Monday, March 30, 2015

What in the world is a Sand Dog?

In 2004 six random divers who didn't know each other from Adam got together via the internet and decided to meet up in Orange City Florida to do some double hose diving. 
I remember flying into Orlando and driving over to Orange city wondering what I had gotten myself into.......I didn't know any of these guys other than reading their posts on a website message forum....Was this some kind of weird cult or random abduction scenario I was falling into? Would I be paraded down Main Street on a donkey forced to wear a grass skirt with a mask on my forehead proclaiming my love for Mike Nelson while onlookers in the crowd hurled spears at me ???
As it turned out nothing quite like that happened but the weekend was none the less as colorful. 
I first met up with Broxton Chuck as he drove slowly though the parking lot of the motel in his vintage Chevy Manta van staring at each person and calling out in his radio announcers voice....Hey are you that Bryan guy on the computer....Hey lets go diving.....Double hoses for everyone......For those of you who know Chuck he is quite a colorful and humorous character although a little unnerving at times.  

Shortly Rob, Joe Tom and his wife Cindy joined up with us and we spent the evening just setting around talking about diving, dive gear and the world in general.  Turned out to be a great group of people who enjoyed diving and having a good time. 

We dove together most of the day in Blue Springs and were fortunate that Tom and Chuck had brought their portable compressors so we had plenty of air on demand.

After a day of diving we did what all other divers do which is set around and tell stories. Chuck was even nice enough to take us to his favorite restaurant in the area.

Next day we ventured over to Alexander Springs which is a great dive site for anyone who is new to double hose diving or has a lot of varied gear they want to check out.  The water is amazingly clear and the walk to the water is not too far and you have a lot of room to spread out and socialize. 

We all had a great time diving together and getting to meet up with like minded divers.

You might be wondering when I'm going to explain the name Sand Dog......Well that's a story that is better told in person because my horrible writing style wont do it the justice or comedy that it deserves.  It actually has nothing to do with this trip, or canines at all but we retrofitted the name anyway.
2015 will be our 12th Sand Dog celebration and previous years have taken us from the Bahamas to The Thousand Islands in New York.  We are back at our original site this year and I'd like to invite anyone who dives a double hose or who is interested in diving one or just learning more about them to please come and join us.  I think we are a pretty easy group to get along with and even if you don't dive I'm sure you will get a kick out of the characters we have in the group. 

See the Message Forum at Vintage Double Hose or the Vintage Double Hose Facebook page for more details on the event and how you can join up with us!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Vintage Valve Types

I had a blog post ready for today but instead I'm bringing you a nice overview of valves done by Alan and Luis over the past couple of days. Great information that I hope you will enjoy!

LINK TO PDF ON VALVES by  Alan and Luis

CORRECT WAY to use a wrench to remove a valve from the cylinder.
Force of wrench is pushing away from O ring Groove.

WRONG WAY to use a wrench on a valve. 
Force of wrench is pushing into the O ring groove.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Double Hose Regulators rise from the ashes.

One of the biggest complaints divers had about the double hose was they did not have the option to use high and low pressure accessories when diving with them.  Most active divers today were trained using pressure gauges, power inflators and safe 2nd stages.
Even in the 50's companies like Mar-Mac were making banjo fittings to allow use of a Sea-View pressure gauge and in the 60's US Divers added one to their catalog. In 67 they made all their regulators with a longer yoke opening  to accommodate this type of fitting as demand for pressure gauge use increased.
I have seen pictures and received a few first hand examples of devices made to adapt the Hookah port fitting for use with low pressure devices long before I started manufacturing the one used today.
Late in the game Voit made the Trieste model double hose which did have high and low pressure ports but it's high work of breathing due to design flaws made it a poor choice to begin with.

In 2005 setting around the campfire at Lake Wazee Wisconsin, Luis proposed his idea to redesign and improve the first stage on US Divers and Voit double hose regulators that would not only give high and low pressure ports but would improve performance. and a few months later the idea became a reality.

The initial prototype had only high pressure ports but was easy to install and setup using mostly off  the shelf parts from the Conshelf and Titan section of the Aqua-Lung catalog.  After evaluating the first one, low pressure ports were added.
If memory serves me correct we made 12 initial first stages with high and low pressure ports and sent them out to divers for evaluation......Needless to say the Phoenix was an immediate success!
The banjo fitting and hookah port adaptors had worked well in the past but the Phoenix was a giant step forward into reviving the interest in diving a double hose regulator and getting it accepted into a community of divers used to having all the bells and whistles of modern equipment at their disposal. And by simply removing the ancillary devices the regulator was back in original configuration and you could dive it as it was originally designed.
After the first few went out Luis made a couple of revisions to improve on the design by reducing the space between the first stage and regulator body and making some internal airflow improvements.

Since those revisions the Phoenix first stage has remained unchanged other than cosmetics.

When the Argonaut was finished I let the supply of Phoenix first stages run out thinking that the demand would not longer justify the cost of producing them.  I was wrong.....An immediate backlash from customers who still wanted the Phoenix for their future projects and to have one alongside their new Argonaut.
There are over 500 Phoenix first stages out in the field covering divers around the globe.

Adding a Phoenix to your regulator is the cornerstone of improving performance on your DA/Royal or Voit Navy regulator. With the addition of the HPR 2nd stage, improved main diaphragm and duckbill eliminator exhaust valve you can bring your regulator into the realm of modern high performance regulators.

Click Here to learn more about the Phoenix on the Vintage Double Hose website. 
There is also a place on the website message forum devoted to the Phoenix for more information. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Restoring gauge face lenses by Herman

Often times the plastic lenses in USD pressure and other similar gauges become cloudy due to scratches and other damage. These lenses can be restored to very good working condition in a few minutes with simple tools or if you care to take the time to almost perfect condition.  Below is an example of such a lens and the way I restored it. This particular lens was not in too bad of a condition but much worse lenses will respond just as well .

The first step is to remove the major or scratches and damage. I start with 400 to 600 grit wet/dry sandpaper taped to a flat surface. A piece of glass works well but I find a slick 12x12 inch  ceramic tile to be prefect, it’s heavier and less likely to break than glass. I choose the grade of sandpaper  based on the damage to the lens, the deeper and more extensive the damage the coarser the grain I start with but I would not suggest much more than 400, otherwise you will  be causing a lot more scratches you will have to later remove. Depending on the lens damage you may need/want to polish the lens with increasing grits of paper, on this lens 600 followed by 2000 was OK.  Once I have all of the scratches and damage remove I switch to a much finer grit, usually 2000 to get the intermediate finish. This finish should be a fairly even milky white with faint scratch lines, your first reactions should be that you have made things much worse..don’t worry, you haven’t.  When sanding use lots of water to keep down heat, MOVE IN A FIGURE 8 PATTERN keeping even pressure on the lens. DO NOT use one linear or circular motion and DO rotate the lens around, the objective is to keep the polishing as even across the lens as possible.

Once you have completed the final sandpaper polishing you should have a lens that looks something like this.

Next you do the final polish. In the past I have used auto finish buffing compound and a cloth wheel on a Dremel tool. This works well but can messy and many may not have Dremel tool. I found an alternative that worked very well and requires no additional tools than the 12x12 tile used earlier. I wrapped the tile in one layer of an old but clean t-shirt, wet it then soaked it in a plastic headlight restoring compound (both it and the wet/dry sandpaper can be gotten at any auto supply). After you have the scratches out you can buff the lens farther by rubbing it briskly on the dry surfaces of the same T-shirt, just be careful not to overheat it.
The finished product. I did not remove all the scratches since this will be a working gauge and will likely get  scratched up soon anyway but as you can see it is much better. The entire process took 15-20 minutes, it is possible to remove all the scratches and have a like new finish if you care to take the time.

By Herman Mowrey…..Brought to you by Vintage Double Hose.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Balanced First Stage Double Hose Regualtors

In 1964 US Divers introduced the Royal Master.  The first double hose regulator with a Balanced first stage.

To understand what makes these first stages different than those preceding them CLICK HERE for a detailed explanation by Luis. 

The Royal Master only stayed in the US Divers line for two years after which it was called the Royal Aqua Master where it remained with minor changes until it was discontinued around 1973.
The balanced first stage is really the only difference between the Royal Aqua Master and the DA Aqua Master and parts are interchangeable between the regulators. 
The constant IP pressure despite changes in cylinder pressure and easy breathing made the Royal a favorite of divers around the world.  US Divers advertised it  as The Regulator For Those Who Demand The Very Best.
One of the myths about US Divers regulators is that a crown sticker makes it a Royal...This is incorrect as Mistrals and DA's often had crown stickers on them.  There is a way to tell a Royal from a DA even if the label is missing. CLICK HERE for info. Through the years many parts have been switched between the millions of regulators produced so it's a good idea to be sure you are buying what you think you are buying. A Royal Aqua Master is more valuable due to it's balanced first stage but we have often seen regulators with DA nameplates and Royal first stages installed in them.
 All Royal Masters and Royal Aqua Masters up till 1967 came with short yokes but can easily be updated to a long yoke for use with a banjo fitting.  Some late model Royals came with the heavy yoke and large plastic knob as was used on the Conshelf line of regulators.
Sometime in 1969 USD decided to change the face of the DA and Royal Aquamaster exhaust can to the large circle label. The company was known to be very frugal and used up all available parts before making new ones. It is not unusual to remove the circle label from the exhaust side can and find that it has the indention and tab holes for the earlier square label underneath. The collective thought on this is they simply re-stamped cans they still had remaining in their inventory for the square labels with the large oval recess for the new label till they had exhausted that supply and later manufactured regulator cans would only have the new oval stamping. 
Another observation of mine is that the chrome on the later circle label regulators was not done to the standards of the earlier regulators and flakes off more easily. 
As with the DA and Mistral series there is no need to pay a fortune for a Royal Aqua Master.  They where made in huge quantities and one is just as good as the other. The one exception would be if you run across one of the 25th anniversary gold plated Royal Aqua Masters made in 1969. There is some conjecture if the regulators were given to each of the US Divers dealers or if they purchased them.  I have heard it both ways and have in the past purchased them from dealers that said they could buy multiple units at the time. I think the facts about this are one of those great mysteries we may never know the whole truth about.

The Royal Aqua Master is a great regulator to dive with and one that most double hose divers have in their collection. All parts are available for them as are many new updates that enhance the performance of this great regulator. For a more complete family history Click Here 

The above is a basic overview of the Royal family line of regulators. For further information and more details please visit the Vintage Double Hose Website and website message forum

Friday, March 6, 2015

Bonaire Day 4

Bonaire Day 4

Started the day by Eva and Barb bringing us breakfast sandwiches from Between Two Buns which was about 1/2 block down from BDA. 

Served on fresh rolls that were outta sight and priced was very reasonable. Get to know these folks for sure when you visit!

Our first dive of the day was at Oil Slick Reef. what makes it unique is that it's about a 15' drop into the water from the edge and the walk down can be a little tricky as well.  Nice ladder to get back out so no problems there. 

When we arrived one member of our group was a little apprehensive about jumping off the edge since they had never done so from anyplace this high before......They changed their mind after seeing another diver making their way down to the edge using a cane.... :)
We started the dive going against minimal current so we could make the return trip a drift dive. Most everything we saw on Bari reef was here as well and the bottom contour was about the same as well. the dive itself was nice and uneventful until we made our turn to go back.....Since the current was pulling us along on our return trip I expected to get back to the buoy at the ladder where the entrance was much quicker than it took going out against the current......All of a sudden I see a concret block with a buoy line on it.....I think to myself that we must have moved really fast to be back already?? But it's definitely a block with a buoy so it must be ours...Eva and I surface expecting to see the ladder about 20 yards away but to our surprise we see a large house with an adobe tile roof.....I look to my left and still can't see the ladder at Oil Slick....This is weird.......I know which direction we need to go so I head north on the surface and as I get a few yards up I can see around a rock outcrop and there is the ladder and marker buoy at Oil Slick we were supposed to get out at.  So I guess you could say we had two dives in one on this site. I enjoyed this site because it was more challenging getting in and out but the marine life although very plentiful was not much different than other sites.

Something I have not noted yet.  Upon instructions from Andre we never left anything in our truck aside from bottles of water, towels and flip flops. We left all the windows down as well and took the key diving with us. This way there was no reason for someone to break an expensive window searching for stuff that might or might not have been there.  On most sites there were other trucks and plenty of divers but better safe than sorry. He also told us to keep our lunch money on us and that most places on the island were used to wet currency and it wouldn't be a problem. 

Next dive of the day was at Andrea 1

This is on a long beach with access that can be a little challenging due to slick and uneven rocks. Take your time and plan your interval between waves and it should not be a problem.  This dive had shallow sandy area leading to one berm and then over into the reef. Seem to be a popular site for snorkeling as the shallow are is quite large.  While we were there a catamaran dropped off about 50 snorkelers in the area but it was far enough away to make no difference on our dive.  Simple easy dive with plenty of reef fish and a couple of eels. 

When we got back I asked Eva if she would cook for us since I didn't want the hassle of a restaurant and Rob and I planned on going night diving and we wanted to get started on that before 10pm. She was kind enough to oblige us and despite being shy of some essentials in the kitchen she made us one of the best meals we had on the island.  To her credit she had the ability to combine random stuff like Ramen noodles, Tang and Oreos into a gourmet meal.

Night Dive on Bari Reef

Having the diving dock 20 yards from your room and open 24 hours makes it pretty simple. 
Our night dive on Bari Reef was nice but most of the fish were sleeping ....Did see a couple of nice sized eels who were much more animated than usual but overall the dive was pretty mundane UNTIL THE TARPON FOUND US......Now by Tampa standards these were little tykes but so far in Bonaire compared to the other fish we had seen so far these guys were like Jewfish.  We spent the last half of our dive being used by them as lures for their supper.  They using our lights to spot fish and when they saw one they liked and the light was on it....They swallowed it faster than you could blink.  They would swim close enough for us to barely touch them from time to time but they kept going around us in circles.  There was a full moon that night and if we turned out out lights we could see the reflection of their silver scales as they swam by......We let them swim around us in the dark for a while and as soon as we would click on our lights they would try to hit another fish....Under the dive dock we parked in the sand with out lights off and waved our hands quickly so we could disturb the bioluminescence in the water and it looked like lightning bugs swimming around our hands. The Tarpon took notice of this and swam even closer looking for another easy meal.  Eventually we got tired of being used by them as fishing lures and went back up the ladder.  The Tarpon made this one of the more fun night dives I had done in a while.  

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Non Balanced Double Hose Regulators

Continuing on the info about What Regulator Should I Buy I'm now going to go over the Non Balanced double hose regulators made by US Divers and Voit. Before you go any further please Click Here for a basic overview of what Non Balanced means. Its by Luis from the Technical section of the VDH website message forum.  Non Balanced regulators in the US Divers family would include the Original CG-45 series, Trademark, Broxton, DA Navy Approved and DA Aqua-Master. The Voit VR-2 is the same mechanically as the Broxton Ave regulators and the Navy mechanicals are identical to the DA Aqua-Master. 

I forgot to add a link to another of Dr Ed's videos he made for VDH showing the two stage regulator process. This would apply to all the regulators below.....CLICK HERE

The early regulators up to the introduction of the DA Aqua-Master have a unique non venturi second stage assembly that can be challenging to service and setup. Even when serviced and setup properly they are not easy breathing regulators. The lack of a venturi in the second stage and the unique horseshoe lever do not lend themselves to performance. 
Not to say they don't have their fans and you will see divers using them. They are a very important part of diving history and some of the most coveted by collectors.  Phil Nuytten  among other amazing accomplishments in the world of underwater exploration and diving is a noted expert on the early series of Aqua-Lung regulators and his collection contains some amazing regulators. He also wrote a paper for The Historical Diving Society which was published in their Volume 13, Issue 1, Number 42, Winter 2005 titled Emile Gagnan and the Aqua-Lung 1948-1958. You may be able to order a back issue from them of this. This is a must read for anyone interested in the early regulators.

The DA Aqua-Master series is the workhorse of two stage double hose regulators. Click Here to see the family tree. The link will give you an in depth background on this series history and variations. It was made in the thousands and along with the DW Mistral are the most often seen double hose regulators here in the U.S.

When shopping for a DA don't get get hung up on years and serial numbers....DA's are all the same inside and the parts that fit the first year will work in the last years regulator.  As with the DW Mistral the regulators made after 67 had a longer yoke opening that allowed use of a banjo fitting and pressure gauge. 
DA's are very popular with divers getting started with double hose regulators as they are plentiful relatively cheap, parts are available and servicing one is well within the reach of anyone who is inclined to do so. There are some specialty tools that help with this and Herman has made those available inexpensively and can be found on the VDH website.

The DA series of regulators lends itself to many of the upgrades currently available to improve and enhance it's performance.
You can add an adaptor to the hookah port that will allow you to attach a LP hose for BCD inflator, Safe 2nd stage or Drysuit.
Regulators with long yokes can use a banjo fitting that slips between the regulator first stage and valve to attach a pressure gauge.
Silicone diaphragms, duckbill eliminators and band clamp rings are excellent upgrades that improve performance and make maintenance much easier.
If you want to go all out on your DA series, Upgrading to the Phoenix first stage gives you balanced first stage plus 3 low pressure and 3 high pressure ports.  At the same time upgrade the second stage to the new HPR for the ultimate in DA series performance.
The DA series is a real workhorse of a regulator and with minimal maintenance will give years of trouble free performance and like the DW Mistral are the regulator that most new enthusiasts start out servicing and upgrading themselves.

See the VDH website store and message Forum for more details and discussion.

Next I'll cover the BALANCED first stage double hose regulators.