How to snorkel from your boat

Yachting Monthly - - EXPERT ON BOARD -

WHY snorkel?

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

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