Fitting out a dive boat

Fitting out a dive boat

The highly experienced and pragmatic Darren Shields shares his thoughts on functional trailer-boat layouts for divers.

One thing we all love as divers/fishermen is our boats. I’ve owned many boats over the years and all have been good in their own way. My current boat was built by Vision Boats, now no longer in operation, and is probably the best all-round boat I’ve ever had.

I designed the internal layout with the then-owner of Vision Boats, Geoff. Geoff was a great builder and let me run with what needed, which, as you will see by the described outline, was a ery basic fit-out. Many of the boats I’ve been in are fitted out with verything, including the kitchen sink; the first reasonable wave ou hit will often illustrate why you shouldn’t have too many frills on a boat!

I chose a hull just under 7m long – easy to handle with a couple of people, comfortable with five, but with the ability to carry up to nine people and their gear at a pinch.

However, if you own a boat around the same size, I’m not suggesting you can take nine people, too, as I’m only able to carry this load due to the lack of frills. For example, a toilet is simply another thing to get in the way and needs constant upkeep.

Bunks up the front? No, we never sleep in the boat – but if we did, I could throw a mattress up the front, as there is a nice flat floor in the bow where bins of gear can be stowed. Besides, bunks normally end up with gear on them that comes flying out the minute you hit a decent wave!

With no step-down up in the bow, I added extra sealed buoyancy – a good safety feature – instead.

Carpet is a big no-no in any aluminium boat in my books. It holds salt, which in turn promotes corrosion in behind the carpet. It also adds lots of weight to the boat, especially when wet. The only area I have carpet is the dash, where cameras, phones etc are stored. I know carpet deadens noise, but we divers are only in a boat to get from A to B – and then we’re in the water!

Height in the hardtop was a consideration for me at nearly two metres tall, but the height of my garage had to be taken into account, too. Geoff obliged and made the best-possible fit.

Many boats don’t have enough hand holds; mine has one in every spare space, including the hardtop, which in itself can be an issue for tall people who may hit their heads. Many bruises in the past meant I made sure mine were positioned so it wouldn’t be a problem.

On the dash I added some extra up-stands to help stop clothes etc falling off. This has been great, because clothes need to stay up high to stay dry.

My seats are fold-away flat platforms. Most days you can’t sit down anyway, so I didn’t want floor space taken up by seats we hardly use.

Spear-gun racks down the sides needed to be very long and deep. In the past I’ve had boats with shallower storage areas, and the guns constantly fell out when conditions got rough.

The floor area is completely open, but I’ve added a small drum for weight belts in one corner, a big chilly bin for the fish (also providing a seat in the middle), plus a tall drum in the other corner for our long fins. This means when you sit on the back to gear up and undress, the bins are right there within easy reach. I also have one big bin in the middle of the floor for the rest of the gear we use.

Above the chilly bin at the back I recently added a large bar to hold onto as you get in and out – something that’s really appreciated in rough seas!

Platforms at the back had to be as big as possible and positioned close to water level. In addition to creating lots of room, it’s meant we’ve been able to do away with a dive ladder, something I’ve never been a fan of anyway (they always get left down and lines tangle around them). On the corners, just under the water, I welded two pipes in a semi-loop that act as handholds to grab and hold onto until you’re ready to climb out. They also double as footholds to climb aboard the boat when it’s on the trailer.

In front of the motor, I had a hole cut in the pod to create a basic tank so crayfish and shellfish can be kept alive, with the water circulating through the pod when moving forward.

Trailer wise, I can’t go past aluminium – virtually maintenance free and so much lighter. It’s been brilliant.

   This article is reproduced with permission of   
New Zealand Fishing News

June 2016 - By Darren Shields
Re-publishing elsewhere is prohibited

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