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A Tale of Two Liveaboards

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#1 mntlblok



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  • Location:Savannah, GA
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Posted 30 August 2005 - 12:16 PM

Thought I would report on the digital photography aspects of a couple of liveaboard trips this summer.

In early July, my wife and I went on the Nekton Rorqual out of Fort Lauderdale. It was scheduled to go to Cay Lobos - in the Bahamas, down to within eleven miles of Cuba. However, we were delayed in leaving by a day because of Hurricane Dennis, so we ended up just going over to the northern Bahamas.

I had been on the Nekton Pilot several times back when I was using a Nikonos V. They no longer process slides on the boat. Of the 28 divers, at least half had some sort of digital camera for underwater use. There must have been at least ten laptops on board. There were plenty of electrical outlets, both in the rooms and in the salon area, for the laptops and for battery recharging. The boat was very photographer friendly.

About ten days ago, I tried a trip on Blackbeard's Sea Explorer out of Miami - without my wife. Captain Red (a character whom I really enjoyed) initially announced that, since the weather was so nice, that we would be going down to Cay Sal Banks - where the Blackbeard's 65ft sailboats could seldom go. He knows lots of sites down there from his previous experience with another liveaboard company. By the time we had cleared customs in Bimini the next day, he reported that there was a tropical wave down that way, so we would just stay further north.

I knew that the boat would be a much different experience than I had previously had on the Nektons and the Aggressors on which I'd cruised. And, it was. :-) But, the price was also different, and, other than the "pump your own" toilet, I really enjoyed the experience.

It turned out that the tropical wave became Katrina, and, by Tuesday afternoon (we had left on Saturday), it was clear that if we were going to predictably make it safely and easily back across the gulfstream, that we would have to end our diving and head back to Florida.

There were a couple (prosumer, I think you guys call them) of other cameras on board, but I'm afraid I was looked on as a bit of a freak with my two-strobe setup. One fellow did have need to recharge batteries for his camera, but "you can't use that outlet, because it trips the breaker".

There were no electrical outlets in the bunk spaces, and only one outlet over the dining room table above the fruit hammock. It was possible to unplug the little TV or the CD player and utilize one of those sockets (though that was where circuit breaker problems tended to come from). There was also one outlet back in behind the area where the food bowls for the buffets were set out - but the toaster might be plugged into that one. There was a 2-plug power strip (stored under the sink) that I was sometimes able to use, but I got the impression (wrongly?) that they would rather I didn't use it.

Diving-wise, there really wasn't a whole lot of difference between Blackbeard's and the others. The main difference, as I saw it, was the limited number of tanks that could be refilled at one time. That seemed to be why Blackbeard's has three or four dives per day, while my other liveaboard experiences have been two morning, two afternoon, and one night dive every day.

I enjoyed the staff on both boats, and both were very helpful with getting the camera gear on and off the boats. There was plenty of space in the fresh water barrels for the cameras on both.

You take your chances when you sign up for a liveaboard trip during hurricane season, but twice? :-)
Kevin Bryant
Savannah, GA
Digital Rebel 550D
Ikelite eTTL housing, 6" dome and flat ports
Dual DS-125's
Canon 60mm Macro lens
Sigma 15mm Fish Eye lens
Tokina 10-17mm