I’m sure you all are well-versed in our Bahamas and St. Croix trips by now. Maybe a snotty crossing here or there, a bit of a roll in St. Croix if the wind is from the wrong direction for a few hours, but overall the ideal relaxing vacation, right?
But what about those Mona Island trips? Why the warnings all over the destination page? Why the nitrox requirement? Why do I need to provide detailed diving experience when I ask about this trip? And why does Juliet only go there two times a year?
As for timing, we make a quick stop on our way to and from St. Croix every year (every December and March). Yes, the weather in Puerto Rico is better in the summer, but that’s true of the Bahamas too and there would be a revolt if we replaced Bahamas Summers with Puerto Rico. So that means the weather in Puerto Rico isn’t exactly ideal when we’re there…
Mona island trips are definitely not for the faint of heart (that video is just a taste, really hard to capture the conditions!) . There are two islands: Mona and Monito. The diving around Mona Island is beautiful but underwater not super challenging – fringing reefs on the edge of dramatic wall drops, some patch reefs in 40-50′ (12-15m). But the surface conditions are tough! Because of the area’s winter weather patterns, there’s a constant ground swell that inconveniently runs perpendicular to the wind. That causes the boat to roll back and forth pretty much constantly; mostly a slow roll but every 20 minutes or so there’s a good rail-to-rail one that gets the cook cursing and sends some unsuspecting guest flying. When that roll hits when you’re on the ladder? That requires strength, skill, coordination, and confidence in your diving skills.
Then there’s Monito, which is always live-drop diving – there are no moornings so each dive is treated like a drift dive.The dive briefing is held in the lee of Mona before we make the 3 mile trek to Monito to limit time spent on the deck and the surface once there. During the crossing, the captain requires everyone to stay securely seated for everyone’s safety. Once in the very small “lee” of the very small Monito, the captain keeps the boat in a somewhat stable position for as long as possible while you get geared up and in the water as quickly as possible. The area’s currents are working to separate the group, so if you’re delayed, the rest of the group might be completely gone from sight.
Most of your dive is spent hiding behind boulders at the bottom at about 90′ (27.5m) – hence the nitrox! – or kicking into the current to stay in place. Any shallower and the currents will try to sweep you away! On the dive, you’re treated to some gorgeous sea life along the wall of Monito and among the boulders, sharks, pristine coral formations, schools and schools of fish. When the dive is over the divemaster leads you on a good-paced swimming safety stop away from Monito so when Juliet comes to pick you up everyone is far enough away from the to the island to avoid running into it while everyone comes aboard. The boat is kept safely in gear while you’re boarding for stability, so hold on tightly to the tag line. Oh, and that roll we talked about in Mona? So much worse here! Be extra careful but quick-as-you-can going up that ladder.
So why do we put ourselves through this? Because it’s one of the few places left in the Caribbean that is almost completely untouched by human intervention. The reefs are pristine, the sea life is abundant and diverse, in the spring the humpback whales migrate through and serenade you on just about every dive. There are no resorts, and no tourists save for the occasional camper, ranger, or naturalist. And to our knowledge we are the only operation that still dives here! It’s tough diving, but it’s pretty magical.
https://julietsailinganddiving.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/juliet-defaultimage.jpg520600Juliet Sailing and Divinghttps://julietsailinganddiving.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/juliet-logo-dark.pngJuliet Sailing and Diving2022-10-15 13:50:112022-11-15 13:53:13What are Mona Island Trips Like?
We’ve added a new section to the website to help keep you – and us, let’s be honest – organized when it comes to how to apply for your Health Travel Visa for your Bahamas trip. This will be kept as up-to-date as humanly possible, but it’s never a bad idea to cross-reference it with The Association of Bahamas Marinas site and the Bahamas website itself.
https://julietsailinganddiving.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/juliet-defaultimage.jpg520600Juliet Sailing and Divinghttps://julietsailinganddiving.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/juliet-logo-dark.pngJuliet Sailing and Diving2021-08-17 13:03:472021-08-17 13:09:41Update to Bahamas Entry requirements
September did not start out on a great foot for the diving industry – both locally and nationally. Between Hurricane Dorian decimating the most northern islands of the Bahamas and a fellow liveaboard boat burning to the waterline, it feels like we’ve been in mourning since before Labor Day and not sure how best to go about life as usual when it’s everything but.
The California boat fire had everyone in the community devastated, feeling lost and vulnerable, not the least of which were operators like ourselves. Collectively we spent days wondering could it happen to us? and reassuring ourselves that we have all safety protocols in place. But also we spent the following days reassessing and reevaluating. Yes, we meet USCG safety standards here but we could exceed then an increase safety by doing this, or that. We designed evacuation layouts for all the cabins, are assessing where we can put fire extinguishers inside all of the cabins in case they are needed to escape in an emergency, we are reevaluating the pre-departure safety briefing to make sure we are covering absolutely everything that needs to be covered without being completely overwhelming to those who are new to liveaboards. It’s a balancing act and we’re doing our best to find our way in the dark so you never have to.
Hurricane Dorian hit close to home, both literally and figuratively. Only a few miles to the south and our friends and family in Bimini could have met the same fate as Grand Bahama and Abaco so in that sense we count ourselves lucky, but remembering that there are hundreds of thousands of Bahamians who cannot. We are doing our best to turn our fortune into opportunities to help those who lost everything by sending thoughts and prayers and money and generators and water purification tablets and toiletries and more money.
Hurricane season seems to get busier and scarier every year. Today there is a massive Climate change strike happening all over the world because people are seeing these changes and recognizing that they are causing life-altering destruction and that these changes will soon be irreversible. We see it every day under water and above as we run from storms, notice even small changes in weather patterns or fish stocks and behavior.
For now the world is still here and intact, and we’re going to enjoy it, as well as educate as many people as we can how they can help preserve it. And we hope you’ll make a pledge to do the same. Take time to talk to people about good choices, carbon footprints, plastic consumption, make donations to help those in need (see below). Do whatever small things you can that add up to one large movement against burning it all down.
https://julietsailinganddiving.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/2019-08-15-07.01.40-1024x768-1.jpg7681024Juliet Sailing and Divinghttps://julietsailinganddiving.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/juliet-logo-dark.pngJuliet Sailing and Diving2019-09-20 19:27:142021-02-14 22:19:01A September to Remember
We’re so excited to announce a new collaboration between us and Neal Watson’s Bimini Scuba Center this April. We get a lot of inquiries about baited shark dives, cage diving with Tiger sharks, and doing Hammerhead feeds – probably because we operate 9 months out of the year in the Bahamas where the sharks are notoriously plentiful! We’ve always had a policy of no-feed shark dives, not to mention that we like to leave the expert diving to the experts. Bahamian operators have been diving with sharks in their native waters for decades and have worked hard to get it perfect. We typically recommend these operators to folks exclusively interested in these kinds of shark dives.
However, we didn’t want to miss out on all the fun! In April, we’re teaming up with Neal Watson’s team to bring you to the sharks on Juliet. Our trips will run as normal – departing from and returning to Miami, diving our usual sites around Cat Cay, Orange Cay, and Bimini. But for one afternoon after lunch, you’ll be transferred over to Bimini Scuba Center’s boats for an experience of a lifetime!
Starting at 1pm, you’ll be briefed on the details of the dive and send down to the site where the sharks will be primed and ready. From there, you’ll dive with Great Hammerhead sharks for as long as you like – until either air, bait, or light runs low. Afterwards, it’s back on Juliet for dinner and a night dive nearby if you’re not completely dove out already!
Contact us to get on board one of these incredible trips! Check our calendar for updated availability in April (trips including Hammerhead dives will be noted).
This is a question we get a lot! And the answer is “Any time!” because the Bahamas are such an amazing group of islands. However, if you?re asking from a scuba liveaboard perspective, let me be a little more specific.
We run trips to the Bahamas from Miami April through November, and that?s very much by design. Winter weather in the Bahamas, while warmer than most places in the US, can be a bit unpredictable. That?s not a big deal if you?re flying over and staying on one of the Bahamas? 300+ islands, but it is a big deal if you have to get there and back by boat. The spring, summer, and fall months allow for a more comfortable ride.
April is a wonderful sailing month and the spring diving is really interesting for the hard-core critter watcher! Florida sees shark migrations up and down their coast regularly in March and April ? and the Bahamas is not much different. Our most diverse shark sightings happen this time of year. You?re most likely to see hammerhead sharks, Bull sharks out on the reefs, and once we even spotted a Sawfish! The water temps are cooler than you think (73-75) which is what the sharks like, so bring a 3mm wetsuit for sure.
May is a big month for fish and coral spawning as water temps start to rise. If you?re a dive geek like us, plan a trip around the full moon in May and you might catch a glimpse of sponge spawning during the day and if you?re really lucky maybe the corals will put on a show at night! Mutton snapper and other species of snapper get frisky this time of year as well, so expect some bigger fish on your dives in May.
June is when the weather starts to settle ? and by settle we mean flat flat flat! The breeze turns to the Southeast, drops to about 5-10 knots from spring?s East 10-15 tradewinds and things warm up really quick! Water temps are hovering right below 80F, air temps are 80-85, and this is when we do our own weekly migration down to the good stuff. Orange Cay and farther south are only accessible in calm weather and June is the best time of year to reliably head south.
July is downright toasty, and the weather even more settled. ?However, we are deep into hurricane season at this point so while the weather is gorgeous and calm and we take advantage of every minute we can of our glassy summer waters, there?s always a risk. All trips from June to October we strongly recommend the purchase of travel insurance; you never know when Mother Nature will spin up a storm!
August brings us similar conditions to July, but the night sky is where the excitement happens. The Perseid meteor shower happens for almost 2 full weeks in the middle of August and there is no better place to watch a meteor shower than from a boat, far from all the light pollution of land. Diving during the day, epic star gazing at night ? sign me up!
September and October are probably our favorite months to be in the Bahamas. The weather is still calm but starting to cool off from the inferno of July and August and the water temps are no-wetsuit-required warm at 83-85F! The best part is there isn?t a boat to be seen. Its fall, the kids are back in school, and the tourists are gone ? it feels like we have the whole ocean to ourselves.
In November we?re back to the easterly tradewinds, great sailing weather, but still warm water temps. We offer some of our longer trips this month to get some more sailing in, and allow for trips to not run into Thanksgiving without cutting anything short. Join us for a 10-day trip just before Thanksgiving, there?s no better way to prepare for the holidays.
Our Bahamas have something for everyone, so pick your month and come diving with us!
https://julietsailinganddiving.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/loggerhead-bahamas-800x531-1.jpg531800Juliet Sailing and Divinghttps://julietsailinganddiving.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/juliet-logo-dark.pngJuliet Sailing and Diving2016-05-23 16:44:562021-02-14 22:19:02What the best time of year to go to the Bahamas?
Rumor has it passengers were treated to sightings of Sperm Whales, hammerheads, and loads of turtles last week. I haven’t received any pictures yet?to share with you but as soon as I do I’ll let you know!
The water was flat flat flat! All week. So much so that they got down to not only Do It Again, but as far as OMG. That means, in short, it was an awesome week. 4 Dives at Long Bow, two drifts at Lost Medallion – just hitting the cream of the crop and it?sounded amazing. Not to mention a wonderful group of divers on board to appreciate all the beauty Mother Nature has to offer in those untouched areas of the Bahamas that Juliet frequents.
Happy Summer everyone – our favorite season in the Bahamas. The water is calm and warm, and out at sea the air temp is comfortable even at night. We’re looking forward to long nights of star-gazing on watches, meteor showers, beautiful dives, and visiting with friends – old and new, aquatic and terrestrial.
We’ve had some great megafauna viewings this past month with a hammerhead sighting on Tuna Alley towards the end of May, the usual frisky sharks down south of Orange Cay trying to steal our Lionfish,?and the crew and passengers were treated to 2 hours worth of dolphin watching and swimming at Orange Cay Trench this month! Here’s hoping for more of the same for the rest of the summer.
For those of you who have yet to get on board to see the new renovations for yourself, we’ve put together a video of the cabin layouts so you can better see the way the ship is laid out and what the new ensuite cabins look like. See the video walk-through here:
This summer is fully booked and we’re already looking ahead to next year, hoping to mix things up a little in 2016. We have a few unique opportunities to spend the fall and winter holidays on board with us in 2015/16, and some trips designed to get you home in time to celebrate! See our Upcoming Availability below or just shoot us an email!
Juliet is wrapping up her season in Turks and Caicos and has had an amazing month so far. We kicked off the January trips by sharing a night dive with a whale shark, and the next week the whale mammals started showing up – both above and below water. Check out the videos our crew and passengers took of these amazing events.
Night dive with a Whale shark
Selfie with a Humbpack Whale!
In a few weeks we’ll be saying goodbye to Turks and Caicos and heading back to Miami on our 11-day Repositioning trip through the Bahamas. We’re excited to visit Hogsty Reef again, and the walls we discovered off of Crooked Island last year (where we saw a pair of humpbacks on their way home too!), not to mention the gorgeous dives of Conception Island. We’ll dive the Exumas, Eleuthera, Nassau, the Berries, Bimini and Cat Cay before returning to Miami on March 10th to start our Bahamas season again.
There’s still plenty of room on our Spring trips out of Miami to the Bahamas if February has got you down – almost 100″ of snow in MA, not enough for the Iditarod in AK,?and it’s 60 in CO, what is going on? At least it’s always sunny and beautiful in the Bahamas!
https://julietsailinganddiving.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/trunks-scaled.jpg19202560Emily Peppermanhttps://julietsailinganddiving.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/juliet-logo-dark.pngEmily Pepperman2015-02-21 17:52:182020-11-04 08:16:02Turks and Caicos Season report
On February 22, 12 adventurous Belgians boarded Juliet for an amazing diving trip through the Bahamas to head back to Miami. The weather report was calling for some not-so-nice weather later in the week so we booked it to Hogsty reef to get the cruise going – the boat needed to be in a very particular part of the Bahamas for the strong north winds that were predicted and we had some ground to cover to get there in time.
Hogsty reef did not disappoint with it’s dramatic walls and healthy reef systems. We gathered some lionfish, took it all in, and said goodbye to Hogsty until next year, as we continued to head north to safe waters. The short-term forecast was absolutely gorgeous and we were all loving it, though the threat of bad weather ahead loomed over us.
Next stop: Crooked Island, the newest addition to the Repositioning itinerary. The walls up north by Bird Island were chock full of life, and as we were hauling anchor from the second dive, Kat started screaming incoherently and pointing wildly as two humpback whales were headed straight for the boat. The next surface interval was spent – you guessed it! – whale watching, as we carefully followed these giant creatures towards the north as they started their long journey back home to their feeding grounds in New England and Canada.
Conception Island held some amazing surprises as well. At the end of the first dive, one of the Belgian passengers started yelling in Flemish about something the crew couldn’t really understand, save for the lucky coincidence that the Flemish word for “dolphin” sounds just like the English word – and there she was, a solitary bottlenose dolphin, just hanging out, swimming among the divers at the surface. Divers got out, took off their scuba gear, and got back in for over 45 minutes to play with this curious creature. She even followed us to the next dive site and continued to entertain us! Later in the afternoon, a second dolphin arrived, played for a few minutes, and then the two of them took off. We felt a little used, but were very glad for the incredible day spent with this beautiful creature!
Kat had been raving about Jake’s Blue Hole since the beginning of the trip, and Liza couldn’t wait to see what all the fuss was about. We arrived at Eleuthera early on the 26th and Liza and Trevor went for an exploratory dive. Jake’s is a premature blue hole, that’s really just a crack in the ocean floor at only 25′ down, but it must open up to somewhere since the tide flows through there very strongly. We could see the boil on the surface of the tide flowing out of the hole, and when you tried to dive down into it, it would only spit you back out again. Better than being sucked in! The surrounding coral reef was absolutely gorgeous as usual, and the passengers were happy to have found their first nudibranchs and lots of gorgeous sea life. We took the rest of the morning off from diving to go fishing across the Exuma sound, and even hooked a few fish, though we weren’t able to land them. The rest of the day was spent diving the walls off the Exumas and chatting with old friends on the radio from Blackbeards and other dive boats. It was good to hear some familiar voices – and to get an updated weather report. It sounded like the forecast had completely changed and we were stuck with this beautiful weather until the end of the trip!
The next day, we dove out front of the Exumas again and then headed across the Yellow Bank towards Nassau. The water was glass as we pulled up to Periwinkle reef for the afternoon and night dive, where more nudibranchs were found. The plan was to dive the Blue hole in the morning, and then a wreck dive out front before heading into Atlantis for some waterslides and gambling! Mother Nature, however, had other plans.
Kat awoke to a leaky captain’s quarters hatch dripping on her head at 5am and the sound of hard rain. It was still dark out, and hard to see what was going on, other than it was wet. The radar didn’t seem to indicate a squall, this was a pretty big rain cloud by the looks of it. As it got lighter, the winds picked up and it was obvious this wasn’t just a passing storm. Winds were hard out of the north, and even though we were anchored in 20 feet of water, the seas were beginning to build. By 6am almost everyone was away as the boat got a little rocky and the passengers were a little excited by the change in weather. Liza and Kat estimated the winds were pushing 30kts and warned the passengers to be careful out on deck. Turns out the initial forecast wasn’t so wrong after all!
*Cue dramatic music*
A loud bang sent Kat and Liza and the rest of the crew out on deck to see what was going on. Nothing obvious had fallen or was out of place, but then another bang. The bow was getting buried under waves while we were at anchor and the chain was jumping out of the windlass! Next thing we knew, the entire chain paid out and we were adrift in 5′ seas and next to no visibility! Rusty started cursing as breakfast went all over the galley and the boat turned broadside to the wind and waves while Kat tried to muscle Juliet back into the weather and Trevor marked where the anchor was lost on the GPS. The next few hours were spent pacing back and forth in the shallow but still wickedly rough water south of Nassau waiting for the seas to calm down enough to recover the anchor. Ground tackle (anchor and chain) on a boat is arguably as important – if not more so – than the engine itself. If we couldn’t recover the anchor, we’d have to head back to Miami.
By 9:30 the seas had laid down enough to put Trevor in the water to look for the anchor, and within 45 minutes he found it, and it was back on board by 11. Somehow we even managed to get a dive in at the Blue hole, and went around to Atlantis for the afternoon, where Kat took a nice long nap to calm her nerves and the rest of the crew blew off some steam on the waterslides with the passengers.
A dive at the famed James Bond Wrecks and a hooked (but not landed!) Marlin later, we were in the Berry Islands and less than 100 miles from our old stomping grounds. We headed to Cat Cay and Bimini to dive Nodules, Bull Run, Tuna Alley and the rest of the amazing dive sites over there before we finished out what some of the crew is calling the best repositioning trip yet in Miami, right on schedule. Thanks to De Buddys dive group and all the crew and Juliet herself for an amazing trip!
It will be another two years before we return to the Virgin Islands, and though our visit seemed so short this winter, it certainly was sweet!
The first charter was just after Christmas with a group from California on a 9-day trip for New Years. The crew and passengers spent over a week exploring the dives around St. Thomas, including the WIT Shoal,WIT Concrete and Miss Opportunity and some of the beautiful reefs on the surrounding islands. The wrecks around St. Thomas are mostly artificial reefs sunk in 90-100 feet of water very close to Charlotte Amalie. They have been underwater for 20 years or more and are teaming with life!
The British Virgin Islands boast some beautiful reefs and wrecks, as well as some hopping night spots for boaters. We dove some of the beautiful walls on the surrounding islands like Spyglass wall and Ginger Island, as well as the famous wreck of the Rhone! The group spent New Years Eve at Foxy’s on Jost Van Dyke, famous for it’s rum drinks and everything that follows them. What happens on Juliet, stays on Juliet! That applies to Foxy’s as well…
Three more charters in January followed, the first a mix of individuals from all over, the second a group of Juliet disciples from Richmond and surrounding areas (yes, even Minnesota is included in that!) one celebrating her 10th trip on board, and one admittedly having lost track (we estimated at almost 20!). And the last St. Thomas charter was a group from PA that has been coming on board since the beginning, the group leaders even were married on Juliet by John himself a few years ago.
Our favorite diving was probably around St Croix, where the walls on the north side of the Island in Cane Bay are rivaled only by Turks and Caicos in their dramatic drop offs and diversity – we were hearing whale song on every dive which made them that much more memorable. And the critter watching is incredible, especially on the famed Fredericksted Pier on the west end of St. Croix. A few divers were down for almost 2 hours spotting everything from frogfish, seahorses, octopus, juvenile trunkfish, and tons of tiny baloonfish! Kat claims she saw 3 octopi on one dive, two even chasing each other around a piling on the pier, but unfortunately had no witnesses…
Juliet, crew and passengers are now on their way to Turks and Caicos, for 2 more charters before the final repositioning trip back to Miami to start the 6 month hiatus so John can have some fun traveling around the Caribbean with his friends and family. Reports are already in that the boat has seen whales off the coast of Puerto Rico so who knows what Turks and Caicos has in store in the coming weeks!