BSAC’s Boat Handling course is great fun and is ideal for anyone wanting to learn about rigid-hulled inflatable boats (RIBs) and how to drive them. 

It’s a practical boat-based course that gives each student plenty of time at the helm of a small dive boat to practise their skills, including how to drop and recover divers safely. Some boat insurers require any person driving a boat to have an approved boat-handling qualification.

What a fantastic couple of days! My boat handling skills and knowledge have come on leaps and bounds and I’m now really enjoying driving the RIB on club dive trips. 

- Peter Dix, University of Nottingham SAC

The Boat Handling course is open to anyone aged over 14 and it’s a great way to get non-divers involved in the club, especially if they have family members who dive. No diving qualification is necessary to take part.

You will be out and about in boats on both days of this two-day course, which includes a mix of four theory, two dry practical and three open-water practical sessions aboard a RIB. You will learn about the responsibilities of owning, towing and driving a boat, and how to launch and recover it.

With a maximum of three students per instructor in sessions on the water, you will learn how to drive the boat and will have plenty of hands-on time to practise a range of boat manoeuvres to improve your boat-handling skills and safely drop off and recover divers on a dive site.

Practical skills include high-speed driving, slow-speed manoeuvring, anchoring and coming alongside. You will develop your overall seamanship skills, including voyage planning, essential rules of the road and learn the actions to take in an emergency.

A Boat Handler is defined as someone who is:

  • Aware of their responsibilities.
  • Able to voyage plan considering weather, tides and local area.
  • Able to prepare, launch and recover a small boat.
  • Competent to drive a boat safely while conducting diving operations.
  • Able to safely drop and recover divers at a dive site.

You could do this course at a regional event or local club. Not all clubs run Boat Handling courses, so please check if you are interested.

The course can be completed in a weekend at a regional event or centre, or in a club the theory and dry practical sessions could be spread over a number of evenings followed by a day of practical boat-handling experience.

Alternatively, book your place on a scheduled Boat Handling course online now.

Not a BSAC member? You can do this course by joining BSAC directly or joining via a local club. Find a club.

Students will be given a pack of supporting learning materials and a copy of the BSAC manual Seamanship: A Guide for Divers. For the practical sessions you will need protective clothing suitable for local conditions on a small boat and a life vest or other suitable buoyancy aid.

After completing the Boat Handling course and consolidating your skills, you can be assessed to become a qualified Diver Coxswain.

You could further your seamanship training by doing other Skill Development Courses (SDCs), including Chartwork and Position Fixing and Outboard Engine and Boat Maintenance.

Or you could develop specific skills to expand your interests further, whether you are a diving member or non-diving member. Imagine being qualified in diver first aid or becoming a compressor operator or mixed gas blender. Check out the SDCs you can get involved in.

If you are not already a diver, how about learning to dive on an Ocean Diver course. If you are already a diver you could progress your diver grade training.


Not yet a BSAC member?

You can do this course by joining BSAC directly or joining your local club.

If you need a hand send your postcode to and we'll help you find the right scuba club for you. Or if you fancy a chat call us 0151 350 6201 (Mon - Fri, 9 - 5:30).

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