Recreational diving has grown enormously in popularity in recent years, and the yacht-charter industry has been paying attention. A large proportion of crewed yachts offer diving as an adjunct to sailing, and many yacht owners even require their skippers or mates to hold high-level diving qualifications to back up the service. And wherever there are charter boats, crewed or bareboat, there are dive shops on hand to offer training and equipment rental.
Diving promoters and aficionados have developed a multitiered education system to ensure high standards of safety for participants. The training programs best known to Americans are run by the Professional Association of Dive Instructors (PADI), a privately held corporation, and the nonprofit National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI). These and other groups offer courses for every skill level, from snorkeling to professional instructor.
Proficiency certificates awarded by PADI, NAUI, and others are broadly recognized and are roughly equivalent at each level. Starting with a skin-diver course, anyone in reasonable health can progress through several scuba-diver stages for amateurs, then to divemaster and several instructor grades for those who want to go professional.
Certified divers are able to rent equipment and go diving wherever they feel comfortable doing it. On most bareboats, safety is the charterers own responsibility. The charterer (and a buddy) pick a site, take the boat there, don their gear, and dive. When diving off a crewed yacht, responsibility, because of how maritime law views the captains role, skews toward the yacht. In an informal inquiry, most crewed-yacht captains agree that its in the best interest of the yacht (and ultimately that of the diving guests) that the yachts diver be at least a divemaster, and therefore qualified to lead a dive. Better yet, the diver whos also an instructor can guide charterers through dives and study to elevate their qualifications.
Its possible to be certified during the course of a charter, either through an onboard instructor or by arranging a "rendezvous dive," where the yacht and a dive boat meet and the dive-shop instructor leads the dive. Because of the time certification takes, many instructors and skippers recommend neophyte divers complete at least the early stages at home rather than hold up nondivers in the group from other activities while on the charter.
The sports proliferation has brought training facilities within reach of almost everyone. Popular regions such as the Virgin Islands have many shops that will arrange rendezvous dives with bare or crewed charter boats. For details, contact PADI (www. padi.com) or NAUI (www.naui.org).
Nicholson Goes European
In response to an expanding European clientele, Nicholson Yacht Charters Inc., of Cambridge, Massachusetts, has opened a retail office in Geneva, Switzerland, run by Peter and Lauriane Neidecker. If youre in Europe and contemplating a yacht vacation, contact them for details (30 Chemin dArgiliere, 1234 Vessy; 41-78-899-3511, www.nicholsonyachtcharters.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org).