Every time I visit a yacht show, I see yachts proudly displaying open lazarettes packed with watersports equipment and toys. Almost all have state for the art diving gear.
The watersports activities are promoted as part of the onboard charter facilities but how well prepared are the crew in operating the diving equipment and managing the dive operations?
Diving activities are often handled by organising rendez-vous diving, sub-contracting or hiring out a local dive centres facilities. A very much hands off approach which delegates the responsibility to a third party and will all that lovely scuba equipment onboard get used? Questions such as how good is the local operator, is their equipment well maintained, how good are their safety standards and do they deliver the level of service expected by a charter client or owner need to be asked. Naturally a deck hand with an Openwater certification is not equipped with the knowledge to conduct diving activities but most of this can be handled with a well-established onboard program and appropriately trained crew.
There are numerous levels of care and attention required to run a dive program from a superyacht.
First, there is the scuba gear itself, maintaining, cleaning and storing. There is a specific level of knowledge and training required to maintain the gear. Many yachts will have their own dive compressor which in itself also requires specialised knowledge to operate and maintain.
Second, there is the diving activity conducted. What is the level of experience of the guest divers? When was the last time they dived, and are they suited to the type of diving to be conducted, whether on a coral reef, wreck dive, deep dive or drifting in a current? Crew need to ensure that divers are assessed and have the appropriate level of experience for a specific kind of dive. If it has been more than a year since a last dive is there a crew member with the correct level of certification available to conduct a scuba refresher? The level of diving supervision from the yacht or more likely the Tender, above and below the surface needs to be accounted for. In some cases, practical scenarios like freeing a stuck anchor or locating & retrieving a lost piece of equipment also need to follow a standard procedure.
A common ‘watersports toy’ found on many yachts today are underwater propulsion scooters, a Sea Bob is known brand to many. If this is used for scuba activities, there are certain safety rules and protocols for its use. Used incorrectly can have hazardous consequences, so correct training and knowledge of its use is vital.
Third, dive locations knowledge is essential especially if in remote areas. I can think of many yachts that have spent a glorious season in the Pacific and diving is enjoyed on an isolated and faraway atoll. Doing your homework and having knowledge of the local area is the same as plotting a course to unchartered territories.
Fourth and most important of all, what to do in an emergency. Although diving can be conducted simply and following established rules, things can go wrong. Crew need to be prepared to handle a diving injury and know what first aid to provide or what about a lost diver or recalling divers if there is a problem. Is the right equipment available to conduct a diver recall? Is there appropriate medical equipment located nearby and ready for use and do crew know how to use the gear. Items such as oxygen, a comprehensive medical pack and an AED defibrillator for example should all be readily at hand.
All these elements underline the importance of having a working and practiced standard of diving operations with checklists that most importantly accounts for safety procedures. A manual of operations is essential in ensuring a high level of safety and having a checklist of how and what is conducted where. Ideally the ‘dive team’ crew should be certified at a minimum Rescue Diver level and establishing a PADI dive centre onboard is an excellent option. This adds to and provides a high level of professionalism and engaging of the crew in the activity can be a fun team building experience.
The magic of diving and being able to share with friends and family along with crew can make a yacht trip an unforgettable experience. All the above elements can be combined into established program. This is something we have achieved with Yacht Scuba Safety, a consultation program designed to train and prepare a yacht crew on how to conduct diving activities with a high level of safety, knowledge and professionalism, the same as to which is applied to all other undertakings on a yacht and so should be extended to diving. A combination of training and procedure management is the key and easily achievable. It is our goal to raise the awareness and offer the necessary training to accomplish this.
A simple moto comes to mind….Big Bubbles, No Troubles, Have Fun & Keep Safe!