Dive Boat Review: Raptor

We are a society that seems to be always seeking immediate gratification. Unfortunately, diving usually does not offer that, but with the operation of the dive charter boat Raptor it comes pretty close.

Based in Ventura, the easternmost portion of the Channel Islands are just a short distance away for the Raptor. With the Raptor’s speed, sections of Anacapa Island are a mere 40 minutes away, barely enough time for your coffee to get cold, get your gear set up, and your exposure suit on. The Raptor cruises at an impressive 20 knots. On a recent trip, we were at anchor at distant Santa Cruz Island in just 75 minutes.

In spite of the boat’s speed, it offers a surprisingly smooth and comfortable ride, readily slicing through the swells and chop with its deep-V hull. This is an agile and powerful vessel with its twin 375-horsepower John Deere marine engines. Speeds of over 25 knots are possible.

One advantage of this speedy boat is scheduling. The boat often leaves the dock later (8 or 9 a.m. depending on whether the trip is a 2-tank or 3-tank excursion) and arrives back early to mid-afternoon. Every once and a while both morning and afternoon trips are offered. In addition, Wednesday trips are frequently on the menu. And finally, night and twilight diving trips are also offered. Keep an eye out for these trips during the upcoming lobster season as they are sure to be popular and fill up quickly.

Speaking of night diving, one of the recently upgraded features of the Raptor is its through-hull lights. These ultra-bright underwater lights provide additional lighting of the bottom for nervous night divers. They create an easy beacon to find your way back home to the boat.

On that recent Santa Cruz Island trip I mentioned previously, the boat was nearly full. The Raptor is certified to take as many as 36 passengers, but for comfort the management limits the boat to 20. This particular day we had 18. Although there were a lot of divers, the operation was smooth and there was plenty of room for all the divers. First, it starts with a large vessel. The Raptor is a spacious 46-feet long and a generous 16-feet wide. But what makes the back deck so roomy is the smart layout and logistics of its operation. Passengers empty their dive bags and stow the wet gear under the benches in baskets (plenty of room) below their tank rig. Wetsuits and drysuits are hung up and dry stuff is stored in the over-the-bench racks. Bulky gear bags are then securely stored at the dive shop just up from the dock and are waiting on the dock when the boat returns.

Personally, my favorite feature of this boat is the swimstep. Hovering just a foot off the water, giant-stride entries are very easy. And for those with bad backs, the crew will help you into your gear as you sit and you can just slip into the water. For returning to the boat there are two large ladders angled just right with broad steps for comfort on the feet and surety of footage. And there again is the crew, right there to help you out.

The Raptor was built by Newton boats, supplier of boats for many dive charter and resort operations throughout the Americas and Caribbean. Keeping with the concept of a dive resort, the Raptor makes this boat function as much like a resort as possible. Tanks are provided (steel 85s and 72s), and full rentals are available at the shop immediately adjacent to the dock. And like a resort, the service is impeccable.

Creature comforts are not ignored. There is a large head forward and below. A warm freshwater shower is on deck. With cool fall and winter days at the Channel Islands coming up, the fully enclosed and heated cabin is a welcome retreat. We will likely have some warm sunny days this fall in which you may want to spend some time on the roomy upper sundeck. Warm the tummy, too — there are hot drinks (as well as cold)–and a hot lunch supplied as well as fresh fruit and vegetables and sandwiches. Warning: Leave room for the brownies or chocolate chip cookies on the way home.

Delivered to Ventura in 2006, this is one of the newest charter boats in the California dive charter boat fleet. Even so, the Raptor’s crew does not neglect this shiny new boat. Like the protective owner of a new car, she has been kept in tip-top condition, recently hauled out and spit and polished for the best look presented to the customer.

The Raptor has created a powerful following in its short four-year history. A well thought out operation, making customer service a priority, and keeping the vessel in impeccable condition is sure to keep customers steaming to the vessel for diving adventures for years to come. Want to be part of that following? Visit their website at www.raptordive.com for more information or call 805-650-3477.

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