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  • Text and Photography by Bill Harrigan

    Above: Pirate's Lady, with the wind in her sails. Live-aboard guest kayak south of bimini and snorkel off Rum Cay.

    If you havenít tried live-aboard diving in The Bahamas, youíre missing the best thing to happen since the invention of scuba. Bahamas live-aboard diving is absolute convenience. You set up your dive gear once, then you only handle it when youíre actually diving. No lugging gear from hotel to van to boat. No jockeying for space on a crowded bench and no long, uncomfortable ride out to the dive site and back. Of course, there is also the pleasure of diving away from the crowds. Live-aboards around the world take you to the outer reaches, where few divers goóand thatís particularly true in the islands of The Bahamas.

    You can dive your buns off on a Bahamas live-aboard. Three to five dives a day are the norm, and some boats offer even more chances to get wet. But, if you are the less enthusiastic half of a diving couple, you donít have to go on every dive. In fact, many divers on a live-aboard make only one or two dives a day. Even non-divers go on these trips and have fun. There is plenty to do, including shore excursions, watersports and just relaxing. The food served on Bahamas live-aboards is both a blessing and a curse. Itís a blessing because itís usually fantastic. Itís a curse for the same reason! Donít go on a live-aboard if you expect to lose weight. The food is great, there is lots of it and your appetite will be ravenous.


    Top: A diver with Antler Sponges off Grand Bahama. Above: The Nekton Pilot's expansive sun deck.
    Sea Fever Diving Cruises
    Sea Fever is a fast, 90-foot, aluminum vessel that accommodates 16 divers or snorkelers in seven air-conditioned cabins. A sundeck and tiered camera table are among the many diver amenities aboard Sea Fever. Departures are from Miami Beach, Freeport, Nassau or Bimini, depending on the time of year. Six different basic itineraries are available, each with many possibilities for exploration. The general areas include the western Bahamas, Cay Sal, the Berry Islands, Andros, Eleuthera, the Exumas, Little San Salvador, Cat Island, Conception Island, Rum Cay, San Salvador, Crooked Island and Memory Rock. Of course, there are also Sea Feverís specialties, the Dolphin Encounter trips, which have been a favorite since their inception in 1974. Sea Fever dedicates about 50 percent of the diving time on these trips to snorkeling with wild dolphins in a variety of locations such as White Sand Ridge and the Great Bahama Bank. A Sea Fever trip includes all meals, non-alcoholic beverages, wine with dinner, double occupancy accommodations and port taxes. Nitrox is available to nitrox certified divers for a small fee.

    Sea Dragon
    The Exuma Cays, a remote island chain stretching nearly 100 miles along the edge of the Great Bahama Bank southeast of Nassau, are home ground for Sea Dragon. Owned and operated by Captains Dan Doyle and Sue Ford, who have been exploring the Exumas since 1972, Sea Dragon was custom built for live-aboard diving in 1980. Accommodating eight passengers in four air-conditioned cabins, the 65-foot vessel normally departs from Nassau, although occasional trips originate in Georgetown. Each charter is tailored for the group aboard. With shallow reefs and beaches on one side and deep walls on the other, the Exumas are perfect for live-aboard diving. Protected by the Bahamas National Trust since 1955 as the Exumas Land and Sea Park, they are packed with fish and coral. The tidal flow between the islands also gives Sea Dragon divers fantastic drift diving.

    Bahamas Live-Aboards
    Aqua Cat Cruises
    Aqua Cat
    (888) 327-9600
    www.aquacatcruises.com
    Blackbeardís Cruises
    (800) 327-9600
    www.blackbeard-cruises.com
    Bottom Time Adventures
    Bottom Time II
    (800) 234-8464
    www.bottomtime2.com
    Cat Ppalu Cruises
    Cat Ppalu
    (800) 327-9600
    www.catppalu.com
    Nekton Diving Cruises
    Nekton Pilot
    (800) 899-6753
    www.nektoncruises.com
    Ocean Explorer
    (800) 338-9383
    www.oceanexplorerinc.com
    Sea Dragon
    (954) 522-0161
    www.seadragonbahamas.com
    Sea Fever Diving Cruises
    Sea Fever
    (800) 443-3837
    www.seafever.com

    Blackbeardís Cruises
    Veteran Blackbeardís divers affectionately call this type of dive trip ďcamping on the water,Ē and they come back every year for another trip. Admittedly, private space is at a premium on the three 65-foot sailboats, Morning Star, Pirates Lady and Sea Explorer. Single and double berths for 16 divers are arranged in four air-conditioned cabins. At night you retire to your own berth with a curtain closure. But, when you consider the price, the arrangement is fine. Except in the winter, when Nassau departures to the Exumas are available, the Blackbeardís boats sail from Miami. After crossing to The Bahamas, the captains have full control of the itinerary, selecting the route according to the best diving and the desires of the passengers. The western and middle Bahamas are fair game, including Grand Bahama, the Gingerbread Grounds, Andros, New Providence, Bimini and points south. Blackbeardís Cruises also operates the upscale Cat Ppalu, a 65-foot, 12-passenger sailing catamaran that offers special charters out of Nassau. Cat Ppalu has no set itinerary.

    Aqua Cat Cruises
    The new, power catamaran, Aqua Cat (103 feet), will begin service from Nassau to the Exuma Islands in July of 2001. The Exumas offer a fascinating variety of things to doósuperb scuba diving, beautiful beaches, hidden coves. Twenty-two divers will be accommodated in private cabins with their own ensuite bathrooms. A crew of ten will be onboard to accommodate guests. Aqua Cat offers luxury cruising for both divers and non-divers. Divers can experience up to 27 dives per week, photo and video labs, E-6 processing, Nitrox, a free REEF fish ID course and specialty scuba courses. A 28-foot launch will transport guests to beautiful beaches and secluded coves for an afternoon of snorkeling, kayaking, beach volleyball and scuba instruction.

    Bottom Time Adventures
    Fast, stable and spacious, Bottom Time II can take 14 divers to the far reaches of The Bahamas in air-conditioned comfort. A host of guest conveniences, such as a wet bar, sundeck and lounge have been designed into Bottom Time II, and five crew members make sure everyone is happy. E-6 processing and video services are available. Want to be among the very few who have scuba dived the pristine reefs of Samana Cay or Crooked Island? This luxury catamaran has no milk run. Instead, it cruises the length and breadth of The Bahamas, from the Abacos to Cay Sal to San Salvador and beyond. Dolphin encounters are also a Bottom Time II specialty. For the last 16 years they have been putting snorkelers and dolphins together in the clear, shallow waters of both the Great Bahama and Little Bahama Banks.

    Nekton Diving Cruises
    Nekton Pilot has the living space of a small hotel and the stability of a large cruise ship, thanks to its advanced design. Borrowing from the U.S. Navyís research, it uses a concept called Small Waterplane Area Twin Hull (SWATH) to produce a vessel so stable that seasickness is a rarity among Nekton Pilot passengers. Guest areas include extra generous air-conditioned cabins, all with picture windows and huge bathrooms; a spacious dining room and salon; and a volleyball court-sized sundeck with whirlpool. Photographers have two carpeted camera tables, three dedicated camera rinse barrels, daily E-6 processing, light tables and projectors.

    More innovation can be found on the dive deck, which is adjusted at the touch of a button to the perfect height for easy entry and exit. Divers can come and go at will while the vessel is on each site, so the dive deck is never crowded.

    If you want to see the best of The Bahamas, give yourself a treat and spend a week on a live-aboard. The superb diving, ultra-convenience, indulgent cuisine and great times with new friends will spoil you forever.

    The Bahamas Experience | Parade of Marine Life | Shark Diving | Grand Bahama Island | Bahamas Dolphins Encounters | Nassau | Out Islands of The Bahamas | Ten Reasons To Take The Whole Family | Walls and Blue Holes | Rapture of The Wrecks | Exploring The Bahamas by Live Aboard | Bahamas By Snorkel | Bahamas Diving Association | Index