Coffins Patch gets its name from a ship that sank here carrying a cargo of coffins, yes they were empty!
Coffins Patch reef is marked with a six foot tall I-beam. The depth of the water ranges from 10' to 30'. There are eight mooring buoys, CP-0 through CP-7. It’s located three and a half miles southeast of Key Colony Beach. This is a Sanctuary Protection Area, that means no taking of fish or lobster inside the marked area. The GPS coordinates are 24'413100N and 080'57.850W.
This patch reef is made up of many small patch reefs. It stretches from northeast to southwest for one and a half miles. It’s relatively close to shore but has all the same coral formations as the reefs that are located further offshore. It even has several stands of the more rare pillar corals. In the northeast section of the reef you’ll find some very large brain coral heads. These are some of the largest I’ve seen in the Florida Keys. It attracts a wide variety of marine plant and animal life. You’ll probably see several Florida Spiny Lobster as well as his cousin a smaller more shy and darker lobster called the Spanish Lobster. They seem to like hanging upside down in the large coral heads.
One of the ships from the Plate Fleet of 1733 struck this reef and sank when they were overtaken by a hurricane. It was the Ignacio. There’s not as much left of it to see as there is at the other shipwrecks from the same storm. They’re located from 10 to 25 miles to the east off the Upper Keys. These shipwrecks are Sueco de Arizon, Angustias, Almiranta, San Francisco, El Lerri, San Pedro, Herrera, Tres Puentes, Chaves, El Capitan, San Jose, and the El Infante. If you enjoy diving on old shipwrecks, you’ll certainly enjoy diving their remains. Who knows, you could get lucky and find a silver or gold coin hiding in the sand.
The Sanctuary Preservation Area covers the entire patch reef and some of the rubble field behind the main reef. But if you’re in to taking fish or lobster the inshore and offshore patch reefs outside the yellow SPA buoys are open and it’s OK to take from these areas.
Not a lot of divers visit Coffins Patch reef. And you won’t be bothered by as many cops on the water as you will at the more popular dive sites. There’s lots of times when you’ll have the whole reef all to yourself. I’ve seen treasure hunters and tropical fish collectors working for hours at a time at this colorful Florida Keys reef.
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