Diving from a Day Boat: Boarding, preparing to dive and being good for the ride home
Regardless of how experienced we are as divers, there is always “room for improvement,” and this is as true getting ready for a dive as it is in the water. No place is this more apparent than diving from a dive boat. This is one spot where it’s really easy to tell the experienced old hands from the newly minted diver. And in the interest of making life simple for everyone, here are a few things about boat travel to and from the dive site that we’ve learned the hard way.
The watch-word for successful boat diving is organization: be prepared. But if it’s been a while since your last boat dive or if boat diving is a whole new adventure, you need to know what to prepared yourself for. So let’s go!
First and foremost is motion sickness. If you are unfortunate enough to suffer from seasickness, don’t take a chance. Contact your medical guru before you travel and get some suggestions. There are a wide range of remedies for seasickness, from over-the-counter medication to non-pharmaceuticals such as ginger root. One or the other option suits most diver’s, but think about the following:
- Do a test run before a big dive
- Use a non-drowsy formula
- Start medicating the night before a trip if seas promise to be rough
- Stay in the fresh air
- Avoid heavy greasy foods for twelve hours before boarding
Second issue is dive and personal gear. Make a check list, use it and re-check it. Don’t rely on the boat or other divers to have spare straps, o-rings or tools. Also make sure the gear you are taking works and is suitable for the type of diving you intend to do. Be familiar with its use and with its operation.
Take a change of clothing and take a warm jacket or fleece (SDI and TDI fleeces are perfect!) regardless of how warm the day seems in the morning. With the sun low in the sky and a chill coming on after a day in the water, a jacket will be welcome. Also pack a hat and sunscreen and use them!
Third issue is packing everything ready for transportation. Let’s talk hard tubs. Some boats allow them; some supply them, but many operations ban them outright. Hard tubs may be fine for organizing gear in the back of a car or truck, but take up too much room on the deck of a boat. The best solution by far is a mesh bag under your seat for wet gear and a good quality dry bag beside it or in a dry cabin for clothes, wallet, logbook etc. The investment made in the best quality dry bag and carry bag (mesh) you can afford is a wise one that few divers regret. Just make sure that EVERYTHING you plan to carry on board fits into your bags; avoid taking loose items aboard. The chances of them getting mislaid is better than an even bet.
Number four is food and drink. A day on a dive boat WILL make anyone with the appetite of a songbird hungry; for the rest of us, that should read ravenous. Although many operations lay on a supply of fresh water, few supply surface snacks. Sliced fruit, unsalted nuts and raisins, a simple cheese sandwich, yoghurt, energy bars, and fruit juice are popular with many divers. Divers who get queasy are best advised not to tempt fate and should avoid onions, tuna salad, eggs, pickles and any foods with strong flavors. Keep ALL food refrigerated (a cooler packed with ice works).
The fifth issue is tidiness. Whatever happens, keep your gear as compact and organized as possible. A lot of experienced divers make sure their “life-support” gear (tanks, BCD or Wing, regs and so on) is assembled, tested and STRAPPED DOWN before the boat pulls out of the dock. The secret here is to arrive for your charter with plenty of time to pick a prime spot and get this set of tasks out of the way immediately.
Number six, be informed. Listen to the instructions the crew gives you. Boats often have what may seem to be quirky rules and guidelines. More often than not, they are there for good reason and have stood the test of time. If you are unsure about something, ask. Be polite and DO pay attention to and follow to the letter the instructions on how to operate the marine head (toilet). NOTHING will upset a boat captain or crew than a plugged head because some land-lubber stuffed it with toilet paper.
And finally, have fun. Boat diving is one of the most rewarding ways to pass a day and many of the most exciting dive sites can only be reached this way.