I had fun thinking up titles for this blog, but decided to keep it clean!
When Daryl was looking for someone to help crew his boat, one of his selection criteria was a love of scuba diving as he wanted a dive buddy as he travelled through Indonesia. I needed no convincing this was a good idea, what I did need was persuasion with was to ditch tanks and use a surface supplied air system with a 6HP motor at the surface keeping me ventilated via a hose as I explored the underwater world!
Welcome to the world of Hookahs!
Daryl reassured me that he has been using this method of scuba diving for nearly 10 years, and proudly mentioned that it had only ever failed on him on 3 occasions. Not feeling particularly happy with experiencing even one failure, I gave him a wry look and wanted to check it out for myself, but, being a dive professional, and well versed in the CESA (a “Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent -an emergency ascent method using just one breath of air), I felt I could carry those odds, after all, diving isnt without its risks is it and tank diving can bring its problems too.
Daryl has a “Brownie Third Lung” It is a motor which sits in an inflatable “donut”, you make sure there is petrol in the tank, turn it on (always a good idea), push it into the water and let the long hose uncoil at the surface.
The hose then forks into two individual hoses, with a regulator at each end. So, wearing only a weight belt, mask and fins, dive computer, and a smile, thats all we need to go diving, oh, not forgetting our cameras to capture the beautiful underwater world.
Getting the weighting is always important when you dive, but when you have your BCD, (buoyancy control device, a jacket connected to your air supply) it is more forgiving. With no BCD, you have to get it just right. It took me just 2 attempts to get my weighting just right, and now all I wear is a bikini and 5kg on my weight belt, and off I go.
Its a very liberating feeling, a bit like free diving without having to come to the surface to breath. “Peak performance buoyancy” is easy to practice, and I find that I can make tiny changes to my depth and movement with slight changes to my breathing and slight movement of my fins.
One aspect I like about tank diving is the peace you feel once you submerge, just the sound of each breath being taken. With a hookah it is different, as you can hear the noise of the motor sitting above you, and I found this a little distracting at first, but it has become less of an annoyance as it is a sound which reassures me my air is being delivered to me as I enjoy my dive.
It feels pretty much the same as tank diving, except you do feel a difference the deeper you dive. Ive not dived below 19.5 meters with it so far, have no real intention of doing so. I can feel a difference in the ease of breathing once I descend below 14 meters, certainly 16, and have to “ask” for the air a little more, that is an off putting feeling. Most of our dives average about 10-12 meters.
There are pros and cons of hookah compared to tank diving. Whilst traveling on a yacht, its so much easier. The kit stores away in a small locker, and is ready for use as soon as you want to dive, just throw it off the stern and away we go. Its great just wearing a weight belt, and jumping in, no encumbrance of jackets and tanks, just like going snorkelling.
You always know where your buddy is, you just look for the hose, they can’t go far. I do find though that when Daryl dives, he often wants to race off and move along, whilst I’m busy exploring bommies looking for the small critters, and I feel a tug on my weight belt as his hose is trying to tow me along. It does work both ways though, as its a method of communicating with one another too of course, when I spot something, I grab the hose and pull him towards me to come see the my latest find!
Before we jump in, we check the current, the wind, and, with a knowledge of the tides we try to make sure we stay safe. The last thing we need is to get caught in a current and find we can’t make our way back to the yacht. If we think this might be the case, we attach the donut to the dinghy, and tow both along with us as we drift, we always know where our boat is!
It can mean that we are sometimes towed along by it, and have to fight with the hose and pull it with us if we want to remain in a certain area to continue taking photographs. I guess, thats no different to tank diving when you are in a drift.
As you do when you take your car on a journey, you have to make sure you put sufficient fuel in the tank to last until you get there, so it is with the hookah, we don’t want to run out in the middle of a dive.
At the end of one dive, as I was removing my fins on the stern of the yacht, the hookah which was still out on the surface, coughed, spluttered and went to sleep, thats how close we were to running out of petrol. I try not to nag Daryl about it now!
I do try to relax and just enjoy diving
We are very careful with our diving. We have dived in some pretty remote places, and I have no idea where the nearest hypobaric chamber is, and we would have to get ourselves there first. You have to have a respect for the ocean, its currents, its tides, the creatures which can cause harm and the risk to your lungs if you don’t dive safely, and we certainly have this.
We cruise along in the yacht, and spot somewhere we think might be a lovely place to dive, and so long as we can anchor the yacht, we jump in and go exploring.
We have been to some amazing reefs, no idea if anyone has ever dived there before, we could be the first! With no local knowledge, it can be a bit of a lottery. I have tried to look up dive sites from some of the areas we have travelled, but it is tricky in areas where there is such little tourism. In touristy areas, we just watch to see where the dive boats park up and jump in when we fancy it
As we prepare to leave Indonesian waters, knowing we will be checked upon entering Australia, we gave the hull a little scrub, the hookah makes this far easier than constantly having to take breaths with a snorkel as you scrub. Daryl did want me to put on here “Daryl wanted me to go down on a hookah and scrub his bottom”, but I certainly couldn’t print that…..could I?
I have loved my diving in Indonesia (another blog to follow), and I’m loving diving on a hookah, it will feel strange to go back to tank diving after this