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Dive Review of Nautilus Explorer in
Canada/Inside Passage

Nautilus Explorer, Aug, 2009,

by Eric Ault, IL, USA (Reviewer Reviewer 5 reports). Report 5093.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 4 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 4 stars
Beginners 1 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments This is drysuit diving and I would not recommend it for inexperienced divers due to the somewhat challenging diving conditions. Visibility can be poor and surge in some locations could make safety stops difficult. The captain gave very specific briefings which needed to be followed as dives were timed due to tides and currents.

My cabin was comfortable with plenty of shelves for storage and space for a larger bag under the bed. Lots of hooks for hanging jackets, etc. The sink was between the two beds and quite high off the floor. A stool is provided for shorter guests. There is no mirror over the sink which makes shaving somewhat difficult. There is a mirror in the john, however. Not all cabins had the same configuration.

The Nautilus is 116 feet long and for its size has a wide beam of 27 feet. This makes the boat feel pretty roomy. On the Nautilus Explorer the lounge and separate dining area are on the main deck along with the dive deck area. Up one level is a sun deck complete with hot tub. Up one more deck is another sun deck area. The covered front portion of this top deck is off limits to passengers although we did sneak up there on several occasions while whale watching. The crew doesn’t seem to mind but Capt. Mike will chase you out. I understand the need for work areas on the boat to be off limits but the present arrangement doesn’t seem to be too well thought out. When the boat is visiting warmer climates, shaded seating areas are certainly at a premium.

The food was very good with a wide variety. The chef made a number of imaginative salads. She also made all of the bread served on the boat for the entire week. The highlight of the week was probably the crab feast which occurred on the top deck overlooking LeConte Glacier.

Most of the diving on the trip was conducted from the “Indie” (short for independent, I think), a thirty-eight foot aluminum chase boat with three outboards including one with jet drive used when picking up divers. Dive gear is assembled and left on the “Indie” for the week. There is a large ramp with specially designed rollers on the back of the mother ship and before moving the “Indie” is winched up the ramp for transportation. The Nautilus Explorer also carries a couple of inflatables used for excursions and some kayaks just for fun.

Our trip began in Vancouver, BC, and we went as far north as Glacier Bay before ending in Juneau. The weather was sunny for the first week and unseasonably warm.
More typical rain and fog near Juneau. Seas were calm all week.

Visibility was limited at most sites, but the nutrient-rich waters are what makes for the abundant life that we came to see. Many of the sites had towering fronds of kelp. These can be a nuisance to swim through on the surface, but proved to be pretty handy when doing a safety stop in the surge, just grab on to a convenient stalk. The life was certainly as advertised. Large white plumose anemones abounded at many sites and were joined by a wide variety of multi-armed sea stars some as large as two and one-half to three feet across. Beautiful red anemones were found at most sites along with a number of different kinds of crabs. Ling cod and rock fish were found most places. We did locate a couple of giant Pacific octopi, but they were reluctant to come out and play. From the size of their sucker discs, I’m sure they were quite large. I was disappointed at not seeing a wolf eel but other people did see them. One of my favorite dives was under the dock at Butedale, the site of an abandoned salmon cannery. While some divers searched for old bottles I had a lot of fun photographing the many crabs and shrimp living under the old, falling down dock.

One of the most interesting dives of the week was at a “secret” locale on the east side of Baranof Island. This fjord is visited by swarms of moon jellies accompanied by Lion’s Mane and Fried-Egg jellies. This was certainly a unique dive and made for great pictures. We also snorkeled with salmon waiting for rains to allow them to swim up stream to spawn.

We did whale watching in the vicinity of Glacier Bay and Juneau and did see whales bubble net fishing on several occasions. Near the Inian Islands we saw sea otters, puffins and cormorants as well as a large population of Steller Sea Lions. The average Steller male can easily top 2,000 lbs so these are not animals you want to fool around with. We did encounter Stellers under water on several dives. These were mostly the smaller juveniles, but still much larger than the divers. Lacking hands, Stellers check out their environment by “mouthing”. One Steller provided an unforgettable moment when it “mouthed” a video camera. One diver was spun around by a Steller with no harm done.

At LeConte Bay and LeConte Glacier we spent several hours watching the glacier calf before donning our drysuits to snorkel in the world’s largest beer cooler. During our swim the crew came around in a kayak dispensing beers.

This was a unique trip. The diving was interesting and challenging with a wide variety of life completely new in my diving experience. Topside attractions were on a par with or perhaps even surpassing those in the Galapagos. And the scenery was gorgeous just about any way you looked.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving Galapagos, Grenada, Cozumel, Belize, Turks, Caymans, Bay Islands, Hawaii
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, rainy Seas calm, surge
Water Temp 40-50°F / 4-10°C Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility 15-35 Ft/ 5-11 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Maximum depths suggested for each dive. Very specific instructions about times and path to follow due to tides and currents.
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks None Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles None Whales > 2
Corals N/A Tropical Fish N/A
Small Critters 4 stars Large Fish N/A
Large Pelagics N/A

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 Large camera table was still crowded due to the many large video camera housings. Plenty of charging facilities.
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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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