Don’t leave home without it or you might get left behind.
WE’VE ALL HEARD the stories: some poor diver gets caught in a current and drifts out of sight, or surfaces to find he’s been forgotten by an absent-minded divemaster in a hurry to get home (remember the movie Open Water?). It’s scary, really, how quickly you can become invisible floating around out there in the ocean.
Serious off-the-grid divers often use high-tech—and pricey—products like mini-EPIRBs that are designed to make sure getting lost never happens, but for the every-day diver nothing beats the low cost and high effectiveness of a basic surface signal tube. Add to that a collection of alternate easy-to-carry signal devices and suddenly you’re prepared for the unthinkable; you’re ready to be rescued.
By poking around in virtually any dive store you’ll most likely find all the components you need to make your own “Hey, I’m Over Here!” kit. Or, you can do it the easy way. XS Scuba has done all the work for you by putting together their own SMB (Surface Marker Buoy) Rescue Kit. Like its name implies, the centerpiece of the kit is a six-foot signal tube, available in orange or yellow, that can be inflated orally, by using a LP inflator hose, or by using a second stage. Past tests have shown that signal tubes of this size can be seen up to about a half a mile away in calm, clear conditions.
Accompanying the signal tube is a Rescue Flash Signal Mirror. Measuring 2” x 3”, this compact reflector fits nicely into a mesh pouch at the base of the signal tube. A site window in its center makes it easy to accurately aim the mirror flash at boats or planes. During past tests we were able to see the flash off this type of mirror easily from half a mile away.
The tube and mirror take care of your visual signals, while the included Wind Storm whistle provides an audible signal. These small noise-makers have proven to be surprisingly effective in attracting attention. They’re able to cut through background noise, which is why they’re used in sporting events and traffic control, plus the sound carries considerably; past tests have shown that whistles like this used by a diver in the water can be heard on a boat anchored a half a mile away.
In the really unpleasant event that you’re stuck out at sea after the sun goes down, the XS Scuba kit also comes with a chemical light stick that can be attached to the top of the signal tube. It will glow for up to 12 hours, no batteries required.
While you’re busy signaling for help, you can stay close to your dive buddy with the included 10-foot “buddy connect” webbing that packs in a small mesh bag. This will enable you and your buddy to stay clipped together in low visibility or high seas. In these same conditions, a small backup compass that fits on your watchband completes the kit. The compass is really tiny and could be hard to read in really adverse conditions, but if you don’t have your regular compass at hand at least this mini-pointer will give you basic directional information.
All in all, it’s a pretty complete kit, and the components are not toys. Sure, it’s something else to carry with you on your dive, but it will be worth every inch of space you devote to it if there ever comes a time when you need it. SGR