AP Diving: Black Self Sealing SMB with DIN cylinder

You might think that there's not much that can be  written about SMB's....well read on, you might be surprised!

Firstly the big colour debate, is red acceptable to use? Can you only use yellow in an emergency? To be honest it's all immaterial provided that your skipper is aware of your signalling options, now personally I use a single SMB usually red but occasionally yellow and if there is a problem attach a second SMB to the same line so that two delays, one red and one yellow form a V at the surface. Its 'obvious' and it works for me, incidentally both are self inflating versions from AP diving, both are fitted with radar reflective stickers and they are the crudest and second crudest SMB's in the North Sea, I find that it encourages the skipper to pick me up pronto before the 'twitchers' who visit the Farnes get too offended!

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Always add something 'blunt' it gets you picked!

You can probably guess from my lead in that I use kit from AP diving and while gear from AP diving isn't cheap, that's to say that it is not inexpensive, it's usually excellent quality, this 'new colour' SMB certainly slots into the existing product range and at £110 it's not too expensive.

The blurb tells you, tells us that black is......well the new black and it offers benefits of good visibility over other colours and how pot markers are black. Well I would agree that quite often pot markers have black flags, but I must admit that plastic buoys and pellets tend to be red/orange and I can't ever remember seeing a black buoy, now I am sure to be told that I am wrong! Maybe cynical old me is thinking that AP diving are offering a USP (Unique Selling Point) but if black is just so much better and safer why sell 'dangerous' red and yellow?

Anyway, to the nitty gritty, I tried the SMB on my regular dives at the Farne Islands over the weekend and one major flaw was pointed out by the skippers at Sovereign Divers, a partially inflated black SMB without a reflective strip looks very like a seal! So first note to self, add a radar reflective sign from!

The skippers also thought that in calm conditions visibility would be no problem but with a bit of swell and perhaps some foam the black wouldn't show up as well as red or yellow, only time will tell but I shall contnue to use the SMB to get more feedback from the guys as the weather conditions start to get worse over the back end of the season.

Now despite only a couple of dives the SMB has come in for a large amount of unwanted attention from seals, more than red SMB's that have been deployed by other divers on the same boat, the SMB has come through unscathed despite the best attention of a seal on a site called 'The Hopper' which has a reputation for destroying several delays a season so it's certainly well made, which I would expect, but it also seems very attractive to seals which is a bit of a strange one, maybe its the novelty value? More likely the seals which were having a go were the pair that mugged me on the dive.

I have heard quite a few horror stories about the small DIN 'crack cylinders' over the years with tales of explosion followed by mutilation and death, but it's always 'a friend of friend of a friend once saw'.....I have had no bad experiences with my two existing AP delays and regularly strip the cylinders for greasing of the valves and inspection of the cylinder. My only advice would be to refill the cylinder as soon as you get out after the dive, even a fill to 50bar will prevent the ingress of water and make sure that you get no issues with corrosion.

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It all wraps up very well with the built in velcro staps

I will continue to use this delay as my primary when I dive at the Farnes, the prime reason that on a busy site the skipper will be able to positively identify me quickly and easily, oh and I want to see how long it will be before a seal can do some damage!

A prime use which I can see would be on 'warm water holidays' as this delay will certainly show up against the sun, which yellow SMB's certainly don't, and should also show up well against a light coloured water.

Richies Ratings 8/10: good quality but at a cost and possibly not the best option on a seal dive!

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