BCD - My first was a Seaquest Balance rear
inflation - fitted to the BCD I have a
small dive knife, a horn on my low pressure inflator hose, a whistle,
and a safety sausage I normally carry a 2lb weight in each of the top
pockets. This BCD has the Surelock weight pockets. I
have 5lb of weight in each of the pockets for a total of 14lb.
This is with my Seatec Predator Pro semi dry suit and 12.2L steel tank.
With an alloy tank I will add a further 4lb, and with my dry suit a
I also own a Seaquest Pro QD Red line which I bought
on e-bay in October 2007 for $465. It is practically brand
new. and serviced in Feb 07. I have dive it twice, just to get
the feel for it. It is a jacket style and I am more used to
the rear inflation. It seems to respond more slowly to
inflation or deflation than the rear inflation ones. Never the
less it is very comfortable and a joy to be in. My partner
Jenny has been using this one.
I also bought a Seaquest Black Diamond in November
2007. It is an older style with the velcro weight pockets.
It is rear inflation, 6 D-rings, a number of other rings and
attachments and 3 useful pockets. It is able to take twins and
has huge lift capacity. I have been diving this one a bit and
it is great to use, although there is a lot of material in it and I
think it's not that sreamlined.
All 3 Seaquest BCDs have common parts as far as the dump valves
and the inflator hose is concerned. All are fitted with a
whistle. The Balance & Pro QD+ use the same weight
pockets, which I also have a spare.
In January 2009 I took the plunge (pun intended) and
bought some new technical oriented gear. I bought a Halcyon
aluminium backplate and 40lb lift wings (one single and one double)
and a single tank carrier. With trim pockets, knife and weight
pockets it is a great set up. I chose the aluminium backplate
as it is lighter and I don't need a lot of extra ballast. When
set up on a single I need under 8lb with my 7mm/5mm SEATEC semi dry
and Sharkskin undergarment. When dismantled this set up takes
up a fraction of the room of a normal BCD., so will be great for
travelling. In March 2009 I removed the trim pockets, finding
that the better balance of the Halcyon does not need me to have any
high trim weights. When diving in the tropics in my full arm
and leg sharkskin and a 95cu ft alloy tanks I need no extra weight
Wetsuits- My first wet suit was an Aqualung Comfort Balance 5.5 - 5mm
one piece rear zip. I added a fly zip and pockets in November 2005.
This was my first wetsuit and by mid 2006 it was getting the worse
for wear. Also I have lost some bioprene (body weight) and it
is now thin and baggy (and leaks like a sieve).
I also have a TripleX shorty for tropical
diving and a triple X vest, and several different hoods.
My most recent purchase was a Seatec Predator Pro
Semi-dry, purchased in November 2006. I had the top half
custom fitted. It has 7mm neoprene around the trunk and 5mm
arms and legs. It got a real test in December 2006 on the
Tuggerah when the water hit 14 degrees -and I wasn't cold. In
July 2010 I took it back to Seatec to have the many holes fixed, new
kneepads and new neck seal.
I have a sharkskin undergarment which I wear under
the wetsuit in cooler water. It's also good for tropical
Gloves & Boots - Initially I used Aquanaut 2mm gloves which are light
and easy to put on and off and don't restrict movement with Kevlar. I have used the Mares gloves which are very
light and comfortable but I keep putting holes in the left middle
finger. I think this is from hanging onto rocks to steady
myself for photos. Boots are Aqualung. They have last nearly 4
years and are ready for replacement. I had a pair of Beuchamp
boots which lasted a year before the inner sole got a hole in it. In
January 2009 I bought a pair of Cressi boots. I now use Cressi
gloves which I've found very good.
Regs - My main regs have been Apeks ATX200,
which I bought from Plunge diving. They are brilliant down to
62m which is the deepest that I have been, even when working hard
and breathing hard. They are of course DIN. These are
now my second set when on twins but can still be fully configured
for recreational diving. I use these with an occy when diving
on a single. They are also fitted with a Suunto high pressure
My long hose regs are Apeks XTX200s. I bought an
occy with them so that I can use them for recreational diving (down
to 30m or so). I have the yoke conversion for
these when necessary on trips away when I'm using hire tanks.
I use a 6' hose, I find the 7' hose is just too long.
I've been experimenting on different twin/single set ups
to determine the best/simplest way to change regs over from twins to
singles. Over time I now have my ATX set (which are my left
post on twins) with a pressure transmitter, low pressure inflator
and SPG and I simply have to add the occy to use with singles.
My first regs were Aqualung Titan LX with occy. They are
now DIN fitting. I have a light weight adapter that converts
the regs to yoke in seconds. I've
found these regs breathe really well under all conditions. A friend
of mine has the same regs and used them on the President Coolidge at
60 m with no problems at all. They still breathed easily.
I've used these at 50m and they breathe OK at that depth. Jenny now
uses these, and has dived with them also on the Coolidge to 60m.
I also have a Cressi AC2 Ellipse which I used to use on my
pony and stage bottles.
These are also DIN and are oxygen cleaned.
I've bought another Apeks XTX200 which I now use on
my stage cylinder. This set has the 2nd stage reversed so the
hose comes out the left side of the second stage for a stage on the
left hand side.
Cylinders - I have five Faber 12.2 litre
(100 cu ft) steel
cylinders with handles, mesh and valve caps. They all have DIN K
valves. All have been oxygen cleaned as we dive on Nitrox
quite often. My partner Jenny also dives on these. As of
April 2009, 2 of these have been twinned up with Halcyon header and
bands. They are numbered R1 to R4 and J1 for identification
when filling. In 2011 I bought a pair of Faber 10.5L cylinders
which I now have twinned (less weight for my aging back). I've
also got an old alloy 95cu ft cylinder which I use for cleaning my
I also have a 2.7L Sherwood pony bottle
that is neutrally buoyant when empty and 1.3lb negative when full.
I used to carry it strapped on the right hand side of my cylinder.
It clipped upright on a
neck ring on my Faber cylinder and strapped to the main cylinder.
It sits there quite nicely. I carry 2lb in the top left pocket
of my BCD to offset it's mass. I use a simple clip lock strap to
hold it secure against my main tank. When I use it, I clip my
normal occy under the normal clip on my right shoulder D ring.
This set up in now obsolete as I can sling the pony and or stage
tank from my Halcyon backplate.
In March 2009 I bought a second hand Luxfer stage
tank with a new DIN K valve. It is 40cu ft and is oxygen
cleaned. It will be slung in the Halcyon method, top clipped
to the left shoulder D ring and the bottom to the left waist D ring.
I can now sling my pony the same way if I choose to take it along.
This stage is typically 50% for accelerated decompression. In
2011 I bought a second stage tank, almost brand new, also slung.
Computer - For quite a while I have been
using a Suunto Vytec DS wrist mount, with
download my dives and maintain dive details on Suunto's dive manager
database.. I back this up to another hard drive and a USB key.
I keep the USB key with my dive log. This stuff is
irreplaceable so I make sure that I have it covered. I also
keep a copy at work. I also have a Suunto Vyper wrist mounted.
The Vytec is now installed in the technical diver's preference using
elastic cords. This is certainly easier to put on. In
May 2011 I purchased a SUUNTO Helo2 and transmitter. This
computer has all the Vytec features but is also suitable for Tri-Mix
diving. A neat innovation over the VYTEC is that it records
cylinder pressure real time and this is downloaded to SDM.
This is now my primary dive computer.
Compass - Suunto SK7 wrist mounted. I
mount the compass on my right arm and the computer above it. I
also have an arm slate above that. All fit comfortably on my
forearm. I have changed over to the technical set up which uses
elastic strap as opposed to the watch type band.
Fins - Atomic Split Fins. I find these really
good to dive with, and require little effort. They are quite
long though and heavy. I have the spring straps which I find
fantastic. Really easy to put on and take off - no adjustment
required. In 2011 the buckles started to fail and I attempted
to put a stainless screw through the post to make it stronger.
This has been partly successful but I bought a pair of Hollis jet
fins which are better suited to technical diving.
Drysuit - DUI FLX 50/50. The bottom
half is crushed neoprene and the top half is trilaminate. The
50/50 isn't too heavy and it only requires another 4-6lb compared to
my wet suit. I have a hood that goes with it. I didn't
use it in 2007. I prefer the freedom of a semi dry. In
2008 and 2009 I used it throughout winter and have fitted a
waterproof fly zip. In May 2010 I replaced the latex seals
with neoprene ones which seal just as well, are as comfortable and
much more durable. In May 2011 I replaced the main zip as it
was leaking slightly. These are expensive to replace. I don't
really like diving in it - it is like a bag - air within the suit
moves around changing your buoyancy characteristics.
Mask & Snorkel - My original mask was a
Technisub Look mask and Tuza snorkel.
These were what I bought when I learnt to dive in January 2004. I
then had Look mask that has prescription lens in thanks to OzBob.
I broke the snorkel at Exmouth in 2007 so have a new one now.
I lost my original mask late in 2009 and in March 2010 bought a new
Atomics ARC mask. This is amazing - such great clarity
with great field of vision. This is quite expensive but well
worth it if you want the best visual experience when you dive.
Dive Lights - I had a number lights.
Underwater Kinetics SL4 and C8 (this one died when the handle
cracked trying to open it) and an Aquasea dive light with 35W
halogen bulb and 4.5Ah battery pack. I rhad a LED
torch which has a burn time of 6hrs on 4 AAA batteries. The
light is very white and really good underwater. I lost this
third one at Christmas Island. I also have a Pelican
and a Halcyon scout LED. I carry the Halcyon scout on my
backplate as a back up and attach the dive light canister to the
waist strap of my backplate. I have modified my camera tray
and now have a bracket for my main dive light on LOC-LINE on the
camera tray. It is great for video and can give better
lighting than strobes under some conditions. I have changed
the head on my canister light in early 2012. Wayne has modified an
LED torch so that it is powered by my canister. The LED is
Photography gear - Up to April
2009 I had been using a Canon A95, 5
megapixel camera in a Canon WP-DC50 housing. Attached to that
is an INON D2000 strobe on a long bubble arm. For wide
shots I use a sea&sea u/w wide conversion lens (16mm/f5.6). I
keep all this is a sea&sea case. I used to use 2 wrist
straps on the housing plus a clip for attachment to my BCD. I attach the
camera to the BCD on the boat, hold it as I enter the water.
Once settled in the water, I put the wrist straps on, then unclip
the camera from the BCD. This camera is still working and
Jenny uses it.
I bought the INON in July 2006 and it
is an excellent strobe. I have changed to the INON wide angle and
macro lens which attach easily to the camera housing.
In April 2009 I purchased a second INON strobe, a
new camera - Canon IXUS 980IS and housing. I then gave my
A95 in it's housing to Jenny to use.
I have purchased more LOC-LINE which is
a ball and socket joint system that my strobe arms are made from.
I have now extended it from about 15 cm to 40cm. The loc line
system is very flexible as it can be bent at every joint. It also
stiff enough to support the INON strobe out of the water. I
have a clip on the top of it that attaches to my camera tray for safe
entry and exit. I have made a tray from thick nylon.
This allows me to have the strobes mounted out wide , clips for both
lenses and a second strobe on the right hand
side. I also have a clip attached to the tray that I use to
secure the camera firmly to my BCD when entering and exiting. In
April 2009 I bought more LOC-LINE and fitted it to the right had
side of the tray for my second strobe.
Twin strobes give so much more coverage, depth and
lack of shadow and back scatter. It is worth the expense.
In 2011 I bought on eBay a Canon G11 and Canon
housing and 2 strobes, an Olympus and a Remora. The Olympus
strobe does not work with either of my Canon cameras. I have
put the G11 onto my tray with the 2 INON strobes and Jenny now uses
the IXUS with the Remora.
Other odds & sods - 74m reel. I
have 2 smbs - a small Halcyon and a larger one. Both have
spools with > 40m of line on them. The large Halcyon one as
developed a leak in April 2011 where the dump valve is glued to the
sausage. I have not been able to repair this so have bought a
much cheaper safety sausage.
Spares & tool kit - I always have with
me in the car or on the boat when diving. In the kit are
things like mask strap, fin strap, weight belt, mouthpiece, duct
tape, zip ties, range of O rings, batteries, spanners, allen keys,
and a variety of other odds and sods. I also have in this kit
my yoke adapter in case I need to use a yoke cylinder.
And a well equipped diver's first aid kit which is
always in the car.
We also have an oxygen set in the boat in case there
is need. This is kept in a water tight pelican case with
emergency first aid equipment. This is always in the boat, and
Boat - the new boat is a
It is a real beauty for diving. It has a big
open deck and walk through transom. The half cabin is well
forward and provides great shelter from sea and wind. The
gunwales are wide and easy to sit on. She travels well in the
water, cutting through rather than crashing down the waves. At
anchor she sits flat, with little roll except in big seas.
Deco bar - is a stainless steel bar with
loops for ropes at each end and a loop for a cylinder
in the middle. It hangs at 5m off 2 10mm ropes attached to
hooks on the stern of the boat. If we hang a tank we use a 12.2L steel
cylinder with 2 second stages. It is easy to assemble in the boat and
then drop over the side. We charge the lines before putting it
in the water, then turn the cylinder off to avoid risk of free
flowing. On very deep dives (>35m) we use a cross over from
the front anchor to the deco bar. In November 2007 Wayne made
some mods to the deco bar. He filled the bar with lead weights
so now we don't have weights dangling. We also now each have a
metre length of elastic cord for attaching to the deco bar during
deco stops. The elastic takes up the jerking of the boat and
makes lengthy stops more comfortable. The bar can be hung at 2
depths - 10m and 6m and the depths can be adjusted by divers during
the deco stop. There are rings at 3m as well, for lengthy deco
stops at 3m we can attach a short cord to the deco rope and to a
D-ring on the BCD.
Other things - I always have a spare torch, a
whistle (on the low pressure inflator hose), a knife (usually 2) , a safety
sausage, identification slate, CD signaller, and at times a 30L lift
bag. I have surfaced once amongst a few large yachts. A
safety sausage comes in real handy in helping them see you. I
was only 40m from the boat and we had our flag up but that didn't
stop them coming close.
The Compressor and Nitrox mix
Wayne and I bought the compressor in July 2006. It's a
Bauer Junior. I've built a "soundproof" box to keep it in and
fitted forced ventilation to keep it cooler. It's
certainly not sound less but is it fairly quiet - a lot quieter than
a lawn mower. The forced air ventilation consists of 4 x 100mm
fans pushing air into the box, and a 200mm extraction fan, ducted to
suck the air out. The duct expels the hot air outside of the
garage. I have fitted a hose to the inlet of the compressor
which allows the air to be drawn from the cool air at the back of
the box. The front doors are closed when the compressor is
running. The compressor takes about half an hour to fill a 12L
I change the filter every 10 hours - this gives us
clean air all the time. We also have 2 G size Oxygen cylinders
and a digital gauge and fill hose for partial filling for our
Nitrox. I'm typically mixing 36% in our 12L singles, 27% in
our twins and 50% in our stages. These are either done by
bleeding the tanks completely, or by topping up with oxygen, then
with air off the compressor. This decision is based on the
available pressure in the oxygen cylinders and the pressure in the
cylinders. With 2 oxygen cylinders we always have one that is
over 100 bar. We need this to fill the stages which for 50%
need around 88 bar of O2. I aim for 240 bar pressure (cold) in our
Faber cylinders. I always test the tanks when filled and fill
in details of the fill on a tag on the cylinder. The
information includes the date of the fill, test result and the MOD
at 1.4 and 1.6 ppO2 for that mix. I keep a comprehensive log of all
fills including compressor run hours, filter changes, what tanks
were filled. The oxygen log covers the fill of each cylinder -
the pressure in each oxygen cylinder at the start and end of fills,
the pressure target and actual for the O2 partial fill, the target
mix and the actual mix and of course the final O2 content.
The set up has well and truly paid for itself on
fill costs alone, even more if you consider the travel costs and
time to and from dive shops.
In 2011 we added a NItrox stick to the setup. This mixes O2
from the cylinders into air within the stick. The O2 is
regulated using a welding regulator with a restrictor screw threaded
into the outlet nipple. This gives precise control of the O2
flow, The stick has a series of baffles with in it to mix the gases
and has an O2 sensor in the outlet. The outlet feeds directly
into the compressor. I will mix up to 40% using the method but
most of our mixes are 36%.