• An Avoidable Tragedy in Cozumel

    Mexico’s Caribbean island of Cozumel provides some startlingly good diving, which is often experienced by American divers since it is so conveniently close to the US. Diving tends to be organised in groups. It is not unusual for individual divers to turn up for dives.There are strong currents. This can lead to problems if one of the divers needs to return to the surface during a dive and that is what happened to a lady recently, with fatal consequences.

    The dive had not started well. It is reported that she had trouble with the inflator mechanism of her BC. Presumably, it tended to jam open or her own BC was not compatible with the regulator and direct-feed she had rented. So she disconnected it, intending to only connect the direct feed when she needed to put some air into her BC. This may be something that a well-practised regular diver can cope with but if anything else went wrong, it could lead to an incident pit.

    And something did go wrong. During the dive, she decided to abort and the dive guide went with her to the depth of a safety stop at, say, 5m deep. He had to be quick because on the current: He could easily lose contact with the rest of the group he was escorting. So he left her there, assuming she was competent enough to make it the short distance to the surface. He successfully rejoined his charges ar depth and continued the dive.

    We don't know what happened next. Her computer would not have recorded whether she actually made the surface or not, but her lifeless body was discovered by an entirely different group of divers some time later. It may well be that on achieving the surface, she forgot how to inflate her BC orally. She probably struggled to reconnect the direct-feed hose whilst finning furiously to stay at the surface. She might never ever have done that. She might have been carrying too much lead. She certainly did not drop her weights. Consequently, she eventually dropped and drowned. Drowning is never like it is portrayed in the movies. Struggling to keep afloat, she would have become exhausted and quietly slipped away. Nobody would have seen her go.

    What can we learn from this tragic series of events, a series of events that happens only too often with leisure divers? Firstly, never go diving unless your equipment is working one hundred percent efficiently. Secondly, be neutrally buoyant at all times. This means never wearing more lead than you need. If you think you need a lot of lead to go under, you are probably holding a large lungful of air. A properly weighted diver needs only to exhale fully to leave the surface.

    If you are neutrally buoyant, you will have no trouble swimming up to the surface, but wearing your tank and weights, you might need supplementary buoyancy to be able to stay afloat, breathing the atmosphere comfortably. This is when you need to inflate your BC and use it as a life preserver.  Know how to inflate your BC orally. That is why it has a corrugated hose. You do not need to use that hose to dump air (through the oral inflation valve) as many instructors still appear to teach. You have a dump valve positioned at the shoulder for that.

    If for some reason you cannot inflate your BC, you can still achieve flotation by dropping the lead weights you carry. I know that many worry about replacing integrated-weight pockets or a weightbelt after it has been dropped in this way, but it’s a small price to pay for your life, isn’t it?

    Think about it. Familiarize yourself with these actions. There is no reason to die in such foolish circumstances. And don’t expect anyone else to save you from your own folly. Don’t abdicate responsibility for your own well-being or even your life to a third person, someone you probably only met a short time before you went diving. Know how to work all your gear. Check that you know how to drop your weights and practise inflating your BC orally. Practice helps muscle memory so that it becomes second nature.

  • The Good, the Bad and the Ugly!

    Modern divers don’t know how lucky they are. An example of all the equipment sold in Ocean Leisure has been used and evaluated by someone on its staff and we are confident that it will all do what it promises. However, only twenty years ago there was a lot of diving equipment on the market that was not as good as it might have been. CE regulation and market forces have seen the products for diving mature and the bad old days are long gone but as a scuba diving journalist working for the leading diver’s magazine at that time, I took it upon myself to identify the good, the bad and the downright unattractive! I upset a lot of retailers at that time by promoting a regulator made in the UK by Apeks Marine Engineering. The company had little or no reputation for making good regulators at that time but it came up with a world-beater and I took pleasure in telling the world about it! I took a group of divers to 50-metres deep breathing off a single first-stage. The rest is history.

    Apeks regulator test Apeks world-beating regulator test back in the early '90s.
    Products were not always good. At the same time a manufacturer with a strong reputation came up with some new fins that were patently ineffective. I told the world. They were soon taken off the market.  There were plenty of other products that proved not to live up to their promise: A curved mask that gave distorted vision; a regulator that gave a wet breathe; a full-face mask that had some design defects that were quickly rectified by the manufacturer after I travelled over to Italy to dive with its boss and chief test diver. Then there was the computer that promised more bottom time. It was positively dangerous! The list goes on. There were even some BCDs that exhibited obvious defects once they were under water. You won't find any of those BCDs for sale at Ocean Leisure. Although there was plenty of good stuff too, the list of the less good seemed never ending back in those days and I didn't make myself a favourite with any of the manufacturers. I tried to make comparison tests as fair and objective as possible, for example taking computers on deco-stop dives attached side-by-side on the same rig. I even tested fins with teams of divers using underwater speedometers that I had especially made for the job.
    Underwater speedometer for comparing the performance of different diving fins. Underwater speedometer for comparing the performance of different diving fins.
    I'm pleased to report that all the diving fins offered for sale at Ocean Leisure did very well in the tests and most of those that did not have sunk without trace. So now when customers are confronted with a choice of similar products we can have the confidence to say that the right one is the one that suits you! The people at Ocean Leisure have masses of accumulated experience and they are happy to pass it on to you. Come in for a chat.

  • Two BCs for Travelling Divers

    Aqualung Zuma in use. The Aqualung Zuma in use by the author.
    Cressi Travel Light in use John Bantin uses the Cressi Travel Light.
    Your BC could be the heaviest part of your diving equipment save actual tank and weights. While packing for a recent trip, I noticed that my chosen BC weighed so much that I thought it still had some lead stowed in it. With an eye on my miserable airline checked-baggage allowance, I knew I needed something less substantially made and lighter-weight. A long time ago, before many of you had taken up diving, I reviewed for Diver Magazine, where I was Technical Editor, a little compact wing from Seaquest called the 3D. It was stylish and minimalist. It was like wearing a little rucksack. The one-piece continuous harness meant that one size fitted all. Compared to other BCs available at the time, it was revolutionary. When it came to packing for a flight, it weighed in at less than 2kg. This was in the days when men were men, women made sandwiches, the BSAC ruled diving and every diver had a dual-bag BC, with an independent emergency inflation cylinder, designed for military divers and built to withstand the effects of dropping into the sea from a helicopter (not that they ever did!). My review of the rather feminine little SeaQuest 3D was suitably enthusiastic. It was one of the first bits of kit I reviewed during a 21-year career that genuinely impressed me. I was so impressed that I actually bought one, and have it to this day. It’s also ideal for single-tank drysuit diving. Alas, nobody else then seemed to agree with my findings, and few bought one. It was soon discontinued. Time passed and Seaquest BCs are now marketed under the name of the parent company, Aqualung. Times change. Far more people now see scuba diving as intrinsically linked with travel to tropical destinations, and girls go diving too! Fuel prices have risen in the interim as well, and suddenly lightweight BCs are at last finding their place.
    Aqualung Zuma The Aqualung Zuma is exceptionally comfortable.
    The Aqualung Zuma is that little Seaquest 3D, resurrected, re-thought and adapted to include some modern innovations. Without a hard backpack, you can actually roll it up. The Zuma is for the travelling single-tank diver. It comes with an integrated-weight system but only a small pocket. You need to clip your reel and SMB to a D-ring. Not only is it very comfortable to wear but we get reports from satisfied users that because it has such generously padded shoulder straps, it's very comfortable when used without a wetsuit where the water is warm enough for that.
    The Aqualung Zuma is minimalistic. The Aqualung Zuma is minimalistic.
    If the Zuma is too minimalistic for you, the Cressi Travel Light BC has all the features one might reasonably expect in a conventional BC, including pockets, an integrated-weight system and trim-weight pockets but it is just as lightweight. Trim-weight pockets can be very important to have when using a floaty aluminium cylinder. I’m not the world’s best diver, but during my active instructor days I was happy to demonstrate buoyancy control using an upturned plastic bag in place of a BC. The core function of a BC is very low-tech, so you can be confident that, however much of a compromise the Travel Light might be, it does the job.
    Cressi Travel Light has all the features you might need. Cressi Travel Light has all the features you might need.
    The otherwise conventional looking Cressi Travel Light is made from a very lightweight nylon material, and has no hard backpack. You can actually roll it up tightly for packing, so it takes up no space, either. It even has an additional Velcro-covered strap to keep it tidy when rolled. It comes with three ways to dump air not including using the oral inflation valve at the end of the corrugated hose.
    The Cressi Travel Light The full-feature Cressi Travel Light.
    Trying to strap a BC with no backpack to a cylinder by its camband could be very unsatisfactory, but both the Travel Light and the Zuma provide a second strap to stabilise the tank. The cost of a BC like these might well be recovered in excess-baggage charge savings. Don't be misled by divers who say these BCs are too fragile. I've had a Cressi Travel Light in regular use for several years and I ever use it when drysuit diving in colder waters. My wife even used it in Vancouver and in Iceland.

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