General Boating Safety

Remember that anything pertaining to the safety and operation of the boat, is the responsibility of the Skipper. Anything involving the safety of the divers, falls to the Divemaster. The two must work together for successful operations. Whenever boat operations are going to take place, the Skipper should be aware of weather conditions. This not only includes at the time of launching, but for the next 12 to 24 hours. The best place for this information is a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio. These radios are compact and portable so they can be taken on the boat with you for continuous monitoring of information.

Thunderstorms can be dangerous not only to the boat but to the divers in the water. When the vessel used by the dive team is of a metal. hull design, it should get off the water. There are grounding devices that can be installed if frequent thunderstorms are in your area. Divers in the water should be notified as soon as thunderstorms develop, this is because they are wearing a metal tank that can function as a lighting rod in theory.

Most marinas and launching ramps display warning flags, or lights to indicate severe weather. A bright red pennant, or a red light over a white one, indicates winds up to 38 mph. On the radio it will be called a SMALL CRAFT WARNING, meaning small vessels should not venture out. When two red pennants are flown, or at night, a white light over red, it means gale force winds (up to 54 mph) are expected. This means to the dive team that they should stay at the station. A red square flag with a black square in the center, or two red lights on top of each other means TROPICAL STORM or a STORM WARNING is in effect, these are winds up to 74 mph. Finally two red square flags, with a black center square, or at night a red light, over white, over red means HURRICANE, winds over 74 mph. To the dive team this mean gather up the gear and wait for it to blow over because you will probably have a big job ahead after the storm.

Handling refueling and tank changes should be done very carefully. A number of accidents occur yearly due to improper boat refueling. If dive gear is on the vessel, care must be taken so no fuel spills on it. Gasoline eats wetsuits and other gear. Be sure to always have good light when refueling at night. If portable tanks are used, fill them on the dock, not in the boat. Any fuel that spills should be wiped up immediately. Gasoline is highly corrosive to most parts of a boat, especially neoprene seals that are used for weather and waterproofing.

Securing gear for heavy weather involves mainly preventing tanks from rolling.

If a person falls overboard the first thing to do is shut down the motor, and get a location. When spotted, signal to check if OK, and get ready to throw him a line, or wait for him to swim to you if close enough. If he is OK and currents are strong or wind drift is pushing you away, signal him to stay put and bring the boat about. Stop so the current pushes him to the boat, not the other way around. Remember to shut down the motor whenever retrieving anyone. If he is injured treat him as any victim that needs rescuing, but he has priority over whatever reason you are in the water.

There are two great NEVERS in dive boat operations. Every member of the team should remember them: When divers are in the water NEVER SET THE ANCHOR and NEVER START ENGINES without consulting the Divemaster.

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