Suunto D6 dive computer

I’ve been using the Suunto D6 dive computer for about eight months now, having finally got my grubby paws on it just after returning from our last trip to Sodwana. I think it’s about time I write a little review of it, because Suunto have just released the D6i and before you know it my computer will be a museum relic.

Specifications and appearance

The D6 is near the upper end of the range of Suunto dive computers – the model I have will now set you back in the region of R10,000 and there are several cheaper but no less effective offerings. The USB interface cable that will enable your dive computer to talk to your computer will set you back up to a further R1,500 – although this item is frequently advertised on special by Suunto stockists and occasionally as a special bundled with the dive computer, so keep your eyes open. It’s far more usual, however, to have to buy this innocuous-looking cable separately, and gasp at the price.

You can choose an elastomer strap or a metal strap (for about R2,000 more). Although the metal strap looks really cool, it’s not really practical if you dive in varying water temperatures and change the amount of neoprene on your wrist frequently. The computer functions as a dress watch if you want to use it as one – it displays the time constantly when not in dive or memory mode – but it weighs more than a slab of chocolate (130g) and is far too large for the average lady’s wrist, so I don’t use it for this purpose except when travelling (to deny the baggage handlers at OR Tambo Airport the privilege of stealing it).

The computer has a four button interface that I find very intuitive, and I could figure it out to a large degree without reading the manual. That said, if you buy a dive computer, YOU MUST READ THE MANUAL! Don’t be a fool – you want to know EXACTLY why the thing is beeping at you, what it looks like when you go into deco, and be very sure (as one clown – who was buddied with us once because he didn’t know anyone on the boat – wasn’t) whether the “3” you see on the screen indicates a time in minutes, your current depth, or the number of brain cells you have. Read the manual!

Air integration and the D6i

The D6 has actually been replaced by the D6i, which is functionally identical but has more internal memory, and is capable of air integration with an optional (heart-stoppingly expensive) dongle that you attach to your cylinder and reads remaining air. The computer will then give you an estimate of remaing dive time based on air consumption to date. I have no interest in this (at the time I bought the D6, air integration was the main distinguishing feature from the D9) – I’d use a pressure gauge regardless, and wouldn’t feel comfortable trusting what I see as an physical, analogue process (displaying the air remaining in my cylinder) to a potentially failure-prone piece of electronics.

I know I may sound like a luddite here, but an experience Tony had on the boat a few months ago confirmed my reservations. Another instructor’s student had an air integrated computer and no pressure gauge (why bother with redundancy?). The air integration with the computer wouldn’t work, but they only discovered this on the boat when they were parked over the dive site, and – after toying with the idea of cancelling the dive, and then swapping kit so the instructor, who should have an excellent feel for his air consumption, had the set up with no pressure gauge – did a very short dive. As a mathematician I can see that having snapshots of your remaining air at 20 second intervals to look at in the dive manager software might be appealing though…

Decompression algorithm

The D6 uses the Suunto Deep Stop RGBM (Reduced Gradient Bubble Model), and allows for continuous decompression as you ascend (instead of forcing you to do stops at particular depths). It also allows you to complete your safety stops at depth – something I haven’t experimented with much, but will be using next time we dive the Lusitania. The computer recommends a safety stop once you exceed 10 metres on a dive, and if you violate the recommended ascent rate it will advise a mandatory safety stop between 3 and 6 metres. I tried to photograph the D6 during a dive where I’d switched on deep stops, but there was a 20 metre layer of green plankton blocking out the light from above, and my flash kept reflecting off the screen protector. Hence the dubious results you see here. I have 28 minutes of no-decompression time remaining, dive time is 11 minutes, depth is 20.9 metres, and my first deep stop will be at 13 metres. Maximum depth (bottom left) so far has been 23.8 metres.

Suunto D6 during a dive - first deep stop is due at 13 metres
Suunto D6 during a dive – first deep stop is due at 13 metres

You’re most likely aware of this, but a dive computer does not measure anything that is going on in your body with respect to dissolved gases. Dive computers use mathematical models – based on the original dive tables, only more sophisticated – that approximate, for the average person, how much nitrogen has gone into solution in the body’s tissues, and how fast it is being released, based on your dive profile. They measure depth temperature, and time, that’s all. For this reason many dive computers, including the D6, have an option for you to set a more conservative calculation algorithm if you’re at higher risk of DCS – for reasons of increased age, high body fat percentage, or any of the other DCS-predisposing risk factors. You can also adjust the partial pressure settings up and down if you so desire, but anything higher than 1.4 bar (ata) strikes me as reckless.

Nitrox and no-fly time

It goes without saying that the D6 is Nitrox capable, and it’s very straightforward to set the Nitrox mix. After one dive on Nitrox, the option to do a repetitive air dive disappears, and you have to manually set the oxygen percentage of your mix back down to 21%. I think this is to force you to think about what gas is in your cylinder. The D6 also handles switching to a richer mix for decompression, and this optional second mix may be set through the same menu system as the primary nitrox mix.

The D6, again like most dive computers, gives a no-fly time after you’re done with diving for the day. This time is usually well under 18 hours, but you’d do well to follow DAN guidelines for flying after diving (usually 18 hours after your last dive) and not bank on the reading given by your computer. Do not be like Gerard, who shall remain nameless, and mistake the time display on your computer for the no-fly time. After a dive on the Aster that ended at about 3.30pm, he announced that his no-fly time was “fifteen hours and twenty nine minutes.” A few minutes later, to his puzzlement, it was “fifteen hours and thirty four minutes!”

Dive Manager software

The Suunto dive manager software, that allows you to examine the details of your dives on your computer screen at home, is not compatible with Apple Macs, so I had to find another solution. I’ll review the software I do use, MacDive, in a separate post. Apparently from “fall 2011”, whenever that rolls (rolled) around, the Suunto software – DM4 – will also be compatible with Apple computers. I’ll test it when I get a chance, and let you know what it’s like… As is apparently wildly popular these days, one can also share one’s sporting activities on the Suunto Movescount site via an automatic link-up from within the software interface. And, no doubt, publish them to facebook.

Electronic compass

Suunto D6 with elastomer strap (right) and titanium strap (left)
Suunto D6 with elastomer strap (right) and titanium strap (left)

One of the major appeals for me of the D6 – and I think the feature that bumps its price up so much higher than the D4 – was the integrated electronic compass, which can be accessed at (almost) any time by holding down the top left (Select) button. In the picture at right, the D6 with the elastomer strap is on the compass display (the one on the right is in the memory log display mode which can’t be accessed during a dive). If you’re not on a dive when you use the compass, obviously the depth and dive time won’t show.

The D6i has updated the compass to allow accurate readings when your wrist is tilted; the old D6 (the one I have) is not as tolerant and you’ll need to keep your arm level as with a standard dive compass. Unfortunately the D6 doesn’t record the compass heading along with the temperature, depth and other dive statistics during the dive – or, if it does, the download software I use doesn’t access it. I suspect the former is true, since I installed Suunto’s own dive manager software on Tony’s PC to check, and there was no sign of compass headings. Boo.

What’s in the box

In the box was the computer, a strap extender, the instruction manual, a disc with the Windows-compatible dive manager software on it, and two or three scratch guards which are trimmed to fit the D6’s screen. I’ve done close to 70 dives with my D6 so far, and the scratch guard is scratched and still doing its job well. Tony’s computer, the Mares Nemo Wide, is protected with some cheap cellphone screen protectors we got from Look ‘n Listen. You can buy a generic size, and then trim it down to fit your phone (or dive computer, as the case may be). We didn’t expect this makeshift scratch guard – which is NOT designed for regular immersion in salt water – to last beyond five or ten dives, but over 100 dives and it’s going strong. I think I paid R60 for the pack of screen protector stickers, and we’ll get nine Nemo Wide-sized ones out of the package.

Buying it

Continuing with the subject of good value, one more tip for the bargain hunters. I actually bought my D6 from Cape Union Mart. They stock Suunto sports watches, and were able to order me a D6 from Suunto in Finland. I had to wait six weeks for it to arrive, and it cost R8,700. What made the deal very sweet was that by buying it on my Discovery Card which gives me a 20% discount at Cape Union Mart (thanks to my years in the Vitality program and points status), the computer ended up costing just under R7,000. I paid a further R1,200 for the download cable (I got that at a dive centre). If you have a few weeks before you need the computer, or are prepared to wait in exchange for some savings, it’s worth getting a quote from Cape Union Mart as to what they’ll charge you. If you’ve got a Discovery Card it’s a no-brainer. Email them via the website for a quotation, and they’ll tell you to print that and take it to your nearest Cape Union Mart to place the order. I had to pay a 50% deposit.

Update (late 2012): Based on feedback from other divers who have shopped for Suunto computers lately, it seems that Cape Union Mart isn’t doing this any more, unfortunately – but it’s worth asking anyway!

Maintaining it

Finally – if you have a dive computer and live in Cape Town, take it to Orca in Claremont to get the battery changed when necessary, and ask for Chris the “worship manager” (that’s autocorrect gone wild on “workshop manager”) to do it for you. Tony’s students have had baaaaad experiences (a hair across the seal, anyone?!) at other locations. There’s usually not much you can do if the service centre doesn’t seal the computer properly and it floods – your only recourse will possibly be to your insurance company.

Dive gear maintenance: Booties

Booties are hard to get dry and even after an entire day in the sun they can still feel damp inside. After a good day of diving I soak them for a few hours in detergent, rinse them with the hose and then pour in a good dose of Dettol or Savlon, swirl this around and then hang them out to dry. Because of the unknown origins of the feet that are put in rental booties I try and keep the inside healthy!

Booties drying on a rack in the garden
Booties drying on a rack in the garden

I find it best to leave them on a rack in the shade and in a draft and eventually they do dry. Once dry, I silicone the zips and work them up and down a few times to spread the silicone and dust them liberally with baby powder. They are now ready to be stored or used again.

Many of the same principles that I apply to smelly wetsuits in this post also apply to booties.

Handy hints: Indoor compressor maintenance

Service day on the compressor came round a few weeks ago but sadly it was pouring with rain so doing this outside was out of the question. The best solution in such a situation is:

  1. You must WAIT until your wife has left for work..(very important step)
  2. Bring the work table and the compressor, with oils, filters, tools etc. and spread them out in the lounge.
  3. Avoid the couch… (especially if it is white)
  4. Now you have a clean sterile environment in which to service a safety-critical item of the compressor.
Compressor all ready for servicing
Compressor all ready for servicing


It is very important to make sure the wife has left because should you drop the container of drying agent on the floor (see below) you could possibly end up in trouble.

Drying agent on the floor. Note the towel (bottom right) positioned for just such an accident
Drying agent on the floor. Note the towel (bottom right) positioned for just such an accident

Dive Deals column: Dive course pricing

Here’s the final installment of my three-part series on the cost of learning to dive, originally published on the website. Part one can be found here, and part two is here.

Dive course pricing

For the past two weeks we’ve been looking at the topic of how much it costs to learn to dive. We’ve seen that there are multiple “invisible” costs that even the largest, most established dive centre must bear in order to deliver an Open Water course. But how does everything tie in with what you’ll actually get charged for an entry-level dive course?

Let’s say Dive Centre #1 wants to charge you R5,000. The equipment is top class, they have every size of gear you require, and a nice environment for training with a great pool. Everything is just perfect, the class is small – perhaps two of you – your instructor is going to earn R1,000 for his three or four days’ work at R250 a day and let’s assume he/she is happy with that.

At the end of the course, in the shop, you will most likely be shown all the types of gear you were using during the course and in a no pressure environment you will choose and buy the gear they suggest. You go home qualified as a diver, have your own gear and hopefully at least 5-6 hours of bottom time to your name.  Everyone is happy.

But then there is the other option… You saw that “special offer” at Dive Centre #2 for the same dive course, but for  R1,000.

How can they do it for this price, you may ask? More likely, you will ask yourself, why not take this offer instead of paying R5,000?

Before jumping in head first, you should ask yourself these questions.

  • Will I get a training manual of my own, or just a copied one? You may not know this, but many dive certification agencies require in their standards that each student has their own, original copy of the training material.
  • Will the gear be good? How will you know what good or bad is before you have ever tried it? (Why is my wetsuit torn and ragged? The boots are a bit tight, the fins don’t match, the air tastes funny, my mask leaks a lot, the BCD leaks but my instructor says it’s normal…) How would you know if you’ve never dived before? You struggle with mediocre gear of dubious origins and your instructor will say that’s why it’s good to have your own gear.
  • There are probably eight or more students in your class and the Instructor spends very little time with each student. How long will you have to wait to start the course? Can you start immediately, or do you have to wait for seven other people to sign up first?
  • At that price it’s doubtful the Instructor is being paid more than R50 a day for working with you. How much of your current day’s work would you do if you were being paid R50? You will be lucky if any of your dives are longer than 20 minutes.
  • You can bet that the businesses goal of making a profit will be realised by selling you as much equipment as possible as quickly as possible for the highest price possible. You can be sure that if your pool sessions are a disaster because your mask leaks like a sieve, selling you a brand new one will be easy. If you struggle with buoyancy all through the sea dives, selling you ‘’this fantastic top of the range BCD’’ does not take much effort.

There is no such thing as a bad dive course. The formula for a course is cast in stone by the certifying agency.  There are bad instructors, and bad dive operations. A bad instructor working for a ‘’budget ‘’ dive school will take you diving in mediocre gear and less than perfect conditions. A good instructor won’t be comfortable with either of those things.

The ‘’dive hyperstore’’ you visit can not guarantee you any better deal than the tiny corner dive resort without a committed and structured program, the right equipment and the right staff. None of these things come cheap, as we’ve seen, so if your dive course is suspiciously inexpensive there are either a few shortcuts in the program or the money will be made up on gear sales or hidden costs (you may have to pay extra for the sea dives, or to rent gear, or to be certified, or all of the above).

There is nothing wrong with gear sales: all divers should own their own kit, but how qualified are you to choose from the huge range available when you have hardly even been in the water? And how can a salesperson really be sure what they are trying to sell you is right for you when they have known you for less than five minutes? Even discount dive courses have invisible costs… in the form of hastily-purchased, unsuitable dive gear that you end up being pressured into purchasing at the end of your training. Don’t be fooled – if it seems too cheap, you’re missing something!


Dive Deals column: The invisble cost of learning to dive

This is the second column in a three part series I wrote for the website, as part of my regular weekly contribution. Part the first can be found here.

The “invisible” costs of learning to dive

Last week we broke down some of the non-negotiable costs that are included in a course fee for an entry level scuba diving course. Some of them may seem far-fetched. This week I’ll explain why they aren’t.

You may think it costs a dive centre nothing to fill a cylinder. You may be close, but purchasing a compressor and maintaining it costs money. The compressor operator has to be qualified to fill cylinders, by doing a Department of Manpower-approved compressor course. This also costs money. A dive operator who doesn’t own a compressor will need to find a dive centre who does, and pay between R25 and R50 to fill cylinders. None of these are optional costs to a dive instructor.

You may also say, once you have a cylinder it costs nothing to use it. Wrong again: a cylinder needs an annual inspection that costs up to R100, pillar valves need regular services, tank nets wear out, and handles break. These costs aren’t optional.

You may think a dive centre gets equipment really cheap. Some do, but how good is it? And if they get it so cheap why do they want so much money for it when you buy it from them? Dive centres and schools need their gear to be rugged, robust and trouble free so not all choose budget equipment. A half decent dive school will have all the sizes, from XXS to XXL and a few of each of these sizes, this includes booties, wetsuits and fins. A decent wetsuit can cost you R2,000 – R3,000. What do you think it costs for 20 or 30 decent wetsuits?

Nothing you subject to human bodily fluids, regular immersion in salt water, and exposure to sun and sand lasts forever and dive gear is no exception. There is costly maintenance on all dive gear regardless of its quality, so this also is not a variable in course pricing.

A vehicle is required to transport the instructor and the gear to the beach, as is some form of building to house the classroom and training aids, store the gear and park the car.

Lest we forget, you expect to have the undivided (or at least, not too divided!) attention of an Instructor for at least three to four days. For anyone to stand in front of you as a qualified and paid-up in teaching status instructor, he/she has most likely spent around  R70,000 and used at least 6 -12 months getting the required training and qualifications. You may not be surprised to learn that they would like to recoup that money.

This is all without a boat. Let’s leave the boats out of this, as it is possible to qualify as a competent diver by doing shore entries.

So we’ve established that learning to dive costs money, and we’ve identified some of the areas where expenses can build up. Next week we’ll try and tie it all together, looking at what it actually costs to dive – what will a dive centre or scuba instructor charge you for a course, and what that implies.

Dive Deals column: The cost of learning to dive

Here’s the third article I wrote for the Dive Deals website. The first two are here and here.

The cost of learning to dive

Anyone starting out on the rewarding and life-changing path of becoming a regular diver will at some point ask ‘’what does it cost?’’.

Like any sport that is equipment-intense, there will be expenses related to getting started. These expenses can be managed and spread out depending on your own situation and the sales skills of your local dive centre.

As a starting point I want to focus on what many will say is the most popular of dive courses and that is Open Water diver.

Most dive training agencies stipulate the required standards and set the basic guidelines as to how their course must be structured and what the requirements for course content, learning materials and minimum standards are. This is not a variable part of the program.

There are variables, however: what brand and configuration of gear, time schedules and training periods are all variables provided they meet the minimum standard. These factors can all be interpreted quite widely – you could end up diving without a hoodie or gloves in a 3mm wetsuit in less than 20 degree water or perhaps you will have a 7mm wetsuit, with a shortie over it, a hoodie, 5mm gloves and so on.

Where no scope for interpretation exists, naturally will follow more expense.

Let’s break it down even more.

Any business irrespective of what it does, exists with the goal of making a profit. Huge turnover don’t always equate with huge profits and many smaller, efficiently run businesses make a tidy profit. So let’s imagine a dive centre with one employee, its main focus being on diver training.

Let’s take the non-variable items first.

You walk in the door and want to become a qualified diver. You don’t want to be conned into doing a seemingly cheap course that will only qualify you to dive to 12 metres while accompanied by an instructor – you want to be able to dive independently, to a reasonable depth. The PADI Open Water course and the NAUI Open Water 1 course, for example, fit the bill nicely. So this is what you will cost the dive operator:

  • A training pack with at least the minimum required manual, logbook and dive planner: R450
  •  Two sets of gear for three days, capitalised and depreciated over a year: R300
  • 10 air fills (1 student and 1 Instructor, pool and four dives): R400
  • Getting to and from the dive sites: R400
  • Wages for the owner/instructor: R850
  • Odds and ends such as electricity, pens and pencils, rent, telephone calls, lunch maybe? : R100

(These figures aren’t meant to be prescriptive or even highly accurate, but just give an idea of where expenses occur in running a dive course.)

So it’s not implausible that R2,500 of your course fee is eaten up before you even hit the water. You may look at some of the costs I’ve listed above and say to yourself, “He’s smoking socks – it doesn’t cost a dive centre anything to fill a cylinder! And what’s this about the gear costing R300 over the course days? Dive centres hardly pay anything for gear, and then they have it to use as they please!”

We’ll see next week how some of the “invisible” costs of learning to dive add up.

Dive gear maintenance: Cylinders

Cylinders are made of either steel or aluminium (aluminum to the Yanks), and both are prone to corrosion. Nothing rusts quicker than a damp cylinder. Most people will fill the cylinder with air after a dive, and then store it.

The air we breathe
The air we breathe

When you get home rinse the cylinder well, several times. The plastic boot collects salt and sand but it does not come off easily so drilling a few large drain holes in the plastic at the bottom of the boot makes rinsing easy and the boot does not need to come off so often.

The net protects the cylinder from nicks but once in a while loosen the net and clean away any rust that has formed on scratches (with a scouring pad) and paint the spot. Cylinders require an annual viz, this is a visual inspection for dings, dents, corrosion and general condition. The inside is inspected, for rust, pitting and discoloration. Every four years the cylinder is subjected to a hydro test. This involves filling it with water and pumping it up to a specific pressure, way above the normal operating pressure, and the difference in size is measured to ensure it is structurally sound. The stamp from the hydro inspection is prone to rust and difficult to keep rust-free so as soon as it is returned from inspection you should paint it. If you don’t have any paint, use your (or someone else’s!) clear nail varnish.

The colour of your cylinder is also important. By law (in South Africa) it must be yellow with a grey neck. Compressor operators are not obliged to fill the cylinder if it is the wrong colour, and nor will they fill it for you if it is out of date (i.e. more than 12 months have passed since the last inspection). So painting it random colours will be a problem when trying to have it filled.

The air pumped into a dive cylinder goes through a drying process so there should not be moisture in your cylinder. If you have had a cylinder at depth that has been breathed empty then there is a strong likelihood it has water in it. Should you have moisture enter the cylinder it will rust, and it will do so very quickly. The cure? If it is light rust it can be cleaned with a wire brush (quite a special type of wire brush) attached to a drilling machine.  It can also be chemically cleaned or if really bad it can be ”rumbled”. This is a process whereby the servicing dive centre adds a few handfuls of stones and some water to the cylinder and it is placed on a pair of slow moving rollers that rolls it for some time cleaning off the interior rust. It is then washed, dried and inspected again.

It is not a requirement when servicing a cylinder, but having your pillar valve serviced at the same time is a good policy. If you have the training you can do it yourself but it is best left to the professionals. My cylinders have just had their annual service, a repaint and a pillar valve service. A few new tank nets to replace the badly worn ones and they are all set for a year of trouble free diving.

A long-term test of the compressor

Our compressor
Our compressor

It has been almost nine months since we acquired this little 70 litres/minute compressor. It is Mohnsam compressor unit made in Germany and powered by a 1.9 kW Honda engine. Very compact and well made, it is very portable and has one filling whip. During the time we’ve had it, it has run for a total of 45 hours and has had two services since the service we did when we bought it.

On each service the filter tower has been done, the compressor oil changed and the engine oil changed. The air filter in the motor is a sponge filter which has just been washed each time and the compressor intake has a paper filter element that has been blown clean. There is also a drive belt and a spark plug, but neither of these items have shown any wear and tear

The unit has been trouble free and has proven to be a money well spent. The convenience of being able to fill your own cylinders when you want and where you want to is very beneficial to me and my style of diving. I have filled my cylinders 145 times and this is a saving of around R6,500. I have used a little over 20 litres of fuel on the Honda engine that powers this unit.

When I took my cylinders for their annual visual inspection last month they were in good shape, verifying that this little compressor is pumping clean air, and that frequent drainage is maintaining excellent fill quality.

Dive briefings

Diving in Cape Town is often done without a Divemaster. Many of the dive sites are shore entries and quite often they are dived by casual divers and groups of friends.

Dive briefing on the beach at Sodwana
Dive briefing on the beach at Sodwana

Resort environments most often only conduct led dives, meaning there is a Divemaster that knows the site, the local conditions and the wildlife you will most likely encounter. These dives will invariably start with a dive briefing where the site will often be drawn on the sand or displayed in a book. The Divemaster will detail the site, the dive time, what percentage of you air will mean that you are “low on air” (often based on the depth, conditions and skills of the group), who leads, who follows and who buddies up with whom. Dive time and profile will also probably be based on the Divemaster’s computer. A good briefing will also cover lost buddy procedure, what to do in an emergency and the hand signals that will be used. Entry and exit techniques or special requirements will also feature. Some briefings will also include the signals for specific creatures.

In essence a dive briefing should cover as much as possible is a relatively short time (10 minute briefings will bore any diver to death) unless you are planning a very technical or potentially hazardous dive. The more you cover in a briefing the less chance of confusion underwater.

Diving, irrespective of the location is best conducted in a safe manner. (You get to do a lot more dives that way!) Understanding the weather, assessing the conditions and having some knowledge of the site goes a long way to ensure a good dive. Diving within your own ability also rates highly.

Cape Town offers the qualified diver a wide range of dives and the fact that there might not be a Divemaster with you does not mean you should not experience the dives. There are a few basics to consider, knowing the dive site is only possible after you have dived it a few times. Once you have decided to dive a site, read all the available information on the wikivoyage site for diving in Cape Town. This website will be your Divemaster. It will tell you how to get in and out, what skills and qualifications you need, depth, and the marine life to be expected. It will also tell you which weather conditions are best for the site. Pay close attention to the bearings if you want to see a specific feature, and know what the bearing is to get you back to shore.

Armed with all of this knowledge you and your buddy/buddies need only agree on a few issues before you set off. Plan your dive and dive your plan. If you agree it will be a 40 minute dive, stick to that. If you decide on who will lead then keep the order as such. Who your buddy will be and depth are important and it is important to agree on signals. As a qualified diver you are responsible for your own air so you need not have a Divemaster check it for you. If you are a group that dive together often then its best to base the dive time on the member with the worst air consumption, unless they are happy to return to shore alone. You will need a compass, and you will need to read the site details together to ensure you all have a good idea of the environment and likely conditions. You must have an SMB as this avoids the potential haircut you can receive from a passing boat.

It should not be required to cover this but I will ANYWAY, Make sure your equipment is proper, the correct size, and in serviceable condition. Don’t enter the water if you have an equipment malfunction or a leak or any other issue. Don’t think “we won’t be deep,” or “we won’t be far from the shore” and dive with faulty equipment. Should an emergency arise and you are swept out to sea, that small leak on you BCD will soon be a huge problem.

Diving is a very safe sport if you follow the rules, do the checks, and dive within your training. Do these things and you will have thousands of dives, each one often better that the last one.

Dive gear maintenance: Gauges

The depth gauge is most often prone to sand build up on the sensor. Scubapro are really bad for this because the sensor is covered by a flimsy sticker, which lasts all of about 10 dives, and the gauge will often show 3-4 metres’ depth out of the water.

Leaking high pressure hose
Leaking high pressure hose

Remove the gauge from its rubber holder and rinse the sand off around the sensor and in the molded rubber housing. Avoid pressure on the sensor as it is extremely sensitive.

Smacker monitors the testing of a leaky gauge
Smacker monitors the testing of a leaky gauge

The source of many minor leaks is often the swivel pin. These seals will be changed when your gear is serviced.

Not everyone will agree with this but I take a sponge with liquid silicone on it and wipe my hoses, regulators, and gauges. I leave it on for a minute or so and wipe it again with a clean dry cloth. I also wipe the thread of the A-clamp screw or yoke threads with the silicone sponge. I find this prevents corrosion and salt build up on the gear and I have a Mares regulator with well over 1000 dives that looks and works well.