Regulators

  • Ocean Leisure after Brexit is Complete

    Poacher turned gamekeeper, after a career in the advertising industry I made a name for myself as the scourge of poor quality under-performing diving equipment, by exposing it in the UK’s Diver Magazine. It was a time when some manufacturers threatened to sue me and others invited me to visit their factories to discuss where they might be going wrong. It was almost a thankless task – one British importer has never forgotten that he was left with a garage full of unsalable regulators after I had revealed how badly they performed, conveniently forgetting I might have saved him from a manslaughter charge!

    Another went out of business, citing me as the reason the poor quality regulators he imported stopped being made, while a third British importer sent an email (a copy of which I still preserve) telling his manufacturer that the regulator they made was faulty and that if I, John Bantin, got to hear of it, they’d be ruined!

    Then there were the diving computers that gave you extra bottom time (at the expense of risk to your health). One doyen of American diving equipment manufacturers more recently told me I was a pillar of the diving community, conveniently forgetting the lawyer’s letters he’d sent me two decades ago.

    So what has this all got to do with Brexit? Well, all this went on before the days of EU regulation and the CE-marking of life-support equipment. I was testing regulators on an ANSTI machine long before it became mandatory for manufacturers to do the same and meet the EU-mandated performance requirements.

    Today, it’s difficult to buy life support equipment in the UK that does not meet these set standards. It does mean that it has taken the fun out of being a vociferous critic in print. Equipment reviews in diving magazines have been reduced to little more that rewritten manufacturer’s press-releases. However, I moved my talents to the US where I now write for an on-line subscription newsletter called www.undercurrent.org. The US makes rich pickings for someone of my talents and Undercurrent has no advertisers to try to please.

    The US has none of this regulation from which we have benefitted during the last 30 years in Europe. They have a system that waits for the problem to happen and then pursues the miscreants by litigation in the courts. Good news for American lawyers! Undercurrent is frequently full of reports of such cases. When Brexiteers boast that we will do away with European red tape and regulation, they mean following the American model. Bad news if you die, but don’t worry, your estate will be able to sue afterward!

    The Editor in Chief of www.undercurrent.org frequently asks me what equipment failures we have seen at Ocean Leisure. Started in 1975 as a direct counterbalance to the advertising-driven diving publications found in the US, exposing shoddy products is part of the life-blood of that publication. These examples of unsuitable or badly designed/manufactured equipment are frequently discovered on the other side of the Atlantic, but I surprise him by telling that Ocean Leisure in London rarely gets any life-support equipment for diving, or other water sports, returned because it does not meet manufacturer’s promise. That (some would say ‘evil’) EU regulation has seen to that.

    However, times might well change. Deregulation might be an opportunity for the importation of less good products into the UK and a return to the good old days for diving equipment journalists and their job of trashing the bad.

    What I can tell you is that the staff at Ocean Leisure are all keen users of what the store stocks. They are all either regular divers or sailors and will soon discover any suspect product so that you will not find them here. Leaving the EU might mean a future influx of poor quality imports but you can always rest assured that what you purchase at Ocean Leisure will be up to the task. You can use it with confidence.

     

     

  • What Causes a Regulator to Free-flow?

    It’s very annoying, isn’t it? You jump into the water and your regulator starts to free-flow. It could even be life-threatening if that happened at depth. It’s as if someone has pushed the purge valve of the regulator in and held it there, losing you precious air. What causes it to happen?Dive2005B

    Modern day regulator manufacturers compete with each other to give the diver the most efficient and natural way of breathing. When you inhale from your regulator, the drop in pressure inside the body of the second-stage of the regulator drops and allows the second-stage valve to open, supplying you with air. Regulator designers try to make the valve as finely balanced as possible so that it takes the minimum amount of effort to pull it open against its closing spring, the spring that holds it shut and stops the gas escaping from your tank. Modern regulators can be so finely balanced in this way that it is often more effort to force the exhaust port open when you exhale than inhaling. (ANSTI breathing machines prove that!) So why do they sometimes free-flow?

    If you pull very gently on a regulator, the second-stage valve only opens a little to let air pass. The more you suck or the deeper you are the more it has to open to satisfy your needs.

    The depth the diver is at affects the pressure-sensing diaphragm. It operates a lever that pulls open the second-stage valve and also doubles as a ‘purge valve’. If for some reason the purge valve gets pushed in for a moment as it might when passing from air at the surface to water (a sudden increase in hydrostatic pressure) the valve opens and lets a whoosh of air past the back of the pressure sensing diaphragm. This fast moving air, just like the air moving fast over the top of an aircraft wing, causes a drop in pressure directly behind the diaphragm. This causes the valve to open even more and – viola! It’s exponential. The more the valve opens the greater the drop of pressure behind it and that leads to it opening the valve even more, resulting in that annoying rush of lost air.

    Luckily, that only normally happens at the cusp between air and water; that is to say at the surface. Putting your thumb over the mouthpiece is usually sufficient to cause a momentary increase in pressure inside the second-stage body to stop it. It’s annoying when it happens at the surface but it could be more than annoying if it happened at depth. Alas, in water that is colder than 10°C, it can happen at any depth if the mechanism of the valve is iced up or affected by ice. This is when it gets more serious than just annoying.

    Why is there ice? When air (or any other gas) is depressurised, it experiences a drop in temperature alongside the drop in pressure. The converse is also true. When a tank has been freshly pumped full, it feels hot to the touch.

    The water you are in may be at 10°C together with the air in your tank but that air in the tank might be as pressurised as much as 200bar. The first-stage drops it down to eight or ten bar more than the pressure of the water it is surrounded by. That’s a huge drop.

    It could easily cause a drop in temperature as much as 20°C and if you are in cold fresh water at 10°C you realise that it equates to minus 10°C for the air passing through the regulator’s first stage. This causes the water in its immediate proximity to freeze.

    Luckily, seawater rarely gets colder than 10°C around our temperate coasts but it’s a fresh water inland sites you might experience this problem – and it can be life threatening.

    You should have been taught how to breathe from a free-flowing regulator on your first diver-training course. The remaining air in your tank will give you time to get to the safety of the surface. Every diver should know how to do that.

    If you are in the habit of diving at inland sites, get a regulator designed for the job. They usually have first-stages that are environmentally sealed, with no working part coming into contact with the water, and they include extra metal to act as a heat sink to transfer what little warmth there might be in the water to the much colder air coming from the tank. Ask about that when you next buy a regulator. Ocean Leisure stocks cold water approved regulators by both Apeks and Scubapro.

  • In Memory of Dick Bonin.

    Original Scubapro Jetfins Original Scubapro Jetfins
    What with skateboarding, kite-surfing, wake-boarding and wind-surfing being sports that evolved in the last few years, it is easy to forget that scuba diving is an activity that has proved popular only recently in the greater scheme of things. Most of us in Europe grew up aware of the undersea film productions of Jacques Cousteau, not least because he was the master of self-publicity, but it is easy to forget that many of the pioneers of scuba diving are, or have been until quite recently, still with us. Dick Bonin, who passed away in early December 2015, was one such pioneer of scuba. He together with Gustav Dalla Valle founded a company that has become one of the leading brands among manufacturers of diving equipment. It is Scubapro.

    Bonin started his career as a Navy officer who was assigned to dive teams demolishing beach approaches in some of the most distant locations in the world. He could envisage scuba diving becoming a leisure pursuit and once demobilised he began selling diving equipment, but soon realised that if he wanted to sell equipment he had faith in, he would need to design it himself. He met another diving pioneer, Gustav Dalla Valle, when they worked for the same company. Dick was brought in to manage a new division for diving equipment that would be sold under the name Scubapro. When the parent company failed Gustav bought the rights to the name and Dick Bonin joined him. That was in 1963.

    Dick Bonin Dick Bonin

    Together, they built the company into the great success it was to become and it attracted the attention of a number of conglomerates that wanted to buy into the various businesses that now served a burgeoning leisure market. Finally, in 1974, they sold Scubapro to Johnson Worldwide and Bonin continued as  President of Scubapro, directing the company’s growth, until he retired in 1991.

    Dick Bonin’s contribution to the design of Scubapro products can still be seen in the genesis of some familiar products of today:

    Scubapro MK25/S600 Blacl Scubapro MK25/S600 Black

    The current Scubapro Mk25/S600 can be traced back to enduring flow-through piston design of his regulators, beginning with the immortal Mark 5 introduced in 1970. He introduced the first low-pressure BC inflator, the first back-mounted BC for widespread distribution, the first silicone mask when latex was a more familiar material and the first jacket style BC  - something that was vilified at the time because it was not a ‘life-jacket’. Today, snorkels with valves are almost the norm but it was Dick Bonin who promoted the snorkel incorporating an exhaust valve that made clearing effortless. SP-Spectra_Dry_Snorkel_redHe introduced the first integrated inflator/second stage regulator called the AIR II, the first analog decompression meter, and last but not least, the celebrated Jet Fin that forever changed the design of what used to be called “flippers.” It’s a legacy unequaled to this day and perhaps forever.

    I am grateful to Bret Gilliam, a personal friend of Dick Bonin, author of Diving Pioneers and Innovators and himself a diving pioneer in the field of leisure and technical diving, for giving me the above information.

  • When it comes to regulators...

    You can rely on our advice at Ocean Leisure because it is based on real world experience...348674 copy 360829 copy 360834 copy 351730 copy 351724 353379 copy 359261 copy 301809 copy 301820 copy 324476 copy 338342 copy 343308 copy 306417 copy 345524 copy 808_tests_oceanic_eos2 copy 1008_tests_mares_prestige copy 68311 copy 57609 copy 91071 copy 103664 copy 103666 copy 30905tests_sept05_01 copy 135187 copy 508_tests_mares_abyss42a copy 0906_tests_08 copy 10404tests2 copy 0406dtest1 copy 0605tests_june_05 copy 0106_tests_05 copy 0304tests4 1205_tests_06 copy 359261 copy 308_tests_scubapro_g250v2 copy 1104tests13 copyA few of the regulators that just one of us has dived with during the last few years! We know what we are talking about. We'll get you what's right for you!

  • Regulator Testing by Diving Magazines

    Everyone has had the experience of a broken domestic iron because it got knocked off the ironing board but would you think it a legitimate comparison test of domestic irons to see how well each fared subject to a drop test? No? I thought not, but that’s equivalent to what a British diving magazine has resorted to with its latest comparison test of regulators. They wanted to find out which regulator was toughest when subjected to the sort of disaster that rarely happens, by dropping a scuba tank on each or dropping a scuba tank in turn with each regulator fitted. Not very scientific nor easily kept consistent between each drop but they did it anyhow. It was like testing and comparing domestic irons by dropping them on the floor! Magazine editorials have been reduced to performing such stunts because since CE-certification for regulators was introduced and the ANSTI regulator-testing machine was developed to give an objective computerized result, quite frankly all regulators, certainly all those sold at Ocean Leisure, will give an easy breathe.

    Test divers with multiple tanks head out to deep water. Test divers with multiple tanks head out to deep water.
    86-87-1 Two divers breathe simultaneously from one regulator.
    I’m partly to blame for this state of affairs because around thirty years ago I started doing comparison tests of regulators, not only with a breathing machine but with groups of divers who actually breathed off each tested model at depth and compared the qualities of each. When we started doing this we discovered some horrors. Some regulators were not safe to take deeper than eighteen-metres while others were excellent breathers. The test made good copy for the magazine I was technical editor of and we managed to get the overall quality of regulators available up to a high standard. I went with a group of divers and multiple tanks each time down to fifty-metres-plus where they were able to experience the different way in which these regulators delivered air (the densest gas likely to be put through such a device) and make notes. In fact copious notes were made and two divers would breathe off one regulator to check each was good for an out-of-air emergency.
    Copious notes were made at depth. Copious notes were made at depth.
    It was uncanny in the way the experiences of the different divers coincided. I was always careful to choose experienced divers who were competent to work at depth and checked by springing upon them a written test at depth for nitrogen narcosis before we started the regulator comparisons in earnest. Then CE-certification came in and manufacturers had to make sure their products met the standard or go out of business. In the most recent tests I orchestrated, we found that there was little to choose between them unless any had a positive manufacturing fault. Most recently we were reduced to noting cosmetic differences and by-and-large these tests became pointless. Hence the ‘toughest regulator test’ we have recently witnessed. Of course there are some design differences. Piston-type regulators deliver the most air and for this reason they prove popular with those that dive in warm water conditions, but they are less suitable for use in cold fresh water than diaphragm-type regulators. Many of these have heat-sinks incorporated to take what little warmth there is in the water and transfer it to the very cold gas that is passing depressurized from the diver’s tank. If you are going to use a regulator in water polluted with muck or fine sand, one that is environmentally sealed might be more appropriate._DSC0159 Then there’s the question of servicing. Some makes are less well supplied with spare parts in remote parts of the world than others. Some enjoy very long servicing intervals indeed whereas others should be serviced annually, The staff at Ocean Leisure are exceedingly knowledgeable and if you can tell them your particular needs and requirements will be able to advise you which regulator is best for you. Whichever you choose to buy, hopefully, you won’t experience a car driving over your regulator anytime soon and they all breathe well!

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