Caribbean Explorer
November 16-25, 2001

For this years Thanksgiving week/birthday dive trip, I decided on the Caribbean Explorer out of St. Maarten. This is a liveaboard almost in class with the Agressor/Peter Hughes boats for less money. The boat is nicely equipped with a great dive deck that has a big camera table, charging station, and lockers big enough for your divegear. You assemble your gear when you get on the boat and then just take the first stage off after every dive when you want your tank filled. This is what makes liveaboard so appealling - you have your gear right there ready to go at every dive. The only thing missing with regards to dive accommodations is Nitrox. You really noticed that towards the end of the week when most people were a little tired.
The dive arrangements are similar to other liveaboards I have been on: two dives in the morning, two dives in the afternoon and then one nightdive. We had the opportunity to do shore excursions on Saba, Statia and St. Kitts instead of one afternoon dive and I did all the tours. The cabins are on the small side, but you don't spend a lot of time there anyway so that didn't bother me. The dining area/lounge is large and has a good layout and the sundeck upstairs is big too with a nice wet bar.
I couldn't find anyone to come with me so I went by myself. Apart from me and my room mate Steve from California, the rest of the guests were from Colorado. I'm not sure if I have been lucky or not, but there haven't been a bad group of people on any of the five liveaboards I have been on. And the crews have generally been great (except for my first liveaboard in the Red Sea...). More to come...

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Our accomodations for the week.

And from the rear - showing where we got off and on while diving. Of course, the tender was in the water while we were diving.

The camera table was easy to access and had plenty of space for our camera gear. The yellow video housing is mine.

Simpson Bay with the airport in the background.

The famous Maho beach at the airport.

And this is why the beach is famous - no zoom needed...

A dive map of one of Saba's famous divesites:
3rd Encounter. You can see the Needle at the center of the picture. Supposedly there's a hole through the needle at 160-180 feet, but I didn't find one there - didn't spend too much time looking for it though...
I tried my Spare Air bottle at the moring - 11 breaths at 111 feet! That's not enough for a 3 minute safety stop (I would get a lot more breaths at 15 feet, but still...) but enough to get to the surface.

Allie, my dive buddy for the week. We got along pretty good and liked the same kind of diving so we were a good match.

Our cook for the week - Craig. I think he got a commission on the number of pounds the guests gained in a week - great food (especially the deserts)! And even though he's from Australia, he did a pretty good turkey with all the trimmings!

The boat crew (left to right): Tom, Bill, JF, Jennifer, Craig, Stu, Rene'.

Most of the time, the top of Saba is hidden in the clouds.

The Bottoms on Saba.

Diamond Rock, one of Saba's famous divesites. We did some great dives from there.

The dive map for Diamond Rock. Notice the boat dive rules at the top - only broke three of them (the first three of course!).

The main drag in Phillipsburg: Front Street. As you can tell, the tourism is down a bit...

This is where you get the Guavaberry Rum. Guavaberry only grows on St. Maarten and the rum is pretty tasty!

Kim failing miserably at a giant stride: head first, no gear and trying it from the sun deck ;-) Nice try though...

Saba really is unspoiled.

A nice rainbow after a short rainfall when we visited the fort on Statia.

Saba from a distance.

St. Kitts' Brimstone fort.

It's hexagonal!

You can almost imagine the French ships down in the bay before mayhem ensued.

The clock tower at the Batik factory at Romney Manor on St. Kitts.