Boating lobstermen, while out on the water, can readily communicate (by marine radio telephone) with the Harbor Masters of Gloucester and Rockport, the Massachusetts Marine Patrol, the local wardens and police, and the enforcement personnel of the Department of Natural Resources. Similarly, many people in homes along the coast of Cape Ann can communicate by telephone with some of these law enforcement groups. Although one-sided, and at the very least unfair in its eventual use of public funds to scrutinize one class of people, this situation does exist. What it means is that regardless of where divers may be in the waters of Cape Ann , they are being observed.
GLOUCESTER REGULATIONS AND ORDINANCES
Scuba divers and skin divers may not use underwater weapons of any type in the waters of the beaches that are under the jurisdiction of the Director of Public Works (this does not relate to divers' safety knives, but only to spears and spearguns).
Dressing or undressing in cars is forbidden.
Divers in the tidal waters of Gloucester (harbors, rivers, coves and along the coast between high tide and low tide) must display a Divers Flag of dimensions not less than 13 inches by 17 inches (which dimension is the width and which is the height is not specified), must surface within 25 feet of the flag, must maintain a minimum distance of 25 feet between the flag and any fishing and lobstering buoys, and must make every effort to surface and stay clear "when boats are hauling traps" (those are the words that the Director of Public Works used). COMMENT : To require that a displayed Divers Flag be maintained at least 25 feet away from lobster trap buoys is to require the impossible. Practically every part of the coast has an excess of lobster trap buoys immediately off shore...they are everywhere. Although colorful, they are a menace. In most cases it's not possible to be 25 feet away from every buoy, there are just too many of them...and they move. Also, to require that one class of people (scuba divers) surface and stay clear while another class of people (boating lobstermen) haul traps is blatant discrimination.
REGULATIONS ADOPTED BY THE TOWN OF ROCKPORT
The violation of any of these regulations shall be punishable by a fine of $100.00.
Diving is prohibited at all times in the Granite Pier anchorage area and in Rockport Harbor .
No spearfishing shall be allowed at beach areas within 200 yards of mean low water.
The use of inner tubes, air mattresses, rubber rafts, and other floats is prohibited on all beaches.
Dressing or disrobing in public is prohibited.
The Divers Flag as referred to in the following paragraphs has a red field with a white diagonal stripe. The flag shall be "12 inches by 15 inches" (which dimension is the width and which dimension is the height is not specified...a square flag measuring 15 inches by 15 inches would satisfy the law).
Divers diving singly or in groups, shall display the Divers Flag, of suitable size and from a suitable support (float or boat). Divers shall remain within 100 feet of the flag while at or near the surface. When in sight of the flag, boats must proceed with caution. When within 100 feet of the flag, boats must not exceed a speed of 3 miles per hour. The fine for breaking the law is "not less than ten nor more than fifty dollars". The implications of this law are that any number of divers may be represented by only one displayed flag, and that while underwater they may be farther away from the flag than 100 feet. Additionally, boats may come right up to the flag at any speed which does not exceed 3 miles per hour.
COMMENT : Towing a flag on a float is the most dangerous thing that we as divers do to ourselves. For safety's sake, when displaying the divers flag from a surface float, the support should be of sufficient size to provide a hand-hold and to be able to maintain several divers at the surface. An inner tube is ideal for this purpose.
COAST GUARD DIVING OPERATIONS RULE (condensed):
The day shape as referred to in the following paragraphs is a replica of the International Code flag "A" (CODE ALPHA) 3.3 feet in height and width, and rigid. The International Code flag "A" is a two color flag...the staff half is white and the fishtail trailing edge is blue.
Navigation Rule 27 (U. S. Coast guard Navigation Rules, International - Inland, COMDTINST M16672.2), requires that the Alpha flag replica be displayed on a small vessel which as a result of being engaged in diving operations is limited in its ability to maneuver. This rule applies to all waters, Inland and International.
The Alpha flag replica when deployed on a vessel does not signal that divers are in the water...it simply identifies the vessel as one whose ability to maneuver is restricted. Not all boats used for scuba diving are restricted in their ability to maneuver. We often maneuver our dive boat, EASY DIVER, while our divers are in the water; to reset our anchor, or to go to the assistance of one of our divers. Because most boats used for scuba diving are not restricted in their ability to maneuver they are not required to display the Alpha flag replica.
As previously noted...towing a surface float is the most dangerous thing that we as scuba divers do to ourselves. Consequently, we must minimize all the risks associated with this act. Towing a float with the wrong flag (the Alpha flag), or towing a float with two flags (the divers flag and the Alpha flag) is unnecessarily dangerous. Scuba divers should not fly Alpha flags from their surface floats. There is no requirement (that is, there is no law, no ordinance, no rule, no regulation...local, state or federal) that says that scuba divers must deploy Alpha flags. Only vessels, which, due to diving operations are restricted in their ability to maneuver, are required to deploy the Alpha flag...and that flag is the so-called "replica" (meaning it is 3.3 feet by 3.3 feet, and rigid).