Running a Liveaboard Checklist Prior to Scuba Diving

Liveaboards come in all kinds of shapes and sizes: monohulls, catamarans, and trimarans, from less than 30 feet to over 100.

A lot of the most modern boats were designed and built to be liveaboard dive vessels, but you can find plenty of worthy craft out there that have been converted from fishing boats, ferries, private yachts, and so on.

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Most liveaboards are power boats, although some have motors and are fully rigged for sail, too. You can find exceptions, but in general, bigger boats are more luxurious than smaller ones; smaller boats hold more intimate groups.

The following is a list of things that you want to consider when choosing a liveaboard:

  • How big is the boat? A larger boat generally means more space and more room for amenities. Where do you store your dive gear? Ask about the amount of deck space, too.

  • How is the diving done? From the mothership? In staggered groups? From small boats? How big are the groups of divers? How many dives are scheduled per day? Generally, the smaller the group, the better. No more than five or six divers, you hope.

  • Accommodations: How big are the cabins? Are they air-conditioned? Will you have a private shower and toilet (called a head on-board ship) or share them?

  • Crew: What is the ratio of crew members to paying passengers? How many dive guides does the operation have? As a beginner, you want to take advantage of the guides. Ideally, you and your buddy would get your own personal guide for every dive. It probably won't happen that way, but if you request it, it's surprising how often they can oblige — it doesn't hurt to ask. More likely, you'll have one guide for every five or six divers, but that should be the maximum.

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    Dive guides are often one of the more underutilized resources on the boat. They know the area and they can show you stuff you wouldn't otherwise find.

  • Food: Diving makes you hungry. How often are you fed? Who's the chef? What's the menu like?

  • Water: Does the boat have a desalinization unit or does it rely strictly on storage tanks? Fresh water is always important — and limited — on a boat.

  • Financial stability: How long has the operation been in business? How has it handled past emergencies?

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  • Photo processing: Many liveaboards have on-board E6 processing — if you're a photographer, you'll want to know if yours does. Also, does the boat have 24-hour electricity and a place to charge your batteries with 110 volts?

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