7 Items for Dive Boat Survival – The Prepared Diver

, 7 Items for Dive Boat Survival – The Prepared Diver

While many aspects of the operation of a dive boat are outside of your responsibility, being a prepared diver means knowing where the survival and safety gear is located on any new-to-you dive boat.

, 7 Items for Dive Boat Survival – The Prepared Diver

My Perspective

When I step on a dive boat, I’m probably looking around with a different perspective than a non-boating diver. I hold a 100-ton US Coast Guard captain’s license, and prior preparation is a huge interest of mine. It’s my business to know if the boat and crew are prepared, and equipped. Someone who simply views the dive boat as a vehicle to get them to the dive site might be more complacent. You probably should be more aware!

Here are seven quick things to look for, locate, glance at, and ask about. Before leaving the dock; most captains or crew will go over the boat’s safety equipment. Beware if no one goes over any of this, or if they are not sure where items are located, or if they don’t let you put eyes on each item.

If you are looking for the extremes that cause you to actually scrub a dive, Danger Signs of an Unsafe Dive Boat should be your next read.

, 7 Items for Dive Boat Survival – The Prepared Diver

1. PFD’s – Personal Flotation Devices

While it might seem silly to know the location of these on a dive boat, since you possibly have access to your own life-saving equipment –
your own BCD ! But, just in case a fire breaks out where your gear is, plan to know where the “other” PFD’s are located.

Plan to be that person who knows where they are, and in an emergency, hands them out, freeing up the captain and crew to perform other duties. And it’s too late now to check if they are the appropriate size for the intended wearer.

Know where they are for several reasons

Know where they are just in case someone falls overboard, and you have to throw one quickly – they are much easier to toss overboard, and probably won’t hurt someone like throwing them their full dive rig and tank might. Throw them several to mark the person’s location.

Also, if you have any bubble watchers on the boat with you – they don’t have dive gear, and neither may the captain or some of the crew. They will need PFD’s if everyone has to abandon ship.

Mark the location

In addition, if the boat were to fail to continue to displace water, have everyone put one on and grab a few more. You can even set all those
extra” life jackets free to make a big scatter area for rescuers to find, and for people to grab. The larger the “scatter zone,” the more visible from air and water it will be.

Other buoyancy possibilities

If you already have your wetsuit on, that’s good – it would help you float, and keep you warm, keep marine creatures from stinging you. Many are dark colors and won’t make you more visible. However… your safety sausage is visible, sticks up, and might have reflective bits on it. Bring it too.

, 7 Items for Dive Boat Survival – The Prepared Diver

2. Fire Extinguishers

Where are they located? Do you know how to use one? Watch a video, and learn. Look at the ones in your home, and at least understand the steps involved in getting one ready and deploying it.

Fire extinguishers should be in good and serviceable condition, readily accessible, not expired, and not empty.

Expiration Date

While you might not have time to inspect their extinguishers’ expiration date (12 months from the date that is chipped out – like on car batteries), at least know where they are. Plan to grab one and head upwind – don’t try to fight a fire from downwind. Here’s a quick tutorial: Extinguishing a Fire the Right Way.

, 7 Items for Dive Boat Survival – The Prepared Diver

3. Signal Flares

Good and serviceable condition, readily accessible, Coast Guard approved, and not expired. You probably do not have time to check all that, but at the very least, know where they are.

If you’ve never read the instructions, head to a friend’s boat, or look online. The instructions are clearly written on most versions, but in a panic is not the time you want to slow down and read. Plus, if you wear reading glasses; they are probably already stowed in preparation for the dive.

I’ll post an in-depth article about flare deployment soon.

Here’s some good information from Orion: Marine Safety Signals: Tips and Instruction

, 7 Items for Dive Boat Survival – The Prepared Diver

4. VHF Radio

Like the rest; practice with one if you ever have a chance. Just like car radios; they all do the same thing, but the buttons can vary wildly.

Channel 16 is the hailing and distress channel – “Mayday” is for emergencies only.

“Pan Pan” is the international urgency signal that is used to initiate a VHF transmission when the safety of a person or the boat is in serious jeopardy but no immediate danger exists, but it could escalate into a mayday situation.

“Securite” is used at the beginning of a safety message affecting navigation such as severe storms, bridge closures, and other similar events.

Here’s a good article from Boating about When to use “Mayday”, “Pan-Pan” or “Sécurité.”

, 7 Items for Dive Boat Survival – The Prepared Diver

5. Sound Producing Device

You probably know this as a horn – or air horn – some boats have a portable hand-held version; others have an integrated system with a button on the dash. If you end up in trouble in reduced visibility; do you know where it is?

What noise do I make?

The signal for a motor vessel underway in reduced visibility is a prolonged blast of 4-6 seconds, every two minutes or sooner.

The signal for “danger” or doubt is five short blasts of about one second each.

, 7 Items for Dive Boat Survival – The Prepared Diver

6. Throwable Cushion

See PFD’s above – same idea – easy-to-throw square cushion with two handles. It’s called a Type IV Throwable. Many boats also will have an orange throwable ring.

, 7 Items for Dive Boat Survival – The Prepared Diver

7. AED/First Aid Kit

The contents of this can vary greatly, and they are not US Coast Guard required on uninspected “six pack” passenger vessels. However, knowing where it is could save time in an emergency. They are required on inspected passenger vessels.

Bring your own bleeding control kit, and you’ll be familiar with the contents, location, and use of your own supplies. Include tourniquets straight from a reputable source like North American Rescue, and wound packing materials at the very least.

Watch videos/put hands on these items. Get trained. Asking out loud where these items are so others get used to hearing/looking for them as well is modeling Prepared Diver behavior.

, 7 Items for Dive Boat Survival – The Prepared Diver

Sure, There’s More!

This was only the beginning, the basics; the very least you should be aware of when you are on a “strange” dive boat.

You can never learn enough, so keep researching. Divers Alert Network has a great video library at DAN Online Seminars; spend some time watching the experts! Get some advanced bleeding control training.

Other Skills That Would Be Useful

Knowing how to read a compass
Being able to calculate your location by using bearings
Being able to calculate your location by naviguessing – how long did you travel in what direction at what speed
Advanced First Aid

…and so much more! Here are a couple ideas:

Some First Aid References and Training

, 7 Items for Dive Boat Survival – The Prepared Diver
My dive partner gave me this book for Christmas this year!

Here’s a good place to start brushing up on or learning more skills – Advanced First Aid Afloat by Eastman is in the required reading list aboard the Sailing Vessel “Delos” of YouTube fame.

Think About Carrying A Bleeding Control Kit – Ours Comes With Us

, 7 Items for Dive Boat Survival – The Prepared Diver
Here’s a great First Aid kit for on board. It’s produced by MyMedic – it floats, and it is waterproof! It has a 78-piece trauma kit, and the hardware is all stainless steel.

Familiarity can save time and lives. Carrying your own First Aid kit means you know exactly what is in it, where the kit is located, where items in your kit are organized, and how to use the specific items you have chosen.

MyMedic partnered with experts in water sports and boating to create a boat-specific First Aid Kit. They analyzed data for statistics about injuries in the water to guide them in choosing which supplies to use, and they tested them extensively. There’s room in this kit to add additional items you prefer. I know I tend to “customize” my kits to my specific requirements. For example, I add a few more tourniquets from North American Rescue to any kit I carry.

The Boat Medic is sink-proof, dust-proof and crush-proof, which are all really good features for a kit you plan to bring aboard.

Why I like MyMedic for First Aid kits

I can tell you, my dive partner and I have purchased MyMedic items, and found them to be very well-designed, sturdy, and comprehensive. Plus, clicking on my link above or below and using my code “DeepWH15” will save you 15% off your purchase.

In fact, I was so impressed in particular by the quality of their MyFAK – My First Aid Kit bag – that we ordered for our vehicle, and I liked their supplies so much that I recently became a brand ambassador for MyMedic. That’s how much I like their gear and supplies and trust them. Using my code and link helps me continue to bring free content to you with no additional cost for you! Thank you so much!

Please comment, subscribe, and follow me on Facebook and Instagram as DeepWaterHappy. Thank you for reading, and please leave comments below on what you would like to read about next.

What to read next: Fire Extinguisher Requirements Aboard

, 7 Items for Dive Boat Survival – The Prepared Diver

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Updated April 16, 2019.

Updated June 18, 2020.


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