Dive Boat Review
How we review dive boats / dive operations:
Dive boats are reviewed on three levels:
1) Appropriateness: Just because it floats and can get you to a dive site does not mean it is a good dive boat. Is the boat stable? Is it spacious and conducive to divers and all their gear? Is it easy to exit and re-enter? What are the creature comforts like?
2) Condition: Some boats are new, and others are not. The age is not always the issue, but rather, the condition the boat is kept and its functionality.
3) Crew: Perhaps the single most important factors in any dive operation is the captain and divemaster.
Lost Reef Adventures is a professional dive operation that I would recommend to any level of diver. Novice divers will appreciate their methods.
BOTTOM LINE: I will dive with them again especially if I have my family with me.
This review was written by Divemaster Robb Hawks, NAUI 47527. Robb and fellow DM Shawn Bush dove with Lost Reef Adventures in June, 2007.
The opinions of this review are solely those of Robb Hawks. You may respond directly to him by email.
In This Review
“Lost Reef Adventures”
261 Margaret Street
Key West, Fl 33040
The Store: Lost Reef Adventures’ base of operation is a small office/dive shop right at the heart of downtown Key West a few blocks away from Duval Street. The store is manned by Nick the owner and Adrianne who manned the counter. Dive gear, air fills, PADI & NAUI dive instruction, and a great “must buy” T-Shirt design make the dive shop a pleasant Key West stop. I liked the “real” look and feel of the shop.
Captain Rich: The key to any dive operation is the boat captain. Rich is an old salt who has been working the Keys for a lifetime. I really appreciated his thorough and professional boat brief. His local knowledge shown when we arrived at the first dive site and he determined the viz was just too poor for a reasonable dive. He took us about 10 minutes farther and found some better viz I like Rich. He is a real plus plus for Lost Reef Adventures.
Divemaster Dave: Dave has been diving since 1962. I think he has saltwater in his veins. He is a great DM. I loved his attitude and friendliness.
PLUS: The Lost Reef Adventures uses a technique that I absolutely love and wish other dive operations would adopt. Most dive boats will string a bridal line along side of the boat attached at the stern, then at a cleat near the bow, and finally attached to the anchor line or mooring buoy. This is to help divers pull themselves from the back of the boat to the front of the when a mild current is present. This method is OK as long as the seas are calm. But if there is any kind of seas you can find yourself worn out and half beat to death by the time you get under water.
LRA drops a buoy off the back of the boat with a heavy lead shot attached to the end of 15′ of line. From the lead shot a second line is attached to the mooring line 15-25′ underwater. This works great. You drop off the back of the boat, descend to the line and simply pull yourself to the mooring/descent line. A piece of cake. When you ascend you reach the line and now you and your buddy have a simple place for your safety stop while pulling yourself back to the stern of the boat for an easy exit. Every dive operation should adopt this method. I feel it is a must for beginner divers.
“Dream” is the 40′ custom built dive boat operated by Lost Reef Adventures. This is a purpose built boat constructed in 1989 which can handle up to 16 divers.
Deck space is broad and open with easy access to the stern where there are two exits onto a water level dive platform which spans the back of the boat with two large dive ladders. I like this type of exit/entrance. It was very easy on and off. Beginner divers will appreciate this type of dive boat. The boat is a V hull boat but felt very stable in the water. There is an upper deck/bridge where the helm is located. Divers were allowed to sit in this area.
The boat is an older boat and its age is showing. The head was functioning but had a minor flushing issue. That being said, the boat was extremely clean. I discovered why at the end of the trip when the Captain and Divemaster attacked the boat with scrub brushes and cleansing agents.
Our morning dives were 2 shallow reef dives. Unfortunately, the reefs around Key West have taken some serious hits over the years and are not as viable as the reefs in the upper keys. That being said, we had a good time. The fish sanctuary dive yielded monster lobsters who actually walked out of their holes to check us out. A nice scamp grouper, a school of huge midnight parrot fish, hundreds of various snappers, and tons of other misc. fish gave us lots to look at. The hurricanes of past years had caused some large brain coral heads to roll over.
The viz was lousy, a mere 15-20′. We are little spoiled and anything under 50′ is sub-par in our books, but let’s face it, if you wait for perfect viz you are not going to dive much. Keep your buddy close and have a good time. The afternoon wreck dives were on the Cayman and Joe’s Wreck. Both of these dives are 60+ feet and therefore advanced dives. The Cayman is pretty intact with very inviting openings, but this is not a prepared wreck and there are cables, pipes, and numerous hazards making it a no penetration dive even for divers with wreck penetration training. Viz again was 15-20′. We saw a goliath grouper, moray eel, and a variety of other fish.
Joe’s Wreck is a tugboat that is broken apart in 70+ feet of water. The wreckage is strewn across the ocean floor in two main piles. Very enjoyable.
Both of these wrecks were good dives in spite of the less than ideal viz. (Shawn and I are very spoiled. We had 120″ viz on our first dive on the Spiegle-Grove!)