Over 20,000 wetsuits & accessories in stock today!

Secure Checkout

How To Use A Dive Compass

   July 9th, 2024   Posted In: How-To   Tags:

Have you ever gotten lost while driving in your car? Nowadays it is harder to get lost with the invention of cell phone maps. Just like driving a car, navigating while SCUBA diving does not have to be hard. While SCUBA diving does not have underwater dive maps that tell you where to turn, the dive compass makes this navigation a little easier. 

Mastering Underwater Navigation: Using a Dive Compass

Getting lost underwater is not fun! Losing your SCUBA diving buddy or group is even worse! Navigating underwater may seem like a scary, tedious task to some people, especially if leading a group. Most divers will not volunteer themselves as the lead of the group to navigate with a dive compass because they have the fear of messing up.

Even though navigation is taught in beginner SCUBA diving courses, most divers will forget how it’s done. How to use a dive compass underwater is something that, if not practiced, can be lost as a skill. Let’s explore how to use a dive compass underwater. 

Parts Of A Dive Compass

A SCUBA diving compass has many parts that make it function underwater. Underwater, the dive compass lays flat. The actual compass piece floats inside and has numbers on it.

  • North Needle. The magnetic north needle still points north. 
  • Lubber Line. There is a lubber line on the dive compass that is etched into the plate of the compass. This is always pointed in your travel direction.
  • Bezel. There is a bezel on top that has numbers written on it. The bezel physically turns. The bezel also has either one or two sets of index marks on them so that you can mark your heading. 
  • Side window. The side window allows you to see the compass heading while the compass is laying flat. 

How To Use A Dive Compass

Now that you know the parts of the compass, how do you use the dive compass? There are a couple ways to use this handy tool. Let’s start with a simple way.

Compass Use 1: 

Start by pointing the lubber line in your travel direction. The magnetic north needle will point north. Turn the bezel until the index marks are in the arrow pointing north. While SCUBA diving, as long as the north needle is in the index marks, you are going in your desired direction.

If you are doing a simple out and back, you can simply turn around and the north arrow would be opposite of the index marks. Many people say to reset your compass while diving to head back. Use caution if doing this as you may lose sense of direction and get the wrong heading.

Compass Use 2:

With the compass laying flat and the lubber line facing your travel direction, look through the side window to see your compass bearing. Turn the bezel so that your compass heading written on the bezel is at the 12:00 position. For instance, if you want to head out at 60 degrees, find 60 degrees in the side window, then turn the bezel so that 60 degrees on the bezel is in the 12:00 position, directly above the lubber line. While diving underwater, keep the arrow north pointed in the index marks of the bezel. This will keep you heading in the correct direction. 

The confusing part about the second way is that you have compass heading numbers on the actual compass and on the bezel. Once you practice a little, it gets easier to understand.

The above instructions of how to use a dive compass do work for more complicated navigations underwater. However, if there are multiple points to hit, you might consider bringing a SCUBA dive slate underwater and writing down the compass headings to and from each point.

Also worth noting is that the compass will glow in the dark when a light is placed on it.

Electronic Dive Compass

To make life a whole lot easier navigating underwater, some dive computers have a digital compass. How to use an electronic dive compass is very easy. Simply point your digital compass in the direction you want to go and take note of the heading. The digital compass tells you which way north is and the compass heading. 

The Importance of Regular Dive Compass Practice

Navigating underwater can be very easy, but practice makes perfect. If you use your navigation skills often, it will become easier and easier. Don’t get lost underwater! Practice your skills! 

Candace is an avid scuba diver and freelance writer with a PhD in Biomedicine. She has been diving since 2002 and is currently a PADI IDC Staff Instructor. When she is not instructing, she enjoys writing about scuba and volunteering at the local aquarium where she dives with the sharks!

Latest Posts by Candace Reno (see all)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *