The procedure at the end of a dive is, in principle, trivial. We get back on the boat. The devil is in the detail of exactly how we get aboard. There is plenty to remember, but it will make the whole process both easier and safer.

Once a boat has begun manoeuvring to pick up divers, the most dangerous thing a diver can do is to go back under water, because thats when the skipper loses his reference point.
In a large boat, he may well be committed to the manoeuvre and so have no option but to pass where the diver was last seen, but with no idea of what last-minute corrections he needs to make to avoid a nasty accident.
If only one of a group goes under water, the skipper may not be aware that a diver
is missing, and that it is not safe to approach the rest of the group. So it is critical to stay on the surface.
Even if, on close approach, a diver is about to get bumped by the hull of the dive-boat, he should still stay on the surface and use his hands or legs to fend it off. At least it is only the hull against a hand or leg. Diving at this late stage would be more likely to result in a propeller against the divers head.

Staying on the surface assumes that the approaching boat is actually aiming to pick the divers up. But this will not account for all boat traffic. There is always the chance that an idiot in a speedboat or on a jet-ski is heading straight for you, or that you have surfaced in the path of a much larger ship which, even if the watch has seen you, just cant manoeuvre fast enough.
Rather than the slow-moving hull of a dive boat that, at worst, you may have to fend off with a hand, you are now threatened by a fast-moving hull that may well run you over and push you into the path of the following propeller.
The only option is to get back under fast, as deep as possible and as quickly as possible. That means dumping all buoyancy, then finning hard in a headfirst descent.

The usual situation with UK diving is that the boat stays live, so that when we surface the skipper manoeuvres it to pick us up. What often catches divers out is that the skipper may not aim the boat directly towards them. Depending on the boat, it may seem to be passing 5 or 10m away.
The important thing is to trust the skipper. He knows his boat, and has picked up many more divers than we have done dives. Aiming slightly off from divers in the water allows for things like wind and waves pushing the boat, and for the paddle-wheel effect of the propeller.
At slow speed, especially in reverse,
a propeller can be used to kick the stern of the boat to one side or the other.
The skipper has all this carefully worked out to bring the boat to a halt at a safe but convenient distance from the divers. Swimming towards the boat before it has come to rest will only make life harder for the skipper, and may endanger divers.

A pair of divers surface after a fantastic dive and cant wait to chat about it as the boat manoeuvres to pick them up.
At least one buddy, if not both, is not watching the boat.
This isnt just a beginners mistake. Some instructors and dive guides are the worst, surfacing with a group and immediately beginning a debriefing when they and their divers should be concentrating on the approaching boat.
At some point the hull will come close to a divers head. For a large boat this will most likely be as the boat skews in from the side.
For a smaller RIB, the preferred method of picking up divers is often virtually to park the bow right among them.
In either case, a diver who does not pay attention runs the risk of being bumped on the head.

If you surface near rocks, you may need to swim out a bit before the skipper can manoeuvre to pick you up. This is swimming to improve the boats safety.
If you surface close above other divers who are still decompressing or ascending, you will have to swim away from them before the boat can pick you up. This is for the safety of other divers that the skipper will not want to run over.
Again, stay aware of the boats position, and dont swim towards it as it manoeuvres towards you.

A diver on the surface is not a big target for the skipper to keep track of as he manoeuvres the boat. Visual contact can be intermittent among the waves.
As the boat makes its final approach to pick up divers, there is often a blind spot close to the bow where the skipper cant see us from the helm.
If you cant see the skippers face, chances are he cant see you.
There are a couple of things you can do to make his life easier. After surfacing on a delayed SMB, rather than letting it lie flat, hold it upright, especially as you disappear into the blind spot.
Even if the skipper cant see you, he may be able to see the top of the SMB. If you dont have an SMB, hold up a hand in an OK signal as you disappear into the blind spot.
The skipper, knowing your exact position rather than having to interpolate, can be far more precise in his boat-handling.

When you reach the boat, your first point of contact should be the grab-line, either trailed alongside it or back from the stern. There are two good reasons for this.
Firstly, if another diver is already on the ladder or lift, we dont want to be beneath him if he falls off.
Secondly, if the boat is pitching and rolling, hanging onto the solid frame of the ladder or lift will jerk your arms about. The grab-line will have some give, and is much easier to grasp.


Fins looped over hands while climbing a rung ladder.


Keep your mask in place until youre safely back on board

At this point, what you do depends on the type of ladder or lift on a hardboat, or you may just be hauling yourself over the side of an inflatable or RIB. You may want to take some of your equipment off in the water and pass it up before getting back on the boat.
However, in anything but a flat-calm sea the two bits of kit you need to keep with you until you are safely on board are your masks and fins.
Keeping a mask on is generally more comfortable if the sea is sloshing over you while you are doing everything else.
Should you drop anything, retaining a mask also gives you a better chance of catching it before it disappears into the depths.
Even if it is necessary to remove fins before climbing a ladder, you can still loop them over your hands. That way, if you should fall off you will still have your fins available for swimming back to the boat.


Help the crew by boosting heavy kit from below.


Hand in weightbelts before removing a BC.

A friend was diving off a RIB with a new drysuit. At the end of the dive, he took off his BC and handed it into the boat, using his left hand, then his right, to help push it up.
The cuff dump in his suit immediately dumped all the air. It was a new drysuit, he was a little over-weighted and he began to sink.
He remarked afterwards that he had to swim quite hard before he could reach up and grab the lines on the side of the boat. He may have had to ditch his weightbelt to avoid drowning.
It just goes to show that there is a very good reason why weightbelts should be handed into a boat before removing a BC.
When removing a weightbelt, remember to hold it up by the strap end rather than by the buckle end, so loose weights will not slide off the end.
In the process, if you have a drysuit with a cuff dump, you may want to keep that arm low and lift with your other arm.
When handing anything up, dont assume that the crew have hold of it. Look them in the eyes and get positive acknowledgement that they have a firm grip on whatever youre handing up.
On this subject, if I have used a delayed SMB, I often clip my camera to it and hand the whole lot up together. Should it be dropped, the SMB will keep it afloat.

Finally, its time to climb the ladder or lift. Keep fingers well clear of the hinges and slots where they fit together. If your hands are cold from the dive, you may not even realise how many fingers are missing.

Two types of diver-lift are common on charter-boats. Easiest to use is a platform or cage that descends into the water on rails. There is no need to remove anything in the water. Simply stand on the platform, hold onto the railing and step off onto the deck, having enjoyed the ride.
The other type of lift is better described as a power ladder. Superficially similar to a spine ladder, instead of having rungs all the way up it has a carriage with two rungs at the bottom for a divers feet, and one rung at the top onto which to hold.
width=100% Hold on to the platform railing and enjoy the ride.width=100% power-ladder-type diver liftwidth=100% dual spine ladders folded at the stern of a boat..
Once a diver is standing securely on the rungs, the carriage slides up the spine until he can step onto the deck.
Spine ladders are rungs set either side of a central spine. With the ends of the rungs open, it is easy to climb a spine ladder with fins on, though be careful because rungs may be slippery, and a finned foot can slip off the end of a rung.
To prevent this, a spine ladder may be fitted with slightly angled-up rungs, something non-slip along the tops of the rungs or lugs at the end of the rungs.
With heavy kit in mind, a ladder will also be angled forwards so that all the weight is taken on a divers legs, with arms holding on rather than lifting.
Once up a ladder or lift, the skipper or crew will usually help a diver to remove his fins before he walks back across the deck to sit down and de-kit.
width=100% Climbing a spine ladder with fins on.width=100% a good ladder is angled so that weight is taken by the divers legswidth=100% removing fins to climb a rung ladder.
Conventional rung ladders are more common overseas, where sea conditions are generally calmer and divers less experienced.
Unless the rungs are very wide, it will be necessary to remove your fins before climbing.
An advantage is that it is difficult for feet to slide off the end of the rungs. Also, once on deck, fins are already removed, so a diver can immediately walk away from the ladder and make room for the next diver to start climbing.
As with a spine ladder, a rung ladder is easiest to climb if it is angled forwards.