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How not to get lost at sea: Boat diving 101

Now and then, you'll hear stories about divers who were left at sea by a dive boat. Here are some tips from the Internet for preventing this unpleasant experience.

  1. Avoid boats with lots and lots of other divers. Check ahead of time to ask what the boat limit is, and how many are alreaady scheduled. I personally don't like more than 10, and more than 20 is nuts unless they're you're best friends, the boat is huge and there are several crew members. The very best operations are run by divers who themselves wouldn't dream of diving off a cattle-boat.
  2. Take at least a dry bag (with your name on it) on board. Maybe a really big dive bag - the kind that people trip over. That way, they should at least notice it when cleaning up afterwards.
  3. When you get to the dock and on the boat, make an effort to meet and talk to the captain, all crew members, and as many fellow divers as possible. At least those in your vicinity if it's a cattle-boat. Ask them all sorts of personal questions - how long they've been there, where are their favorite dive sites, etc. Talk to them between dives. Anything that will make people remember you.
  4. At the beginning of the trip, before anyone dives, there should be a roll call. This is often done by first name. Listen carefully for duplicate first names and make sure that the duplicates are called by first and last name.
  5. If there's NOT a roll call after the dive, insist on one. If other people are talking during the roll call, ask the captain to shut everyone up and start over.
  6. Listen carefully to the dive briefing. If you disagree with an imposed bottom time limit, say something discreetly and privately to the DM before getting in the water. If you lose, stick with the imposed limit - and then later file a written complaint with the dive operator.
  7. If you're not good at underwater navigation, stay in sight of the boat hull. If at anytime in an anchored boat dive you lose track of where the boat is, surface for a boat check. Get back under the boat at least 5 minutes ahead of time.
  8. Carry at least a whistle and safety sausage (SMB) on your BCD. Consider getting a louder signaling device. These don't take up a lot of space on a trip - take them with you even if you use rental gear.

Now, some other ideas that you won't hear in any class! (Don't do any of these!)

  1. Chain or tie a crew member to the boat, and take the key down with you on the dive.
  2. Take the keys to the boat.
  3. Put a tag line on the anchor line.
  4. Strongly voice your personal opinions about the divemaster during the dive briefing. This will most certainly get you remembered.
  5. Bring your dog on the boat.
  6. Casually mention that you're an attorney.
  7. Take the $$ bill that you would tip the boat crew with and rip it in half. Tell the DM he gets the other half if you get back.
  8. Make references to being "made" and say things like "I'm glad the Don sent me on this trip until the heat is off..." Make a vague reference to the drying time of cement.
  9. Pretend that you're the editor from a dive magazine. Heck, you might even get a free ride.
  10. Don't pay until you get back to the dock!

Dive long, and prosper. And dive safe.