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Thread: Juliet Bahamas Columbus Day 5-day Trip Report

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Baltimore, MD

    Juliet Bahamas Columbus Day 5-day Trip Report

    I just got back from my first liveaboard dive-trip, a 5-day trip to Bimini on the S/V Juliet. Since I'd never done a liveaboard before I decided to try it out with a short trip rather than one that was a full week long. If I hated it I'd be wasting less money and time off from work. I'm happy to say that wasn't an issue and my trip on the Juliet ended up being the best dive experience I've ever had. I cannot speak highly enough of her crew and I'd recommend her to anyone who enjoys liveaboard diving.

    My positive experience with the Juliet started several days before my departure. Four days before we were supposed to leave I injured my ankle in a way that made it seem like I would not be able to go. I called them up to cancel my booking (DAN trip insurance is great BTW but that's a topic for a separate post) but a couple of days later it turned out that my issue was much less serious than I was initially told. Diving seemed possible again so I gave the Juliet's office another call and they were happy to put me back on the manifest.

    As plenty of other people have pointed out one of the Juliet's great advantages is that she sails from Miami. This means that getting to her is extremely easy and cheap for those of us who live in the mid-Atlantic. We flew into Fort Lauderdale which isn't quite as convenient for getting to the Juliet as Miami's airport is, but FLL is a much better airport for affordable tickets than MIA. We got to the boat in the early evening and were quickly welcomed aboard and helped with our bags and gear.

    There are plenty of other descriptions of the Juliet on this forum so I'll try not to be too redundant. She's a 100-foot long steel-hulled sailboat that originally hauled cargo in the South Pacific. She was later modified to support a research station in Antarctica and has since been turned into a liveaboard dive boat. Because of her design she doesn't have a typical dive deck at the back of the boat. The dive station is in the middle of the boat just forward of the pilothouse. You get into the water by jumping off the side of the boat, and there's a retractable dive platform with stairs for getting back on. It sounds a little bit ungainly but is actually extremely easy to use. I went on this trip with an ankle that I'd sprained pretty badly five days beforehand and I had no issues at all getting out of the water after a dive. The cabins are comfortable but you probably won't spend very much time there except for when you're asleep. There are power outlets, AC that keeps them reasonably cool and sinks in some of the cabins. Cabin #1 really isn't all that private (the person who's sleeping in cabin #2 has to pass through it in order to get to their room) but those two cabins have the advantage of having their own private bathroom. The other cabins share a couple of additional toilets and a shower. Showering off on deck is also an option in between dives or at the end of the day. Fresh water is plentiful as long as you aren't ludicrously wasteful.

    Once everyone was on board there was a quick briefing by the captain on topics like safety, daily schedules, not clogging up the heads, etc etc. Normally the Juliet carries a crew of five (captain, engineer, divemaster, marine biologist and cook) but this weekend things were a bit different. Rudy was the "official" captain but he seemed to spend most of his time doing the engineer's duties or serving as a dive instructor while Chris (I guess he functioned as a first mate on this trip) and Anne (captain in training I think?) did most of the boat driving. Jess was the marine biologist, Megan was the divemaster and William was the cook. I believe that Hilary was onboard as a cook in training. I'll say more about the crew later, however they were all fantastic. The Juliet's owner knows how to find good people.

    Once the briefing was taken care of we were fed dinner and headed out from Miami. We were lucky enough to have fairly benign weather but if you are prone to seasickness the crossing from Miami to Bimini should not be taken lightly. I loaded myself up with Dramamine and was fine (albeit drowsy) for the crossing but not everyone was as fortunate. Several people were taking a Nitrox course so that was taken care of that evening. I'm not sure what time we arrived in the Bahamas since I was in bed by then but I remember hearing us anchor in the early hours of the morning.

    All of our diving days started off with a call of "breakfast is ready!" around 7 AM. For the first couple of days there were three day dives interspersed by lunch, with a night dive after dinner for those who were interested. On the last day we had a couple of dives along with an opportunity to snorkel with stingrays right before lunch time. We could have gotten in a third dive on the last day, but the consensus among the passengers was that we preferred a more leisurely schedule along with the opportunity to see the Juliet under sail since squeezing in a third dive would've meant hustling back to Miami as soon as that dive was done.

    The best sites we dived were probably Victory Reef, Bull Run and the wreck of the Sapona. I'm sure that all of these sites have been written about extensively by others so I won't bother with that here. For the most part the diving was pretty independent, there was a pre-dive briefing and after that buddy pairs could go off and do their own thing. Several of us had never done a night dive before so we asked for a divemaster to lead us on the first night. That request was cheerfully taken care of. Obviously this style of diving appeals more to people with a bit of experience and the desire to dive independently but if you're the type who'd prefer to be led by a divemaster I'd be extremely surprised if they wouldn't accommodate you.

    As I'd alluded to earlier what really makes the Juliet stand out is the fantastic effort that the crew puts into making sure everyone is happy. The boat herself is comfortable but not luxurious, however the customer service was consistently five stars. On the second day of diving my regulator started to leak when I hooked it up and turned on my air tank. The initial assumption was a bad o-ring on the tank and that was quickly replaced. When that didn't work we realized it was my reg, so I was offered one of their rental units while the crew took a look at mine. When I got back from my second dive Chris cheerfully informed me that an o-ring in my reg had slipped and Rudy had already replaced the o-ring, tested my regulator and it was good to go again. Another time I noticed a very small leak from the tank/regulator connection. It wasn't a big deal and would've probably cost me no more than a hundred PSI over the course of the dive, but I asked Megan (who was bursting with can-do cheerfulness for the entire trip) to take a quick look at it and just confirm my opinion that it wasn't an issue. Much to my surprise when the dive briefing was over she told me they'd changed my tank o-ring, checked for leaks and I was good to go. The level of effort that they put into even very minor issues almost made me feel guilty.

    Another cool thing about the Juliet is that one of their crew members is also a marine biologist. If you had any questions about something that you saw on a dive or wanted to learn a bit about fish identification Jess would happily answer your questions. She also gave a daily presentation after the first dive of the day on topics like fish identification, shark behavior (I was glad we heard that one before diving Bull Run!) etc.

    Good food is another thing that the Juliet seems to be well known for and she lived up to that reputation. Will and Hilary did an amazing job in their small kitchen. The food was always pretty hearty but each meal came with salad and lots of veggies (fresh, crunchy vegetables, not canned crap that had been cooked to death) so if you wanted to eat reasonably healthy that would have been easy. My girlfriend is vegetarian and they were wonderful about accommodating her. Will always prepared some sort of vegetarian variation on the main dish (i.e. eggplant parmesan when the main meal was chicken parm) for her and I'm sure they'd make arrangements for any other reasonable dietary restrictions. Fruit and snacks were available if you got hungry in between meals and there was always a cooler full of water and another with lemonade or fruit punch to encourage people to stay well hydrated. Beer, wine and booze were available once you were done diving for the day but the beer selection was pretty mediocre (Yuengling and Miller Lite.) I don't think that the Juliet generally attracts a heavy-drinking crowd and for the most part we were no exception. After the night dives I didn't have enough energy for much more than a can of beer before I wanted to go to sleep.

    Obviously a trip on the Juliet won't suit everyone. If you want privacy and lots of personal space and don't like sharing close quarters with people you've never met before then a liveaboard trip isn't for you. People who are absolutely set on squeezing in as many dives as possible also might want to look for a different operator where the norm is five or even six dives per day. For someone who wants a comfortable but reasonably priced liveaboard trip I cannot imagine a boat that's better than the Juliet though. Just to prove that I'm not a mindless shill I will offer a couple of minor bits of constructive criticism. Despite what they say on their website the Juliet didn't spend much of her time as a sailboat. Motoring from dive site to dive site was the norm. I was slightly disappointed about that but I also understand the limitations that being under sail would have placed on our itinerary. Also as I mentioned the beer selection is lousy. This stuff probably sounds petty but I cannot think of anything else that could have used improvement.

    I've got a few bits of advice for people planning their first Juliet trip. Figure out what kind of seasickness medication works for you and use it for the crossing to and from Miami unless you're immune to motion sickness. I purchased dive gloves at the last minute and was grateful for them, they made going up and down the anchor line a lot more pleasant. Bring enough cash for a good tip because the crew work their tails off to earn it. Finally, when you have a bit of downtime have a chat with a member of the crew and ask them how they ended up there. You are almost certain to get an interesting story.

  2. #2
    Shark Zeagle Eagle's Avatar
    Join Date
    Willis, TX
    Great report, thanks.
    --Zeagle Eagle

  3. #3
    Join Date
    MA, United States
    Thanks also for a great report. Juliet is somewhere on my to do list. been going to Bonaire mostly lately but Juliet and/or another live aboard would be a great next.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    United States
    Great reprot.I didn't know that there was a liveaboard out of Miami. Added to dive list.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Hutto, TX
    Like. Like very much!
    Some people are like a Slinky, not really good for anything but they do make you smile when you push them down stairs.

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