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October 2001 Vol. 16, No. 10   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Rinn Rules

from the October, 2001 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Recently, a few subscribers have noted the stringent policies on the popular M/V Spree & M/V Fling, liveaboard boats that serve the Flower Garden Banks Marine Sanctuary and Stetson Bank. Freeport, Texas, a 90-minute drive from Houston, is their homeport.

We called Gary Rinn, company president, who told us that while he hasn’t changed the rules since 1989, he has changed the sanctions — violators will stop diving for 24 hours.

In July, a member of an inattentive three buddy group lost a diver during ascent and the body was never found. Rinn said this was the only diver he has lost. This year, divers on his boats have had seven suspected DCS cases. After conducting routine computer checks at the suggestion of the local recompression chamber, his crew found that a surprising number of divers were lying about their dive profiles.

While historically Rinn’s rule for divers who violated the 100-feet limit would be to sit out the next dive, he initially decided that violators could not dive for the rest of the trip. Finding this a bit Draconian, in August he softened it to “no more diving for 24 hours.”

Prudent diver behavior is no small matter on the Rinn boats, as 4-5 dives can be done on some days as much as 100 miles from shore. If a diver develops DCS or even suspected DCS, either the boat must return to port, effectively ending the trip for other divers, or radio for the Coast Guard and a costly evacuation that the agency is often reluctant to perform.

Though the Spree has a Nitrox membrane system, the crew will only provide Nitrox for Rinn’s specially marked tanks. Cylinders belonging to the diver, including pony bottles, will only be filled with air. And, speaking of ponies, Rinn views them as for emergency purposes only. If a pony is tapped during a dive, they treat it as an out-of-air situation. The diver must sit out the next dive.

Rinn says they explain the policies to customers before they leave port, but some people told us that the captain and crew’s enforcement was so rigid — and even rude — that they would have not gone had they known about the autocratic approach to boat management. One reader on an August trip says she was not allowed to dive for the last three days because she hit 102 feet while assisting her buddy, a disabled diver.

If you’re headed to join a Rinn boat, you can get the full skinny on their policies at And keep in mind, this is some of the best big-fish diving accessible from a US port, Draconian rules or not. Here’s what reader Mike Giles (Lake Charles, LA), who’s logged a thousand dives, says about his August trip aboard the Spree.

“The fully air-conditioned boats have Spartan yet clean and functional accommodations. Four hot meals were served per day. Snacks and fresh fruit with ice and beverages, 24 hours per day. The courteous crew was prepared and willing to provide information or assistance with dive gear in need of repair. Dive briefings were excellent and conducted by a divemaster who had just emerged from the water, providing up-to-the-minute information on visibility, currents and any unusual critters. A night dive was the highlight. Several silky sharks, lots of barracuda, two large green turtles, a large porcupine fish, spotted morays and spiny lobsters. The day dives (7 over two days) provided more sharks (including two whale sharks), lots of barracuda, two mantas, more green turtles, amberjacks and scores of the usual reef denizens. The weather was excellent with air in the low 90’s and water in the mid 80’s. All dives between 70 and 100 feet and, possible currents and open ocean entries and exits, so not for novices. In deep mid ocean you never know what will come drifting u p over the reef. Good mixture of large and small subjects. Lack of current at the bottom made positioning easy. Large dedicated rinse tanks. 110 volt current available for recharging batteries and a television with hook-up available for viewing video.”

All this and Texas too!

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