Seamanship & Boat Handling Package going diving on the RIB

  • BSAC Seamanship Centre [No 484]:

  • BSAC Boat Handling Course
  • BSAC Chart work & position fixing course
  • Logged boat driving experience
  • BSAC Diver Coxswain Assessment

Duration: 6 Days,

Price: 30,000 baht, including all materials & certifications.

The aim of the Seamanship Package is to give student’s with little or no skills & experience, the theoretical and practical ability to operate a small powerboat safely.

This focuses on general seamanship and boat handling, plus using boats for diving applications. The total duration is 6 days. You'll qualify with an internationally recognised powerboat handling qualification [sanctioned by the Combined Diving Agencies], plus the option to apply for additional licenses with other certifying seamanship bodies [e.g. the MCA].

Here's some background information on our Seamanship Package, written by DJL's BSAC National Instructor & Seamanship Trainer Les Skelton.

The Seamanship package consists of:

PART 1: BSAC Boat Handling Course

PART 2: Chart work and Position Fixing Course

PART 3: 5 –hours logged Boat Handling

PART 4: BSAC Diver Coxswain Assessment (Driving Test)

Entry level requirements:

The course is open to anyone; both Divers and non divers. For non –BSAC members there will be an additional 10.00 GBP surcharge for each course.

The course includes all BSAC student course notes, Seamanship manual, instruction, and qualification.

The boat used for this course is a 6 metre (RIB) “Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat ” which is fitted with twin 85 hp engines. The boat meets all international safety requirement and is fitted with a full specification of safety equipment

Let's take a look in detail at the course syllabus:

PART 1. BSAC Boat Handling Course

The Boat handling theory lessons will cover the following topics,

- Boat Handling Introduction (Lesson - 1)

Introduction to the boat handling course, and outline of what we'll cover.

- Boats and their Safety Equipment (Lesson - 2)

This lesson starts with a look at the different types of powerboats commonly used; namely the Inflatable Boat and the RIB “Ridged –hull Inflatable Boat”. We'll discuss different hull types, characteristics and advantages of each.

We'll cover some common 'boat terminology', and discuss boat safety equipment such as flares and their use.

Boat communications (VHF radios) ancillary equipment such as anchors and shot lines, navigation equipment – GPS ‘Global Position System” steering compass and their use, engines drives and fuel systems are also covered in this lesson.

- Owners and Divers Responsibilities (Lesson - 3)

Lesson 3 addresses some legal aspects of boat operations and the responsibility of you; the driver, operating the boat within the required regulations.

Topics will include:

- International & national regulations, & local bye-laws

- Ability of crew to operate the vessel

- Proper voyage planning and use of sea-maps

- Emergency procedures [engine failure, lost divers ....]

- The 'highway code' of boat handling [give way, overtaking, anti-collision...]

- Very important salvage laws

- Ropes and Knots (Lesson 4)

This short lesson looks at Ropes - in particular their construction and how to effectively handle and use them. You will get some practical experience in tying different knots for a number of different applications. We then look at shot line construction and the correct use and procedure of using anchors.

- Boat Handling (Lesson 5)

Lesson 5, starts by addressing the role of a boat skipper; known as a “Diver Coxswain”. They will be responsible for the safety of the boat and its passengers.

The lesson then continues to launching and recovering the boat from a trailer.

After loading the boat and checking that all the safety and ancillary equipment is present, the Coxswain will give a boat briefing to the crew and passengers before getting underway.

It is important that both the boat is properly loaded and that the engines are effectively trimmed so that the boat handles properly. The correct way of achieving this is now addressed.

Once under way the boat handling characteristics will change depending on speed e.g. High speed handling, slow speed handling etc.

Natural factors such as wind and current will also affect the boat. So we now look at these factors and see how we can use them to our advantages; this is especially important when we are dropping divers off or picking them up!

At this stage the lesson looks at basic boat handling and runs through some common boat maneuvers such as coming alongside a jetty, picking up a buoy, confined areas maneuvers and man-over board procedures.

The lesson finishes with the continuous observation of other crafts in the area especially when turning, deteriorating weather conditions and other surface hazards such as fishing buoys etc.

- Voyage Planning (Lesson 6)

For the safety of the boat and all of its passengers, it is important to plan the voyage before putting the vessel to sea.

This lesson looks at planning a voyage, dealing with emergencies at sea, the seaworthiness of the vessel and its crew and a “get home plan” in case the weather turns bad while out at sea.

The lesson looks at the basic use of charts, coastal navigation, tides and in introduction to pre, and on the spot, weather forecasting. We also take at look at using tide tables and tide calculations, weather maps and how to read them and predicting sea conditions and wind speeds.

- Where do I go from here (Lesson 7)

This reviews what you have already learnt in the previous lessons and previews the next courses within the seamanship package.

- Practical Lessons

On the Boat Handling Practical section you'll put put all this knowledge into practice. Below is a list of skills you will be taught.

- Walk around familiarization: In this lesson we walk around the boat to familiarize ourselves with the boat. We will look out the Hull, inflatable tubes, painter, A-frame and transom, engines and their security, fuel systems, steering and control systems.

- Procedures for starting the engines and engine warm –up:

  • Priming Fuel lines
  • Cold start
  • Throttle control
  • Engine cooling checks
  • Kill cord functions checks
  • Instrument Panel checks.

- Loading of the boat:

  • Correct loading weight distribution
  • Access to emergency equipment

- Sheltered water handling skills operating at low speed:

  • Straight line steering on a compass bearing
  • Forward and reverse steering
  • Coming along side a jetty/boat
  • Coming into shore
  • Stopping on to a buoy
  • Three point turns
  • 360 degree turns

- Sheltered water handling skills operating at medium speed:

  • Turns to port and starboard
  • Motion of bow and stern
  • Gentle turns
  • Observation when turning

- Open water handling skill operating at High speed

  • Plainning the boat
  • Boat trimming
  • Stopping the boat /coming to a stand still
  • Tight turns
  • Turning over the boats wake
  • Approaching a wave

- Anchoring the boat

  • Procedures of anchoring the boat
  • Deploying the anchor
  • Securing an anchor
  • Retrieving the anchor

- Shot line deployment

  • Using transits
  • Preparing the shot
  • Deployment
  • Re –checking the mark
  • Shot line recovery

- Dropping off and picking up Divers

  • Approaching the dive site
  • The use of the wind or current on the approach
  • Boat positioning
  • Dropping off divers
  • Recovering divers

- Picking up a shot line

  • Approaching the dive site
  • The use of the wind or current on the approach
  • Observation of the surface area
  • Picking up the buoy
  • Tying off

- Rough water Handling

  • Adjusting speed to surface conditions
  • Approaching the crest of the wave
  • Throttle speed control
  • Turning between troughs

- Man overboard procedures

  • Marking the diver
  • Williamson turns
  • Picking up divers

PART 2: Chart Work & Position Fixing Course

The chart work and position fixing course invloved both theory and practical application. Let's look at each step:

- Charts and Position Fixing (Lesson - 1)

This lesson introduces the student to the art of coastal navigation techniques. We start by looking at some basics such as:

* Analogy between using road maps for navigation and charts

* Latitude ang longitude

* How to use units of scale

* Colour code system on charts

* How to use a compass rose to navigate a route

- Charts and their Abbreviation (Lesson - 2)

On first glance, a chart might not look interesting, not yielding much information.

If you know how to interpret the chart, this couldn't be more untrue!

There are lots of abbreviation and symbols that need to be properly understood and correctly interrupted.

This lesson looks at some of these symbols; especially the ones relating to potential dive sites and are relevant to small boat navigation. The lesson covers the following, the different types of buoyage and what each buoy means, Bottom composition i.e. coral reefs, rocks and wreck symbols are also covered. Depth symbols and contour lines; essential for planning your dives, identifiable landmarks which can be use to navigate or fix your position on a dive site etc.

- Chart course plotting and measuring distances (Lesson - 3)

Lesson 3 is conducted in two parts - theory and practical.

The first part of this lesson show you how to use the scale of latitude and longitude to measure the distance of the prescribed course.

We look at the co-ordinate units and show you how to correctly read them. We then move on the how to plot a course by the use of a compass rose and adjusting the variation both manually and with the use of plotters and other instruments. When plotting a course we will show you how to calculate the distance and estimated time of arrival.

Compasses can be affected by surrounding magnetic influences. This is called the deviation of the compass. So we will also show you how to apply the deviation together with the variation to get an accurate bearing.

These days many vessels use electronic navigation equipment, equipment such as GPS “Global Positioning System”

The lesson will now address this type of equipment. How dose it work? How to use the GPS, the common screen displays of these units etc.

If a GPS is not available we then need to use transits. Transit are where we can find two object in a direct line I.e. a church spire inline with a telephone mast, this is a transit! With multiple transits we can triangulate our current position/ locate the dive site.

Once on the site we need to check if we are in fact on-site. For this we use a depth sounder - we'll cover the use of such devices.

The second part of the lesson puts all this theory into practices. You will practice plotting routes and directions applying any variation etc, measure the distance, calculate how long it will take to make the voyage.

- Tides and their predictions (Lesson 4)

A big part of dive planning is to know what the tides are doing.

The best time to dive is Slack water. This slack occurs usually on low water (LW) and high water (HW). From a navigating point of view, once plotting your course you need to know which direction the currents are running. Failing to take this into account could push you way off course.

We start by looking at how tides occur and how to predict when the tides and currents are likely to strong. If we need to predict the amount of tide between HW and LW we can use many different methods.

One accurate method is to use the “Rules of Twelfths” which entails some simple mathematical calculations and the use of a “tidal curve” and tide tables. Once on site, we show you how to check that the current has stopped with some simple but clever techniques.

- Weather and Weather forecasting (Lesson 5)

Before putting our boat to sea it would be foolhardy if we didn't check what weather was expected during our voyage?

Many people watch the weather forecast on the TV, but what does all that terminology mean? High pressure, low pressure, depressions, what are those little black triangle and semi circle symbols, what does all this mean?

We start off by looking at how air pressure and temperature interact with each other. Both these elements causes our weather and pressure fronts! Warm air rises and as it reaches higher altitudes this air cools causing clouds.

Cloud formation gives you some good information on what weather you can expect.

Changes in air pressure produces winds; a very important factor when planning diving. Assessing the wind speeds by visual observation can predict whether or not you go to sea. Listening to weather forecast from a variety of media is essential to any dive or voyage plan. But what does this information tells you ? We'll look at some weather terminology.

- Practical Lessons

Now it's time to put theory into practice.

We will start by planning our voyage and making back-up plans. This can then be transferred onto a boat slate. We'll check the weather and decide if we have a go or no go situation.

Out on the water, the skills mastered are as follows:

Navigating to the planned dive site by the use of a steering compass.

Navigating to another site by the use of a GPS

Locating the site with a sonar/ depth sounder

Conducting search patterns using both depth sounder and compass

Steering to dive site using multiple GPS waypoints

Steering on a single transit

Marking a dive site with a shot line while using multiple transits

Marking a dive site using a combination of transits and hand held compass bearing

Calculating the speed of the boat and distance

Picking up a contour line and steering along it

PART 3: Logged Boat Driving Experience

Before taking the Coxswain Assessment, you will need to log a further 5-hours, driving the boat.

Below is an example of a typical day driving the boat. Usually this section is run in conjunction with a normal days diving hence a realistic diving environment! The boat handler will at all times be accompanied with a qualified Diver Coxswain.


The morning will start with some voyage planning and a check of the day’s weather forecast. Working together with the Dive Manger you will be briefed on the day's dive objectives.

Boat / Equipment Check

Your next job would be to check the boat; seaworthiness, safety and ancillary equipment etc. Planning your fuel requirements, ensuring that you have enough fuel for the round trip, plus reserve for emergencies.

Before the loading of passengers and equipment you will run through your engine start-up procedures and instrument check. You will then supervise the correct loading of the boat and ensure that all diving equipment is not only in the right place, but also secured for the voyage.

Once everyone is on board you will deliver a thorough boat briefing. Where the safety equipment is stored and how to use it, the procedures for the divers entering and exiting the water, and emergency procedures such as man – overboard and diver recall.

Underway & navigating

You will be responsible for navigating the boat to the dive site, either by the use of GPS, steering compass or a combination of both. You will be expected to drive the boat in a safe manor which suits the surface conditions. The comfort and safety of the passengers is a MUST!

Locating / marking dive site

On reaching the dive site you will either pick-up a buoy or deploy a shot line. After this deployment, you will recheck that the line is on the site..

Boat Marshalling / skill practice

While the divers are underwater you will monitor the surrounding area for any diver(s) surfacing away from the line.

You’re responsible for surface cover whilst the divers are in the water. The dive flag should be displayed and you should ensure that no other boats come too close to the divers.

You will also be responsible for logging each diver in and out of the water. Whilst the dive is in progress the boat should be mobile so that it can respond quickly to any divers surfacing with an emergency.

Return trip

Once all divers are accounted for, you will set a return course for home. Again you should ensure that the boat is operated safely and within the limits of the surface conditions.

Mooring & unloading boat

Once home you will supervise the un- loading of the boat. You will put the boat back on it s mooring ensuring that everything as been shut down or turned off. Engines will be isolated and all safety equipment will be removed. You should then log your diving hours and seek a confirmation signature from the diver coxswain.

PART 4: Diver Coxswain Assessment

Essentially a boat handling 'driving test', the diver coxswain assessment examins all the skills and theory that you've learned during the seamanship courses.

The assessment is made of three parts:

  • Small boat handling and seamanship Voyage Planning
  • Small boat handling and seamanship Boat handling practical assessment
  • Small boat handling and seamanship Seamanship theory assessment

The BSAC Diver Coxswain award is approved by the Combined Diving Agencies [PADI, BSAC, SSA...], i.e. an international license qualifying you to operate boats up to 6 metres in length.

UK students who pass the Diver Coxswain Assessment can also apply for an additional MCA boat operator’s license. This license qualifies you to drive any power boat, up to 10 metres in length in coastal waters. For non UK citizens, you may be able to apply for the equivalent License via you’re own countries equivalent licensing authority.

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