How to Use the Finger Spool

Posted on 07/23/09 1 Comment

Another of our “how to” TECHnique columns. Today we again visit with Duane Johnson who gives us a primer on finger spools, which can be very useful tools when used properly. But they can be a total nightmare if you aren’t paying attention.Usually made of strong plastic, or occasionally aluminum, finger spools are most often used for deploying surface market buoys or performing lost line or buddy searches. Unlike wreck reels, there are no handles on finger spools. Instead the sides have holes to lock a double-ender bolt snap onto the reel. A hole in the middle allows for an easier grip. Tip #1: Don’t put your fingers in there while it’s spinning!

So what do you use these things for? Johnson explains on his Precision Diving blog:

1) Deploying a SMB — When scuba divers need to mark their position in the water column or need an ascent line, they may deploy a SMB (Surface Marker Buoy). See my previous post for more information about deploying a SMB. When deploying the SMB, a line must be attached to the SMB. This is where the finger spool comes in. It is small enough to stow in a dry suit pocket and can hold enough line such that divers can shoot a bag and use the line attached to the finger spool to ascend. This is the most common use for finger spools in an open water environment.

2) Searching — Due to the compactness of finger spools, they are great tools to use when performing underwater searches using the circular pattern. Divers can simply tie off the end of the line to an anchor/object and swim around in a circle to look for a missing object. In addition to doing circular search patterns, finger spools are used in overhead environments to do lost line and lost buddy searches. To learn to perform lost line/buddy searches in an overhead environment, I suggest you take a good cave or wreck diving class.

Johnson goes on to discuss how to set up the line properly and gives a good tip on using finger reels whle wearing gloves. Of course, when dealing with reels, there’s always trouble if you’re not careful.

When the line on a spool is not stored correctly, it can come slip over the spool. When this occurs, there will be more slack in the line. With this slack, more line can slip off the spool. This results in a possible entanglement hazard.

When the finger spool is stored in a pocket, that line will just collect inside the pocket and not present an entanglement hazard unless removed, completely, from the pocket.

There are people who store finger spools on d-rings on their harness/BCD. When stored like this and the line comes undone, a diver may never realize that the line has tangled around them or around something until it is too late.

There’s more helpful tips and insight on his blog. Check it out.

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