Diving with a Surface Marker Tube

SCUBA Schools International grants the Advanced Open Water Certification to divers who have logged 24 dives and achieved 4 specialty courses. These courses can vary wildly, anywhere from Boat Diver to classes that are actually useful, like Search and Recovery. This past September we went to Blue Grotto in Williston, FL, to complete the checkout dives for the SSI Deep Diver and Night Diver courses.

The Night Diver course is pretty straight-forward. Divers learn what equipment, such as adequate dive lights, is required for a happy and safe night exploration. But in this post we’re discussing the Deep Diver course; more specifically, the part where students are introduced to the surface marker tube. AKA, the safety sausage.


The safety sausage is something that often gets overlooked. I don’t think I was even introduced to one in my OWC. In our classes we demonstrate how to inflate the tube during the pool sessions. However, I’ve noticed people forget all about it, don’t buy one, or buy one and never learn how to use it. Sometimes people come into the shop and ask what the weird orange thing is.


The tube/surface marker/sausage is attached to a line and reel. It’s inflated to show the boat where the diver is. Many tubes have an orange side, for bright conditions, and a yellow side, for low light conditions. They come in different sizes and variations. The style I’m familiar with requires manual inflation, which can be tricky underwater. It’s definitely something to practice. Blue Grotto or another easy dive site with excellent visibility and no current is a great place to try it out. Just remember if you find yourself using the sausage, you likely aren’t in such desirable conditions.

The inflated tube can affect your buoyancy, and the process of taking a breath from your regulator and then transporting that air to the tube can be uncomfortable and stressful. Less stressful than being stranded at the surface without any real means of getting your boat’s attention, though. Whistles are another piece of safety equipment that will help direct your boat’s attention to you.

I clip my sausage to a D ring near the weight pouch of my BC. It took a little adjusting because sometimes it would scratch my leg if I didn’t have a wetsuit or skin on. I like it where it’s at though, because it’s out of the way but accessible. Knock on wood – I haven’t had to use it yet, but I like to know that it’s there!

Have you ever had to deploy a surface marker buoy?

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