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Dive Review of Solmar V in
Mexico (Western)/Socorro Islands

Solmar V, Apr, 2010,

by Bob DeFeo, CA, US (Contributor Contributor 19 reports with 7 Helpful votes). Report 5457.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 5 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 1 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments Five Stars for Solmar V! Great Liveaboard; Great crew; Amazing diving. Our trip was organized by Jon Edens, Trip host & Manager at The Pinnacles Dive Center in Novato, CA and was superbly choreographed with no surprises and exceptionally smooth transfers to from the Solmar V. Outstanding support.
We were greeted picked up from out hotel at 130 pm Saturday in 7-passenger vans with all luggage was handled by the Solmar V crew from hotel to delivery onboard the Solmar V. Sail time was 4 pm and it takes 24 hours to get to the Socorros. Dive gear and baggage are required to be unpacked prior to departure as all emptied luggage is stored onboard prior to sailing. Dive gear all goes on the dive deck with wet suits hung on port and starboard racks and you set up your diving equipment immediately upon boarding as you are strongly encouraged to ensure all equipment is present and in working order. A great policy since one of our members brought the wrong size fins and another had a low dive computer battery. The crew assisted in finding a set of fins and our host provided his primary dive computer for use---thankfully since the dive shops close in Cabo San Lucas just after 12pm on Saturday. We paid, in USD, our $100 NIROX fees (recently increased to $125), $15 chamber fee,and Socorro Island dive fees, $45. You must have your C-cards for diving (no card-no diving) & NITROX as well as dive insurance through DAN, DiveAssure, other. DAN insurance is recognized immediately while DiveAssure was not well known to the crew but not an issue. Pack light on clothing!! The cabins have almost no storage space: a little bit of 5-inch shelf space against the hull along your bunk, a less-than-12" wide closet for hang-ups and that's it. If you bring a small easy to fold-up duffle (recommended) you can keep it in your cabin but there's no room for roller bags. All cabins along the port & starboard have one single upper bunk and a larger lower bunk and sleeps two to a cabin. Each cabin has a sink with mirror outside the combined shower/toilet chamber. All fresh water and ice on the Solmar V is from desalinization, it is drinkable, plentiful, with great pressure and hot is hot. We had no illnesses due to stomach/intestinal issues other than the occasional green gills look when the swell picked up a bit. Shower/toilet chambers in each room are a tight fit but they are exceptionally clean and work great. Bunks have comfortable mattresses with two pillow below and one above with hi-intensity reading lights for each bunk. Bedding consists of a mattress cover, 2 sheets, blanket, and quilted bedspread. Length of bunks are approximately 6'2" but a 6' person will have both head and toes touching the very well padded foot and head bulkheads. Hull bunk sides are also well padded and appointed. Single porthole is just above top bunk. Cabins are carpeted and linens and towels are replaced half way through the trip. All cabins have individual air conditioning controls located on the under lower bunk facing panel. Rooms get stuffy if you don't use it but you will. Shower/toilet has strong vent fan and dries out the shower rather quickly. There is a cabin in the bow that sleeps two in a narrow cabin with bunks on the port & starboard. There's a reason why most ship brigs are in the bow--more of a ride up there in higher seas so if you're prone to sea sickness, steer clear of the bow cabin and select one more towards mid-ship. Noise is not bad at all onboard the Solmar V but if you're a light sleeper or your cabin mate snores, foam earplugs would be useful and keep you happy in the mornings. No wet gear/attire is allowed in the cabin areas or th dinning salon above. One head is available as you leave the dive area and enter the salon and may be used while wet but don't enter the salon. The salon looks like a salon and are where all meals/drinks are served. No buffet lines on Solmar V---you are served your meals and your drinks or you can get your own coffee, tea, water, various sodas. Beer and wine are included in the trip price and both are plentiful and good too! Breakfast at 7 am included made-to-your-liking eggs in the morning with cereals, yogurt, milk, large quantities of fresh fruit to include bananas, pineapple, papaya, watermelon, cantaloupe. Fruit is also available after each dive and you are offered really great hot cocoa after your dives. Each afternoon we had heavy snacks after the last dive and included such things as cheese & crackers, spreads, vegetables, fruit, chicken wings, shrimp, breaded and fried fresh fish fingers---really great tasting and high quality fare. Lunches around 1230- 1 pm always included hot soup and a variety of foods including pasta, lasagna, veggies, fish, hamburgers with a dessert. Dinners at 7 pm were steak twice, shrimp pastas, yellow tail tuna--a couple of meals--and a variety of other foods. Special dietary needs or Vegan meals are available and tasty. Dessert served after every dinner and were very good. One evening you get a Mexican style BBQ on the bow and that was good as well.
Dive and boat briefing combined took an hour 45 minutes but was thorough and jam packed with good to know and essential information. This briefing was conducted in the salon at 1030 Sunday morning while sailing out with a single checkout dive scheduled for 4pm on arrival at San Benedicto island. Weights available with 80 cu ft aluminum cylinders. Lost weights cost $3 USD per pound and some of our group paid the cost for having loose weight belts or velcro "secured" vs. positive "click-locked" integrated weight pockets. Some dives are conducted off Solmar V's aft dive platform and some from the two rigid hull inflatable pangas depending on dive site location and sea state. They prefer to use pangas when the swells up and weights were lost due to catching the velcro on the sides of the pangas on water exits. Dive times were 50 minutes for drift dives and 60 minutes for dives from moored sites. Our entire group of 22 divers dove on NITROX AND IF EVER THERE WAS A PLACE TO USE NITROX THIS IS IT! Dives are deep and long at depth. My highest depth was 86' and lowest was 130' with most averaging 100'. Solmar V varies the individual dive NITROX mix from 26% to 32% with some mixes occasionally varying to 33%, to account for the planned dive depth to ensure additional margins. This is a great policy in my opinion since most of the diving is vertical drop-off close to the islands with surge, currents, and sometimes dramatic up and down current movement. It also gives some margin for visual/attention fixation on the incredible numbers of schooling hammer heads at depth. No decompression dives are allowed and you are penalized by not being allowed to dive the next dive if you enter deco. You are also penalized one next dive if you bust 130'. Good rules given the nearest chamber is in Cabo San Lucas and it just took you a full day to sail from there. Four oxygen analyzers were available for testing your tank. When you dive off the pangas, the tanks/dive gear stays on the pangas and tanks are filled on the panga. Crew checks the 02 percent and you post or they post the % next to your assigned-for-the-trip diver number. You are also required to post your dive time and max depth after each dive on the board. Dive site briefing were 10 minutes long, included board sketches of the site, highlights, animal activity, cautions, and safety issues. Exceptionally well done and not tedious. Now the great part--sharks on every dive. Roca Partida island had the most--hundreds of schooling 8-12' hammerheads at approximately 150'+, galapagos sharks--12-footers+; silvertips 10-12 footers, white tip reefs sharks from 2' to 6'; 6-7' silky sharks everywhere. Silkies treated rather casually by divemasters but they tend to be aggressive, in my opinion. Couldn't get one to leave me alone on one dive. It came within three feet and circled the entire time and they are seldom alone! Hammerheads, as well-known, are easily spooked off by divers so you had to breathe lightly or they were gone in a flash. The other sharks acted obiliviously to the presence of 25 divers in the water but we saw many of them. Giant mantas were present at all three islands---San Benedicto, Roca Partida, and Socorro but the closet and best encounters were at San Benedicto. Our group got great close-in approaches and photos of these gentile giants. We were told to never chase them and let them come and go as they like sense they appeared to enjoy being around divers. I'd say that was accurate from what I witnessed. They cruised in, out, over and under during all our dives on the islands. These giant mantas are much larger than the ones I've seen in Hawaii and I was surprised at how much larger--some double the size of those that show themselves during Big Island manta dives. They are beautifully graceful animals and you can't help but be enthralled especially when the visibility was 100 feet or better. Visibility was sometimes 40 feet, sometimes 100' plus. Surface water temps 79 to 81 degrees with bottom temps 75 to 77/79 degrees with occasional upwellings feeling colder. I used a 5mm with hooded 5/3mm vest underneath and 7mm booties and was toasty warm on every dive. Some used 7mm or 7mm farmer john/janes. I wouldn't dive here with less than a 5mm due to suit compression at depths since the dives were deep and we ran our NITROX bottom times down to 1-2 minutes on almost every dive. I'd hate to pay for this trip and dive on air vs. NITROX---that would be a waste of great bottom time. You can get qualified on NITROX on the way out but it's really the only way to go on the Solmar V. We were also very fortunate to see and snorkel with a humpback whale mother and calf. They both breeched and dove less than 50' from our anchored mother ship, the Solmar. I have great video of close-in full breeches and surface swimming---fantastic surface interval entertainment. We snorkeled from the pangas after one dive and got to witness the mother nursing the calf--truly a real treat as the crew was very excited by it all saying they could count on one hand the number of times they had seen a humpback so casual around people or a boat. We did not nor did the Solmar V crew harass or chase the whales...they came to us. We also saw marlin on the surface from under the water during a dive---also wonderful to view. Many huge eels, parrot fish, hog heads, bonito, large yellow-fin tuna, largest wahoo I've ever seen which were around us on every dive, many octopus on Roca Partida, lobsters, rays, jacks, flying fish, seals and bottle-nose dolphins close--in during our dives, feeding around the boat with the silky sharks, and playing in the bow waves and wake of the Solmar V while we were cruising. We saw humpbacks breeching and surfacing everyday of the trip which ran from April 17th to the 24th. Boarded by well-armed Mexican marines from a patrol ship twice...out of room on word count. E-mail me for more on the adventure...
Websites Solmar V   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving Philippines, Indonesia, Roatan, Cayman Islands, Monterey CA, Northern Sonoma Coast CA, Texas, Channel Islands CA, Puget Sound, Hawaii, Kauai, Niihau
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, dry Seas calm, surge, currents
Water Temp 75-81°F / 24-27°C Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 40-100 Ft/ 12-30 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Safety sausage & whistle mandatory; No deco dives; Max depth dependent on NITROX % but 130' max; No gloves, No dive lights, No knives, No night diving--feeding sharks...dozen or so 6-7' silky sharks always feeding on smaller fish from dusk till dawn around the boat.
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

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

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

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 5 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 5 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments Two large 44 gal rinse tanks; 10'x 6' padded two-level, covered camera table; plenty of 110v charging sockets; onboard computer; INTERNET access available via SEAWAVE for uploading pictures & e-mail/browsing. Extremely careful camera handling by crew on water entry and exit. Marine biologist & Dive Instructor (Eric)part of permanent crew and was most helpful in finding/identifying various marine life and detailing the full gamut of behavior and characteristics.
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