I have heard of few instances of Boat/Diver accidents and/or near misses. Know the law not only will keep you safer but can help you educate others...Very cool spreading the news of SAFTEY is a very good thing.
Section: SCUBA Dive Law
As divers, we are expected to share the water with boaters and this sometimes leads to conflict. The purpose of a dive flag is, basically, to warn boats to avoid the area where divers are underwater. Seems like a simple premise, but ignorance, conflision, and/or recklessness has resulted in many accidents and near-misses. The traditional diver-down flag was developed by divers in 1957. By 1997, nearly every state in the USA had laws requiring the use of a dive flag. Most states require the use of the traditional diver-down flag, some require only the alpha flag, and a few require both. Although federal statutes call for use of the alpha flag, some federal agencies (such as the National Park Service) insist on the traditional flag. Obviously, considerable conflision exists concerning the distinction between the two flags. Perhaps the biggest difference between the two is that the traditional red & white diver-down flag is intended to protect divers themselves, while the blue & white alpha flag is intended to protect vessels from collision. The alpha flag is internationally understood to mean: “I have a diver down; This boat is restricted in its ability to maneuver, so keep clear and keep to a slow speed.” Generally, only vessels to which the divers are physically connected by communication lines, air hoses, or the like in international water are required to display the alpha flag, but common sense suggests displaying both flags can’t hurt.
Wisconsin State Law
• It is unlawful to engage in underwater skin diving or swimming with use of swimming fins outside a marked swim area or beyond 150 feet from shore unless the location of such swimming or diving is marked by a diver’s flag.
• It is unlawful to scuba dive outside a marked swim area unless the location of the scuba diving is marked by a diver’s flag.
• Except in case of emergency, anyone engaged in such swimming or diving shall not rise to the surface outside of 50 feet from diver’s flag.
• The diver’s flag shall not be less than 12 inches high and 15 inches long, displaying one diagonal white stripe 3 inches wide on a red background and must be clearly apparent at a distance of 100 yards.
• No person diving or swimming shall interfere with someone engaged in fishing. No person shall dive or swim in any established navigation lane. On the Great Lakes and other federal waters, your dive boat while engaged in diving is required by federal Inland Navigation Rule 27 to identify itself and its activity. At night, this is done by displaying three, 360° lights in a vertical line where they can best be seen. These lights are red, white and red. For daylight operations a rigid color code flag “A” is flown. The alpha flag is a navigational signal indicating the vessel’s restricted maneuverability and does not pertain to the diver. The flag is a white and blue, swallow-tail flag at least one meter high and visible from any angle. Divers have adopted a red flag with a white diagonal stripe which is legal in some states on sole state waters. In most states, including Wisconsin, the red flag does not have any legal status identifying the boat. Wisconsin law requires the use of the red flag with the diagonal stripe to identify the diver in the water more than 150 feet from shore. This is to mark the diver’s location not the dive boat per se. The “diver down” flag must be red, 12 inches high and 15 inches long with a diagonal 3 inch wide white stripe. It must be high enough above the water to be clearly apparent at a distance of 100 yards. Wisconsin, unlike federal rules, does not require that the dive boat be marked. It only requires that the dive location be identified. At night on sole state waters, the boat’s white anchor light would be used. Except in the case of an emergency, a Wisconsin diver may not surface outside a 50 foot radius from the diver down flag. (Wisconsin boating regulations, page 20, JG LE93.96, PUBL-LE-301 96rev). A motor boat is prohibited on Wisconsin waters from operating within 100 feet of a diver down flag or a swimmer unless the boat is part of the diving operation (Wisconsin boating regulations, page 19, JG LE93.96, PUBL-LE-301 96rev). Consequently, the prudent diver when operating more than 50 feet from the dive boat should tow a diver down flag and surface within 50 feet of the flag.