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The Private, Exclusive Guide for Serious Divers Since 1975
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November 2011    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 37, No. 11   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Scuba Snobsí Guide to Dive Etiquette

the formerly unspoken rules for good divers to live by

from the November, 2011 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Sport diving is laden with unspoken rules. We've published most of them over the years, but there is no single resource where the new diver, the first time liveaboard diver, or the spouse of a longtime diver can turn to find them. At least, not until now. Dennis Jacobson has been diving for nearly 15 years, his wife Debbie for 10. Hooked on diving, they've traveled extensively, they've learned the rules, and with two pair of keen eyes, they have observed too many of their fellow divers ignoring the social rules that maintain order and composure in our sport.

So they wrote and self-published a small handbook on the rules of diving, The Scuba Snobs Guide to Diving Etiquette, and are kind enough to let us publish a few excerpts. We're only quoting a few paragraphs from this fun and useful book. We suggest you order a couple of copies, and next time you encounter an idiot diver, just slip a copy into his dive bag. It may save your trip.

Use a Boat Bag

This is the primary rule of etiquette for day boat diving. It cannot be overemphasized. For those who don't know, a boat bag is a soft mesh duffle bag that can be collapsed to the size of a shoebox or smaller. It will hold all your gear, and it will not be in the way on the boat.

We were once on a day boat out of Lahaina, Maui, and a new diver had a huge hard case for his equipment that was the size of a steamer trunk. It was full of his gear, and he plopped it right in the middle of the dive deck, and left it there. Asshole! It was a real hazard for anyone trying to move around the boat, and he was in everyone's way as well. Get a boat bag, and you might one day be welcomed back on a dive boat. Not surprisingly, this person had other issues too, discussed in later chapters. Your oversized hard case does not belong on the day boat, and neither does that gear bag you packed all your gear in to put on the airplane, bus, train or car that got you to your destination. These bags are big, heavy, and they THEY DON'T BELONG ON A BOAT. Yet we see them constantly. Get a clue. Get a boat bag. There are thousands of scuba retailers who will be very happy to sell you one.

Keep Your Stuff Out of the Camera Bucket

Most but not all day boats will have a large bucket or barrel filled with fresh water into which cameras and nothing else are placed. These camera buckets give expensive photo and video equipment a safe ride, and keep them out of everyone's way while on board. The camera bucket is not for you to dip your mask in, or to wash off your regulator, computer, BCD or anything else. If you listened to the briefing, you would know that. Dennis once had a person actually dip his BCD and regulator in a camera bucket that contained several expensive pieces of camera and video gear, including his. Strobes were jostled, buttons pushed, general mayhem ensued, yet the Scuba Snobs on board let the offender live. You may not be so lucky. Keep your crap out of the camera bucket.

Don't Smoke

Scuba Snobs' Guide to Dive EtiquetteHere is a simple rule: No smoking. No smoking of anything, at all. Don't even bring smoking materials on board, or a Scuba Snob will see that they hit the wet part of the deck. On a recent dive outing at an unnamed dive destination in Mexico, we had "the torch" puffing away all the way out to the dive sight. He was also the guy who, of course, geared up late, delayed the entry for everyone, and was the first guy out of air. Somehow (no one ever did take full responsibility), his pack of cigarettes hit the bottom of the boat and was soaked. He spent the entire boat ride back to shore trying to light a totally waterlogged cigarette. It was unbelievable. He looked totally ridiculous.

No one wants your smoke destroying the wonderful aroma of the salt air, and if you flick your butt into the ocean, you should be banned from all dive boats forever. Liveaboards (see Chapter 4) may have a place for you to engage in your habits, but day boats don't. And why is anyone even smoking at all these days? If you have a one-pack-a-day habit, over the course of a year you are spending the equivalent of an entire set of scuba gear, including a decent computer, just on your cigarettes. It also adds up to be the equivalent of a dive trip with airfare to many fine Caribbean dive destinations. Do the math. It's your call. Smoking, or Grand Cayman for a week?

Pee Only Where and When Appropriate

The jury is in. The debate is over. It is okay to pee in your wetsuit when in the ocean. It is okay to climb back on the boat if you wait at least five minutes after peeing in your wetsuit in the ocean before re-boarding. It is not ok to pee in your wetsuit when on the boat. If you are on the boat and have to pee, and there is no head (toilet) on the boat, either hold it or jump in the water and pee.This works best if the boat is not moving and if you tell at least one other person, preferably a crew member, that you are jumping in for a minute. Once you have finished, wait five minutes and then re-board. Guys, it is not okay to lean over the gunwale, pull it out, and let fly. Ever. This is not okay for the ladies either, just in case you were wondering.

Talk Only When Appropriate and Limit Yourself to Proper Content

On the day boat, it is okay to introduce yourself to other divers and ask where they are from. Polite greetings and exchanges are appropriate. If you lack a dive buddy, it is appropriate to ask others on the boat if they have a buddy and, if not, if they will buddy with you. But don't be a pest about it. We dive together as buddies on every dive when we are both on the boat. If we want more company, we will invite someone to join us. If you ask to join us and we don't want you to, we will turn you down politely, once.

After a dive, it is appropriate to share with others all the cool stuff you saw. That's why we all dive. It is also okay to report any symptoms of decompression sickness or other injury or problems. In fact, always do that. Polite, pleasant and positive conversation is always appropriate. Other stuff is not. Here is a list of conversation don'ts:
* Don't bitch at anyone on the boat, including your dive buddy, even if you are married to them.
* Don't bitch to or about anyone on the boat crew
* Don't bitch about the weather, the visibility, currents or anything else beyond the control of the people you paid
to take your diving today.
* Don't use profanity at us or anyone else. It's bad manners.
* Don't tell everyone how your last dive here or elsewhere was so much better than this dive.
* Don't talk so loud that people not in your conversation end up being a part of it.
* Don't offer unsolicited advice to any other diver unless you are a licensed and insured divemaster or instructor and see the other person doing something dangerous and wrong. You have no doubt been on the boat with the person who has maybe 10 dives but can't stop telling people what to do and how to do it. And they are usually wrong. If someone asks you a question, and you are competent to answer or assist, then ok. But it might be more appropriate to direct them to a professional on board, preferably one who is being paid to work this particular dive outing.
* Don't criticize other divers. A Scuba Snob is allowed to criticize other divers, but really only does so on rare occasions. We prefer to talk about them after we have escaped from their presence. We hear husbands and wives speaking critically to each other before and after dives. Sometimes a parent will yell at or be critical of a child. Sometimes it's a future ex-boyfriend criticizing his for-the-moment girlfriend. When any of this happens, it can totally suck all the positive energy off of the boat, and even out of the surrounding ocean. One of the reasons we love diving is that the people are almost always fun. We can share the diving experience together, and it's all good. Until someone goes negative. Don't be that person.

Sadly, we have lived through too many examples of this to list, but you violators out there know who you are. If you do not qualify as a Scuba Snob, don't try and tell someone else how to set up their equipment, how to dive or how to navigate the dive sight about to be explored.

We are sure that, like us, you have been on a dive boat where someone on board felt they knew it all, and insisted on sharing it. One time on a day boat off of Maui (it seems a lot of bad examples have happened there, maybe because we dive there a lot) we had one of these people on board. Conversation revealed that this was that person's second dive trip, and they last dove about a year earlier at some Caribbean location. After telling Dennis all about the best equipment to have (just like his), how to put on equipment once it was assembled, and showing off his 10- inch dive knife, niftily strapped to the outside of his right calf (really), Dennis had enough, said thanks for sharing, and turned away. Of course, this was the diver who did not turn on his air, had inadequate weight to descend, and was generally a buzz kill for everyone on the dive.

Don't Feed Anything to Anthing that Lives in the Ocean

We feel very strongly about this.The only real exception is if you puke in the ocean because that is really a part of the ecosystem. We don't go on shark dives where the concessionaire feeds the sharks. We don't feed frozen peas to fish or eels.We don't smear squeeze cheese on mermaid statues to get the fish to look like they are kissing the mermaid. We have seen all of these things done. While we have to admit that the cheese on the mermaid at Sunset Reef in Grand Cayman was pretty cool, with large grey angelfish looking like they were kissing her on the lips, it was still wrong. If you feel differently, we won't dive with you, and you can never be a Scuba Snob.

Dennis fed the fish inadvertently once on a dive off of Lanai, and not by puking. Focusing on taking a photo, he swam into the side of a lava tube and gashed his head pretty deeply. He bled a lot. It looked like an ink cloud from an octopus, but apparently it was less noxious because every little butterfly fish and yellow tang within a mile descended on him. He looked like he was in the middle of a swarm of bees. If you really want to feed the fish, go ahead and open up a vein. But other than that (and puking), if you are with a Scuba Snob, there is no fish feeding.


These are just a few chestnuts roasted by the authors.There's plenty more, so be sure to order your copy by going to and buying it at Amazon via our website. All profits we make from book sales go to saving coral reefs.

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