DAN Medical Frequently Asked Questions

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Dive Boat Terminology

While we might think everyone knows the parts of a boat, this is often confusing to many people. Boat crews will use this standardized terminology as a regular part of language. A diver new to boats, hearing an instruction such as, "Stow your gear in the forward, starboard cabin on the port side" might be confused. There are hundreds of nautical terms that date back to the 16th century. As a passenger, you do not need to know all of them, although knowing a few will make your time on a dive boat a lot easier and more comfortable. To that end, we will discuss some of the terminology you are most likely to encounter when on a dive boat.

  • Anchor: Device usually made of metal that embeds into sand or rock to hold a boat in place
  • Anchor line: Nylon rope or chain that connects the boat to the anchor
  • Anchor rode: Combination of line and chain that connects the anchor to the boat
  • Bow: The front of the boat
  • Bridge: Area where the ship can be commanded, can also be wheelhouse or steering station
  • Cabin: General area inside boat
  • Compressor room: Where air and nitrox compressors are located
  • Deck: The deck is the floor. On boats with multiple levels, there will be lower, upper, and main decks.
  • Engine room: Where the engine, generators, and pumps are located
  • EPIRB: An Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon is an electronic device used to alert search-and-rescue services by transmitting a coded message on the 406 MHz distress frequency via satellite and earth stations to the nearest rescue co-ordination center.
  • Galley: Kitchen area
  • Gate: Area where divers enter the water
  • Granny line: A line or rope in the water that extends from the stern to the bow to assist divers swimming along the side of the boat. This line can be either on the surface or subsurface.
  • Gunwale "gunnel": The top edge of the side of the boat
  • Head: Bathroom, usually has specific procedures on how to use toilet
  • Helm: Steering apparatus
  • Ladder: Ladder at stern or side of boat for exiting the water after dive; also ladders are used to move from deck to deck
  • Life jacket: Also known as a PFD, personal flotation device, life preserver, or life vest, it is a piece of equipment designed to keep a person — whether conscious or unconscious — afloat in the water.
  • Life raft: A small boat that is deployed from the main boat in the event of an emergency
  • Life ring: A rescue device that can the thrown to a person in the water to assist in staying afloat
  • Line: Any type of rope or line
  • Midship: The center location of the boat
  • Mooring: A way to secure a boat to a mooring buoy or pier
  • Port: When facing forward (toward the bow), the left side of the boat
  • Radio: VHF or side-band radio used for communication to other boats
  • Salon: A general area in or out of the cabin where passengers can relax
  • Screw: A boat's propeller
  • Scuppers: The low openings along the sides of the deck that allow water on the deck to run off. It is also how small expensive items like dive computers to fall off the boat.
  • Secure: To fix or fasten so as not to give way due to motion of the boat
  • Starboard: When facing forward (toward the bow), the right side of the boat
  • Stern: Back of the boat
  • Stow: To put something away in a secure place
  • Swim platform: Area at stern where divers stand while entering or exiting the water
  • Throw bag: A rescue device with a length of rope stuffed loosely into a bag so it can pay out through the top when the bag is thrown to someone in the water
  • Trail line: A polypropylene line that extends from the stern of the boat while divers are in the water. It is used to assist divers back to boat. Also called a current line.
  • Wheelhouse: The main area where the boat is steered and controlled. The wheelhouse is often off-limits to passengers, especially while the boat is under way (moving), docking, anchoring, or retrieving the anchor.

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