How not to use a decompression buoy

Practice makes perfect! It’s still ringing in my ears as this was the favorite sentence of my instructor during my open water course. Of course he is right, the more you practice to better you get at whatever your practicing. And I can tell you I need a lot of more practice at releasing a decompression buoy.

I have seen a lot of instructors , admittedly in warmer waters and without 7mm thick gloves, do it with ease. Some time ago I bought a decompression buoy for my own and of course I wanted to try it out as soon as possible.

‘A decompression buoy is deployed whilst the diver is submerged and generally only towards the end of the dive. This in regard to a surface marker buoy which is released before the dive and gives the boat an opportunity to follow the divers and highlight there position to other boats.’ – [More information on different buoys]

All though no instructor did it the same way, I decided to make a combination on what I have seen and through try outs find my own way in what would work. (I tried to find a website which would explain the DIR rules on releasing a buoy, but I couldn’t find one.) I used my reel, which I usually use during wreck diving, and attached this to the buoy.


Attempt 1
During my first attempt I was hovering at 5 meters depth while deploying the buoy. I uncurled the a bit of rope on the reel and unfolded the buoy. I took my octopus regulator and let some air into the buoy. Next thing I remember is shooting out of the water as some kind of rocket. How glad I was I didn’t try this from a deeper depth and that I had exhaled before inflating! My buddy was just bursting bubbles from laughing so hard.

Attempt 2
My second attempt went somewhat better. This time I was ready, it wouldn’t happen a second time that I would be launched as a rocket. Thinking I was smart I released some line
(around 3 meters) before inflating the buoy. After this I let some air into the buoy which resulted into the line snapping taut. I managed to get the line entangled with the buoy floating 3 meters above me and no way of using my reel anymore. Luckily I had let just enough air in that the buoy would float and didn’t pull me upward. Together with my buddy we were able to pull the buoy a bit down to get the line untangled. After which I could let the buoy float the remaining two meters to the surface.

It absolutely isn’t that simple as some divers make it out to be. I definitely need more practicing to become fluent in releasing a decompression buoy. I’m not even sure if a wreck reel is also the best option. If you have some advice or tips, I’d love to hear it.

Till the next story…

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