Getting in and out of boats
How difficult can it be to get in and out of a dive-boat Youd be surprised. John Bantin makes a giant stride entry...

SOMETIMES ITS DIFFICULT TO SEE why things are as they are. Why, for example, can that elderly man climb over the tubes back into the RIB so easily, when that fit young woman cannot Admittedly, men tend to have a higher centre of gravity than many women, but the difference may be down to something else - technique.
     The man first passes up his tank and weights. Then, by holding onto the grab-ropes and ducking straight down under the water, he uses his acquired buoyancy to help accelerate him upwards, with a few strong fin-thrusts added.
     He bobs up and, as he reaches the point at which he can lock his arms straight, he leans his chest forward so that he is tipped into the boat. He then needs only to straddle a tube with one leg and hes there.
     Help him with his fin buckles, someone - hes not as flexible as he was! Its a good example of know-how, and so much more elegant than looking like a beached whale.
     Often, the most difficult and hazardous part of diving occurs at the surface, and the most dangerous thing you are likely to meet there is your own boat.
     Boats, when not underway, are at the mercy of wind and sea movement. They cant be steered, so the moment that a diver leaves or reboards the vessel is also a moment at which that vessel is not under control. We need to know how to limit the hazards when divers pass from boat to water, or from water to boat.

Rolling off a RIB
When leaving a small boat such as a RIB, you are usually aware of the water, but often not looking at it. Most divers prefer to roll backwards over the tube from where they are sitting.
     This is fine if the boat is stationary and you all take off on a count of three, say. In practice, however, groups of divers tend not to move like Olympic synchronised board-divers. Nor is the boat likely to be as stationary as the side of a swimming-pool.
     With nobody looking where theyre going, there is always potential to roll on top of someone else, with disastrous consequences.
     If its a crowded boat with little elbow-room, wait your turn and roll only when the coxn tells you that alls clear behind.
     The backward rush of water makes losing a mask easy, so always hang on to it as you go. Then fin backwards as soon as you hit the water. You may have some air in your suit or BC, but you dont want to come up anywhere near the hard hull, the churning propeller, or where other divers might be rolling in.
     When you learn to dive, youre taught to be positively buoyant on entry so that you can bob to the surface and tell everyone youre OK. Do that in some parts of the world, and youre bound to miss the dive site. Strong currents dictate that you spend as little time on the surface as possible - which is when a negative-buoyancy entry is required.
     Make sure you have no air in your suit or BC and start finning downwards the moment you hit the water. Some divers, especially those with cameras, prefer to slip head-first into the water, so that they are quickly on their way.
     Small boats move on the current at the same speed as you do in the water, but they are affected by the wind, too. Its easy for a boat to be blown down onto you. Its a nuisance when trying to leave a boat but a positive advantage when being picked up, so the coxn should try to pick you up from the leeward side.

Back onto the RIB
Once youve grasped the boat by a grab-rope, you can stop finning while you pass up the heavy elements of your kit. The buoyancy of a wetsuit or semi-dry, or a little air added to your drysuit, will ensure that you dont sink.
     Why, then, do we so often see people finning frantically while holding onto the boat Theyre adding random motive power that spins the boat round, at a time when the coxn rather wishes it would stay still. Hold on. Pass up your kit. Stay calm and relaxed. Keep your strength for that last fin up into the boat.
     Why, too, do we often see people passing their masks up first The mask and fins are the last items with which to part. A diver with these in place still has manoeuvrability and the use of his eyes in the water.

Solo reboarding
What happens if you find yourself back at a moored RIB with no-one there to help you It happens. How do you get back in, especially if you dont have the knack of finning up and over the tubes
     Gently slip your weightbelt over the tube so that the weights fall one upon another inside the hull. Inflate your BC and tie off your set to the boat, using a shoulder-strap and buckle if necessary.
     Then make your way to the transom and the outboard-motor, where the anti-cavitation-plate will make a handy footrest to help you climb up.

Taking off your set before you attempt to climb into a bigger boat can often be a good idea, too.
     On one occasion my wife discarded her heavy steel twin-set to let it float with its inflated wing before a crew-member hauled it on board. Meanwhile her buddy, fully kitted, manfully climbed the ladder of the heaving boat. He slipped and fell with his leg caught in a rung, to dangle head-down in the water without his regulator in his mouth. Her quick thinking and fast swim, unencumbered by equipment, saved the day.
     What should we learn from that Keep all your equipment in place, your mask on your face and your regulator in your mouth, until you are safely on board, or take off the heavy items and pass them up before attempting a difficult climb.

Hardboat entries
When you intend to enter the water from the stern of a bigger boat, you certainly dont want to do it with the propellers churning. Wait to be told.
     Everyone knows how to do a giant-stride entry, but how many remember to swim away from the boat straight away, to negate the risk of a following diver landing on their head
     If youre aiming to reach a particular point in the sea, a shotline buoy or a reef, take a sight of it just before you leap. A boat can swing at anchor or on its mooring and leave you swimming in the wrong direction.
     If a group is to be guided, the dive-guide might want all the divers hanging on a line at the surface before starting a descent.
     Before striding off the boat, hold your regulator and mask in place with your right hand and use your left to gather about you any consoles or peripheral gear that might be inclined to swing and clout you when you hit the water.

Treading water
Returning from the dive, if you intend to grab a shotline that is dangled from the stern of your vessel, often with an emergency air-supply attached, be aware that it is swinging in an arc with the boat. If it appears to be moving away from you as you swim towards it, remember that, once it has run its course, it will swing back towards you. So no frantic swimming after it is needed.
     Hanging around under the hull is never a good idea. The skipper may need to move the boat and he cannot know where you are. Turning propellers can suck you onto their blades in a moment.
     Hanging around under other divers is not a good idea either. Weightbelts and tanks get dropped, and you dont want to be underneath when that happens.
     If you see somebody already at the ladder, wait your turn. People can slip and fall, and their tanks, let alone their bodies, can do you a lot of damage. Often crews trail a line for you to hang onto while you wait out of harms way.
     The diving instructor, guide or the person leading the dive will be the last to leave the water, ensuring that everyone is in good condition. Thats part of the job. Unless you are that person, be polite and defer to the professional by climbing out before him or her.
     If the boat is not moored, you need to know that the propellers are not going to start turning. Never swim towards a boat thats under power. Stay where you are and let it come to you.
     The boat pivots about its front end. Its like a car with rear-wheel steering. If it has fixed propellers and a rudder, the skipper cant steer unless the props are turning to force water over that rudder.
     Thats why its so important to come to the surface away from the boat, confirm that the skipper knows where you are, and approach the boat on the surface where he can see you, once he has signalled that it is safe to do so.
     Again, you need to be on the leeward side so that the boat is not constantly blown away from you.
     If youre diving on a reef, its best to come to the surface close to it but not so close that wave action pushes you onto it. Stay there until your pick-up boat approaches, and swim out to the boat only when the coxn tells you to do so. He wont want to endanger his boat by coming in close to rocks or coral.

Ladders and lifts
Some skippers prefer you to keep your tanks on your back, others like them handed up first. Either way, keep your mask and fins in place, unless you need to take off your fins to climb a ladder, but do that only once you have a firm grip on it. Some boats have conventional-looking ladders, whereas others have rungs attached to a single central spine. This second type allows you to climb with your fins on.
     A ladder positioned at the side of a boat will dip and plunge with a rocking and rolling vessel. Time your climb so that the motion helps, not hinders, you.
     Bigger boats are as affected by wind and currents as small boats, the difference being that they are often moored when you return to them.
     The pointed end of the hull, the bow, is inclined to face into the current, while the superstructure is inclined to lie across the wind. Wind and current tend to be in opposition, so the boat will swing between two extreme positions.
     Some boats have hydraulic lifts for boarding divers. Keep your hands and feet away from the moving parts. A couple of boats I know have hydraulic lifts that will pick a whole auxiliary boat out of the water and dump it on the rear deck, complete with its passengers. Luxury! But you still have to climb into the auxiliary boat from the water first.

Getting back into a small boat is just a matter of technique - one, two, three, heave!
Keep clear of the ladder until the diver ahead of you is safely aboard.
Secure your mask and regulator and make sure its all clear below before stepping well clear of the boat
It helps to hang onto a line while waiting to reboard a boat. The main thing is not to wait where you could be clouted by a tank or by the boat itself.
Sharks are rarely the main threat to a diver in the water - its the boat!

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