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When people discuss the important items to include on a boat being outfitted for cruising, seldom does the subject of snorkeling gear come up. Of course, most people have a set or two on board anyway, so that they can enjoy the pretty coral which borders many of the anchorages, but I wonder how many people consider a good mask and snorkel to be actual safety gear. We didn’t, although we do now.

I can honestly say that, although we enjoy recreational snorkeling, we have used our gear for “work” substantially more hours than we have for play. Diving on our anchor, cleaning the boat bottom and the odd underwater repair job are situations where we have found our snorkeling gear to be a necessity.

Unfortunately, one of the masks we left Canada with cracked, leaving it no longer usable, and we just noticed that the replacement we purchased for it has developed some mystery cracks too (neither cracked on the lens but rather on the plastic which surrounds it). Looks like we’re going to need to pick up another one because, as far as we’re concerned, having a good mask and snorkel on board (and fins) for both of us is essential.

In spite of the above which may lead you to believe that we don’t do a lot of diving for fun, we just had a great bit of snorkeling right behind our boat here in Admiralty Bay. Without a doubt it is some of the nicest coral that we have seen in the past few months and there was an excellent variety of fish to enjoy there too.


  1. What about Dive gear? Do you do any scuba diving? Both Jay and I are certified divers, but Jay is looking at rather he should get his master divers or possibly instructor certifications.

    • Someone actually just asked that same question yesterday (or the day before). We are not (yet) divers.

      Just curious… why does Jay feel that the additional qualifications would be beneficial? What would that allow him to do that he can’t do now?

      • I wouldn’t recommend anything more than Open Water and Nitrox. Unless you plan on teaching, rescue diving or being a dive master.

      • We plan to combine our cruising with mission work. I have worked with a lot of missions, especially orphanages and we hope to work with some rescue missions also (They rescue from human trafficing). Another form of mission we hope to do is when we have long term missionaries who need to refresh is to take them on the boat for several days and it would be nice if we could take them scuba diving also, but I think we would need to be more qualified than just open water. They would have to rent dive gear on land because we would not be able to store extra gear.

        • The reason I asked it that it seemed to me those qualifications would only be applicable for someone working. Many would-be cruisers aren’t aware that in many places you need to have a work permit to get a job, something that can be difficult to obtain and/or expensive.

  2. Space being what it is on a boat, we opted for the snuba tank. It is not compressed air and floats on the water above you. You can only dive 40-50 feet, the length of the hose but you are free in the water without tanks. I love it. No decompression issues and doesn’t take up too much room. Works for us. Something to consider.

  3. M & R,

    Do you suppose the masks are cracking because of UV? Left out in the sun they might do that.

    Just a thought.


  4. The one thing I have found with snorkle gear. You pay for what you get. The facemask should be fitted by a dive professional in my opinion. There is nothing worse than diving and having problems with the mask. One thing people forget is that if you are fitted with a clean shaven face and decide to grow a beard, the fit will be different

  5. Agreed.

    I would add that up here (Maryland Chesapeake Bay) I consider a wet suit required safety gear. Over the years, there have been more than a few times when going in the water was required, with water temps down as low as 32F (ice on the water). Even a relatively thin suit can make it safe for the duration of a task, if not fun.


    Spun prop.
    Pull-up line wrapped on rudder.
    Anchor fouled.
    Helped some folks off a grounded and leaking boat; had to get in the water to help one person, wouldn’t let go, long story.
    String of pots wrapped around a rudder.

    Or I could just leave the boa ton the hard until it gets warm enough… Nah.
    Or I could call Tow Boat US… Nah.

    • I have heard others say that for catamaran sailors a flotation suit is even more important than a life raft. Any thoughts on that?

      • Sounds very rational. If you would flip or badly hole in cool water (anything below about 75F) you’re going to be wet all the time, but safer with or inside the boat than in a raft. Exposure becomes the greatest threat, and foul wearther gear isn’t designed for immersion. Personally, I think a dry suit would be better for 90% of the sailors, as they are very warm and you can function very well in them (most dingy racers wear dry suits in cool weather, and I used to on my beach cat), while you are basically helpless in a floatation suit. I have heard this opinion expressed by some very knowledgable folks that have tested both.

        Now, if I was a down easter sailing a lead mine–excuse me, monohull–then I would have different ideas.

        • You’re right about being helpless in a flotation suit. I got to experience being in one when I did the STCW-95 course in Trini. I’ve never worn a dry suit but I suspect you’re also right that it would be sufficient, especially down here.

  6. I have broken the rim of a mask or two by nonchalantly throwing them up onto the sugar scoop before getting back on board (only a foot or two) but after a few times they cracked. Expensive misatake that I dont intend to do again.

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