The Dive Otter

How To - Dive Boats (FL/MX)

These tips are specific to the dive boats you are likely to encounter in Florida and Mexico as a warm water recreational diver (eg. Wetsuit or Rashguard/Skin) on what is often called "cattle call" boats. Meaning there could be a dozen or more divers on the boat and every place that can hold 2 tanks is taken up with 2 tanks. We are going to use this picture as our reference guide.

*image from Dressel Divers, a major operator in Cozumel
We are going to cover:


How much you tip and when to tip and who to tip is all personal choice. Currently it's a divisive topic socially so you do you. Regardless of how you feel about the tipping culture, these boat crews are not making a living wage without it. Right. Wrong.'s simply true. In my opinion tips should be part of your budget when you go diving. How much should I budget?

$10 per tank "to the boat"
If you go on a "2 tank dive" that means $20. In cash. Usually there is a box somewhere on the boat you can put it in. It is then split up by all members of the crew. Some boats are now accepting Venmo or other methods of payment and you may see signs for such. I take cash regardless. Cash is always king.

If you requested a private guide/divemaster or the group divemaster did a particularly good job in the water, then I will tip an additional $5 per tank to this person. This is particularly relevant if you are staying at a resort, like in Cozumel, where your divemaster may be the same person for the week of diving you are there. They will get to know you by name. Tip them directly, not in the "boat box" (above). This is why cash is preferred.

Just Shut Up!

For the love of all things holy...SHUT UP!....stop talking when someone on the crew is talking. Sure...make friends. to your insta-buddy. But for heaven sake...PAY ATTENTION...and when someone in the crew is talking... SHUT UP!

Crew members don't talk to just talk. They are telling you something YOU need to know. Even if this is your 1,000 boat dive...SHUT UP!. There are other people on the boat who want to hear.

This is also not the time to walk around the boat and critique your fellow divers choice of equipment or setup. Honestly...nobody cares what your opinion is. If you see something interesting, sure...maybe ask them about it as a way of getting to know them. However, asking a question so you can tell them they are wrong is not what you should be doing. Worry about your own self.

However....if you see something dangerous then of course say something. Someone using a jacket BCD instead of a BPW is not "dangerous". Someone with a compass hanging from a Dring instead of on their wrist is not "dangerous". You're just being an ass and everyone can tell. Stop it.

What to bring?

In little as you can.

Look at the picture will have room for your butt on a bench and something below your butt under the bench. Nothing else. Large crates, however cool they may look, are inappropriate. Large dive bags the size of duffles...also inappropriate.

It is totally possible to dive 7 days in Cozumel off a boat that looked exactly like the one above and only take on board the things below...
  • - BCD \w dSMB
  • - Mirrow/Whistle
  • - Regulators
  • - Wetsuit
  • - Fins \w boots
  • - Small Dry Bag for (phone, cash, ID, etc)
  • - Small Day Bag
    • - Small save-a-dive kit
    • - Computer
    • - Mask + DeFog
    • - Towel
    • - Sunscreen
    • - Bottle of Water
  • - A boat coat or hoodie/sweatpants if things could get cold

12 Hours Before You Get On

  • - Take Dramamine...don't try and be cool...take the Dramamine
  • - Use your checklist to make sure you have everything
  • - Hydrate...drink water

Right before you get on

  • - Put fins in the tank straps of your BCD
  • - Fill your water bottle
  • - Put your wetsuit on up to your waist and tuck the arms into the front so they don't drag
  • - Put on the shoes you are going to wear with your fins.
  • - Put the BCD on your back
  • - Put regulators in one hand
  • - Put daybag in the other hand

Walking what?

Get on when you are told to get on. Not before. Not after. Pay attention.

Setting up - Order of operation