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January 2004 Vol. 19, No. 1   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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The Wagging Finger

from the January, 2004 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

In our August review of diving British Columbia off the live-aboard Nautilus Explorer, our correspondent, DL, detailed some problems he had as a new dry suit diver. Specifically, he recounted the trial and error process of adjusting his buoyancy and of keeping warm under his crushed neoprene rental suit. The article led two experienced dry suit divers to offer their thoughts.

Hi Ben:

Just read the review on the Nautilus Explorer in British Columbia. Clearly a five-star value.

If there were ever a message for being proficient in using a dry suit before taking an advanced trip, your writer is an example of what not to do -- a quick course and off to do some current diving. Having seen how safety conscious Mike Lever is, I am not surprised the writer felt "clucked over." It has been my experience (three trips) that Mike keeps an eye on people and genuinely wants his customers to have a good, safe experience.

It is too bad your writer was unsuccessful in the quest to see a Giant Pacific Octopus. My last Nautilus trip, I saw five in 14 dives, ranging from 6 to 10 feet across. Ya just gotta know where to look (not an easy thing to do when you are fussing with a dry suit though).

-- Ken Robertson
Calgary, Alberta

Ben,

Clearly DL needed more experience in his dry suit before diving in challenging conditions. When I was trained, we were told to dive within the limits of our training and experience. DL did not do that, and he should count his blessings.

I have more than 1,000 dry suit dives and would like to offer some advice. First, add air to the suit for buoyancy. This has a couple of the advantages of lower task management -- only one air reservoir to manage and the additional air might keep you a little warmer. However, it is harder on the dry suit seals, makes it harder to dump air (as DL discovered), and increases your resistance in the water (probably one reason DL struggled to keep up with his buddy, instead of the fin type used).

Add only enough air into the dry suit to avoid squeeze; add air into your BC for buoyancy. This requires a little more thought to manage two air reservoirs, but makes air dump nearly the same as wet suit diving, provides less resistance to impede movement, and lets the dry suit seals last longer.

DL needed 34 pounds to dive! I currently weigh 200 lbs. and dive with a neoprene dry suit and 17 pounds. When I weighed 290, I only used 24 pounds. I dive with a suit that fits right. The excess suit adds lots of drag (another significant reason why DL could not keep up with his buddy) and traps excess air. That excess air is the reason for all the extra weight.

My first dry suit was a DUI, but their service was lousy. I currently have a Baileys suit that is spectacular. It wears like iron and requires minimal underwear to keep me warm. My buddies rave about a crushed neoprene model from Dive Rite. The secret of keeping warm is underwear. Always wear a polypropylene next to your body. It wicks away sweat or leakage. Polartec is good over the poly in very cold water. DUI makes blue stretchy underwear that is very good -- so do others. And I have never seen dry gloves that stay reliably dry. Wet suit mitts are still the best way to keep your hands warm.

-- Buzz Rosenberg

Dear Buzz and Ken

Our writers, me included, are experienced and well traveled but not perfect and not always perfectly smart. I've written about trips where I forgot to service my equipment and paid for it and situations I shouldn't have gotten into. When my writers are going on a trip, I tell them to write the truth, and when things don't go as well as they hoped -- well, we all learn something. For this trip, DL went with his eyes open, reported honestly -- which is what Undercurrent is all about -- and says your advice is, in retrospect, good advice.

-- Ben

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