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Surface Signal Devices – WHY they are good to have

By Ken Kollwitz
The surface signal devices I will be talking about is the safety sausage (no, they are not good to eat), Scuba Tuba (not a musical instrument), signal tube or master blaster (just kidding). Other surface signaling devices are whistles, mirrors, flares or anything else you can use to get someone’s attention.

I will use signal tube for this article. Signal tubes vary greatly with different colors, lengths, material there made out of, method to inflate, can be a lift bag and price. The type I have used for years and still always have as an extra is the trident plastic tube with open bottom on it. They are only $8.00 and can last quite awhile until you pop it. My main one is from DAN and doubles as a 30 lbs. lift bag, can be inflated several ways, is 6 feet tall and comes with a whistle and mirror. For me, I like the type that I can inflate from underneath with my regulator because when I need to inflate it my mouth is cold and numb and for me it is very difficult to inflate.

So why am I writing this article any way’s? I think a signal tube is a very important piece of gear for all dives, including very easy dives. Not only do I think signal tubes are an important piece of gear to have, but also knowing how to use them is very important. I am quite sure there are divers that have signal tubes and have them clipped to their BC and probably never have tried to use it. Having something for an emergency does you no good if you never test it out and know what to expect.

OK, so when would a diver need a signal tube? You can use them anytime you surface far from the boat or beach and need to get someone’s attention , you can use it to let other boaters know your location and you can use it as extra flotation if needed. Signal tubes are also used for specialized diving like drift diving were you would have it inflated before you broke the water surface.

I have heard excuses why a diver didn’t think they needed a signal tube and I am sure they never really thought of the “what if’s. Some of the excuses I have heard are; I always come up the anchor line, I don’t drift dive, I don’t go far from the boat, there is the inflatable chase boat, etc. Let’s face it, #@*& happens, and when it does we need to be prepared. Now of course, planning for the “what if’s” has to be within reason otherwise divers would look like the OSHA cowboy and never be able to dive. I have had a few times that were not planned when I needed my signal tube.

Here is a scenario that could easily happen. It’s the 3rd dive, shallow (35’), your getting cold and a very slight current comes up and you decide to turn around and head for the boat. You then start to get a leg cramp which makes it harder to swim so you surface. Now you realize the current was a little stronger then expected and you are past the current line. The crew sees you and puts out more current line, but the more you try to swim the more your leg cramps. So now what do you do? Get out that trusty signal tube, inflate it and kick back and wait for some extra help. Without the signal tube will other boaters see you? Probably not and that is not a good thing.

Now you know why I think a signal tube is a good thing to have and I hope you do too.

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