Diving off the coast of Jupiter, Florida offers the opportunity to see thriving reefs, exciting wrecks, sea turtles, sharks and other large marine life—and with Jupiter Dive Center, it’s all done by drift diving. If you’re new to this style of diving, you’re in for a treat, and if you’re a pro, it might be time to brush up on the different type of equipment that will make your next dive your best!
First, some advantages. Drift diving allows divers to save energy, see a longer stretch of reef than you ever thought possible, use the power of the currents, and not worry about finding the boat because the boat crew will pick up the divers where they surface. In fact, that’s drift diving in a nutshell.
Like any type of diving, the more you know about the particular techniques of drift diving, the more comfortable—and safer—your experience will be. Jupiter Dive Center always has an in-water dive guide on each dive who is familiar with the sites and conditions of the area.
The dive guide also pulls a float ball—a visual clue to the boat crew about where the divers are at any given time. At the end of the dive, the guide and any accompanying divers surface, and the boat comes to them. Easy-peasy. But what if you want to explore on your own, or you or your buddy needs to surface earlier than the group?
Surface Marker Buoys (SMBs) versus Delayed Surface Marker Buoys (DSMBs)
If a diver surfaces without the dive guide, he or she needs a way to signal the boat. On Jupiter Dive Center charters, each diver is required to have their own surface marker buoy (SMB) for just this reason.
Commonly called a safety sausage due to its elongated shape, an SMB is brightly colored, open at one end like a lift bag, and often six feet in length. It is deployed when the diver reaches the surface by either using one’s regulator or manually inflating the tube.
A DSMB is often the very same safety sausage, but it’s deployed from depth (hence its name) and attached to a reel (which is not required on charters). Prior to ascending, it’s unrolled, attached to the line, and partially inflated (remember how air expands during ascents).
Tension on the line keeps the sausage upright, so it’s important to reel in the line as you decrease your depth. Both SMBs and DSMBs are carried tightly rolled and either stowed in a pocket or attached to a D-ring during the dive.
A quick note about one of the Treasure Coast’s treasures: Blue Heron Bridge. This shore dive is a fabulous opportunity to see critters that are often difficult to find on reefs and is home to sea horses, batfish, octopuses, and more. And while it isn’t a drift dive, you’ll still need a surface marker to comply with Florida law and to warn boat traffic of your presence in the shallow waters. Often, you’ll see divers using either an inner-tube sporting a raised dive flag, or a float ball and dive flag. Both require a line caddy or reel attachment to ensure the flag doesn’t float away and is an accurate indicator for your location. The choice is personal, but it’s mandatory safety equipment when you’re shore diving.
While not compulsory, it’s still wise to carry signaling devices on any dive. A whistle is louder than your voice, and mirrors are great at reflecting the sun to attract attention.
Drift diving may be the only way to access certain sites, here and around the globe. If you want to learn more about how current, tides, and waves impact drift diving, consider signing up for a Drift Diver Specialty course with Jupiter Dive Center. You’ll also practice deploying your DSMB from depth, learn how to compensate for the additional buoyancy of surface markers, and how to get safely on and off the boat.