In 1988, the Willaurie, a 130-foot (45m) long inter-island mail and freight boat was being towed during a storm from the northern side of New Providence to Sea Breeze Marina on Nassau’s southeastern coast. The ship broke free of its towlines and sank between the Clifton Bay caves and dock area. During the incident, the boat cut through the Shell and Texaco fuel lines, which lay it its path. On Christmas Day, Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas took boats, pumps and welding equipment out at low tide and started patching the Willaurie’s hull, in an attempt to float the ship. As the tide rose, the seawater was gradually pumped out and they managed to slowly pull it out into deeper water. However, it did not take long until the ship began to take on water again and finally sank for good, this time landing on keel in its current southwestern location.
The Willaurie has grown into a truly remarkable dive site. On its deck there’s a cage structure that has an amazing display of coral growth. Over the years the soft corals have created a dense display of color and intricate formations, delicately hanging off the incredible framework. In fact the whole wreck offers divers the opportunity to see a large diversity of bright coral life. The prop area at the stern offers a kaleidoscope of reds, oranges, purples and greens that’s a must-see on your dive.
Off the starboard side of the wreck are the scattered remnants of a Haitian sloop that sank several years ago. Although the wreckage has disintegrated significantly over time, it does add another point of interest to this dive site. Work your way over to the engine blocks and have a look for the spotted drum who has made his home here.
The Willaurie has graced both the silver screen and television, as well as featuring in many a dive magazine and article about the Bahamas. The wreck’s latest star turn is in the “Wreckage” episode of the web series Water Born. Its structure has maintained integrity over time, and nestled as it is a safe distance from the formidable Tongue of the Ocean drop off, the Willaurie will continue to offer divers, from beginner to advanced, a good dive for many years to come.