Tipping the crew on a dive boat is customary and proper dive boat etiquette. Recently, I was getting my gills wet aboard a charter dive trip. There was a group of tourists on board and two other instructors, each with their students. By all accounts the trip was very nice – a comfortable boat, favorable ocean conditions, and a friendly hard-working crew. However, at the end of the dive trip I observed only one of the tourists ask the captain if he accepted tips. The captain responded, “Gladly!” The rest of the passengers, including the instructors and their students, packed their cars and drove away.
At that moment, I had the same feeling I get when I go to a restaurant with someone who has never been in the restaurant service industry. Often, we will encounter a waitperson that is “weeded”, “slammed” or “triple-sat”. Or, sometimes the kitchen messes up an order. Whatever the case, a person who has been in the restaurant industry can usually sympathize with the server because he or she has been in that same situation before. And, a person who has been a waiter or waitress not only knows how hard the job is, but also just how important tips are to both the income and feelings of a waitperson. But a person who does not know the dynamics of being a waiter or waitress may quickly pass judgment onto the waitperson by leaving little or no tip.
WHY THE NEED TO TIP?
Unfortunately, many scuba instructors have never been actual divemasters or crew on a charter dive boat. Because of this, they do not fully appreciate the hard work and relatively low pay the crew receives. Thus, in your first scuba class you may not have been taught about tipping the boat crew. Here are some considerations as to why you should tip on charter dive boat trips.
The job starts well before divers arrive and ends well after divers are on their second tropical drink back at the villa. Charter boat crew have a very physical job, which also comes with a high degree of liability. Whether it’s the captain, mate or divemaster, they shift from talent to talent in a moments’ notice. For instance:
- Mechanic – fueling, checking oil, checking bilges, prepping waste system, filling water coolers, tying the lines for loading
- Greeter – assisting and welcoming passengers on-board, introductions
- Activities coordinator – selecting locations, assigning buddy teams, coordinating diving activities, planning times and depths
- Presenter – give briefing at dock, give briefings at sites
- Mechanic (again) – repairing equipment, anchoring or mooring to a site
- Lookout – assisting into the water, monitoring boat traffic, monitoring other divers, spotting divers as they surface, keeping an eye on the weather conditions
- Enforcer – correcting problematic behavior
- Server – offering beverages, slicing up and serving fruit
- Custodian – cleaning up when someone has had motion sickness on the deck or in the head
- Cheerleader – keeping the passengers happy and enjoying their dive trip even when conditions are lousy!
- Mechanic (again) – canopies up and down, ladders up and down, tying up at the dock for unloading, cleaning up, rinsing/washing entire boat
Whew! Pay attention to these folks on your next trip and you will see what I mean.
So, what is the proper amount to tip a charter boat dive crew? 15% to 20% of the charter boat dive rate is customary. If your charter boat dive trip was $100 for a two-tank dive, a respectable tip would be anywhere between $15 and $20. If the crew was outstanding, give a bit more. Of course if service is poor, report it immediately to the dive center or whom you booked your charter through. Remember also that if the seas are rough, or the visibility is bad, or it is raining – just because the diving had poor conditions does not mean the staff worked any less. In fact those are the times crew works even harder.
HOW TO TIP?
As part of the educational process during open water diving, instructors should demonstrate tipping and encourage their students to do the same on all dives. Just as the waiter must share their tips with the cooks, bartenders, and busboys, the charter boat crew shares among themselves. Most of the time I give tips to the captain of the vessel. Many charter boat operators pay captains significantly higher than the rest of the crew. So, often captains will pass tips right along to their crew. I have also been moved to tip each crewmember individually 20% because of outstanding service to my students and me. Often the crew is running around the boat and dock. Try and get their attention and give them a personal thank you as you extend your tip. If the crew is unavailable you may be able to leave your tip in a tip jar or inside the dive center. A note, card or envelope signed by you adds a personal touch, and keeps the cash more accountable than just leaving it in a jar or with someone else.
Also, tips stand out to charter boat dive operators and their crew. You will stand out as a diver who is generous and appreciative. I have been pleasantly surprised to have my favorite seats reserved, or our favorite beverages in the cooler, or an invitation up to the bridge for my students. Again, be generous and appreciative to the operators you do business with. You only have one reputation, make it a good one!