Boats open the door to a world of diving that’s inaccessible from shore and we might be a little biased, but diving from a boat is our favorite ways to dive. There are many types of boats. Where in the world you’re diving will likely determine the type of boat you use to scuba dive.
Small Inflatables and RIBs (aka RHIB or zodiac)
From portable dinghies to bigger Rigid Inflatable Boats (RIBs), these boats are fast, maneuverable, and can reach places larger boats can’t — making them an excellent choice of vessel to access killer dive sites.
There’s little space on a RIB, and even less privacy so its best to assemble your kit, don your suit, and answer any calls of nature before boarding. They’re also open to the elements, so pack reef-friendly sunscreen, a windproof jacket, and keep non-waterproof essentials in a dry bag. Divers typically sit on the inflatable tubes (keep dive knives away!) or seats, with scuba sets often secured to a rack — stow the rest of your gear in a mesh bag to save space and avoid mix-ups.
RIB diving is less stable and very hands-on, so be ready to help others when kitting-up (and accept help yourself!). Entering the water is a simple roll backwards off the tubes. Here at Dive Maui we love our RIB, Hoku. She is the fastest dive vessel that services Maui, Lanai, and Molokai. Hoku is not only fast, but she rides low to the water so you feel close to dolphins and whales when they swim past.
Charter boats can travel further for multi-dive day trips, carrying more divers and equipment than RIBs. They often provide limited shelter and an on-board toilet (or ‘head’).
Liveaboards are floating hotels that accommodate divers for days or even weeks at a time, providing uninterrupted, effortless access to the most remote sites and the ultimate scuba vacation.
On hard boats, dive decks are more spacious and stable than on a RIB, with benches and allocated spaces to stow and assemble your equipment. The briefing will explain how and when to prepare for the dive — if you’re asked to kit-up in order, make sure you wait your turn to give others space. Keep any dedicated photography tables and rinse tanks free of other items (especially masks with defogger, as this can damage cameras), and don’t use mask rinse tanks if you favor the ‘spit’ method!
Entering the water is usually a giant stride from the side or stern (back) of the boat. When exiting the water, lucky divers have a lift — just stand on the platform and enjoy the ride up. Otherwise, it’s a traditional ladder with a helping hand from the crew. ’T’ ladders have open sides and can be climbed fins-on, but standard ladders need fins removing first. Always give divers space in case they fall, and be careful not to get caught under the ladder if the boat rises and falls.
Tips for All Dive Boats
- Take only what you need — even big boats have limited space. Check everything’s packed and working beforehand, and bring a save-a-dive kit (there are no shops at sea). Always keep your gear tidy and well-secured to prevent damage or injury; a tidy boat is a safe boat!
- Be on time and ask permission before boarding. Pay attention to boat and dive briefings, and the crew’s instructions — including safety and roll call procedures, smoking or no-go areas, and local cultures and customs (like what to wear).
- Chat to the crew and guides — they’ll answer questions and share local knowledge, and if you’re new to boats, they’ll lend an extra hand. Just don’t distract them if they’re busy mooring or picking up divers!
- Never enter the water until the crew says so, and keep away from the propeller.