Boat Dive like a Professional – Part I

Part One – Day Trip Diving

Whether you are planning to go out boat diving for the day or wish to do a couple of dives whilst on holiday. There are certain secrets that separate the novice divers from the professionals. This month Deeper Blue shares with you ten tips to look like a professional when diving from a day charter boat.

TIP #1 Think ahead

Very rarely is diving a spur of the moment decision, so there is time to think ahead and prepare your kit. Ensure that all your dive gear is well marked and readily identifiable, especially your fins and mask consider a neoprene mask strap that is bright and easy to find in a tub. Likewise custom mark your fins so that when you are on the boat and you are asking for them there is no delay in finding them. Doing this also helps prevent accidental loss or equipment being mislaid and ending up in another divers bag.

If you are taking your own tanks ensure that they are filled before you go, too often divers turn up at a boat early in the morning expecting the dive store to be open and air fills available. The boat crew and the shop staff are often not the same and the store may not be open until well after the boat has left the dock. Never assume – if in any doubt ring the store and check.

Tip #2 Remember the Appendix

That’s right one of the most important pieces of information is often found in the appendix of your open water manual – A checklist, as you pack to go diving crosschecks with a checklist. It may sound silly, but you look even more foolish when standing on the boat five miles out to sea you realize that you have forgotten your boots. Almost all professionals have and use a checklist before they go diving; it is the small attention to details that separate the good from the average divers.

A small spares kit can save a dive, you do not need to carry a dive store with you and likewise you cannot expect a boat to have unlimited spares. Remember it is the small thing that will go wrong – consider a mask strap, fin strap and a few o-rings.

Tip #3 Island Time, Boat Time and the Real Time

Nothing is more annoying than when divers turn up late and expect the boat to have waited for them. 8am departure means exactly that, it does not mean that this is when you should be in the car park.

Arrive at least 30 minutes early, no rush and no panic equals no stress. This is the key to not forgetting anything and making sure you are relaxed.

Put your kit together before the boat leaves the dock, it is easier when the boat is not rolling around.

Everyone jokes about "Island Time" when at exotic destinations – but the crew seem to forget "Island Time" when they expect tips for good service. Think about it, when was the last time you tipped a taxi driver for turning up forty minutes late and then jokes about.

Tip #4 I left it at home, officer.

You carry your driver’s license when you drive, so why do divers think diving is anything different. If you are not diving with an operator who you know, then expect to be asked for your c card.

Professional divers will also have their logbook available so that the operator can assess your experience level. This is often the difference between being taken to a shake down dive site, which is shallow and limits the rest of your days diving, or being taken directly to the adventure sites.

Last but not least tell someone back on shore where you are going and what time you expect to be back, that way if anything happens. Emergency search procedures can start immediately. Also let them know which operator you are going out, valuable time can be saved in the event of an accident.

Tip #5 Everything but the kitchen sink!

Boats are finite creatures, bring the minimum amount needed for the day. When booking your dive, ask what is provided (especially bulky items like towels and water). Personal non-dive equipment should be in a separate bag and stored in the dry area, dive gear in the wet area. Put items like your logbooks wallet and keys in sealable plastic bags, just in case your bag gets wet.

Electronics and salt water do not mix – items like portable CD players and Game Boys are asking for trouble

Tip #6 Meet the Boss

On board the dive boat there is one Supreme Being, who is above all bar none, meet the Captain. They have the responsibility of your safety and most take it seriously, so listen and respect their decisions. Getting on their good side always ensures a good day out.

Every boat will have different procedures and areas for storing, the first question, after asking permission to come on board is ask where to store your equipment and where do they want you to sit so that you are out of the way whilst the rest of the divers embark.

Tip #7 The Divemaster.

Most people get on a plane and then ignore the safety briefing from the aircrew, thinking it is cool to be blasé. Unfortunately the same malady can affect the inexperienced diver. But as they say its your money, you paid for the service if you want to ignore good advice to make your dive experience more enjoyable, who’s to blame.

Most Divemaster will give two briefings; the first will usually be immediately after leaving the dock. This is the game plan for the day, it will give you an overview of the boat, where things are, where the head is and how to use it (Hint listen to this if nothing else and avoid the embarrassment later)

The second briefing is usually after you are on the dive site and relates directly to dive, directions, depth, and topography and marine creatures. Always ensure you know the entry and exit procedures, if you have any questions, ask them.

Tip #8 There is no such thing as a silly question?

Think about it?

Tip #9 A question of physics.

Buoyancy is not brain surgery, and likewise remembering how much weight you need is not rocket science either. A number between 1 and 30 is a fairly safe bet. So why is it that most Divemasters are faced with blank expressions when they ask a simple question. To be a professional know how much lead you need. If in doubt ask for the minimum on the weight belt and put a couple of pounds of lead in your BCD pockets. That way if you get in the water and find you are overweighted simply hand up the weights from your BCD pockets.

Tip #10 They think they own the boat.

Not content with all the dive gear and accessories, you will at some stage come across the dreaded "Sub aqueous snapshotter", they prefer to be know as Underwater Photographers.

These denizens of the deep are normally harmless, but have been known to bore divers to death with technical talk whilst travelling to dive sites.

The real danger is unreasonable behavior, as they believe everyone on the boat should give up space for their benefit. Do not touch or help them unless they ask you, in fact let the captain and Divemaster help them with their equipment.

Another tip, to let them get in the water first.

Summary

Boat diving will become the favored choice of divers as it offers so much diversity that is beyond the limits of shore diving. If you remember some of these tips and techniques your day will be far more enjoyable.

As far as tipping is concerned it depends on where you are and the local customs. But if the crew has practiced Island time, remember Island tipping time and let the operator know why you did not tip.

A final tip, make sure that when you surface from a boat dive, lift your mask and blow your nose before you get back into the boat. There is nothing funnier than watching the "I’m Joe Cool Diver" strut around the dive boat with snot hanging from his nose.