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by Bill Harrigan
Service with a Smile in the BVI
Have you ever noticed that when divers are having a good time, the boat is alive with laughter and excited chatter? It always seems like that aboard Baskin’ in the Sun’s new boat, the Annie H. I think it’s a combination of things that does it; staff members who truly enjoy their work, the anticipation of some excellent diving and, of course, the intoxicating beauty of the British Virgin Islands. But there is something else, too; perhaps it’s the general attitude around Baskin’ in the Sun. This may be the way Lisa Mitchell and her crew make their living but diving is still fun for them and that makes it fun for us. Genuine enthusiasm is highly contagious!
Activities for Everyone: Something new is always in the works at Baskin’ in the Sun. Every month some unique activity is scheduled that adds to the excitement of diving in the islands. Instruction programs for women only, for example, have been offered to provide an atmosphere where competition between the sexes doesn’t interfere with learning. Fish identification courses are taught every week, which is handy because the diversity of fish in the British Virgin Islands is incredible. Serious fishwatchers can join in the annual fish survey for the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF), a nonprofit organization committed to protecting the marine environment. The fun at Baskin’ in the Sun is not reserved just for adults. Children are especially welcome and the shop even has an area dedicated to children’s books and other items.
Diving Highlights: The Baskin’ in the Sun boats cover a lot of ground in the BVI, including all of the favorite dive spots. The wreck of the Rhone is high on everyone’s list and it’s one that shouldn’t be missed. Plan on two or three dives just to get a good introduction to this fascinating site. The Rhone sank during a hurricane on one unfortunate night in October 1867, after breaking in two on Black Rock. The substantially intact bow section rests on the sand in about 75 feet of water, while the stern section is scattered in shallower water. Captain Wooley, the Rhone’s master, set a course specifically to avoid Blond Rock when he was trying to run for open water during the fateful night of the hurricane. Today the rock is a favorite with divers, in part because of the deeply undercut ledges that harbor schools of Blackbar Soldierfish, French Grunts, and Schoolmasters. The three shallow canyons at Painted Walls make it different than any other reef dive. The sides are heavily encrusted with colorful corals and sponges and there is an arched swim-through leading to a coral garden. A large Pillar Coral formation on one of the ledges between the boat mooring and the canyons has been growing steadily over the years. Pillar Coral is one of the fastest growing hard corals and it also forms new colonies quickly. You can see everything from vertical walls to caverns filled with Copper Sweepers at The Indians. This dive is normally done as a circular tour, ending with a swim across a shallow bowl on top of the reef that exits through a narrow tunnel. Hawksbill Turtles are commonly seen at The Indians, along with a huge variety of reef fish. The shallow coral growth and protected waters here make the Indians a favorite with snorkelers, too.
Service with a Smile: Personal service is taken seriously at Baskin’ in the Sun. Their goal is to take all the work out of diving and leave you with nothing but pure, distilled fun. Drag your gear down to the boat on the first day of your trip and that’s the last time you’ll touch it unless you’re about to get wet. Want a guided tour of the reef so you don’t miss any of the good stuff? No problem, one of the divemasters will be happy to oblige. Interested in learning how to take dazzling underwater photos? They can help you there, too. Travel Information: American Airlines connections through its San Juan, Puerto Rico, hub from many cities make travel to the BVI a snap. Once in San Juan a quick flight on American Eagle brings you to Tortola’s Beef Island airport. A passport or a certified birth certificate with photo ID can be used for entry. U.S. dollars are the official currency; the electricity is 110 volt/60 cycles. Dive packages are available with a number of BVI hotels, including the Prospect Reef Resort and the Long Bay Resort. Both of these hotels have recently been upgraded with new rooms, new furniture and even a new pool. For more information, contact Baskin’ in the Sun at (800) 650-2084, (305) 451-4759 or fax (305) 451-4790. Send e-mail to Baskindive@aol.com and visit the Web site at www.dive-baskin.com.