How to snorkel from your boat
Snorkelling rather than swimming can hugely increase what you can do in the water. The snorkel allows you to breathe with your head in the water so you have time to clearly see what’s going on. The mask is designed to maximise visibility and so you can pinch your nose to equalise the pressure in your ears, while the fins (definitely not ‘flippers’) make moving around in the water far easier. Add to this a wetsuit and a couple of tools, and most jobs are within arms’ reach of the surface. For more serious problems, it gives you a chance to assess the situation and decide what action to take.
1 CHECK the Conditions
If you’re in harbour in good conditions with not much tide, you should be fine to get in the water if you feel confident. When you’re in the water, wind and waves make the boat look like it’s moving a lot. A strong tide past the boat can make things challenging. If in any doubt, do not enter the water and if necessary, call for assistance.
2 prepare on deck
Make sure your watch on deck have carried out their safety checks. Onboard systems including the heads and engine should all be isolated, with isolation keys removed and notices placed over valves or switches. Put the engine in neutral so the propeller can be turned. Don’t forget to hoist Flag A so others know you have a diver down.
3 Get kitted up
You will have a mask and snorkel, fins for more control in the water and a wetsuit to keep you warm. A safety knife that won’t close on you is an essential tool. If you struggle to get underwater because you’re too buoyant, consider a small weight belt of 2-4kg to make you neutrally buoyant. Do not use more than this – you will sink!
4 Plan your entry and exit
You’ll need a stable place to sit before entering the water – a bathing platform, over the transom or a dinghy. Never dive in. Put your mask on in the water as it can get knocked off when jumping in. Get comfortable and swim close to the boat. Look under the boat. Check you still have your safety line, fins and knife. If you climb out with a ladder, lower it before you get in. Take your fins off to climb up: bring one foot up in front of you to take them off and pass them up, along with any tools. Using a dinghy, leave your fins on as they’ll help push you out of the water.
5 Safety line
Attach your safety line to your trim belt with a long bowline an arm’s length away from your body so you can see it easily if you need to untie it. You can use your weight belt’s quick release if the line snags on something. Make sure your crew know how to handle the safety line, keeping light tension on it so they can tell you are there but not so tight as to restrict your movement. One tug might mean ‘give me slack’, while three sharp tugs might mean ‘help, pull me to the surface’. Agree the signals beforehand.
6 Going under
To get under the boat, do not duckdive head first. It takes a lot of energy and therefore air to get yourself upside down and as you’ll be facing away from the boat, you risk knocking your head as you come back up. Much better to take a breath and push yourself down feet first so you can see where you are and get to the anode or propeller with the least amount of fuss. A simple sucker disc attached to your wrist with a lanyard sticks easily to the hull and makes a really useful temporary handle underwater.
7 Holding your breath
You’re not freediving, which has its own risks. You’re just having a look, so get comfortable and relax. If you’re working hard, you won’t be able to stay under long. Equalise the pressure in your ears by pinching your nose and blowing out. Once you’ve seen what’s going on, surface to let the crew know and decide what action to take. If it’s a fouled prop, you may be able to unwrap it easily rather than arduously cutting it away. If you get tired, let someone else have a go. Listen to your body and don’t overdo it.
Snorkelling is a great way to explore as well as getting under your boat
You can do some work while snorkelling but you won’t be able to stay under long