Dive Flag Incident


Larry "Harris" Taylor, Ph.D.

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As a newly certified diver living in Detroit, Michigan, I was actively looking for places to dive. I purchased an abundance of lake contour maps from the Michigan DNR and looked for bottom contours that suggested a potential interesting dive. One lake that looked intriguing was Otter Lake north of Lapeer, Michigan.

Since we had never been to the quiet village of Otter Lake, I called the local sheriff and asked for emergency response contacts (this was pre 911). I told the deputy that answered that I was a diver in Detroit, I had never been to Otter Lake, and that I was asking for emergency contact information in the highly unlikely event that we would require emergency assistance. The deputy gave me the location of the nearest phone and emergency room as well as phone numbers for rescue assistance.

The following Saturday we dove Otter Lake. About 20 minutes into the dive, we heard high speed screws (quickly checked the depth to make sure we were well under the surface) and the inner tube holding the dive flag started violent undulations (the inner tube was connected to a circular reel on my wrist). My arm was moving more than a foot up and down. The disturbing loud propeller sounds and undulating inner tube strongly suggested that the boat was extremely close to our location. Since we were at 30 ffw, we could not see the surface.

After several minutes of this anxiety-provoking event, we heard a second boat and then silence.

After an additional 30 minutes, we finished our dive. As we exited the water, we were met by 4 sheriff deputies. One deputy asked, "Are you the Detroit divers who called about emergency phone numbers?"

I said, "Yes, that was me."

The officer then stated, "We are all divers on the county marine safety unit and we just wanted to stop by and say thanks for your safety-mined attitude. When we got here, we saw a boater buzzing your dive flag. We used our megaphone to remind the boater that Otter Lake was a no wake zone and asked that he vacate the area around the dive flag."

"He ignored our request. So we had to put our boat in the water to intercept him. When we approached him, he coped an attitude."

The officer then smiled broadly and pointed towards a large speedboat resting on a trailer. He then said, "That's his boat; he will have to go to court to get it back."

The points are:

1. Display the dive flag when submerging in areas where there are laws / regulations / customs that require the use of the dive flag.

2. The displayed dive flag confers a legal zone of protection to submerged divers and this zone of protection is defended by law enforcement.

3. Finally, it most unwise to cop an attitude with anyone wearing a gun, a badge, and a stick.


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About The Author: 

Larry "Harris" Taylor, Ph.D. is a biochemist and Diving Safety Coordinator at the University of Michigan. He has authored more than 200 scuba related articles. His personal dive library (See Alert Diver, Mar/Apr, 1997, p. 54) is considered one of the best recreational sources of information In North America.

  Copyright 2001-2024 by Larry "Harris" Taylor

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Use of these articles for personal or organizational profit is specifically denied.

These articles may be used for not-for-profit diving education