We found this conversation on Cameron Kirkconnell's Instagram account and, finding it full of useful information and different perspectives on how to handle the situation, we felt compelled to help spread the word. Who knows, it could save you or a dive buddy one day.
Cam posted the question to his Instagram account, asking: "How would you answer this? One of many questions in my inbox each week. Plan ahead and make sure whoever is running the boat does the same. More than shallow water blackout, sharks, or ex girlfriends- boats are one of the greatest dangers while diving. What would you do?"
Here at Adreno Spearfishing, we're well aware of the ever-present danger boats pose to spearfishers and have witnessed first-hand some horrific injuries caused by accidents that could have been prevented. We hope that by sharing some of these responses you take something away that could save a life. Be sure to share this one with your dive buddies too - the more people who are aware the safer we all are and we can concentrate on shooting fish!
Tips on avoiding boat collision with diversThese tips are only useful if you brief your dive buddies on them.
Tip 1 - Rev engines to signal emergency to your diversThis is one that is taught in some PADI dive courses here in Australia, but @corinnefrederick also refers to it in his reply. In the PADI course the divers are told that if they hear 3 consecutive revs it means there's an emergency, get back to the boat as soon as possible.
Tip 2 - If your boat is anchored, cut the anchor ropeWe always recommend that if you have a boaty then they should be drifting closeby to the divers, ready to assist them, pick them up, and keeping an eye out for oncoming traffic. However, if for some reason your boat is anchored but still has a diver in it who sees another boat heading for the divers in the water we would recommend cutting the anchor rope and positioning your boat between the divers and the oncoming boat.
Tip 3 - Use flares to attract attentionA lot of commenters suggested using flares to get the distracted captains attention.
Tip 4 - Position your boat between the oncoming boat and your diversThis tactic is used quite often here in SEQ, where boat traffic is busy and boaties are often not paying attention to what is in the water or simply don't know what dive flag/float is (some even seem to like getting as close as possible to them as if they're a marker buoy.... hmmm). The boaty simply drives the boat between the divers and the oncoming boat. The captain of the oncoming boat will quickly change course IF they're paying attention. In some cases, like when the boat is on auto pilot, or it's a bunch of fisherman facing backwards looking at their lures, this won't work.
One commenter, @_migs, shared his experience of when this tactic didn't go to plan. "this exact situation happened to me. I was driving the boat while 4 of my best friends were freediving off the coast of South Florida... [I was getting concerned as a boat approached closer and closer]. At about 500 yards out I started to strategize what to do. I walked to the bow and started waving arms...nothing. Next, repositioned boat to get in front of my divers and try to get seen all while still flailing my arms and screaming. Next thing I knew the boat was at a terrifyingly close distance. I could actually see the driver and he was staring straight down looking at his GPS. I didn't have a horn. I continued to scream and stand on bow until I realized he wasn't going to look up. At about 20 yards I ran to the back of boat and watched his face until the boats made contact with the t-top/center console. At my best attempt to be seen and position the boat the way I did, it still didn't prevent the boat from going straight through our vessel and land directly in the center of my divers. By the grace of a higher power no one was hurt, but 2 divers had the boat land 10-15 ft from their heads. It was a 36 ft intrepid with triple 300's. Boat was traveling 52kts. Just my 2 cents on this subject. Would love to hear others protocols if put in this situation. I highly recommend forming one if you haven't already. Definitely have a blow horn on board. In the moment it's an insane feeling."
Tip 5 - Use an air hornWe particularly like this well thought out suggestion from @davebusta2525 "How to react to situations like these start way before you even pack your gear for the day. Nothing beats being prepared and having a plan be it with other boats, sharks, taking on water, drowning, or a lost diver. For this particular situation we carry a loud air horn which should be heard by all divers if they are as close to the boat as they should be. They know not to ask any questions should they hear it. Its straight on the boat as quickly as possible. Should never be an issue if the captain or driver is paying attention as you can see approaching boats and assume they all dont see you. We implemented this diving in some remote areas of the bahamas from fear of pirates."
Tip 6 - Alert diversIf you can get the attention of your divers - either by revving engines, banging a pole underwater or blowing an airhorn - alert them to the other oncoming boat so they can move back to the boat, or dive underwater until the oncoming boat passes.
Cameron Kirkconnell is a world record holding diver and world-renowned spearfishing guide. Known as one of the best spearfishers in the World, his content is extremely useful and insightful. Head over an follow him on Instagram @camkirkconnell, Facebook, or his blog.