As the boat rocked back and forth in the swell, I hunched over the dive gear, and tightened the hose into the first stage of the regulator. I struggled to balance myself, fully kitted up in my own gear, on the gunwale as I turned on the air. My heart sank as the leak persisted in the low pressure hose of Ivan’s regulator. We were on our second and last hose, poached from the spare regulator, and we were out of options and o-rings. I kicked the tools with my finned foot and tried to hide my frustration. Field work is all about problem solving and there can be a lot of problems when dealing with dive gear. No matter how well you maintain it, there are a lot of things that can go wrong. A pinched o-ring, a warped diaphragm, free-flowing second stages, and this is if you actually remember to bring all the gear with you! Luckily, I have a little bit of experience and training as a dive gear technician so I can trouble shoot most issues but sometimes, the saltwater wins and gear becomes unusable. This means, work doesn’t get done. I very ‘technically’ tapped the threaded portion of the hose as a last ditch effort and the air seemed to stop escaping!
Our long-term project monitoring the shark assemblages off the coast of Florida requires the use of dive gear and we have gotten along well with our own, older, equipment for the first year. But as most of us are experienced divers, our stuff has logged quite a few hours underwater and things started to go wrong. On one trip, one diver’s first stage was leaking, another’s BCD was overinflating, and two tank o-rings burst. No big deal, you just swap out hoses and o-rings, nothing fatal. However, our diving requires us to focus on our data collection, surrounded by large, apex predators, it would be nice to not worry too much about the dive equipment. Washing the gear afterwards, I noticed a tiny puncture in the bladder of my BCD. Now that is fatal. I was crushed as I panicked and tried to think of where we could get some spare gear for the next survey dive.
I was quickly reminded that we are part of an amazing community here in Florida when I received an email that asked the simple question “What do you need?”. One glowing reference from an industry professional and a quick meeting in their Boca Raton office and we received the amazing news that we were going to be sponsored by Mares, one of the most successful and revered dive brands in the world. I have had Mares BCDs and regulators for 12 years, diving with them around Africa for over a decade, so I know from personal experience that this gear is extremely well-made and durable. I smiled like an idiot when I picked up the new gear from the awesome team at the office. When we gear up now, there is a lot less anxiety about patching dive gear and a lot more comfort knowing we can concentrate on our work. We are extraordinarily grateful that we have safe and reliable gear to conduct our research and push our marine conservation initiatives forward!