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Planning on diving Socorro soon...Anyone have an opinion on which is a better operation...Solmar or Nautilus Explorer?

 

Thanks!

 

Mike

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I posted this about my experience on the Nautilus Explorer in Guadalupe:

 

I went with Nautilus Explorer in September and had mixed feelings. The shark action was great and most of the staff was great. The food was pretty bad. There wasn't much air circulation inside. They let scientist that live on the island use the cages which meant less time for the guests. Several of the staff made negative comments about my Sea Shepherd shirt and how it was a bad organization, then went on to beg for donations to start their own conservation fly over group.

 

The night we arrived, the Solamar V was being sent back to port by the Mexican Navy for chumming the water. Supposedly it was their first night there and the Captain was arrested.

 

Even though it was good diving, I would probably not do a live aboard with Nautilus again. Maybe the Aggressors spoiled me too much.

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I've been on the Nautilus a number of times.

 

I can give it a very high recommendation. Very well run operation.

 

I think the service and food are first rate.

 

Never been on the Solmar. It is a beautiful boat. It got a new owner several years a go and is suppose to be a well run operation.

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i went to socorro last year on the nautilus explorer. i thought it was a well run operation and would go there again with them without hesitation.

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Another positive vote for the Nautilus Explorer, but I've never been on the Solmar V so can't compare. Very roomy and comfy boat, except the dive deck which is a little tight getting suited up. The food was fine on our trip, even though we had a substitute chef. NE has a metal launch and a rubber inflatible they were using on our trip.

 

The NE has one huge advantage over the Solmar V in my book: HOT TUB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Since the water's not that warm in the Socorros, it came in handy.

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never been on the explorer but have done a number of trips on the Solmar. I have been very impressed with the make over of the operation once the new owner took over. The rooms are small but its a very well run operation with most of the crew having many years working on the boat. I think the dive operation has much more experience in those waters than the explorer. Regardless of which you pick its a very fine place to dive. You never know what you might see (ran into a pod of orcas years ago on the return to Cabo)

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I have been on both boats, but only on the Solmar V in Socorro (twice). I would highly recommend the Solmar V for Socorro.

The Nautilus was also very well run, but the trip I was on was up in Alaska.

 

In general, I'm told that the Nautilus is run as a more strict operation than in the Solmar V (enforced dive time limits, etc.). I haven't verified this myself, but you may want to check with both operators to see what they say. I don't think you can go wrong with either one.

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I did a Nautilus Explorer trip to Socorro a few years ago. Great boat but it is not designed to operate in rough water when it comes to supporting diving ops. You must board the small boats off the stern of the Explorer. This is a dangerous operation because the motion of the larger boat is totally different from that of the small dive tenders. The motion patterns are typically out of sync & present numerous occasions for accidents to happen. The Solmar on the other hand is designed to board tenders of the sides of the vessel where relative motion is much more in sync, providing a much safer situation. I observed this first hand during my trip while at Roca Partida where the Solmar was also diving on a rather rough day at sea.

Edited by jcclink

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for what its worth. Just had a report from the last trip the Solmar did. Rather cold water for this time of year 79 on the surface. Six whale sharks on Roca Partida, 30+ silvertips etc etc (roca partida). Sounds good. We are on the Nov 13 trip this week.

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I went on the Solmar a few years ago before it was redone. We had a very good trip, excellent crew. Probably the best food I've had on any liveaboard, really good.

 

Tiny cabins and not much of a general hang out area, other than ding room. Roomy dive deck. No nitrox then, but I think they have it now. Kind of a tough ride out, but not terrible.

 

I'm going on NE Jan 3rd for a 10 day trip to Socorros, so it'll be interesting to compare.

 

Jack

Edited by JackConnick

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Thanks to all for their responses and keep them coming please!

 

Still a tough decision!

 

SOLMAR - $3600 for Superior bunk, free beer and wine, safer transfer to tender, more experience, better grub?

 

NE - $3,000 for Stateroom, 30 micro brews but not free, roomier, HOT TUB, strict dive limits, less experience

 

What about crew photo experience? Space for cameras? and what am I missing?

 

Thanks!

 

Mike

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I hate to confuse the options, but Sea Escape also goes to Socorro. I just returned from a trip to Guadalupe on Sea Escape and was very pleased with the operation (no hot tubs though!).

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I don't know where the rumor of "strict dive limits" comes from. I was on the NE in Socorro a few years ago and am signed up for another trip next Jan. The dive times were limited only by your gas consumption and experience. That being said they make it very clear that you are diving in the middle of the ocean and in the event of a serious accident rescue options are limited. The nearest chamber is in the military base on Socorro and it isn't at all clear that the military will let you use it. If not the nearest chamber is 24 hours away with no air transport available. They encourage conservative diving but don't restrict you in any sense.

Edited by drsteve

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I have only been on the Solmar V and would recommend it. Actually I went on it twice last year.

 

Alex

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I don't know where the rumor of "strict dive limits" comes from. I was on the NE in Socorro a few years ago and am signed up for another trip next Jan.

 

Steve what dates? I'm on the 10 day trip Jan 5th.

 

Jack

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This is the response I received from Solmar V RE their recent trouble.

 

 

There have been recent Mexican government restrictions about Great White Shark diving permits at Guadalupe Island. Even though our permits are current and in order, unfortunately, through a misunderstanding between the Mexican Navy and the Solmar V, we were forced to return to harbor early on one trip this past season. However, this misunderstaning was resolved and we were back to operating business as usual on the rest of our 2009 trips to Guadalupe Island.

 

We were stopped at the end of our trip and the boat searched. Took about 2-3 hours and seemed to achieve nothing on the Navys behalf.

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This is the response I received from Solmar V RE their recent trouble.

 

 

There have been recent Mexican government restrictions about Great White Shark diving permits at Guadalupe Island. Even though our permits are current and in order, unfortunately, through a misunderstanding between the Mexican Navy and the Solmar V, we were forced to return to harbor early on one trip this past season. However, this misunderstaning was resolved and we were back to operating business as usual on the rest of our 2009 trips to Guadalupe Island.

 

We were stopped at the end of our trip and the boat searched. Took about 2-3 hours and seemed to achieve nothing on the Navys behalf.

 

Yes, this is the week I was at Guadalupe with Nautilus. The Nautilus crew said that the Solmar V was at the start of their trip and was busted for chumming the water at night (we arrived at the Island around 9 pm). Not sure where they got their information from but they probably know when the Solamar runs their trips.

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Thanks for the responses!

 

I'll be on the Solmar Mar. 19....doesn't seem like I can wrong either way as long as I get a chance to dive the giant mantas and humpbacks.

 

Mike

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I'll be on the Solmar Mar. 19....doesn't seem like I can wrong either way as long as I get a chance to dive the giant mantas and humpbacks.

 

I think you will just miss me: I'm on Solmar the week before! I heard some scary stories about Mexican waves earlier this year, so now I'm concerned for my camera...

 

Good luck!

 

Tim

 

;)

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Never been on the Solomar but have heard nothing but good. Been on the Nautilus 3 times, to the Socorros, Alaska and Guadalupe. The crew works very hard but told me they get very tense when the owner/captain is aboard. When there is a different captain they can feel more relaxed. The boat itself is fine though getting on and off the skiff in the Socorros when the water is choppy is just plain dangerous. While nothing bad happened when I was there, the potential was real.

I found the food to be very good. Because the owners of the boat keep kosher, do not expect bacon for breakfast, or, for that matter, any pork product but I didn't find that difficult to live with as I have high chlorestriol anyway. But I do love bacon and eggs. They have this weird rule that the divemasters cannot sit and eat with the guests. Personally, I love it when crew members sit and mingle with guests. It is part of the experience for me in many countries.

The cabins are well kept and roomy though what they call the 'dormatory' in the bow (somewhat lower cost bunks) is just horrible. No privacy at all as the crews cabins are also there and one very cramped bathroom. Your bunk is in the open so for the crew to get to their cabins they walk through and if the galley girl tries to get to her cabin and you're stark naked, oh well! During the White Shark trip last year, all the other boats were chumming and getting GW action while the NE was not and we were lucky to have some pass bys. I was very dissappointed during that one. Like someone else said, there was a European guest photographer and his wife who seemed to be getting special treatment at the expense of the other guests. I was a writer for Asian Diver Magazine at the time but I guess I didn't rate.

 

In Alaska, I found the briefings by the owner (not the divemaster) to be exceptionally long history lessons. There they use an excellent 2nd boat to dive off of and that was always great though the vis when I was there was usually 5 ft until the very last day of diving when I didn't go in wanting to dry my gear off before the flight. My friend went the following week and had great vis he said. Many guests were very upset that the owner/captain made no attempt to arrange transfers from the boat to the airport. He was busy with his new girlfriend and all the guests had to walk into town in the pouring rain and find a pay phone to call cabs and arrange to get taken to the airport. That one left myself and others very ticked off as he had said that pickups would be arranged.

 

Would I go on the NE again? Only if I was on assignment and it was being paid for.

Steve

Edited by steve

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I have to say I have a few issues with NE although my dive experiences have been great. 1) it is an older boat and there is definitely something wrong with the plumbing system. It is down right nauseating to flush the heads. This occured on both trips. 2) the first trip we had a guest chef and the food was EXCELLENT. the second trip we had the normal chef and it wasn't so good. After I told them I couldn't eat beef, beef was continually served so I ate a lot of rolls that week. Towards the end of the trip the chef acted like this was the first he had heard that I didn't eat beef.

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Wow, interesting range of responses. I haven't been on the Solmar but I am booked on my fifth Socorro trip March 31, 2010 on the Nautilus. I really think they do an amazing job and the boat is very nice. I find the crew extremely nice and also very safety concious. I can't say enough about how enjoyable the trip is. Socorro is amazing. I love the boat and the crew. I can't imagine not loving the trip if you want pelagic diving/big ocean etc. They give as much independence as you want but briefings are very serious as they should be. The hospitality is first rate with drinks and towels waiting for you after every dive. The hot tub and beer selection is like heaven after an epic 4 dive day !!!! What else can I say, can't wait for my next trip in March. By the way, I have no affiliation with the Nautilus other than as a repeat customer.

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