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My Cat Ppalu - Citizen Scientist - Cruise Report

Discussion in 'All Star Liveaboards' started by jlcnuke, Sep 8, 2018.

  1. jlcnuke

    jlcnuke Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: acworth ga
    Hi all, I'm back to give my thoughts and impressions from my second All Star Liveaboards trip, this time on the Cat Ppalu out of Nassau, Bahamas.

    Again, like on my Blackbeard's trip, the crew was amazing and really helped to make the trip into the best it could be. This wasn't too surprising as 2 of the 4 crew were people I knew from my previous trip (Iain and Tammy). This time Iain was the divemaster and Tammy was again the Engineer. New to me for this trip were Captain Manny and our cook Karen, both of whom lived up to my expectations for the trip.

    Some details-

    "Sciencey" stuff:

    This trip was partially planned by the scientists on-board doing research (Nikita primarily as the lead) but those plans were tossed aside due to weather in too many instances this week unfortunately, so we didn't get the planned stuff all done. We did, however, get some of the less location dependent activities done and both of the marine smart researchers gave us some very informative and engaging talks about various subjects they are quite familiar with.

    The stuff we did wasn't glamorous by any means (mostly data collection since the weather didn't cooperate to allow us to do anything more interesting where it needed to be done), but it still felt good to get to help in a small way that might one day have an impact on the health of reefs.

    Diving stuff:

    Due to the nature of the science stuff, we stuck to shallower dive sites and missed out on a couple dives that we might have done if we didn't have a particular task we were trying to accomplish. We still got 15 dives in out of the 19 "possible" for the week normally. We also stuck to shallower dive sites for most of the dives as they aligned better with mission of the trip. So, if you're considering doing a citizen science trip, be sure to remember that the science will dictate things to an extent. Personally, I was quite happy with the sites we did despite the fact that I really love wall dives and we didn't do any of those. I found a new and more interesting appreciation for all the things that can be found/seen on shallower coral during this trip. I attribute some of that appreciation to the information I gained from our experts on-board who were happy to share their knowledge with us.

    The bad was the weather - it eventually became a tropical storm but it was just an annoying storm for us to start with. All dives are subject to the weather and this wasn't the first trip I've taken where the weather had a negative impact and I'm sure it won't be the last. Visibility wasn't as great as a result of this for some of the dives near the less-than-optimal weather, but even the "bad" visibility was probably 40 ft.

    Excursions outside of diving weren't overly prevalent this trip, but we were doing "work" for the science stuff and trying to make that happen. We still did get some snorkeling in, diving and rope-swinging off the boat, as well as a trip to the iguanas.

    The boat stuff:

    The boat is a 65 ft catamaran, with 6 guest cabins, adequate table seating for all guests inside, air conditioning inside, with two heads and two showers. There are cabins, as opposed to just bunks, on this boat so that's a nice improvement over the Blackbeard's boats. Ample storage is available (plenty of storage room below my bunk and at the foot) and the bunks are "1 per side" as opposed to bunk-bed style on the Blackbeards - so you can sit up without issue on the Cat Ppalu bunks. IMO, and I know I wasn't the only one, the mattresses were a bit stiffer than I would have liked and the supplied pillows were a bit smaller than I would have preferred.I didn't have that impression on the Morning Star last year, so I think it's a boat specific issue that hopefully they may address in the future (I will be mentioning that when I submit my feedback).

    The boat is very heavy, so despite it's racing origins, I think it's the slowest boat that they have in the Bahamas. The sloops were definitely faster and I know the Aqua Cat is faster than any of the other three. This was surprising to me as a sailor since generally catamarans are faster than similar length mono-hulls like the Blackbeard sloops are to the Cat Ppalu.

    Personal thoughts on the boat overall:
    If you're going with a group of people etc, I think the Cat Ppalu is a better option than the sloops. If you're going as a single person like myself, I think it's a toss up that may favor the sloops. Mainly because the sloops have less comfortable accommodations to go hang out in (i.e. a rack instead of a cabin) so people are somewhat "forced" to be sociable. While I consider the people I spent the week with as friends, I think I became friends with them slower than those I spent time on the Morning Star with since there was less overall interaction (though we all tended to spend less time in our cabins as the week progressed).

    Things I saw diving -

    Fish- lots of fish. Now, thanks to our wonderful scientists, the books, and again our wonderful scientists (Thank you Nikita and especially Alannah for helping to teach me fish!) I can actually identify some species of fish. So tons of the usual for the area (Sgt Majors, angelfish, parrot fish, jacks, etc etc etc). Sharks were pretty common this week, with some being very interested in saying hi. One of the other boats got video of a hammerhead at a site about 2 hours before we splashed there..... so close... yet so far away. Southern rays were plentiful and in some cases not at all shy about saying hi. Turtles weren't as plentiful this time, but still a few were hanging out. Grouper were all over the place.

    I still haven't seen an octopus.... :( :( :(

    Overall impression - despite the challenges of the weather and trying to work around it for the mission of the trip, the crew did an amazing job keeping us all happy, comfortable, and well taken care of overall. Food was again excellent and the diving was interesting and incredibly enjoyable. If the mattresses were a bit less stiff and the pillows a little bigger/fuller, I'd have probably been a bit happier overall with the experience but I wouldn't hesitate to consider going back despite that.

    I do have a TON of video (both above and below the water since I brought my drone in addition to my GoPro cameras this time) and I'll try and post up some of the better clips from the trip in here at a later date, but I wanted to get my impressions written down while they were still in my mind (and since I've been back for less than 12 hours, I think this counts).

    Let me know if you have any questions.
    Bubblesong likes this.
  2. Bubblesong

    Bubblesong Marine Scientist

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Massachusetts
    Did you get in any night dives? That is wher i have seen octopus.
  3. jlcnuke

    jlcnuke Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: acworth ga
    All but one of the planned night dives happened (weather wasn't working where we were for one of them) and no one on board saw one all week. I plan on doing night dives next time I'm in Cozumel as they're supposed to be fairly common to see there at night.

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