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Types of Boats

New Terms
  • Liveaboard
  • Charter boat
  • Private boat
  • Certified vessel
  • Six-pack vessel
  • Pontoon boat
  • Inflatable and RIB boats
  • Dive boats fall under three general categories: liveaboards, charter boats, and private boats. The liveaboard is typically a large vessel capable of carrying upwards of 30 passengers for multiple days at a time. A charter boat is a midsize vessel that will carry up to 30 passengers for a day excursion. A private boat is any vessel owned privately that is used for diving.

While many of the concepts and ideas discussed in this DAN On-Board program are applicable to all dive boats, keep in mind that private boats may not be equipped or staffed the same way commercial boats are. Dive boats also fall under certain passenger load restrictions regardless of the size. A certified vessel is one that has passed certain stability tests and has a certification to carry a specific number of passengers. Generally small passenger vessels under 100 gross tons operating on navigable waterways of the United States are inspected for safety by the U.S. Coast Guard. A non-certified vessel can be any length and carries six or fewer passengers for hire; these are referred to as uninspected passenger vessels (UPV), six-passenger (pax), or six-pack vessels. Private vessels can be of almost any size but cannot carry passengers for hire without a licensed captain. In addition, a private vessel operated for hire by a licensed captain is restricted to no more than six passengers, regardless of the size of the boat.

Dive vessels are constructed of a variety of materials including aluminum, steel, fiberglass, and wood, or for inflatable boats, nylon impregnated with neoprene and hypalon. Each has advantages and disadvantages for specific design. In this section, we will discuss some of the features and benefits of each of these types of boats.

It is important to keep in mind that the perfect dive boat does not exist. Divers and crew need to be able to adapt to the vessel they are on and apply fundamentals of boat and dive safety to make that boat the perfect boat for that voyage. This is where keeping an open mind about dive boats is important. The information you learn in this DAN On-Board program will help you be more familiar with what you may encounter on a dive vessel. The liveaboard dive vessel has become one of the most popular types of dive vessels around the world. They are found in some of the most remote locations as well as highly popular dive areas of the United States. These vessels are typically 70 to 130 feet long (20 to 40 meters), air-conditioned, include full galleys, and have appointed staterooms with private bathrooms.

These vessels are typically equipped with full air and nitrox compressor systems, rental gear, photo tables, and video- and photo-editing areas. A typical liveaboard excursion will be from three to ten nights away from land. A liveaboard vessel operates on an around-the-clock schedule with crew doing things at all hours. A typical liveaboard vessel crew will consist of a captain, first mate, engineer, chef, a few deck hands, and a few divemasters. It is common for the crew to rotate into different positions throughout a voyage.

Most liveaboard vessels are designed specifically for diving. The deck layout is spacious; there are benches for gearing up and racks to hold equipment. Each diver has his or her own gear storage area, and the crew will gladly assist with handing the gear when you are not diving. Many liveaboard vessels take pride in the attention that the crews provide to their passengers. Most passengers do little other than dive once they get on a liveaboard vessel. However, as comfortable as the crew and the liveaboard is, passengers must remember they are on a boat and safety is everyone's responsibly. Charter boats are an extremely popular dive boat for day and short overnight trips. These boats are found at most every dive resort and marinas in areas that are popular for diving. These vessels are typically 30 to 55 feet (10 to 20 meters) in length. The "six-pack" type charter boats are usually smaller than 35 feet in length, whereas the certified charter boats will be larger.

ad:media]Charter boats also vary in the amenities they have. Some are set up for multiday excursions but are not as luxurious as some liveaboard vessels are. The overnight charter boats will have sleeping bunks and a shared head. Some will have small galleys capable of snacks and full meals. In addition, depending on location, some may have air and nitrox compressors, though many do not. These boats are set up to conduct day excursions to and from a dive site. Depending on where in the world you are diving, some charter boats are open to the elements, and others have reasonably large cabins for shelter.
The boat's set-up is dependent upon the diving goals of the boat. If the vessel is going to deep sites more appropriate for technical diving, it will be set up to handle fewer passengers and more gear, whereas if the sites will be within recreational depths, the boat will accommodate more passengers with less gear. Some charter boats are built specifically as dive boats from dive boat manufacturers, whereas others have been converted from charter fishing boats, offshore oil-rig crew boats, or a variety in between. Pontoon boats range in size from 18 to 30 feet (5 to 9 meters) in length. They are popular on freshwater lakes and rivers where conditions are favorable. Their hull is a pair of pontoons (flotation tubes) that run the length of the boat. These types of boats provide a great platform for day diving. When equipped with larger engines they can be as quick as most other types of boats.

ad:media]The pontoon boat will typically be open in style without a cabin. Large deck areas make stowing and handling gear easy. In addition, these types of boats make it easy to get to remote shore-dive locations where the boat can be beached instead of anchored. Another advantage of the pontoon boat is that it can be moved by trailer to different locations on land. Pontoon boats are rarely used as commercial charter boats but are popular for private boats serving multiple purposes, such as pleasure, fishing, and diving. Inflatable boats range in size from 8-foot (2-meter) dinghies for tenders to 30-foot (9-meter) high-performance boats. These boats are suitable for saltwater and freshwater diving on a limited basis. It is common to see these boats in use as a supplement to larger liveaboard vessels where fully suited-up divers will transit from the anchored main vessel to a nearby dive location. In addition, the inflatable can be used a "chase boat" to assist a diver in an emergency.
Larger inflatable boats fitted with a rigid hull are known as RHIB boats, or rigid inflatable boats RIB boats. The larger RIBs can be fitted with center console, lights, and electronics. These large RIBs are popular with police, fire, Coast Guard, and other first-responder agencies. From a practical standpoint, the small inflatable is difficult to use for scuba diving due to its small size and lack of general protection. The big advantage to inflatable boats is they are lightweight and easy to transport.

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