Bradenton Beach: USS Regina - 'Sugar Barge'
The Regina was a steel steamer built in 1904 for the Cuban Molasses Transportation Co. She was 247 ft. in length, with a 36 ft. beam, a 14 ft. draft.
Converted to a tanker barge, Regina left Havana on March 5, 1940, under tow bound for New Orleans with a cargo of more than 300,000 gallons of molasses. A cold front swept across the Gulf of Mexico from the northwest, accompanied by 8 to 12-foot seas, gale force winds, and freezing temperatures. The tugboat altered course toward the shelter of Tampa Bay, but before she could reach safety, her tow lines parted near Egmont Key. In the late afternoon on Friday, March 8, the tanker grounded in heavy seas on a sand bar off Bradenton Beach. The Regina has been designated as a underwater archeological preserve by the State of Florida, with a plaque placed at the dive site.
The dive site is located at N 27° 28.184 W 082° 42.071, and is accessible as a beach dive, approximately 50 yds offshore. The condition of the wreck has deteriorated over the years, and various beach re-nourishment projects have had an impact on how much of the wreck is visible above the sand.
There are a couple sections of the barge that are relatively easy to find, so when dive conditions at the beach are suitable, it makes an excellent shore dive. Maximum depth for this dive will be 15 to 18 feet.
The dive site is most easily reached by taking Cortez Road west toward Anna Marie Island. Turn north on Gulf Drive North, and after approximately ¼ mile, locate parking (you will probably need to cross the street carrying your dive gear) and look for the buoys marking the dive site.