″W.


A Brief History of the USCG Duane

The US Coast Guard ‘Duane’ was a Treasury class cutter with a length of 327 feet. These vessels proved to be highly dependable and versatile warships for the US Coast Guard.

The USCG Duane served 49 years before being decommissioned on August 1, 1985. The decision to decommission her was due to her longevity in service and replacement parts were either no longer available or getting harder to find.  

The USCG Duane was the oldest US warship on active duty at the time it was de-commissioned. After being de-commissioned, the Duane was laid up in Boston for a couple of years. She was sunk in 1987 to form an artificial reef off the coast of Key Largo, along with her sister cutter, the Bibb.

Click here for a detailed history of the USCG Duane and her deployment career. This link takes you to the US Coast Guard official website.  

The USCG Duane is listed on the US National Register of Historic Places.


USCG Duane – Returning from Vietnam 1968


 A Challenging Dive for Advanced and Technical Divers

The USCG Duane is an amazing wreck. She’s sitting upright on sand at a depth of around 120 feet at deck level. This is located outside of the reef line which means there can be very strong currents with reduced visibility depending on the time of day, or time of year.  

For these reasons, this wreck dive falls into the advanced category and is not recommended for new divers. The currents can be strong and a little too much for anyone who may not be fit.

Be prepared for strong current conditions and the effort it may take to get down to the wreck, but it will pay off once you get to it.

There are times you can catch this wreck with near perfect conditions with little to no current. During these times, the Duane is a stunning wreck dive with lots of clear water, marine life, and big swim throughs on different deck levels. Visibility can be up to 100 feet at times.

USCG Duane Mast

Be Prepared for a Beautiful Wreck

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 an abundance 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.

The Duane is considered one of the advanced Florida Keys diving sites. Make sure you get the most out of the dive with some pre-planning. Waterproof 3D maps are available in online stores such as Amazon. These site maps show the ship’s layout and suggest good swimming routes.

Underwater divers near the mast and flag on the USCGC Duane, Key Largo


Click here to see 3D Dive maps for sale online of the USCG Duane on Amazon

Dive Map of USCG Duane, Key Largo Florida


Do your homework on Dive Operators

The same wreck is a different dive depending on the dive operator, so make sure you do your homework. Dive masters will be familiar with the currents and the layout of the ship.

As this is a deep dive and there can be strong currents at times. This can be manageable if you’re with a good operation who you feel comfortable with.

Be sure you select a Dive Operator who suits your level of experience and confidence.


“Know Before You Go” – Florida Keys Dive Report

Keys Dive Report is a local website that provides accurate reef and wreck conditions for divers and snorkelers in the Florida Keys. Information includes the sea temperature, visibility and sea condition. A current photograph of the actual location offshore is also provided.

The Keys Dive Report website covers the Florida Keys area from Key Largo to Key West. This information is provided in real time from United States Coast Guard Dive Boat Captains while they are out on the reefs and wrecks.

Click here to open the Keys Diver Report


Is the Duane worthy of Bucket List status?

So many Advanced divers can’t be wrong!  The diving of this wreck has a full 5 Star rating on Trip Advisor.

Even on a day where currents are strong and visibility is low, there is still plenty to see on this dive. Be sure to add this to your Bucket List of Keys dive sites. The USCG Duane won’t disappoint.


120 foot dive at the USCG Duane wreck in Key Largo, Florida

If you’re looking for a good Military watch to act as a back up, have a look at the Marathon GSAR Military Divers 3oo Automatic. 

Next Article – The Debate Continues. Are Deep Stops necessary

Scuba Diving Deep Stops

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Dawn - August 27, 2017 Reply

Great part of the world to dive too – at least there’s lots to keep the rest of the family occupied!!!

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