DIVE SLATE:  Dive Marshall
What, I was asked recently by a journalist, is the greatest danger faced by a diver Is it being entangled in kelp or attacked by a shark He either hadnt seen the film Open Water or hadnt taken it seriously, because I surprised him by saying that being left at the surface was probably the greatest hazard. Recent events in the news have borne this out.
     One winter, years ago, I went out diving in Majorca with a girlfriend. We had a lot of mechanical problems with our boat and, although the weather was foul and the boat out of action, we were still determined to get under water. So we persuaded a local fisherman to take us out in his little wooden boat.
     The Mediterranean Sea is a challenging place when the sky is black with rain, the water grey and heaving, and the wind blowing remorselessly. Ours was the only boat on the ocean, but often the diving is at its best under these circumstances and we were not disappointed at the remote tip of Isla Dragonera.

Turbulent waters
Before we dropped over the side, I explained in my not-very-coherent Spanish that we would resurface in exactly 40 minutes and the boat should be there when we came up. It was not.
     Its at this point that one starts having regrets. Had the fisherman fully understood the plan Had he gone off fishing for the day Did he even have a watch Were we going to have to make the four-mile swim in turbulent waters back to land
     After 10 minutes, the little boat reappeared and we climbed gratefully aboard. We had been using precise northern European time, whereas he had been using Majorcan fishermans time - a much more relaxed method of time-keeping. However, it served to remind me of how much we need to be able to trust those in charge of the boat that provides our surface cover.
     When you gleefully jump into the water from a boat, how often do you question whether anyone will be there to pick you up It would have been unforgivable if our fisherman had forgotten us, but what about those big liveaboards where the passengers dont know each other and the diver accounting system may not be that great Ever thought of supplying your own
     Thats what the guys from British Divers Manufacturing decided to do. They have come up with an individual divers tally that you give to your boat coxn or dive marshal before you start your dive. Its called the Dive Marshall. I guess the spelling is related to the name of its inventor - or was the idea perhaps conceived at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands
     Its a heavy engraved stainless-steel plate, reminiscent of a US Marshals badge, with its own neoprene pouch attached by a lanyard. It also has a pencil attached by a second and separate lanyard. There are roughened areas on which you can write your own and your buddys names, and details of your dive plan.
     Most importantly, part of the writing area is designated for the planned dive time, and this is below a small Casio digital timer that is firmly attached to the metal.
     You set this timer going on leaving the boat, and the fact that the tally remains with those aboard tells them that you are still diving. A simple comparison of the planned dive time with the elapsed time tells them how overdue you might be. You can also add extra information, such as at the time-point in the dive at which you expect to send up a delayed SMB.

Thrown from aircraft
Of course an unscrupulous crewman, on finding that he had left you behind the day before, could lose the Dive Marshall and deny ever having been given it. Or reset the timer in your absence to cover any negligence or forgetfulness. So this idea will work only with the co-operation of those covering for you. Still, if it makes their life easier, Im sure they will take to it.
     On the initial examples sent for me to try, the roughened area for the writing made erasing it afterwards difficult. The final product has a far better finish and I found it easy to remove my writing by dabbing it with Blu-Tack (not supplied). Theres also an area on the reverse that allows you to re-sharpen the pencil, a feature I found very necessary.
     With the pencil securely attached to the slate as designed, the stop/start button of the timer is covered. I guess one could accidentally reset the timer to zero during handling, though the button is recessed to stop that happening.
     The Dive Marshall comes in three colours, to help you pick out yours if travelling with other similarly equipped divers.
     Its not cheap, but it should last a long time, as its made of 316 marine-grade stainless steel. The timer should put up with the wet conditions found on some boats because it is depth-rated to 50m. The manufacturer claims that test examples survived being thrown from aircraft (presumably in flight), dragged behind a speeding RIB, frozen in a block of ice, and repeatedly run over by a Land Rover.
     Well, that should cover the worst excesses of the way I treat my diving equipment in a typical day!
The Dive Marshall costs £49.50
  • British Divers Manufacturing, www.britishdiversmanufacturing.co.uk

  • The
    The slates come in several colours to make them more readily identifiable
    + A good safety-tool when used properly

    - Not fool-proof