Last week we put a call out asking divers to share incidents concerning boat safety, and we received some interesting stories. Fortunately, in these cases there were no injuries, but the outcome could have been very different. Following is a review of the encounters:
- A diver was driven over by a jet boat driver that was using his dive flag as a target.
- Despite having a dive flag displayed a diver reports that on several occasions big boats on autopilot have driven straight over the top of him.
- At the end of a dive a group of divers gathered together as they heard their boat approaching to pick them up. They blew bubbles to indicate their position (they were not using an SMB at this time, it wasn’t part of their own kit and it wasn’t recommended or provided by the operator). As they ascended the boat came right at them and one of the divers had to push the hull away from hitting him, and the propeller then came within inches of hitting another diver in the head. The diver reporting the incident was watching all this happen while still underwater and had no idea if her buddy had been injured. When she surfaced the boat was still going at full speed ahead, and did not stop or even slow down. The divers were left in the water and very anxious. The only apology the divers received from the operator was in the form of a free drink. While an SMB would have been useful, the diver questions whether it would have been seen by the captain and if so, whether it would have been respected.
- The divers were diving in a quiet harbour. After completing their safety stop, they commenced their ascent when the diver heard a a noise. Upon looking around, she realised it was a speeding boat approaching over the top. In horror, they dumped air as fast as they could to halt their ascent. The boat passed right over their heads. The diver’s buddy was experienced and he said he felt stupid not having used an SMB given they were diving close to a harbour, albeit a quiet one.
- This diver was in a big lake that had a very busy dive site. The site is marked with yellow beacons and boats are not permitted inside the area for the safety of the divers. Unfortunately, some boat drivers don’t know what the beacons represent and enter the diving area to the risk of divers.
- The diver had to let go of the SMB when a sailing boat decided to use it as a mooring! On another occasion, a sailing boat used the SMB as a point to practise a turn.
These incidents highlight that we can’t assume boat drivers are aware that divers are in the water. It is your personal safety at risk, so take appropriate safety measures by displaying a dive flag and using an SMB. Be cautious as you approach the surface and endeavour to get out of the water as soon as you can.
Divers share the water with many different vessels and some may not even consider that a diver could be in the water. The fact that one boat user was trying to use an SMB as a mooring suggests there is much work to do to improve water safety for divers and more awareness is needed regarding the meaning of dive flags.