No just another BC option for divers and students - Part three
The closest I now come to any type of integrated weight system is the steel plate and for dry suit diving are the 4lb stainless steel plates that bolt to my regular plate. Another argument I have with integrated weights as taught by a number of entities and that is the failure to teach proper distribution of weight. Instructors will put all the weight into the BC. In the tropics this is not such a big deal where divers may only need a few pounds as ballast. But in colder climates and when using thicker suits and as much as 26-30 lbs may be needed it creates a very dangerous situation. Even if the BC has the so called trim pockets in the rear, most hold 5 pounds each at most. That means the rest needs to go into the integrated pockets. In the case of using 30 lbs that means 10 lbs in each pocket. Some pockets can take this amount while others are strained by it. If one were to fall out or be lost at depth the result is a loss of 30 % of the divers ballast and a possible uncontrolled ascent. Lose both and the divers fin tips may clear the water as they shoot up! In addition the large amount of lead makes the BC very heavy and hard to handle on the surface. I prefer to have divers distribute weight wisely between the BC, integrated weights if used, and a belt or weight harness to lessen the chance of these things happening. At most a diver should only ever need to drop a couple pounds at depth to start to get positive. They can jettison additional weight on the surface where it’s safe to do so.
That brings me to the final point of this article and one that is another cited as being a negative for this type of unit. Some contend that this type of unit makes rescue more difficult. This is a complete and utter fallacy. If anything the lack of additional buckles and straps make rescue faster. Getting a diver to the surface and on their back is the same as any other BC. But now all that is required is to inflate the wing and undo the buckle on the waist belt to remove the unit. A diver who may have their harness too tight only requires the cutting of one of the shoulder straps and the unit is off. The wing provides a very stable platform when fully inflated for tending to the diver in need. And unlike a jacket BC when fully inflated, the diver’s chest and sides are not restricted by a bladder that limits their breathing ability until other straps are undone. And should the diver be ok they are not going to be nearly as upset at the cutting of a few dollars worth of webbing. Where they might be should an entire BC that need to be replaced if the shoulder strap needs to be cut due to the rescuer not being able to release it at the buckle, if it has one. And a rescuer is more likely not to hesitate cutting the unit off if all that will be lost is that little bit of webbing. There are cases where a diver or the rescuer of a diver has hesitated to leave or jettison a piece of gear due to the replacement cost of that gear. It's human nature not to want to lose an expensive piece of equipment. But it's more important to not lose one's life over it.
I hope that this article has opened your eyes to the benefits that this type of BC offers. It is not “Tech Gear” nor is it something that takes a lot of additional training to use. It is also not unsafe by any definition of the word! It is a BC, nothing more and nothing less. It offers you and your students an alternative to other types of Buoyancy Compensation devices. As this style becomes more popular it behooves the instructor to accept this style of BC or lose students to instructors who will accept it. This economy is no time to close our minds to viable, safe, popular, and economic alternatives in equipment. It does require those of us who are instructors to open them to new ideas and become familiar with them if we wish to attract and retain students. It also may be of great benefit to the student and new diver to see just how they can get a fully customized BC and not be constrained by the ideas of a manufacturer as to what they should use.
James Lapenta SEI Instructor #204, SDI/TDI Instructor #16810, CMAS Instructor # USAF0012000204
Owner: UDM Aquatic Serviceswww.udmaquatics.com
Author of: SCUBA: A Practical Guide for the New Diver
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