I have been using my Sea-Doo Explorer X DPV’s for several months now and thought that it was about time for me to write a review on them to let everyone know what experience I have had with them. I wanted to wait until I had a chance to really test them out under various conditions before writing a review.
When I first received the Explorer X DPV (Diver Propulsion Vehicle) I was skeptical as to how it would actually perform on a dive, especially the battery life. Sea-Doo claims that the batteries have a 2-hour runtime, so just in case I ordered a spare battery with mine.
I was also a little nervous after reading other reviews complaining about the seals not holding and the units flooding. Sea-Doo had apparently completely redesigned the rear end of the Explorer X and driveshaft seals to take care of this problem by incorporating a new three-stage waterproof seal.
I charged the batteries up overnight and prepped the DPV for its first voyage below the surface the next day by carefully inspecting it and installing its o-ring seal which I carefully lubricated with the supplied lubricant. Once the batteries were fully charged I installed the first one and ran a few tests on the scooters on/off switches and finger triggers to make sure that everything was working correctly. Everything appeared to be working correctly so I loaded the unit up for the days dives.
To start testing the Explorer X out I decided to do several boat dives with it, so that incase there was a problem with it I would not be stranded out in the middle of nowhere and have to swim back to shore dragging it behind me. For the next three months I dove with the Explorer X on just about every boat dive that I could as long as I wasn’t doing a training dive that would not allow its use.
I very quickly became a huge fan of the Explorer X. On land with its battery installed it only weighs 32 pounds, about the same as an empty 80cf aluminum scuba tank however in the water it is neutrally buoyant. Its hydrodynamic design allows it to glide through the water with ease and it has the strength to pull 2 divers along for the ride at up to 3.3 MPH.
Most recreational DPV’s in the same price range as the Explorer X (around $700) are very limited in the depths that they can be safely taken down to, many not even able to reach the 100 foot mark. That is one area where the newly redesigned Explorer X shines. It is depth rated to 130 feet (40 meters), and is tested to 160 feet (50 meters). I have had mine down to 125 feet so far with absolutely no troubles whatsoever.
As I mentioned earlier, I was wary of the two-hour battery runtime claimed by Sea-Doo, so I ordered a spare battery for my Explorer X yet I have never run the battery completely empty. I have used it continuously for a 90 minute dive at top speed circling the dive boat (for safety) and I ran out of air before the battery ran out of power. As a safety precaution though, I always change out batteries when I change out my cylinders on my surface interval.
Routine maintenance on the Explorer X is simple to perform. After the days dive’s I thoroughly rinse the DPV in fresh water allowing it to sit submerged for a few minutes to remove any salt deposits. I also start up the DPV while holding it in the water and let it work any salt from the driveshaft and propeller. Then I let it dry off completely before opening it up to take out the battery to recharge. While the battery is out of the unit I carefully inspect the o-ring around the battery compartment to make sure sand or other debris are not on the seal. I also make sure that there is plenty of lubricant on the o-ring before I drop in a freshly charged battery and seal it back up.
I love with the Explorer X so much that I now own two of them and have used them to show other divers how enjoyable they are when we dive together. A couple of the divers that I have allowed to use mine have loved them so much that they have now ordered their own. I actually dread shore diving without one now, thinking about how I will have to fight against currents, or make long surface swims to get out to a dive site. The Explorer X has become an invaluable tool in my dive trailer.
My Product Rating:
I have been considering installing a portable high-pressure breathing air compressor in the dive trailer for a while now.
I have been looking at a few different models, including the Max Air 35-G with a Honda gasoline engine shown here which I decided on because if its price, portability, and features. This compressor with a Honda gasoline engine weighs just 85 pounds, so it can be carried by just one person.
I wanted either a gasoline or diesel engine model so that I would be able to fill scuba tanks away from electricity.
These new portable compressors are able to fill scuba tanks with the same grade of compressed air (Grade-E) as the larger machines at dive shops, just not as fast. With a portable machine, tank fills would take around 20 minutes versus 10 at a dive shop.
When you think about it though, 20 minutes really isn’t that bad. If you are filling 3 tanks for the next days dives, in about an hour while you are cleaning you gear and getting it ready for the next days dives, your tanks are all filled and your ready to go — no trip to the local dive shop necessary.
You have to also consider fuel and maintenance costs of the compressor oil and the air filters which have to be changed out after every 10 hours of use, which would be about 30 filled tanks.
With the cost of fuel, maintenance, replacement filters, oil, etc, that would come to about $1 per tank fill versus the traditional $4 that the local dive shops here charge, saving me about $3 for every tank that I fill.
There have been several occasions when we have planned early morning dives at the last-minute the evening before, and the dive shops just closed. We were left with no way of getting tank fills for the early morning dives because we were planning to do the dives before the dive shops even opened. With a portable air fill station in the dive trailer, this problem would be a thing of the past.
I have been adding everything up, and a portable fill station like this would pay for itself within just over a year of use for me, which is an acceptable return on investment rate. After that time it would continue to save me money with every dive, not to mention the convenience of being able to fill my own tanks whenever and wherever I needed to fill them and being able to fill tanks for others on-site if necessary.
With the air compressor, spare air filters, compressor oil and shipping & handling the total came to just a little bit over $3,800.00 and should be here in about a week or so.
I have always considered myself to be a “self-contained” diver, meaning that I did not have to rely on anyone else for any of my diving equipment. Now I can truly say that I am completely self-contained. I will still get my Nitrox tanks filled at a local dive shop, but from now on I will be filling my own air tanks.
UPDATE: (7/1/13) I just found out that the air compressor was shipped out from the manufacturer in Texas last Wednesday the 26th and is scheduled to arrive here in Hawaii next Tuesday, July 9th. Hopefully I will have it operational by that weekend.
I have been searching for a system to mount my 40 cf pony bottle tanks from when I do my deeper dives besides mounting it to d-rings on my BCD under my arm which is a little uncomfortable because it gets in the way sometimes.
I have looked at a few models and did not like them, either due to their design, or their price, until I received the Pony Bottle Holder from XS Scuba that I recently purchased from Divers-Supply.com.
This is a very simple design, yet you can instantly tell that it is a well designed, durable, quality product that is made to last for years. The webbing of the straps is a lot thicker than I thought it would be considering it is only designed to hold a pony bottle strapped up against your main tank. It doesn’t have to carry a lot of weight.
The system uses two separate straps that are long enough to go around my aluminum 80’s easily and look like they would have no problem fitting a 100 either. The buckles are stainless steel to prevent rusting and the straps are secured with velcro the entire length of the strap, not just a tab on the end of it. I can’t think of a possible situation on a dive where the velcro of these straps could come loose.
Inside both the main tank straps and the pony bottle straps are rubber grippers to prevent either tank from sliding out of the straps.
I strapped my pony bottle onto my aluminum 80 and secured the straps, then dropped it into the water for several hours to make sure that the straps had been impregnated with as much water as possible to see if it would allow the straps to loosen up at all. When I pulled it out of the water and shook the BCD quite briskly, the pony bottle didn’t budge a bit. The rubber grippers held everything nice and secure, and the long length of the velcro did not allow the straps to loosen one bit.
I can’t wait until this ear infection clears up so that I can test this out in the water on an actual dive, not just in my rinse bucket.
My Product Rating:
Here are some dimensions and specifications for scuba cylinders. This is by no means an exhaustive list. These numbers should be taken as approximate, since equivalent tanks from different manufacturers will differ slightly. The two most common models – the Catalina aluminum 80 and Luxfer aluminum 80 – are highlighted.
- Weight, full – this is what you will have to be able to lift, in and out of your car, around the dock, and up the boat ladder with all your other gear. Times two for doubles.
- Weight, empty – this is pretty much irrelevant
- Buoyancy, empty – this is what you need to weight yourself for, so that you can do a safe free stop at 15 feet at the end of your dive
- Buoyancy, full – this is what your BC needs to be able to support when you jump in the water, otherwise you are a “dirt dart” heading straight for the bottom and disaster
|OMS* 85||85.0||2640||26.0||7.00||31.0||37.7 1||0.0||-6.7|
|HP Steel: ( DIN valve only )|
|Pony & Stage Bottles: ( Aluminum )|
|Luxfer 20||19.9||3000||21.9||4.38||8.2||9.5 2||0.1||-1.4|
|Pony & Stage Bottles: ( Steel )|
|OMS* 46||46.0||2640||23.0||5.50||17.6||21.6 3||0.0||-4.0|
1 with valve, boot, and a good fill – 42 lbs
2 with valve & mounting bracket – 11 lbs
3 with valve, boot, and a good fill – 23 lbs+ at rated pressure
Density of dry air = 0.076 lb / cu-ft
Weights and buoyancies that I would consider to be excessive are highlighted in red. In particular, the Faber 72 is ridiculously heavy for its size, and excessively negative, and aluminum 80s are far too buoyant when empty.
Yes, you heard me correctly, a wetsuit made from a rock.
I received my new rescue wetsuit and dive boots for work the other day, and started checking out my new “toys”.
Normally, wetsuits are made from a material called Neoprene, which is a petroleum-based product. My new rescue wetsuit from NRS however is made from a new material called Geoprene, also called Terraprene.
Geoprene looks like neoprene, it feels like neoprene, and it floats like neoprene, yet it is a “Green” product that is safe for the environment and does not use up our already depleted petroleum reserves. It is just as buoyant as a neoprene wetsuit of the same grading however it is warmer than a neoprene wetsuit which allows you to use a thinner one offering better flexibility than neoprene. Take for instance a 3 mil geoprene wetsuit, it is the same thickness as a 3 mil neoprene wetsuit, yet it is almost as warm as my 5 mil neoprene version which is very bulky.
Geoprene is made from 99.7% limestone, which is one of the most abundant minerals on Earth. It was developed way back in the 70’s, but for some reason has not quite caught on yet, why I have no idea. With Geoprene being made from limestone instead of oil based products, it is better for the environment and future generations. Because geoprene is warmer than neoprene, a thinner wetsuit can be worn, meaning less natural resources have to be used to produce it. Geoprene lasts at least twice as long as neoprene, meaning that less natural resources will be needed to produce replacement wetsuits. Geoprene aka Terraprene is a win-win for everyone.
One of the big concerns that I keep finding on the web against geoprene is the “extremely high cost” to produce it. Even though I did not have to pay for my wetsuit as it was issued to me for work, I did find out what the cost of it was, and it was THE SAME PRICE as my new Bare neoprene wetsuit and my new Xcel neoprene wetsuit. That just blew the whole extremely high cost complaint out of the water. And with geoprene lasting at least twice as long as neoprene, the cost is much less than neoprene wetsuits and their replacements.
Geoprene has a maximum elongation of 480-530%, which is far greater than that found in human skin. In fact, even at the greatest elongation point on the human body, the armpit, it is only 60-70%. This means you’ll be able to move freely while in this type of wetsuit and you won’t ever feel constricted.
After doing some research on geoprene I found that there are some additional advantages to using geoprene instead of the traditional old-fashioned neoprene in wetsuits. Neoprene is 65% water impermeable whereas geoprene is 98% water impermeable. What does that mean you ask? That simply means that geoprene will not soak up water like a sponge the way that neoprene does. Geoprene is touted as being warmer, lighter, dries faster, and lasts longer than neoprene.
I decided to put the drying speed to a simple test. I took the new 3 mil geoprene wetsuit, and a new 3 mil neoprene wetsuit and dipped them in water long enough to make sure they had absorbed as much water as they could hold. Then I took them out and hung them up to dry on my drying rack.
Immediately I could feel a difference between the two wetsuits as I lifted them out of their water baths. The geoprene wetsuit was at least half the weight of the neoprene version. Both wetsuits were the same thickness so theoretically they should have absorbed the same amount of water, making them weigh the same, but this was clearly not the case.
With the wetsuits hanging on my drying rack I checked the time and went inside. Every hour I planned to go back to the drying rack to check on their progress, however when I came back to the drying rack for the first check, the geoprene wetsuit was completely dry. The neoprene wetsuit felt like it was just hung up to dry and was still dripping water onto the ground. That was an amazing difference between the two materials.
I have no idea how they can turn limestone which is dug out of massive rock quarries like the one pictured here into a buoyant 3 mil wetsuit, but they have managed to find a way.
Limestone was once used in Egypt to build the Great Pyramids, and now we can wear it as clothing, impressive. What will they think of next?
With all of this in mind, when it comes time to replace my next wetsuit I will have to think long and hard about the replacement being made from neoprene. As long as I can find the wetsuit in my odd-ball size, they will always be made from geoprene from now on.
A few months ago I purchased the Spare Air model 300 to attach to my BCD as a completely redundant alternate air source for my dives. Since I do a lot of Nitrox or Enriched Air diving I chose the 300-N model because it comes Nitrox ready.
The Model 300 is a 3 cubic foot or 85 liter capacity scuba tank that can be pressurized up to 3,000 psi, and will give a diver approximately 57 breaths while at the surface. The deeper you are the more the surrounding water pressure will affect the number of available breaths. With this in mind, I only use my Spare Air on shallow dives of less than about 80 feet.
I purchase my Spare Air as a complete kit, which included the Spare Air unit that has the simple to use on-demand regulator with purge button right on top of it, high-visibility yellow mounting holster, coiled safety leash, attached mouthpiece cover, mounting straps with quick release buckles, pop out pressure indicator, and convenient yoke style Refill Adapter that allows me to attach the Spare Air unit to my scuba tank to fill the Spare Air from.
I opted to include the pressure gauge to my unit to replace the pop out pressure indicator so that I know exactly how much pressure is in the unit at any time, not just when it is full to 3,000 psi.
The aluminum cylinder is manufactured just like any other scuba cylinder and includes the same safety features. It should have a visual inspection every year, and also undergo hydrostatic testing every five years, the same as with your other scuba tanks.
A couple weeks ago a friend of mine was diving up on the North Shore when he had a catastrophic failure of the o-ring where his first stage attaches to the tank, it completely disintegrated. This caused him to loose 1,000 pounds of air per minute. In this type of catastrophic event, with a full cylinder he would only have 3 minutes of air in his cylinder before it was completely empty. Luckily he also carries the same 3 cf Spare Air with him on his dives. He was able to switch over to his Spare Air and return safely to the surface without incident.
Luckily I have never needed the Spare Air in an emergency situation as of yet, but I have run several emergency simulation tests on it from various depths. Because of its small size and thereby limited air capacity it should only be used in an emergency out of air situation.
It will give you those precious breaths needed to return to the surface, but it does not have enough air capacity to allow you to make a 3 minute safety stop on the way up. This is why I choose to only use mine for shallower dives, which do not require a safety stop. If you were to use it on a deeper dive, you would have to just blow right past the safety stop and take your chances for DCS.
I love the Spare Air system for its simplistic design and functionality. For around $300 it can definitely be a life saver, and I wouldn’t do shallow dives without it ever again.
My Product Rating:
I decided to make a change to my dive gear setup. Today I installed the Oceanic Air Xs 2 Alternate Inflator onto my Oceanic Excursion 2 BCD.
The Air Xs 2 combines both the low pressure inflator for the BCD and the alternate air source regulator into one streamlined unit.
When using the Air Xs 2 in an Out of Air (OOA) emergency instead of donating my octopus regulator to the out of air diver I would instead donate my primary second stage regulator which I now have on a 7 foot hose going across the front of my body and wrapped around my neck “tech-style”. I would then switch over to the Air Xs 2 as my regulator to surface with.
I am also considering the possibility of leaving the octopus installed along with the Air Xs 2, which would give me a total of 3 second stage regulators. If I were in a situation where two divers were out of air, I would donate my primary and my octopus to them, and use my Air Xs 2 to surface with.
I know the chances of running into this extreme situation where two divers would be out of air at the same time would be rare, but there is always the remote chance. I have seen a couple times where a pair of dive buddies had just enough air to make it back up to the surface. If something were to happen which delayed their ascent by just a few minutes, they would not have had enough reserve air to make it back up to the surface.
I know that we are all trained to not dive like that, and to always ascend leaving plenty of air left in your tank for the ascent, safety stops, and emergencies, but let’s face it, it doesn’t always happen like that.
Especially here in Hawaii with all of the tourists that we have diving here. Sometimes it seems like they think that since they paid for the tank of air, and they are going to get their moneys worth out of it. They seem to push the limits more than local divers do, I suppose because they are trying to cram as much as they can of their vacations into the few days that they are on the islands.
On shallow dives I already carry a 3 cf Spare Air system strapped to my BCD under my arm, and on deep dives I switch it out to a 40 cf Pony Tank system, both of which give me a completely separate air source if something were to happen to my primary. On my 40 cf system, I also have 2 second stage regulators installed on it instead of just one. So in all, on deep dives I would have a total of 5 regulators and two separate air sources in an emergency. I would rather have too much equipment in an emergency than not have enough when it is needed.
I haven’t yet decided on keeping the octopus regulator attached to my rig or removing it. I guess I will try keeping it there for a while and see how it goes, and if I don’t like it I can always take it off later.
Since my current scuba tanks will be due for their annual VIP inspections soon as well as their 5 year hydro inspections, I decided it would be a good time to purchase some new ones.
I added four new 80 cf aluminum tanks to my equipment inventory this week. Two black tanks that I purchased from Island Divers Hawaii’s new Schofield Barracks dive shop, and two bright yellow tanks that I ordered from Scuba.com. All four tanks have Pro Valves on them so that I am able to use wither yoke or DIN regulators, giving me more options for later upgrades if I decide to.
I will be using the new black tanks for regular air, and the new yellow tanks will be dedicated to Nitrox fills. I will be using my old tanks as spares for now until I decide what to do with them.
The tanks from Scuba.com were the most expensive because I had to pay full price, along with the high shipping costs to Hawaii. They cost me $276 for both of them, plus another $195 for shipping.
I was able to get both of the black tanks from Island Divers Hawaii for $239 with my 30% employee discount because I am a DMC with them. Normally they are $215 each plus tax so I saved a mint by getting them from Island Divers Hawaii. They even threw in the first fill on each of them for free.
Up until now I have been using the Oceanic OceanPro 1000D which is a jacket style BCD, primarily because it was on sale as a package at the local dive shop when I signed up for my Open Water certification however I have never really been happy with it.
The OceanPro 1000D did not fit me very well at all because I am in-between Large and Extra Large sizes. I assumed that I would be able to use the adjustable straps to make it fit better, however this turned out not to be the case. It always flopped around on me underwater and I had to constantly adjust it throughout the dive, so it was time for a change.
I checked into more expensive back plate style BCD’s that the other instructors were using, but I just could not afford to invest that much money into something that I had no experience with to know if it would work better for me or not. I finally decided on the Excursion 2, back inflate BCD from Oceanic which I was able to try on at Island Divers Hawaii’s brand new Scofield Barracks location and it fit me like a glove.
The Excursion is a back inflate which took some getting used to instead of inflating around my sides, but I found this actually more comfortable. When the BCD is fully inflated on the surface it does not feel like it is squeezing or suffocating me. On the first dive using the Excursion 2, my trim and buoyancy drastically improved and I was able to loose 4 pounds of my weights immediately.
I have been using the Excursion 2 for a week now and I absolutely love it. It has plenty of “D” rings positioned down both sides between the bladder and the vest, as well as more above and below the side pockets and on both shoulder straps. These are not the cheap plastic “D” rings that were on the OceanPro 1000D, these are sturdy stainless steel and are actually meant to be used instead of just being for looks.
The Excursion 2 also has mounting grommets on the side pockets to attach a Spinner Knife and two built-in trim weight pockets on the tank strap.
Because of my past experiences and fears, I always dive with a 3 cubic foot Spare Air alternate air source which can be difficult to mount to a jacket style BCD, but with the Excursion 2, I can mount it on the “D” rings going down the side and it tucks nicely right behind and under my arm, I don’t even notice that it’s there and have to reach back every once in a while to make sure it’s still with me. It feels so comfortable there and does not affect my trim at all. It is almost like it was meant to be attached to this BCD in that location.
With the Excursion 2 BCD I now have the option of diving with a single tank mounted onto my back, or side mounted tanks with the built-in “D” rings on the sides if I decide to pursue that PADI specialty. Unfortunately I have not been able to locate an instructor in Hawaii that offers that course as of yet, but I am still looking.
Overall, for the price, I think this is one of the best equipment upgrade decisions I have made. I love the new Excursion 2 from Oceanic.
My Product Rating: