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Thread: Hard to draw primary

  1. #1
    TadPole
    Join Date
    11/22/2014
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    Hard to draw primary

    I'm currently working on completing my open water certification in Jamaica. i haven't purchased my own equipment yet so I am using the training centers.
    I know this is long, but I would like some experienced diver opinions...

    After working with the same complete diving package for the 4 confined and 1 open water dives, today I ran into some trouble that maybe someone would be able to help me out with.

    Today I was provided a completely different diving package.

    After setting up, checking, and testing my equipment, I took a couple of breaths from my primary and found that it was very difficult to draw and I was getting only half breaths of air. That did not happen at all with the first diving package I used. When I said something to another instructor on board I was told it would be okay when I got in the water. That doesn't sound right to me but ok, what do I know. Maybe I had too much to drink last night , I was tired, I wasn't feeling really well when I woke up... Ok yep, it's me...

    seas were a bit moderate, 4'-5' chop, and although I am a NY surfer and have been in much larger surf, and grew up on boats and the water, this was nothing I wasn't used to.

    I get in the water and go down the rope about 10' and I just can't get enough air. I stay in place to see if maybe I was breathing heavy due to the turbulence and bouncing boat/anchor line. Okay yes I was breathing a bit heavier but still the air would stop halfway thru my draw.

    i surface to the instructor who was working with my buddy, I explained the problem, and he told me try to use my octopus. It worked perfectly. So I go down on my octo. We give the ok and I proceed down, I am kneeling in the sand at approx 40' waiting for my buddy and instructor who are still at the surface. The currents were bouncing me around, the other instructor and team are leaving me alone, my instructor is trying to signal them to come back and wait, visibility is half what is was yesterday....

    And I'm like..I'm down here about 3 minutes. No one is within 2-3 seconds of me, I have no properly working secondary, no pony tank... This is nothing like my first dive, calm, relaxing, fun!

    I go back up the rope slowly, surface, and my instructor asks me if I am ok.. I tell him I am uncomfortable today, I will go back down another day, so I get on the boat.

    When one of the instructors surfaces and come aboard they ask me what happened. I explain to him about the primary and that I was using the octopus. He said I was probably breathing too hard because of the conditions. I agreed on the breathing part, but when I asked him why I was okay on the octopus and that I had to draw hard for air on the primary he proceeded to tell me that since the regulator was controlling the pressure, the same amount of air was going to each breathing unit. Hmmm. Okay.

    so I say to my self, you mean to tell me that a breathing unit on its own can't be faulty? Well I don't know anything about this diving stuff...

    I do use cutting torches.... And the regulators can work perfectly but if the tip is clogged it doesn't work perfectly...

    is it possible that the primary can be faulty as I felt it to be or was the instructor correct and it was just be breathing too hard?

    I just find it hard to believe that if I made it down fine on the octo, that if I really was breathing too hard for the primary and if it was working properly, or at least working properly but providing insufficient air my needs, that it was okay to not have a reliable second source.... Besides the fact I was alone in 35'- 40'...

    I go back out on Monday...
    Your comments are appreciated.

    Thanks
    steve
    Last edited by Steve50G; 11-22-2014 at 22:04. Reason: Corrections

  2. #2
    Megalodon
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    For starters, welcome to the forum and the wonderful addiction called diving!

    When I took my first class more years ago than I want to remember, the golden rule was the buddy system. Pool, lake, ocean, it didnít matter, ďWhereís your buddy?Ē While thatís still true, thereís another rule that I believe is even more important:ďAny Diver Can Turn Any Dive For Any ReasonĒ.Sounds like you had good reason.

    At first, I was suspecting that maybe the intermediate pressure was low but if the octo breathed fine, itís not IP, itís something in the primary second stage-could be sand, salt buildup, sticking o-ring, a bad spring, anything. My experience has been when a regulator doesnít work well on the surface, it ainít gonna work well at depth. Since itís life support equipment, I want it to work 100% before I get in the water. Iíd rather miss a dive(s) than miss my flight home because Iím either in a chamber or a box or worse, fish food.

    I donít think it was you, without being there and not knowing all that happened, I canít say with 100% certainty: It could be that the reg package you had was the only one available and the instructor was wanting to get things done, so over looked it.I donít know.

    What reg were you using?

    I once saved a man in Wichita just to watch him dive...(inventor)

  3. #3
    Shark snagel's Avatar
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    You did the right thing by calling the dive. Like Navy said anybody should feel comfortable calling a dive at any point no questions asked. For a new diver who is in training you actually done several things correct. The most important you listened to yourself and felt something was not right and acted upon it....Yea for you and if you keep up this type of thinking you will do fine as a diver.

    Like Navy I wasn't there and none of us want to question a dive operator without knowing exactly everything that took place. But, based on what you have told us.... If a regulator isn't working correctly on the surface it won't work correctly below the surface. You should have gotten another regulator that was working (don't risk it, if it appears wrong it probably is - don't chance it). It does sound to me like the regulator was faulty. I'm sure the dive operator didn't have another one or they would have given it to you....sounds like they were just trying to get through the dives. This isn't the correct way to do things and not the correct way to train new divers.

    Monday, I would start fresh and if things don't feel right question them. If you go down this path again, maybe think about changing dive instructors or operators. I don't want to bash the instructor at this point without know all the facts, but it certainly smells wrong.

    Snagel

  4. #4
    Guppy
    Join Date
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    I've been to Jamaica 6 times and did my OW and AOW there. I met a lot of DM's and Instructors down there and many of them were dumb asses and a few are my friends to this day.

    Rule #1 - Any diver can call any dive at any time for any reason. Period. Thumbs Up is a command not a question.
    Rule #2 - Never do "trust me" dives. Regardless of what "level" the divers in the water around you are, you are responsible for your own safety.
    Axiom #1- No problem at the surface ever gets better in the water. (Possibly exception sea sickness.)
    Axiom #2- You don't know what you don't know.

    I your dive as a good life experience for you that will serve to make you a safer diver down the road. Here is what I would do:

    Back home in the states equipment servicing is taboo by the dive shops. But in reality it isn't that hard and I personally think it's part of personal responsibility to know how your equipment works and how to fix it and tune it yourself. In Jamaica, these guys are poor and money will go a long way. Find someone on the staff you are comfortable with, tell them what you told us here and that you are certain there was a problem with your primary second stage. Tell him you are certain the regulator needs work and that you'd like to pay someone on their staff $50-$100 to watch and learn as go through overhauling and tuning it. Money has great sway in that country and they aren't as worried about liability laws or dive shops wanting a monopoly on knowledge.

    As an example, my wife had cancer for a number of years and I retired from diving. She got better and the two of us took a vacation to Breezes Runaway Bay. I was laying on the beech with my wife when an instructor from another vacation at another resort named George came by. He was surprised to see me and asked why he hadn't seen my name on the sign in sheet. I told him about my wife and that I was retired. "Retired Mon?.... Retired? What do you mean Retired? Gibbering I couldn't understand followed by Boat leaves soon mon. Let's go."

    We go to the shop and I told him I didn't bring a c-card. He says no problem mon. Asks me when my last dive was and I say 5 years. He tells me that I need a refresher and that it's $50. I know that I don't need one but I want to give George $50 so I say fine. We went into the back office and sit down where he hands me a regulator that hand been disassembled and ultrasonically cleaned. He walks me through putting it back together and shimming the IP on the first stage and adjusting the second stage. The whole time we just chit chat about diving in general.

    When we are done he hands me the regulator and says that it's my regulator for the week and that my refresher is done. I go through their supplies and find the best BC, the best fins the best mask and put it aside as mine for the week. Some Jamaicans you meet are just the nicest folks.

    Enjoy your vacation and congrats when you get your OW.

  5. #5
    Shark Zeagle Eagle's Avatar
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    Good call on aborting the dive. You are still posting
    --Zeagle Eagle

  6. #6
    Barracuda Founding Member
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    You actually learned one of the best lesson of diving .....You called a dive. Your instructor should be shot for telling you it will work at depth when not 1atm.
    'in media stat virtus'
    Virtue's in the middle

  7. #7
    TadPole
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    Thank you all for the time to respond. I'm 52 and this is my first time diving. Other than my own fins, mask, and snorkel which I bought at my local shop at home, the rest of the equipment was from the dive shop at Sandals where I'm taking the OW certification. Before spending a good chunk of change on the entire package, I wanted to make sure I enjoyed it enough to continue diving. They have a room full of reg's on land but do not take extra sets on the boat when we go out, in hind site, that would be good practice for them to do. Not sure of the brand but will check tomorrow when we go back out.

  8. #8
    No doubt there was something wrong with the primary since the octo worked fine. They both get air on demand from the same chamber and typically octos are detuned so a little harder to breathe from if anything.

    But the instructor telling you it would get better u/w - that's a lie. Whatever was causing it would only get worse as the ambient pressure increased most likely. If it happens again with a different rental, offer to switch with him if he's so sure there's nothing wrong with it.

    Now you get why we buy our own gear and have it tuned regularly.

  9. #9
    Megalodon
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    One other piece of advice - check out the reg and BC BEFORE leaving the dock!

    I once saved a man in Wichita just to watch him dive...(inventor)

  10. #10
    I like diversteve's suggestion to ask the instructor if they'll swap regulators with you. If the regulator isn't good enough for the instructor to use then why is it okay for me to use it?

    I think it is a little harsh to say the instructor was lying. I know my old regulators breathed better at depth then on the surface. If you adjusted them just right it was hard to notice the difference but as they got out of tune they'd breath hard on the surface and better underwater (at like 40+ feet). I can see an instructor WISHING it breathes better underwater rather than wanting to deal with a faulty regulator. I've seen guides and instructors at vacation destinations do things like bang the second stage to see if it made things better or tell people to switch to their octopus. I've had complete regulator failure at 35 feet. I just did a CESA and it wasn't really all the Emergency. It was more of a CSA.

    Would I want to push my luck and dive with untuned or defective gear. Not really. I would call the dive now that I know more about equipment and can detect trouble before I can get in the water. But I also know that we are taught multiple ways of surviving in case one or more ways aren't available. For example, switch to octopus, switch to buddy's octopus, head for the surface. These are all valid options for an open water recreational divers. An instructor or guide who will see you for a short time and then maybe never see you again might be willing to risk your life because experience has taught them they can get away with this... right up until they don't. Essentially, if I'm taking out dozens of divers every week for years I might start thinking it really isn't likely something is going to go wrong. I might start thinking I'm being overly cautious and wasting time/money for the dive operation. However, if you ask the instructor to give you their regulator and let them use your regulator I bet they will think twice about what they are actually doing. Or maybe it won't and the instructor will happily swap regulators with you.

    As far as whether the second stage was faulty or not, it sure sounds like it was to me. I would be incredibly rare for the second stage to have issues and the octopus to work if it was the first stage. More than likely it was a problem in the second stage. Maybe the cracking pressure on the second stage wasn't set properly. Maybe there was a little dirt or something in it. Whatever the situation, it was not working okay. I know as a DM I see a lot of guys testing their second stage to make sure it is okay but I rarely see anyone checking the octopus. So there is a strong chance the octopus isn't working. In which case you and your buddy have eliminated one option for an emergency situation. Switching to octopus or borrowing your buddy's octopus might not be an option and you won't know it until an emergency occurs. The vast majority of divers never practice a CESA after they are certified. If something went wrong they might not think to do the right thing.

    So as a DM I might RATIONALIZE that most divers are probably diving with only one 'secondary stage' regulator most the time anyways. So it is okay if I let you just use the octopus. This isn't right but I can see someone feeling like it is okay.

    It is just like I've seen o-rings or hoses which are leaking slightly and the guide will tell the diver it is fine. In their mind they are thinking they will end the dive when someone hits 500 PSI. The fact your tank is leaking just means we might end the dive earlier than expected and I get to move on to the next class. I'm not too concerned about you getting a short dive because that works in my favor. Again, not right but not surprising. I've had tanks with leaking o-rings and I complain. The guide will push back and try to convince me it is okay. Last time I pushed back and they swapped the tank out for me. I'm guessing while we were on the first dive the boat master fixed the o-ring on the leaking tank and I used that on my second dive. He seemed annoyed that I actually detected the leak before we got in the water.

    It is little stuff like this which separates out a good dive operation and a bad one. In some cases it costs more to keep extra gear around. But in some cases it just means the dive operator has to think about keeping extra gear on the boat.

    As for hooking your gear up before leaving the dock. Good idea in theory but I know a lot of the vacation dives I've been on they often leave the dock before you can get all your gear set up. Even 5 minutes out and they REALLY don't want to head back to the shop. This is why the best option is to get your own gear when you are sure this is for you and you can afford it.

    Finally, it is important to understand that to you you are dealing with Sandals and their scuba operation but the reality is that the people running the resort, Sandals, the dive operators, the instructors and possibly the boat operator could be separate. They don't want you to see the dive instructors arguing with the dive operator or the dive operator arguing with the resort operator. However, if the dive instructor is stuck between you the customer and the dive operator they might think they can push back on you, a new diver, easier than pushing back on an experienced dive operator. When I'm working for a shop I'm doing piece work. I'm not a full time employee of the dive shop (even when I'm on the staff web page). They paid me by the head. So if one student wants a refund I make less money. If I have to reschedule them for another day, I don't get paid until they actually dive.
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