When diving, particularly off a boat, with the Club you will probably have seen the orange blobby thing to the surface that you have then completed your three minute safety stop under and then surfaced, to find that the dive boat is ‘just there’ waiting for you to arrive.
Maybe not been on a club trip yet, but seen them being deployed as part of practising by our team members.
You may even have launched one yourself, and have inflated one on the surface as part of your open water course.
That orange blobby thing is called an SMB or Surface Marker Buoy. It’s a piece of safety equipment to allow you to be seen. If you become separated from your buddy under water, you can deploy. If you become separated from the boat your SMB will stand up tall and is designed to allow you to be visible to surface support.
There are different methods to inflate SMB’s depending on their design – orally inflated, by blowing into a tube. A non-locking nipple fitting to the oral tube that connects a low pressure inflate hose and some you can inflated from a small cylinder
But what happens if you require URGENT attention for you and your buddy either after you have surfaced or during your time underwater you need to activate urgent priority help. In the UK the general standard is, your orange SMB indicates I am here, all is well, and we will be there shortly. But for urgent help a Yellow SMB should be deployed.
If you have already deployed an Orange one, not an issue just deploy your yellow one up the same line… the skipper and / or surface cover will instantly recognise that urgent help is required and you will be prioritised first.
Deploying an SMB is a skill that you need to master and continuously practise. Even when you are working in a different buddy pair from normal, things will change so knowing what you will do is part of your dive planning. Deploying on your own is very different to working with your buddy and doing a two-person deploy and then mid-water moving in a drift to mid-water stationary… all skills that need to be practised. No point in practising when you need the skill for real, like everything it should be a motor skill. Think about completing the Surface Marker Buoy speciality where all of these skills are taught and you get lots of practise.
Want to find out a little more about SMB's then have a look at our Choosing Dive Equipment - SMB page
Let’s take a journey back to 2010. I had just completed my advance open water, and started to build up my collection of kit. After I had completed several dives, I was comfortable with diving, my kit, and confident in the water. So, what was my next adventure?
Following the standard PADI ladder, the next step from Advanced Open Water was Rescue Diver. This is one of the most useful and rewarding courses that you will ever complete.
I’m not going to lie; the rescue course was tough, but fun at the same time.
The skills that I got out of the rescue course was well worth the effort, knowing that you are going to come out of this course with a different skillset and mindset towards diving is well worth the hard work.
Like all courses, rescue started off with some theory and reading the manual this was in the days before e-learning. E-learning allows you to start NOW.
Once I had covered the 5 theory segments, drank lots of tea and completed the exam it was off to the pool to brush up my self-rescue skills, remember those from Open Water? We then began to work though 10 different situations, realising just how dramatic the Dive Rutland staff can be.
The self-rescue section opens your eyes as to how you will save yourself in the majority of issues, at the end of the day you need to be able to look after yourself before you can rescue anyone else. The first time I did a lift was a little daunting, I watched the instructor make it look so easy I didn’t want to it mess up. Don’t worry about it, it will go wrong the first few times (it did for me), this is where the laughs came in. Your instructor will show you what is considered to be the best practice, but it is important to realise that there is no one right way to do a rescue.
Once the pool sessions were complete it was off to Stoney Cove where the real hard work began. I needed to complete 2 rescue scenarios which were testing as we were in full open water kit but once this was done to standards, I was qualified! It was hard! It was the end of Feb and the water was probably as cold as it would get, I had only practiced this in a wetsuit in the pool, now I had hoods, gloves, dry suits and extra weight to deal with. This is what I normally dive in, so I needed to be confident that I could complete the rescue in my open water kit; hoods, gloves, and drysuit!
With the 2 scenarios done and dusted and my missing diver found, rescued and brought back to life I was a qualified Rescue Diver.
So, what are my memories from the course, what did I take from it and where did it take me?
This course helped me go to the next step with my diving. It helped me gain confidence within myself but also the ability to question why people do things and have discussions with them, you start to spot the errors before they happen.
I started to see and look at things in a different way. It will help you to see mistakes before they happen and intervene. You’ll gain more confidence in your own diving and it's also the last recreational qualification before you move on to the Divemaster Course. This course is about becoming a better and safer diver for yourself first, and those around you benefit from your continued training.
If you want to discuss any diver training then get in touch with the dive centre, they are a friendly bunch and are happy to answer your questions
Written by James Dames
Internally referenced from Rescue Course page
When I started my Divemaster Internship in Tenerife, we were required to have a dive knife, which is in on the required kit list for any dive professional.
I have the same knife I had received as part of my first set of kit three years before, a blunt knife that had a line cutter integrated in to it. This was considered to be unacceptable for the course and I was asked to purchase a very large knife, a Scubapro K5 to be exact. This was to go Long Black Spiny Sea Urchin culling, as an invasive species I could understand this need though it is still not something that I enjoyed or even partook in.
I no longer own the Scubapro K5. There is no reason for my to have this knife. Instead I take my trusty blunt knife with a line cutter in its sheath with me on dives. Why even carry a knife? Increasingly I find plastics and fishing line with me on dives. Not in the quarries that we train in, but I like wreck diving and fishermen LOVE fishing wrecks. Monofilament line is invisible, often used for arts projects and displays because of this property.
Now imagine that you are swimming along a wreck, perhaps behind your buddy. Your buddy is an avid photographer and focused on getting a good picture. Before the dive, you talked about the shots that they wanted, maybe it was the six guns of the SMS Markgraaf. As the buddy, you are now looking for whatever picture your buddy may have missed. You may be swimming at slightly different depths in order to cover more ground. Your buddy a bit deeper swam under monofilament line, you were not so lucky*. Now you find yourself tangled in the line, attached to the wreck, what can you do?
This is why I keep my trusty line cutter with me. I hope to never need to use it, but being able to rescue myself in these situations or rescue my buddy means that there is less damage to the sensitive marine environment because of thrashing about trying to untangle yourself.
There are many line cutter options available, and different ways of attaching them to your equipment. Talk to your friendly local dive centre and even amongst their staff you will probably find many options and preferences. Remember from your training, you need at least one cutting device and it needs to be able to be easily accessed by either hand.
*the only part of this that is true is swimming along the SMS Markgraaf looking for those six guns, no instructors were harmed in this process*
Written by Bridget Weid, PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer
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Registered address: 8 Horn Close, Oakham, Rutland LE15 6FE