Thursday, May 27, 2021
Last day of diving and we finally made it to some of the further southern sites and WOW! We made it another 5 miles south of the Krispy Kreme dive site that I raved about on Tuesday. Believe it or not, the first dive this morning on Sponge Garden was even better than Krispy Kreme.
This was our only drift dive of the week. We all splashed in with military precision one after the other while negatively buoyant during the giant stride into the water. We were once again met with 100 + foot visibility and a glorious current that was just the right speed and a terrain that allowed for ducking in behind ridges to escape the current for the occasional reprieve when desired. It was a lengthy series of rolling hills and valleys and deeper cuts that even constituted legit swim throughs while ducking the current.
The reef was resplendent in color and health. I could have cruised along forever on this dive site. Since all 13 divers + the 2 dive guides would be together on this dive, the decision was made beforehand that whoever hit 1,000 psi first would alert the DM and then a check of everyone else would be made. Anyone between 1,000 and 1,300 would group together with one of the DM’s for the rest of the dive and ascend together and anyone above 1,300 psi would also group together and continue with their dive and ascend together. I think this was a great decision and very much worked out for everyone.
Dive 2 on the last day had us move to Bull Run with what the crew guaranteed would be a dive with multiple reef sharks. They were not wrong. No sooner than we arrived and slowed down to approach the mooring pin than we spotted 5 medium to large reef sharks circling behind us at the stern, in very blue water. It was a fun dive and nice to see 5 sharks schooling around together. This site had some current, but was easily avoided by ducking behind large coral heads or cruising in the swim throughs. The crew said that this was an old shark feeding station and the sharks continue to hang around this location in anticipation. Currently, there is no active shark feeding dives going on.
Dive 3 was a short repositioning about a quarter mile away to some other coral heads and swim throughs and the sharks followed us over there and hung around throughout the dive. There was a large number of lionfish down at these last 2 dive sites. In fact, at one point, I began to enter a swim-through cavern and was met by a small bait ball of silversides (which was cool); but beyond them were no less than 12 good sized lionfish hovering around together and blocking my further penetration- it just would have been unsafe to try and navigate around them. They would have been easy pickings with a spear, but no one brought one along on the dive due to the large number of sharks present.
After the dive and everyone cleaning all of the gear and getting it out to dry, we started making our way back to Miami. In comparison to the crossing at the beginning of the week, we had absolutely smooth sailing. Nary a ripple in the water. We started back around 3:30pm and we all made friendly bets and guesses on what time we would tie up to the mooring in Miami for the night. We came in at 10:06pm (give or take a few minutes).
We spent the night on the boat and US customs and immigration officials came aboard around 7:15am the next morning to check passports and put names to faces and then we had breakfast and people began departing.
We had a late afternoon flight from Miami to Denver and then to Portland. So, we left our luggage on board and did a bit of touring around Miami, had a leisurely lunch, went back tot the boat at 2pm to get our stuff and then an UBER to the airport.
It was a really nice trip. As with any liveaboard, the other passengers and the crew can make or break it. We were fortunate to have a really awesome crew. The Juliet crew is a tight knit family that works extremely well together and could not have done more to make our experience the best as possible. We also had a very nice and enjoyable set of competent divers on the trip. They were also thoughtful of others (not something you always see). It was a pleasant mix demographically (age (20’s to 60’s), life experience, dive experience, work backgrounds….)
The food was outstanding—even for picky non-meat eating, non-dairy eating, non-processed food eating people like us. They went above and beyond to accommodate us (#Hillary!).
When it comes to the diving, mother nature can rule. I think we got a nice mix of what any given week can throw at you from a weather standpoint. Especially this time of year. The Juliet crew did all they could do to put us in the safest and best diving situations available, given the circumstances- and that is what I expect.
Nitrox fills were a consistent 30% and I never saw a tank pressure below 3200 psi and usually closer 3300/3400 psi all week.
I feel like the Juliet is really good value for the price point. We had people on the trip that have done 8+ trips on her. It totally works for them. They also feel like part of that tight knit family- and that says something.
That being said, I will say this- just by way of trying to be as informing and balanced to as many people researching their next or future dive trip as possible:
1. If you are in any way feeling physically challenged at this season of your life, then consider the following:
a. The dive deck is not flat. It is actually quite bowed and could easily be a hazard for anyone physically challenged getting on or off the boat during dives.
b. Stairs and passageways on the sleeping deck are steep and narrow with some low ceilings. I am 6 foot and 1 inch and I can’t remember the number of times I hit my head or banged my knee or stubbed a toe on something.
c. I did not see an en-suite bathroom/shower (the 2 cabins that have them were already booked when we booked); but the communal toilets for all other passengers are pretty cramped and could be off putting for some people and especially if you need to make any regular night-time visits.
d. Our cabin did have its own air conditioning control system and it seemed to work just fine and accurately. Although others reported differently.
e. Check your cabin choice options. A number or most of the cabins are bunk beds- you may not be comfortable climbing in and out of a top single sized bunk.
2. I ended up taking all of my showers on the back deck at the end of the dive day and in my bathing suit. It was just more convenient. That being said, I did the same thing on the Belize Aggressor.
3. There is a toilet on the dive deck which came in very handy. Not only because I didn’t have to traverse back down any stairs to the other toilets, but it was just enough larger in capacity to make it that much more comfortable to take care of business.
a. NOTE: this toilet locks and unlocks both ways. So, be sure to knock and make sure you don’t walk in on anyone by accident. It happens
I'm just now getting around to reading your trip report, and it was so helpful and informative! Thanks for taking the time to be so thorough.
We're getting ready for our 4th trip on the Juliet in October and I agree that the crew makes it amazing. Liza is the owner and one of the captains and she sets such a good tone for the crew. She's no-nonsense, kind, funny and efficient. Her leadership shows in the rest of the crew. Can't wait to get back out and away from the world.