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Brac’s ‘Captain Keith’ shipwreck still evolving 21 years after its sinking

One of Cayman Brac’s top diving attractions, the M/V Captain Keith Tibbetts shipwreck, is sporting a new look after the storms of December. Brac divemasters told Cayman 27 a part of the 330-foot vessel’s superstructure has broken free of the ship and has toppled onto the sandy bottom.

“It’s just gone now, and you look over and it’s in the sand, tossed over on its side,” said Reef Divers’ Brett Johnson.

He described the damage sustained to the long-time landmark of Cayman Brac diving, the M/V Captain Keith Tibbetts, was forever changed in the storms of late 2017.

“We had that big storm come through and it just took off the main section of the stern of the wreck. The last few years the walls have started falling down in there, it had lost all its support and it took that one last storm to just topple it over.

The Cayman Islands government bought the Soviet-built 330-foot frigate from Cuba. Originally designated as destroyer 356, the cold war relic was renamed and scuttled upright just off Cayman Brac’s northwest coast in September of 1996.

“It’s been broken up for several years, but the stern section has stayed intact during that time,” said Mr. Johnson.

Back in 2004, a powerful storm snapped the wreck in two. Mr. Johnson told Cayman 27 the turtles seem to approve of the most recent changes.

“A lot of it is just kind of a tangled mess, but there is a little bit, I guess a lot of sponges now that are accessible for the turtles, they just are down on the sand now, so there are all these turtles that have been hanging around and they just go at it, it’s like a buffet of sponges that they can eat,” said Mr. Johnson.

Fans of the wreck, one of the few Soviet naval vessels in the western hemisphere, will be relieved to note its arguably most photogenic features are still intact.

“Both sets of guns, the guns on the bow still look great, and you know, great for pictures, and then the stern, same thing, they are a bright and still just as they were before,” said Mr. Johnson.

Mr. Johnson says the wreck’s two resident goliath groupers, aptly nicknamed Boris and Natasha, still make weekly appearances at the Captain Keith.

About the author

Joe Avary

Joe Avary

Joe Avary has been with Cayman 27 since 2014. He brings 20 years in television experience to the job, working hard every day to bring the people of Cayman stories that inform the public and make a difference in the community. Joe hopes his love for the Cayman Islands shines through in his informative and entertaining weather reports. If you have a story idea for Joe or just want to say hello, call him at 324-2141 or send an email to josephavary@hurleysmedia.ky

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