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Everyone gets a little bulkier when diving a rebreather, but it is no excuse for poor trim. Bailout bottles can still be carried cleanly, but the technique for carrying them varies from traditional open circuit scuba gear. Depending on whether you carry aluminum or steel tanks or whether you are running a DPV, you may choose to carry both tanks on the left or balance them right and left. Personally, I prefer to balance my bailouts and stages right and left. It keeps my system standardized whether I carry two or four bottles.
If you have over-shoulder counterlungs, the chest d-ring can be difficult to get to. Even if you are able to clip in that location, the bottle may interfere with ADV operation, dump valves, etc. A technique borrowed from side mount diving helps the diver move the bottle into a more streamlined path. It makes the bailout regulator easier to find and offers the diver good trim.
When reviewing the streamlining of many divers, you will notice that stage or bailout bottles often hang perpendicular to the body. As a cave diver, this simply won’t help me get through a small space or protect the cave. Using side mount technique, the bottles move into a position that is in line with the diver in horizontal trim.
The bottom of the bottle can be clipped into a “butt-plate” manufactured by Dive Rite (Nomad) or Golem Gear (Amardillo). Golem Gear also carries a double d-ring that slides on the crotch strap and can be used in a similar fashion. The top end of the tank is slung under a bungee cord instead of clipped. The back of the bungee attaches to the back-plate at about shoulder blade level with a quick link or stopper knot and the front of the bungee is clipped to the chest d-ring. The clips on the stage bottle should be installed close to 180 degrees opposite from the tank valve hand-wheel so that the bungee will slide easily over the hand-wheel.
When the bottle is properly hung, it will ride lower than a traditional stage bottle with the valve tucking easily under the armpit of the diver. The tank should run parallel to the diver’s side in good trim. Tanks are quicker to remove and replace. Regulators are easier to access. Swimming trim is improved and the environment is protected from unnecessary damage
I made a short video that describes this technique. It can be viewed by clicking here.
Cave divers Marc Laukien, Brian Kakuk and Jill Heinerth on a recent expedition to the Acklins. They discovered a dozen new caves and laid over 8000 feet of line during this beautiful exploration project.
Lesson Seven: If You are Stuck: Stop PADI divers will recall the mantra “Stop, Think, Act.” The same should be said for getting stuck. Don’t continue to fight something that is holding you. In a cave you may be snagged on the line. Pulling will only yank the line away from safe passage and cause eventual breakage. You think it is bad now. It gets worse. Fighting a snag on a rock may be driving you further into a situation that leaves you badly pinned.
Lesson Eight: This lesson is specific to a particular gear modification. I’m not one to tell anyone how to wear their equipment. I believe there are many solutions for many different people in different diving scenarios. I’m not DIR. I’m a total DIC. Do It Clean. Streamlining is important and an open mind is critical. Question everything. Why am I doing it this way? How can it get me into trouble? What can I learn from others?
So, here is my particular beef... Recently, some people have chosen to route the inflator on their side mount wing from the bottom up. They reason that it is more streamlined. If the diver needs to dump gas they can use a shoulder pull dump or the inflator dump that comes up from the bottom. Now, here is the rub. Literally. My buddy was stuck in a restriction with too much gas in the wing, supporting her negative bottles. In her body position the shoulder dump would not release the gas. The inflator dump did not either. That left me behind her, seeing a full wing lodged in the ceiling with no way to assist. There was no outlet at the bottom of the wing. No pull dump. In the slightly butt up position there was no getting gas out of that thing. I was preparing to cut it when I managed to squeeze my hand on top and force the air forward, leaving me with a few cuts on the back of my hand where it had been pressed against the rocky ceiling. Not fun. How did that routing benefit her?
Things above the nipple line are much easier to control and reach and rarely snag. You might not be able to reach things lower down, but your buddy can help. Again, don’t mistake this for a back and white statement. I just can’t see one dive in my history where that configuration would have helped me and I do see one dive where it might have cost us big.