Looking out for the Boat Owner

Simon Trippe
Simon Trippe

Let me begin by saying that boats are a fantastic thing to have in your spearfishing life. Like your girlfriend, boats have their pros, and cons too. There are a couple of old sayings I like to quote “the wife told me it was either the boat or her. Gee I am going to miss her cooking.”  Or this one, my favourite. BOAT – Break out another thousand. IF you don’t mind constant maintenance, you have the room to store one, and importantly, you think can afford to keep both your wife and your mistress (…the boat) under the same roof, you might even decide you need new friends then go and visit your local boat dealer.

Sea Devil
Sea Devil

The range of coastline you can travel by boat in a session far exceeds that of the rockhopper; if a spot you have chosen is fishless or dirty simply pull up anchor and move onto to another headland or reef; you can fish otherwise hard locations; my favourite is that fact that you are out on the ocean and enjoying the vast blue sea, you never know what suprises you will see out there on a given day. Whales, pods of dolphins, massive bait balls, awesome bird life, huge sharks, blokes floating around on an esky lid, sunfish, the list is endless.  I enjoy being out on my boat and sharing experiences with my friends.

Having grown up with boats in my life and owning several from small tinnies to my current boat which is a Sea Devil I have taken out countless hundreds of people for an outing. Some of these people I have invited out for a day to merely enjoy the ocean, others to introduce them to a bit of skindiving to measure whether they will get the bug. Some people have chased me up for a boat ride for a day’s spearing, others still have been regular crew who have taken to calling me “Captain Ahab”.

The moniker is because I do become militant when regular crew members do something out of the ordinary, for example, bringing bananas on my boat! That’s just instant dismissal (many stories for another time) or when they drive my boat onto the trailer that is not set up for this, when a cross wind is evident, their insistence resulting in snowflakes in the water from bashing the hull into the trailer. You too would probably growl, even bite during these circumstances.

I have learnt crew members should be inducted on simple do’s and don’ts of looking out for the boat owner on caring for his boat and being considerate and behaving safely to the rest of the crew. How many boat owners actually show the new crew how to start the boat, what to do when the dink floods, where the bilge switch is, the lifejackets kept, the shark stump kit… I find an induction better to do rather than pulling your hair out as well as forking out the couple of hundred bucks repairing gel coat from a weight belt or lazy anchor, scratched cowling cover from wayward fins or spear tips, bent steering cables from divers coming over the transom well. Don’t assume that people know what to do just because you do as it leads to making an ass out of u and me.

I came up with a list for the new and not so new members in my club some time back as I was continually hearing complaints from boat owners about club members who would not be welcome back into their boats because of their amazing ability to find pockets in their wetsuits where they could place their hands as the boat was being launched or retrieved, the uncanny timing of them tangling their rig cord when it came time to pulling up the pick (anchor), or their amazing invisible man act when other crew members pulled their wallets out and began handling the boat owner rock lobsters and pineapples ($20 and $50’s)  to share the cost of the days running expenses. Wait, there is more. The insult of them spearing a cuttlefish, inking it in your boat then not offering to help wash your boat down; how they conveniently manage to extract out of the esky themselves (while you are up the front of the boat scrubbing out the said ink) the prime Pearl Perch you caught leaving you with two ink covered small Red Morwong they caught, obviously thinking the two for one swap is a fair deal, and besides they don’t much care for the taste of red mowie.

It’s a tough gig being a boat owner, if you train up a good crew its very rewarding and when one of them purchases their own boat and stops diving with you regularly its’ like losing an arm.

If you as a crew member know the basics and show a bit of willingness to get your hands dirty you should always be welcome back, unless that is of course you happened to drink the last bundy and coke in the esky, or shoot the big bream in the wash and wonder why the skipper is screaming blue murder as he is being belted by spooked Mulloway as they come running out of that same wash.

The boat owner should give you an induction on the ways and whys of his boat.  If he does not, (Hey! He could be stressed as the horse he backed into favourite in the sixth to purchase a new donk for the Devil collapsed a shadow before the winning post) ask the following:

  • Where are the bungs?
  • How do you launch and retrieve the boat at the ramp and what do you want me to do?
  • Do you have room for a bag/tub and where do you want my gear stored?
  • When can I get in the boat and where do I enter?
  • How do I start your boat, and where is the bilge pump switch?
  • Where is the safety gear? First aid kit, flares, V-sheet, paddle, Radio, EPIRB, life jackets, and, HOW do I use them?

At the end of the day ask the following – “How much do I owe you for petrol, oil, wear and tear on your car and boat and trailer?  Are you sure that’s enough? It costs cash not fresh air to have taken me out today.”

REMEMBER TO PAY THE BOAT OWNER ON THE DAY, don’t let him chase you. You may not be asked back again.

The DO’s and DON’Ts

  • Don’t be late to meet at the boat ramp.
  • Do offer to help launch the boat and the workings that go with launching rather than stand around gawking and making a tiresome joke about the crappy old wooden gun you can see in the boat pocket, it belongs to the skipper, and has landed more fish than you’ll ever know. Pull your finger out and offer assistance instead.
  • Don’t take the kitchen sink with you, space is a premium, as is tidiness. A tidy boat is a safer boat.
  • So Don’t bring a roller gun, a blue-water gun, and a little harbour gun, bring one gun, a tool that does the job for that day.
  • Do offer to set the anchor and also to retrieve it. If you don’t know the procedure, ask, you will be shown.  Share this duty around the crew!
  • Do always look out for the boat whilst you are in the water, first diver in the water checks that the anchor is set well.  If you think the boat has drifted swim after it! And DO reset the anchor.
  • Don’t swim too far away from the boat, and let the skipper know in what direction you intend to swim.
  • If you notice the Dive Flag is not up in the boat, Do swim back and put it up – it may save your life.
  • When doing the Blue Water thing, marking for drift diving or anchoring in a particular spot at a particular place that the skipper wants to dive. Do show patience as it can take the skipper and crew some time to ‘set the spot up’.
  • Don’t then pull out your phone with satnav and mark the spot, neither in front of the skipper nor when he is in the water.
  • IF you Don’t wish to be first in the water Do get out of the way and Do help those keener divers to get in. If you Do wish to be first in Do it Quickly and Considerately.
  • Don’t throw your float out as soon as you pull up to a spot, wait until the boat is securely at anchor.  When you alight from the boat Do check that your rig cord is not wrapped around the motor leg.
  • Do be very wary of the pointy end of your gun while ‘gearing up’ in the boat.
  • Watch your flippers Don’t take out some one’s shin, or face when alighting from the boat and watch you Don’t scratch the outboard cowling cover.
  • If you Do break something, Do offer to pay for the repair.
  • Don’t jump in with a splash!
  • If the skipper has told you he is only going to be 15 minutes in a spot Don’t swim 15 miles in the opposite direction you are heading to. Be back in or near the boat in 15.
  • If stopping only for 15 minutes, Do offer to boatie! (especially helpful in a comp).
  • When you boatie, Do keep the sun behind you, if the sun is in front it is difficult to see your buddies diving.
  • Do always double check you have engaged the motor in neutral position as you collect a diver.
  • When you can see the boat and crew are heading in your direction, Do wrap your rig cord up, unload your gun and then hand the gun butt first to the crewman.
  • However, Do tell the skipper as he pulls up that there is a wall of Mulloway under you and you think its best if everyone comes in for a dive rather than hop in the boat and then tell everyone about it with extended arms (this has actually happened to me)
  • Do listen to the skipper when he tells you the best way to enter the boat from thewater.  Do take your weight belt off and cleanly pass it over the gunwale until you have learnt correct entry procedure and are fluid in the technique that won’t see the lead belt smash the fibreglass gunwale.
  • Do offer fuel money at the end of the day, and don’t raise your eyebrow at the price.
  • Do offer to wash the boat or clean the fish while the skipper washes the boat.
  • Don’t under any circumstance spear fish and then leave them in the esky at the end of the day, because, “you don’t really eat that fish”,
  • Don’t ever take bananas on board a boat. Ever!