Dive Boat Operations

Before starting any boat operation be sure that all proper gear for diving is on board, and stowed in a safe location. Gear should not hinder the operation of the vessel. The vessel should be rigged to handel dive operations. This means having all flags, and lights for proper signals. A line should be ready to be tied from the bow to stern for divers to hold on to. This is a gunnel safety line. This line enables divers to hold on while passing equipment in and out of the boat, boarding from the side, and in loading victims into the vessel. Equipment lines should be ready. These lines are use to raise and lower equipment in and of the boat. Last, tie a buoy on at least 100 feet of rope, to be placed in the water to float out with the current. This is a safety drift buoy, have a dive flag attached to the drift buoy. Before getting underway the boat operator needs to check with the Divemaster that all divers are on board, all lines brought in, and all equipment is secure.

The vessel should be displaying proper signals whenever dive operations are taking place from the boat. A vessel cannot be moved while divers are in the water. By the rules of navigation the vessel is restricted in its ability to maneuver and a hazard to navigation. If this is a day operation, the vessel must display a rigid international code flag alpha, one meter in height from the top of the boat. This signal shows the vessel is restricted in its ability to maneuver. The sport diver flag is often flown under the code "A" flag. By doing this, you are instructing all boating traffic that you have underwater operations taking place, and your vessel is restricted in its operation.

Every member of the dive team must know all pre-determined signals: Diver-to-diver, diver-to-boat, boat-to-diver, line tender signals, flags, and sounding devices. For line of sight signals, flags held in each arm can be seen better than empty hand signals. Most boat operators mistakenly believe that when they can see the diver, the diver can see him. However a diver on the surface of the water has to contend with swells and waves and may not be able to see, or comprehend any signals. A diver recall flag should be used with a sounding device. This flag should be hoisted up the mast or held on a pole to insure adequate visibility. For a recall sounding device most boats start and stop their engines several times. Divers should confirm all signals from the boat or shore with their whistle, when line of sight hand signals may be hidden by wave action, or distance.

Pre-planning and practice must be conducted for both dropping off and picking up divers. Sometimes boats can capsize to sudden shifts in weight, be sure that divers exit and enter while weight is stable in the boat. For small craft it may be best to have divers enter without gear on. Use equipment lines to secure the gear outside the boat, then pull it aboard, after the diver is in. Use of equipment lines for raising or lowering tools and gear will guard against lost equipment and injury.

Towing divers behind the boat can be helpful but is very dangerous. When towing a diver a sled is used. This type of search operation is covered in the section on search and recovery.

Several operations will involve tethered divers and diver tenders. When working on a vessel, with safety lines, be sure to keep the lines straight and untangled. When pulling the lines, end coil the rope to the side. Remember the number one rule of line work is to never stand on the lines.

When using surface supplied equipment, the air compressor must be up wind of engine exhaust. Be sure to follow manufactures instructions on placement of the dive compressor. Be sure to place the engine and compressor as close to the center of gravity of the boat as possible.
Victim pick up and evacuation from a boat takes lots or forethought and practice. The best way to remove victims from the water is with a Stokes Basket, but getting it into the boat may present problems. The dive team must practice all methods of victim pick up to determine the best for their vessel. Remember that with Stokes baskets that are not of the wire type, but molded plastic may require the team drilling drain holes in the bottom. If this is not done the weight will be to great to maneuver the basket once it is out of the water.

Before getting underway after a dive the pilot must check with the Divemaster that all divers are recovered, by sound-off head count, and all equipment and lines are on board.

Whenever working from a boat always use a gear bag. Before and immediately after each dive, locate all your gear and place it in your bag. Remember to keep bags out of walkways and hatches.

Use the buddy system for gearing up. When on a boat always step into your weight belt, never swing it on. Only put your fins on before entering the water. Never enter the water until told to by the Divemaster. When returning from a dive, move away from the entry point. Use the buddy system for unsuiting. Slide the weight belt down and step out of it.

Suiting up in a small craft or rocking vessel is one of the most difficult task to perform. It is best to put your gear on in the water, not only is this faster, but it is safer. Lower your gear over the side on an equipment line, then put on your mask and fins. Enter the water by roll or controlled seated from the side of the boat. Once in the water the diver can hang on the line tied bow to stern and recover his gear. Upon returning the diver attaches his gear to the equipment line and the boards. This method of boat entry and exist has several advantages. First no divers are walking on the boat in full gear. Second more divers can be placed in the water at one time.

National Association of Rescue Divers

P.O. Box 590474, Houston, Texas 77259-0474

Site Made & Maintained by: RescueDiver.org

Any Inquires Should Be Made To: WEBMASTER@RescueDiver.org

Copyright 2006 National Association of Rescue Divers ©