See What makes a liveaboard a world-beater


hspace=5 CARIBBEAN
Cuan Law is a sailing trimaran. She has three hulls 32m long but with a massive beam of 13.4m, so is probably the largest trimaran in the world. It provides space for a huge amount of accommodation, with deck-space like a football field and stability to match.
Two 31m masts spread some 470 square metres of sail. The aft deck is of teak.
Designed by Scottish owners Duncan Muirhead and his wife Annie, and built in Canada in 1988, Cuan Law plies the waters of the British Virgin Islands, visiting, among other places, the wrecks of the Paramatta, the Chikuzen and the Rhone.
She has a British crew of seven who like to dive too, and the atmosphere both aboard and while diving is as relaxed as it can be. Meals are prepared to a cordon bleu standard by a top chef.
Air-conditioned cabins are like hotel rooms, and only the en suite bathrooms betray sailing aspirations, and are more akin to those found in a sloop than in a luxury vessel. Access to the water is via long stairways between the outer hulls and the inner. Two RIBs can be used as pick-up vessels, and there are water-skis, kayaks and Hobbycats for use by those not diving.
Construction: Steel. Length: 32m. Speed: 10 knots. Cabins: 10. Passengers (max): 20. Special Features: Surface watersports. Home Port: Road Town, Tortola, BVI , www.bvidiving.com


hspace=5 EASTERN PACIFIC
Sea Hunter may have been usurped by Argo as the top vessel in the Sea Hunter fleet, but she remains one of the best purpose-designed liveaboard dive-boats in the world, equipped to take on ocean voyages out of sight of land for up to 30 days.
Main destinations are the remote seas off Cocos and Malpelo, and her strong steel construction and high prow are built for that job. Divers travel there for guaranteed shark encounters.
Her two Israeli owners are underwater enthusiasts who want the best for themselves and their clients. On board, only fresh water is used, even for engine-cooling and the en-suite toilets, which are vacuum-flushed. Sea Hunter has a massive dive deck with plenty of space for both photographers and rebreather divers to prepare their kit, and a dedicated photo/video room.
Two 8m high-speed support boats, hooked aboard by a huge crane, are used for accessing dive sites, and scuba tanks are filled where they are left after a dive.
Not beautiful to look at, she is a rare combination of functional working boat with powerful machinery and comfortable luxury yacht. A favourite of Howard Hall and other film-makers, she is surpassed only by Argo, which carries its own deepwater submarine.
Construction: Steel. Length: 35m. Speed: 10 knots. Cabins: 6 double and 2 triple. Passengers (max): 18. Special Features: Very CCR-friendly. Home Port: Puntarenas, Costa Rica. www.underseahunter.com


hspace=5 RED SEA
Royal Evolution was built as an international passenger vessel with all the statutory safety standards met so that she could be used to travel from Egypt to the Sudan, within a range of 2000 miles. Sudanese itineraries are normally 13 days and Shaab Rumi, Sanganeb, the wreck of the Umbria, Angarosh and Abington Reef are usually visited.
Some trips include the Suarkin archipelago, close to the Eritrean border. At other times the vessel operates around the Egyptian marine parks.
Shes a big liveaboard with plenty of space within her stable steel hull, and large cabins with generous en-suite facilities. Her steel hull is quiet during overnight passage because the Cummins engines are mounted on shock-absorbers. Her three multilingual dive guides conduct activities aboard and under water with both knowledge and good humour, along with 13 other crew-members.
The Egyptian owner now has a long history of operating in Sudanese waters, and has gladly accepted the guidance of those who went there before him. The formalities with customs and immigration officials at Port Sudan have been made painless and quick, thanks to forward planning.
Royal Evolution has two day-to-day dive-support RIBs hooked onboard during passage by a hydraulic crane. and is technical diving-friendly. The swim platform is one of the best we have encountered.br> Construction: Steel. Length: 39m. Speed: 12 knots. Cabins: 8 double and 4 double suites. Passenger (max): 24. Special Features: Disability friendly.Home Port: Port Galib, Marsa Alam, Egypt. www.royalevolution.com


hspace=5 SOUTH PACIFIC
Fiji Aggressor II is a huge US-built aluminium catamaran, refitted in 2005. She has a hydraulic stern lift to pick up the annex boat or dive skiff, complete with passengers. Dive tanks stay on board, and are refilled with nitrox or air, where they sit ready for use.
Divers simply step out on to the deck of the Fiji Aggressor after a dive and retire to the en-suite facilities of their cabins before dipping into the next fine meal in the saloon. Otherwise, the vessel is moored directly over dive sites, and the sea is accessed via a large swim platform.
Some of you may recognise the vessel as the Tahiti Aggressor, formerly operated in French Polynesia. Her stable hull means that the on-deck hot tub gets frequent use, and those not usually comfortable aboard boats suffer no ill-effects from any rock & roll.
The catamaran format and beam approaching 10m wide allows for a vast main saloon. Underwater photographers and video-makers are well catered for, with a purpose-designed work-table.
Dive sites visited are mainly between Fijis two largest islands, such as those near to Wakaya, Makogai, Namena, Gau islands and in the Vatu I Ra passage. Dive trips are normally seven days long.
Construction: Aluminium. Length: 32.5m. Speed: 18 knots. Cabins: 9 staterooms. Passengers (max): 18. Special Features: Fast annex boat and lift. Home Port: Suva, Vitu Levu, Fiji. www.aggressor.com


hspace=5 CORAL SEA
Spoilsport is another huge catamaran, built in aluminium in Broome in Western Australia, and the countrys most awarded liveaboard. She carries up to 28 passengers (usually limited to 20) in a mixture of cabins, some with en-suite facilities and some en-suite shared between two. Most cabins have an ocean view. Her 10m beam provides for a spacious saloon/dining area and a stable ride.
Spoilsport ventures out of Cairns and visits sites along the ribbon reefs north of Cooktown and out into the Coral Sea, where all months of the year give a probability of excellent diving.
Passengers see everything this part of the world has to offer, from giant groupers at Cod Hole and exciting shark action at Osprey Reef to the macro life at Steves Bommie and giant mantas on a cleaning station at Pixie Wall.
Spoilsports massive dive deck has convenient platforms, and solo-diving is provided for, using Mike Balls Safe Solo System. Photographers have a dedicated camera table. Divers normally dive from the main vessel, but two large inflatables allow for personalised service.
Life on board is conducted in a light-hearted British/ Australian fashion with typical Aussie informality. Mike Ball, the owner, grew up in Dorset.
Construction: Aluminium. Length: 30m. Speed: 15 knots. Cabins: 9 staterooms including doubles and triples. Passengers (max): 28. Special Features: Low-level return flight allows more diving. Home Port: Cairns, Queensland, Australia. www.mikeball.com


hspace=5 MALDIVES
Sea Queen was refitted in 2008. She has been a favourite with British divers since she was launched in 1998, and the owners have built on their experiences of diving in the Maldives since they started in 1991.
A smaller vessel in comparison to others here, Sea Queen is based on a traditional Maldivian wooden dhoni, and has fairly basic en-suite facilities.
She may be small, but there is plenty of space because she takes only 12 passengers, and all the diving equipment including the compressor is kept on a separate 14m-long diving dhoni, the Luna, which services the main vessel. This also means that dive sites have fewer divers on them when you visit.
The Maldivian crew know the water around the atolls like the backs of their hands and are directed by a (usually) European couple who act as dive managers on board. Typically, three dives are made each day, and rebreathers are supported. One of Sea Queens most attractive aspects is her open foredeck, where meals are eaten during time out in the calm waters of the atolls.
Sea Queen is joined by the slightly larger and more modern Sea Spirit, both owned by the British operator Maldives Scuba Tours. They are complemented by the super-sleek 32m Sea Quest, which is chartered for certain parts of the year.
Construction: Wood. Length: 26m. Speed: 8 knots. Cabins: 6 double. Passengers (max): 12. Special Features: Separate dive-support dhoni. Home Port: Male, Maldives. www.scubascuba.com


hspace=5 RED SEA
Emperor Elite was built in 2006, and has been upgraded to become the top vessel (Platinum Class) in the Emperor fleet. Built of wood, she is very similar to a lot of other Egyptian vessels, such as Tornado’s Typhoon and blue o two’s Blue Horizon, finished with the same opulence that we have come to expect of these modern-generation dive vessels.
However, her light weight and powerful engines gives her a good turn of speed, reducing travel time between sites.
Because she is the favourite of Emperor’s Egyptian-based boss, he uses her for occasional one-off exploratory trips to dive such places as Elba Reef, within the military zone between Egypt and the Sudan and featuring the wreck of the Levanzo, an archaeological site still kept under wraps, and the wreck of the ex-British destroyer HMS Mings. Elite usually has Emperor’s top dive guide, Ahmed Fadel, on board, assisted by a second guide, and there is the usual comprehensive Egyptian crew to help with everything. Nothing is too much trouble for them.
Elite has the typical massive dive deck and swim platform that is normal with these vessels, complete with all the comforts you might need before and after diving. Dive sites are usually accessed by way of two fast RIBS.
Construction: Wood. Length: 38m. Speed: 16 knots. Cabins: 9 twin cabins and one double suite. Passengers (max): 20. Special Features: Egyptian vessel used for one-off expeditions. Home Port: Hurghada, Safaga, Marsa Alam or Port Galib, Egypt. www.emperordivers.com


hspace=5 MALDIVES
Monsoon is the latest design by Ayman Mussa, owner of the successful Egyptian Tornado liveaboard fleet that includes several divEr Award-winning vessels, but this ship operates as a joint venture with the owners of Kuredu Island in the Maldives, and as such travels around the largely unexplored northern atolls of this island state. These include Lhaviyani, Raa, Baa and Noonu.
She’s big, spacious and luxurious, and offers the same facilities in the way of rooms and en-suites as anyone staying on the island would expect. She’s heavy and stable but makes stately progress (some would call it ponderous).
In the Maldivian temperatures, passengers appreciate the efficient air-conditioning, and the interior is finished to a level one has come to expect from this designer, with plenty of polished brass in evidence.
At the same time, this steel-hulled vessel has proved seaworthy enough to make the long open ocean journey from Egypt, where she was built.
The format of diving follows the familiar Egyptian pattern, with the dive sites accessed by a pair of fast RIBs. Catering is kept high-quality under the watchful eye of Kuredu’s German head chef.
Monsoon is one of the few liveaboards operating in the Maldives that was built outside the country.

Construction: Steel. Length: 36.5m. Speed: 10 knots. Cabins: 9 staterooms. Passengers (max): 22. Special Features: Ultimate stately luxury. Home Port: Kuredu, Maldives. www.scubatravel.com


hspace=5 SOUTH-EAST ASIA
Siren is a phinisi-style sailing yacht built locally under the eye of Frank Vander Lindts father, a Dutch boat-builder, on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. Frank once travelled around the world for fun, mainly Africa, on his motorbike, sleeping under the stars. His impressive physique yet friendly demeanour and huge sense of humour opens smiling doors for him wherever he goes. He says its nice to be nice.
He and his youthful English partners operate a couple of liveaboards around Thailand and the Philippines, and the atmosphere on board Siren is both energetic and fun. When not in a hurry to get somewhere, the crew raise the seven sails, and passengers are delighted as the vessel creaks quietly along under the power of the wind.
The saloon has been designed to emulate a traditional English pub, in rich dark woods complete with bar stools and authentic beams. Siren may look very traditional, but each cabin has its own computer console fed from the vessels main server, as well as the en-suite facilities you would expect. The Thai crew can even provide passengers with a massage after a hard days diving.
Two high-powered Zodiacs act as dive tenders. Itineraries include trips to Indonesia, the Andaman Islands, and around the Similan and Surin Islands.
Construction: Wood. Length: 34m. Speed: 8 knots. Cabins: 8 twin cabins.
Passengers (max): 16. Special Features: Dive and sail. Home Port: Phuket, Thailand. www.worldwidediveandsail.com


See What makes a liveaboard a world-beater