Aqua Cat

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  1. snagel says:

    Aquacat 5/8/10-5/15/10 Trip Report

    Original Post by Rpearlman on ScubaToys

    I just returned from the Aqucat liveaboard (aquacat.com) yesterday, and I wanted to post a trip report while it was still fresh in my head. Quickly by way of background, I’m a fairly new diver (just about 25 logged dives prior to the trip), and I had intended to go on the trip last October with a buddy and a Dallas-based dive group. Unfortunately, I had to cancel due to work, and I was on stand-by by myself for this trip.

    Day 1 (5/8)
    I arrived from DFW to NAS (direct flight) around 4 p.m. (it was delayed by about an hour or so because the flight was late getting into Dallas). Arrival was very easy, and I headed out to the waiting taxi’s where I asked for the driver – and he took me straight to Hurricane Harbor where the boat was docked.

    Officially, you need to come aboard around 6 p.m., so I sat my bags on the deck, hit the head, and headed over to the Green Parrot bar where I had a few drinks with some passengers that were waiting there as well. They were all very friendly.

    At 6, we got back on board for orientation and the first night casual dinner which was BBQ served buffet-style (which was the norm for all meals). We could then head into town, but I ended up staying on-board for the rest of the night and socialized with the fellow passengers.

    Day 2 (5/9)
    Breakfast was served at 7:30 this morning since they wanted to do a bit more extensive of a dive briefing after breakfast. Food included scrambled eggs, bagels, fruits and a variety of juices.

    After breakfast, we had a dive briefing. The morning consisted of two dives Barracuda Shoal and Pillar Wall. The first dive was fairly shallow (about 30 feet) and was a great way to get acclimated to the beautiful Bahama waters. We saw Barracuda (surprise), rays, green morays, parrot fish, damsel fish, sea cucumbers and a nurse shark all on our first dive – this trip was going to be a treat.

    Lunch was served around 12:30 which included fruit, salad, fish, grilled chicken, bread and various sides (including potatoes, pasta, etc.)

    After lunch, we did another two dives at at Waxcut Drift (a nice 35 foot drift dive) and 3 Fingers (a 30 foot shallow dive).

    Dinner was served around 6:30 which included salad, roasted potatoes, various meats and chicken, bread and a killer key lime pie for dessert.

    After dinner, there was a nigh dive again at 3 Fingers. We saw lots of shrimp, sleeping parrot fish, lobsters and an assortment of black jacks and other fish.

    After the night dive, some folks watched movies on the big screen TV, others read books and others socialized. Everyone was asleep around 10:30 or 11:00 for a well-deserved rest. (Most everyone did all 5 dives the first day – that was a feat only repeated by myself for the rest of the cruise).

    Day 3 (5/10)
    Breakfast at 8:00 (the normal time for the rest of the cruise). The two divers this morning were Goombay Reef (about 75 feet) and Amberfin Reef (about 50 feet).

    The big news here was that Amberfin Reef was our shark-dive. The team brought down a “chum-sickle” of frozen fish bits that attracted about 30 reef sharks (and a number of nosey yellow-tail snapper and grouper). It’s really amazing to be swiming among so many sharks, but I felt entirely safe the whole time as they were more interested in the fish chunks than me.

    The afternoon dives included Amberfin Reef (this time without the shark feed) and Coral Cut Drift (about a 30 foot drift dive). For the night dive, we again went to Amberfin Reef. It was really amazing to be swimming at night in an area with some sharks still hanging around. We encountered one 6 foot reef shark that decided to swim under our group for a bit before he demonstrated just how fast he can swim away from us.

    Day 4 (5/11)
    Today’s dives included Empress Pinnacle (about 95 feet), Pillar Ledge (about 75 feet – we dove this site twice) and Jake’s Hole (about 45 feet). At night, we remained at Jake’s Hole. Today provided for some awesome swim throughts, an eagle ray and turtles.

    Day 5 (5/12)
    The dives today included Split Coral Head (about 95 feet), Swim Through City (I went to 120 feet – on nitrox ), Knucklehead Reef (about 40 feet) and Cave Rock (about 55 feet – we also dove here for our night dive).

    Talk about swim throughs! Obviously, Swim Through City was amazing as was Cave Rock – which had a shallow but very nice swim through.

    Day 6 (5/13)
    Today’s dives included Cobia Cage (about 95 feet on the walls), Hole in the Wall (about 100 feet), Flat Rock (about 25 feet) and the Washing Machine (drift dive at about 40 feet).

    The highlight of the day was certainly the Washing Machine. This is a very fast drift dive with some reall cool walls you spin you up-side-down like a washing machine (duh). We also saw a nurse shark, a reef shark, two turtles and a southern ray on this dive.

    On this day, we did not have a night dive – instead we had the Captains dinner (served at the table instead of buffet this night) and a cocktail party that included sushi from fish that was caught by folks that had decided to skip one or two of the dives for fishing instead.

    Day 7 (5/14)
    Today we had just 1 dive at Hammerhead Gulch (about 30 feet). Normally, they do 2 dives, but the wind had picked up, and there was concern about heading back to Nassau and risk very choppy waters. The captain put it up for a vote, and everyone decided that 1 would be fine.

    Following the dive, we had lunch and a long sail back to Nassua (about 2-3 hours). We arrived around 2:30 p.m. at which point we arrived at Paradise Island so folks could get off and do whatever they wanted. (I personally headed to Atlantis to waste a bit of money in the casino and look around. I also got some Starbucks that had helped with my withdrawl .)

    We had another cocktain party around 6 p.m. that night and a group headed back onto the island for dinner. We at at Anthony’s which was okay – I had conch fritters and red snapper.

    Day 8 (5/15)
    This is departure day. Breakfast is available from 7:30 to 9:00 a.m. I slept in a bit, had breakfast and then headed to Paradise Island. My flight wasn’t until 4 p.m. (the NAS-DFW direct flight). I ended up just hanging out, reading my book and getting some food at Atlantis for lunch. The crew arranged for taxi pick-ups (included in the price), and my left at 1 p.m. So, I spent about 2 hours in the airport – they say better safe than sorry since the trip time to the airport can vary significantly.

    Overall
    This was my first ever livaboard experience, and I did it the odd way – on stand-by without any friends, as a fairly inexperienced diver and looking to get my advanced open water certification. (Oh, did I mention I got my certification while on board?)

    Overall good things about the trip:
    •The food was universally excellent; Chef Kirk did an amazing job in serving a variety of meat, fish, salads and various sides. As a bit of a foodie myself, I was never unhappy – especially with the veal chops, lamb chops and tenderloins that he had ad just about every dinner.
    •The crew was very friendly. We had a somewhat eclectic group of folks on board, and the crew interacted with everyone.
    •Knowledgable dive masters. As I said, I got my advanced open water certification from the crew, and they did a great job taking it seriously to make sure I got the appropriate education (they were also not so up-tight about it that it wasn’t fun)
    •Great accomodations – while I had probably the worst cabin (it was smaller than the rest and did not have a window), it was still clean, had a spacious bathroom that included HOT WATER showers and amble storage space. My room was a bunk (I took the top) which still provided some nice privacy.
    Overall less than good things about the trip:
    •I dove too much. This was probably my fault because I did EVERY SINGLE DIVE on the trip (25 in all), but it would have been nice to take a break here and there. The Aquacat did provide opportunities to go fishing and do some on-shore trips, but I didn’t take advantage because I didn’t want to skip any dives.
    •It’s pricey. This wasn’t as much of an issue for me because I don’t know how often I might do it, but when you include the airfare, Aquacat price, tips, goodies (like DVD, shirts, etc.) it’s a fairly expensive week.
    Would I recommend it? Absolutely. The diving was fantastic, the people were very friendly, the crew was outstanding. The food was amazing (I was hoping to lose a pound or two on the trip – but I ended up about even). Next time, I might plan a day or two in Nassau before or after the trip to make it a bit more complete of a vacation, but it you are looking to do a lot of diving in a fairly luxury setting, Aquacat is the way to go.

    Russ

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