One of the most important piece of Safety Gear we can have is one we often don't even know how important it is to use.
Surface Marker Buoys (SMB's) are an important piece of safety gear to have on every dive. All scuba agencies now require it to be carried in classes and many dive boats require it as well.
But how much do you know about it and how much consideration did you put into buying yours? Surface Marker Buoys have been around for many decades and have been a part of every Technical Divers tool box. But, it's more then one other piece of gear to carry.
Although one never hopes to lose the person carrying the flag, in reality sometimes it happens. As you learned in your Open Water Class, the rule is to search for one minute and then surface. But, what if the line snaps on the flag and it continues to drift away with the charter boat following it?
This is where a SMB can be helpful to make you visible. Divers in the water are hard to see by boats. Since only your head is visible and waves can obscure visibility, a SMB can give you some height over the water.
When picking a SMB to carry you need to consider the brighter the better and size does sometimes matter. In rough seas or bright days, a dive flag can be hard to see and can be lost in the waves.
But deploying a SMB to supplement the flag on the surface now creates a bigger object to see and you can wave it.
Several divers deploying a few SMB's make a bigger target. How easy do you think it would be to see these several divers with their deployed SMB's?
In ending, SMB's can be used to make a dive boat captains job that much easier in rough seas and can be valuable when you lose the flag or the person holding it. I prefer a bright yellow because it sticks out but red and even pink are pretty bright too. I also prefer one that can be filled manually or by inserting a regulator to fill. This SMB can be inflated solidly and can be raised over the head without going limp. But like all other dive gear you need to look at the cost you are willing to pay, how you will attach it to keep it out of the way, and how big you are willing to carry.