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Pensacola’s Ocean Wind Wreck

Discover why this exploration-worthy artificial reef off the Florida Panhandle is a favorite among divers
By Brooke Morton | Published On March 13, 2024
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Pensacola’s Ocean Wind Wreck

A school of fish swimming in the water

The Ocean Wind wreck appeals to divers of all levels, providing an optimal underwater adventure where most of the dive takes place at around 60 feet, catering to both beginners and experienced enthusiasts.

Keith Mille, FWC Artificial Reef Program

It’s a common misconception that when an artificial reef first hits sand it takes years before life takes hold.

The tugboat Ocean Wind dispelled that myth soon after it was scuttled some 9 miles off the coast of Pensacola, Florida. It sits on its keel in sand that’s a hotbed of frenzied activity—albeit from organisms too small to be seen by the naked eye. But it’s that sand, along with the Gulf of Mexico’s nutrient-rich currents, that explain why this wreck, a favorite among Open Water divers, has been packed with life since the first weeks after its sinking.

“As soon as it went down, it was covered in fish,” says Kerry Freeland, owner of Dive Pros, a Pensacola-based scuba center.

Ironically, when it was in service, this 87-foot workhorse pulled more than 100 artificial reefs to their new homes off the coast.

A tugboat sailing on the water

Built in 1952, the Ocean Wind served as a tugboat that towed many of the existing artificial reefs in the Pensacola region until its retirement.

Robert Turpin, Escambia County

Drop in and what you’ll notice first are the schools of snapper, grouper, triggerfish and amberjack flowing over the deck. The wheelhouse, starting at a depth of 50 feet, has been made safe with its windows and doors removed. The result: A picture-perfect spot for selfies and videos, set against a backdrop of cobalt-blue water and some 50 feet of visibility.

But the highlight that leaves most divers with a story or two is also the biggest surprise—literally—of the wreck. Swim the deck or pop inside and you’ll likely come face to face with the 100-pound resident goliath grouper. That first meeting tends to startle, but often quickly turns to fascination.

It’s just one of the many rewards of Pensacola. From the 20-some wrecks to the coastal cuisine and white-sand beaches, this Florida gem offers a lot to discover.

A long shot of a beach

Renowned for its sugary white sand, mesmerizing sparkling water, and relaxed, laid-back vibe, Pensacola Beach holds a special place in the hearts of locals and newcomers alike.

Visit Pensacola


Date of Sinking Jan. 14, 2016

Depth 82 feet to the sand

Length 87 feet

Location 9 miles off Pensacola

What You’ll Love Long bottom times allow you to make several passes around this artificial reef, exploring from the engine to the wheelhouse. Abundant marine life of all sizes, from gobies, blennies and butterflyfish to grouper and snapper, calls the Ocean Wind home. Just west of the wreck is a huge sand dollar field.


Visit Pensacola