This new Apeks BC is a US Zeagle by any other name. But don't wing it on quality control, John Bantin advises the British distributor
THE co-operation between Zeagle Systems in the USA and Apeks Marine Equipment in the UK becomes more apparent every day. We have grown used to seeing American divers equipped with the Zeagle Tech 50 Regulator (TX50) and the Zeagle Octoplus. Now Apeks is distributing BCs that carry its brand but are clearly made by Zeagle. Apeks Marine Equipment 01254 692200
The Apeks NX2000 wing bears a striking resemblance to the Zeagle 7760R wing BC. It has a large, wing-style bladder with a protective outer bag made of suitably heavyweight material, a detachable harness with a well-padded back-cushion, and a broad cummerbund fastened by Velcro and secured by 5cm webbing with a Fastex-style buckle.
Shoulder straps are 5cm wide and pass through 10cm-wide shoulder facings. These have reflective panels at the epaulets and four stainless-steel D-rings standing proud to allow easy attachment of clips underwater.
There are two more D-rings at the lower edge of the BC. A cross-chest strap with a choice of two positions stops the shoulder straps slipping off the wearer.
The familiar Zeagle integrated weight system I find ideal if using twin steel cylinders, but if you need the amount of lead associated with aluminium, I suggest you will still need a weightbelt. Emergency release is provided by the Zeagle ripcord system, but for Apeks it is one cord for each side pouch.
The BC is secured to the cylinder with twin cam-bands. These are long enough to pass round a twin-cylinder rig, but I preferred to exchange them for a pair of Buddy twinning bands and blocks.
Two restraining straps and buckles prevent the large buoyancy bag flapping, particularly important with a single cylinder. Air is dumped by pulling on the long, corrugated, low-pressure direct-feed hose. The NX 2000 provided at least 20kg of buoyancy, and I dived extensively with twin 12-litre cylinders.
For true tekkies a second buoyancy bag is an option, and even if you want only one direct-feed control you can choose to carry it on either the left or right side.
Criticisms? The NX 2000 has a double crotch-strap, which affords a degree of security when inverting to swim down quickly or look in a hole. However, the straps were barely long enough and within a few days one of the buckles had come adrift and been lost.
Similarly the stitching of the cross-chest strap came undone, and the strap lost its usefulness. I suggest Apeks keep a close eye on quality control of imported items.
The Apeks NX 2000 costs £374. A secondary bladder costs £138. Many accessories are available and interchangeable between both Apeks and Zeagle BCs.
Just beyond the Abyss
The Mares MR16 first stage combined with the well-established Voltrex second stage is a new product intended to slot into a niche between the MR12 Voltrex and MR22 Abyss.
With four medium-pressure and two high-pressure ports positioned around a cylindrical first-stage block, it lacks the fancy hose-routeing of the more expensive MR22. And despite advertising claims, I discovered that it was impossible to use it with the transmitter of a radio-controlled deco computer like the Air-X, because the hoses were too crowded together.
It has a very sexy black paint job, however, and this paint is unusual in being soft to the touch and resilient enough to stand the slings and arrows of misfortune that seem to visit regulators rigged on cylinders in busy dive boats.
Under water I was able to compare the MR16 Voltrex, at all the depths an air-breathing diver can safely plumb, with both the MR12 and the MR22 Abyss.
All three proved excellent, and I would have no qualms about using any of them at up to 1.6 bar ppO2 (66msw), but the MR16 Voltrex seemed surprisingly smoother compared to the MR22 Abyss.
The latter was my own regulator, which has seen a lot of use, but it had only just been serviced by the top Mares technician in the UK, so I have no doubt that it was in perfect condition.
What else does the MR16 Voltrex have to offer? The second-stage is made partly of metal, with all the good heat-sink qualities and freedom from freezing problems that implies. In line with all Mares second-stages it uses a unique bypass tube to avoid the problems of a high air flow within it causing a pressure drop and the diaphragm to be pushed in, with resultant free-flow.
With most other regulators this is dealt with manually by the diver, using a venturi +/- switch.
If you want a high-pformance regulator that looks rather more stylish than most, but do not want to use it with a radio-linked dive computer, the MR16 Voltrex could be your choice. It costs £315.
Blandford Sub-Aqua, 01923 801572
Aural comfort - with nitrox
IT surprises me that audio diving computers have not become more popular. Allowing me to keep my eye on my camera viewfinder, a unit that tells me my depth each time it changes as well as my dive time and remaining no-stop time, occasionally reminds me to check my air, and shouts a warning if I ascend too fast, is almost essential to the way I dive.
Also to be told in a serious tone that I am on a "deep dive" once my no-stop time has elapsed helps me avoid outstaying my welcome.
You can set the new nitrox version of the Orca Pilot Audio for any mix between 21 per cent O2 (air) and 50 per cent, and it will track CNS exposure and O2 toxicity units (OTU), along with all the other functions you would expect from a top-flight diving computer.
You can choose your own limit for maximum operating depth by selecting a maximum ppO2 too. It is not air-integrated.
The visual display reveals total ascent time from a deco-stop dive along with the dive number. In surface mode it shows total time to N2 desaturation, and of course it has a logbook mode plus PC download facility.
Other pre-dive setting options are the choice between two tables, altitude group, and metric or imperial measurements.
You can also turn the voice function and very effective display illumination on or off as you wish.
I was slightly disappointed under water because although this nitrox version had all the audio functions of the standard Orca Pilot, it omitted to tell me orally if I reached maximum operating depth.
I found this out by setting the Pilot Audio Nitrox for nitrox 50 and plunging over a wall, breathing air, to 50m. Instead of an audio warning I was met by a stony silence, even though the computer should have believed I was breathing O2 at a partial pressure of 3 bar!
That said, I believe the Orca Pilot Audio in either air or nitrox form is an important addition to diver safety, especially for divers working under water, and of course it comes into its own in poor visibility or during night dives.
For the technical diver it makes a perfect alternative computer that can be left attached to the mask and listened to, or detached and looked at in the event of primary computer failure.
In this case, because it uses a Buehlmann algorithm, the decompression information it relays ties in nicely with that of the commonly used Uwatec computers such as the Aladin range, the Monitor 3 and the Mares Genius, and is not dramatically different from the Suunto range either.
The Orca Pilot Audio Nitrox costs £360.
Sea & Sea Ltd, 01803 663012
Back to the drawing board
A GIANT dive slate that incorporates two slide-out slates, a pretty little clock, a treatment flow chart and air requirement tables, all neatly packaged with other goodies on a reversible board 45cm square - where better to test it than on a dive marshalling course?
"Sounds like a great idea!" agreed the four instructors and 18 students.
"A good idea, but isn't it a bit heavy and bulky - and will it float?" they wondered as it was prepared for its sea trials in Brighton.
The Eurodiver Diver Information Board is certainly robust. However energetically the heavy mob swung weightbelts at the clock housing, not a scratch appeared.
But robust also in this case meant heavy and awkward, and the not-so-heavy mob found it arm-achingly heavy to lug about. It was too big to tuck behind the windshield of the boat, and inevitably ended up sliding about on the floor, getting in everybody's way.There is no hole drilled anywhere through the 12mm board, so there was no easy way for us to attach a line to anchor it securely in one place.
The clock is a good idea, and beautifully housed in a perspex dome, complete with O-ring and brass screws. But sadly it has no elapsed time or stopwatch facility - not even a bezel.
We liked the slide-out slates. It is just a pity that they slide out every time the board is picked up on its side, and we reckoned most groups would probably have them for a weekend before they slid out, never to be seen again.
It is an even greater pity that it was almost impossible to write on the high-gloss surface, even with a 2B pencil - so it's back to the chinagraph.
It doesn't come with a pencil, either. You provide your own, but there is nowhere to clip, tie or otherwise attach it, either to the main board or the individual slates.
It is a good idea to have dive, tide, site, air consumption and other information when you are out on the boat, but only if the marshal transfers it from the original plan. This can just as easily go on to a simple slate or other small white board.
And while the rescue management flowchart is helpful, it is no more than is already provided in the waterproof Diving Emergency Handbook, which tucks away into a goody bag.
We also wondered how long it would be before all the printing wore off, which would leave a club with a very expensive white board.
Back on Brighton beach, unloading the boat in the swell, we discovered that the Eurodiver board was still as heavy as ever, very slippery when wet, difficult to hold on to and - no, it doesn't float. The combined detection powers and SAR skills of divers from the Metropolitan Police, Brighton, Wantage, Kingston, British Telecom and elsewhere were defeated by the waves and sand, and we never saw it again.
So, a good idea, but it is not the answer. If a club or school has the money to spare, a supply of pocket slates and first-aid books will do the job at least as well.
We gather that Peter Lund, who came up with the idea, has reduced the price from the £150 asked at the time we tested the slate to £97.50, and has introduced modifications as a result of our experiences.
EuroDiver 01482 867389
Marjolein Thrower, Ariel BSAC
Think on your feet
Wetsuit boots are often purchased as an afterthought, yet a bad pair can ruin a dive trip. The fault always seems to lie with the position of the seams, which can quickly wear their way into sensitive skin softened by seawater.
My wife and I recently equipped ourselves with a pair of GUL boots each. Hers were a little tight where they met the calf, although she does not have fat ankles. My somewhat larger pair fitted me perfectly.
The soles are of thick rubber, which wraps round well on to the neoprene upper section. This is covered with reinforcing rubber where the pressure is taken while finning.
The heels are reinforced in the same way and the side zips kept separate from the skin of the foot by a generous flap of material.
These boots felt a little buoyant at first, but we both discovered them to be extremely comfortable over long periods of diving. GUL wetsuit boots come in sizes 4 to 11 and cost £27.
GUL International, 01208 72382
Appeared in DIVER - August 1997
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