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Dive Review of Nautilus Explorer in
Canada/AK/British Columbia

Nautilus Explorer, Aug, 2004,

by Susan Carter, CA, USA . Report 1327.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving Australia, Galapagos, Caribbean, Florida, California, others
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, dry Seas calm
Water Temp 47 to 58 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 0
Water Visibility 5 to 70 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions dive with a sausage and dive alert; no specific limits on depth and time imposed.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks None Mantas None
Dolphins Schools Whale Sharks None
Turtles None Whales >2
Corals 2 stars Tropical Fish 1 stars
Small Critters 5 stars Large Fish 4 stars
Large Pelagics 3 stars

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter N/A Boat Facilities N/A
Overall rating for UWP's N/A Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 5 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving 1 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments This was drysuit diving, on a ten day trip from Juneau to Vancouver, British Columbia that was designed to combine diving the Inside Passage with kayaking, port visits, hiking, wildlife viewing (including whale watching). The trip was organized by the Rainbow Divers of California, a great club that runs very well-organized trips (my second trip with them). Highly recommended as a resource for gay and gay-friendly divers in Northern California.

As for the Nautilus Explorer: I was blown away with the friendliness, hard working nature, and safety conscious attitude of the crew, the comfort of the accomodations, and above all, the fantastic diving! In many ways, this was some of the finest diving I have ever done, though my log book includes Australia, Galapagos, Carmel, Turks and Caicos, Catalina, and some other outstanding spots....I can't wait to go back to British Columbia, and when I do, it will be on this boat (in fact, I will be on the NE in a few weeks to try diving Baja, their winter home...)

What made the diving so special (besides the crew and the boat) was the incredible variety and amount of life, particularly invertebrate life, in BC. We dove entire walls covered in layers and layers of life with no place to even rest a finger! I am not a photographer, but this really is a photographer's dream, particularly given the lack of surge at most dives. In that regard: Water was incredibly flat: like diving in a lake! When we weren't diving walls covered with invertebrates, we were diving wrecks, many with quite a bit of historical signaficance (and Captain/Owner Mike Lever gave very informed and educational briefings abut the history of the areas we visited).

Vis tended to be between 30 and 50 feet: not great by warm water standards but just fine for us California divers. We were told that is a bit below average for many of the sites we did. One site had extremely poor vis and my husband and I just aborted that particular dive.

The weather was incredibly good: to my surprise, I never used the rain gear I took! However, the biggest surprise for me was how easy the diving was (for experienced drysuit divers): all diving was done as drift dives whether there was current or not (only one dive had serious currents), water wasn't as cold as I thought it would be, and at the end of the dive the extremely competent, safety minded crew came and picked you up wherever you were....(navigation was also easy for the most part, given that most of the diving was on wrecks and walls). The biggest risk at most dive sites was from small boat traffic: many boaters in the area aren't used to divers, and it is necessary to surface close to the shoreline. Given the lack of surge, this wasn't a problem for us.

When we weren't diving, there was lots of time for the activities mentioned above...highlights included several close encounters (from the boat) with schools of both humpbacks and orcas that came to us, seeing black bears 'crabbing' on the beach from 50 feet away in the relative safety of a kayak, and snorkeling around an ice flow and 'riding' an ice berg. The distance covered from Juneau to Vancouver (I don't know exact nautical miles, but my guess would be 800 to 1000) over ten days means that, while we had plenty of time to enjoy the true wilderness scenery we passed, that diving time was somewhat limited. In addition, the crew very carefully timed dives to the slack tides. Result: three or even only two dives offered per day was typical (not the four or five typical on most liveaboards). Fortunately, the long daylight hours helped get in more dives, even if they were sometimes at somewhat unusual hours (the long daylight also meant we only had a few night dives, and those were at the end of the trip when we were further south)....Those that want more dives per day might want to consider one of their BC itineraries, which don't involve as much travel. Personally, however, I'd do this itinerary again in a heartbeat, both for the chance to dive rarely reached sites in Alaska, and because the relatively small size of the Nautilus Explorer makes it a great option for cruising the Inside Passage.

Food was solid and well-prepared, with lots of variety and plenty to eat. Meats were occaisonally cooked more well-done than I like, but nothing to really complain about. The Chef did an excellent job with seafood. Wine and beer could be purchased at retail, and you can bring your own, but if you do BYO their license requires you to drink it only on the upper decks or in your cabin...

There was a plumbing problem one night, due to a crew member error in not closing a valve, that led to flooding in some cabins. However, our cabin was not affected and we slept right through it. I found out the next morning that the crew was up all night cleaning up, and they were extremely apologetic to thse who were impacted, promising to make it right. I heard absolutely no complaints about how it was handled, so I assume they kept that promise.

Nitrox and Steel 100 tanks are available for a small additional charge. The big steel tanks were great for drysuit diving: I could really take a lot of weight off of my belt.

Executive Summary: The Nautilus Explorer is the finest Liveaboard I've ever been on, and Alaska and British Columbia should be at or near the top of the 'must-do' list for any diver not scared off by little cold water. The Good: just about everything. The Bad: nothing. What I wish I had known before I went: well, I knew it, but some of the trip participants were unaware that the NE doesn't provide soap or shampoo (you no longer have to bring your own towel however). My highest recommendation.
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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