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What makes a safe dive boat? Know before you go!

Discussion in 'Vero Beach Scuba Club' started by sheeper, Feb 23, 2016.

  1. sheeper

    sheeper Public Safety Diver

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: Vero Beach, Florida, United States
    A question I get asked a lot is “how do I know if a dive boat is a safe operation”?

    It’s not an easy answer but I will try and put forth some guidelines so you can know before you go.

    First, in the US, a dive boat should be a US Coast Guard (USCG) inspected vessel and the captain should be a licensed USCG captain. There are some differences depending on the size/class of the vessel so be sure the inspection and license matches the boat and captain. This is a minimum standard.

    Check if the boat has full first aid, O2 and (optionally) an AED. Every dive boat should have a full first aid kit and O2. Some boats may have an AED but some insurance companies don’t allow them. And be sure that the crew members are trained in dive first aid, O2 administration and/or AED use.

    How about insurance? The dive operator should be carrying insurance in the event of any incident and/or injury.

    Now for the crew. In addition to real training in emergencies, find out if the boat puts a divemaster in the water. A real divemaster has a very advanced level of training. Some boats merely refer to a dive guide this way and it is not the same thing. A dive guide is just a diver.

    How much real experience does the captain and crew have? A divemaster with 10 years of dive experience and a thousand dives who knows the local dive sites can be invaluable. A divemaster with 100 dives who got certified a couple of months ago is really still learning the ropes. This is fine if there is another experienced crew member “mentoring” the new guy.

    What about the captain? Does the captain have experience? Does he really know how to make perfect drops on the best dive sites? Is the captain a certified diver and at what level? How experienced a diver is the captain?

    Is there ongoing crew training involved? Has the crew been working together for a while or does the boat have a new guy every week? What level does the crew dive at and what advanced certifications do they have?

    Is the captain and crew involved in a USCG approved drug testing program?

    Every so often I find a dive boat whose insurance lapsed. Or whose last USCG inspection was not completed. Or who puts inadequately or poorly trained crew on board. And these operators take customers money and take them diving! It’s all fun and cuddles until someone has to call the paramedics. Know before you go so you dive safe!

    The Vero Beach Scuba Club works with a number of dive boats around the east coast of Florida. We know these operators adhere to the highest standards. So come join us on a club trip.
  2. iamrushman

    iamrushman Great White

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: ft. lauderdale, florida
    thanks for the well written information.....
  3. Steve_C

    Steve_C Divemaster

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Raleigh, NC USA
    This is posted in terms of qualifications. But you should check if the boat puts ANYBODY in the water. In our area the DMs set the hook and help on the boat. They do not provide guide service unless that is arranged ahead of time and for an extra stipend. That is the way the divers like it around here but could surprise somebody who assumes there will be a guide.
  4. covediver

    covediver Solo Diver

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: Alaska
    The list you present has several good indicators, they really are things that are not readily observable or for which questions need to be asked.

    When I go to the local pool, I don't ask the lifeguards if they are certified, know CPR and first aid (I can see the kit and AED) or if they are certified pool operators and how long in their teen lives they have been guarding. Having trained lifeguards I assume a certain level of competence. Asking questions is fine. Lots of inspections can pass a records check.

    But observables can be just as important 1) is the deck cluttered with equipment or are things stowed 2) is loading orderly with crew/divemasters directing and helping out or are they drinking coffee and chatting with the favorites 3) condition of the driftline and buoy 4) rescue equipment readily available and serviceable (I get the jitters when a pool has worn rescue tubes) 5) are safety briefings done prior to departure and do they go beyond the "this is where you find the jacket and raft" info and not done over the sound or bedlam of leaving the dock 6) are site briefings thorough and not done over the bedlam of people gearing up 7) are the crew and divemasters attentive to safety hazards (preventing rolling tanks, tripping hazards) 8) is there a redundant method for checking people in and out 9) are the gate times unnecessarily constrained to rush the divers 9) do the divemasters work well with the crew or do they pretty much ignore each other

    There are a few more, but this is a start.

    I will also note that for me, the length of experience of a divemaster has little to do with their ability to do the job. Does the divemaster have 10 years of experience or one year of experience repeated 10 times.
    sheeper likes this.

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