With this week being a BIG holiday event for many, I thought it might be good to revisit the dive flag rules for both diver and boat owners. I cringe at the thought of the dumbasses that will more than likely be in the water on a boat hammered on the Fourth. Be careful my fellow dive and snorkel friends out there. What may seem like common sense will quickly be thrown out the window with the weekend warrior trying to impress people with his shiny boat. Throw in some cheap Natty Light and you get the picture!
If you hear a motor, that means they are close enough that you should worry about them. Dive with caution and ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS dive with a dive flag. As divers, we are expected to share the water with boaters and this will occasionally lead to a little bit of conflict. Recall an incident with me in Pepper Park last summer, when hubby would have gladly slashes the side of a boat with his dive knife as the ignoramus just get buzzing straight through the reef within 50 feet of us. The purpose of a dive flag is to warn boats to avoid the area where divers are underwater. Seems like a simple premise, but ignorance, confusion, drunkenness and/or recklessness has resulted in many accidents and near-misses.
Divers-down flags must be either square or rectangular, red with a white diagonal stripe and have a stiffener to keep it unfurled and visible.
Flags must be displayed at all times when divers or snorkelers are in the water, including beach entry dive. The flag must be LOWERED when there are no divers in the water.
Flags that are towed on buoys or floats must be at least 12” x 12” in size.
On boats, flags are required to be at least 20” x 24” and must be displayed from the highest point of the boat that will present an unobstructed view from all directions.
The divers-down flag cannot be displayed in an area that would obstruct boat traffic or creates a hazard to navigation on any river, inlet, or channel, except in case of emergency.
Under state law, boaters must make reasonable efforts to stay 300 feet away from divers-down flags in open water and 100 feet away in rivers, inlets, and navigation channels. Boaters approaching flags closer than these distances must slow their boat to idle speed, or the minimum speed necessary to maintain forward motion and maneuverability.
Divers and snorkelers must make reasonable efforts to stay within the 300 feet limit of their flag in open water, and within 100 feet in rivers, inlets, and channels.
“Buzzing” a dive flag has been added to the description of Florida State Statute 327.331(6), Reckless Operation of a Vessel, which is a 1st degree misdemeanor and punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and/or up to 6 months in jail. Two convictions within 12 months of any dive flag violation will trigger the boater education course requirement.
Divers-down flag violations (other than buzzing a dive flag) are now civil violations and subject to a $50 civil penalty.
Report any violation of these rules to Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission immediately! If you are in Brevard or Indian River Counties, call 1-800- 342-9620 and 1-800- 432-2046 anywhere south of Indian River County. This is where it is a little humorous to me. We can’t really call when we are in the water but call when you get out to alert FWC.
I will not be posting tomorrow so enjoy yourself, be safe and have fun out there!
If you are planning to meet or join us, send me a comment here and I will be sure to look out for you.