While not a perfect dive charter, the divers we interviewed agreed that Porthole Charters is the best charter on the main Puget Sound. The custom built, 41 ft Mark V, Porthole’s newer of their two boats, holds 14 divers and is an aluminum gem.
Since most of the time on the a dive boat is spent waiting/relaxing on the way to the dive or back, this is nearly a perfect dive boat for the cold water, sometimes inclement Puget Sound. Everyone can fit in the comfortable and warm cabin and enjoy the scenery or a hot meal from the full galley. There is even a camera/video table with two large flat screen monitors. The dive deck is also fully covered with hot water shower that stretches out from the easily accessible and “relatively” spacious head on the deck. The water entry and exit are also fantastic with the two side doors and two stern open rung ladders. Using all four you could empty the entire dive group very quickly if need be in a current situation.
The only design flaw we found on this boat is that four aft dive stations on each side face each other. This requires those divers to take turns donning gear. This little squeeze for a few minutes during entry should not dissuade you from enjoying this fine boat.
The dive crews we have had have been exceptionally friendly and helpful, one was beyond belief in there service and care. The last crew included two paramedics and for the most part all interviewees felt the operation was one of the safer charters in the area.
The few minor, but by no means deal breaker flaws in the operation have come in the form of communication issues. These problems include not getting timely responses and other unusual miscommunications. These problems were mostly noticed by the group coordinators with whom we spoke. A hint of impending communication problems is oddly displayed right on the Porthole’s website contact page and reads, “If Mike [the owner] is ignoring you, feel free to contact scott@ ..”*
The three trips we personally took were great. However, there were also at least one or two minor issues where apologies from the crew were appropriate (e.g. did not have time to get bottled water). The only issue bordering on a safety concern issue was when the crew mistakenly removed the buoy line from the wreck before all divers were back on board. It was not a problem for the experienced group but we all were a bit confused when it came time to ascend. We hope the company is working to beef up their communication skills with the crew and participants.
Both of the Porthole boats are fast, however during the full price bump they decided to make it practice of going slow (about ¼ speed) which make the trips quite a bit longer.
Again, all interviewees agreed this Porthole charters is currently the best on main Puget Sound and still has room for improvement. Our recommendation is to have your group coordinator confirm all details, including destinations and backup destinations well in advance and in writing. No one felt the issues they experienced were enough to make them go elsewhere. We give them a 4 out of 5.
- Extremely comfortable and well designed boat
- Friendly and helpful crew
- Hot food on board
- Hot water shower
- Good entry gates and exit ladders
- Porthole’s owner needs to improve communication with customers and crew and make sure nothing falls through the cracks.
- The lock on head has been broken for months and the cabin door needs to be lubed.*
*9/10/2008 Since this articel was published they did fix the head door and the cabin door slide easily now. Also the communcation has improved.
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