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  • Tucked into a sunny marina located between Miami and Miami Beach are three “love boats.” They are not at all like the city block-long cruise ship of TV fame, but rather a trio of intimate and nearly identical 65-foot sailing vessels—boats where ambiance and destination combine in a formula for romance. Every Saturday, after provisioning, the Pirate’s Lady, the Morning Star and the Sea Explorer leave their home port for a week-long Bahamas-bound sail/dive adventure. Guests on board can look forward to turquoise seas and golden reefs, as well as a vast topside realm where dreamy, pine- or palm-clad islands linger on the horizon beneath daytime blue and nighttime starry skies. It is a natural formula for romance on the shallow seas.

    Over the past 20 years of continuous operation, 125 “traditional” weddings, including several underwater weddings, have been performed on cruises. Somewhere between 15 and 20 boat captains and several of the office staff have met their future husbands and wives aboard, and who knows how many shipboard romances have bloomed among guests? The owners of Blackbeard’s Cruises, Bruce and Peggy Purdy, set the tone in 1979 when Bruce proposed to Peggy on a vessel like one of these. Why, even her engagement ring is a symbol of the sea—a beautiful pearl.

    There is nothing staged or preplanned that promotes the romantic process, no cutesy deck games or nudie swims that would embarrass those not so inclined. Rather, it is a natural reaction to meeting someone special in a lovely, relaxed setting, cruising to one of the most romantic destinations in the world. It is reserved for those who are ready for it, although often without any preconceived expectations.

    Can diving be romantic? I’ve always thought of certain dive sites as very romantic settings. One of my favorite examples is a popular Blackbeard’s destination—the Victory Cay Reefs just south of Bimini. Here is a beautiful underwater setting—a series of reefs that runs for nearly a mile over a choice of depths. The reef front is shallow and nearly continuous, sloping to a gentle mini-wall on the seaward side. Perpendicular to the wall are swim-throughs that penetrate the reef, creating tunnels that surround and momentarily swallow divers in pristine coral.

    Large bulbous sponges, branching gorgonians and swaying seafans create floral bouquets in rainbow colors at the openings of the swim-throughs. Lacy green bryazoans drape downward beneath ledges like Spanish mantillas. Reef fish are everywhere, including schools of grunts and snappers that hover over the top of the reef. Nine months of the year the water temperature is warm enough for just a diveskin, a comfortable and sensuous feeling against your flesh. If a couple were considering an underwater wedding, the Victories would surely be a wonderful backdrop.

    Perhaps your version of a romantic dive site is a stately old shipwreck, partially exposed with its hull still intact. This is the subject and mood portrayed by the wreck of the Sapona, close to Bimini on the Great Bahama Bank. Steeped in the history of not so long ago, the Sapona was once a millionaire’s yacht. During the era of prohibition it operated first as a rum runner and then, intentionally sunk on the bank, as a storage depot for illegal liquor. Today she rests peacefully in 20 feet of water attended by schools of fish, the huge prop positioned over the sand and coral rubble bottom.

    Another romantic history is found at the dive site known as the Bimini Road, located off the northern end of the island. Here, in shallow water, is a conspicuous wall of large square and rectangular blocks looking very much like a carefully constructed underwater highway. Discovered by scientists in the late 1960s (it was previously known to fishermen and some divers), the road was immediately connected to the legend of Atlantis. As a result of finding exactly what they knew would be there all along, the scientists concluded that this was the site that a famous psychic named Edgar Cayce predicted would be found in the 1960s off Bimini—an outpost of the mythic lost world of Atlantis.

    Expeditions from National Geographic, NOAA, the Cousteau Society, many universities and several motion picture companies soon followed. Several books and documentaries have resulted with the jury still out on the exact identification and interpretation of the Bimini Road. It may be an ancient man-made site or merely a naturally occurring rock formation. Whatever it is, it makes for an interesting and intriguing discovery dive that sets your imagination into overdrive.

    In addition to romantic reefs and wrecks, there is plenty of adventure diving, too. Tuna Alley, an exciting reef and wall often buzzed by schools of pelagics, and Bull Run, a shark encounter specialty dive, are also on the list of popular Blackbeard’s dive sites.

    Let’s not forget topside Bahamas—a place as idyllic and romantic as can be imagined. Special excursions are launched from the sailboats via dinghy to isolated beaches and islets along the diver’s route. The beaches here are famous for their snow-white sand and bathtub-warm water. Beachcombing, picnics, parties and pure discovery are part of the appeal of these lonely cays. Life aboard ship includes eating and partying above deck with old and new friends, while nighttime socializing under diamond-sprinkled skies can’t but ignite the passion.

    Great diving, fun sailing and frequent partying is guaranteed, and who knows what else? These love boats and the romantic Bahamas will no doubt continue to weave their magic spell.