Emily Post’s Boat Diving Etiquette
Most experienced divers have been on a boat where the practices of naïve or less experienced divers detracted from the overall experience. While many of the topics I am going discuss would help alleviate some of this discomfort, I am really trying to project safe and practical concepts that will help prevent personal disappointments and safety concerns for all boat divers. In this blog I will suggest some standard boat diving procedures that will enhance your experience.
The two most important times on a boat are the briefings. A good crew will give you a safety briefing on the boats equipment itself and the dive. Good safety briefings are often entertaining. They should contain information on how to use the important safety equipment and what will be expected of you in common boating emergencies. The dive briefing will cover entry and exit procedures as well the depth, bottom time, underwater communication and hand signals, as well as points of interest and maybe a history of the site. Often times, passengers don’t pay attention to these briefings just like they tune them out on an airliner or worse yet talk through them preventing others from paying attention. Unlike an airliner almost all boats are different and have different procedures. The worst diving injuries occur when getting off the boat or getting back on the boat. I recently read an article in an Alert Diver magazine about a divemaster. Even though this was not his boat and he was on vacation he felt that being a divermaster meant those silly rules in the briefing didn’t apply to him. When it came his time to exit the water he held onto the swim platform to remove his fins. (This was not the procedure that was briefed.) The stern went up with a wave. He was sucked under the swim platform. When the boat came back down it crashed into his ribs breaking 2 of them and ended his vacation. Before you stand up to get in the water make sure you are ready. Your mask on your face and your regulator in your mouth. Don’t stand up until the crew is ready for you. It is too easy to fall over and knock out your dive buddy or fall off the back of the boat while making last minute adjustments. When you surface inflate your BCD then while reboarding a boat keep your regulator in your mouth and your mask on your face from the time you surface until you are sitting down. First you won’t drown and second, you are protected should you fall back into the water. LISTEN to the briefings. The crew who works the boat everyday knows better than anyone else how to have a safe and enjoyable experience on it.
While I have concluded my stand on briefings, I would like to emphasize what you should do if one is not presented or inadequate. You should know where the first aid equipment, oxygen, and the fire fighting equipment is. You should also ask about the radio. Remember channel 16 is the international hailing and distress channel. If the Captain and crew don’t want to provide you with adequate answers to these questions you should rethink your choice about boarding the boat.
Before you board a boat always ask permission from a crew member. Although they usually appreciate your willingness to move things along, you may be in the way of them completing important preparations. I am really thankful when divers offer to help. However, don’t be embarrassed if the crew declines. Especially when boating maneuvers are involved. The crew usually has its own way of doing things very efficiently and a helper, more often than not, throws a monkey wrench in a well oiled machine. If you have ever watched Riann or I do our ballet dance around the boat when we depart or return you will know what I am talking about. Furthermore, there may be a safety or liability issue involved that you are unaware of.
Last but not least, bring only what you need. Make sure your equipment is well marked. Do you know how many manufacturers make black BCD’s… ALL OF THEM. You don’t have to prove you are a great diver by bringing every piece of equipment you own. More often than not it gets spread out all over the deck and misplaced. I had a customer who spent his whole dive mad at his son for losing a $1000 dive computer and failed to enjoy his experience. Oh wait, did I forget to mention this guy chewed me out because I suggested he leave his technical equipment at home only to watch him unpack 2/3 of it on the boat? While he was diving I found it under a pile of his unneeded equipment. I’m not talking about things like sunglasses, cell phones, and sun tan lotion. Some of these are necessary for important reasons. Ask a crew member where you should put them to keep them dry and safe. My cell phone is always in the driest place on the boat. Neither sunglasses nor masks belong in a weight box. I should add up the cumulative value of such items I find in a weight box in 1 month. I’ll bet it’s in the thousands of dollars. WEIGHTS BREAK THINGS. They don’t belong where tanks are going to go either. Don’t leave sunglasses hanging from a bungy or a mask sitting on a bench or tank well. I like to attach my mask to the chest strap of my BCD. That way I know no one will sit on it or crush it with a tank. I never have trouble finding it when I am ready to get back in the water either. A weight left on a bench means a blackened toe nail. Keep all weights on the deck so they don’t wind up on your foot. Spray on sun tan lotions make a boat deck SLIPPERY. Put it on before you board the boat.
Camera buckets are for cameras. The most common reason for a camera to leak is a giant stride entry. The second most common cause is the improper use of a camera bucket. Camera owners, for the most part, are careful about placing not throwing their cameras in. Defogging agents can be very harsh on o-rings and gaskets. Make sure the bucket you are putting your mask into is not exclusively a camera bucket.
Be a courteous boat diver. Listen to the briefings. Be aware of your equipment and try not to invade the space of others. Follow common sense boat diving procedures and you will have a much more pleasurable boat diving experience.
Until next time always make your total number of ascents equal your total number of descents.
Your really cool blogger,