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September 2001 Vol. 16, No. 9   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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The Best 2002 Live-Aboard Cruise

from the September, 2001 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

The 114-foot Pelagian is the in boat among serious divers and photographers. There are several good reasons for this, including the boat itself, the crew and the itineraries. Dive Director Larry Smith, who is an expert at finding critters, has such a personal following that he could almost be labeled a celebrity divemaster.

We want to alert you to the Pelagian's 2002 itinerary, in which she will undertake a year of adventure, stringing together a series of two- and three-week expeditions to the remote atolls, islands and reefs of Micronesia and Melanesia. Shell travel far south of Palau. Shell explore the reefs between Yap and Chuuck. Shell hit the remote parts of New Guinea and the Solomons and visit Wuvulu. Pick the part of the itinerary that interests you, then hook up.

Before you spring for the big bucks ($4,030 for 15 nights, $6,090 for 22 nights, plus air) let our correspondent who was aboard the Pelagian a few months back give you a first-hand account.

* * * * * *

Once the MV Fantasea II, which operated in the Red Sea, the Seychelles and the Aldabra Atoll from 1990 to 1997, she was originally a Norwegian-built, world-ranging private luxury motor yacht. She was purchased by Dive Asia Pacific, which is owned by US-expat Matthew Hedrick who lives in Thailand. After extensive refitting in 1998, which included adding state-of-the-art electronics, she became the boat of choice for discriminating divers who like the pizzaz of an opulent craft that carries only 12 guests in six cabins. Cabin 1, the Master Stateroom forward main deck, sports furniture, a king-size bed, a bathtub and shower, and its own TV and VCR. Two Deluxe Staterooms midship have two double beds each and another, aft off its own stairwell has two raised beds, one single and one double, with a wrap-around sofa and lots of storage and floor space. Another cabin has double bunks, and the other has raised beds, one single and one double, with an aisle between them. All six have a freshwater toilet, vanity with a sink and a separate hot water shower ensuite. It comes stocked with shampoo, body wash, washcloths and soap bars, water bottles and glasses, and fresh flowers, which appear throughout the boat.

Her water makers and 20-ton water storage tanks provide a constant water supply. The boat lacks stabilizers, so it can roll from side to side in rough water. Be forewarned and bring your meds if this affects you. Hedrick told me that active stabilizer fins are normally found only on luxury yachts to keep the champagne from spilling. Ve ry few, if any, dive boats have them. Pelagia nwas once fitted with these, but when Howard Rosenstein operated her in the Red Sea she went on a reef, which damaged the boat and stabilizers, so Rosenstein removed them. Hedrick said that she can roll, particularly in a following sea, but she is extremely seaworthy and quite comfortable in a beam sea or head sea, but all boats move round in big waves.

The dive deck is small compared with many live-aboards, but functional once you are used to it. Two rigid-bottom inflatables with outboard motors carry six divers each. Your tank, weight belt and fins stay on your assigned inflatable. The crew uses long hoses to refill the tanks, which are attached to racks in the middle. This worked well until one inflatable broke partially free in rough seas and gear was lost to the deep. They provided loaner gear and without prompting or whining they took immediate responsibility and promised to replace any lost gear.

Other gear was stored in mesh bags along each side railing and we draped wetsuits over the railing. As a result, retrieving and storing gear and suiting up could get crowded, probably the weakest link in the dive operation. The dive deck had two freshwater showers and they provided warm dry towels after every dive. Photographers appreciated the two freshwater tanks and a separate dry storage, charging station and work area for cameras on the main deck.

A typical dive day consisted of a cold breakfast at 6:30 a.m. followed by the first dive at 7:30 a.m., which was followed by a cooked-to-order American breakfast, as well as Asian-fried noodles and rice porridge. Several mornings I had very respectable Eggs Benedict. The second dive was around 10:30 a.m. followed by lunch, usually very good Indonesian or Thai, but also western food some days. A third dive after lunch, then freshly made snacks and a rest, followed by a dusk-to-dark dive before dinner. Dinner was usually very good Indonesian or Thai food, and most nights we could do a night dive unless we were moving the boat. Five dives a day, good food, and comfortable quarters. What more could one ask for? Depends on how good the diving is, doesnt it?

On the Pelagian year-long cruise one can expect some great diving and, because of the exploratory nature of the cruise, a few busts. So, if you were not heavily invested in dot.com stocks and want the trip of a lifetime, this could be it. Information from www.dive-asiapacific.com or Dive Asia Pacific, PO Box 22398, Ft. Lauderdale, Fl. 33335. Call To ll- Free: 1-800-962-0395, or: 1-954-229-8022. Fax: 1-954-351-9740. Or, contact any dive travel specialist.

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