Self Rescue Kit
I copied this setup from the editor of Spearfishing magazine - Tony Grogan.
About 5 of us spearfishing people in Florida have copied it.
I have deployed it twice in the water, both times in bad weather
and have updated it, based on those experiences
Basically it is an underwater dive canister with a 2 way VHF marine radio
and a GPS unit. The goal is to be able to radio back to your dive boat
who you are and where you are at while you are drifting in the water- UNSEEN!
For my personal diving only, I don't like EPIRBs(PLB's) because there
is no feedback from the units that someone received the signal.
So you float, but don't know if they heard you, and that destroys
confidence which is crucial when in trouble.
Also in remote vacation diving, it may take 24-48 hours for help to arrive.
Remember that you must register your EPIRB/PLB and provide a
verification phone number for the coast guard to call 1st to insure
the signal they receive is not a false alarm. There are 10's to hundred's
of false EPRIB alarms every day worldwide, and the coast guard
can't respond to every one immediately so they verify 1st. This translates
to a longer response time before planes and ships are deployed
I want to be able to talk back and forth with rescuers for a quicker pickup.
The other radio concept is to bring 2 longer range (3-5 miles)
Family Radio Service (FRS)units and leave one on the boat
with the captain to monitor and take the other
underwater with you diving in the canister. This still relies on the captain
not turning down the volume. Also since most charters don't carry an FRS
you will only be talking to your own captain. You ideally want
as many people listening as possible to maximize your odds.
Also check to make sure your FRS is IPX7 standard water resistant.
With a VHF marine radio most every boat over 20 feet long will
carry this and your calls for help will be monitored by
many captains instead of just 1 person giving you a better chance
to be picked up quicker. Even tankers and cruise ships monitor VHF
emergency channels as well as the coast guard.
I carry the Horizon VHF radio for these reasons and it has
I also always ask the captain what channel he Chats on with his friends
which is always different from the emergency channel. I want to talk
on the most popular VHF channel that all his buddy's listen to. More
ears means greater chance of quick pickup.
Briefly, I do 98% of my diving in Jupiter & West Palm Beach Florida
The radio can be used when you can see the dive boat, but they can't
see you, like maybe they turned and are headed away from
you and searching in the wrong direction. And because of the boat's
engine noise, can't hear your dive alert nor whistle.
We dive within 4 miles of land, but in a screaming rain storm
or in the 5-7 foot seas that we get, this is a nice
insurance policy. It also helps if I'm having a bit of a shark problem for
a quicker pickup.
This certainly is not for most divers, but for my pattern of drift diving,
it is just as equally important to me as my pony bottle. I dive with both,
full time or I don't dive. I'm also a certified gear nutt and
I certainly wouldn't suggest anyone follow me on this setup. This is for
informational purposes only.
Just briefly, it's a McMurdo 450ft dive canister.
Packed inside is:
An 18hr Horizon Standard HX500S - VHF radio
A Geko 201 GPS
An InstaPark LG-10 green laser
A signal mirror but cut 1/4" down to fit
A Davis self inflating Key Bouy
The laser must be modified to make it water resistant. Basically
you need to cut and glue a clear piece of 1/8" thin polycarbonate
clear plastic to seal the bulb end of the laser. Polycarbonate can be
found in most safety eye glasses that you can cut up
This will make the laser water resistant, not water proof, just like the
radio and GPS.
Include also is a plastic magnifier to read small numbers for my bad eyes
and the Davis self inflating tube keychain helps to slow/stop
any parts from sinking. I also tied a loop of kevlar string
through the Radio, the GPS, the magnifier, and the laser.
This allows me to hang it around my neck and I can keep both
hands free. You absolutely don't want to drop anything.
Here is a view of all the contents that go inside
The canister does incorporate a belt loop into it
but for my style of diving, it wouldn't work for me
Both the GPS and the VHF radio are water rated to a depth of
9ft for 30 minutes time (both meet IPX-7 spec). If the water's flat calm
then attaching it to a belt loop or even a tank band is not a problem.
You could always inflate your BCD, take it off, unscrew the canister,
and put your stuff back on (let's face it, if your lost, you've got time to goof around).
But if you dive with sharks, time is not on your side if the boat is picking up multiple divers
in the rain and it's a 4knot surface current.
I needed a method where I could get the canister above the
water surface, get my radio & GPS and either
drop the canister or re-holster it. The tether on it is because the
canister is negative and wouldn't that just suck to pull it out
and then drop it to the sand 80 feet below with 150 psi of air!!
I found a water sports bottle holder at Bass Pro Shops
that exactly fit the size of the canister.
It is a Nalgene Bottle Carrier Padded for a 32oz Nalgene Bottle
part number 2355-0007.
But I needed to sew on one of those
plastic squeeze locks. You can find cheap ones in the form of dog collars
at Walmart or find regular ones at a fabric store
I modified the holder by heating up a nail and melting some
drainage holes in it, along with attaching a 2" webbing belt holder
and stainless steel(SS) acorn nut & screws so it won't chafe on the
screw heads. Also use the largest SS washers you can since the
drink holder is not as strong as the 2" webbing and it will wear through
after 300 dives or so like mine did. Just get the stiff webbing from
any scuba store or use an old seat belt. This will allow the holder
to twist without chafing or breaking. Use Locktite #272 to
protect it from salt water separation on the threads.
Make sure to gently remove the velcro hook patch from the
drink holder or it will rub a hole in your wet suit at that
The holder attaches to my waist belt and the canister has a #4 clip-off tether
with 400lb mono line attached to the holder.
In practice, I pinch the plastic lock, grab and scrunch the bottom of
the black pouch to force the canister upwards to grab. Then bring the
full canister from below the surface to above the waterline.
Unscrew the tethered canister top, and take out the
radio and landyard and put it around my neck, so I don't
drop anything(they all can get wet).
With a GPS coordinate number, a heading, & the speed you are traveling,
from the mini Geko, someone is going find you, and reeeally quick too.
But I would rather it be my boat than the coast guard or
someone else's boat, so I'll just call my boat's channel and talk to them.
The laser is excellent because is shoots a visible green beam that
can be seen both during the day and at night. The beam will shoot 5-7 miles
and will have any pilot screaming when hit with it, but they will notice you.
It can even be beamed into a waterfront condo or passing cruise ship window
and they will try to find the source of the green dot so you are found.
The signal mirror is so my hair looks pretty when I get
picked or to flash someone.
Again, I don't recommend anyone following my gear nutt advice
But with the currents and sharks that we deal with in Jupiter,
you know how far off the boat we can be blown. It also gives the captain a
huge piece of mind that he will always find me, even in pouring rain
with zero topside viz.
This just made good sense for the type of diving that I normally do.