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Recognising the signs - A Flag

During a busy Bank Holiday weekend, the Lleyn, Gwynedd & Rhosneigr clubs were diving together off the Lleyn peninsula in North Wales. The diving had been planned for the quieter north coast of the peninsula but a strong north westerly wind caused a move to the sheltered south coast (where there was likely to be more surface traffic).

The clubs' three RIBs were diving in the same area just off the SE tip of the East Island. One RIB was anchored, the other two were under power, with all displaying "A" flags. As one RIB was recovering the first of two pairs of divers a large, ocean going yacht sailed through the middle of the three RIBs and mowed down the DSMB of the second pair of Lleyn club divers, passing directly over them just seconds before they surfaced. The yacht failed to respond to the frantic signals from the diver cox'n and did not appear to alter course.

Following the incident enquiries with the local sailing club had established, somewhat to our surprise, that most yachtsmen would not recognize the "A" flag. It was already David Jonesknown that most speedboat and jet ski users were unfamiliar with both the "A" flag and SMBs. It was then decided that an appropriate action was to conduct a “Diver Awareness Campaign” to raise awareness among the local water users and wider community.

Contact with BSAC HQ identified that a similar campaign had been previously run by Torbay BSAC and permission to use their artwork was duly gained. With the help of RNLI, MCA and the local Council (including financial support for printing) further artwork was produced to incorporate welsh language posters and to produce the leaflets.

David Jones
Diving Officer, Lleyn SAC (1809)

The conflicts between different water users are supposed to be managed by amongst other things adherence to the “Rules of the Road” or “Col Regs”. The use of the ‘A Flag’ actually forms part of those rules but apart from professional mariners you can’t always expect everyone to know what the specific meaning of a particular flag means as the example above shows.

Caution
Exercising Caution and maintaining a constant watch are just as important when covering divers as making sure you display the flag correctly. Some simple points to bear in mind:

  • Avoid busy areas of shipping if possible
  • Know where your divers are
  • Keep a watch for other water users
  • Assume they don’t know what you are doing
  • Remember they can’t see your divers so
  • Position the boat to protect them
  • A yacht under sail can’t be heard by surfacing divers
  • DO NOT fly the flag on the way to or from the dive site or when divers are no longer in the water

A FlagEducation
The reaction of the Lleyn club, and Torbay before them, has been to undertake to raise awareness of the meaning of the ‘A Flag’ and other means of marking divers. The Leaflets and Poster they have produced have been made available for all divers to make use of from the BSAC Website. We would encourage all clubs and individual divers to make use of them.

Be prepared
Divers in the water should bear in mind the potential for surface activity affecting you when you ascend. Always aim to surface defensively, up a shot line or under a DSMB if appropriate, and look all around you both before surfacing and immediately on reaching the surface.

Think SAFE – Dive SAFE

  
Solas V

Boat Safety (Solas V)

download an information leaflet from the MCA on pleasure boat safety

 
Safety Talk

Lessons Learned

Safety Talk features several lessons and discussion topics

 
A Flag documents

A Flag publicity downloads

Download Materials to help promote awareness of the Diving A Flag

 
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Signals Chart

a quick reference chart for checking the meaning of various signals including flags at sea.

 
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