MAKING A SUPER-SAUSSAGE AND DROP-REEL
© Ian Robertson, 2002

You have just completed a nice long boat dive to 25 m.  The visibility and surface conditions are not quite what they could be, a bit of a current is running and you have lost visual underwater contact with the boat and its anchor.  There is no real problem if you were to surface, locate the boat and swim to it.  But surface immediately is not such a good plan, as you must do that pesky safety stop.  In the mean time the current…... if only the divemaster knew where you were, it would ease your mind. 

As you slowly ascend, you rummage in your BCD pocket for your super-sausage.You slip the rubber band securing the line onto your wrist, uncoil the line and let its small weight carry the line down so it doesn’t tangle.  You unfurl the sausage and, at 5 m, you take your alternate air supply and direct a quick blast of air into the open end of the sausage.  Buoyantly, up it bounds, the line runs rapidly through your fingers until the toggle comes into your hand.  You let a little air out of your BCD, pull down on the line and a metre or more of safety sausage sticks up in the air, marking your position.  Voila!  The divemaster can see where you are and can factor you into his recovery plan!  You are nicely stable at 5 m, you can relax (A) and enjoy the last five minutes of your dive.  You can even wind 2 m of line onto the toggle and extend your stop at 3 m.

You can buy a Safety Stop Anchor from your dive shop for about $50, or you can convert a $10 safety sausage into a super-sausage (B) for just a few bob!  Bits you need are: -

i. Two brass 7 mm eyelets – a pack of 200 costs $3.50;
ii. 6 metres of 2 mm nylon venetian blind cord at $0.40/m ($2.40);
iii. A 200 mm length of 48 mm wide cloth sticky-tape (by Stylus; a 4.5 m roll costs $3.05);
iv. A small fishing weight (22 mm sphere but any shape will do);
v. 90 mm of 20 mm PVC electrical conduit for the toggle.

The fishing weight you can easily find on your next shore dive (preferably not with a fisherman attached), the tape, eyelets and line from your local hardware store and the conduit from any electrician’s rubbish bin.  A packet of eyelets will be enough for you and all your diving friends!  Just about any size will do.

Tape the edges near the open end of the safety sausage with cloth tape to reinforce it (C), cut small holes for the eyelets, fit the eyelets and secure them firmly with the special punch and die that comes with some packs or with a ball-peen hammer.  Drill a hole for the line both through the toggle and the weight and secure the weight with a figure of eight knot.  Secure the lines (C) to the safety sausage (bowline knots) and seal the line ends with a match flame.  Wind it all up neatly, secure it with a rubber band and put it in your BCD pocket.  And there it is (D). 

Although deploying the Super-saussage properly is easy in theory, it's not quite so easy in practice, try a practice deployment occasionally – but please warn the divemaster first!  It could save your life too.

P.S.  The only modifications I have made since the original design (below) are i) I now tie off the attachment to the main line and not loop it and ii) I secure loose ends with shrink tube.  The eyelets need to be replaced after a while as they corrode eventually.

D. The home-modified Super-Saussage

A Step Further - The Drop Reel
Store-bought items are all very convenient but making something from household junk is often very satisfying and I end up with just what I want.  Here is a small idea.

The weighted toggle prevents the line from tangling but it is a little slow to deploy as the line has to be unwound from the safety sausage.  Tecky divers introduced the sausage with reel and 30 m of line – essential for tecky divers engaged in deco diving.  This allows rapid deployment but the reel is a little bulky.  Perhaps there was some easy way to quickly deploy enough line for a 10 m stop (which was all I need) but not carry a bulky reel.  So, thoughtfully, into the workshop….

Dave Morley deploying a SMB using a 30 m reel - the 'techy way'

The Drop-Reel complete - minimal gear but effective -
ideal for the photographer

The result was the drop reel (above), which I made out of PVC (because it’s tough) but it could be made from other things, perhaps a wooden block and two old CDs.  The reel holds 8 m of line (all you need for your 10 m stop, if you hold the reel over your head and pull the safety sausage partly underwater to ensure it sticks upwards).  The reel is weighted by two half lead sinkers mounted centrally so it unwinds smoothly. 

At 10 m you remove the reel from the PVC clip (made from a split piece of PVC pipe that you can get for free from most building-site dumper bins and a few marine-grade stainless screws and fittings from your hardware or yachting shop.  Holding the safety sausage, you just let go of the reel.  The sinker carries it down, spinning, and the line unravels to the end.  You then inflate the safety sausage, which pops to the surface (without any fear of it carrying you upwards as a jammed reel will), and brings the reel up into your hand.  You wind in the line, as your safety stop proceeds, until you reach the surface and re-fit the clip.  Back into your BC pocket - et Voila!

 

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The Drop Reel showing construction of clip