Appeared in DIVER July 2018
WHEN YOU GET RIGHT DOWN TO IT, delayed surface marker buoys are there for two reasons. First, they give you a personal ascent-line that you can deploy at any time, which means that wherever and whenever you surface you’ll still have a visual reference to help control your ascent-rate and hold stop-depths.
Second, your blob popping to the surface shows people where you are, which means a quicker pick-up by the boat, and limits the chances of you being missed and left drifting on an empty sea.
Kit-wise, all you need is a buoy, available in many colours and sizes and with various options for inflation; a length of line suitable for the depth in which you’re diving; and some sort of reel to keep the line neat and tidy when you’re not using it, and allow the line to unreel smoothly and under control when you come to send up the blob.
The simplest reels are finger-spools, and they’re my preference for a DSMB. They’re small, lightweight, and with no moving parts they pretty much last forever.
The line is tied to the centre spindle of the reel and then wound around the reel until you get to the end, where you use one end of a double-ended bolt-snap to hold the line securely in place, and the other end to attach the reel to a convenient D-ring.
Remove the clip to free the line, attach to the buoy if necessary, then inflate the blob and away it goes. As you ascend, wind the line around the spool and use the bolt-snap to secure the line to the reel at stop depths. Simple. Sea&Sea sent me its latest IST finger-spool to try, and it’s a cracking piece of kit.
The spool is made of marine-grade aluminium anodised in a choice of colours. I had a blue one. There’s a slight flare to the sides of the spool to hold line neatly, but it’s not enough to make it too bulky to hold between finger and thumb, if that’s how you use a spool, and the hole in the centre is over-sized to allow it to spin on a gloved finger if you prefer that method.
If you’re feeling flash, you don’t even need to hold the reel as the line unspools, you can just let it go and it’ll either unreel in front of your very eyes or vanish upward and then tumble back down into your waiting hand.
Once the line is out you’ll find that the rims of the spool are textured to make winding-in easier if you use two hands, or easier to grip if you prefer to hold the spool in one hand and pull the line down and around with the other.
Using the bolt-snap as a handle will make this less hard on your hands. Doing the same while wearing thick gloves remains a doddle. Nice big holes around the rims of the spool will allow you to clip off at any depth using the bolt-snap.
There are two versions of the reel: one has 15m of line, the other 30m, and both use two colours of line with the change at 5m, so your last stop-depth is clearly indicated, even without checking your computer.
The only criticism I have is that I’d have preferred 50m of line on the larger spool, but that’s me, not necessarily you.
If you like spools you’ll love this one, and I’d confidently expect it to last you for the rest of your diving career. Or until you lose it, whichever comes first.
TESTER> Mike Ward
PRICES> Large (30m line) £42, Small (15m line) £37
SIZE> 9 x 7 x 4cm including housing
WEIGHT> L 291g, S 236g
DIVER GUIDE> 9/10