Lying seven miles southeast of Key West and one mile southwest of Nine Foot Stake, the Cayman Salvager, also known as the Cayman Salvage Master and the Cayman Salvor, is one of Florida’s great wreck dive sites, offering a rich assortment of sea life and excellent opportunities for photography.
The ship was built in 1937 and has been used as a buoy tender by the Coast Guard as well as a cable layer, a mine planter, and a freighter. Seized by U.S. government authorities in 1980 while illegally transporting Cubans during the Mariel boatlift, the Cayman Salvager was towed to Key West where she unexpectedly sank while at dock. In 1985, plans were made to raise the ship and re-sink her as an artificial reef. She had been stripped and cleaned to create more habitat for sea life and was being towed to the planned location when she sank where she now rests, in 90 feet of water. Over the years, hurricanes have pushed the ship onto her side and then righted her again.
Because the ship sits at a reasonable depth and is upright and in good condition, the Cayman Salvager is one of the most popular dive sites off of Key West. The wreck also includes some interesting features to explore, including three bicycles, a payphone and a cable spool and pulley on the bow.
Marine life is abundant at the site and includes grouper, moray eels, octopus and a loggerhead sea turtle as well as barracudas and schools of silversides, permit and bar jacks.
Recommended for more experienced divers, the Cayman Salvager offers a great chance for exploration and the opportunity for a dramatic and memorable dive.