Anyone that has seen the movie Open Water, read the book Diver Down, or even read the many Divers Alert Network articles on diving safety knows that there can be a real risk of being swept away by currents and quite possibly out of view from your buddy, group, or dive boat. A scary thought.
For sure, divers have a variety of protocols in place to help prevent such mishaps, including but not limited to good procedures on boats to ensure all divers are present and personal equipment such as safety signaling devices (whistles, flashlights, mirrors, safety sausages) that divers should carry. That said, should the current pull you loose from a rope, or send you off course, above all don’t panic and try and fight your way back. This is almost a sure way to overexert yourself and simply get tired or worse lead to panic, cardiac issues, or clouded thinking. Save your strength, try and swim sideways off the current and surface slowly after deploying your safety sausage. Look for your buddy or group and try to signal them using your whistle, sausage, mirror and stay calm.
The Nautilus Personal GPS device is something that can bring some extra peace of mind to such a situation. Knowing that if all else fails, you have a way to signal a marine emergency which can be heard within 30 miles is in most cases a surefire way of being found. Not cheap, at 169$, but a bargain at 169$ if you ever need it. It may not be an investment for those that swim in controlled conditions close to shore but again, a little peace of mind is never a bad thing.
The Nautilus Marine Rescue GPS is made in Canada and comes in a canister, which is a little larger than one of those Zippo lighters. The batteries are the CR123 lithium ones, and last 5 years. You set it up and program it and keep it in your gear remembering to change the batteries once every 5 years (or so). The case is good down to 175 feet, which should be fine for most divers.
Setting up the device requires the downloading of an app, which is available on IOS or Android. The app helps you program the device using the phone’s flashlight to communicate with a light sensor on the unit. Basically read the IMSI number off the label, and program the device using this. You can also program your dive boat directly as a first resort before going on the general frequency.
There are three buttons on the device and a rolled up antenna under a plastic cover:
The first button (blue) is power, and when turning on the device it will seek out GPS antennas and either shows a slow or fast flashing light depending on which serial numbers you have.
The second button (yellow) allows you to test the device. If you are diving with a boat, it is possible to program the boats frequency on the device as a first attempt. This avoids putting out a general emergency signal to other craft that may come to your rescue.
The third button (red) sends out the emergency beacon to all marine craft within a 30-mile radius. This allows ships to hear and locate you. Before engaging this button you have to remove a plastic cover, and unroll the antenna. Be sure to call off any false alarms by calling the Coast Guard should you activate it by mistake.
Overall this is one of those things that you hope you’ll never need, but something that feels good to have in your BCD pocket should anything ever go awry.
Good diving and stay safe on the water!