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CAPTAIN KEITH TIBBETTS (dive attraction)

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CAPTAIN KEITH TIBBETTS (dive attraction)

Postby aukepalmhof » Fri Feb 07, 2020 7:18 pm

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In August of 1996, the Cayman Islands Government bought a decommissioned Cuban frigate, pendant no. 356, for use as a scuba divers' attraction. Upon arrival in the Islands, the ship was renamed CAPTAIN KEITH TIBBETS, stripped-down except for her two gun mounts,
and then sunk for the mentioned purpose in 100 feet of water off the Cayman Brac island.

This former warship a frigate of the Soviet KONI II-class, built by the Krasnyy Metallist Shipyard, Zelenodolsk, dates are not known. But since the ships of this class were built exclusively for export to Soviet friendly navies, one can assume that she was completed shortly before her delivery to Cuba, which was on February 8, 1984. Standard class specifications were as follows:

24 April 1981 laid down, under yard no 253
31 July 1982 launched as the SKR-471 for the Soviet Navy.

Displ. 1,440t standard, 1,660t full load; 311'8" oa x 42' x 13'9". Combined gas and diesel propulsion: 1 gas-turbine, 2 diesels, 15,000shp, 3 screws, 27kn;
Armament: 2 SAM launchers, 2 twin 76mm dual-purpose, 4-30mm AA, 2 ASW rocket launchers, 2 DC racks, up to 20 mines;
Compl. 110-120.
17 August 1983 completed as 356 for the Cuba Government.

In September 1996 a former Cuban Navy Koni II-class frigate designated 356 was scuttled in shallow water in Cayman Brac. This ship was built in 1984 as one of three Koni II-class frigates sold to Cuba to support its Cold War fleet. In 1996 the ship was purchased from Cuba by the Cayman Islands government to be scuttled in Cayman Brac as a dive attraction. The remaining two Cuban Koni II class were expended as targets. Frigate 356 was sunk upright, and initially, her deck rested 90 ft (27 m) below the surface. A serious storm in 2004 broke the ship in two, and her bow now lists at a 45-degree angle, while her midships have become a debris field. Before being sunk the ship was renamed CAPTAIN KEITH TIBBETTS after a local politician and diver. It is one of only two of a few sunken Soviet Naval vessels in the Western Hemisphere, and the only one that is easily dived. ( The other is somewhere in the Cuba waters)

Named after the brother of Linton Tibbets, owner of the Little Cayman Beach Resort and potentate of Little Cayman. This is the only Russian warship available to sport divers in the Western Hemisphere. cleaned under the direction of Cayman's Department of the Environment to ensure that she would be environmentally safe prior to her sinking. All areas below the main deck were welded shut and closed off, leaving three full decks for divers to explore in addition to two large guns, a radar array, and the bridge. Happy scuba diving!

Sources: As given in Watercraft Philately Vol 46, page 38. .Baker, Combat Fleets of the World 1998-1999;
Conway’s 1947-1995; warshipnews.
Cayman Is. (1998) 30c sg 869, scott 764.
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