The former USS Kittiwake is on its way to becoming Cayman’s newest dive attraction and artificial reef. When the 251-foot vessel is sunk at the north end of Seven Mile Beach, it is set to attract tourists keen to play and swim with a cornucopia of sealife.
During its years of active service, the ship was involved in many exciting moments, and its former crew has more than one story to tell.
Thomas DiViccaro arrived on board after completing First Class Diver training in Washington, DC.
“During one of our underway periods, the Kittiwake was supporting submarine readiness exercises off the Florida coast. Upon completion we headed to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, for a port visit and liberty for the crew.
During my tour I stood watches in the Main Control as engineering officer of the watch while in port. After the ship arrived in port and was moored I proceeded to Main Control to assume the 1600-2000 watch.
“Shortly after assuming the watch I received a call from the captain informing me he was in the middle of his shower completely soaped down and had no water, not good. I instructed one the engineers to shift water tanks ASAP and reprime the main water pump. By that time the chief engineer was in Main Control with the deer in the headlights look, informing me the captain was going to a dinner party and needed water NOW. This all transpired with a 10 minute time frame, which to the ca
ptain must have been a life time,” said Mr. DiViccaro.
Water, water everywhere
The crew member, who served between February 1978 and March 1980, then felt his heart skip when the engineer he’d sent to change the tanks reported back saying there was no water at all on the ship.
The chief engineer turned a ghostly white as he left Main Control to inform the Captain his shower was over. I was not present when the chief engineer conveyed the news however when he returned he informed me that we would have water by the time the captain returns or he would be reverted back to enlisted ranks, get me some water.
“I went topside to clear my head and ran into the captain as he was leaving the ship and he informed me there would be water upon his return as I was quick to respond with ‘Aye Aye sir’. As I watched the captain heading to his vehicle, I noticed a cruise ship across the pier.
“I went over to speak to the chief engineer and explained our situation, after he stopped laughing he informed me we could have all the water we needed. When the captain returned that evening the chief engineer was waiting on the Quarterdeck to inform him we had top off all water tanks to 100 per cent, he informed the chief engineer he was going to his stateroom and finish taking his shower,” said Mr. DiViccario, who added that he had a great tour of duty while serving on board.
“I served with a great bunch of shipmates and was proud to be part of the crew onboard the USS Kittiwake ASR 13.”
Joe Zeimet, who served between August 1971 and December 1973, said that spending many years close to people would inevitably build up a store of stories to tell. Of many stories, Mr. Zeimet says there were some significant moments that came to mind during his years on board.
“We were in a storm and a rogue wave hit us and we took a 52 degree roll, if I remember correctly we rolled over at 56 Degrees. When that roll happened the entire ship just shook and seemed to hang there for eternity – probably 20 seconds – till she came back. All of us in B-2 were on the floor trying to get books etc., back into the racks where they belonged.”
The USS-Kittiwake will be sunk at a location at the North West point of Seven Mile Beach. Schedules will be released imminently so please check caycompass.com for an up-to-date listing of events.
The vessel will become the newest and best dive attraction in the Caribbean and also serve as a research opportunity for reef surveys which will be regularly undertaken in order to assess and track the life attracted to this artificial reef.
The project is a partnership between the Cayman Islands Tourism Association and the Ministry and Department of Tourism.
On her tow from Norfolk, Virginia, the vessel made friends with a pod of dolphins, which trailed the ship’s progress near Savannah, Georgia for around an hour on Sunday, 19 December.
Should all go well, weather permitting the vessel is due to get to Cayman around Christmas or Boxing Day. Following the successful completion of the tow, it will take four to five days to prepare her for the actual sinking. Please keep checking the Caymanian Compass and caycompass.com for further information.
How to get licensed
The Cayman Islands Tourism Association said that annual dive medallions for residents were $25. Individual dive medallions are $10 and snorkel wristbands $5, explained Erin Bodden of the association.
“CITA is thrilled to be able to open the Kittiwake Attraction as a holiday gift to Cayman and it’s visitors in the coming week. If you wish to dive or snorkel the Kittiwake, medalions and wristbands will be available for purchase through our Licensed Kittiwake Dive Operators or through the CITA office. If you wish to become a licensed Kittiwake operator please contact the CITA.”
The tourism association office closes on 24 December at noon and reopens between 28 and 31 December from 9am to 2pm for those who wish to purchase wristbands and medallions.
Licensed Kittiwake dive operators
Divetech; Indepth Watersports Ltd; Sunset Divers Ltd/Sunset House; Living the Dream Divers; Don Foster’s Dive Cayman Ltd; Indigo Divers; Red Sail Sports; Divers Down; Deep Blue Divers; Eden Rock Dive Centre; Stingray Adventure and Watersports; Cayman Turtle Divers; Wall to Wall Diving; Cayman Private Charters
Indepth Watersports Ltd
Sunset Divers Ltd/Sunset House
Living the Dream Divers
Don Foster’s Dive Cayman Ltd
Red Sail Sports
Deep Blue Divers
Eden Rock Dive Centre
Stingray Adventure and Watersports
Cayman Turtle Divers
Wall to Wall Diving
Cayman Private Charters