June 06, 2022
There are few things as heart-wrenching as surfacing from a dive with no dive boat in sight. The key to making sure this doesn't happen is to set your plan for drifting or anchoring properly and making the right call on each spot so you don't have to swim home.
Live boating, or drifting with the divers, is one of the best ways to keep everyone safe and in many cases the least strenuous way to dive effectively. This technique is best for:
Strong current: Anchoring in strong current makes it challenging for divers to stay over the spot and relax before a dive. By dropping them off and picking them up for a drift, this lets them drift with the current and prepare better to make a more effective drop on the spot.
Bluewater/too deep to anchor: It's too deep to anchor anyways and likely your schools of fish are moving quickly so this is your only choice. Make sure you are using floatlines and buoys attached to your guns so it is easy to keep track of everyone in the water.
Large area: Often the area you are diving isn't a small defined rock but rather a long reef or area of broken bottom. You are hindering yourself by anchoring in one little spot. Set up on the upcurrent side and let them drift.
In many cases, anchoring is the best option. You need to be aware of your surroundings and assess the current, boat traffic, and size of the spot before you anchor up in order to do it safely. If you are on a small rock, ledge, or wreck with light to no current, anchoring is an easy way to mark a spot and also gives you a great reference as to where you are while you are in the water.
Putting yourself in the right spot can be difficult. Wind and current affect vessels differently and each location requires some thought. For spearing, I prefer to have the boat either right over the spot, or if there is current, a few boat lengths down current. With the boat down current, I can always drift back to put fish in the boat or if there is a problem or current kicks up, it's much easier to get back to the boat.
As a rule, every time you reach the surface, your dive buddy is there to make sure you are ok. Your next glance should be to check that your boat is still anchored or to the boat driver whose Number 1 and only job is watching you and keeping you safe.
As a diver, using a buoy and floatline is your best way of staying visible to yours and other boats. As a boat driver, turn the music off, stop looking at the girls dancing, put the rod down, and focus on your divers. Put your dive flag up, put the boat broadside between your guys and oncoming boats, and let them know when they are past the spot so you can drift again.
Respect other people who are already on spots, give them space and dive safe.
Editor's Note: Cameron Kirkconnell, a multi-record-holding spearfisherman and regular contributor to Florida Sportsman Magazine, coordinates a wide range of training and travel services through his website, www.cameronkirkconnell.com (email Freedive2Spearfish@gmail.com). In addition to hosting trips to exotic destinations, Kirkconnell's team teaches Freediving for Spearfishing for divers ages 12 and over. FS