The Dive Otter

How To - Dive Boats (Lake Michigan)

These tips are specific to the dive boats you are likely to encounter on Lake Michigan as a cold water recreational diver (eg. Drysuit or 7mm Wetsuit). These boats are generally roomier than the tropical boats, due to many of the divers diving "doubles", wearing drysuits and having technical gear. You can't fit all of that in the same space that Florida and Cozumel divers can.

*image of Double Action Dive Charters boat in Hammond Marina, one of the few operators in the Chicagoland area.

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.

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 above...though you will have more room than you will diving warm water in Florida or Cozumel...if the boat is full (and we hope it is so they stay in business) you can't sprawl too much. Generally speaking, a drysuit bag and a plastic box or bag measuring roughly 24" long, 16" wide and 16" tall is about all you really can take. If necessary, move your personal gear or your empty drysuit bag into the galley area.

  • - Your own tanks (unlike FL/Cozumel - must supply your own)
  • - Your own weights (unlike FL/Cozumel - must supply your own)
  • - BCD / BPW
  • - Drysuit (preferred) or 7mm Wetsuit
  • - Fins \w boots
  • - Dry bag for...
    • - Phone
    • - Cash
    • - ID/Wallet
    • - Sun glasses
    • - Your street clothes after you change into dive gear
    • - Towel
    • - Hoodie or Boat Coat or Rain Coat as appropriate
  • - In your "wet" Box / Bag that goes under your seat...
    • - Regulators
    • - dSMB
    • - Mirror / Whistle
    • - Flash Light(s)
    • - Small save-a-dive kit
    • - Computer
    • - Mask + DeFog
    • - Bottle of Water (optional if you know the boat will have some)

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
  • - Plan to arrive 1 hour before the boat plans to leave....YES 1 HOUR!!. 10-15min to get your gear on board, 10-15min to check-in, 10-15min to chat, 10-15min for the briefing...that's 60 minutes right there....Don't be that guy that shows up 5min before we are supposed to leave.

Walking what?

Setting up - Order of Operation