As a PADI Divemaster and even as a certified diver in general there are many essential pieces of dive equipment that you need. You want to be safe in the water and be able to guide your group or assist with classes and worrying about your scuba equipment is one of the last things you need to be thinking about.
One of the required pieces of equipment as a dive professional is your DSMB pr delayed surface marker buoy. This is an essential piece of equipment that allows you to be seen both on the surface and underwater. It can be inflated a waved to signal dive boats. It can be released from underwater to allow captains to see your movements. Essential, all round really.
But, this seemingly simple piece of equipment can pose some problems for budding dive professionals if you are not familiar with using. So, to help with that, here are some tips on selecting and then using your DSMB.
What size do you need ?
First thing you want to think about before even buying one is what size do you need? They start at about 3 feet long, which I will be honest, even in Caribbean calm waters, are hard to spot. The moment you drift at least 200m away from a sight, with the sun, or rain, they might not be as easy to spot. Personally, i go for the 6ft (60”) plus sizes. In chop, slight waves, they are going to be much easier to spot. Color isn’t really going to make that much difference as they are all brightly marked.
There are different ways to get air into a SMB. Some have a oral inflation valve which you press in and blow into. Others open at the bottom so you can fill them with air. The ones with just an oral inflation valve tend to be on the small side and may not have an over fill dump mechanism in which case, be careful how much air you put in at depth as it obviously expands on the way up.
For the ones that open at the bottom. Two ways of filling, one of which I recommend. The first, is filling using your alternate air source, not recommended. This produces a tangle hazard amongst other things. The second recommended way is to tilt your head and fill using your exhaust bubbles. Fill to the point it starts to pull you up and then let it go.
Tip for release
Here is your first tip for release. You must make sure that your safety sausage is free from your BCD and gear to prevent entanglement. A helpful tip for doing this is to empty some of your air from your BCD into your SMB. This will keep it in a vertical position so making it easier to clear it for more inflation and then release. Do not reel out lots of line which can cause entanglement. Reel out enough to get it started, then have it ready to go once the SMB is inflated.
Okay, so DSMB is on its way up, how are you handling your reel? There are so many different types of reel out there where do you begin. A firm favorite is the finger spool, easy to handle and release. No fancy mechanisms to break. I get that. If you want something heavier duty, then maybe a reel with a release clip which could be a spring or not. I am completely in love with my DiveRite reels which I have had for years and still hold up. If not that then a simple finger spool will work for me.
Length of line
One of the key things to look at though is the length of the line. You need to have at least enough line to be released from the depth that you are diving. Why I hear you ask? What if you encounter unexpected current or change of direction? How do you let the captain know where you are? If you wait until you are at your safety stop to release the line, you may already be way off course. This is why it is important to release the DSMB from the bottom. If you wait until you are at your safety stop, you may also have your hand full with your clients. Maybe one is floating up? We know it does happen, especially around safety stops. If the DSMB is already up, less to worry about.
So, in conclusion there are definitely some things to think about with your DSMB. Practice, practice, practice with deploying it and getting comfortable using the reel underwater and ensure that you stay safe when diving.