Outfitting A Boat for Scuba Diving

So you’re into diving. Maybe you’ve been diving a few dozen times, or maybe you’re a divemaster and yacht owner. Either way, and if you’re anywhere in between, there’s a lot to think about when it comes to outfitting a boat for diving, but don’t fret, this article will walk you through the key aspects to consider. Scuba diving is a fantastic sport that takes people to places land dwellers will never get to see. Often described as “otherworldly,” exploring at depths is a science fiction dream come true in our modern world. Coral reefs and shipwrecks call to the enchanted explorer, and we are excited to share with you our best tips and recommendations for how to set yourself up for incredible adventures out in the great blue.

Diving Gear Usability

When we get down to brass tacks, fiberglass sheets or steel plates, this is the definitive list of what features & equipment make a great diving vessel great. It’s all about the gear. Bulky and cumbersome unless you’re in the water, tanks, BCD’s, and all the accessories can make quite the mess. It would help if you had a place to keep it all secure and ample space to move about when suiting up or returning from your dive. For this reason, fishing boat designs are the best place to start your search for the right boat platform to outfit for diving. Some features designed originally to aid fishers are equally as useful to the divemaster. Details like transom and side doors are great for your giant leaps and right places to fix ladders for water entry and exit when you’re all geared up. And baitwells can be adapted for extra storage.

Diving Boat Styles

Often the most exciting dive sites can be far offshore, so when choosing a boat you’re going to want something big enough and with enough engine, muscle to handle the open water. We recommend twenty-six feet and up as a general starting point for choosing a dive boat. Walkarounds, pilothouse, centre-consoles, and workboats are the styles that lend themselves best to be customized for diving. Speak to the boat builder, and often they will be able to offer customizations for diving that may not list in their brochures or online spec sheets.

Tank and Dive Accessories Storage

Writing about SCUBA diving gets me excited and brings back incredible memories of tropical travel. Whether you’re going exotic or staying local, what type of diving you plan to do and where will dictate the style of dive boat to set up for yourself or your business, but it’s not the whole game. Dive boats are equipped with a few standard features though there is much customizability.

Tanks rolling around the floor of your boat are not a good thing; they can damage the boat’s interior and, worse, they can injure people. One definite purchase is top-notch tank storage fittings and compartments if you’re thinking of outfitting a pleasure boat for diving. Bungee racks are simple and common, as well as mechanical clip-in systems. There are simple flat lay foam and rope tank mats that will keep tanks from rolling around, but they’ll take up some of your valuable deck space and are not super secure. One of the newest and most innovative tank storage systems we’ve seen is the Intrepid hydraulic system. Featured in their custom 40 Cuddy models, Intrepid has designed a motorized rack system that holds four tanks inside the transom which, at the push of a button, raise to the exact perfect height to mount and dismount while sitting at the bench seats built into the stern.
Another interesting new feature on the Intrepid 375 Walkaround & 375 Center Console is their externally accessible storage hatches. Built into the boat’s rear corners, divers can pass fins, masks, or even live catches through these pass-through storage lockers.

Onboard Air Compressors

More often than not, divers are out for multiple dives across multiple days and returning to shore to refill your tanks is not part of the ideal plan, not to mention a waste of fuel. An onboard refilling system for your air tanks is a great solution. Brownie’s Marine Group offers an AC power “YachtPro” series of compressors capable of refilling the high-pressures required for dive tanks. Their YP55 & YP75 systems will fit easily in most engine compartments of boats 45 feet and up. They offer a smaller system that can be outfitted below deck in boats 30 feet and up. The YP25SF-U light-duty compressor is capable of simultaneously filling up to four tanks at a time. All of these compressor systems do require AC 115 to power up, so you’ll need to install a marine generator if you want to be able to fill your tanks out at sea. According to Brownie’s Marine Group, an annual air sample test will ensure air purity as a standard safety precaution. It is relatively simple to send a sample to a lab such as Lawrence Factor.

Diving Seating

Seating is an important consideration when outfitting a boat for diving. A self-bailing seating area for getting dive ready is excellent. Flip-up and fold down seats are super handy as well whether on the transom or along the gunwales. Plush seating is nice but is also vulnerable to gouges from diving accessories, tools, knives etc.

Access To The Water (Door, ladders and dive platforms)

Transom doors are great access points for the water, especially when they access an extended stern dive platform. Often outboard motors make it a bit awkward to make the “giant leap” off the rear of the boat, and this has made hull side doors and fold-out dive platforms extremely popular with each new season of building. There are many build styles of fold-out ladders that can be outfitted to these entry points and ease of re-entry from the water.

Water Systems Onboard

Many would consider a luxury feature these days is onboard heated fresh water for warming up after a chilly dive, or for warming up before making the plunge overboard. Freshwater tanks and shower systems are essential for the dive lifestyle as you’ll want to be washing the corrosive saltwater off your gear every time you exit the water.

Boat Stability

When getting in or out of a boat when diving, stability is essential. A boat can lean and bob from port to starboard in choppy water and rough seas quite a bit. A boat with a gyroscopic stabilizer can stay more steady in turbulent conditions. The foremost maker of boat stability features is Seakeeper, which you’ve already heard of if you’ve been to any of the big boat shows around.

The shape of the boat also has quite a bit to do with stability. Standard V hulls, keels, pontoon boats, and catamarans, these are some of the common hull shapes. Catamarans are the most stable as their structure is supported in the water by duel hulls.

Venture Underwater

There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and there’s more than one way to outfit a boat for diving. Hopefully this has been a helpful overview of the areas to focus on as you pursue outfitting your dream dive boat. Diving is a wonderful activity that takes people to places that have never been seen before. Leave us a comment below and let us know what features you’re thinking about adding to your new dive boat.

Written by: Nate Cantalupo

An experienced global traveler, Nate has kept a daily writing practice for over ten years, archiving, reflecting, and capturing his many adventures. A professional video producer, he identifies with storytelling. He’s always been called to the ocean, and grew up going to Nantasket beach in Hull, MA with his family in the 1990’s. Whether it's the balance of chemicals so similar to our crimson blood, or the exhilaration of being where there is no land in sight, out on the great blue is where he feels most alive. Currently he lives in South Beach, Miami, Florida. Check out his newest works at www.YachtWriter.com

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