Not quite SCUBA…

I hope the reference to ‘Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus’ wasn’t too obscure and you are not reaching for the ‘esc’ button just yet.

Of all of my various ideas (could they be called innovations?) that have been covered in the yachting publications and mentioned in this website, the underwater breathing system has had most subsequent enquiries for more information. I have only mentioned it in passing in blog posts so, it makes sense to make a more detailed explanation of the system so ‘here goes’…

I have been fascinated with diving and breathing underwater since my childhood, the prospect of exploring the inaccessible has always been compelling. Qualifying as a BSAC diver just reinforced the acknowledgement of the safety conscious regulatory aspects of diving, the need to certify and refill bulky bottles was not attractive to me on a yacht so I looked for alternatives outside of the conventional strictures. For some time, I had been considering ideas for a simple onboard pumped air system but I had always fallen short of actually trialing my ideas.

Quite by chance, I found myself sat next to a retired Royal Navy Diving instructor at a Southerly Owners Association function and I floated (probably the wrong word) my ideas and explained my problems in trying to interest the diving establishment in the philosophy. I considered  his ‘no reason why not, give it a go’ comment rather encouraging if somewhat similar to the Swallows and Amazons telegram – ‘Better drowned than duffers if not duffers wont drown’.

I saw no problem in pumping air, I already had a Hozelock pond aerator pump which I could utilise, the issues started at the mouthpiece, and it was here that the diving establishment, with their addiction to the complicated ‘high pressure demand valve system’ couldn’t or wouldn’t come to terms with the simplicity of my suggestion.

So, Heath Robinson, once again came to the fore and my solution is simplicity itself. There are versions of the proprietary snorkel which vent air and unwanted water (usually when purging) through a valve at the base of the unit. To my mind, a continuous supply of air would just blow an irritating but acceptable stream of bubbles when not actually breathing in.

This initial system works well and is simplicity itself. It allows easy access to all underwater parts of your yacht for extended periods which is really useful. I guess that my descriptions will need to bear the caveat that any utilisation of my suggestions are at the adopter’s discretion and risk.

Air supplied by a Hozelock pond aerator pump is fed through a filter (which is not actually necessary) and through the hose usually used for filling the water tanks.
A very simply adapted snorkel to allow standard Hozelock hose connection.
The snorkel has a vent valve positioned below the mouthpiece which exhausts the air when not breathing in.
This is a picture of John Coe spending a considerable amount of time underwater cleaning the propeller at Les Saintes in the Caribbean. You couldn’t wish for a better crew – in every respect; he is happy to helm all day and never shy with the jobs as you can see – his cooking isn’t up to much mind you….
This is a picture of me ministering to keel fouling, fully lowered at 3 metres, again in Les Saintes. This is the limit of the Hozelock pump pressure but still very adequate for the usual yacht necessities. You can see the fouling on the hull despite the copper-coat treatment and a thorough high pressure clean in Antigua.

In the spirit of always trying to improve, I am addressing some shortfalls in the system I have described above. I am working on a rechargeable battery powered pump eliminating the dependence on a fixed power supply and delivering more pressure enabling greater depths – 16psi is required to achieve a depth of 10metres. This would allow independence from the ‘mother ship’ and exploration into more marginal areas with the support of the trusty Avon dinghy – and a ‘buddy’ of course.

I hope I am not a nerd (you can challenge that!) but the idea of prospecting for lost artefacts underwater is something that fascinates me. So, I am also investigating underwater metal detectors and magnets. It may only yield a lost mobile phone or a bunch of keys but I could also find ancient treasure – that prospect is adequate motivation to keep me exploring so, watch this space!

10 thoughts on “Not quite SCUBA…

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    1. Thanks for your question Conor. I don’t actually think there is any necessity for a filter from this pump but it just seemed a prudent precaution. I have used an ‘off the shelf’ water filter which is probably completely wrong but was readily available. Incidentally, I am working on some adaptations to the system to address the 3 current shortfalls. The constant bubbles from the bottom of the snorkel rise in front of the mask disturbing vision. I am adapting a full face, anti mist mask which returns the exhaust air up the snorkel tube at the back of the head. The other two shortfalls involve the pump. The pond aerator pump will not pump below 3 metres and being mains supply, ties the range to the curtilage of the yacht. I am looking at a battery paddle board inflator pump which would mean it can be carried in the dinghy and the inflation pressure should allow access to a greater depth. Watch this space !

  1. We are very impressed by the ingenuity and the bravery. Can you get that boat down to us in locked down Sydney? We are allowed out to sail!

  2. Presumably you will use the PATED (Pumped air to extended depth ) more and more!

    The Skipper wants the PATED to work
    As getting deep down had made him berserk
    The crew will have pleasure
    When he returns with some treasure
    And hope they can share in the perk

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