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I have read a few recent posts that praise Conch Republic Divers out of Tavernier. As a result, I have a question for those of you who are regulars.
I used to dive with Conch 5-7 times per year when it was owned by Art....and even before when Tommy was running the operation. Within a week of when Gary and Brenda took over the operation, I was diving with them. Initially, I thought it was just going to take them a while to adopt the "Keys" attitude of laid back and casual. A few months later I was diving with them again. Overall, I have dove with Conch on three different occasions (approximately 10-15 dives) since Gary and Brenda have taken over. Don't get me wrong, I think Gary and Brenda both are great people, and I like them both.
The problems I encountered are as follows:
It seemed like a military operation when loading the boat. This might just have been my perception as the 2 previous owners were more casual about the whole thing.
In addition, rather than being able use a tank of air (to 500 psi) we were always given a time limit for both the 1st and 2nd dives. I understand a time limit for the 2nd morning dive as the boat has a schedule for afternoon dives; however, I do not appreciate a 45 minute limit on bottom time for a 40-50' deep 1st dive.
I did not dive with Conch any at all last year. Instead, I went with Jeff Jarvis (SS Minnow) out of Key Largo.
Anyway...rather than rant...the purpose of this question is to ask if things have changed. I am looking for feedback from those of you who dive the Keys often....specifically with Conch Republic.
Interesting. My buddy Andrea and I dove with them in March. I thought they were pretty laid back. They allowed us to pretty much do our own dive profiles and the time limits were an hour (understandable even though we could go much longer on the shallow reef dives). We went out on their 6-pack boat rather than the larger boat which undoubtedly made a difference.
I liked both of them and would certainly return to dive with them if there is anything left of the Keys after this hurricane season (just teasing you Floridians... at least we can dive uninterrupted during a California earthquake... and I have several times).
I dove with Conch Republic last week and didn't experience any of what you mentioned. In each case (8 dives, 4 trips) there was no time limit for the first deeper dive other than no deco and back with 500 psi. For the shallow reefs, it was 1hr or 500psi. I could stay for longer than 1hr, but I think 1hr is pretty reasonable and standard for the area.