San Vito aka “Tuna Clipper” (Catalina — 175 fsw)

Justin Judd at the prop of the San Vito


This wreck is not visited very often as far as I can tell.

Most references to the site are generically as the “Tuna Clipper.” However, the actual name of the vessel is the San Vito.

It sank on Feb 18, 1985 on the West End of Catalina Island and very close to shore. The ship ran aground when it hit Johnson’s Rock in foggy conditions at 12:30am. The captain and eleven crew members all piled into a 20-foot skiff which then filled with cold water and started to sink Rescuers from the lifeguard services arrived on-site and rescued them before the skiff sank.

The strange thing about this is that the ship was apparently on the way to Cortes Bank searching for tuna and it sank very close to shore in the middle of the night. The only thing I can imagine is that they were trying to find some shelter on the protected side of Catalina for the night before heading out to Cortes Bank.

Finding pictures of the San Vito prior to the sinking is not easy. I ran across some historical photos from Monterrey Bay and you can see the San Vito in the background. It looks a lot like the New Saturnia and The Vashon that I dove recently.

Monterey, Fishing fleet, Monterey Harbor, New Roma Purse seine 1948 is a photograph by California Views Archives Mr Pat Hathaway Archives

Here is a closeup of one section of the photo mentioned above:

San Vito in Monterey Bay

The Dive

After we completed our dive on the Sub Tower, Justin Judd and I had a surface interval while slowly motoring over the to the Tuna Clipper aboard the Sundiver Express. Both sites were on my list to complete so getting to dive them both in a day was a treat.

Conditions were great with good visibility in cold, clear water. The wreck lies up the slope towards shore with the stern facing downslope. We spent about 20 minutes on the wreck before starting our decompression. We had already had a deep dive on the Sub Tower and only had just over an hour for a surface interval so we were quickly racking up deco time.

I really recommend this wreck to anybody who has the certifications to dive to 60 meters. It is covered in nets but very picturesque.


As mentioned above, the San Vito is a fun wreck to photograph. There are a ton of features to highlight and we had good visibility which always helps. Some highlights are below:

Stern from the starboard side
Stern structure
Justin Judd swimming away from the stern
Nets amidships
Justin Judd checking out the propeller

2 thoughts on “San Vito aka “Tuna Clipper” (Catalina — 175 fsw)

  1. The first time I dived this wreck, my buddy Tim Miller removed a brass intake cover. During our ascent, he dropped it. He made a second dive and found it a hundred feet away from the wreck.

    I spent nearly all of my last dive there freeing a horn shark caught in the net surrounding the wreck.

    1. Yeah, it is covered in nets. My understanding is that some of the nets were on the ship when it sank but then there are also a lot of other nets that have snagged and been left.

      It really is a nice dive site.

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