Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Know thy gear.(diving gear). USA, LLC

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This is the Story of How a Mechanically Disinclined Man Infiltrated a Scuba Equipment Repair Course and Not Only Survived, But Learned Something Valuable.

At home, my wife fixes everything. The tool box is hers, the knowledge of how to use the tools has almost exclusively been her realm, even the basic identity of the tools has tended to elude me. I am a shop rock with only vestigial mechanical aptitude.

When it comes to my dive equipment, I implicitly trust the equipment guru at my local dive shop to keep everything functioning efficiently. I'm a turn it on and go kind of person. So, needless to say, I approached this assignment not so much with reluctance as with sheer bafflement and dread. As it turned out, I have been pulling off a very clever ruse. The mysterious inner workings of all that stuff I depend on while diving has been exposed, and I feel, well, confident to tackle almost any equipment situation, and, well, sad that I hadn't taken a class like this many, many years ago.

The participants of the class were instructed to bring in a first and second stage, SPG console, BC, and tank (emptied of air). After general introductions, the instructor began lifting the shroud of mystery piece by piece. (All of the participants, despite our surprising amount of experience, were equally timid about fixing the basic mechanics of their gear.)

Each step of the process was entirely hands-on. If it could be disassembled in the field and fixed, we did it. We began with the inner workings and types of first stages, then took apart our second stages, including hose connections, moved on to our consoles and BC power inflator, taking apart hose connections and removing valves on these, too. (There are special methods to removing certain hose connections, so t would recommended taking a repair course even for those of you who are a little more bold about your equipment.) Each aspect - venturi assist, diaphragm, cracking pressure, user adjustments, schrader valve and HP swivel spool replacement, etc. - of the equipment was discussed as to function, possible problems and adjustment benefits, and, of course, fixes.

As we had a broad selection of manufacturer's gear (brought by the students) to look over, this proved valuable on two fronts. One, being able to identify problems and fix one's own understanding the operation of it; and learning about the pros and cons of the wide variety of features offered on other equipment - a bit of knowledge that will come in handy when purchasing new gear or helping a friend out in the field.

Special tools, of course, are required, and the ideal save-a-dive tool kit was displayed and discussed, and we got to use the tools, too.

Once our group had overcome its initial hesitation to strip apart the very gear we would use on the next day's dive, we proved so eager to take apart all of our equipment, check the condition of the various components, and put it back together that the normally four hour class extended to six then eight hours. Once the demystification had begun we all realized what a simple and valuable skill this was. No more lost dives to regulator or BC power inflator freeflows, broken O-rings, SPG failure - almost everything we learned to fix could be done on a dive boat in less than five minutes with a simple set of tools and easily purchased parts. Looking back at all the times a dive day could've been salvaged with a tidbit of knowledge (by taking a course like this sooner) made all of us cringe.

After an impromptu late lunch, we all removed the valves of our tanks and took a gander inside. For this we moved from the classroom to the shop. While looking inside the tanks was fascinating and informative, finding any deficiencies still requires a professional's attention.

At the end of the day, without getting wet, we all left better divers. We left more knowledgeable, comfortable with, and unafraid of our equipment. The class I had dreaded turned into one of the most valuable days of learning (pertaining to scuba) I had yet invested time in. When you think about how important a diver's equipment is to his/her well-being, a course such as this makes perfect sense. What didn't make perfect sense was why I hadn't taken it earlier.

Source Citation:Sawyer, Ty. "Know thy gear." Skin Diver 48.5 (May 1999): 47(2). General OneFile. Gale. Alachua County Library District. 14 Oct. 2009

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