There have been a couple of mentions and I believe the topic deserves its own thread.
Most people learn how to SCUBA
dive from a dive boat
, usually one of the larger ones that has a practical capacity for around 20 divers, because these are cheapest for the operator and therefore are widely used for training dives. They feature an open transom with easy access to the water
, and large ladders, in some cases ones designed for use with fins still on.
As a result, most people are taught to use giant-stride entries with all their gear
on, and are taught to exit the water
with their gear
on except (usually) their fins, which they hand up to someone aboard.
What people don't realize is that this technique is all optimized for getting a large group of people in and out of the water quickly. There are many other ways to do it, that require a lot less of the boat
and the diver.
I therefore offer these alternative methods, all of which I have actually used (except as noted). Some readers may be familiar with them but unaware of their benefits. Others may find them to be new techniques:
The "gear up in the water" method
A swim line is deployed behind the boat for safety
, especially if there is wind
The divers assemble their kit and attach a line to the tank valve or other secure anchor
point. The BC is inflated, the kit placed in the water, and the line tied or cleated off on the boat. Divers enter the water with wetsuit, mask, snorkel, weight belt, and fins. The diver unties the line from the kit and dons it in the water. At the end of the dive, the diver takes off the kit, ties a line back onto it, hands up weight belt and (maybe) fins. (It is easier to get back on board with fins on in some cases, if there is no ladder). The kit can then be hauled up.
The weight distribution should allow the diver to be comfortably buoyant without their kit. In some cases it may be necessary to move some weight from the weight belt to the kit, by placing it in a pocket or on a shoulder strap. Some very small travel BCs may not have enough buoyancy to float a full tank and whatever lead is on the BC, use a different configuration if this is the case.
The advantage of this method is that it can be done even from a very small boat
, including a kayak
or canoe, since the changes in weight distribution can be made gradually so the boat doesn't swamp. It minimizes weight on the swim ladder. Athletic individuals may not require a ladder at all or may be able to get away with only a rope
ladder or stirrup.
The disadvantage is that you have to be able to get in and out of your gear in the water. Even though it's a required skill for certification
, not everyone can do it.
In a very small boat
it helps to have someone aboard to move to the opposite gunwale when climbing back in so that the boat does not capsize
Most divers have practiced a backroll as it's a required skill for certification
. On any smaller boat, it's a better way to get into the water than a giant stride. Generally, you make the backroll from the gunwale amidships, where the boat is most stable.
Whoever is staying on the boat moves to the opposite side and stays low, to keep the boat as stable as possible.
You can still take your kit and weight belt off in the water to minimize the load on the steps, either handing them up or putting them on a line for later retrieval.
Rope ladders and stirrups
There are tricks for getting back aboard. The first thing of course is to take off your kit and your weights.
Your big boat will have a ladder. Your dinghy
might not, or you may want to dive or snorkel from a borrowed or rented boat, or a kayak
Most people aren't strong enough to grab the gunwale, pull up, and muscle up. It helps to wear fins, because then you can kick at the same time, which makes a difference.
On an inflatable
you can face away from the gunwales, hold onto the handles, and do a sort of backflip onto the boat:
You have to be comfortable having your head
in the water, inverted, and the handles have to be in the right place and well adhered. (This is the only technique I mention that I have not tried myself)
ladders are really awkward to use, but are easy to store and well suited to other people's boats. I have found that I prefer a stirrup (see photo), which I have made from a U bolt with the nuts loc-tited in place, and a strap. The strap distributes the load better than a piece of rope but either will work
. The u-bolt sinks, and maintains its orientation so you can find it by feel with your foot. The idea is you set it up amidships and tie or cleat it off so that the stirrup is about 8-12" under the surface of the water. You want it to be above the chine (or above the curve of the bilge
as the case may be) so that there's something for your toes to push against, but low enough that you can lift
your toe to it while facing the boat.
I suggest practicing these techniques near shore or some other situation where you have a backup plan, until you're sure of them.
There are also many dive sites that are easily accessed from a canoe, kayak, or dinghy
in shallow water near shore where it's easy to get in and out.
Please share any diving
techniques that have worked for you.