Closed Circuit Rebreathers (CCR) are becoming more prevalent here amongst Roatan’s divers. While always seeming a little “out there” compared to the Scuba (Open Circuit) diving I am used to, and only seen at trade shows and video documentaries, there have been a half a dozen come by the shop in the last year or so. Frequently returning divers Tom Thomson, and Mike Akers, have tested their credit cards out on the purchase of rEvo™ brand CCRs with indebting success, and now are plying under Roatan’s waters bubble-lessly.
The CCR units are very impressive in their abilities to allow extended bottom times, minutely control oxygen levels in the breathing gas to reduce decompression, and run almost silent with only the clicking of a relay with each breath, and without the roar of escaping bubbles so familiar in Scuba. With the silence and lack of clouds of bubbles, the underwater creatures are supposedly less disturbed or frightened by the divers, and some actually curious enough to approach and be inquisitive.
In hopes of joining you living vicariously through their experiences, I asked Mike to relate the happenings on a dive involving three divers on rebreathers, and an extended two hour dive along the reef walls of Roatan.
With any new technology there comes new vernacular, and to that end we offer a glossary at the end of this post for clarification
The Two Hour Dive
“The best way to observe a fish is to become a fish.” – Jacques Eves Cousteau
When January 2018 rolled around I decided to take another one of my many trips to West End divers, which is not unusual since I go down there 2 or 3 times a year to dive. Maybe even a little more often lately since I received my training and certification on closed circuit diving in January 2017, I have never looked back!!
On the second or third day of a recent visit Gary threw out the offer to the 3 re-breather divers (Tom, Kristian, and myself) if we would be interested in doing a 2 hour+ dive. Of course we were interested! What could possibly go wrong......
On the boat with us were 6 or 8 open circuit scuba divers as well. With the 2 rEvo's and the Optima filled up with sorb and some voodoo gas we jumped in first down current from the "bubble blowers" with the intent of doing 1 long dive in the same time frame as they did 2 dives. Our group of 3 closed circuit divers descended a little (?) deeper than the recreational limits and proceeded to drift along.
What an incredible dive! We had a big Eagle Ray approach us and swim around us, not sure of what we were. A very close and personal encounter with a beautiful pelagic animal! No sooner than the Eagle Ray's exit, a large school of Horse-Eye Jacks proceeded to swim with us, incredible!
Approaching the 2 hour mark we started making our way up shallower for deco. The timing could not have been better; the open circuit divers were just finishing up their 2nd dive. Love it when a plan comes together!
I'm so glad I took the plunge (sorry) of switching to re-breather diving and being able to experience the up close and personal interaction with the animals. Every dive with my machine reinforces why I switched to closed circuit diving.
I would like to extend a very heartfelt THANK YOU to Gary and rest of the staff at WED for a dive that I will not soon forget.
Already have my next trip planned. Looks like the 2 to 3 times a year may have been underestimated!!
Open Circuit – Standard Scuba diving and standard equipment using tanks of compressed air.
Closed Circuit Rebreathers – Bubble-less diving with a unit that scrubs used air in a closed loop breathing system, with oxygen levels computer monitored and adjusted to the moment.
rEvo™ - A Closed Circuit Rebreather unit
Optima™ - Another Closed Circuit Rebreather unit
Sorb – An absorbent material resembling kitty litter, but a bit more expensive, which the diver’s exhaled breath passes through to remove the carbon dioxide.
Voodoo Gas – WTF?
Bubble Blowers – A derogatory term used by rebreather divers denoting those coolest of underwater enthusiasts; Scuba Divers.
Recreational Limits – Recreational Dive Limits - 130 feet deep, and not an inch more.
Deco – Short for “decompression”, a safety obligation created by pressure which requires divers to stay underwater for a designated time.
The Box – A Rebreather
My Machine – A Rebreather.