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Surface Marker Buoys (SMBs)


Being able to let the surface know where you are during a dive is critical in some situations, and highly recommended in most others. The main ways divers use to achieve this are: a Surface Marker Buoy (SMB) which stays on the surface, with or without a dive flag; a Delayed Surface Marker Buoy (DSMB) which can be deployed by the diver from underwater; or a Safety Sausage which can only be deployed on the surface.

We consider the Safety Sausage to be unsafe and don't sell them. After all, how do you safely get to the surface in areas where there is boat traffic in order to deploy your safety sausage. They are usually much smaller than DSMBs, and thus don't do nearly as good a job as a signalling/location device.

Most people refer to a DSMB as just a SMB, which is why this category is called Surface Marker Buoys (SMBs), but technically they're very different.

SMB vs DSMB

A Surface Marker Buoy (SMB) is floated on the surface during a dive to mark the diver's position during drift dives, night dives, mist or disturbed sea conditions. A SMB is absolutely essential kit for diving anywhere you may have surface boat traffic. It allows your position to be known by people watching from shore and watercraft, whether they be the boat you are diving from, or other water users. Typically a SMB will have a dive flag on it as well. See Surface Markers for our range of SMBs.

A Delayed Surface Marker Buoy (DSMB), decompression buoy or deco buoy, is deployed whilst the diver is submerged and generally only towards the end of the dive. The DSMB marks the diver's position underwater so the boat safety cover can locate the diver even though the diver may have drifted some distance from the dive site while doing safety or decompression stops. A reel or finger spool and line connect the buoy on the surface to the diver beneath the surface.

Our recommendation is that all divers should carry a DSMB and reel on every dive. In many boat diving situations it's also good practice to also have a Surface Marker with dive flag up on the surface to tell your surface support where you are for the whole of the dive.

SMBs and DSMBs are not intended to be used to lift heavy weights. That's what a Lift Bag is for.

Where to Deploy Your DSMB

Delayed SMBs, such as the AP Diving Buddy DSMB, are designed to be deployed from depth near the end of, or at any critical point during, a dive. Some divers, like us, prefer to shoot their Delayed SMBs from the bottom and thus let the surface support know they're begining their ascent. Other divers shoot from mid-water when they start their safety stop, or decompression stops. We strongly recommend you have a Delayed SMB and reel/spool with you on every dive. On open water dives, waiting until you surface to deploy a surface only safety sausage is dangerous in high boat traffic areas.

Which Colour Delayed SMB Should you Use

There are essentially three choices for DSMB colouring — all Red, all Yellow, or Red and Yellow on contrasting sides.

Studies have shown that Red and Yellow are the two most visible colours at sea. But each colour works better than the other in different conditions. Thus if you look around a dive shop, you will see up to three SMB colours: all Red; all Yellow; and one side Red, one side Yellow.

Recreational Diving

An all Red SMB is far and away the most common SMB colour. This leads some new divers to buy an all Yellow SMB so theirs will stand out more when at a busy dive site. We don't recommend this.

Other divers buy the two-colour SMBs (Red on one side, Yellow on the other side) because these must surely be the ideal for high-visibility over the widest range of conditions. For recreational diving, especially when ocean diving, this is what we recommend. However, it is essential that you let your surface cover know that your combined Red and Yellow SMB is not being used as an emergency signal unless an emergency signal or message is attached to it.

Advanced/Technical Diving

In Australia, and many other parts of the world, there is a convention used by more advanced and technical divers that an all Yellow SMB is an emergency signal, to be responded to by sending down a cylinder of gas, or a rescue diver, or both.

Whilst for the most part recreational divers do not have or need such a signal, it is possible for both types of diver to be on the same dive site. If one group of divers is using Yellow as an emergency signal and the other group uses Yellow as standard, this could lead to confusion and even to a genuine emergency signal being ignored.

For this reason, unless you have a very strong reason for wanting an all Yellow SMB as standard, please don't buy one.

If you decide that you would like to use a Yellow SMB as an emergency signal yourself, two precautions to take are:

  • Make sure your surface cover knows this convention
  • Mark the SMB with "EMERGENCY", "HELP", "SOS" or some other such message in large, clear black letters to ensure there is no doubt that you are a diver in distress and not just a diver who thought a Yellow SMB looked nicer than a Red one.


Diving and Snorkelling Downloads

Scuba Diving Downloads

The Scuba Doctor is slowly building a collection of important diving and snorkelling related files for download here. If you have something, or are looking for something, you think should be available here, then please contact us via an email to diveshop@scubadoctor.com.au.

Victoria's Dive Site GPS Marks

Port Phillip — The Heads

Western Port

ex HMAS Canberra Dive Site

Melbourne & Victoria Dive Site Information Sheets

Marine Life Identification

See also Taxonomic Toolkit For Marine Life Of Port Phillip Bay.

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Parks Victoria Marine Notes, Park Notes, Visitor Guides,
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Bikini Atoll

Dive Kit Checklists

Dive Boat Related

Technical Diving

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General Diving Information

  • SDFV Codes of Practice 2005 (Adobe PDF | 62.35 KB) — Scuba Divers Federation of Victoria general operating guidelines for recreational scuba diving and related activities.
  • U.S. Navy Diving Manual - Revision 7 (Adobe PDF | 13.59 MB) — The U.S. Navy Diving Manual is a very complete reference on diving based on the extensive research and experience of the U.S. Navy. The manual contains major sections covering rebreathers, no-decompression diving, open-circuit SCUBA, surface-supplied diving, the diving environment, Navy dive procedures, physics, physiology and recompression chamber operation. The U.S. Navy Diving Manual underwent some significant updates with the sixth revision issued in April 2008. One major change is their decompression procedures and the introduction of a revised decompression algorithm and table. Although much of the information is interesting, it may have limited application to your recreational diving. Still, recreational diving has some of its roots in the almost 1000 pages of this document. Best of all, it's available at no charge because it was developed with US taxpayer funds. The file is large, 14 MB, so best to right click on the link and "Save..." it to your hard drive rather than open it in the browser.
  • NOAA Diving Standards and Safety Manual - April 2017 (Adobe PDF | 20.59 MB) — This document represents the minimum safety standards for diving under the auspices of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as of the approval date of this manual.

UK Nautical Archaeology Society

The NAS has developed a series of recording forms that may help with marine archaeology projects that you are undertaking. These forms can be printed on waterproof paper and mounted on survey boards for use underwater. Completed record forms should kept as part of your project archive.

COVID-19 and Diving

Dive Shop Downloads

 

Tides

Victorian Tide Times for 2022
The tide times can also be referred to as "tide tables, tides, tide predictions or tide charts". The tide predictions in these files represent the times and height of high and low waters.

Other tide publications.

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