The S.S. San Pablo was a refrigerated cargo steamer built in 1915 in Ireland. The ship had three decks and a steel hull. It’s length was 315 feet and she had a 40 foot beam. Prior to World War II, the San Pablo was owned by Central American merchants and mainly shipped fruit between Caribbean ports. Like all other merchant vessels, during World War II the San Pablo became a target for the German submarines who sought to disrupt commerce worldwide.
In May 1942, a U-boat intercepted and fired on San Pablo as she sailed near the Yucatan Channel. The San Pablo was unarmed and so frantically maneuvered in an attempt to outrun the submarine. Finally, the Key West command center bluffed the Germans by radioing that air support was on the way. The U-boat submerged which allowed the San Pablo to escape to safety in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica.
Unfortunately, the San Pablo was not safe for long. While unloading cargo at the same port in July, the German submarine U-161 fired two torpedoes which struck the San Pablo midship. The ship quickly sank, killing all 23 men aboard. The masts and superstructure remained above water.
In early 1943, the ship was raised and towed to Tampa for repairs. However, the War Shipping Administration declared the San Pablo a total loss. She was then towed to Panama City and sunk in September 1943 for use in target practice. Later it was decided that the ship was a hazard to navigation, so it was destroyed by explosives.
The wreck is now mostly debris, but the boilers and stern section are somewhat intact. The wreckage sits in 75-85 feet of water less than ten miles from Pensacola Pass. Many fishermen frequent the wreck which has attracted a large marine community. Grouper, snapper, cobia, flounder, and schools of baitfish frequent the wreck. Many consider the spot great for photography and visibility of 100 feet has been reported at times.
This wreck is also known locally as the “Russian Freighter”, but nobody knows how the San Pablo came to called this.
30° 11.333N 87° 13.057W