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Dive Review of Reef Runner/N/A in
The Continental USA/Florida Middle Keys, Marathon

April, 2004, an Instant Reader Report by Bert Brown, Eugene, OR., Oregon, U. S. A.
Report Number 1291
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
501-1000 dives
Where else diving
Cayman Islands, Truk Lagoon, Palau, Tahiti, GBR, Aruba, Bonaire, Cozumel,
Baja Mexico, Roatan, San Juan Islands, Washington & Pacific Coast
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

sunny, dry  
choppy, noCurrents  
Water Temp
80   to 85    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
0   to 60    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
No restrictions imposed at all. Captain limited dive #4 to 30 minutes, gave
us choice to go or not.  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
1 or 2 
Whale Sharks
1 or 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  4 stars
Tropical Fish
4 stars  
Small Critters
  4 stars
Large Fish
3 stars  
Large Pelagics
  2 stars
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
4 stars  
Boat Facilities
Overall rating for UWP's  
4 stars  
Shore Facilities  
This is a realitively small boat, if you consider 33 ft small. A day
tripper, style cabin cruiser. I brought my Sony pocket sized DSC-P5 digital
camera in an underwater housing, and got great pictures.
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
3 stars
3 stars
Service and Attitude
3 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
Dive Operation
3 stars  
Shore Diving  
3 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
4 stars   
4 stars    
Overall, our Reef Runner dive trip was a positive experience, with a couple
of potential Gotchas.  

My dive buddy and I had driven to the Florida Keys with a pickup & 5th
wheel trailer, allowing us to haul along all of our own dive gear. We were
looking for a dive charter, and found the Reef Runner ([ link]) through Captain Ed @ Discount Divers
( in Marathon. We were sold by the idea two of
us could charter the Reef Runner for $240, have the boat all to ourselves,
with up to 5 dives depending on dive locations.  Captain Sam Watson would
take us wherever we pleased. This has obvious advantages of the dive not
being influenced by other divers, be it inexperience, dive site
preferences, crowding, or whatever.
At the time we booked our one day trip, we were the only two divers. Since
Captain Sam does not accompany divers as a dive master, youre on your own,
an OK thing for experienced divers we felt. The morning of the trip, we
were informed that one other diver, Carol, would be going along. This put
us between a rock and a hard place; if we go, we will have to dive as a
threesome, and if we cancel out, the whole trip would be a bust, even for
Carol, as Captain Sam wont take the boat out with less than the $240 two
diver minimum aboard. We were there to dive, so we went along with the new
plan, and as it turned out, Carol was a great person, a good diver, &
was a positive addition to the experience. A potential Gotcha became a
benefit. This is worth mentioning, because if you are in the same position,
you might not be as lucky. Our fee dropped from the $120 each, we expected
to pay, to $98 each for three. While this was not a major factor to us,
its always nice to get more for less. 

The trip itself was all that we expected of it. Our first dive was on the
R/V Thunderbolt ([ link]) a great wreck dive. Captain
Sam tied us onto one of the buoys marking the wreck site, easily found,
very little current, and great visibility. A giant Jew fish was hiding
below deck, and swam deeper into the wreck, through passages too narrow for
a big guy like me to follow. Mark down dive one as a winner. We bottomed
out at 123 feet, and lasted 27 minutes. 

Our second dive was on Horseshoe Reef, with a maximum depth of 28 feet.
Pretty shallow, but full of all kinds of sea life, great for the biomarine
junky. We found a small nurse shark which we casually followed for quite
awhile, and snapped several pictures. We spent 83 minutes on this reef
until we finally came up for a break. 

Dive # three was supposed to be on a 65 foot mini wall. Captain Sam dropped
us off with instructions to Go thataway toward the wall, which we didnt,
and ended up spending 52 minutes, at a max of 54 feet exploring the sand
bottom, and several coral head outcroppings isolated from the normal reef.
Our fault, we only had one compass, and I dont want to go into how it made
us fin in a big circle. Captain Sam noted that we managed to turn away from
the prescribed direction, and followed us along wondering whats up? But no
complaints, we still saw a multitude of sea life, enough at least to keep
our curiosity up as to whats next.
The fourth dive was offered to us on our choice. The time was getting short
for the day, and we were advised that wed have to shorten it to 30 minutes
by the time we were rigged, and ready to jump in. As stated, we were there
to dive so, we didnt take long to get off the boat. It was another shallow
reef dive, and by this time I was thinking 30 more minutes on a reef was
probably enough reef for one day. Still, there was plenty of sea life to
observe, and it was not wasted time. My computer stated 34 minutes @ max of
24 feet, we had over 2000 psig left in our tanks as we surfaced. 

So, its over for the day, time to head back, and face Gotcha #2.  We
docked back at Captain Sams home on a canal inlet, helped load all the
cylinders and dive gear into his Suburban, then drove back to Discount
Divers to transfer the gear. As we were carrying the last few cylinders to
the air station, Captain Sam informed us that our bill was $128 each. Far
awhile we were at a loss as to how the $98 trip turned into $128 by the end
of the day. Captain Sam explained the extra $30 was for the air fills. We 
had used 4 cylinder each @ $7.50 each. We had incorrectly assumed the air
was covered in the $98 price for the dive trip. My dive buddy and I have
used dive operators all over the world, and never, not once were we billed
for air fills as a separate expense. Our dive package fees, be it one day,
or a week have always included the air fills in the package price. So,
begrudgingly, we forked over $260. 

This $30 gotcha was probably the most negative part of the experience,
but its not a major drawback. Had we known, we could have furnished 4 of
our own cylinders, that we were filling for free. Mine were 100 cu. ft.
cylinders, too. Capt. Ed & Sam are nice guys, and if anyone reading
this report is interested in chartering a small boat to dive where and what
you want, in the Middle Keys, I recommend them. Especially now that you
know more about what to expect. Personally, Id use them again.
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