Scuba Diving the C-53 Felipe Xicoténcatl Shipwreck in Cozumel

Located in Cozumel, Mexico, the C-53 Felipe Xicoténcatl Shipwreck is a great dive for advanced divers. This wreck is located around 85 feet (26 meters) near Chankanaab Park.

c-53 shipwreck in cozumel

About the C-53 shipwreck in Cozumel

The USS Scuffle, a 184-foot long ex-US Navy minesweeper launched in August 1943 during WWII, was eventually sold to the Mexican navy and converted into a gunboat for patrolling the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.

After the vessel was bought by the Mexican Navy in 1962, it was renamed ARM General Felipe Xicoténcatl (C53), in honor of a former general Felipe Santiago Xicoténcatl.

On June 5th 2000 the ship was intentionally sunk off Cozumel’s coast to create an artificial reef and scuba dive site.

In 2005, the force of Hurricane Wilma significantly shifted the sunken ship, pushing it a full 100 feet (30 m) northward and almost splitting it in two. Despite this destruction, however, the boat maintains its structural integrity and is safe to explore in its upright position.

The C-53 is a remarkable 184 feet (56 meters) in length and 33 feet (10 meters) wide. The wreck rests 85 feet (26 meters) at the sandy bottom below the surface. It stands 40 feet (12 meters) tall, making it one of the best dive sites in Cozumel.

The dive plan

The C-53 sits at a depth of 85 feet (26 m), which makes it ideal for experienced certified divers. As you descend, you’ll feel the pull of a strong current that slowly dissipates as you reach deeper depths. To help ensure the safety and success of each diver, guidelines are in place to assist with entry, safety stops, and exit from the water.

The tip of the wreck starts at approximately 30 feet (9 meters). From there, divers can descend to a maximum depth of 80 feet (24 m).

The inside of the wreck can be explored – however, it’s only recommended for experienced divers with good buoyancy control who feel comfortable in tight, overhead spaces. The insight of the shipwreck is dark and requires a dive light.

c53 shipwreck cozumel

Cozumel C-53 shipwreck dive site brief

  • Access: from boat
  • Certification: Advanced Open Water
  • Max depth: 80 feet/ 24 meters
  • Max visibility: 90 feet/ 27 meters
  • Water temperature: 71 – 85 °F/ 22 – 29 °C 
  • Current: medium – strong currents
  • Dive type: wreck dive; deep dive

What marine life can you see?

Submerge into the breathtaking underwater world, and you may spot a giant Green Moray Eel, Glassy Sweepers, and during certain times of the year, an abundance of sardines. Furthermore, sponges and coral colonies have started to form on the wreck’s metal surfaces, while starfish and cleaner shrimp make it their home.

Moreover, barracuda and giant grouper congregate here along with various other reef fish, adding more allure.

What certification is required to dive the Cozumel C-53 shipwreck?

Even though the top of the wreck is at a depth of 30 feet (9 meters), the dive site is a deep dive exceeding the recreational limits of Open Water divers. Therefore, the Felipe Xicoténcatl Shipwreck in Cozumel is for Advanced Open water divers. Strong currents also require a certain level of experience. 

Related must-dive sites in the area

If you like wrecks, there are 6 shipwreck dive sites in Cancun and the Mama Vina wreck in Playa del Carmen

Overall, check out the best dive sites in Tulum, Playa del Carmen, and Cancun. The whole area is a scuba diving paradise from reef dives in the Manchones Reef, and MUSA Underwater Museum, to exploring cenotes and bull shark diving.

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