Overall impressions from first visit to St. Croix

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Ocean County Diver

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Talk about great timing of this post.... I just returned home last night from a week in St. Croix and it was fantastic. While I only had a few days of diving over the week I was there, my intention in logging in this morning was to post a thread about Sweet Bottom Dive Center. They were fantastic. Very personable overly nice and very attentive.

Everyone I encountered at the shop could not have been nicer and truly cared that I was getting the best experience possible. I just did some recreational dives while I was with them but I know they offer TEC dives as well. I'd highly recommend them and I will dive with them again on my next visit to St. Croix.
 
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morecowbells

morecowbells

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Thanks for the review, the video and the photos. Just wetting my appetite for my return in a couple weeks!!
Boat dives, shore dives, deep dives and the pier.....can't wait.

So?????? Any update?
 

They call me Tater

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Haha you got me. One day I spent a half hour typing in a review on my tablet only to bump the wrong spot and it disappeared. I waited a few days and typed one up in word so I can paste it. I will get that up before the end of the weekend. Promise.
 

They call me Tater

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I promised that I would do a review of my trip, so here it is. Writing is not my forte.

First off let me clarify by saying that this was not a typical vacation for me. I normally either do a dive shop trip without my wife or I do a vacation with my wife and I dive in the mornings while she reads, hangs out at the beach or does a little snorkeling and then we spend the afternoons and evenings together.

I fully planned on diving with N2theBlue again but there was a slight change. I had tried to schedule a PADI Tech 40 class locally the summer after my first trip. A number of scheduling problems came up between myself and the dive shop and I never got it done. As I was looking forward to my St. Croix trip, I noticed that Sweet Bottom Dive Center offered Tech 40 in St. Croix. I am not fond of the idea of taking a class when I am on vacation but thought it worth looking into. I sent off an email and got an immediate and enthusiastic response from Tim. We sent a few emails back and forth and then had a nice phone chat and I signed up.

In addition to the change of my taking a class, my wife had enjoyed her interactions with sea turtle last year and the photos of seahorses (both mine and Jenny Keith’s) so much that she decided to get certified (after 30 years of saying ‘no way’). So this was going to be a different kind of trip.

We arrived on a Wed. evening, got our car, made our way to our Beach Rental and headed straight to Rhythms for dinner where we were treated to a green flash. Next morning we had a walk on the beach, breakfast at Polly’s and did our grocery shopping.

Friday morning we loaded up and headed off to Sweet Bottom at the Carambola Resort. We started the morning with my wife’s first ocean dive. We went along with another couple and our dive guide Dan. It was a nice dive but to be honest I spent the majority of it watching my dive buddy on her first ocean dive. She is still a bit nervous and sometimes gets focused on minor issues, so I keep one eye on her. The dive gear is in good shape, the shop is well organized and everyone seemed friendly, happy and busy. We headed off for lunch at Eat at Cane Bay and I came back for my class.

After an hour of knowledge review and general discussions, Tim took me down to the gear table and we went through the kit. Then about 2 hours in the pool learning and practicing S-drills, working with deco bottles and valve drills. It was fun and Tim had a great balance of work, play and instruction.

The next morning my wife and I dove the pier with Jenny @ N2theblue. We got skunked on the sea horses but did see a nice sized ray buried in the sand and plenty of the juvenile regulars; flounder, trunk and file fish, puffers. It was a nice dive but my wife was there to see a sea horse.

I went by myself for the remainder of the afternoon tech sessions. Before each dive session we did some knowledge review and dive planning exercises. I won’t give a bubble by bubble account of my training dives but dive one was not pretty! I had some minor but repeating issues with straps and my buoyancy and weighting was off while working on the previously mentioned drills. We hung around 30ft while I again practiced all the drills we had learned in the pool. Dive two was a lot of the same but this time at 90’ and this time I had switched my straps to bungies, we added a couple pounds of tail weight and the dive was much better and pretty smooth given the fact it was learning, practicing and simulating impromptu emergencies and tracking air consumption. Dive 3 was more of the same at 125’.

One drawback to taking the course on vacation was that with the attention to the skills, drills and ‘emergencies’ I didn’t get as much of a chance to relax and enjoy the reef. On the first dive we passed over a spotted eel getting a snack. I believe it was the second dive where we saw a couple of reef sharks patrolling the wall and on the last dive there was a smaller shark and Tim had seen a baby which I unfortunately missed. For the most part that was all that stuck out in my mind other than the fact that much of the reef looked very good although there were a few spots that were somewhat pale.

I made arrangements with Tim to do a doubles dive where I could bring my camera but the wind had other ideas. The day after my last class dive, the wind picked up and most of the diving was cancelled on the island. Even on the west end at the pier the water was pretty choppy and word was that viz had dropped prompting cancellations. We tried to snorkel but that was pretty pointless as well. The diving weather was bad but vacation weather was still great. A little breeze is quite comfortable so the vacation continued, just dry.

On Thursday we decided to try a shore dive in front of our place on Rainbow Beach. We rented tanks and waded in hoping viz was good enough for a couple of quarry divers. It was OK but is seemed like some of the fish had found better hiding places as well as being harder to see. The dive was short but was saved on the way back by a visit from a nice calm sea turtle that came to pose for a couple pictures before moving along.

Friday was our last day and we decided to dive the pier and many times as it took to see a sea horse. That was my wife’s goal, so I made it my mission to find one. The first dive visibility was still not great so I decided to go backwards against the normal route which heads west first and then back east. We saw another ray (or the same one) and more of the regulars but no seahorse.

After a very nice lunch at Turtles Deli we went back for our last chance at the pier to find a seahorse. Word was that they had been seen out west so we went again but this time we didn’t even look until we were halfway out. Visibility was still not very good but since we were looking for something small it didn’t really make any difference. I was straining my eyes on every piece of coral poking up…eventually I found one tightly wrapped around some coral but it was a seahorse. I pointed it out to my wife and took a couple pictures. I felt vindicated and my wife was satisfied. That was enough and we headed in.

Both N2theBlue and Sweet Bottom dive center are great operations. They have a different vibe and some differences in cliental but also some overlap. It is my understanding that most of the shops in St. Croix are good and friendly. N2theBlue offer a real nice set of boat dives and is sort of low key and relaxed while Sweet Bottom has a reef wall that is a shore dive and offers tech and a nice on site shop. Both are good people. I can’t get enough diving already so I have no reason to try any other operators.

I didn’t get to take pictures at Davis Bay, still never got to Cane Bay, Salt River, and a night dive at the pier, and a number of restaurants on my list. But now I want to go back and do Tech -45 too.

We considered returning again this year but I have a couple of detours to Florida, Lake Michigan and Lake Ontario lined up so that is out, but next year….
 
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morecowbells

morecowbells

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Wow! You are dead wrong, writing is your forte. Thanks for letting us know how your vacation went and congratulations on getting tech certified. Hopefully the seahorse and turtle will keep your wife interested in more dive vacations.
 

jonhall

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And you have another reason to go back....the night pier dive when the seahorses are more likely to be out. Your wife will really like that especially if you get Jenny to guide your dive.

Glad you had a good time,
 
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I use Olympus Micro 4/3. Nice for travel, and close to quality of bigger camera systems. EM-10 body, 60mm macro lens, 1 YS-d1 strobe. I think the Fredricksted Pier's reputation as a world-class night dive is very well deserved. We were able to find 2 frogfishes - the very small red one right by the beginning of the pier, and a much larger yellow one at the base of a piling. Octopus on every dive, seahorses, rays, squid, cowries, sidegill slugs - all on one super easy dive site. One person in my group (who wasn't puttering around with macro photography) actually swam out the length of the pier and back, which is .6 miles. I never made it past 3 or 4 pilings, even with 2-hr dive times. Pretty amazing.

GREAT SHOTS!
Indeed, 1-2 hour dives on just the first three sets of pylons can satisfy! We love diving the pier, and with 1/4 mile of pylons, it takes years to see it all and get to know where every creature calls home. It was rated top structure dive in 2015 by SportDiver Magazine and consistently ranks tops in the Caribbean for both Night Dives and seahorses. Oh, and the little frogfish was either male or juvenile. :)

Cheers!
 
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