A Scuba Palace Discussion
A few weeks ago I posted about the difficulties associated with removing and replacing a weight-integrated BCD underwater. I’ve wanted to follow up with a note about replacing the weight pouches themselves.
Online “lost and found” posts are relatively frequent – where divers have tried to track down the owner of a weight pouch they’ve discovered, or those who have lost one imploring others to let them know if they come across it. Weight pouches are critical to a diver‘s buoyancy and an expensive item to replace, not counting the cost of the weights themselves.
For most divers, it takes a bit of time on a dive to register that a weight pouch has slipped from its moorings. The most obvious clue ought to be sudden rising, but sadly, divers are often overweighted so this may not occur. Instead the first clue may be a sensation of not being able to keep straight in the water or a constant rolling toward one side. At some point the source becomes obvious and the search begins.
Nowadays, removing and replacing weight pouches underwater is a skill often demonstrated in the pool… and there are a few videos online showing the procedure. It looks deceptively easy – just a quick tug and they’re out, practicing for the unlikely event in which you’d need to drop them, then a gentle slide back in, followed by the feel of the quick-connector click that ensures they’re latched. If you look closely at these videos, you’ll note that the demonstrator’s pouches don’t contain weights (oh, they have weights hidden somewhere to keep them on the bottom of the pool; you just don’t see them) – no wonder it’s so easy.
When trying to help someone in the river, I’ve always found it extremely difficult to replace pouches in the low visibility, high current, with an assortment of items bulging in a diver’s BCD, with tubes and other items including cameras hanging on the outside, and the lumpy nature of the pouches themselves. This doesn’t include the accompanying angst of not having enough weight.
So… how does one put a pouch back in?
First of all, get your buddy nice and close, holding on to your BCD to help stabilize you.
Take a moment to THINK – about where you are, what you have to accomplish, and the best way to do it. Is it easiest for your buddy (and other divers if available) to hold you in place while you re-insert? Or is it easiest for you to keep still while your buddy re-inserts?
Whichever you choose, ensure that you hold the weight pouch very close to you. As Tim has suggested, even if you cannot stop yourself from rising, it will prevent you from doing so too quickly.
Use the environment and gravity. If you can get a little deeper, do so, as it lessens your buoyancy. Settle on the ground or against a wall or structure or at the very least where there is something you and others can grab on to. Get the air out of your BCD to help you sink and allow more manouevering room around the weight pouch compartment.
Open up the compartment as much as possible, gently slide the pouch in, and click the quick-connect coupling, remembering to test its strength.
Lastly, Ward recently mentioned that when he was unable to get the pouch to slide in, he removed the weights from inside it and placed them in the BCD’s main zippered pocket. Excellent decision – just ensure that the empty pouch gets back to land, either empty in the BCD compartment or carried by a diver to shore.
As for preventing weight pouch loss in the first place? Well, sometimes it’s bad luck – like getting caught on something underwater, but given the location of the connectors at the front of the BCD, this is unlikely. Most of the time it’s because it wasn’t securely fastened at the outset of the dive, something that should be carefully assessed in the pre-dive check. There are a lot of styles out there, so be sure that you and your buddy know the particulars of how yours work.
The problem with losing one at Lock 23 is that it may occur in an area of high current where you may travel some distance before you notice that it’s gone, or in an area of thick weeds at entry or exit where it’s hard to search. Even so, you and your buddy or group may have success retrieving it.
Dropped pouches occur more commonly than you might expect, and a problem we should be carefully assessing at the beginning of every dive.