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San Luciano Shipwreck

by

Terry Sovil

Feb 2018

San Luciano Shipwreck Manzanillo Mexico
The San Luciano Shipwreck - Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico

The San Luciano has always puzzled me. I did some basic research but didn't find a lot of information on the "San Luciano". It was there, I didn't find it, partly because she started out as the "Argyll". I also accepted what I was told, that she went down in the 1959 hurricane.

The San Luciano
The San Luciano at dock - note that this is after her conversion, the masts are down

Recently a local group, Vive Manzanillo, released some fascinating new details. About the same time I got an email from a diver who was interested in diving The San Luciano wreck. Nothing else. That got my attention. Turned out it was Peter G. Jensen, a 40 year ship wreck diver and researcher from the Los Angeles area of California. He started with a free dive on a Baja wreck in 1969, the same year I started diving. Peter visited on Saturday 6/January/2018 and we were able to talk at length and make a 97 minute dive on the San Luciano. Peter can be reached at 310-544-1840 or waterlinepro@cox.net. He loves wreck questions. Between the Vive Manzanillo research and Peter Jensen's past research on the wreck I got a lot of new information. Peter's passion are the wrecks of the BAJA and he is writing a book on them. Photo credits to Graham Mackintosh who took a great interest in Baja ships, and Nathan Peach who shot the underwater photos.

Los Angeles area wreck diver expert on the Baja - 310-544-1840
Peter G Jensen, Los Angeles Area Wreck Dive Expert for the Baja - 310-544-1840

The San Luciano
The San Luciano from the stern - note that this is before her conversion, the masts are up

The Argyll / San Luciano History:

  • Built in 1892 by the William Gray and Co. in West Hartlepool (Sunderland), England
  • Rig: Auxiliary Sailing Ship
  • 2953 gross tons when loaded, 1880 net (tanker)
  • 320.3 x 40.7 x 24.5 feet / 97.536 x 12.4 x 7.5 Meters
  • Iron hull
  • Motor: 1 triple expansion engine, 3 cylinders, 1 propeller, 1,300 horse power; built by Central Marine Works, UK
  • Service: Tanker/freighter
  • Home port when lost: Santa Rosalia, Mex.
  • Loss: 6 Aug. 1965 -- Hit submerged rocks 38 nautical miles off Manzanillo; 19/Aug/1965 stranded in this port to avoid a total loss but was a construction loss. Lloyds of London stated she was sunk in Manzanillo "to be salvaged." All of her upper structure, fittings and gear were salvaged. Some as late as 1988.

Snorkelers on the San Luciano Wreck
Snorkelers on the San Luciano Wreck

Her Names and Home Port Countries:

ARGYLL- 1901 - United Kingdom
ARGYLL - 1903 - USA
ARGYLL - 1906 - USA
ARGYLL - 1940 - France
San Luciano - 1950 - France
San Luciano - 1955 - Mexico
San Luciano - 1957 - Mexico
San Luciano - 1965 - Mexico
Wrecked on 6/Aug/1965

Aerial Shot of the San Luciano Shipwreck
Aerial shot of the San Luciano Shipwreck

She was built as a dry cargo steamer fired with coal and then converted to an oil tanker. She was an all iron ship with web frames and an auxiliary sailing ship with a central pilots house and single slender smokestack. Her original steam boilers and engine were never replaced. The triple expansion steam engine was manufactured by Central Marine Engine Works. The cylinders were 25 inches x 40 1/8 inches x 65 inches with a 42 inch stroke (63.5cm x 102cm x 165cm with a 107cm stroke).

Boiler Control Wheel
Boiler Room Control Wheel

She was purchased in 1900 by the Progreso Steamship Company and soon transferred to the Michigan Steamship Company where she was converted to a tank steamer. She had a capacity of 30,000 barrels of oil. Both of her masts were cut down to act as boom kingposts (a strong vertical post used to support a ship's windlass and the heel of a ship's bowsprit, see photo below). Home port San Francisco. The conversion work was completed in 1903. She was chartered to the Union Oil Company who purchased her in 1905.

Maritime.Org King Post Diagram
Maritime.Org King Post Diagram

On August 6, 1965 she struck a submerged rock at Punta Hermanos, Tenacatita, about 38 miles / 61km from Manzanillo. The collision damaged her front and tore into her forward cargo holds. Flooding went back to the engine room's bulkhead and held. The Captain, Romero Ortiz, flooded the rear ballast tanks to balance the vessel and continued to sail to Manzanillo. Anchored out on the Juluapan peninsula near Playa La Boquita in Santiago Bay, a diver descended on the wreck and determined the damage was too great for repair. Lloyds of London states "SAN LUCIANO sank at Manzanillo" ... "to be salvaged." She was sold to a scrap salvage operation in Guadalajara. Her upper works and many of her fittings and gear were salvaged as late as 1988. To her credit she was the oldest deep water commercial steamship still active on the Pacific Coast, with a 73 year history that spanned two World Wars.

Decking on the San Luciano Shipwreck
Decking on the San Luciano Shipwreck

She remains a sunken treasure in Manzanillo. A 10-15 minute swim from shore, scuba divers and snorkelers can enjoy the thrill of a ship wreck in shallow water. An average depth of about 14 feet / 5 meters. The ship often sports sea horses, turtles, eels, octopus, pufferfish, sometimes a spotted eagle ray and magnificent schools of fish. You can circumnavigate the wreck and there are some areas where you can penetrate. Visibility on the wreck is often not very good but there are times when it is very good and you can see a lot of the ship and start to put things together rather than seeing 5 feet / 1.5 meters at a time. She does have a history!

Inside the hull
Inside the hull of the San Luciano

San Luciano Prop Piston Gear
The San Luciano Prop Piston Gear

Sampson Post
San Luciano Sampson Post

Sampson Posts on San Luciano Wreck
Sampson posts on the San Luciano wreck

Graham Mackintosh Photo of crewman
Graham Mackintosh Photo of retired crewman from Santa Rosalia, about 1998, in front of wood rendition of ship

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