Stand on the shore of our white-sand beach at Anna Maria and look out into Gulf of Mexico. Now turn to the left and look down the shoreline.
Did you know that just a mile south of Cedar Cove lies a real-life shipwreck?
The Regina Underwater Archeological Preserve, one of only 12 underwater parks in Florida, marks the site of the sunken Regina, a molasses ship that sits just 200 yards out from the shore (or closer, depending on the tide).
Built in Belfast in 1904, the 247-foot Regina was a steal tanker-barge designed to deliver molasses to rum distilleries farm-feed manufacturers throughout the Caribbean and the Gulf. The ship stayed in active use through World War I and no doubt played a part in non-U.S. rum production during prohibition.
In early March 1940, the Regina set out from Havana laden with 350,000 gallons of molasses intended for New Orleans. Because the ship had been stripped of most of her machinery in order to function primarily as a barge, the Regina was being pulled through the journey by tugboat. However an unexpected winter storm on March 8 severed the tow line, setting the Regina adrift. Gale-force winds drove the ship eastward and onto a sandbar just off of Bradenton Beach.
Local residents spotted the ship and, along with the Coast Guard, made several attempts to rescue the eight-person crew as the storm raged. All but one survived. The wreck was named to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 2005.
Nowadays the Regina, also known as the “Sugar Wreck” or “Molasses Barge,” is a popular destination for scuba divers and snorkelers, in part because it’s so accessible for all levels of divers. Parts of the stern, hull, boiler and winch are all visible and home to a colorful array of sea life. Look to local scuba tour companies to get you kitted out and show you around the wreck.