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

Reef Runner/N/A, Apr, 2004,

by Bert Brown, Eugene, OR., Oregon, U. S. A. . Report 1291.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 3 stars Food 3 stars
Service and Attitude 3 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 3 stars Shore Diving 3 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 4 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments Overall, our Reef Runner dive trip was a positive experience, with a couple of potential “Gotcha’s”.

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, you’re 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 won’t 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, it’s 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 didn’t, 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 don’t 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 what’s up? But no complaints, we still saw a multitude of sea life, enough at least to keep our curiosity up as to what’s next.

The fourth dive was offered to us on our choice. The time was getting short for the day, and we were advised that we’d 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 didn’t 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, it’s over for the day, time to head back, and face Gotcha #2. We docked back at Captain Sam’s 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 it’s 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, I’d use them again.

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

Weather sunny, dry Seas choppy, noCurrents
Water Temp 80-85°F / 27-29°C Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 0-60 Ft/ 0-18 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions No restrictions imposed at all. Captain limited dive #4 to 30 minutes, gave us choice to go or not.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles 1 or 2 Whales None
Corals 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 N/A
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments 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.
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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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