Book a hardboat
First thing is timing. Good hardboats often booked during high season a year or more in advance. Book early. Decide region dive wanted in. Find contacts in region through: web listings (see http://www.cs.bris.ac.uk/~wood/Skippers/index.html) talking to other clubs, scuba-uk e-mail, books and guides, dive shops in harbour towns, scuba mags, or tourist offices. Try and get references from others – dive boats & skippers very variable. Next, ring around. Check dates are available and suss boat out – got oxygen, weather shelter, toilet, drinks included, even compressor on board? See if skipper also a diver (beware if not). Can skipper recommend local B&B? Ask about typical dive sites and see if skipper ok about three dives if time (some aren’t). In particular agree booking/cancellation policy. Most book whole boat fixed fee (typically around £250 per day). Fewer divers turning means problems for club. Some book per diver at typically £25 per day per diver for two dives better for club. Confirm cancellations policy. If divers/club cancel, usual to forfeit deposit. If skipper cancels, must get deposit back. Big problem area is weather. If borderline and skipper says ok to go out, can lose deposit (or more if terms harsh) if club says no. Best bet is to make clear that SAA state that not safe to dive over force 4, so agree that if forecast has fives or higher, trip cancelled without penalty. Don’t book if skipper not happy about this. Once all agreed, skipper will want deposits. May send you a booking form – read carefully and if not got cancellations as above, write your own terms on it (force 5 or above = undiveable weather). Return form with deposit cheque (from club treasurer). Note: many skippers “roll” deposits – i.e. if successive bookings then at end of one trip, pay in full (rather than just balance) so deposit goes onto next trip automatically. A month or so before trip, ring skipper just to confirm trip and maybe advise whether you want skipper to pass fill-in divers onto you if numbers low.
Book club divers onto trip
Really, best to get everyone to pay in full before the day, then just need a club cheque to pay skipper. Good approach “deposit £25 but diving free on the day”! Traditionally CPA takes deposits only then gets balance off divers in cash on the day. Tedious for dive marshall this way – avoid if poss. Make it clear that once anyone paid deposit on trip they’re expected to pay in full whether they turn up or not. If they notify early enough, may be able to sell place on, but no guarantees.
Find fill-in divers
Club can lose huge amounts of money if day-charter boat not filled. If boat looking light on club bookings a month out, get fill-in divers. Good idea to keep lists of such people to ring. As noted above, tell skippers you’re short & they can often pass divers on to you. Some dive shops can point divers your way. Old Harbour in Weymouth tend to act as a broker for local dive boats – worth a ring. Use the internet too: ndg e-mail’s good, newsgroups, key web sites, SAA pages,… <<URLs>>. Finally, trot round local dive clubs. CPA traditionally shares dives with Slough SAC (SAA) and Reading BSAC – contact their DOs. If dive is more than a month away, consider building up an “interested” list then having last tout round club. If within a month just take deposits from fill-in divers a fill boat (if CPA members won’t commit early enough, afraid they lose out).
Marshall a hardboat trip
See “… Marshall a General Dive” for guidance. Biggest difference is that hardboat skipper has they say on all aspects of how boat run. Safety decisions that relate to boat his decision too. Safety of divers is the marshall’s job. Take advice from skippers – invariably good, but if you and skipper disagree go for most cautious option. E.g. if any debate about whether to use oxygen or call helicopter, best to do those things than take a chance. Dive marshall will be facing coroner’s questions if anything goes wrong with dive safety so be insistent if skipper not taking things seriously enough.
Pay for a hardboat
If everyone paid in full before the day, just need a fully completed club cheque to pay skipper. If only deposits taken from some/all divers, club has to pay uncertain amount with a cheque. Marshall must thus get cheque ready signed from treasurer well before day. Will have to be “blank” amount in this case, but if ensure payee is filled in. If not got full amount in advance, then on day of dive get balances off divers. Give skipper cash/cheque for full balance or full charter cost depending if got another trip planned on same boat – many skippers “roll” deposits – i.e. pay in full (rather than just balance) so deposit goes onto next trip automatically.
Balance payments with club after
If marshall taken cash off divers on day of hardboat dive, can be the case that surplus (from rounding up on per-person amount) or deficit cash (from no-shows). See club treasurer after dive and make good difference. Even if balances on the day, tell treasurer immediately how much the club cheque was for. Treasurer will keep balance of income/payouts for trip anyway and will check if in deficit and why.