Most dive professionals may have had the privilege of using their Divemaster rating to work on a boat someplace interesting, either a day boat or a live aboard. Managing divers, working the dive deck of a boat and conducting safe and enjoyable dives are all parts of the roles that a Divemaster assumes while running a boat. Though the roles of the Divemaster will vary greatly based on location and the specifics of the destination, at the end of the day, they all share a common goal: provide the divers with a safe and enjoyable experience.
The biggest, and probably most rewarding, role of a divemaster’s job is the supervision of non-training underwater activities with divers… Or better put, diving with your customers and sharing the experiences of the underwater world. This role entails: assessing the hazards of a dive site, dive briefings, checking divers in (and out) of the water, and lastly, leading the group through the dive.
Assessing the dive site. This is the first step to ensuring your divers have a great time with minimal incidents that could have been prevented by making a simple judgment call. How is the weather? What are the conditions in the water? Are there strong currents? The divemaster must ask the question “is it safe to dive?” A lot of this will be based on the level of experience carried by the group of divers. What may be non-challenging conditions to some may be very difficult for others with less experience. Do not be afraid to call off the dive if weather and local conditions make for an unsafe dive.
Once the dive site has been evaluated, the divemaster will give his briefing on the site, including points of interest. This job is extremely important since the divers are receiving the specific instructions on what they should and shouldn’t do. It is critical that the divemaster is able to give a thorough briefing and that the operator’s rules are followed specifically without leaving room for interpretation. Dive briefings should not only cover the underwater world, but more importantly, procedure: how to enter and exit the water and return to the vessel, key hand signals, when and where to surface…where NOT to resurface. It is also important to allow sufficient time for questions at the end of the briefing so that any additional concerns that a diver may have can be answered at that moment.
Before the dive, you must get a proper head count. The concept is a simple one; the same amount of divers that go into the water must return safely to the boat. Many operations have sign-in sheets while others have the divemasters go around the dive deck counting heads and taking additional information like “depth and time.”Though it may seem like an easy task, it is amazing how many divers have been left behind because of a simple miscount. Many Divemasters use this opportunity before the dive to do a quick assessment of the diver and their gear as they go around the dive deck getting the head count. As a divemaster, it becomes easier to read divers by their actions and mannerisms. Some divers may also be too intimidated to ask questions during the briefing.If a diver looks puzzled, this may be the best moment to take the time and ask, “How are things? Do you have any additional questions? Feeling alright?”
Now, let’s go diving! In many locations, the role of the divemaster is now expanded to one of an underwater guide. For many, this is the best part. Not only are you diving, but you are sharing the experiences with people that are there to see what you can offer them. Their eyes light up as you show them a frogfish in one of many nooks and crannies or a school of spotted eagle rays in the background that they may have missed simply because they were looking in another direction. During this time, it is always possible for a divemaster to do an underwater assessment of the divers’ comfort levels and make any adjustments if required.
Working on a dive boat can be extremely rewarding and fun. However, there is a great responsibility that comes along with the level of divemaster. The divemaster is ultimately the one responsible for the underwater activities and he must ensure that they are being conducted safely and properly. In many operators, a divemaster job’s goes beyond the briefings and dives and actually includes work like rinsing the rental gear, filling tanks, mixing or blending nitrox as well as any additional boat duties that the captain may require.
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