Historic cities, breathtaking art, delicious local dishes, and wines — Tuscany has it all! But what the tourists may not know is that, below sea level, the Tuscany Archipelago harbors some stunning beauties, from amazing corals to Roman shipwrecks. The Porto Ercole diving center, Argentario Divers, reveals these underwater secrets, which new and experienced divers reach aboard their customized, John Deere-powered diving boat Abracadabra.
The diving center is a stone's throw away from the islands of Giannutri and Giglio, whose surrounding waters are part of the Parco Nazionale Arcipelago Toscano, the first great marine park in Italy and the largest protected marine area in Europe. In this magical setting, Argentario Divers offers a range of diving courses and experiences.
Preserve, protect, and enjoy
Argentario Divers is determined to preserve this beautiful environment. "We don't use plastic in our center or Abracadabra, we remove old fishnets we find in the sea, and we organize open cleanup days in our area," says Simone Nicolini, company owner. And, in 2018, they refitted Abracadabra with new engines — twin 373-kW (500-hp) John Deere PowerTech™ 6090SFM85 engines.
"In high season, we take Abracadabra out on two- to four-hour trips covering 25 to 40 miles (40 to 64 kilometers), sometimes several times a day," Nicolini continues. "The new John Deere engines have improved the reliability of our excursions."
Abracadabra was designed and built specifically for diving excursions. The 17-meter-long (56-foot-long), 4.70-meter-wide (15.5-foot-wide) fiberglass diving boat caters to 20 people and their diving equipment — masks, wetsuits, fins, and diving cylinders. It provides a spacious deck for sunbathing, a large jumping platform, a well-stocked kitchen — essential in Italy — and a hot shower for divers resurfacing from water that can drop to minus 35 degrees Celsius (minus 31 degrees Fahrenheit).
Nothing beats the local touch
When repowering, owners often look for things like low vibration and engine noise as well as improved fuel efficiency over previous engines. According to Nicolini, "The main factor in our buying decision was local support."
"Our management suggested we switch to John Deere, based on their experiences with Rama Motori S.P.A. (the John Deere distributor in Italy)," says Nicolini. The engineers from Rama and their local dealer Marco Ambrogetti lived up to expectations. "They are friendly yet professional and take the time to think about the best choices for our requirements. After studying the engine room, they suggested the twin 9.0L engines, set up the gearbox, installed the engines, and tested them on land and in the water. A year later, they are just as responsive and committed to our needs as they were then. These certainly aren’t the first engines I have bought, yet I have never come across nicer and more professional people."
The engines each drive a four-blade propeller through a 1:2 gearbox ratio. Apart from main propulsion, they also power a water heater system. While their capacity is comparable to the original engines, the John Deere engines have improved the vessel’s maneuverability and agility and have reduced vibration, noise, and fuel consumption. "We’ve been running them for just over a year," says Nicolini. "I like how they perform when entering and leaving the dock — and in open sea. At top speed, Abracadabra reaches 18 knots, which gets us to the best diving spots in less than 1.5 hours."
Argentario’s customers come from all over the world to enjoy "a perfect day" at sea, with good diving, snorkeling, and sunbathing. The crew go out of their way to provide every diver with the ultimate experience — and they certainly succeed. Customers rave: "After 32 years of diving, I’ve found the perfect place to enjoy my favorite activity the right way," says one. And another says, "The experience of diving with these guys was epic; well worth the drive all the way from Germany."
A touch of Tuscany, a dash of Italian hospitality, and a pinch of magic: the perfect recipe for a diving adventure!
A year later, they are just as responsive and committed to our needs as they were then. These certainly aren’t the first engines I have bought, yet I have never come across nicer and more professional people.