The Duane

Duane shipwreck

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 1, 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.

She is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Vessels from our modern maritime story that played an important role in United States history include the U. S. Coast Guard Cutter DUANE of the sanctuary’s shipwreck trail. The DUANE was one of seven “Treasury-Class” cutters named after prominent United States Secretaries of the Treasury: Duane, Bibb, Ingham, Hamilton, Spencer, Campbell, and Taney. Launched between 1936 and 1937, they fulfilled the varied missions of the Coast Guard during wartime and peacetime service for nearly 40 years before being retired. The fleet received distinguished commendations for action in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. Here in the Florida Keys, visitors can experience three of the seven ships. The DUANE and BIBB serve as underwater museums and artificial reefs at rest off Key Largo in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, while the INGHAM is a museum ship moored in Key West harbor as a National Historic Landmark.




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, the Duane 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.




Site Map

Duane site map

Click here for a printable version of the Duane site map.


More Shipwrecks on the Trail