Dive Boat Captains Wish List
by Mike Gerken
Disclaimer: The expressed opinions here within are of those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or beliefs of another dive operation, boat owner or boat captain.
I have been a dive boat captain on liveaboards and day boats for more than seven years and crew member for longer than that. I certainly haven't been doing this for as long as some captains but, I have been doing this long enough to witness diver practices on board that I wish would improve. My comments here are not meant to be disrespectful but, to offer constructive criticism. Even after more than 30 years of diving, I still remember what it was like to be stumble along the way to becoming a more experienced boat diver. I have made my share of mistakes and was lucky to learn from them and do no harm to myself or others. Take what you will from this article but, I believe this information may add to your enjoyment of the sport, improve your social standing on the boat as well as your personal safety and the safety of others.
1 - Rules
Every boat owner/captain has their own set of rules. It's simple. Learn them. If you do not like them, find another boat operator to go diving with. Breaking the owner/captains rules is not only dangerous but, very disrespectful to authority.
2 - Organization
Every captain, even those who are not as anal-retentive as myself, prefer their boat and the passengers on board to be well organized. Stow your equipment and personal items in the appropriate places and be courteous to other divers space. Do not leave your gear laying about where it does not belong. For example, I have seen countless dive masks crunched from a tank by a returning diver plopping down on to the bench. Divers who are meticulous and methodical are less likely to forget important tasks like turning their air on before a dive or securing their tank before walking away from it. Crew are there to check these things but, every so often a problem can sneak past our 'radar'. And oh yes, don't show up late for the boat. I have done this a few times and received the 'stink' eye from the captain and passengers for making them wait. However, I was lucky, for some captains wouldn't wait at all but, would wave to you as they are pulling away from the dock.
A well organized boat and group of divers.
3 - Equipment
Set up your gear and test it before leaving on charter. Too often I hear someone say to me standing over a leaky regulator, "I just had that serviced". This being said only a moment before pressurizing their tank for the first time right before a dive. Bring only what you need and a few spares of the important items like a regulator or mask. Please minimize and pack accordingly for the dive trip at hand.
4 - Briefings
Stop what you are doing, sit quietly and pay attention to both the safety briefing and the dive briefing alike while they are being given. This information goes beyond being a convenience but, may very well save your life in a emergency situation. Even if you have heard the briefings before, sit tight and don't do anything that may distract the other divers from paying attention to this valuable information like fidgeting with your gear. Doing so is a discourtesy to the captain, crew and other passengers.
Divers paying attention to the dive briefing.
5 - Attitude
Recreational divings primary objective is to have fun and be safe and not prove how your diving exploits might save the world. There was a dive boat captain, who shall remain nameless, who had a sign on his boat that read, "Leave your ego on the dock". It was a fitting statement. An over inflated sense of pride will not only be a nuisance to others but, can be down right dangerous when you participate in a dive activity that you have neither the training, fitness or experience to perform and all because your ego told you otherwise. Believe me, I am as guilty as anyone of this last statement when I was younger.
A diver with a positive attitude.
6 - Behavior
Have a look around and take note of who you are sharing the boat with for the day, week or maybe longer. After doing so, ask yourself, is it appropriate to curse like a truck driver or carry out vulgar antics in the company of these people? Are you being respectful to those around you? Also, shouting on board in a non-emergency situation, is not acceptable. There are enough problems a captain has to deal with at sea that causes them stress without having someone jokingly shout out, "man over board" or someone else yell to their friend at the top of their lungs to grab them another beer. Speaking of which, alcohol consumption on liveaboard diving can lead to serious issues when someone has just a few too many. Be a responsible drinker, enjoy your holiday but, remember to stay in control.
John T. keeping it light hearted.
7 - Eco Friendly
Nearly everything we humans do has a negative impact on the environment including scuba diving. As divers, minimizing these impacts to the best of your ability is all anyone can ask. Do not handle or harass marine life. When spearfishing, abide by size and quantity restrictions and be a discriminate hunter. Do not throw your rubbish in the water. (You will definitely score points with me when I see you return to the boat with trash you found.) Teach by example. Do not destroy corals intentionally or unintentionally. Take only photos and leave only bubbles. Try to give your business to operators who do their best to be 'green'. Lastly, if you must smoke, please smoke down wind in designated areas and do not throw your butts in to the ocean. I have heard some captains have are banned smoking on their boats completely. In my opinion, smoking has no place on a dive boat. It is a nuisance to other divers who are fighting sea sickness and is a danger to their own personal safety as a diver. I have seen smokers alienate themselves from other passengers many times due to their own bad habit.
8 - Physical Fitness
Over the years, I have seen the general physical fitness of the average diver deteriorate and become the cause of more dive injuries or near injuries than I have time to tell. I'm not going to throw DAN (Divers Alert Network) or training statistics at you but, I am sharing my first hand experiences. As a captain, it is my job to assess divers before the boat leaves on charter and try to determine if anyone will be a harm to themselves. How do you assess whether someone is physically fit to dive? It is most often not an easy task if not impossible without alienating yourself and your company. Diving, most of the time, is a passive sport that requires little exertion and can be done by nearly anyone as long as they pass the fitness test of the certifying agency and indicate they have no medical conditions. (With all due respect to the training agencies, the fitness test is not very difficult to pass and some students lie on their medical forms.) However, when a physically unfit individual comes upon a rare stress related situation, injuries, illnesses and accidents are more likely to occur and sometimes with fatal consequences. Diving, as with life in general, will be more enjoyable and safer if we took better care of ourselves by exercising daily, eating right and getting regular checkups at the doctor. This practice most certainly applies to myself as well. My last wish is to stay fit to participate in diving for the rest of my life, however long that may be.
This should be added to every dive ops waiver and every diver should be required to sign and adhere to it. Well written Cap'n.
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