Dive Boat Etiquette – Do’s and Don’ts

, Dive Boat Etiquette – Do’s and Don’ts

When you’re new to diving from a dive boat; you aren’t completely sure what you should do and what you should not do, or even what to bring or not. This is a quick guide to some things to think about and of which to be aware.

After a couple of introductory dives from your car straight to a spring or shore walk-in, you might not be too sure about what is acceptable or not on a dive boat. It can be a whole new, intimidating experience for new divers. Here’s a start!

, Dive Boat Etiquette – Do’s and Don’ts

What to Pack and Bring

Bring exactly what you need – and you will refine this list after several dives. Keep a list, and keep updating it after every trip until you get it right.

Try to not bring too many “just in case” items since there might not be enough room on the boat. If you can pare down to exactly what you need, you will feel great about your plan, and, your gear will be a bit lighter!

Some divers will bring so much equipment that I’m sure they are going to miss seeing the fish – they have lobster tickle sticks, cameras on poles, lionfish spears, dangly flashlights, and more. The remind me of Harriet the Spy, but unlike a police officer’s neatly stowed belt items; they make me worry they will get hung up on something on the boat or in the water.

, Dive Boat Etiquette – Do’s and Don’ts

Diving List

This is going to vary depending on whether you are bringing your own, or renting gear from the dive operator. Make sure you know exactly what they are providing, and what you are providing. Once offshore, there might not be (probably won’t be) be “extra” weight belts, weights, or tanks.

Some boats will not have room for enormous hard cases or huge rolling bags; check in advance. A mesh bag with sturdy handles or even backpack-style works great for gathering all your wet gear and letting it drip as you leave the boat post-dive. It fits easily in your larger flying/travel rolling bag and comes out for the main event. Here are some ideas for mesh SCUBA bags. Look for one that is structured enough to not flop while carried.

, Dive Boat Etiquette – Do’s and Don’ts

Packing List

  1. Sunglasses and a hard case to store them in while diving.
  2. Reef-safe sunscreen – read this to see just how bad the toxic ingredients are, where they are banned, and a feel-good local brand solution – Sunscreen Bans
  3. Clothes including a hat, wind protection, long-sleeved SPF/UPF shirt, or fleece cover as needed for the conditions. Here’s a great one: Stream2Sea RPet recycled fishing net rash guards
  4. Shoes that have decent soles and can withstand getting soaking wet
  5. Towel, and maybe a change of dry clothes if you have a long drive afterward before a shower is available
  6. Snacks and water; preferably something that can survive your bag. Protein bars work pretty well; lightweight, compact, taste good after crushing.
  7. Seasickness meds – better yet; take these in advance
  8. Ladies – a hair tie and any personal products you need post-swim
  9. Shampoo, leave-in conditioner, lotion, body wash, sting relief – but reef-safe varieties. Here’s a full kit already assembled for you that won’t get you kicked off the boat; Stream2Sea Sentinel Kit
  10. Dry bag to put these items in while diving
, Dive Boat Etiquette – Do’s and Don’ts

Etiquette on the Boat

  1. Be on time to the shop or boat; some boats run two dives a day and have very little room for delays.
  2. Get your gear set up and perform checks asap – the sooner you realize something is not right or you have forgotten it; the better.
  3. As soon as possible, after setting up your rig, put your wetsuit, fins, booties, mask in your mesh bag under your gear setup; out of the way of other divers getting set up. Always watch were your weights end up, as well. No one wants to stub their toe on your weights, or have them fall off the bench onto their feet. Keep weights in bcd pockets, or in the lowest part of the boat for safety.
  4. Listen to the boat safety talk closely. Here’s more information on what it should cover: Dive Boat Survival
  5. Listen to the dive briefing closely, plus make note of the dive recall signal
  6. Notice what others put in the rinse buckets – probably not everything. There might be one for masks, and another for cameras. If you are not sure; ask the crew.
  7. Contain yourself, try to keep your gear in your bag. The boat gets smaller and smaller the more gear is lying about. Loose gear can get lost, trip someone, get wet, or get stepped on and broken.
  8. Please don’t smoke – some divers are just able to overcome the boat’s motion and diesel fumes; don’t be the smell that drives them over the edge. Literally.
, Dive Boat Etiquette – Do’s and Don’ts

Before You Leave; End of Day Etiquette

  1. Just like camping; pack it in, pack it out – take your trash with you. Stuff it in your pocket, or put it in their trashcan if there’s room.
  2. Gratuities – $5 per tank is a good starting point for good service. Double for great. Triple for phenomenal. Sometimes we bring our NAS JAX Skin and Scuba Club t-shirts for crew who we love.
  3. Offer to help unload the boat. If there is an especially fast turn-around because you were the one late back up the ladder… you better help!
  4. Double check for all your gear in every rinse bucket, under seats before you leave.
  5. Thank the dive crew. Let them know in person if there is anything you were displeased about. Most would rather try to correct the problem sooner rather than later when they read your online review.
, Dive Boat Etiquette – Do’s and Don’ts

Ultimate “Dive Boat Divers Pet Peeves List”

1. The Unprepared Diver

The unprepared diver is one who is not ready. They show up late, and miss the briefing. Most likely they did not research the dive, and they don’t know the planned depths. Maybe they talk loudly during the safety briefing. They missed it, and caused you to miss it too.

Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance Positively – the Prepared Diver will have reviewed how to change their dive computer from air to Nitrox, already will have tested out new equipment, will have adjusted weights and straps on new items and self-assessed themselves and their plan.

If you know you use air like crazy; tell them, and be the last person off the boat and plan to be the first one back up on board. A good operator will already have asked about your consumption rate and paired you accordingly.

If there is something else they should know; tell them. Even something you think is not worth mentioning might be a big deal to them for their planning purposes.

Solution: Go back through the open water manual for a self-refresher.

, Dive Boat Etiquette – Do’s and Don’ts

2. The Unprepared Operator

The dive operator is one who runs late, seems disorganized, shuffles dive partners endlessly, and does not have safety gear easily located. Here is a must read: Danger Signs of an Unsafe Dive Boat. 

Solution: Read online reviews, join a dive club and compare notes, be observant. If possible – check out an operator a couple of days before diving with them. This isn’t always possible, so read every review you can find, call, ask questions, try to get a look at the boat in advance.

One time we dove from a boat that if we had seen it in advance, we probably would have declined to dive with them. Now, when we are in an area with a few free post-dive hours, we go check out any other operators, we might dive with in the future.

, Dive Boat Etiquette – Do’s and Don’ts

3. The Know-It-All-Diver

After diving several times with Dive Key West, I asked Dive Master Max Ebel his diver pet peeves. I was just sure he would say it was the unprepared diver. “No, we are so used to that, it doesn’t both us anymore,” he said.

“People who know more than me! They’ve had 100 dives total, I’ve had 75 last month,” he explained. “We do this every day.”

He went on to explain that the unprepared diver will listen to instruction or suggestions, but the know-it-all will not. “I would take the unprepared over the know-it-all,” Ebel said.

He did mention a concern about resort courses being brief and lacking enough time for adequate classwork and training.

, Dive Boat Etiquette – Do’s and Don’ts
Nick and Max aboard the “Easy Diver” from Dive Key West.

Here’s a humorous article on the topic – “Don’t Be THAT Diver.”

What to Read Next: 21 Items That Landed on My Cruise Ship Dive Trip “To Do Next Time” List

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