Shallow Wrecks at Butler Bay
The Shallow Wrecks at Butler Bay consist of 3 shipwrecks, along with an old NOAA Hydrolab. The shipwrecks include trawler Suffolk Maid, tug boat Northwind, and massive oil barge Virgin Islander. All of these wrecks are now encrusted with colorful coral and sponges and teeming with schools of reef fish.
Virgin Islander is a 300-foot oil barge which sunk in 1991, and is the largest of the wrecks. The deepest part of the wreck lies at 70 feet, but the average depth is about 50 feet. Virgin Islander is now heavily encrusted with sponges and coral including tiny fans of pink Stylaster coral and golden cup corals. You will also find seafans, tubeworms, and schools of snapper and chub. Look for several large resident grouper, as well as stingrays hiding in the sand beneath the ship.
Northwind is a 75 foot long, steel hulled ocean tug named after Mel Fisher’s salvage boat that was used to recover the Atocha treasure. Northwind was used in the TV movie “Dreams of Gold — The Mel Fisher Story” and washed up in Frederiksted after Tropical Storm Klaus in 1985. The vessel was then sunk by Cruzan Divers in May of 1986 as an artificial reef. Today, the vessel sits upright in 55 feet of water and is ideal for photographs since the top of the wheelhouse is only 15 feet below the surface. The shallow depth makes the Northwind an excellent wreck dive for newly certified divers and photographers alike. Divers are routinely greeted by barracuda, snapper, butterfly fish, and angelfish. The Northwind is also home to several species of wrasses, bassets, and gobies. A rather large moray Eel as well as green and hawksbill turtles are also commonly spotted in and around the wreck.
Butler Bay off of Route 63, on the West End of St. Croix. Butler Bay is 2.7 miles north of Frederiksted.
This dive site is best accessed by boat. While the wrecks are a popular shore dive, they are a strenuous 15-20 minute surface swim and there can be current.
The deepest point of these wrecks is the Virgin Islander, which sits in a bout 70 feet of water. Suffolk Maid sits at a depth of 60 feet, and Northwind is located at an average depth of 55 feet.
Average visibility is about 100 feet, up to 200 feet. Fairly calm and sheltered from the northerly swells, but a slight current is to be expected.
To get a feel for the thrill of diving these incredible wrecks, check out this video by Jason Kimmel of diving the wrecks at Butler Bay with St. Croix Ultimate Blue Water Adventures (S.C.U.B.A.):