Aspects of Etiquette Part 2


Aspects of Etiquette Part 2

There is a right way of doing things when you’re on a dive-boat – and then there’s the other way that draws sideways looks. SIMON PRIDMORE aims to keep us on the straight and narrow

1017 technique away from the ladder 1

Wait your turn away from the ladder.

THIS THREE-PART SERIES covers a variety of scuba-diving situations in which certain forms of etiquette exist. Not everyone will agree with my recommendations, and I am sure the more experienced among you will have your own particular opinions and bugbears. But that’s all part of the fun. This month we look at boat-diving.

Appeared in DIVER October 2017


All dive-boats and operations have different procedures, and when you’re diving with them the etiquette is to follow these. Listen and be flexible.

If you dive with the operation often and want to do your own thing, there may be room for negotiation. If it won’t compromise and it matters to you, vote with your feet and go elsewhere.

On day-boats, space is often very limited so pack with care, using a gear-bag or small plastic crate that fits neatly under benches.

Pack your scuba-gear in reverse order of use: that is, the things you need to get out first should be at the top. Stow your gear neatly out of the way and keep everything together both before and after the dive.

1017 technique dive boat baskets 1
Perfectly sized dive-boat baskets.

Bring everything you need but only what you need. Keep your phone and cash in a dry-bag in the dry area but keep your spares box with your scuba gear rather than in your dry-bag, as there is every chance that you’ll be in your suit when your O-ring blows.

Keep out of designated dry areas if you’re wet, even if you have a damp towel around you.

On any boat, never leave a cylinder standing unsupported. They are heavy metal objects, and a falling cylinder can crush a toe, destroy a regulator second stage, crack a mask or demolish a dive-computer as well as causing irrevocable damage to the cylinder-valve.

For similar reasons, keep weight-belts in a box or on the deck and out of the way. Never put weights or a loaded belt on the bench beside you or anywhere else where the movement of the boat could cause them to fall.

The toilet on a boat is called the “head”. This is not because it is where you should put your head if you feel seasick. The best place to hang your head is over the side of the boat, preferably the side where the wind will carry away your stomach-contents when they appear.

Your fellow-travellers will appreciate this, as will the crewmember whose responsibility it is to clean and unclog the head. The fish under the boat will be happy, too, at the unexpected delivery of manna from heaven.


When you are geared up and making for the exit, the correct thing to do is move directly and with caution. You have a large object strapped to your back, so it is a little more difficult to squeeze yourself through small spaces.

Etiquette is all about being considerate. Take extra care when standing up and sitting down. Be aware that the person next to you might choose that exact moment to bend to strap on a fin, and will not take kindly to encountering the swinging tail of your cylinder with the side of his or her head.

1017 technique take care when moving around 1
Take great care when moving around with your gear on, especially on smaller boats.

I have seen countless near-misses in my time, as well as many hits! The two basic rules are: “Look behind you” and “Avoid sudden movements”.

Once in the water, move away from the entry area to unite with your buddy so that others can enter safely.

When returning to the boat, exercise ladder courtesy. Wait your turn. Never hang below someone who is climbing the ladder in case they lose their grip.

Exit the water quickly, then move away directly from the area above the ladder so that others can follow you.

It is worth mentioning one particular aspect of underwater etiquette that is rarely taught in dive courses. From time to time during a dive you will get kicked by a careless fin, or batted by a flailing arm.

The etiquette is to act as if nothing happened, while making a private note to keep a little further away from your assailant in future.

You certainly shouldn’t refer to it once you’re both back on the boat. The other diver might not even be aware of it or, if he or she is, might not know who took the blow and already feels bad.

After all, what goes around comes around and one day it will be you who inadvertently whacks someone in the head, and you will be very pleased if it isn’t mentioned later.

However, if you are the guilty party and you know exactly who you hit, then of course you should take the initiative to apologise afterwards.


Keep it covered up! Diving involves changing clothing, which by definition can involve temporary nudity.

One of the great things about our sport is that it brings together people from different backgrounds, walks of life and cultures, some of whom might not have a broad-minded attitude to public exposure, or share your high opinion of the beauty of your own naked form.

For the comfort of all, therefore, good etiquette requires discretion.

Stay humble. If you are a skilled diver and have a lot of experience, this will be recognised by those around you without you having to broadcast it. A professional can easily spot good divers by the way they set up their equipment, the way they observe and interact with others, the way they position themselves in the water and the high level of comfort they exhibit with all aspects of the diving environment.

We might not show what we think, but divers who feel the need to announce their exalted training level or high degree of experience loudly to everyone might just as well be raising a large red flag saying: “I am potentially dangerous.”

Rest assured, once they do that, the professionals will certainly be watching them closely – but not for the reasons they might wish.

A final personal etiquette tip concerning post-dive snot: you should point it out to your buddy subtly and with a smile. Fortunately, it is beyond the call of etiquette to offer to wipe it off.

In the next part of this series I will look at the etiquette pertaining to a group of very sensitive folk – underwater photographers.



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