DAN Medical Frequently Asked Questions

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Dive Boat Features

In addition to general boat features, every dive boat will have some features that are specific to diving activities. We will discuss the general features most dive boats have and expand on some techniques for handling your gear and yourself.
  • Camera table
  • Deck
  • Freshwater showers
  • Gate
  • Gear bench
  • Ladder
  • Rinse tanks
  • Swim platform
  • Tank racks
  • A clear open deck allows divers to move around the boat with gear. The deck is the main area where divers will spend most the time when on the surface. It is important to keep the deck tidy and clear of gear that is not in use. The deck is a common area where boat crew will conduct a safety briefing and dive briefing. This area also sees the most traffic when divers are entering and exiting the boat. If it is not your time to be diving, it is best to be clear of the deck area. The deck area usually gets wet and can be slippery. It is important that one always wear proper footgear, be it deck shoes or dive boots.

The deck area will have tank racks for securing scuba cylinders. Most tank racks will secure the cylinder to the rail or rack using a bungee strap. It is important to put the strap on so the cylinder is secure and cannot fall. Depending on the type of boat, the tank rack may be part of the gunnels and rail or part of the gear bench. On boats conducting technical dives there will be many cylinders in use. Each boat will have specific places they want these additional cylinders stowed.

The diver uses the gear bench to set up and get into their gear. Some boats will have gear benches running along the port and starboard side of the boat, whereas others may have it down the center. Large boats may have them in both places. When working at the gear bench be courteous to others and keep to your own space. There may be space below the bench to stow some gear you will use for the dive. It is important to try out the bench before you go diving. Some benches are the proper height to gear up and stand up, however some others are too low to the deck, which can be difficult to manage. Boats that are set up for technical diving will typically have large gear benches capable of gearing up divers with a lot of equipment.

Because of the dynamic movement of a boat, one should never leave gear unattended on a bench where it is in danger of falling. The slightest movement could cause equipment to go crashing to the deck. Another feature of dive boats is the gate. The first gate is where the diver will enter the water, usually making a giant stride. The second gate is at the stern of the boat where the diver will pass through when returning onto the boat at the end of a dive. Some boats have multiple gates (one on port, one on starboard), and on very large boats there may be a gate at the bow. The gate is wide enough to pass through while wearing all diving gear, though all gear should be secure and not dangling.

The swim platform is located at the stern of the boat, just above the waterline. This platform allows divers and crew to stand while assisting divers back onto the boat. On some boats the divers will use the swim platform to enter the water as well. This is common on large liveaboard vessels as it is closer to the water and minimizes the drop distance when performing a giant-stride entry. Attached to the swim platform will be the boat's ladder.

The dive ladder is one of the most important features of a dive boat. The ladder is the only piece of boat equipment that lets a diver climb back on board a boat with ease. As varied as dive boats can be, dive ladders can be equally varied. Most commercial dive boats are fitted with custom-built ladders. How well the ladder is designed can make the difference between a seamless and easy exit to a difficult and challenging exit. Some boats have a "fins-on" ladder, others have a "fins-off" one. However, regardless of the type of ladder, the diver will need to climb up to get back on the boat.

The most popular type of dive ladder is the T-ladder. This allows divers to keep their fins on while climbing up. Some custom T-ladders are fitted with side rails to stabilize the diver during the exit; most, however, do not. The other popular ladder is the solid classic design ladder with rungs. A third type is the staircase ladder that has flat rungs and is at an angle like a classic staircase. Both the classic and staircase ladders require divers to remove their fins before climbing up. Ideally, any ladder should extend a full 6 feet below the surface so that a diver can get both feet on the bottom rung before climbing up. Ladders should also be equipped with no-slip grip tape on the rungs and handles to give a more secure grip when being used. Divers should always assess ladders and swim platforms for danger areas where hands and fingers can get caught in the movement. A discussion on ladder safety is in the dive procedures module.

All dive boats have some sort of rinse tank for masks and cameras. It can be either an elaborate built-in tank or something as simple as a five-gallon bucket or a portable cooler. The mask rinse bucket and camera rinse tanks are separate. Freshwater mask buckets are available so divers can rinse their masks after they have put mask defog solution in them. Do not put masks in the camera tank because commercial defog agents may damage camera ports, O-rings, and other parts. Common courtesy today dictates that divers no longer use spit to defog their masks. If, however, you do use that method, refrain from using the mask rinse tank.

The camera tank can be quite elaborate in that cameras are transported on the boat in the tank. This makes it easy for crew to hand a camera to a diver when entering the water and a place to put the camera after the dive. Some liveaboard boats assign specific camera tanks to individual divers to protect expensive and fragile equipment.

Another feature found on many dive boats is the dedicated camera table. This is a table only for cameras. It will have a rail around the edge so cameras cannot fall off as the boat moves. The camera table is a dry area where photographers can set up and adjust cameras before or after the dive. Photographers, especially those new to underwater photography, need to concentrate on their equipment. Give them the space they need, and make an effort to stay clear of the camera areas.

Many dive boats are equipped with an on-deck freshwater shower. This is used to quickly rinse off salt water from your body after a dive. The freshwater shower normally will have a limited supply due to its holding-tank capacity. To that end, the shower is just for a rinse that should take no more than a minute or two. The crew will turn on the shower at your request or at certain times after the dive. Other times it is kept turned off. Liveaboard boats will have water desalinization equipment on board that provide unlimited water supplies for end-of-day hygiene showers.

These are but some of the major features you will find on most dive boats. Each boat is unique and may have features that are for specific types of diving. Make note of those features on the boats that you like to dive from, and use those boats on a regular basis.

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