St. Augustine

Description

Similar to the Moonstone in that both vessels started their lives as luxury yachts and both were sunk due to collisions, the Auggie was approximately 100 feet longer at 272 feet in length. The St. Augustine was formerly owned by the tycoon Normon Woolworth, but was sold to the U.S. Navy in 1941 to be outfitted for coastal patrol and anti-submarine duty. The Auggie led a successful depth-charging attack on the U-701 in 1942 that eventually led to the U-boat’s demise a few weeks later.

On the night of 6 January 1944, the Auggie was leading a convoy south along the Alantic coast. Off Ocean City, the tanker Camas Meadows, heading for the Caribbean, was spotted on radar. Due to confusion between the two ships that were both running blacked out due to wartime conditions, the Camas Meadows collided into the starboard side of the Auggie, tearing a fatal wound. The gash led to the sinking of the once elegant yacht in under five minutes.

The wreck of the St. Augustine was not dove until late 1996, though she was long sought after. A group who had chartered the vessel Gekos out of Ocean City, Maryland, headed out with several likely suspect hang numbers in hopes of locating the Auggie. When none of the numbers panned out, Captain Larry Keen produced a number that was in the vicinity of their search site. In fact, this number turned out to be the wreck of the St. Augustine. The wreck was sitting intact and upright in 253 feet of water. Her stacks and masts were knocked off and laying in the sand, and her wheelhouse was absent, most likely due to the subsequent depth charging she received after sinking. Several artifacts were recovered from this trip, and claims of the “most scenic” East-Coast wreck were made by several veteran divers. The group returned to the site again, but requests for future charters met indifference from the Captain.

In early 1997, a team of divers who had compiled more numbers from a variety of sources headed out to try and locate the Auggie. Numbers previously ignored due to negative side-scan sonar surveys conducted by others became suspect and placed back at the top of the list as other numbers pointed in that direction — nothing was taken for granted. Approximately 50 miles off Ocean City, and still about 1/4 mile from the first cluster of numbers, the magnetometer went crazy. The boat quickly pulled up and was able to read a large spike on the bottom reader that proved to be the St. Augustine. The wreck was hooked near the stern, and one could see the vessel appear while still 80 feet off the bottom due to the incredible visibility. The graceful rounded fantail was still evident, though broken off from the wreck close to the stern gun tub, and by initial appearances the wreck appeared in extremely good shape. Upon further inspection however, the damage became clear. The main deck areas could be easily entered, green light trickling in through the many rust holes. The interior was largely a debris field with brass artifacts such as light fixtures and doorknobs lying in plain view. On the exterior, there was spotted debris in the sand at 250 feet with large sections of trawl net snagged amongst the wreckage. The wreck is mostly intact, contiguous, and rises high off the bottom, with the top deck at about 208 feet. The wreck numbers were made available to all that assisted in the new search, and divers quickly swarmed the new site. Many artifacts have been recovered from the Auggie during 1997 and 1998 including several portholes, a telegraph, and various artifacts from the interior, all with the promise of many more as yet to be recovered. The portholes that are scattered throughout the wreck site are unusual in the fact that they are brass and stainless steel. This is definitely one of the best wreck dives in the Mid-Atlantic.

Position

Lat: 38 06.242 N

Long: 74 08.548 W

Depth of wreck

250 feet

Size of wreck

Length: 272 feet

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