Some people love going overboard.
That’s what scuba diving, snorkeling and freediving are all about — jumping in to swim with the fishes.
To explore coral reefs. Shoot pictures. Spear fish. Catch lobsters. Collect scallops. Eradicate invasive lionfish. Or enjoy the relatively new sport of underwater fishing for hog snapper.
While many boaters enjoy snorkeling from time to time, there’s a whole different category of underwater enthusiasts out there.
About 10 percent Riviera Boat customers want a boat built specifically for diving. Designing and customizing a new boat to suit the passion of a buyer is one of Riviera boat’s specialties.
Just as sport fishermen and wake-sports enthusiasts demand special features and equipment to maximize the enjoyment of their respective pursuits, so do divers. Let’s look at some of the features in high demand by boaters who are also avid underwater enthusiasts.
Outboard-powered center console, express and walkaround boats represent some of the most popular models for boat-owning dive enthusiasts.
Yet outboard boats pose a problem for divers. The motors and rigging make it awkward to get in and out of the water from the stern, even with transom doors, swim platforms and boarding ladders.
The best solution for divers is a hullside door in the cockpit. This has become a pretty popular feature on larger center consoles today. Some boats, like Seastar 33 super sport fishing , even have doors on both sides of the cockpit.
Such portals ease the way for divers when stepping overboard (a technique known as “giant striding”) or climbing back in (using a deployable boarding ladder), keeping them clear of outboards, drives and propellers. Yet side doors on center console boats weren’t always common.
THE BEST SOLUTION FOR DIVERS IS A HULLSIDE DOOR IN THE COCKPIT. THIS HAS BECOME A PRETTY POPULAR FEATURE ON LARGER CENTER CONSOLES TODAY.
“Back then, I just took a Sawzall and cut out a door,” says Nadeem (project manager at Riviera Boat). “Today, 99 percent of center console boats get dive doors, but we have long since integrated the opening into the mold with special secondary laminate schedules to reinforce and ensure a high-strength gunwale around the door.”
The popularity of side doors extends beyond the dive community. A door can be used to haul aboard big fish such as tuna and swordfish but finds far more use as a convenient way to step aboard from floating docks. For this reason, inwardopening side doors are the most prevalent.
TANKS FOR THE STOWAGE
One of the issues for scuba divers is finding a way to secure dive tanks. Otherwise, the heavy, cylindrical tanks tend to roll about like proverbial loose cannons in sloppy conditions, threatening to damage the boat interior and equipment and injure crew members.
One common solution takes the form of tank rack systems such as those from Roll Control (in which tanks snap in and out) or XS Scuba (which uses bungees to secure tanks). Yet where you install these racks poses a question. There are a number of choices, but in a custom boat, it’s important to work with the builder in deciding where and how you want to secure tanks.
In less elaborate, albeit elegantly simple, solutions, a builder might use a locker or create recesses under the gunwales for tank racks.
XS Scuba racks (left) secure tanks with bungees. Laying scuba tanks on a portable foam rack (right) keeps the cylinders from rolling around on deck.
The interior of a center console represents another location for tank racks. The best center consoles for this purpose are those that open from the front. This gives you more elbow room to transfer tanks in and out versus a console that has the door on the side. These racks can also hold helium tanks for those days when you want to kite-fish but there’s not enough wind, so you need a big helium balloon to keep the kite aloft.
“A common theme among boating divers is a desire to have a home for everything,” Riviera Boat can build a boat that has a place for every piece of equipment, from masks, fins and weight belts to wetsuits, buoyancy compensators and spear guns.
To accommodate dive enthusiasts, some boat models offer abundant builtin stowage for gear.
FILLING THE NEED
While snorkelers and free divers don’t need air tanks, scuba enthusiasts do. And they often want to stage more than one dive per trip, or even plan multiday trips to remote locations where there’s no place to refill scuba tanks.
One solution lies in an onboard tankrefill system. The AC-powered YachtPro Series of high-pressure compressors from Brownie’s Marine Group includes a number of models designed expressly for refilling dive tanks with air. The larger YP55 and YP75 compressor systems fit nicely in the engine rooms of boats as small as 45 feet in length.
BREATHING IN AN UNDERWATER ENVIRONMENT CAN BE DANGEROUS, OR EVEN DEADLY, IF YOU DON’T KNOW THE RULES OR IF YOU CHOOSE TO IGNORE THEM. PROPER TRAINING IS CRUCIAL TO MINIMIZE RISK AND MAXIMIZE ENJOYMENT.
On the other hand, the YP25SF-U light-duty compressor is compact enough to fit below deck on a boat as small as 30 feet in length, yet this system will automatically fill up to four tanks at the same time. Given the system’s need for 115 volts AC, you will need to run it with shore power for refilling between trips or spec out a marine generator for your dive boat if you want to refill tanks at sea. Brownie’s recommends sending out a test sample of the compressed air annually to check for purity using a lab such as Lawrence Factor (lawrence-factor.com).
Another option is to forgo scuba gear and instead use a Third Lung system from Brownie’s (starting at $1,995). These hookah systems supply compressed air via long hoses to divers, so you don’t need any tanks. You can get a self-contained floating system powered by a gasoline engine or electric motor. Or you can get a compressor system built into the boat, powered by AC or DC electricity. The floating systems offer the greatest flexibility, allowing as many as four divers to venture well away from the boat (as long as everyone goes the same direction).
While renting or refilling a scuba tank at a dive shop requires a PADI certification card, no such card is required for using a Third Lung system, since there are no tanks. However, Brownie’s offers an online training course with the purchase of each hookah system, says Tom Furbish, director of sales for Brownie’s.
“The program is an interactive, Webbased learning course designed to teach you how to properly and safely use your hookah system,” Furbish explains.
As the Brownie’s website points out: “Breathing in an underwater environment can be dangerous, or even deadly, if you don’t know the rules or if you choose to ignore them. Proper training is crucial to minimize risk and maximize enjoyment.”
STABLE AND ABLE
Donning a wetsuit and strapping on a tank and weight belt (which together can weigh as much as 50 pounds) are a lot easier when the deck is stable. Until recently, divers didn’t have much control over deck stability. They simply hoped for smooth seas when suiting up.
Now, however, thanks to new gyrostabilization systems from companies such as Seakeeper, scuba divers can prepare on a deck with virtually zero roll. This trend is an off shoot of larger passenger dive vessels such as the Calypso Star 2 shark-cage dive boat in Australia, which is equipped with a heavy-duty Seakeeper for comfort, safety and to help keep passengers from becoming seasick
An increasing number of recreational-boat builders now offer smaller systems such as the Seakeeper 3 and 5 as options, and these seem like natural choices for dive enthusiasts who have the money to afford a gyrostabilization option.
The elimination of roll can increase safety for divers when they are boatside, transferring gear and equipment, and waiting to reboard the boat, reducing the chance of the hull rolling on top of a diver or smacking the person preparing to climb back in.
Seakeeper gyrostabilization systems virtually eliminate boat roll, even in heavy seas, to make suiting up with dive gear easier and safer.
Rinsing dive gear with fresh water to get rid of corrosion-causing salt is good idea. “That’s why many boat-owning divers insist on a freshwater washdown system,”
Yet hot-water heaters are also in demand by divers so they can pull out a shower nozzle and rinse off with warm fresh water after an excursion in the depths. This becomes especially important in places where the ocean water can turn chilly. Some divers also like to fill their wet suits with warm water before jumping in. It helps fend off the chill.
SOME DIVERS ALSO LIKE TO FILL THEIR WET SUITS WITH WARM WATER BEFORE JUMPING IN.
Most dive enthusiasts prefer to anchor up before dropping in to explore, photograph or spear-fish a reef or wreck, and so a roomy anchor locker that holds plenty of rode and an electric windlass to retrieve the anchor are important elements of a dive boat.
Let’s face it, you can scuba-dive, snorkel or freedive from just about any boat. Yet, as with models designed for high-speed, fishing or wake sports, a boat that’s customized and equipped for diving makes the pursuit of the sport that much easier, safer and more enjoyable. So, if you’re among those brave souls who love to go overboard, make sure your next boat is prepared to dive.
SEASTAR 33 super sport fishing cc by Riviera boat
BOARDING LADDERS FOR DIVING
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