The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Duane lies upright on a sandy bottom in 120 feet of water one mile south of Molasses Reef off Key Largo. After being decommissioned on August l, 1985 as the oldest active U.S. military vessel, the Duane was donated to the Keys Association of Dive Operators for use as an artificial reef. On November 27, 1987 she was towed to Molasses Reef, her hatches opened, her holds pumped full of water, and down she went to begin her final assignment.
The Duane was built in 1936 at the U.S. Naval Yard in Philadelphia. She was a 327-foot long Treasury Class Cutter, one of seven such vessels, and was named for William J. Duane, Secretary of the Treasury under Andrew Jackson. She had various assignments before being sent to the Atlantic in 1941, where she eventually served with the U.S. Atlantic Fleet. Her service included an impressive wartime and peacetime record. On April 17, 1943, she and her sister ship, the Spencer, sank the German U-Boat U-77. She participated in four rescues at sea, picking up a total of 346 survivors. In 1980 she was an escort vessel for thousands of Cuban refugees coming to the United States. Her last assignments included Search and Rescue work and Drug Enforcement.
On a clear day, the outline of Duane's intact hull can be seen from above. The mast and crow's nest, protruding high above the hull, can be seen at 60 feet. At 70 feet, just forward of amidships, is the navigating bridge. The superstructure deck is at 90 feet and the main deck lies at l00 feet. The hull structure, completely intact with the original rudders, screws, railings, ladders and ports makes an impressive display.
Additional Resources and Links
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary