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Dive Review of M/V Spree in
The Continental USA/Flower Gardens, Texas

M/V Spree, Aug, 2005,

by Larry Deweese, TX, US . Report 2675.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving Baja, Belize, Bonaire, Brazil, BC, California, Cozumel, Florida, Hawaii, Truk, Roatan, Tobago, Texas, Washington
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas choppy
Water Temp 82 to 84 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 0
Water Visibility 60 to 150 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile no
Enforced diving restrictions 130' max first dive of the day & 100' max depth after that. 2.5 hour syrface intervals. Buddy diving required.
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

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

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

Subject Matter 4 stars Boat Facilities 4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments I don't take u/w pictures.

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

Accommodations 4 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving 1 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments This is not a report about a single trip. I live in South Texas and consider the Flower Gardens my back yard. As such, I average at least 50 dives per year there. At the time of this writing my last trip was Aug 3 6, 2006.
The Flower Gardens is currently serviced by two live aboards the M/V Spree and the M/V Fling. Both boats are owned and operated by Gulf Diving LLC. Spots on the boats must be purchased through dive shops. The best way to book a spot on one of the boats is to figure out when you want to go and then go to the Gulf Diving web site, www.Gulf-Diving.com , and look at the calendars. There are links to the dive shops that are selling spots for each date. The boats begin running trips in February on weekends only. As it gets closer to the summer months the schedule is generally Mon Wed, Thur/Fri, & Sat/Sun. All trips board the night before the date shown on the calendar. Special trips are sprinkled through the schedule such as 4-day and week long trips. By October the sport trips are usually scaled back to weekends only.
The M/V Fling and the M/V Spree are 100 converted off-shore oil field boats. The boats are always clean and comfortable but do not expect Aggressor type accommodations. The sleeping quarters are bunk bed style. There are two fully functional heads and one partial head. The food is always plentiful and delicious and is served cafeteria style. The boats can accommodate up to 34 divers with a crew of 6. The dive shops that sell the trips generally get a free spot for a trip leader. 32% nitrox is available from the on-board membrane system.
The typical week end trip begins with a short dock briefing at 8:30pm on Friday evening. Passengers are then allowed to board the boat, claim a bunk, complete the necessary paper work and then bring on their dive gear and get it set up. The boats get underway by 9:30pm and head to the West Bank which is approximately 110 miles off shore. The DMs wake up the customers at 6:00am and the first dive is at 7:00. All dives are done at specific times. Before the first dive a continental breakfast is provided. After the first dive a full hot breakfast is served. The number one diving rule is that the first dive of the day is limited to 130 maximum and 100 maximum on all subsequent dives of the day. Divers violating this rule will have to sit out a dive. The other rule is that when divers return to the swim platform they must be able to take at least one breath from their regulator. Divers who run out of air are not allowed to dive for the rest of the trip. Divers are required to dive with a buddy and no planned decompression dives are allowed. A 2.5 hour surface interval is done between all dives (on a two day trip). Dive two is also at the West Bank, dive three may be at a deep water oil platform depending on conditions, and dives four and five are at the East Bank, with the last dive on Saturday being a night dive. On Saturday night the boats move to Stetson Banks which is about 70 miles off shore. Two dives on Sunday are done at Stetson and then the boats head home for the 6 hour boat ride. The boats generally arrive at the dock by 5:30pm on Sunday. There are permanent moorings at the Flower Gardens. The boats tie up to the moorings and then run a side line from the stern to the mooring line. Three down lines are lowered into the water with a regulator tied to one of them at 15. A DM is always ready to jump into the chase boat to pickup divers who surface away from the boat.
If you are fortunate to go out on a trip in February or March you will experience water temperatures in the low 60s but the pay off is that there are schooling hammerhead sharks. In the summer months the water warms up to the low 80s and you have the chance to see manta rays, eagle rays, turtles, and even the occasional whale shark. The viz can vary from 50 to as much as 150. The viz and water temp at Stetson is usually a little less than at the West and East Banks regardless of the time of year. The currents in the Gulf can range from none at all to rip snorting. Surface conditions can range from flat seas to 4 5 waves. Diving an oil platform is a great experience because of the density of fish. Whereas the West and East Banks have the beautiful coral, Stetson Banks is completely different with clay and pinnacles. What makes Stetson special is the variety and density of marine life. Eels, scorpion fish, turtles, sharks, eagle rays, and small stuff like spotted drum, jawfish, and blennies. Dive trips of three days or longer include one or more night dives at Stetson Banks which I consider a world class dive. Each year on the 7th 9th night after the full moon in August one of the best coral spawns in the world occurs at the Flower Gardens. These are week long trips and must be booked well in advance. You can probably tell that I like this place and Im sure you will as well.
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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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