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This Item Will Save Your Life One Day

Thread Status: Hello , There was no answer in this thread for more than 60 days.
It can take a long time to get an up-to-date response or contact with relevant users.


Mr. Long Post
Apr 22, 2002

Finally aftera few years wait , it is available off the shelf.

I have good news for you hunters or even non spearo.
For the past many years I have been thingking how to make the most effective and long range "Diver to Boat" recall system.

I was almost drifted once and could be a statistic in 1997 and this is why I think hard how to avoid it.

That was the day I started to think how to have a marine portable VHF with me during a dive. Those days the portable VHF was bulky. In 1999 I experimented with a medium sized regular 144Mhz VHF, which I took to a friend shop and have the channel opened all the way for Marine. I housed it in a Underwater Kinetic 1200 ( 8 D cell ) torch. It was a mess, the VHF needed to be broken into a few pieces to be able to fit in. Cables running here and there and it was fragile during the assembly. I could not transmit voice when at sea because I could only set the VHF to turn on and transmit at the same time when the torch light switch get turned on, thus the VHF remained waterproof. I installed a beeping module to be "ON" at the same time when I switched the light switch. Thus a beeping tone on the agreed channel will mean, a diver has drifted very far. The only way to talk was to find shore and undo the torch. Inside there is a mic and an earphone with the TX/PTT switch bypass.

Later I got my friend to install a Si-Tex Radio Direction finder in his boat that has 5 degrees bearing accuracy. The system was tested well, but never really got be to used. No one drifted too far anymore.

I look around for possible over the shelf product like what I wanted and no one has it. All available ones are the EPIRB based transmitter. The only dive capable EPRIB was from Marshall of UK and ACR and it was a C class at 121 Mhz. The ACR even have a portable direction finding unit. I checked with the US Coast Guard and their website showed that class C is a piece of shit with 98% false alarm or a few thousand false alarm a year !!!! Also in 2006 it will be discontinued. The pin pointing accuracy is also bad, a few miles !!! The 416 Mhz EPIRB was the solution but not only it is big, it is very expensive.

I kept thinking, if say I can get a 300 feet rated housing for a 416Mhz EPIRB, it will not be effective for me. In most cases I can see my dive boat and they can't see me. I need a calling device which is immediate and to my dive boat, not the United States SAR HQ. If I use a damn good 416 Mhz EPIRB, the US SAR HQ will receive the signal in under 30 minutes. They will call my house as per the registration on the EPRIB card, to verify if it is a false alarm. Then they will need to call Indonesian SAR....bla bla bla. With the stinking poor facility of Indo navy, there is no way they will send out a ship for me or even a boat in under 5 hours, plus another 5-10 over hours by their slow boat from nearest navy station to my dive spot. Unless I am the president son, I think it will take hell longer than what I can predict. So there I am ...............drifting for over 12 hours and probably be shark food by then. Even if they find me, they probably going to bill me for the ship fuel....wha ha ha.

So in late year 2000, Standard Communication ( actually made by Yaesu) introduced the smalllest submersible VHF. Submersible means 1 meter deep for 30 minutes. I bought one from West Marine. I know soon Icom will not want to loose out, so here it is, recently released the Icom M-88 submersible VHF, damn small too.

I tested this last week and it was still nice and clear from 1.6 miles at low power setting of 1 watt and with that bent antena. I communicated from the water after a dive in full gear, simulating an emergency. I sat on my BCD and have my neck out of the water. I operate it with a fully wet glove but did not allow waves to spash the radio. I had a zip lock plastic bag for extra protection, the bag leaked actually, it was a used one. The charter boat was using another Icom M-88 and have only like 6 feet antena height with my friend standing on the boat.

I place the torch on my BCD tank band so that it will not interfere with my shooting. For freediver, maybe make a small camel back bag type. This torch handle can be screwed off and will be easier to pack.

I am very happy to report that the set up worked well. I think you spearos should all have one, all under US$400 for the radio and the Underwater Kinetic D-8 torch.

I use the UK D-8 as the housing because it is a proven housing/torch and very light weight.

The Icom M-88 comes with a fat 1,700 maH Lithium Ion battery. U can charge as when u please, unlike Ni-Cad. The battery last hell of a long time on stand by. In country like US, where all boats must carry a marine VHF and US Coast Guard being much more "facility-rich" than most country, this VHF will be very useful when you ever need it. And only marine VHF can be used to call other boats in the area.

I think currently there are only two super small submersible grade portable VHF you can use. This Icom and the Standard Communication, the rest are still big size.

Hope this is useful.
Use a zip lock bag or something to make it extra dry insurance. Place a used glove or small hand towel as noise absorber, the VHF will rattle loose inside.
Hey Iya,

Wouldn't it still be a good diea to have an EPRIB anyway, so that if you do get separated and are out of range they will find you? I mean even if it takes them days to get to you, it's easier to track an APIRB signal than a hand held radio?

My father-in-law has been talking about the exact same thing. He does quite a bit of diving with his scooter and has had the batteries die on him too many times- which means a long swim back.:head

He also has one story, from about 20 years ago, where his small boat sunk while he was night diving and they had to swim the 4 miles to shore, in the middle of the night, only to be arressted upon reaching shore because the local sheriff thought he was running drugs!:duh After a couple of hours of questioning he was allowed to call home, and has since bought a much larger boat, or two.

Anyways, his idea was to put one of the new hand-held GPS radios in a container and wear it in a drysuit pocket on his hip. This way he could radio his exact position back to the people on the boat.

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Hi Jon,

That will be lovely, I read of that new Garmin GPS FRS Combo Rino 120 but are they submersible or very waterproof ? However, I tested other FRS by Kenwood, Motorolla and Panasonic, none can exceed 2000 meters even in open sea, thus I never wanted to use them for this "Diver Recall" unit. My group has lots of them. The power from those 3 of AA batteries can't pump much wattage. Also you can't hail other boats in the area with FRS (Family Radio Service) frequency, there is no designated emergency channel to monitor. On the marine VHF many boats stand by on Channel 16 and the coast guard too. The FRS is a toy radio, but require no licence.

If placed in a dry suit pocket, will this FRS experience compression of the water pressure ?

It seems your father in law is quite an adventurous gentelemen..:D

I didn't realize that it had a limited range.

Maybe carrying a radio and a small GPS in the same container?

I meant a cansiter inside of the drysuit pocket. Although I bet you could just put the whole thing in your drysuit and unzip at the surface to get it out- if you have a front-entry suit.

I have jumped into icewater before without having the suit fully closed and then zipped it up. The C4 thinuslate that I had on sucked up all of the water and I still could dive. :duh

Since these things are water resistant to begin with you could surface, unzip to remove it, and then rezip and call. I don't think the pressure would be much of a problem because I see people dive with their cell phones and pagers under their drysuits all the time- usually not on purpose.;)

I realize that this might not work for you because you don't have the same wonderful conditions down there that require a drysuit, so your back to the cansiter.

We don't have the same kind of current on Lake Michigan that you do so I never worried about a radio before. I have carried a lift bag, marker sausage, signle mirror, and a whistle while on a dive- plus an assortment of dive lights which have been the most helpful of all.

Gee, those dry suits sound facinating. I seen the photo but never touch one.

I think the cell phone did not get compression damage because of the fact that you need to pump air into a dry suit to compensate water pressure ?? Is this true ?

Ewa marine a manufacturer of clear soft waterproof camera cover ( up to 200 feet ther say ) reccomends 60 feet as being maximum for all SLFR cameras cause their bag get compressed and thus the camera get squeezed.
Satellite phone

Iya, I like your philosophy. If there's a problem, don't just live with it, do something about it. It sounds like you're an amateur radio operator too. Kenwood, Yaseu, Icom make all the best gear. Especially that 2 meter wavelength (144 mhz) handheld you mentioned.

I wanted to tell you about what a guy I know does. He carries a satellite cell phone with him under water, in the event he surfaces and finds his boat has drifted. Yes he has been known to leave the boat unatended, but not dive alone. You might be able to reach more people that way, not just boats. They may even have phone plans that let you pay as you go, with a prepaid sort of thing. Not sure if the satellite phones work the same way.

anyway, good luck with the great idea,

Hi Jim,

Sounds great on the Sat Phone but I rather stick with my VHF for the time being because I want my dive boat to be able to communicate with me.

There is a local company here who runs a Sat Phone with the size of a mobile phone, not the new generation small ones but those 3 years ago type of Ericson size but of course the antenna is long but folding. Our group carry one of those ( not diving with it ) if in case the boat breakdown, because mobile phone coverage is not available in my diving area. Smaller than Iridium type mobile sat phone but the coverage is entire Asia all the way to China and only US$0.70 per minute, a good deal. Cost only US$700 for the phone and can be pre-paid mode or monthly.

As long as we want to carry more weight we can always carry a small GPS and that Sat Phone in a nice waterproof case. I was thinking those custom nice derlin machined battery case of Halycon type HID light can make a proven waterproof case.

I think the risk of getting drift and lost at sea can be reduced a great deal as long as we want to spend extra money, the hardware is readily available if we care to spend more time in looking around.

Thanks for the input, I will surely get one of those sat phone for underwater if I go to places wilder and more remote than my dive spot.:p
Hi Iya,
Actually we've been doing this same thing for years w/ the Aquarius project. As you can imagine having someone surface from saturation isn't a good thing so they need comm's ASAP. We're using the ICOM's now. I'd suggest a waterproof housing from IKELITE instead of trashing a UK light. Great idea though.
Hi Jay,

What type of housing from Ikelite u are talking about ? Aren't they camera/s housing only ? The UK D8 light is only like US$ 75 at the most, I think Ikelite housin cost a lot more.

I been looking at outdoor gear as in "snow avalanche tracker" but they only have 80 meters range....what a waste. This unit is a transmitter & receiver with digital read out for pin pointing distance and direction, must be sweet if we can extend the range to 4000 meters........... :D

Ikelite makes alot of different housings. Our's is round, about 4" dia. and about 10"length. There's another company that makes housings also, I'll try to find the info. May be a little more expensive than the UK, I'm not sure. I just hate to take a good flashlight apart just for the housing.
Thanks Jay....really nice of you if I can sort out other type of housing. In the meantime my UK D8 needs only the reflector and battery plate removed without any damage. It can be a torch again in 30 seconds...:D
I just read in a motorboat magazine that the EPRIB manufacturers were awaiting approval for a 406 wrist version from the Coast Guard. It said it is already available in Europe and some other countries. The article didn’t say what depth they were rated for. I read it at the library while me kids were playing so unfortunately I don’t have the mag or remember the exact details.
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