YELLOW PERIL STRIKES BACK
ARE WE IN OR ARE WE OUT? When the BSAC announced that it was publishing its closed-circuit rebreather policy, I was intrigued to see how Buddy Inspiration users would fare.
You have to feel sorry for the decision-makers. Whatever they come up with will be moaned about endlessly. Those who love their Inspirations will be irritated by the restrictions. Salty old sea-dogs who dive in ABLJs and shun such innovations as contents gauges will be horrified. Any dive kit that costs over £23.50 is an aberration to them.
Sensational stories about people killing themselves on Inspirations have lent the kit a fearsome reputation. Small children run screaming with terror at the sight of a diver in a rebreather. Open-circuit divers turn their faces away and mutter protective prayers. Skippers shake their heads and demand their payment upfront.
Having recently crossed over to the dark side - that is, become an Inspiration diver myself - I find the whole thing a bit bewildering. Learning to dive with a CCR presents a world of opportunity to make a complete tit of yourself, all over again.
On my first open-water CCR dive in Stoney Cove, I was so concerned to avoid the world's most expensive snorkelling experience that I vastly overweighted myself. I landed in semi-splits position in the gravel, and spent the dive crawling about on hands and knees while happy bands of open-circuit novices thrashed a route around me.
Once I had mastered the buoyancy a bit better, the fun really began. Reaching the bottom of the shotline, I checked my handsets and then looked up to see where my buddy had got to. Big mistake!
A puddle of cold dribble that had accumulated in the mouthpiece rolled back into my gob. I resisted the urge to gag. Spending half an hour trying to breathe through a loop filled with vomit didn't appeal.
When kitting up on a boat full of Inspirations, somebody's alarm is bound to go off and every diver onboard will scramble to check their equipment. If you want to freak out an Inspiration-diver, simply approach while making beeping noises.
For the paranoid Inspiration-user, diving with both handsets glued to the front of your mask gets tiresome. I had to wrestle a cuckoo wrasse that insisted on blocking my view of the electronics on one dive. I can't tell you which dive, as all I remember about it was the number 1.3.
Occasionally I would have to agree that the Inspiration is dangerous. The airspace in front of your mouth means that you can actually speak to your buddy under water. Instead of a bit of spirited arm-waving when disagreeing over a navigational issue, you can conduct a full-scale row, complete with audible expletives.
You also risk singing on deco stops. Even a mild-mannered buddy can be driven to homicidal tendencies by repeated verses of The Birdie Song.
As soon as divers get a hi-tech piece of kit, the first thing they do is customise or improve it. Unfortunately, AP Valves rejected most of my suggested improvements.
Computer games on the handsets were ruled out on safety grounds. A selection of alternative alarm sounds, such as a voice yelling: "Oh dear! Wake up! You're going hypoxic!" was deemed to be panic-inducing.
Flavoured Sofnolime in the scrubber unit attracted some interest, with beer flavour the most popular nomination. What it does for your narcosis level remains to be seen.
So fair play to the BSAC for allowing members to experience the joys of Inspiration-diving. We can now look forward to a plethora of heated debates on rebreather configuration, speculation on diving practice guidelines, and sub-committees on the structure of training modules.