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Scuba diving is an equipment intensive sport and when we dive our health, or even our life depends on it's good working order. However, on any dive trip, you will see divers that that seem to totally disregard care and maintenance of their gear. Not only can this lead to unsafe circumstances, it is very expensive as well. We have received articles from divers that we believe will help you receive the most benefit from your dive equipment and tips to help you choose new equipment. If you are like us, you cannot afford to buy new stuff every year, but you want to count on your gear.

Scuba Tanks

Of all the equipment we use when we dive , tanks seem to be the most abused and uncared for. Watch divers getting on or off the boat. They must think they are indestructible. An by the looks of the tanks, they are not maintained well either. Tanks and valves should be handled and cared for just as any other piece of equipment. Take care of them and you will be less likely to have a problem during a dive or have cause to abort a dive. A quick look back over the last couple of years also points to the fact that a poorly maintained tank and valve can be fatal. Several tanks have exploded while being filled due to mistreatment and poor maintenance.The following tips will help you with tank and valve care:

1. Handle with care just as you do your BCD or regulator.
2. Inspect the tank, valve and o-ring before every dive.
3. Rinse well with fresh water after every dive.
4. When you turn on your air, turn on gently and completely, then turn back 1/4 turn.
5. Have your tanks inspected at least annually, more often under extreme conditions.
6. Never bang the tank or valve.
7. Do not allow your tanks to be overfilled.
8. Never leave your tanks in direct heat or sunlight.
9. Never use oil based lubricants on valve o-rings.
10. Never attempt to service your own tank or valve unless you are a qualified technician.

Contributed By Jason Lesley

Salt Water and Dive Equipment

Proper cleaning and care can extend the life of your equipment for many years. It is important in any environment that you may be diving in, but salt water is especially damaging if not attended to immediately after diving.

The following tips are provided for divers who are not familiar with the corrosive effect of salt water, and to the divers that dive the ocean regularly and wonder why they must continue replacing equipment.

#1 Rule - Do not use a water hose to rinse your gear and think it's clean. Somebody along the way had the brilliant idea of a rinse tank, so put it to good use.
Most dive operators and resorts have a rinse tank for cleaning your gear after the dives. Just be sure the water in the tank is fresh. If you are the 30th diver to use the same tank of water, you are cleaning your gear in salt water.

- Always place your regulator in the tank first so that will have time to soak while you complete the remainder of the cleaning task.
- Mask, fins and snorkel can be easily rinsed and placed out of the sun to dry.
- Skins, wetsuits, booties and soft weightbelts should be hosed off, soaked and rinsed again to avoid having the salt eat the threads away.
- Your BCD should be rinsed, soaked and rinsed again. Pay special attention to the area behind the tank strap and cummerbund. Use a hose to partially fill with water and blow air into it. Shake the water around until it reaches every corner of the bladder. Do this at least twice, then taste the water from the bladder to be sure the salt is out. Any salt that remains inside dries, crystallizes and will cut the bladder like glass.
- As for your regulator, try to avoid the water hose altogether. Water pressure has a habit of forcing salt and sand into places where the sun never shines and can cause hidden problems. After soaking for an extended period of time, use your hand to clean the first and second stage as well as the hoses and gauges. Swish the regulator around to further dissolve any salt residue. Also remember to never depress the exhaust button on the second stage while immersed in water, as this will allow water into the hose and up into the first stage.

Allow your gear to dry completely before packing it away. If you are on vacation, most resorts have a secure drying area where you can hang it until time for the next dive. If you are taking your gear back to your hotel, you should lay out everything to let it dry.

Finally, have your gear serviced annually no matter how well you clean it and regardless of how much you dive. If you live near and dive the ocean regularly, you should have an extra 33 gal. trash can, just for the purpose of cleaning. An added benefit to BCD care is using a bottle of listerine inside the bladder several times a year. Use it just like rinsing the bladder and shake it around. This will kill the germs and fungus and make it more bearable when you use your LP hose.

May you and your equipment have a long and lasting relationship.

Contributed By Ellie Mozul

Prescription Dive Masks

See What's In The Sea

Where's that barracuda? Where did the stingray go? Is that a shark or my dive buddy? You obviously need glasses, don't you?

Whether novice or expert, divers who wear eyeglasses may be perplexed by visual needs underwater. Perhaps you've asked your local dive shop about your vision. However, they may not have been able to give you professional optical advice.

Statistics show that water magnifies objects by approximately 22 percent. For those of you who are slightly far- or near-sighted, the water becomes a natural eyeglass. However, for those of us with more of a vision deficiency who need glasses underwater, there are a few alternatives.

The most logical way to satisfy the problem would be to try and wear your glasses under your divemask. This wouldn't work for several reasons:

- The templates (sidepieces) that sit over your ears would protrude on the side of your head and would not be an appropriate seal because water would constantly leak into the mask.
- The straps from the mask would cause the templates of your glasses would press hard against the side of your head producing pressure and possibly pain.
- Wearing glasses underwater has never been done successfully.

Another option to consider would be contact lenses. People who wear contact lenses have great success with them underwater. However, one concern for wearing contacts underwater is the possibility of having them dislodge by regular blinking, or when you are clearing your mask.

According to Dr. Paul Gilwit, a Ft. Lauderdale, Florida Opthamologist, " When a lens is dislodged, bad corneal abrasion accompanied by possible pain and blurred vision could occur. Thus, it is much safer and preferable to have the prescription put into your divemask."

Imagine this scenario. You have been planning a week long dive vacation for several months. On the first day, you are 90 feet down and water gets into your mask. You try to clear the water out of your mask only to find that your contact dislodges. At first it floats around in your mask and then escapes out to sea. This would not be very much fun, for there goes your vacation. Wouldn't it be a lot smarter to carry an extra pair of contacts, or back-up prescription mask in your gearbag that couldn't get lost in the ocean?

In addition, some studies have shown that when contact lenses are exposed to water they become full of bacteria. These reports further suggest that contacts need to be disinfected after each dive. What a hassle....

Fortunately, there are now alternatives to see better under the sea, thanks to some of the divemask companies who are addressing underwater visual problems.

For example, you can purchase perspiration lens insert for several brand name masks. These will work for some prescriptions, but not for most. The inserts are available in standard minus sphere powers, but do not allow for astigmatism corrections or farsightedness. Unlike your prescription eyeglasses, which put your prescription right in front of each pupil, the over-the-counter inserts are not designed to do do the same.

The final and probably best alternative is to have prescription lenses ground and bonded to your dive mask. This method allows for astigmatism corrections as well as proper placement of lenses in front of the pupils in the mask. Custom prescription lenses are shaped for the individual's mask faceplate, thus providing greater peripheral vision as well as good aesthetics.

A wide range of lens choices are now available due to modern technology. One is no longer limited to one or two styles, and may select the mask of choice, thereby giving you the freedom to find the mask that fits you best. For aesthetic reasons only, a dual lens mask is more desirable for for custom lenses than those with a single lens faceplate. All major gear manufacturers have dual lens masks available.

Advanced technology has also made lens discoloration avoidable. In the past, when lenses were inserted and adhered to the faceplate, the lens would turn yellow after a period of time due to the type of glues that were used. Today's modern method of bonding eliminate the future discoloration of your lenses.These new methods do away with lens fogging as well.

The care and maintenance of a prescription divemask would be the same as a regular mask. A good freshwater rinse followed by air drying is the proper way to take care of your mask. Like all silicone products, your mask should not sit in direct sunlight for long periods of time as this tends to dry out the silicone.

This article contributed by Mitchell Small, a licensed optician and owner of Sherwood Optical Studio in Pompano Beach, Florida. He specializes in making prescription dive masks and has been a certified diver since 1988.

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