The HMS Loo rests on the ocean floor just 8 miles from my dock in the Florida Keys

The HMS Loo doesn’t have a marker or mooring buoy to mark the exact spot where the wreck is. There is a temporary marker to mark the reef. The red marker #24 was taken out by Hurricane Wilma and is yet to be replaced. There are lots of mooring buoys all around the reef to tie your boat to. The depth of the water at the wreck is 25'. It’s located 8 miles southeast of Summerland Key. This is a Sanctuary Preservation Area so no taking of fish or lobster is allowed. The GPS Coordinates are 24'32.808N and 081'24.180W.

She was a 44 gun Frigate. She patrolled the east coast of the US all the way into the Caribbean Sea. She fought pirates. She was on one of these missions off the coast of Cuba when she discovered the Billander Betty, a smaller vessel that had been commandeered by pirates. They recaptured the Betty and set sail for South Carolina.

Two days into the trip on February 5, 1744 at 1:15 in the morning they realized they were in shallow water, they could hear waves breaking. Both ships tried to changed course. It was too late. The ships were being driven by a strong current straight onto the reef. Both ships ran hard aground.

At this time in history the reef supported a large sandy island on the east end. Capt. Ashby Utting and his crew of 274 men spent 3 days on this island. They managed to commandeer a sloop and several small boats. The sloop sailed on to Port Royal, South Carolina with 184 crew members. The remaining crew loaded onto the smaller boats and sailed for the Bahamas. The shipwrecks were set afire and burnt to the water line to keep the large store of gunpowder out of the hands of the pirates.

Captain Utting was acquitted at his court-martial. Both captains were steering the proper course to keep the ships in deep water. It was discovered that a strong counter current had driven both ships to their watery grave. Many other ships have suffered the same fate on this reef.

Looe Key Reef is named for the ill fated HMS Loo, but the spelling has been changed. All that’s left of her is a pile of ballast stones, the anchor chain and some copper plating from the hull. It’s totally encrusted with coral and sponges and lots of tropical fish. It’s about 600' from where the marker used to be in 25' of water. You’ll find it between two coral fingers on the eastern end, shoreward side of the reef. This is one of the Florida Keys most spectacular dive sites.

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