Making your small boat safe for diving

Charles Davis
10 March 2014

Your Own Scuba Diving Platform

Many divers, especially those that live near their diving locations plan and dream of having their own dive boat. Boats are a very expensive item and purpose built boats for diving are even more so. Before I bough my first boat I heard the saying the second happiest day in a boat owners life is the day he bought his first boat, the happiest day is the day he sold it. Having owned two boats, I can appreciate the saying. Boat ownership can take over a major portion of your life and your wallet. I spent as much time maintaining my boat as I did in using it. In some situations having a dive platform may not have to be a traditional dive boat.

Many years ago, way before I became a diver myself, I helped a friend design and build a dive platform. His family owned a summer cottage on one of the Finger Lakes, Cayuga Lake, in New York State and he spent much of the summers there diving. The finger Lakes are deep water lakes and Cayuga Lake's maximum depth is 435 feet, however the lake has almost a 100 miles of shoreline. The concept was to build something that he could anchor in place offshore but still at dive-able depth. He would use a canoes to transport people and the dive gear to the platform. When he was ready for a new dive site, the platform would be towed (and paddled) to a new location. We built what was basically a raft on 55 gallon drums. It was designed to support two divers for two dives and allow another three or four non divers. Plywood floor with a simple railing all around.  In a thrift shop we had found some tall round kitchen trash cans that were bolted to the plywood deck to hold the scuba tanks in place. A small hibachi grill was attached in one place to cook some lunch, often fresh trout from the lake. A tarp provide shade over a portion of it and a small tent to take a nap. The design was simple and was built easily and cheaply. Dive Quarry operators often use something similar to manage dive sites.

A few years ago, I met a some divers who used an arrangement of Personal Water Crafts (PWC) and two inflatable rafts to make a dive platform. The PWC, a fancy word that includes jet skies, pulled an inexpensive raft as they went diving. The rafts they used were designed for activities like fishing would carry three people and was about 9 feet long and 4 feet wide. They cost about $200 each. A raft by itself is not a stable platform, it is hard getting into a raft without tipping it over. When they arrived at the dive site, they would position themselves alongside each other facing the opposite direction. The rafts would be between them and the rear of a raft would be lashed to the front of the other PWC. The rafts formed a platform between them. Tied together like this, they provided as stable of a platform as a six pack boat. Each raft could carry two divers kits and two extra cylinders for second dives. The divers would ride piggy back on the jet skies to the site.

 In Indonesia and the Philippines many of the dive centers and even individual divers have converted native fishing boats to support diving. Adding some features to store the dive equipment on-board and a ladder to get on-board after the dive and most of the requirements are met. I know a couple of divers who created a set of racks that they can connect to the sides of one of these fishing boats. Each rack will hold a tank with BCD and a spare tank. The set up is very similar to a full size dive boat. Based on a design similar to an outrigger dug out canoe these boats provide an inexpensive alternative to a traditional dive boat. The outriggers provide an amazing amount of stability.

You can use your imagination for your diving platforms. The platform must be appropriate for the location. It must be safe for both the diver and the equipment. It has to be stable enough to exit and reenter safety. If you can meet those requirements without all the expenses of a dedicated boat that more money for diving.

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