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Techie Types at large


Paulo Vincenzo Toomer

And here we are again. When I left you last, you had moved the wife/ kids/parents/grandparents out of the house to make room for all your tech kit. We had a few fine conversations with the local dive emporium owner who thought you were a nutter for ever thinking of more than one tank. We had, however, managed to get the twinset, wing, plate harness and regulators all joined into one state of the art, beautiful, sexy cohesive unit. We are moving forward but now there are all the extra bits you bought lying around with nowhere to go. Or are there? Time to get serious, so let me give you some ideas:
SMB shenanigans

Reels and spools

For those of you that don't know the difference, a spool is exactly what it says on the tin, a spool of line. A reel is a spool that is held in a frame by an axle, the line passes through a gate, there is a handle to hold the reel, a winding knob to reel in the line and a clutch to allow the line to reel out. Reels are a lot more complicated than spools and that is the reason I go spool as often as possible. Not to say I'm dim, I just like simplicity as it causes less task loading.

Obviously without these little fellas, caving and wrecking would be like being a lion tamer walking into the den without the safety chair! Laying line is really the only safe way to enter and exit an overhead environment, so spools are mandatory equipment. But technical diving is also overhead environment diving, albeit virtual overhead (decompression obligation), you still have no direct access to the surface so having safety line is as important here as it is in a cave or wreck. In open water technical diving, spools and reels are generally used as up-lines.
Lines and lines and lines and lines Combined with Surface Marker Buoys (SMB) they make perfect communication, location, reference and orientation devices. We generally use a red/orange SMB to tell our surface support that we are all 'OK' on the dive. Surface support can follow our SMBs to facilitate easy location and pickup of the dive team. Finally, if the team is unable to find the shot line for a safe ascent, the SMB will allow them to safely ascend on a reference line and also allow them to orientate themselves on the line for an easy decompression. Free blue (even green or perhaps brown – ha ha!) water hanging with no reference is a difficult skill to master. Yellow SMBs are generally used to tell the surface that we have a problem of some kind. When sending up a yellow, it is generally advisable to attach a slate or wetnote to the SMB to warn the surface support of what problems the team are experiencing below.
So where do we stow these reels, spools and SMBs? Personally, I use spools for as much of my diving as possible but when I am on a deep dive I have a reel with enough line on it to reach the surface. I like to place my spools on the D-ring that is on the back of the crotch strap. This means they are mounted near your bum so they are under the twinset causing no drag whatsoever. They are easy to locate, retrieve and re-stow. Reels, because they are bulkier are carried on the right hand waist D-ring on the harness. As a by note, I prefer 'Billy Rings' (hard welded D-rings) to the standard issue D-rings.

I stow my SMBs in my thigh pockets on my drysuit. If you do not have drysuit pockets you can buy pockets that you can glue on yourself, you can also get shorts made of lycra that fit over your exposure suit with pockets attached and finally there are pockets that hang from the waist webbing on your harness and strap round your leg. I use the latter when wetsuit diving. I am not a massive fan of pockets on the harness as they can, although not always, clutter the harness. If pockets are out of the question I recommend using bungee to tie the SMBs to the plate. If you store them on the sides of the plate so they are under your arms, they will be easy to remove but impossible to put back unassisted. If you bungee your primary SMB to the base of the plate, above your butt, they are easy to retrieve and replace.

When it comes to picking an SMB you need one that will be visible. Now… there are SMBs out there that are six foot tall and ones that are three foot, so what size? Size is important, as you know, but sending up an SMB that merely falls over, as it's not fully inflated is just as bad as not sending one up at all. I use an SMB that can be orally inflated and also inflated from my drysuit/BCD inflator, this assures it is really 'erect' when it reaches the surface and is therefore visible for miles. When I am not drift diving I use a one breath SMB, absolutely guaranteed to be full when reaching the surface even if deployed from two metres.

Good SMB deployment is one of the hardest skills to master, so with that in mind I am going to give this subject a full article in one of the future issues so watch out for it. Very cool and interesting stuff I assure you.

Computers and dive timers

I am not going to go into depth about which ones to select as this also needs a lot of discussion, but I would say that you should try and get a timer that does time in minutes AND SECONDS. This really allows you to dive precisely to your planned times. I don't know anyone that does not wear these anywhere but on their wrists. SPG-mounted computers and timers will eventually get destroyed, plus they cause a lot of clutter, as they have to be in a console.
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You would have thought that lights would be a real problem. Where the hell do we find a hiding place for them? Well, first of all I need to tell you that ideally traditional pistol and lantern grip lights are not really designed for a tech rig. We use our hands as tools so we mount our primary light on a 'Goodman's' handle on the back of our hand. A traditional light would have to be attached with a lanyard onto the wrist or hung via retractor or doily sproingy, stringy thing to the harness. Sounds messy just reading it. The Goodman's is simply a frame that runs across the top of the hand and through the palm, which has the light head, attached to it. Obviously we only have the light head on our hand, as a full torch would be too heavy. This means we use umbilical lights. They ROCK! The battery canister can be secured to the plate-side of the twinset, or my favourite, the waist strap of the harness. If you put it on the right hand waist strap, the canister can be used to trap your long hose regulator, making you even more streamlined. The other beauty of the umbilical light is, if you drop the light head you do not lose the light as it just dangles beneath the diver.

Backup lights are tied to the shoulder straps of the harness using bicycle tubing. So bloody simple. I love it.

Remember when you did your entry-level course and your instructor said that your knife was for killing and maiming? No? Oh, that's right, they are for cutting a diver free of an entanglement. With that in mind we use really simple knives and cutting devices that are cunningly hidden away. We don't need a Rambo knife strapped to our legs, everyone knows we techies have small penes, that's why we tech dive, no? Z-knives are very popular. They are simple razors that are used for drag cutting. They are awesome for monofilament, fishing line and webbing. I have one Z-knife on my primary dive timer on my arm and the other attached to the top of my crotch strap. Small knives that have webbing sheathes that slide onto the harness are incredibly popular too. The main thing is that you can access at least one cutting device with both hands. So, unless you are in Cirque de Soleil, that bloody great ninja sword on your leg is pretty much useless.

Well, have we cleared most of the stuff off your living room floor? Can Granny come back to stay? You should now have a pretty tidy tech rig sitting all shiny on the floor. Now all you need is someone to train you how to use it.

As with all my articles, these are just my opinions and not those of any training agency. I am, like any good diver, always open to change. My dive kit is dynamic as there are so many good ideas out there and the manufacturers are always inventing incredible kit.

You can email Auntie Toomer with any of your dive queries and you might also like to check out The Diving Matrix.
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