The Hermes began its life in 1943 in a Pennsylvania boat yard, built to be a World War II buoy tender. Her specialized service helps to explain the unusual design for a ship of her size.
Measuring 165-feet long with a displacement of 254 tons, the little steel vessel featured a tall mast positioned forward of the wheelhouse and fitted with one cargo boom. The ship's only cargo hatch is located on the foredeck. This unique configuration was designed to accommodate the raising and lowering of navigation buoys for repair and replacement.
After the buoy tender was decommissioned, it was sold and converted into a freighter of Panamanian registry and named the Brava Fogo. Somewhere along the line, the freighter was again sold and this time renamed Hermes. In 1983, the small freighter limped into St. George's Harbour, having broken down near Bermuda. She was on her way from Rhode Island to the Cape Verde Islands, carrying a cargo of second hand gifts for poor families of those islands. The old ship remained moored in the Harbour for ten months, abandoned by her owners. The estimated cost of repairs was more than the ship was worth.
After some time and considerable debate, the Bermuda government donated the derelict ship to the Bermuda Dive Association, a group of local resort dive operators. The hulk was stripped and cleaned at the island's dockyard, in preparation for sinking as an artificial reef. Hatches were removed, oil drained and fuel off loaded. The vessel was then inspected by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in order to ensure there was no risk of pollution.
On May 15, 1984, the Hermes was towed out to sea and sunk off the south side of Bermuda, near Horseshoe Bay. Today, the tiny ship lies one mile off shore, sitting almost upright on a flat sand bottom, 80-feet deep. Her mast points upward toward the sun, and her wheelhouse is just 45 feet from the surface.
The Hermes is an exceptionally photogenic shipwreck because she is completely intact. She is a fairly small ship, in an area where underwater visibility is frequently 100 feet or better. She looks the way most divers imagine a sunken ship would appear - the classic wreck image.
The Hermes is upright on her keel with a slight 10-degree list to port. When view from the front, she looks as though she is leaning against a high coral reef, for her entire port railing is snug up against a vertical mound of coral.
Divers can make a complete tour of this shipwreck on a one-tank dive, looking at all of the key points of interest along the way. A small length of chain hangs vertically from the hawser port.
The Hermes has a fairly blunt bow design. A large towing post is situated on the foredeck, almost at the point of the bow. Situated in the center of the foredeck is a giant windlass for handling the ship's anchor chain. A small stairway on the port side leads from the foredeck down to the main deck where you encounter the ship's cargo hatch.
Above the hatch, running from the foredeck to the base of the mast, is a large cargo boom that was used for loading and unloading navigation buoys. A large tackle block is still hooked to the tip of the boom, and rests on the edge of the foredeck.
Just aft of the cargo hatch is a large power winch for handling the cables attached to the cargo boom. The winch is totally intact, complete with a set of six control levers. Braided steel cable is still wrapped around the winch drum.
The ship's mast is just forward of the wheelhouse, rising straight up to within 20 feet of the surface. She is held in place by six braided steel cable stays that are attached to the upper deck by heavy steel turnbuckles.
The wheelhouse is still in place, with the exception of a few window frames torn loose at the front. The railings on the bridge wings are still in place and you can see the short stairways leading to the deck.
The aft deck of this vessel is fairly clear and clean. The only fixture is a twin bollard situated in the center and possibly used for towing purposes. The stern of the vessel is rounded, much like a tugboat, and pushed hard against a coral reef.
If you plan to visit Bermuda, a dive on the Hermes is an absolute must.