The Dangers of Scuba Diving: Why Floridians Should Think Twice About DIY Boat Bottom Cleaning

Sep 28, 2023

For boaters, cleaning your bottom can mean more than one thing. No, we’re not making an old poop deck joke here. Boat bottom cleaning is an essential maintenance task that prevents the damaging effects of marine growth and biofouling on a vessel. Unfortunately, cleaning your boat’s bottom is not as easy as wiping your behind; it’s a challenging and dangerous endeavor that requires scuba diving expertise and training to carry out. In this article, we’ll explore the risks that scuba divers face when cleaning boat hulls and why Florida boaters might want to think twice before trying to clean their own vessel. 

The Risks Scuba Divers Face

1. Underwater Hazards:

The environment below the surface presents numerous hazards for divers. Limited visibility can make navigation challenging, and strong ocean currents can sweep divers off course. Notably, the Gulf coast waters of Clearwater and Tampa Bay are known for being murky and offering divers just inches of visibility. Additionally, areas of high boat traffic, such as marinas, are subject to turbulent water conditions, posing a significant threat to divers when submerged.

2. Marine Life:

The Tampa Bay area is teeming with beautiful sea life such as Dolphins, Manatees, and an array of tropical fish. Unfortunately, many of Florida’s sea critters can also be hazardous and even life-threatening. Sharp barnacles and spiny sea urchins are some of the more common organisms that can easily cut or lacerate divers. The more dangerous sea creatures to look out for are jellyfish which can cause nasty stings and swelling. Unintentional contact with these animals can lead to painful injuries or allergic reactions. The Florida coasts of Clearwater and Tampa Bay have no shortage of these dangerous sea pests. 

3. Equipment Risks:

Despite the extensive certifications and training that scuba divers possess, the potential for equipment malfunction is very possible and catastrophic. A malfunctioning regulator, loss of air supply, or disorientation can turn a routine dive into a life-ending situation, even for an experienced diver. 

4. Health Complications:

Scuba diving is a thrilling adventure that offers a unique glimpse into the underwater world, but it also comes with a set of dangerous health conditions that divers must be acutely aware of. One of the most common of these conditions is decompression sickness. Commonly known as “the bends,” decompression sickness which occurs when nitrogen bubbles form in the body due to rapid ascents after deep dives. This can leave divers woozy, fatigued and even unconscious.

Other uncomfortable and potentially dangerous health complications faced by divers include barotrauma, ear and sinus squeezes, nitrogen narcosis, and arterial air embolisms. Given these substantial risks, it’s essential to emphasize the importance of proper training and certification for anyone considering scuba diving. 

Why DIY Hull Cleaning Can Be Dangerous

While some boat owners may consider attempting to clean their hulls themselves, it’s essential to recognize the potential dangers involved:

1. Inadequate Training:

Cleaning a boat’s hull beneath the waterline requires specialized training and experience. Without the proper skills that scuba divers and professional hull cleaners possess, boat owners risk damaging their boat’s hull, ruining protective coatings and bottom paint, and even themselves.

2. Lack of Safety Equipment:

DIY boat owners may not have access to essential safety equipment, such as underwater communication devices, emergency air supplies, or emergency response plans in case of accidents. Furthermore, most boaters looking for a DIY solution to cleaning their boat resort to using inexpensive, faulty, homemade equipment which can lead to even more risk. It’s best to leave the diving to the experts!

3. Environmental Impact:

Improper hull cleaning can release pollutants, such as toxic anti-fouling paints, into the water, harming the marine ecosystem. Dive experts are well-versed in environmentally responsible cleaning techniques. Additionally, cleaning boat bottoms in shallow areas where seagrass flats or corals are present requires special attention. Inexperienced divers run the risk of damaging the sea floor beneath boats, which can have a detrimental effect on marine ecosystems

4. Health Risks:

Exposure to underwater hazards without proper training and protective gear can lead to injuries, allergic reactions, or even infections. Boaters that are inexperienced in diving, especially those with preexisting health conditions, should refrain from diving and DIY hull cleaning. It’s best to leave underwater boat maintenance to trained professionals who understand the risks and can navigate them safely.

The Benefits of Hiring Dive Experts

Considering the inherent risks and complexities of underwater hull cleaning, here are a few reasons why boat owners should seriously consider hiring dive experts for this task:

Expertise: Professional divers have the necessary training, experience, and knowledge to safely and effectively clean boat bottoms while preserving protective coatings.

Safety: Dive experts follow stringent safety protocols, including the use of specialized equipment and safety measures, reducing the risk of accidents.

Environmental Responsibility: Dive experts are trained to minimize the environmental impact of hull cleaning, ensuring compliance with regulations and protecting marine ecosystems.

Time and Cost Efficiency: Hiring professionals can save boat owners time and money in the long run by preventing damage to their vessel and erasing the need to purchase pricey scuba diving equipment.

Conclusion

Scuba divers who undertake the perilous task of cleaning boat bottoms are unsung heroes in the world of marine maintenance. Their dedication to preserving the structural integrity of boats, protecting bottom paint, and ensuring the functionality of essential seafaring components is a testament to their skill and courage. As boat owners, it’s crucial to recognize the potential dangers of attempting a “do-it-yourself” approach to hull cleaning and instead consider the benefits of hiring dive experts. By entrusting dive professionals with this task, you’re not only ensuring the safety of your own vessel, but also the health and safety of yourself!

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