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Diving and Seamanship

Discussion in 'Basic Scuba Discussions' started by Akimbo, Jun 12, 2014.

  1. Akimbo

    Akimbo Lift to Freedom Volunteer Staff Member ScubaBoard Supporter

    The OP (Original Post) touched on the importance of making emergency calls. I am no guru on this but thought some additional information was called for.

    Low-Skill Options:

    Cell Phone
    Consider your cell phone. This may seem obvious, but sometimes people don’t think clearly in the midst of a crisis in unfamiliar locations. The great advantage is you already know how to use it. You will probably already know if you have cell coverage when traveling in another part of the world, but you may have no idea who to call in an emergency. It is a good idea to find out before you even step off the plane since you could need help onshore as well. You can waste a lot of time having to call home to get them to hail assistance from half a world away.

    Iridium Satellite Phone
    Most of us only know satellite phones from television and movies, but could figure out how to use one. Compared to cell phones they are very expensive to purchase and are probably the most expensive to use… but they work anywhere. A lot of liveaboards have one and it is a good idea to know where it is stored if they are willing to tell you.

    EPIRBs and PLBs or Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon and Personal Locator Beacons:
    This was briefly mentioned in the OP. The simple description is a self-contained electronic device that sends a radio signal to a satellite with the beacon ID and current GPS coordinates. The fact that the satellite receives this signal is interpreted as a Mayday, SOS, or eminent danger call for help. At that point humans get involved and call out every resource close to your location for help, no matter where in the world it is.

    In the event you are unable to transmit a radio message you can resort to activating the boat’s EPIRB or even your own PLB (Personal Locator Beacon). There are no range limitations to these devices; however there also is no voice communications. There are emergencies where you can be “talked through” an eminent crisis or buy some time.

    High-Skill Options:

    Unfortunately radios are a much more complicated proposition. Aside from knowing how to operate them, using the right channel, and finding someone that speaks your language, there is also the problem of knowing which radio to use. Very often emergencies are very time-critical. It is a good idea if you know what to say:
    Radio Information For Boaters

    DSC Distress
    A lot of radios today are equipped with DSC (Digital Selective-Calling) automatic distress alerts. Like an EPIRB or PLB, they transmit the device ID and GPS coordinates on a special frequency monitored by local rescue services and often (sometimes?) other vessels. As a minimum, ask if DSC is configured and how to operate the emergency button.

    VHF or Very High Frequency is the most common radio in use. They are line-of sight so their range is relatively limited due to the curvature of the earth. There are lots of types including handheld. Generally the higher the wattage and higher the antenna is off the water the longer the range.

    HF/SSB or High Frequency / Single Side Band have much longer ranges but can be very susceptible to atmospheric interference.

    There are a lot of different rules around the world so hopefully other Scubaboard members can expand on this introduction.
  2. CarlGH

    CarlGH Angel Fish

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: New Hampshire
    Did anyone mention basic first aid skills (actually some of these are at the EMT level) such as stopping perfuse bleeding, maybe setting (really immobilizing) a broken bone, immobilizing a puncture wound, packing it with gauze, first aid for severe sunburn, or other exposure (hypothermia, hyperthermia), performing CPR, neutralizing a bad jellyfish sting, removing barbs from various stinging animals, etc???

    Self protection against aggressive - potentially carrying firearms - e.g. handguns, rifles, ak47s (and not just 1, but at least 1 for each crew member to fend off attackers on the open ocean with plenty of ammo and clips that are full), etc.
    Akimbo likes this.
  3. Hickdive

    Hickdive Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Glasgow, UK
    Fair enough, these are always good skills to have not just in boats.


    If you are, do your dive trips look like this?

  4. LeadTurn_SD

    LeadTurn_SD Solo Diver

    Great thread Akimbo.

    As an ex-Merchant Marine (deck officer), diver and boat owner, just a couple other small comments or to amplify what has already been mentioned:

    On a small private boat (i.e., going diving on a friend's boat, or taking friends diving on your boat):

    1. Everyone aboard a small boat should know where the VHF radio is and how to use it to call for help. It only takes a minute for the boat owner to explain this. Cell phones may or may not have reception, but VHF can reach further than you'd often expect it will (the Coast Guard has good "ears"). Do know how to contact help from the area you plan to dive.

    2. There should be at least one "backup" to the "captain" who is capable of operating the boat in case the "captain" is injured or incapacitated.

    3. Fire at sea is one of the biggest fears of all sailors. I've been through 3 (thankfully, very quickly controlled due to rapid action by the crew). When I went through the Navy's damage control school in my final year at the Maritime Academy, it was drilled into me that unlike on shore, there is nowhere to retreat to.... you have to fight the fire and win, or you'll be in the water watching your ship/boat burn to the water line. Know where the fire extinguisher(s) are, and how to use them.

    Best wishes.
    Bob DBF, descent, Ricky B and 2 others like this.
  5. Eric Sedletzky

    Eric Sedletzky Great White

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Santa Rosa, CA
    Another (not so funny story) on my part. I did get my panties up in a wad over this one and still am not laughing.

    I took two guys out on my boat a long time ago. The captain (me) has rules. No matter how silly you think the rules are, the rules are the rules.
    Both of these guys were smokers. I have nothing against smokers, but when my boat is a home built skiff (Oregon Dory) and it's gas powered there is no smoking on my boat. period - READ THE SIGN, NO SMOKING ON MY BOAT!. No ingnition, source no fire (or less of a chance at least).
    The boat was a closed bilge design with a deck built over the bottom frames. The fuel tank mounted inside the center console and was resting on a platform that was built in between a couple frames, so it sat down low and was out of the way nice and tidy. Any fuel leaks or spilled fuel and the fumes would collect in the bilge area under the deck. There were haches and some open areas in the aft end of the boat for circulation but it was still a concern of mine, plus the fact that being a wood boat there was a fuel source.
    I explained to these guys the rules and got an argument right from the start. I asserted myself and told them point blank, no smoking on my boat. They argued, Oh come on man you don't expect a couple smokers not to smoke?. I told them, that's exactly whats going to happen or we're not going out.
    Anyway after our second dive, which the main weasel sat out because he was cold, when I came up I caught him smoking. We had a talk about it and he said he was sorry. Apparently he didn't see the harm in it and thought my rules were stupid and figured he would do whatever he wanted since I was underwater and wouldn't know.
    Then a few minutes later just like he blew off everything I said, I see the smart mouth kneeling down with his head down by the deck right by one of the vent holes lighting up another one. I got so mad I just about put my foot up his rear end!
    I yelled at him and made a move to get the thing away and he tossed in it the ocean after he hot boxed a couple more drags off it, with a smirk on his face. His excuse was he already had one so what's the big deal. He told me that he just wanted to see what I'd do.
    What a jerk!
    Needless to say that was the last time either of those guys were invited.
    LeadTurn_SD likes this.
  6. Akimbo

    Akimbo Lift to Freedom Volunteer Staff Member ScubaBoard Supporter


    Aside from stupid, it is incredibly rude. If you anyone is generous enough to invite me aboard their boat and lays out the rules I will do my best to comply or stay ashore... pretty simple. You need to be able to trust people on a small boat.
  7. Hank49

    Hank49 Solo Diver

    I parted ways with a "friend" over an incident on my boat once. It's hard but it would have been harder if the situation had gotten worse.

    We were free dive spearing off the NE tip of Glovers Reef here. There's a bit wide cut and with an outgoing tide and trade winds blowing it gets really choppy. Not too much to handle but when you have three guys in camouflage wetsuits and black snorkels, it's hard enough to see them. I told the three guys, one of whom is my son, to stay together so I could keep track of them. There is no land to be seen, no vector possibilities, current, in a place I'd never been before…..and immediately the one guy starts swimming off 180 degrees from the other two. I yelled at him and told him to stay with them. He waved his hand like, 'yeah yeah….f**k you….", and drifted farther away. I pulled up to him and told him to get his ass in the boat and I was tired of his bulls**t. He got in and we dived a bit more. Later that night I told him about it and he called me a "pansy".
    Anyway, that's the last time he's been on my boat. It's a big responsibility. Losing someone out there would be devastating…..even if he is an a**hole.
    <*)))>< and Pullmyfinger like this.
  8. Eric Sedletzky

    Eric Sedletzky Great White

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Santa Rosa, CA
    That sounds kind of like the same type "A" (hole) attitude I got.
    I don't kinow what gets into some people. Are they just so type A that all respect and common sense goes out the window? or do they just have a chip on their shoulders to buck any form of authority? On a boat it's not the free world to do whatever the hell you want, it's the Captains world. That's standard maritime convention.
    The problem is, sometimes true colors don't show until you're out there and it's too late.
  9. Akimbo

    Akimbo Lift to Freedom Volunteer Staff Member ScubaBoard Supporter

    Eric and Hank's posts explain what to do if you want swim home. A more useful discussion might be: What should you know and do to get invited back on a private boat?

    Not being a total jerk goes without saying. :shakehead: These others come to mind:

    • Offer to help with expenses like fuel, parking, and launch fees. That may not be appropriate or possible on a mega-yacht but can be a big deal to most small boat owners.
    • Bring food to share
    • Offer to help do unpleasant maintenance like painting or scrubbing the bottom
    • Learn the safety stuff already described
    • Offer to stay onboard on some dives so the boat isn't unmanned. Don't sleep or read a book, keep a lookout for bubbles and divers surfacing.
    • Keep your dive gear organized and out of the way
    • Don't swear like a sailor until you take the pulse of the skipper and guests
    • Help other divers when you can
    • Learn how the captain wants her tied to the dock or loaded on the trailer
    • Stay and help clean up the boat after returning to shore

    It takes a lot of money and work to own and operate a boat. The initial purchase, repairs and maintenance, insurance, fuel, registration fees, dock or storage fees... to name a few. Just being cognoscente of that fact helps put you in the right frame of mind.

    Any other thoughts?
    Wingy and Bob DBF like this.
  10. Eric Sedletzky

    Eric Sedletzky Great White

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Santa Rosa, CA
    Owning a boat is a catch 22 in many ways.
    People wait for you to call them so they don't seem pushy. So when I used to plan my trips I had a list of most favorable to least favorable, and then there was the sh_t list which you didn't want to be on. Many people besides the worst offenders actually got on that list just because of guilt by association. In other words, they are the ones who invited the worst offenders, but the worst part and the main reason they wound up on the list is because they invited the worst offender without asking me first.

    Inviting people: They never want to say no because a few times of saying "I'm busy" will drop them down the list into the second tier.
    Then when you invite them they also may not have a lot of cashflow at the time so chipping in for them is a struggle. They feel obligated to go and honored (and don't want to end up on the stand-by list) but they can't pay for it and so they get embarrassed.
    So a hot tip would be: If you are short on cash and get invited, be up front with the captain and tell them you have no cash right now and don't feel right about not being able to pitch in. If the captain says don't worry about it, then that's when you have a chance to prove yourself and stick around to clean up and be there to the end. Even maybe offer to clean the captains game would be a super gesture. You have to earn your salt.

    The first string are the ones who are always there at a moments notice, who know the ropes, who help with everything, can double as captain, it's almost like they are part owners. Sometimes they even take a turn to tow with their own tow vehicle! These are the people that have a permanent seat on the boat. I must also add that they are willing to chip in even if the diving was horrible or maybe we didn't even get to get out, but there was still fuel burned to get there.
    I used to try and keep a crew of 3 outstanding divers plus myself so we had two teams of two. We were doing a lot of offshore exploration at the time and we would go in a team at a time, keeping a team on the boat.
    On the rare occasion that a 1st stringer couldn't make it, the top second stringer was called and on down the line. If they proved they were a good candidate to be a permanent then they were always called back. If a permanent dropped out for whatever reason the top second stringer would be offered the seat.
    A lot of times we would take a vote on who to consider as the next permanent. Everybody needed to be in agreement since it affected them too.

    If all this sounds rigid and elitist, it is the result of many many very bad experiences with many different types of people on a small private boat.
    This is eventually what it came to.
    eleniel, descent, LeadTurn_SD and 2 others like this.

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