There comes a time in the life of a scuba diver when you get tired of party boats and you’d prefer to be your own captain. You’ve grown weary of all the usual dive spots and you’d like to venture out on your own. Of course, a captain without a boat is like a man without a country. That means you’ll need to find a vessel that can take you and your dive buddies where you want to go and haul all your gear comfortably and safely.
If you’ve ever done any diving at all, you know dive gear is big and heavy. The only place it feels at ease is in the water. Everywhere else, it’s as cumbersome as luggage without wheels. So, when choosing a boat suitable for diving, the name of the game is deck space, and you typically find the most open deck on boats geared toward fishing. That means your search is going to focus on center-consoles, walkarounds, work boats, and pilot house models.
Fishing features like transom and hullside doors can double as access points to and from the water. The open deck and high freeboard give you a place put on your gear, then fall back into the water on your way to your favorite reef or wreck.
Because diving rarely takes precedence over fishing in the minds of designers, you should be open to the idea of ticking options boxes that can make your experience easier and more comfortable. Maybe opt for an onboard heated freshwater shower system or a heater in the cabin. If a rack system to hold air tanks is available from the factory, it will make your drive trips easier. Even if the racks aren’t on the published options list, ask about it. Boats are still for the most part built by hand, so perhaps a manufacturer can custom-source a tank rack and install it in your boat.
Flip-up and fold-down seating options, whether they’re on the transom or in the hullsides are also a good idea because they provide a place to sit when you need them, and stash out of the way when you don’t. In-deck fish boxes common on many fishing models can be useful to divers who go spearfishing or dive for lobster.
To help you narrow your search, we’ve come up with five best dive boats that would be good platforms to use for scuba diving.
Parker 2820 XLD Sport Cabin
Because some of the best wrecks are located in open water, you’re probably going to need a boat with some length to it. Parker’s 2820 XLD Sport Cabin has the length—and the beam. Measuring 28 feet long and 9 feet, 6 inches abeam, the 2820 has a 21-degree deadrise for tackling rough seas and twin outboards mounted to an extended transom platform, which means the self-bailing deck is wide open for dive gear.
Inside the cabin of the 2820 is all business, with sturdy and durable seating, an aluminum pilot house door and a new anchor locker on the foredeck, which is fitted with stainless hand rails. It also comes standard with raw water and freshwater washdown systems and full-hydraulic steering with a destroyer-style wheel.
As an option, you can get a second helm station available as freestanding or on the rear bulkhead of the pilot house. You also can opt for the folding cockpit bench, a canvas cockpit sunshade and a galley cabinet in the pilot house, which is fitted with a sink, freshwater tank a 12-volt refrigerator and a stove. A host of Garmin navigational electronics are also available on the 2820.
Farallon 2600 Walkaround
Farallon doesn’t get a lot of ink in the recreational boating press, but that doesn’t mean its boats aren’t worth a look. They are, and they are especially suitable for use as a privately owned dive boat.
The 2600 Walkaround, for example, is a great example. Available with diesel stern drive or outboard power, the 2600 carries 150 gallons of fuel and comes fitted with dual batteries and a fully sealed cabin. The nonskid self-bailing deck is ideal for use as a dive boat, even for night dives thanks to its LED aft deck work light.
With outboard power, which is really the way to go for outfitting this boat for diving, the 2600 Walkaround is fitted with an Armstrong platform that will accommodate single or twin outboards. The 2600 comes with 20 degrees of constant deadrise, so it slices through chop without bouncing your dive gear around. For overnight trips, it comes with a large berth with lighting and stowage. A side-access door also is available, which makes water access that much easier.
World Cat 230CC Center Console
It would be a mistake not to mention a power catamaran as a viable candidate as a boat used for diving. It also would be a mistake not to include World Cat, a prominent manufacturer of power cats used for recreation and fishing.
The 230CC is the smallest model in this roundup, but it can be because of how power cats handle rough seas. With twin 115-horse engines, the 230CC has the power to reliably take you out and back to your favorite dive spots.
The 230CC also has a few unique features that make it suitable for use as a dive platform, chief among them the swim ladder mounted on the transom between the engines. You can drop in off the hullsides and then emerge from the water using the handy aluminum ladder.
Seating at the transom folds down to create a flat deck space at the transom, which is handy for donning dive gear, and protecting upholstery from things like dive knives and other sharp objects.
Up front, the 230CC has ample seating, with a jump seat at the front of the helm and a wraparound lounge in the bow. The jump seat has a cooler beneath it and the bow lounges flip up to reveal cavernous stowage compartments. The cushions snap out of you want to leave them home during dive trips.
Everglades 295 Center Console
Florida is home to a lot of dive spots. It’s also home to a lot of boat manufacturers. Everglades is a good example, and its center consoles offer buyers looking for utility the added benefit of luxury.
The 295 Center console is beamy at 9-feet, 9-inches across, so it offers a roomy cockpit—121 square feet!—with powder-coat T top over the helm station and an optional hullside access door, which opens inward. There’s also a door to the transom, which has a telescoping ladder tucked beneath it. What’s more, there’s a flip-up bench seat built into the forward side of the transom.
The helm has plenty of room for optional navigational electronics and a two-up seat with a flip-up thigh bolster and angled footrests. Ahead of the helm there’s a jump seat with a V-shape lounge in the bow, and the cockpit is self-bailing so hauling soaking wet dive gear back on board isn’t a worry.
The 295 Center Console carries 184 gallons of fuel and can be fitted with up to 600 HP, so when it’s time to get home, the 295 can do it in a hurry.
Interpid 300 Center Console
Intrepid has been go-to boat for offshore anglers for years, so it should come as no surprise that an Intrepid can make a good dive boat, too. Take the 300 Center Console for example.
With 30 feet of length and 9 feet, 6 inches of beam, the 300 is built as much with utility in mind as it is performance. In standard trim, the 300 is equipped with a transom door and a dive platform on each side, a head compartment and a small stowage compartment at the bow.
Check a few options boxes and you can really tailor the 300 to be a dive platform. For example, you can—and should get a T-top—with the fiberglass hardtop with recessed lighting. You can get a transom shower, and a pressurized freshwater system with removable rear bench seating. A fold-out hullside door is also available. The door has a ladder and hand rails built into it, which makes climbing back aboard a snap.