At the turn of the century, snapper and grouper fishermen named these productive fishing banks the "Flower Gardens" after the brightly colored sponges, plants, and other marine life they sometimes snagged and brought to the surface. The Flower Garden Banks, which are large natural salt domes, are a National Marine Sanctuary and lie about 115 miles off the Texas/Louisiana coast. The East and West Flower Garden Banks are the northernmost living coral reefs on the continental shelf of the United States and were designated a National Marine Sanctuary in 1992, with Stetson Bank (30 miles northwest of the West Flower Garden Bank) being added in 1996. The coral reefs protected within the sanctuary boundaries are in excellent condition when compared with reefs worldwide and offer a colorful and rich diversity of fishes, sponges and hard corals. Water temperatures at the Flower Gardens generally range from 68-85 degrees, and depths at the reef caps range from 55-160 feet.
These trips usually include 7 total dives: 2 dives on West Bank, a rig dive, a dive on East Bank, a night dive on East Bank, and 2 dives on Stetson Bank. Upgrade to NITROX for $65 (certification required)
Making the trip to the Flower Gardens?
Before the Trip: Make sure that your diving system is functioning correctly. We require all divers to have power inflatable buoyancy devices, safe second stages, an underwater timer or watch and a depth gauge. Make sure you wear gloves and a wetsuit or dive skin to protect from coral cuts and jellyfish stings. Spear fishing is NOT permitted and guns are not allowed on the boat.
Persons Diagnosed with Diabetes or Asthma must, upon boarding, provide crew with an originally signed and dated letter from their doctor on the doctor's letterhead stating that the doctor understands the consequences of diving with diabetes or asthma and that the diver is medically fit to dive. Standard medical release forms alone will not be accepted.
Certification Cards and Log Books are required. If you do not have salt water experience, or you have been away from diving for a long time, please let us know before getting on the boat.
Trip Cancellation: If you cancel, your money will not be refunded unless the trip runs full.
Diver Age: The minimum age is 12 yrs. For minors, get additional important information from the 'dive shop'.
Food and Drinks: A full breakfast and evening meal are included. Lunch will be sandwiches. Snacks will also be provided. Water, iced tea, Gatorade and coffee will be served at no additional charge. Soda and beer will be available to purchase. No ice chests!
Air Fills and Cyl Included: You may bring one (1) full cylinder. If it is aluminum, the manufacture date must be newer than February 1988. Bring your weight belt and weights. Nitrox is available for an additional charge.
Boarding: Please arrive at the boat no earlier than 8:00pm on departure day. There will be a pre-boarding briefing on the dock at 8:15pm, the boat will board promptly at 8:30pm, with a departure time of 9:30pm. Please arrive around 8:00pm to unload gear and get ready. Bunks are on a first-come, first-served basis at boarding time. Expect to be back on the dock at about 6:00-7:00pm on the last day.
Depth Limits: 130fsw for the first dive of the day ONLY, 100fsw for all repetitive dives that day. You are responsible for your own bottom time limitations. Computers are welcome, but a minimum 150 minute surface interval between dives is mandatory.
Underwater Photography: Video scenes are great in the Gulf of Mexico, and macro photo opportunities are abundant. Schools of fish with a diver in the foreground or background make for a dramatic picture.
Night Diving: If conditions permit, a night dive will be made on Flower Gardens. It is now required that a minimum of 3 lights per buddy team be carried (a primary light for each diver, and a backup light between the two) as well as a tank marker light for each diver. The tank light can be battery powered or a chemical light(cyalume), but cannot be a white strobe.
Important: Some of you have not been in the water since last summer. You and your equipment should be checked out. You should get in the pool for a while to polish your diving skills. You will find this a big help.
Last But Not Least: The trip is subject to weather cancellations. Please call the store after 2:00pm on departure day for confirmation.
The USTS Texas Clipper served as a merchant marine training vessel with the Texas Maritime Academy at Texas A&M University at Galveston for 30 years beginning in 1965. She is a 473' ship, and her name is reflective of Clipper ships of the past which had rounded sterns.
Prior to 1965, Texas Clipper served in WWII as an attack transport vessel named USS Queens. Following the war, in 1948, she was converted into a trans-Atlantic ocean-liner, the SS Excambion. Excambion carried passengers and cargo on a regular sailing route from New York to various Mediterranean ports. In 2006, she was transferred to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Atificial Reef Program to be turned into an artificial reef.
While being prepared to become an artificial reef, Texas Clipper was docked at the Port of Brownsville, Tx for cleanup of hazardous materials and modifications for wildlife and diver safety. The conversion, cleanup and sinking cost over 4 million dollars.
She was eventually sunk on November 17, 2007, approximately 17 nautical miles northeast of South Padre Island, Tx in about 130' of water, where her structure reaches depths as shallow as 65'.