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At some point in your diving career, you will dive from a boat if you have not already. Many popular dive locations are only accessible by boat, while others are accessible from shore or boat. In order to have an enjoyable experience and make the most of your boat dive, it is necessary to know the meaning of some basic boat terminology, as well as the common rules and guidelines that should be followed.

This chapter will not convert you into a boat expert, but rather teach you how to be better informed on a boat  and how best to comport yourself accordingly. It is necessary to know some general characteristics and terminology related to water vessels.

For all types of vessels there are common terminology that is used when referring to the places on a boat:

Bow: is the front of the boat.

Stern: it is the back of the boat.

Edge / Gunwale: are the sides. In maritime terms, the right side is called “right or starboard” while the left is called “left or port”.

In an inflatable boat (rubber or zodiac) the sides are formed by the inflatable tubes of the same material.

Divers new to boat diving should pay attention to and follow the instructions of the dive master, and ask questions when necessary. There is absolutely no shame in this. In fact, when it comes to being on board a vessel, it is far better to ask questions than to assume anything.

The captain of a boat has the ultimate say regarding everything, everyone and all of the decisions made on his boat. However, in some circumstances, or on boats that are expressly for the purpose of diving, the captain may assign a dive guide to assume responsibility of the divers. In this situation, divers should refer to the guide with any questions about their diving and onboard. For this reason, we will refer to the individual that is in charge as the commander, regardless of whether it is the captain or the dive guide.

The person in charge will invite you to board the boat when the time comes; you may also ask for permission to board the boat if necessary.

Once all of the passengers are aboard the boat, the captain and crew will likely conduct a briefing regarding the pertinent information including where to store personal items, the locations of common areas and restricted areas, guidelines during docking or mooring procedures, and what to do in the event of an emergency. If the boat is equipped with toilets, also called heads, the information regarding their use will also be discussed.

In many cases, the boat crew or dive center personnel will have already brought the divers’ equipment and the tanks on board the boat. It is usually the divers’ responsibility to assemble their own equipment. However, on some dive and live-aboard boats this may be part of the crew’s responsibility. In any case, the final check of your equipment is your responsibility.

Secure your scuba unit in the proper location after you have completed the assembly, as unsecured equipment and cylinders may cause damage and, or injury as a result of the boat’s movement on the water. Space on board a boat is limited; therefore, it is your responsibility to keep your equipment and personal gear orderly and gathered in one area. Many manufacturers offer mesh boat bags specifically designed for this purpose.

While in route to the dive site, or after arrival at the site, the commander, or dive master will conduct a pre-dive briefing. The briefing will cover all of the important site related information as well as the dive parameters such as the maximum depth, dive time and direction of travel. The briefing will also include the best way to enter the water from the boat and should remind you to have your regulator and weight system in place, BCD inflated, and mask and fins on.

The type of entry will be specific to the type of boat. For instance, if you enter from a smaller boat or dinghy, you will likely perform a backwards roll entry: sitting on the side of the boat, with your legs inside, lightly press your mask to your face and hold your regulator in your mouth with your right hand and press your left hand over the AAS and instruments close to you and over your belt buckle, if you are wearing a weight belt. When ready, gently push yourself backwards in a rolling motion off of the boat and into the water.

Once in the water, orient yourself on the surface and double check your equipment.

When entering the water from a large boat, you will typically perform a feet first, or giant stride entry. A feet first entry is preferable in order to pierce the water surface and help prevent a hard impact.

In calm water with no current, it may be possible to enter with your mask, snorkel and fins in place and have your scuba unit passed to you. This method is commonly used for divers with back problems.

The method used to exit the water will also depend on the type of boat you are diving from. It may be possible to exit while wearing your scuba and weight belt if the boat is equipped with a large ladder and handrails. If not, you may be required to remove your weight belt and scuba unit and hand them to a member of the crew before climbing aboard the boat.

Always pay attention to the briefing and instructions of the staff, as they will vary from one boat to another.


Advanced Open Water Diver

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