As he reached the level
for his decompression stop, the gate on the reel, which had not
been properly manufactured, (not by MGE) sliced through his line.
This left James with 15 minutes of decompression to do in a 2-knot
current, while his SMB danced across the Atlantic in the breeze.
An unmarked diver who cannot safely surface can easily be lost.
An alternative to the bulk of a second SMB and reel for emergency
use is MGE’s MarkaBuoy. This is a quick-to-use, self-powered,
delayed SMB and line. The MarkaBuoy consists of a 32 x 20cm flame-orange
buoy, CO2 cartridge and line. The whole unit fits into a pouch,
sealed by Velcro and equipped with a security clip. To use the device,
simply open the pouch and pull the tag. The float deploys instantly
and spools off the line automatically as it ascends.
Remember to unclip the pouch before use so that any problem on
deployment does not result in an uncontrolled ascent, with you being
dragged to the surface unable to ditch the SMB. And likewise, ensure
the pouch is clear of any possible entanglement with your kit or
your buddy’s, before you deploy.
Make sure before using it that there are not any other possible
snags or that you are not using it beyond the reach of the line
On the surface the SMB is easily seen by boat cover and remains
inflated so that it can be held at arm’s length to increase
visibility, unlike open-bottomed SMBs.
The MarkaBuoy can also be used to mark finds or as a lift bag,
depending on depth. On the surface is has sufficient buoyancy to
support a diver.
It would be sensible to check every now and again that the detonating
mechanism is in good working order and hasn’t become clogged
with debris, and that the cartridge hasn’t been damaged and
The gas cartridges are replaceable and the line can only be used
once – spare spools are available. I had no problems with
airport security taking half a dozen cartridges overseas with me.
The MarkaBuoy is an extremely valuable safety aid for divers who
normally use SMBs and especially useful to those making drift, offshore
or decompression dives.
• Available from most dive stores for around £35, spare
cartridges cost £3 for two and line spools £4.50 for
two. It is manufactured by MGE Sub-Aqua. Recommended.