Boat Diving 101
Diving is sure a fun sport and boat diving here in SoCal is one of the best and like everything else there are some things you should and shouldn’t do-dive etiquette. Whether you’re on a small or large boat, following some simple rules is sure to help make your day and others around you a fun one. Sometimes we get so focused on our needs that we tend to forget about the others around us which sometimes is not so good.
I have dived off of many dive boats from an inflatable to a sailboat to a large live aboard boat and worked on a dive boat for about 1 ½ years and each brought a new experience. Some of these were good and some not so good of which some I am going to try and pass along.
I believe dive etiquette starts when you are planning a trip. By reading all the information like trip details, protocols and waivers you will know before showing up what is included and what is expected of you and then there shouldn’t be any surprises when you show up to the boat. I can tell you from experience that if someone shows up ill prepared and in a bad mood it can tend to spread-not a good way to start the day.
I have tried to categorize some things that I think are very important.
Before the trip-Some things that are important are to do your best to be on time so you can fill out any paperwork that maybe needed or to get rental gear or anything else you might need to do and if you are someone who requires extra time then allow yourself extra time and get an earlier start. Remember, everyone else paid and would like to get out diving and would rather not wait at the dock later then needed because someone forgot something, went to the car at the last minute or any number of things.
During the trip-This list could be long because there are many things you should be aware of, but probably one of the most important is to pay attention to the crew when they give the boat briefings and if you are not sure of something then ask the crew, they are there to help. Another very important thing is to keep everything you have in its place and organized especially when it is not being used, do good buddy checks and if you see someone struggling to get their gear on lend a hand-it will be much appreciated; just being considerate of those around you can go along ways. Also, if you may need some special help, let the crew know before so they can be ready.
Galley– On some boats the galley is very small and even on larger boats you can run out of room very fast if there are backpacks, notebooks and other personal stuff laying around. The best way to alleviate this is to put it were you can get it, but still out of the way. I like to use a dry bag and then I can leave it outside where it’s completely out of the galley. Be considerate of others.
Bunkroom-Bunkrooms are for sleeping and napping, not eating, loud conversations or wetsuits (dry suits also qualify). It’s OK to talk, just try and keep it short. If you are wet and need something from your bunk then ask for help, there is always someone who can go down and get something. Another big thing is if you don’t have a reserved bunk make sure the bunk you have is not occupied. I know this sounds easy, but I went to a boat early one time and put a backpack in my bunk and filled out the bunk # on the manifest and left. When I showed up late and found someone sleeping in my bunk they were not to happy when the crew had them move out of it. The person said no body was in it and they moved my backpack somewhere else. I don’t think they will do that again.
Heads & showers-The crew will always give plenty of instructions and listening to them can make for a great trip. No body wants to be on a boat with a plugged toilet, especially if it is a multi-day trip and if you get seasick the head is the last place you want to get sick in.
Cameras– Cameras can take up a lot of room and sometimes it is just unavoidable. There is usually someplace other then the tables for storing your camera, because they will be needed to sit and eat at. One thing I have found that works well is to have a soft sided cooler that your camera can fit into. This will help not only in storing it but will also keep it safe and you can use it to keep your camera moist until you can clean it thoroughly.
Tech divers-If you are going on a non techie trip and plan to bring doubles, rebreathers and all the other gear that goes with setups like that then it would be a very good idea to check before hand with the boat or person running the trip to make sure it will be OK. This way when you show up there will be no surprises. Tech divers also have more gear to contend with and usually are considerate of this fact, but if you can give them a little extra space when they are gearing up it would be much appreciated.
Hunters-Spear guns and spear poles can be very dangerous. Place something over the tip if needed and hold with tip pointing up while walking. Also, be prepared before the dive and maybe get your speargun and place it close to the exit point or have the crew get it for you. Under no circumstance walk with your fins on holding the speargun and NEVER have it ready to shoot when not in the water. I have seen a crew person throw a speargun over board because of this. The other very important thing is to know what you are shooting and the legal size so do your research before.
Seasickness-Seasickness is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone, been there-done that and hope I never have to again. If you are beyond taking or eating something to help then get as close to the middle of the boat that you can and look out at the horizon. If it doesn’t work, the rule is to vomit anywhere you want as long as it is over the side and hopefully away form others and not where the wind will blow it back into your face-yuck! Also, NEVER in the head or bunkroom or it could set off a chain of events no one will like.
Departing form the boat-Make sure you have everything and I know it’s not as easy as it sound when you are tired or not feeling well. Triple check and get help if needed. Most times I find it is easier to wait till most everyone else is off the boat.
Last but not least-it is very, very, very good etiquette to tip the crew if you had a great time and would like to go back. That means they treated you well and believe me working on a dive boat is not as easy as it appears!