Divemaster's lament

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Posted by Jim on June 29, 2004 at 09:32:13:

In Reply to: What reason is there to have a DM on the boat? posted by Captain Tim Burke on June 28, 2004 at 18:10:17:

After 15 years of doing it, I quit divemastering on commercial dive boats a few years ago to engage in other pursuits, but I am still an active lifeguard. Where I guard, we are the apex watermen. And I would continue to divemaster for people that respected what I did and how I did it.

I recall getting into it with the departed Darren Douglas when he proclaimed in his column that d.m.'s were on a power trip because we would not let him solo dive. We were not on a power trip...we were enforcing 1) an industry standard, 2) the chartering shop requirement, 3) the dive boat's stated requirement in the name of safety and liability. Don't shoot the messenger, change the standards.

Yes, divemasters do perform the role of lifeguard on these boats, as well as search and recovery diver for divers, lost gear, etc; gear repair specialists; tour guides; and gear sales staff (you sell what you wear). We even get pressed into service as the designated dive buddy when an instructor or shop owner feels that a diver needs an escort or hand holding. We come on duty when we set foot on board and get off duty when we start our car engine to leave. The pay sucks and somewhere along the line while it is expected that boat crews will be tipped at settle up time, compensating a divemaster for a job well done with a simple "thank you" seems like an anathema to most people; even when I had to rescue or assist them in the water.

The certification agencies treat divemasters as a necessary prerequisite to becoming an instructor as opposed to a terminal leadership position. As a result, you do not end up with professionals in these positions.

Most shop owners see divemasters-in-training as a source of cheap or often uncompensated labor or as the ultimate specialty course. If one goes, three more are behind him or her.

Boat operators range from welcoming the divemaster as part of the crew to treating them like an invasive species. My hat's off to the old timers who treated us like we were part of the team, but I realize that with increasing corporatization of dive establishments those days are over.

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