1. Arrive on time
Dive boats generally run on a very tight schedule to accommodate multiple departures throughout the day. To ensure that the dive trip runs smoothly, most dive shops will list both “meeting times” and “departure times”. Divers should arrive at the designated meeting point by or before the meeting time to allow sufficient time to check in and fill out paperwork. The departure time is the time the dive boat will actually leave the slip with all the divers on it. Most dive boats will not wait for a late diver, and many a diver has arrived to the boat slip to find it empty. If you are late, don’t ask for a refund. Your space could have been used by another diver.
2. Put Your Gear in a Bag
Keep all your scuba gear contained in a dive bag. Pack your gear bag so that you can remove items in the order that you will use them. This allows you to remove one piece of gear at a time and put it directly onto your tank. Never spread your gear across the deck or bench. Not only does this take up other divers’ space, but it exposes your gear to damage. Space is limited so boats can easily become crowded, and having your scuba equipment all over the place is annoying. You can buy large bags for travel and smaller bags, such as a mesh bag, for the boat that won’t take up too much room.
3. Bring a Drybag
You can keep your camera, keys, money, sunscreen, sea sickness medication, sunglasses, etc. in a dry bag that is separate from your gear bag, and a dry towel is always a welcome sight at the end of a dive. Be careful not to place wet objects on or near other diver’s towels, dive logs, and clothing. Also, do not enter dry, clean areas such as the boat’s cabin wearing wetsuits or dripping clothing. Keep dry areas and objects dry.
4. Check Your Gear at the Dock
Before you get on the boat, make sure you have all your scuba diving equipment with you. Don’t leave those fins in your car or at the dive shop. Also, double-check that you have the right amount of weight and the right size equipment if you are renting them from the dive shop.
5. Wait to Board the Boat Until the Captain or Guide Asks You To
Preparing a dive boat for divers takes work. The captain and crew need space and time to ensure that the boat is organized and ready for divers to board. Until the dive boat is ready, you and your gear will just get in the way of the crew trying to do their job. Be patient and await boarding approval and instructions.
6. Store Your Gear and Weights Under the Seat
With limited space on a dive boat, you don’t want to take up valuable real estate with your miscellaneous gear. Your mask, fins, computer, wetsuit, etc. can be safely stored under the seat until you need them. This also prevents someone from stepping on and breaking your scuba gear or losing something required for a dive. Weights should never be put on the bench since it could easily fall off and land on someone’s toes.
7. Suit Up Early (or at least on time)
Depending on the length of the boat trip, you may suit up at the dock or about 10 minutes before you reach the dive site. The divemaster will tell you when to begin. And when they do, start getting ready if you haven’t already done so. This will ensure you are ready to get in the water and not keep other divers waiting.
8. Assemble Your Gear Early
The timing of this function depends on the dive boat. Sometimes the crew will assemble your gear for you (but be sure that you always check it prior to entering the water). If they don’t, the best time to assemble your gear is while you’re at the dock. This way you don’t have to deal with rocking if the sea conditions are rough. It also gives you less to do once you get there so you won’t feel rushed. Another advantage of assembling scuba gear early is you will know if something is wrong. If you are missing an O-ring, have a low fill or anything else, you can take care of it before you leave the dock. Also, don’t forget to secure the tank once you’re done setting it up so that it doesn’t end up on the deck.
9. Use the Correct Rinse Buckets
Depending on the dive boat, there may be a freshwater rinse bucket solely to rinse masks and one solely to rinse cameras. Don’t put fins, wetsuits, or anything else in those rinse buckets – especially the one for dive cameras. Leave a gear rinse for after the dive once you return to dry land. The captain, boat crew or divemasters will usually point out the buckets on the boat. If they don’t and you aren’t sure, just ask. If you use spit to defog your mask, use your hand or a cup to take water from the mask rinse bucket and put it into your mask. Do not dip your spit-in mask into the rinse bucket. Your spit may work well for you, but some divers may prefer other defogging methods.
10. Listen to the Dive Briefing
There are typically three briefings on a boat charter: One by the captain or deckhand to review the safety information and amenity features of that specific boat; another briefing specific to the dive site (e.g., how to enter the water, where you will be going, etc.); and a third briefing by the guide (or with your buddy) to review the dive profile (e.g., max depth, time of dive, etc.). Always listen to the briefings; even if you think you’ve heard it all before, the person next to you might not have. Things change at divesites (current, etc.) and each captain and divemaster has their own way of doing things.
11. Don’t Hang Under the Ladder
Pay attention to the boarding protocols specific to your boat. Remove your fins on the current line (if equipped) or while holding onto the the rear platform or ladder. When you are waiting to get back on the boat after you’ve finished your dive, don’t wait right under the ladder for your turn. The diver going up the ladder ahead of you could fall off the ladder and land on top of you. Be extra careful near the ladder if the water is rough. Leave your mask on your face and your regulator in your mouth until you are safely and securely on the boat.
12. Don’t Compete With the Other Divers on the Boat
Refrain from bragging about how much air you have left after a dive, and don’t compare yourself with other divers’ tank pressures. No one is going to give you a gold star for having the lowest air consumption rate. In fact, no one cares. Try to keep the posturing and bragging to a minimum, and be polite and respectful to other divers.
13. Bring Cash for Tips
It is customary to thank and tip the divemaster and/or crew after your dive if you were happy with their service. Plan to tip ahead of time, and be sure to bring the money on board with you. If you require special assistance – such as having cameras, tanks, or other gear passed to you in the water, throw in a little extra cash to show the crew that you appreciate them going out of their way to help you. You’ll usually tip each day unless you know you’re going to have the same crew for each of your scheduled charters.