When low visibility and precise navigation are factors, it is useful to be trained in these skills. This is where you should enrol in the next Underwater Navigator course.
Even when you don’t think you need to, sometimes you are mid dive before you realise you need to figure out your bearings.
This helps you see how things will look, as you head back.
Your sense of direction is more likely to be inaccurate than your compass.
Even skilled navigators mess up sometimes, so plan for it!
Should you come up away from the trail line, in a current for example, have your surface signaling devices handy. Ascend to five metres, inflate your SMB to allow the boat crew to easily spot you and monitor your position. This will also provide you with a point of reference for your safety stop.
When we are talking about carrying extra equipment, cannister lights, bail out cylinders, pony bottles, dive computors, lift bags etc, it quite often becomes very confusing for the newer diver, who wants to delve into the world of tek-reational diving.
I want to start with the very basic placement of your stage cylinder. Many times divers put gear where they are told, many don't even think about what could be better for them, especially within the views of streamlining, deployment when required or ease of carrying and general tidiness.
I base all my gear configuration decisions on accessibility, how and when I am going to use that particular piece of equipment and ease of deployment. You also need to realise the need for streamlining, is to reduce drag.
Think about how your equipment placement will affect your diving trim.
The majority of divers, dive with a single cylinder of air, then along comes tekreational diving, now you find yourself carrying not one but two cylinders. Great for dive duration, great for safety, ease of mind as two cylinders are better than one! Right?
The reality is- two cylinders are really heavy, your buoyancy is all over the place and it is hard to get to this piece of equipment on your back- You struggle for a while and look for better solution, when along comes the idea of a smaller stage cylinder.
I have always recommended before anyone gets too involved carrying a twinset- a smaller stage cylinder, should be a right of passage for all divers. Long before they look at tekreational diving.
Smaller in size and weight, more convenient, less cumbersome and still offering the safety feature, you require whilst diving.
When you carry a stage cylinder, it is carried on the diver’s left side. I use the leaner left, richer right analogy.
When you connect up your stage cylinder, I find it easier to attach the lower clip to the BC waist band D-ring and the top clip is fastened at the BC's left shoulder.
Just keep in mind, when you are diving with multiple stage cylinders, some of the cylinders may be trailed. To use this method- clip your stages by only the neck clip of the stage cylinder onto a D-ring, this allows the cylinders to trail behind the diver.
When carried in this position, it is less likely to interfere with the deployment of your long hose, especially important during an air sharing emergency.
When a dive requires two or multiple stages, I carry these all mounted left, with the gases stacked from the leanest to the richest or highest Oxygen content. So much easier when using an underwater scooter.
This again, frees the right hip for light canister placement.
I notice quite a few divers wear their stages on both sides, with the highest oxygen concentration mix, carried on the diver’s right side. Remember "To each their own!"
Exercise caution when clipping on the right side stage. Make certain the stage has not trapped the long hose, ensure the hose can still be easily handed off in an emergency.
Not everyone is 192 cms, have long octopus arms, can hyperextend their fingertips nor, see how their gear looks- I have found the above method to be comfortable, convenient and easy to remember!
By all means listen and discuss how other divers place their equipment, shift, unclip, re-clip.
Practice in shallow water or a pool, if you have access to one.
Take time and get your equipment placement, just right for you!