I recently went on a California dive boat, where we were scheduled to make three dives out of Catalina: two daytime and one night. We ended up knocking out three day dives and one night, with some snorkeling and multiple sea lion sightings. At the end of the day, everyone seemed to leave the boat happy. And then, when the crew added up the money in the tip jar, they found that 23 divers tipped a total of $270. Almost three hundred bucks: that’s a lot of money. You can buy a lot with $270. The dive crew must have really made out, right?

Story by Corey Schultz

Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Let’s do the math. This is an average of $11.74 per diver. That’s more than a movie ticket, so still pretty good, OK? Well … not really. Let’s look at what tips really mean to a dive crew and what divers should consider an appropriate tip for good service.

So to begin with … why should I tip at all? Didn’t I already pay $140 for the trip? Diving is an expensive sport –why do I have to pay more on the boat?

Here’s an explanation.

When you book a dive, you book a certain service, sort of like the price of an entrée at a restaurant. Typically that price includes a set number of dives with the corresponding air fills. The price also incorporates boat fuel and food.

But here’s what might get in addition to the day (and this is why you might consider tipping!):

– Rather than a plate of sandwiches and store-bought cookies, you could have a boat chef who went to culinary school and prepared sweet and sour pork from scratch, including fresh pineapple and diced Thai chili. Freshly baked bread and cut melon as snacks. Brownies hot out of the oven topped with melting vanilla bean ice cream.

– An attentive crew who double-checked your air before you did your giant stride, watched for your bubbles as you dove, and helped you don and doff your fins. They might provide the little extras such as spare O rings, weights, sunscreen, and in some cases masks, snorkels and fins for those who had forgotten those items.

– A boat captain who agreed to extend the day and spend additional time at a dive site so a struggling Open Water student could try a second time to qualify, spending the time (and fuel) to stay on the site.

OK, the people on the boat did a little extra. It’s their job! The question remains, why should I tip them?

On each dive boat, there are a number of people who depend on tips, just like restaurant servers, bartenders and bussers: the chef, the galley crew and the deck crew. The deck crew works constantly to keep the boat clean and safe; the galley crew ensures you are well fed. They instantly attend to the dirty work of maintaining the heads and cleaning up any residue of seasickness.

I think about tipping on a dive boat like this; I enjoy going out to eat and will pay for tasty food and a nice ambience. But you could have the most elegant dining room and the best food –only to have the evening ruined by a rude or inattentive waitperson. A pleasurable dining experience depends not just on the quality of the food, but on the expertise and service of the wait staff and bartenders. What would you pay for a $140 restaurant tab? The going rate is 20 percent, or $28. More than twice $11.74.

The same thing applies to your dive boat personnel! So if you would tip for a fine meal, please consider tipping for a fine dive boat experience. They work hard to ensure you have the best dive day possible.

What are your thoughts on tipping the dive boat crew? How much do you normally tip? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.