Christopher Scully is an experienced, second-generation commercial diver and U.S. Navy veteran based in San Diego, California. He followed in the footsteps of his father and uncle, who were both Navy divers as well, then began working in underwater ship husbandry and attending school full time after his service. Christopher took the time to share a lot of knowledge about his unique job, including some great advice for becoming a commercial diver.
We asked Christopher what his motivation for becoming a commercial diver was, as it's a unique career. "I have always been a searcher," he shared, "I love the variability that commercial diving provides and working alongside my military counterparts gives me a chance to give back to my brothers and sisters as a veteran." He also raved about his relationships with fellow divers, saying "the community of divers is unmatched in my opinion for support and brotherhood. I mean during a job, your dive buddy is the only person you got in case anything happens, that forges tight bonds across the underwater community."
Commercial Diver Job Responsibilities
Christopher works a specialized diving job called underwater ship husbandry. He maintains ships and vessels that are in or partially submerged in water to ensure seaworthiness, efficiency, and safety while minimizing environmental impact and extending its operational life. These are the daily responsibilities involved in an underwater ship husbandry job:
- Cleaning & Inspection: We clean the submerged parts of the ship to remove marine growth, such as barnacles and algae, which can negatively impact the ship's performance. Regular inspections of the ship's hull, propellers, rudders, and other underwater components are also conducted to identify any damage or corrosion.
- Maintenance & Repairs: Underwater ship husbandry encompasses a range of maintenance activities. It may involve tasks like replacing sacrificial anodes (which protect the ship from corrosion), repairing or replacing damaged coatings, or addressing mechanical issues with underwater equipment. This helps ensure the ship remains in optimal condition and reduces the risk of more significant problems arising.
- Salvage & Recovery: We play a key role in salvage and recovery operations. In situations where a ship has sunk or experienced a marine accident, underwater teams may be deployed to stabilize the vessel, remove debris, or refloat it. These efforts require specialized skills and equipment to minimize environmental damage and safely recover the ship.
- Performance Optimization: By maintaining the ship's underwater surfaces in a clean and efficient state, we can optimize the vessel's performance. Smooth hull surfaces and properly functioning underwater equipment improve fuel efficiency, reduce drag, and enhance maneuverability, ultimately leading to cost savings for the ship owner or operator.
- Safety & Compliance: Underwater ship husbandry plays a role in ensuring the safety of the vessel and compliance with maritime regulations. Regular inspections and maintenance help identify potential risks, such as structural weaknesses or equipment malfunctions, that could jeopardize the safety of the ship, crew, or cargo. Compliance with regulations regarding anti-fouling systems and environmental protection is also addressed in our work.
Christopher's favorite part of the job is the unique and thrilling work environment. He told us, "We often get to explore underwater ecosystems, dive on shipwrecks, and encounter marine life up close. It can be a highly adventurous and exciting profession, appealing to those who seek adrenaline-pumping experiences." This career is ideal for those who like hands-on work and seeing the tangible results of their efforts, which is appealing to many of the folks we talk to.
Advice for Becoming a Commercial Diver
If diving or ship husbandry sound appealing to you, Christopher also shared some advice for getting started from his first-hand experience:
- Research & Understand the Requirements: Begin by thoroughly researching the requirements and qualifications for becoming a Navy diver or a commercial diver. Understand the physical, medical, and educational prerequisites, as well as the training programs and certifications involved. This will give you a clear picture of what is expected and help you make an informed decision.
- Build Physical Fitness: Both Navy and commercial diving require excellent physical fitness. Focus on building strength, endurance, and flexibility through a well-rounded fitness routine. Incorporate cardiovascular exercises, strength training, and underwater-specific workouts if possible. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and a strong physical foundation will benefit you during the demanding training and diving operations.
- Obtain the Necessary Education & Certifications: Depending on your desired path, obtain the appropriate education and certifications. For Navy diving, joining the military and completing the required basic training is necessary. Commercial diving often requires completion of a commercial diving program from an accredited institution. Research reputable diving schools and ensure their programs meet industry standards.
- Gain Diving Experience: Prioritize gaining diving experience whenever possible. This can include recreational scuba diving, volunteer work, or internships in diving-related fields. Familiarize yourself with the equipment, underwater environments, and safety protocols. Diving experience will not only strengthen your skills but also demonstrate your commitment to the field.
- Develop Strong Mental Resilience: Diving can be physically and mentally challenging, so developing strong mental resilience is crucial. Emphasize stress management techniques, problem-solving skills, and the ability to stay calm under pressure. Diving can present unexpected situations, and maintaining a composed mindset is essential for safety and decision-making.
- Network & Seek Mentors: Connect with professionals in the diving industry, both in the Navy and commercial sectors. Attend industry events, join diving associations, and seek out mentors who can provide guidance and insights into the field. Networking can open doors to opportunities, provide valuable advice, and help you navigate your career path.
- Embrace Continuous Learning: Diving is a field that requires ongoing learning and staying updated with advancements and best practices. Seek opportunities for continuing education, attend workshops, and stay informed about the latest safety protocols, equipment, and diving techniques. A commitment to continuous learning will make you a more competent and valuable diver.
- Prepare for Challenges & Adversity: Recognize that becoming a Navy diver or a commercial diver is a challenging path. There will be physical, mental, and emotional hurdles to overcome. Prepare yourself for setbacks, persevere through difficult times, and maintain a positive attitude. Resilience and determination are essential qualities for success in this field.
Although this job is exciting, it does come with its own set of challenges. We asked Christopher about the struggles he faces in his career as a Navy and commercial diver. Diving operations are physically demanding and take place in extreme environments, including cold water, strong currents, limited visibility, and potentially hazardous marine life. The work requires rigorous training, and even professionals face risks like decompression sickness and equipment failure.
There are also mental demands like being away from home for extended periods of time, which is common for those in any branch of the military. Reintegrating into civilian life can also be tough for some when they return home. He shared that feelings of isolation and strain on personal relationships due to missions or irregular schedules are common and can be difficult to work through. On the job, he also told us that "We are expected to perform duties with precision and accuracy, often in challenging and high-pressure situations. Meeting these standards requires constant training, practice, and dedication."
So, is commercial diving dangerous and difficult? Definitely. But despite these struggles, Christopher says, "I find the work rewarding and fulfilling. The sense of camaraderie, the opportunity to work in unique underwater environments, and the pride in serving our country motivates me to overcome these challenges and excel in my role."
Boots for a Diver
Of course, we had to bring it back to boots – even though Christopher spends most of his time in diving gear. His favorite Thorogoods are "a split between the 1957 Series Moc Toe and the American Heritage Series Safety Toe, but the moc toes in Briar Pitstop are by far the most comfortable." When it comes to “top side work,” the support on the surface, you want a boot that will provide some water resistance, safety, and (above all for me) comfort. "I wear Thorogoods because they are consistent and honestly stylish as well. I know these boots are going to stand up against the toughest days and nights and when it's time to get a new pair, I know that the quality will be the same."
We're so grateful to Christopher Scully for sharing his experience and advice with us, and hope that it can help others who may want to follow a similar path to become a commercial diver. These types of jobs need hardworking, tough people that can't be replaced by machines – and that's exactly the type of people we are proud to support at Thorogood.