One Hundred Wishes | Sport Diver

One Hundred Wishes

British Virgin Islands — Cuan Law

The last time I faced 100 items to choose from was at the Chinese buffet. Now, as I surf the Web dreaming about my upcoming live-aboard adventure, this summer in the British Virgin Islands, again I'm overwhelmed. There are some 100 sites available to divers aboard the Cuan Law. Tough decisions will have to be made — like how to clear my calendar and stay an extra week.

The BVIs are a scattering of lush green islands sprinkled east of Puerto Rico. The waterways laced between the various islands have been considered some of the best anchorages in the entire Caribbean, first by Columbus, then by the pirates whose Jolly Roger ruled absolute through the early 18th century. Today, it's a veritable UN of flags flapping in the salt breeze from the masts of the pleasure boats that ply these calm blue seas. Clearly, it won't be a lonely week aboard the Cuan Law.

The BVIs may not be off the beaten path, but many of the dive sites we'll reach from our 105-foot perch are. All the better for my particular mission: working toward becoming a PADI Master Diver. I'm thinking specialties such as Wreck Diver and AWARE Fish Identification Diver are sure things.

To begin, the BVIs are practically brimming with wrecks. An area known as Wreck Alley is a sandy lane of destruction ripe for exploration, and more than 300 vessels have been counted in the shallows surrounding the island of Anegada. I'm betting that conditions will permit a dive on the 246-foot Chikuzen, which sank after a strange chain of events in 1981. She finally settled 75 feet deep, 7.5 miles off Tortola, creating a wayport for throngs of marine life. And since it's rather remote, no shore operators visit it.

Of course, we couldn't become Wreck Divers in the BVIs without visiting the RMS Rhone, one of the most popular wreck dives in the world. First of all, the Rhone has a good story. The ship was built in 1865 but sank just two years later, taking along most of its passengers and crew. Second, it's not a difficult dive — the deepest section is in only 80 feet of water. The ship was split in two when the boiler exploded, so it takes at least two dives to give the whole body a glance. This is where being on board the Cuan Law may be most beneficial: We'll dive the Rhone all day long — three tanks by daylight and one after dark. And since we'll be on our own schedule, we'll hit the decks when divers from other boats aren't there. It's a rare privilege to log repeat dives on a single wreck, especially one so famous (it's even preserved on film, appearing in scenes from The Deep).

The AWARE Fish Identification Diver specialty is ideal, too, since almost everything in the REEF Fish ID books can be seen in the BVIs. All its waters are protected under the National Parks Trust, which means the reefs are healthy and the variety of fish vast.

Indeed, I have one hundred wishes, and this summer, they'll start to come true.

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