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View Full Version : Flower Gardens 9/17 - 9/18 - Questions



Bigg_Budd
09-02-2011, 06:47
Me and Wheelman are hitting the Flower Gardens mid-September. Looking forward to the diving, but this will be my first live-aboard so I have some questions...

Would any FG veterans please chime in on tips/tricks for topside? I'm curious about the bunks, quarters, down-time, etc. What did you do or what would you be sure to do next time?

Things like "bring a battery powered fan cuz it's an oven in your room" is the type of advice I'm looking for.

Also, I know they have beer and soda for purchase. Do you pay as you go or do they run a tab?

Lastly, when it comes to tipping, what was your method? Do you tip the crew individually or give a lump sum, and was it cash?

Thanks, homeys.

Illini_Fan
09-02-2011, 11:39
Enjoy the trip -- I hope the weather is good.

Bunks are first come first serve -- there are 2 (or maybe 3) quad bunks that have a door. The unwritten rule is that you let groups that are going together take those instead of a single traveler throwing his crap on all four bunks to make it look "taken". The bunks right under the stairs aren't bad - although they look like they would be noisy. But maybe I'm just a sound sleeper. I've never tried the bunks in the bow - they are accessed through the bridge, so I can't comment on those.

Bring your own towel.

If you like things chilly when you sleep, then yes, you'll need to bring something. The interior is air conditioned, but if the boat is full it isn't hot, but warm. I've never brought a fan, so I can't speak to if there are any restrictions.

Beer/Soda are recorded on a tally sheet to the left of the galley. They will have unlimited water and lemonade stored in 5 gallon water jugs. They settle your tab at the end of the trip. You can also purchase shirts and related sundries at that time. That is when tipping is done as well.

Tipping is a pot of money split by the un-paid crew members. I think only the captain is paid, but don't hold me to that. Tips can be cash or you can add them when you settle your bill and pay via CC or cash.

The boat typically leaves right at 8:30 - they won't let you on the boat dock until 8pm, so no real need to show up early. The boat dock entrance seems to have lots of mosquitoes, so the less time I stand there the better.

If you bring shoes, leave them in the car or take them off as soon as you get on the boat -- no need for them.

The crew will give you a brief introduction right around 8pm about how to board the boat, get your bunk, where to place your gear, etc... The beauty of live-aboards is you set your gear up once and outside of unscrewing the regulator for fills after each dive, you don't worry about it till the end of the trip.

The crossing from Freeport out to the FGs can be rough -- if you have a sensitive stomach you might want to plan ahead.

The boat does have TV (either dish or direct TV) and an assortment of movies and a small library. I typically bring my Kindle with a few books and my dive gear and a couple T/Shirts and shorts and that's it.

Bring a primary and secondary light and a tank marker if you plan on doing the night dive.

I can't remember if the boat provides weights, I bring my own.

Use soft-side luggage if possible. Easier to store than hard-sided luggage and if the boat is full, space is a premium.

I'm sure others will have more, but that is my brain-dump. Enjoy, it is fun diving.

JoeT
09-02-2011, 11:58
Tom just about covered it. Regarding down-time--there's really not much of it. It's pretty much eat, sleep, dive all day, then the next morning. After a dive, I'd take a quick rinse in the deck shower, towel off, then grab some chow. By the time you eat and socialize a little, you've got about an hour till the next splash time. I'd go ahead and test my nitrox and get my gear prepped at that point, because they always seemed to open up the diving about 10-15 minutes earlier than they said they would.

Boat details: they REALLY want you to bring your own lead if at all possible. They've got a little on board, if you need to add a couple of pounds, but not enough for everyone. There is an indoor shower (supposedly--I've never used it). Storage space is tight, so pack light.

Have fun! I'll be out the week before you so I'll try not to scare off all the whale sharks :)
-JoeT

cowgirldiver
09-02-2011, 13:19
The same advice for getting your bunk goes for where your gear is set up on deck....if there is somewhere specific you'd like to gear up at (like close to the exit (usually off the side) or entrance (at the back) then get there first thing. Since you are going with a buddy, you might want to have one of you go down and get your bunk and the other stash some gear where you want to sit. Since you are on a liveaboard, once your gear is set up, you never change spots. I like to gear up slow, so it's no big deal to me, but those who are fast and want to get off the boat, don't want to have to maneuver over every elses fins, etc. If the weather is nice, it's always good on the surface interval to go up top to get some sun/relaxation or do some dolphin searching.

Soonerwink
09-02-2011, 16:48
Are you going on the Spree or Fling, they are setup a little different, Spree takes 24 divers and the Fling 36. Usually in Sept they aren't full though. Did a Sept. trip about the same dates as yours once and had only 12 divers.

Soonerwink
09-02-2011, 21:54
I received an email from Capt. Frank on the Spree today. He is not planning on coming back to the Flower Gardens in 2012. He is losing too much money doing the trips and his Florida trips are doing very well. I wish I had done a trip aboard the Spree this year, I was planning on one next year.

Bigg_Budd
09-04-2011, 10:11
thanks for the advice, peeps!

Bigg_Budd
09-06-2011, 17:18
can anyone give me typical water temps in september. i've done some poking around on the web and haven't been able to find anything reliable.

Soonerwink
09-06-2011, 19:53
can anyone give me typical water temps in september. i've done some poking around on the web and haven't been able to find anything reliable.

I was there in the middle of Sept. four years ago and temps were 82-84. I dove in a .5 mm suit. I did 12 dives in 3 days. I don't remember getting chilled, and I get cold easy. It was a rough trip as far as waves though. There were only 12 divers on trip and at least half got sea sick.

Bigg_Budd
09-06-2011, 20:03
thanks, sooner. i run hot, normally. i dive wet in water that is 36 with <20 on the surface. will they let me roll in a shorty?

i hear you on the waves. i'm gonna start poppin' dramamine 2 days prior and all through the trip...

JoeT
09-06-2011, 21:16
They'll let you dive in whatever you want... Saw several people just in boardshorts a few weeks ago.

Bigg_Budd
09-06-2011, 22:09
thanks, joet

Airborne!
09-06-2011, 22:56
Normally they write the next Dive time on the white board. You gear yourself up when that time approaches and head to the jump door where the DM's are waiting. They make sure you have your surface marker, ask for your bunk number, check to make sure your air is on and usually make sure your buddy is present and ready. Then its splash down time. They don't care what you wear or what equipment you use or don't use, but no doubles allowed. Redundant air is allowed, but it is only filled once at the start of the trip. Then the DM's wait at the ladder and make sure you have at least one breath of air in your tank when you step foot back on the boat. No air, no more diving that day. They ask your bunk number, how you feel, max depth and dive time. If youíre in Deco then no next dive.
I consider it semi big boy rules. You are responsible for your equipment and your profiles within their envelop. Run your tank dry, go into Deco or break the max depth for a dive and you pay the price according to their rules, but itís entirely up to you how you dive.
Make sure you keep your breakable equipment off the bench area. Between dives the Tank Filler is moving stuff all over the bench and stepping up on the bench to get the fills done. I have seen more than one Mask smashed during this process.
If you are sure Dramamine works for you then good. If youíre not sure then bring a backup of some sort. If the seas are especially bad then a backup is a good idea anyway. The last thing you want to do is get out there and find that Dramamine is not doing the trick and you donít have an alternative.
They have a nice line system setup from the boat to the bottom. Use it. If you drop down on your own then you will find yourself using most of your air just to get to the anchor line so you can then get to the pretty stuff. Of course this is dependent upon the location and current, but normally the line system is a excellent way to save air for the bottom.

Bigg_Budd
09-07-2011, 06:44
great tips, airborne! thanks.

cowgirldiver
09-07-2011, 13:23
In addition to what airborne said, if you wear a wrist computer, make sure to put it on everytime. One of our guys forgot his and had to sit out the next dive. When you get ready to get out of the water, they will have you put your fins over your wrists while you are waiting on the line..I forgot to do this one time and got a stern talking to. Not that it's not a good idea...we had a few people lose theirs while taking them off and when the boat is rocking and rolling, the chances are increased. Also, and Sooner might want to chime in on this, if the waves are big...you might want to really think about whether to take your camera down. Mine is small and I jump in with it but for the bigger cameras, they lower them on a line and you have to get it off. Also if the current is high, the line to the down line will be away from the boat. When you jump in, focus on that line and nothing else..my buddy missed the line and got swept out. She made it back to the boat via the back line but it was some hard work. I'm a smaller diver and have to say one day as I was pulling myself along the line to the down line in a high current I was asking myself what I was doing...my face was doing that thing you always see with the sky divers and if I looked back at my buddy, it was kind of hard to get back to looking forward again. Only did this to tell her about the shark right under us but rethought it when I remembered she didn't like sharks. But despite this, just like when you give birth, I've forgotten enough of the difficulties and would probably go again...once you get down, it's great.

Bigg_Budd
09-07-2011, 14:59
Thanks, cowgirldiver, for the tips on protocol. Sounds like a typical ocean boat dive. :)

I had to laugh at the wrist computer point, though. Anyone who dives w/out their computer should have to sit out.

cowgirldiver
09-09-2011, 13:01
Oh, I don't know...I usually put my wrist computer in the pocket of my BC if I take it off (which you have to do to take the top of your wetsuit down) and so it's with me no matter what, but have to say on weeks when I dive 20 or more dives, towards the end, I'm a little tired and a lot of things can be forgotten. I've just learned to say, never say never.

JoeT
09-12-2011, 09:40
Just got back from FG. Weather and seas were PERFECT--couldn't have been better. Hope it holds out for you next weekend. Water temps at bottom were 82-84. I wore a 3mm suit and got a little chilled on dives 4 and 5. I stood on deck shivering after the night dive... Cabins were plenty cool--sheet and blanket for me, sheet and 2 blankets for wife and she was still chilly at night. Maybe it depends on which bunk room you get... We were in bunks 11 and 12--had great A/C. If there's any current, use the line system to hand walk your way to the bottom--it definitely saves air. And along those lines (pun intended) make sure you bring and wear your gloves--the mooring line is pretty crusty.

-JoeT

Bigg_Budd
09-15-2011, 06:41
Hey JoeT - Thanks for the feedback. Curious as to what you saw... Whale sharks, tigers, etc? We leave tomorrow.

JoeT
09-15-2011, 06:47
No big pelagics, unfortunately.. :( Did get to see a big stingray, large turtle, several silky sharks, lots of giant french angels, more big barracuda than you knew what to do with, and then all the usual stuff. If the fish variety at the moment isn't doing it for you, then enjoy all the coral structures. Had a blast.

cowgirldiver
09-19-2011, 13:18
Bigg Budd, how was the diving?

Bigg_Budd
09-20-2011, 14:26
Hey - It was great. I liked Stetson and the rig the best. The west bank was boring, in my opinion. Kind of a waste of two dives. I would definitely do it again, but I'd go with a Stetson only trip.

All of the advice was great, so thanks! Some things that I learned and that I will use on future trips:

Since I tend to run hot, I'm definitely going to bring a battery powered fan. I was on a bottom bunk and got no air down there.
I need to double down on Dramamine or wear that little patch behind the ear. I was fine after the first 12 hours, but those first 12 were ROUGH.
I'm bringing sleeping pills next time. There is just no way to get a good night's rest in rolling 4 foot waves.
I'm gonna bring less clothes and an extra towel.
Man, I wish you could spearfish. There were some big Jacks out there...

JoeT
09-22-2011, 21:04
Yep, absolutely agree on West Bank being boring. LOVED Stetson--next summer's trip will def be Stetson only. Try Bonine next time--worked great for me.
-JoeT