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SMB vs Dive Flag

Discussion in 'Pacific Northwest' started by sambolino44, Nov 11, 2006.

  1. sambolino44

    sambolino44 Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Oak Harbor, Whidbey Island, WA
    793
    15
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    When I started diving back in '95, in Minnesota lakes, we were taught to always drag a dive flag behind us. What a hassle! I couldn't help but notice that only about half the dive teams used them. Now I'm diving in Puget Sound, and there is this thing called a Surface Marker Buoy that I don't remember seeing before, although I do recall Safety Sausages.

    Somebody please correct me if I'm wrong, but here's the way I understand the differences.

    Dive Flags are always visible; for the whole dive they're up on the surface providing a slalom course for boaters. You may anchor them so you don't have to drag it around the whole time, but if you do that, you aren't supposed to go very far from it. I understand that there are places around here, like state parks and the Hood Canal, where you are required by law to use a Dive Flag. Also, Dive Flags are a specific design that is supposed to be known to boaters.

    Surface Marker Buoys seem to be unnecessary if you have a Dive Flag, unless you've strayed too far from your anchored Dive Flag and need to surface. I understand this is something you shoot to the surface to alert boats that you're coming up. Also, it would be helpful to maintain a steady depth during a safety stop in open water.

    A Safety Sausage is used on the surface to draw attention to yourself, like to get the boat to come pick you up, or if you have an emergency. But this device is only used at the surface, and is hand-held (not on a line).

    It seems that you could use an SMB as a Safety Sausage, since they are so similar in form. It also appears that they promote the auxilliary buoyancy of SMBs to be used in an emergency, although I wonder about that. It seems that there is no standard design (size, shape, color, etc.) for these things like there is for Dive Flags. And I don't think boaters are taught to recognize them.

    I wonder about this because I haven't seen anybody using a Dive Flag at any of the dive sites I've been to around here. And with all the kelp, I don't see how anybody could practically use one on most dives. Also, since most SMBs and Safety Sausages don't have the legally recognized dive flag on them, what good are they? I mean, obviously there must be some practical merit; I don't think a sensible boater would run over one that just appeared out of nowhere. But would they keep you from getting a ticket?

    I'd like to hear from some Puget Sound divers who use Dive Flags in kelp beds. Or any experienced opinions on this subject. Thanks.
     
  2. justleesa

    justleesa Neither here nor there ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives:
    Location:
    16,098
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    So I hear you got a new safty sausage....have you tried it out yet?
     
  3. Diver Dennis

    Diver Dennis Solo Diver

    I'm not sure about the regs in your area regarding Dive Flags but I carry an SMB on all dives for just the situation you described. I dive almost exclusively in tropical seas where dive flags are not used so we use SMBs to let the boat know where we are and in high boat traffic areas not to get run over. We deploy them from depth if doing deco or from 15' for safety stops.

    This link may be useful... http://www.scubaboard.com/showthread.php?t=174731&highlight=Surface+MArker+buoy
     
  4. sambolino44

    sambolino44 Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Oak Harbor, Whidbey Island, WA
    793
    15
    0
    Thanks, yes, I've read the thread, and no, I have not tried my new DAN SMB yet.

    Mainly I'm just wondering about getting a ticket. A lady at a dive shop over in Hood Canal said the sherrif does actually ticket people with no flag. And that they're required in state parks. I dive at Keystone, and have never seen a dive flag there. I have, however seen a lot of SMBs hanging off of BCs, but never seen one deployed.
     
  5. do it easy

    do it easy Assistant Instructor

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Chicagoland, USA
    5,023
    4
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    Maybe you should ask a mod to move this question the PNW forum, since you are asking about dive flag laws and usage specific to the PNW. The last thing you need is some yahoo Florida caver telling you how to use a dive flag. :D

    As far as the SMBs on the BC- I think it's like scissors and knives- lots of divers have them, but they don't use them on every dive.
     
  6. BCSGratefulDiver

    BCSGratefulDiver Mental toss flycoon ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: On the Fun Side of Trump's Wall
    72,805
    56,459
    113
    Although there is a law on the books (statewide, I believe) requiring the use of dive flags, it is rarely enforced. The Hood Canal situation is spotty ... and used more as a means to raise cash for the local economy than for safety considerations ... they've got some real "Boss Hawg" types down there, and until they address that problem I'm perfectly content to visit Hood Canal only for boat dives ... and even then I won't spend any money locally except to pay the charter operator.

    I've never seen a dive flag or SMB at Keystone except for the occasional classes ... and it's not really a good idea as currents there can come up in a hurry and pull you around the end of the jetty and into the ferry lane. The last thing you need is something that's going to intensify that problem ... if you've ever tried swimming against a current while pulling a flag or SMB you'll know it makes the job MUCH more difficult.

    The dive flag laws were not put in place by people who dive ... nor are they usually observed by those who dive. As you note, there are places ... particularly those with kelp ... where using a flag is more a hazard than a help. That is also true in places where you're likely to encounter boats or PWCs (especially the latter). Flags seem to attract boaters. I once watched a large (40+ foot) boat literally run over an anchored dive flag with an OW class underneath it at Alki Junkyard. In fact, we even video'ed the event and contacted the Seattle Harbor Patrol. The officer I spoke to told me there's no law preventing a boat from running over a dive flag, and unless the boater hits someone, there's nothing he can do about it.

    I haven't used a dive flag for anything other than classes since ...

    ... Bob (Grateful Diver)
     
  7. dsteding

    dsteding DIR Practitioner

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Seattle, downtown
    1,074
    2
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    Bob is spot on with the background, although the dive flag ordinances I've seen are at the city/county level (I'm not aware of a state provision, but I haven't really looked).

    Most look something like this (Spokane City Code-the night provision is a bit unique):

    10.14.160 Scuba Diving.

    A. Persons who are engaging in scuba diving shall mark the area in which such operations are being conducted by the use of a divers’ flag, which is red with a white diagonal stripe, at least eighteen by twenty-four inches.

    B. If such scuba diving operations are not accompanied by a vessel displaying a divers’ flag, a divers’ flag must be affixed to a float or similar device so as to be visible for a distance of one hundred yards.

    C. If scuba diving operations are to be conducted between the hours of sunset and sunrise, artificially lighted marker buoys shall be provided and shall be visible for at least one hundred yards.

    For your locality, I'd get on your city/county wesite, find the relevant local code and look under boating regulations or harbor provisions, using a text search for "scuba" should find it.
     
  8. sambolino44

    sambolino44 Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Oak Harbor, Whidbey Island, WA
    793
    15
    0
    Thanks, guys! I'm looking forward to trying it out on my next dive. I plan to shoot it to the surface from the bottom, and use it to help myself stay in position during my blue-water ascent safety stop. I guess that means I need to mark or knot the line at 15'. And it just occurred to me to check that the line is attached to the reel! Then I guess I'll just drag it back to shore, staying at 15'.

    I've found the weights hanging off the boat at 15' very helpful for the safety stop, and I wonder how this will compare. I ususally do shore dives, and just follow the bottom back, doing my safety stop near the bottom.

    I have to say, I like the idea of carrying the "flag" around with you, and only using it when necessary, instead of dragging that thing around the whole time. That thing was a real Pain In The PITA!
     
  9. BCSGratefulDiver

    BCSGratefulDiver Mental toss flycoon ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: On the Fun Side of Trump's Wall
    72,805
    56,459
    113
    There are some potential "gotchyas" involved in deploying it as you describe. Ask Doug Steding to explain the concept of underwater macrame ... :D

    You're actually supposed to reel the line up with you as you go. If you like, you can mark the line at 15 feet, but keep the reel in your hand, and reel it up to the desired depth as you ascend.

    I would heartily recommend finding someone who can explain to you how to properly deploy the thing before attempting it. If you can make it out this way some week-end day, I'd be happy to hook up with you and spend some time explaining how to do it properly. Or see if there's someone out there at the Oak Harbor shop who will show you. It'll save you some potential hassles, and increase your learning curve tremendously.

    Also, try that first deployment from a fairly shallow depth ... no more than 25 or 30 feet.

    ... Bob (Grateful Diver)
     
  10. Rick Inman

    Rick Inman Advisor ScubaBoard Supporter

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    As a Spokane resident, I'm aware of this law.

    The ironic thing is, this is a city code, not a county code, and there is no place for diving in the city proper.

    Go figgure...:shakehead
     

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