OK, so first question. Where did the original page go? Here.
Secondly: This is over my head. Please some rebreather theory first. Here

Nigel and the Inspiration (take two)
Well I bought my first Inspiration in 2001. It was what is now termed a Classic but, let's admit it, it was the MkII Classic, check the case clips, as APD had released their first version in 1997 and were already improving things. Writing it up then was fun as rebreather diving was a black art and a lot of people thought it was only a matter of time before we all died, "Should be sold with a shovel" was the call. Well I'm sorry to say that I, and many others, have disappointed the prophets of doom. I updated my Classic with the Vision parts when they launched the improved version of the electronics (2006) and I was pleased with it. We did a lot of happy diving together and had a lot of fun. Frankly, most of my fond diving memories have the old yellow box at my back. Writing up my new toy today seems rather dull as Rebreathers are now pretty much main stream diving and I'm not planning doing much special to it. However I've got to do it because otherwise this website will be just wrong.

In about 2008 I was having problems doing the Mod 3 (hypoxic trimix) course on the Inspiration. A previous hobby has left my shoulders damaged and, with the added constraints of a dry suit, I just didn't have the reach that many other people do and I could not do all the required stage handling with the front counter lungs and floppy D-rings without a lot of complications.

This sent me off on a detour into diving a Sentinel for several years but I have had continued difficulties with it and I have realised I was doing less and less diving simply because I didn't want to have to face its problems. Finally I told myself it was time to go back to the old Inspiration before I became a armchair based web diving pundit and died, deservedly, of shame. This was going to be my Christmas present for 2013 to myself.

While I had been away APD had not stood still. Although I think many of us would agree that their original Over-The-Shoulder counter lung system offers the one of the best work of breathing solutions available they are not fashionable now, even for people without my dodgy joints. This meant that I could now order the new model, with the optional Back-Mounted counter lungs, sneaking just a bit over your shoulders, and still get an Inspiration but with simple, one handed access to all the bits I needed.

The whole package I ordered was:
  • Inspiration Vision - so 3L cylinders and 2.5Kg scrubber
  • Back mounted counterlungs
  • Auto Diluent Valve with Flowstop
  • Nitrox & Trimix Software
  • 22.5Kg Wing
  • Scrubber Monitor aka Temp Stick
  • Open Circuit Bailout mouthpiece
  • Lift bar
  • Two side cylinder mount kits

  • I'm not going to describe in detail what I have as you can see it on APD's website, provided you allow for the fact that the model is now rebranded as the Inspiration xpd. I have deliberately gone for a very conservative system with no complicated case and harness redesigns. Notice that I have stuck with the Inspiration xpd not the smaller evp/evo simply because I like the way it sits down with me. Look at the old 2003 picture. I am sitting on a bench with no weight on my back and I just sat down into the rebreather and did up the harness.

    The options I decided not to take up were the CO₂ sensor, as I have some philosophical problems with the implementation, and the wing inflate mini-cylinder which I've been rude about before. I looked suspiciously at the DiveStore dive downloader and deco software dongle which looked like an interesting idea but I'm never short of a laptop on a diving trip. However I'm a sucker for gadgets and the idea of a quick plug in to backup the log while the head is open to dry out between dives rather than having to drag the head to the laptop or the laptop to the head rather appealed (NB: it's pretty obsolete now with the wifi head upgrade). I also bought the new version of the Buddy Blast air horn because I had had one before and it's the sort of thing that even when you've only ever needed it once you always want to have thereafter with the added plus that it's not all black.

    Well, I sent off the money in mid December so I knew I wasn't actually going to get it for Christmas but was unfortunate enough to hit APD's big rebranding exercise at the beginning of 2014. Well perhaps that was why it took well over two months before they had all the bits together to assemble mine and ship it out. This meant that at the beginning of March, after it had been mistakenly sent to the dealer, picked up from there and resent to me at my home address not the office as requested, but where, thankfully, it was taken in by a neighbour that it finally arrived.

    I already have trimix qualifications for the Inspiration but I was obviously out of practice so the first port of call while I was waiting for it to come was a detailed crawl through the downloaded manual looking for any differences between it and my memory. I was rusty but reasonable. Once I got my hands on things only the new bits, like the OCB, seemed odd. Even the jaw-breaker wide bite mouthpiece felt happily familiar.

    So what do I like about the new Inspiration as received?
    Well I filled it with Sofnolime quickly and simply. That may sound trivial but it was one of the big problems I had with the Sentinel where I felt things were over engineered, over tight and jobs that should have been quick and easy were just plain hard work. Here the Inspiration is much more straight forward. Then I filled it with gas, popped in some batteries and fired it up. No histrionics. No fuss. No problems. On the evening of the day it arrived I was sitting in my workshop pre-breathing it within an hour of opening the crate. (Although I nearly jumped in the car to go and buy a set of batteries before I found them hidden in the scrubber canister.)

    It sits up. What I mean is that I can place it on a bench, it stands up on its flat base and then I can just sit into it, feed in my arms, do up the clips and it's all in place. Sitting down there is no load on my back and in a bit of chop or on a RIB this is a very good trick. OK, admittedly it doesn't sit up when you take the tanks out but that's rather to be expected.

    I find the Vision handset reasonably intuitive. OK, you still need to remember the magic key presses to get into the right menu modes but they are not complex and you then step through the options. I have strong views on dive computer and rebreather interfaces and this is one of the better ones. Also it takes orders and, unless it has totally lost the plot, does not give them. I rather feel it wants to be part of the solution not part of the problem.

    I am quite impressed by the new BMCL injectors. They have a light action but are shrouded so they are easy to use but you aren't going to activate them accidentally. Actually they stay in place in the water much better than I expected from looking at the pictures. APD, as ever, have got hoses sorted. If you are trying to reroute something you discover that the hose you want to disconnect is either a snap on fitting or a finger tight barrel seal. I may disagree with the way it arrived set up but mostly that's me being picky about how I want to get into it et al.

    I also like the new harness with its integrated weight pockets. The old weight pockets that I had on my previous Inspo were, at best, tolerable but I had to zip-tie them to the back of the unit to get that. Out of the water their main function seemed to be to make doing up the waist clip impossible on a RIB. The new ones are better, although I'm not sure I'd use them in a 'hand off' situation but at least replacement insides are in the online shop. However I'm not keen on the long, floppy pull-to-tighten, bits and the D-rings under the pockets are still the flapping about type when something like a 'billy ring' (or APD Verti-ring!) would be ten times more practical. The designers should be forced to wear 5mm gloves and a thick undersuit when working on this stuff.

    Drifting into the negatives I am amazed that they still have that wretched standard Auto-Air installed. Something that you are expected to bail out onto that goes seamlessly from breathing your DIL to breathing your remaining buoyancy and therefore leaving you both out of gas AND negative is a Darwin Award locked and loaded. It's not as if there is any way to stop it trying to kill you. Believe me I've had it to pieces all over the bench with an engineering company workshop to hand looking to find a way to separate its two functions because it breathes nicely and otherwise works well. This is one of the reasons I went for the Open Circuit Bailout option.

    A lesser problem was that the OCB itself was, as delivered, very stiff. It made things like a negative check relatively hard and it was not such as simple job to close off the loop as it ought to be. However it only took me a couple of days to get over the 'new' syndrome and then it came apart for a re-lube. I was very careful to remove all the original grease and clean all the parts very thoroughly and then redo it with new grease applied to get a 'shine not a smear' and it is now vastly better: more like the old Classic. It is a one handed - well one hand and a mouth - operation now much as I felt it ought to be.

    When you're putting it on there is an awful lot of things coming over the shoulders in the same place, all trying to snag up on one another. Putting on any complex dive rig is always a bit of a trial but I'm sure something can be done about this. It might just be something simple like some Velcro tape to hold things together rather than letting them just slop about. In the water it's not too bad although the AutoAir does tend to wander off and hide but, thankfully, it is negative so the old 'arm sweep' we teach novices to use to find a regulator gets it back. Interestingly after a couple of pool sessions using it 'underarm' began to feel quite good. Naturally you then have to use the 'pull to dump' feature as holding it up isn't going to happen.

    Why do they expressly tell you the DIL cylinder is not O2 clean? When you buy bulk cylinders I suspect they are all clean and I really doubt that they would ship me valve gear contaminated with hydrocarbons. All they are doing is forcing me to go and spend money getting something that is probably as clean as a surgeon's table cleaned just to get a sticker so some shop can partial pressure blend me a bit of trimix. I'll do it when I get round to it. For now I'll just Haskell in some 'mix I blended up in bigger tanks.

    And the final negative: It's black. Black, black and more black. I couldn't even get coloured panels on the wing I had before, you had to have 'grey' which looks suspiciously like black. I know some divers think black is so cool but I grew up years ago. If I'm diving in dark waters I want something I, or more significantly a buddy, can see and distinguish the parts of if I have a problem. Black is not a colour it is the failure to supply a colour. There are no advantages in black only disadvantages. I hate black.

    So what have I added?
    Well the first obvious must have is suit inflation. Now I can't say that I've ever inflated a suit with Trimix, other than for a short, subjective test in a quarry that didn't really prove very much, but it is bad physics and seriously bad economics. That's the tank on my left hand side clip. As I have no way to breathe it I sometimes put Argon in it, not because I am totally convinced of the enormous advantages of Argon for suit inflation even when you know how to use it (most of the advice given is just plain wrong) but I have it so I might as well put it in if it's going to be really cold that day.

    On the right hand side mount I first rigged a 3L 300bar cylinder of Air. This is something I have done off and on for years and it is the BSAC buddy supply, the bag inflator and the additional no-stop dive bailout. Between that and the DIL I would have 6L of breathable gas so, frankly, I'm better off than most no-stop OC divers if I have a problem mid way through a dive. The reg set on this cylinder has a right angle swivel on the reg which means you can use it from almost any direction, a suit inflate hose because that might be the system that's giving you trouble and a proper SPG. I also use this for moderate deco dives as hanging big stages on yourself in a confined but interesting wreck is not a plus on the life expectancy front and I feel the net safety sum of just carrying this swings towards the positive.

    Obviously both these cylinders are mounted valve down for ease of access. I am not a contortionist. Dive prepped but never been in the water yet I weighed this system as 45Kgs dry weight with no lead. That, obviously, wasn't exactly good news.

    I had also ordered a pile of spares, mostly O-rings, service kits and an oxygen cell because it seemed prudent to have them in the dive box, then a pile of batteries and three tools from the Kent Tooling web-site (yes you do need both sizes of spanner) to help with looking after it. Along the way I made the happy discovery that my current Metalsub clip on cylinder mounts, that I bought for my first Inspiration and had moved to the Sentinel, are an exact fit with the APD parts. I knew they were the same maker but I was happy to discover they were the same size.

    So first club pool night comes...
    For its first splash into water I set it up with the two off-board cylinders and I dressed up in my undersuit, the Otter Britannic drysuit, my gloves were taped to my wrists and my hood was pulled over my head and then down round my neck. It was the complete weight check rig although in warm pool water I felt felt like a 'boil in the bag' ready-meal before the evening was over. I was a bit disappointed with the amount of weight I needed. I ended up with 7Kgs in the pockets and another 4Kgs nestled on top of the scrubber. That gave me a nice, even, horizontal trim on minimum loop with the wing pretty much flat and the drysuit no more than comfortable. I might be inclined to add more than the usual 3Kgs adjustment for salt water before going in the sea as I could want to inflate the suit a bit more for warmth. That's a lot of lead and made it very difficult to get it back out of the water still fully loaded.

    At first I want it ready to do simple club diving from our boats so this needs thinking about. I'm not sure about handing up pockets on a RIB dive but the whole rig is far to heavy with the weight integrated and left in to expect it to be pulled aboard by people expecting a single 12. I can lose the pocket weight into a belt and hand that up but maybe I ought to demount the bailout cylinder and stage-hang it when diving from a RIB so I can hand it up separately too.

    Another thing that became evident doing shutdown and control drills was that the way I had the cylinders rigged on the off-board mounts rather impeded access to the rebreather's internal tank valves. Looking back at photographs I had the clips on my previous Inspiration, long before there was a factory kit, set much higher for just this reason. The valves were just manageable but wearing gloves that might be a different matter.

    The 3/300 is more of a problem because not only does it block access to the oxygen valve but I'm worried about the weight it adds. A quick dangle in the water-butt says that fully rigged, including the mounting bracket, it weighs 8.2Kgs dry and 3.7Kgs wet. This means that if I dispense with it I need to add nearly another 4Kgs on my belt but it is nearly 20% of the weight of the full rig. Another possibility could be to swap the Faber 3/300 steel for one of my Dräger 2/300 carbons. OK, I only get two thirds the gas but the actual cylinder and valve goes from 6.7Kgs to 2.1Kgs so my dry weight is down by 4.6Kgs and, since it displaces less, the wet weight should go to virtually neutral. Neutral is rather good as it becomes optional and doesn't change my weight belt. Since I have spare MetalSub brackets I rig them both so I can try them. (see Photograph).

    Other snags? Nothing much. The flow-stop on the ADV defeated me. I managed it a couple of times but the nest of hoses made it difficult to identify things. The buzzer sits right in the wrong place. This will need some attention before I want to touch that in gloves. Also I must memorise pull (forwards) to shut off and learn to distinguish the sliding part from the rest by feel.

    Oh and the Auto Air wanted to blow bubbles a few times so I'll slack off the nut a fraction. Yea... Work of breathing... I know.

    Well it spent a week sitting on the workbench at home being messed with trying to improve things. Most of the big gains were little changes like slightly rerouting hoses and then restraining them so they were in the right place to put it on and stayed in the right place once it was on. That might sound trivial but it makes a lot of difference when you don't bend very well. Then I swapped the 36" drysuit hose I originally had for the 31" version so it routed in a bit more snugly. I might do the same to the OCB hose but I'm not quite sure yet where 'neater' ends and 'restrictive if I turn my head' begins yet but I've ordered one that's a bit shorted (in blue) to try. I also swapped up a size on the HUD holder and moved it to the other side so it didn't mess up my head-cam sighting grid.

    The second night in the pool
    Oh well it's boil in the bag diver time again. The first really significant change was using a weight belt. I started with 12Kgs in it being the 7Kg I used the first week, 4Kg more to compensate for not carrying the 3/300 and another 1Kg to top up the trim weights and give me a bit more room to blow up the suit. I had found the (not obvious) trim pockets on the wing and folded two 1.8Kg lead blocks into them. I initially found it hard to get off the surface so I added another 2Kg but later on unloaded 7Kg into the pool floor before I felt I was getting too light. Also waving a 2Kg weight about I realised I needed another 2K in the trim pockets to get mindlessly level trim, probably because the last check I did was with the 3/300 mounted.

    The belt will obviously have to gain 3Kg in the sea and I'll probably change the distribution between belt and pockets depending on whether I'm RIB and hard boat diving. I think my initial 'start weight' with an extra 2K in the trim pockets will be 8Kg for fresh water and 11Kg for salt. I'd hope to reduce it a bit as I readjust.

    I slid the suit bottle up 10cms in the clips, it looks a bit weird now strapped on half way out of the bracket (I would say "see the picture" but a lot of it is black, black on black), but it is actually solid and stable and just being able to grab the DIL valve feels a lot better.

    Leaving off the 3/300 brings the total dry weight down to 40Kgs (including the trim weights) so it's in the same league as twins (apx 35Kg empty but 41Kgs full) or a 15+pony (apx 25/30Kg).

    So I pumped it some more gas but didn't bother with changing 'lime as I had put less than an hour on it so far and took it back in the pool. It just worked. I messed about checking things, making my hands do drills so they know where things are. Giorgio had his camera and kindly took time off helping the students to shoot me some pictures. Nothing much else to report other than it was pointed out to me that my suit inflate reg was oozing a stream of bubbles so a new O-ring was required. So that's it set up ready to go and dive.

    I finished off by playing one of my favourite rebreather in the pool tricks. I shut off the oxygen and waited to see how long I can live on just the O2 in the first stage and the hoses. The SPG took 11 minutes to go from 200bar to zero but I didn't bother to wait for it to go right down to the low-O2 alarm. When I finally got out of the pool, after about three quarters of an hour, I was amused to see that due, probably, to the cold night and the warm water I had, apparently, finished the dive with more gas than I started with. Oh well. That's rebreathers for you.

    The third night in the pool
    I wasn't really expecting a third night because it wasn't on the calendar but the committee had booked it so I went along. There wasn't actually anything left I wanted to test so I bunged 8Kg on the belt, put on my hood and nice warm 5mm gloves and played with my valves. So now, yes I can work the three tank valves (O2, DIL and suit) in gloves. I can work the isolator on the ADV. I can do the mouthpiece shut off. It all trims out nicely, it's fun to dive so I'm looking forward to dropping it in the sea.

    And proper dives
    From a hard boat out of Eastbourne... It was everything it should be. The only things that bothered me were the octo reg bubbling a bit more than I liked, when you've only got 3L of diluent on a 40+ meter dive that's not quite what you want. On these dives the counterlungs seemed 'small'. I seemed to bottom them out rather easily plus there seemed to be quite a bit of work-of-breathing. Next time I was careful to flatten the CLs out before committing to the harness and it was OK. I must have folded one up a bit.

    I decided to swap the TX40 octo for a TX50 so I could wind the breaking pressure up and, after some deliberation, removed the weights from the wing pouches and stuck 5Kg in shot bags on top of the scrubber. I did this on the classic and although it always made me slightly nervous that my weight was dependent on the case staying shut it never went wrong (although the dive where I simply forgot to install it I froze as I had to run the suit in 'shrink-wrap' mode and keep the counterlungs on a more extreme version of minimum loop than normal).

    Then I took it on the BSAC club holiday to Cornwall so I put my 75 watt FaMi can-lamp on the right hand side Metalsub adapter. Buddy diving meant some free ascents just watching somebody else working the reel which told me to drop another 4Kgs and now it begins feels like the old one. Just a bit bitchy to get off the surface but it needs so little gas to trim out that it can be controlled by bubbling a little at the mask and waving my hands about to go up and down. I might tweak off another kilo next time out and move some more up as trim as I was a touch foot heavy. I'm already back to using 30bar each side to do a dive - I like that, the first few dives were way up. Photo by Roy Wood.

    Yes, after seeing that picture when I got it home, I took 160mm out of that BOV hose and made sure the buzzer was strapped in better.

    Diving it lead to a whole bunch of other detail changes. I took the tummy pocket off the Sentinel and fitted that, this is where I have carried my EPRB, my yellow blob, my telescopic flag and my shears on a retractor for ages. I also mended the kidney dump pull that got in a fight with a trolley and lost. This set me thinking about a shoulder dump and with a piece of plastic pipe I fabricated one on the right hand side using the APD over-pressure valve which is just a pull to dump without a string.

    Actually taking it diving also made me formalise how I carried stuff out of the water. I found a big toolbox with real steel interlocks to hold the lid closed and put all the rebreather oriented stuff in there. This meant I carried a rebreather, this box and the suit/fins kit onto the boat and I was ready to dive. The picture shows it with the suit bottle, the can lamp and the pocket pouches in the bottom and the two shot bags for the trim and other stuff in the lid. It has some small boxes in the outside of the lid for tools, spare batteries and repair stuff. Being black on black it doesn't photograph well. Loaded it weighs 26Kgs so it spreads the load quite well making the rebreather itself at 32Kgs quite manageable.

    After about six months I was in the Farnes and I had some cell trouble which I had never had before. Since Telidyne had quit the rebreather cell market because, I believe, they were tired of being cited as a co-defendant in liability trials that APD then won, but only after lots of legal fees had already been run up. Poor old APD then went through several cell manufacturers to get something that worked as consistently as the old cells. I won't bore you with my version of the AP12/14/16 saga but I found I needed a cable to connect to the SMB connector on a cell to read off the voltages because it's a bit small and I'm too clumsy to just do it with the usual voltmeter probes.
    I bought a couple of solder/crimp SMBs on Ebay (my preferred go to site for small quantities because it's click-click-paypal-click-done) and made up a lead. The best tricks were proper rubber sleeving (which applies beautifully with smear of diver's vet lube) and soldering a bolt down solder tag on the side so you don't tear your fingers to shreds trying to pull it out afterwards.
    APD listened to my tale of woe, with voltages and a rebreather memory dump, asked for the cells back to inspect and replaced them all. It might have been annoying if I had missed a week or so when it I could have dropped off the club boat but I had other things on so I couldn't have done it anyway. APD are still one of the suppliers I trust pretty implicitly to do the right thing.

    OCB
    Well the one new part I'm not getting on with well is the OCB, the Open Circuit Bailout valve. This is the part that shuts off the loop and substitutes an ordinary scuba regulator either to breath from in an emergency or just to seal off the loop when the mouthpiece is not in your mouth. Now I'm writing this after 18 months of ownership but I'm still not happy. It works well enough if you grab it with both hands and turn it solidly but it keeps going into 'stiff' mode and it is awkward to open and close. I'm not sure what the solution is. I seem to need to re-lube it every time I clean the loop hose and to practice more so my hands get used to it. I rather preferred the 'knob on the front' approach of the 'Bob' OCB that I had on my original system or the similar system on the Sentinel than this part where the bit you want to turn is in your mouth and the hose is encumbered with stuff. I'm not quite sure where to go with this but the more clutter I add to the hose, the lights and the HUS, the more problematic it gets. Of course if I could get a KISS Snog valve I'd be a happy bunny...

    Weight
    One question that often comes up is how much weight does it need in the pockets? People want to compare it to their own rig. Well the thing itself is refreshingly neutral. In the pool I put 4Kgs on top of the scrubber to sort out the trim and I can dive it in the shorty with just the same 3Kgs on my belt that I use to freedive. This is, of course, without the drysuit bottle and the canister lamp that are my usual bolt-ons for real diving. With that I can trim out with the wing empty at less than one meter and glide around the shallow end just off the bottom. I tend to think that is the most brutal test of buoyancy control.

    Add the suit cylinder, the lamp, the drysuit and sea water to the equation and it works out as the same 4Kgs of trim weight with 5Kg in the right hand pouch and 6Kg in the left. This gets me back to the buoyancy control by will power alone situation that I like. Rebreathers are a bit bitchy about getting the weight spot on but they pay you back by being wonderful when you do. Incidentally I use shot bags wherever possible because they mould themselves to the space available and are less likely to do damage when dropped on something expensive.

    For the record these are the dry/wet (fresh water) weights of the main accessories rigged on their brackets and with the tanks empty as appropriate:
    3/300 steel pony tank5.95Kg1.91Kg
    2/300 carbon pony tank2.44Kg-0.64Kgthat means buoyant when empty
    2/200 suit tank4.21Kg1.28Kgincluding reg and hose
    Fami 75W torch2.48Kg1.19Kg
    set of regs for the pony tanks1.43Kg0.83Kg
    Apollo scooter18Kg1.9Kg
    a block of lead1.00Kg0.91Kgno kidding

    One figure I get from all this that is useful for planning things is that my dry suit, with hood and gloves, gives me 11Kgs of lift. This probably explains why I need 14Kgs to dive the OC rig dry in fresh water. Being warm is nice but all that lead sucks.

    And then?
    OK, I'm a sucker for shiny new gadgets and so when APD offered a head up display (HUS) and rechargeable batteries I was all over the promo web pages. Now I'll be the first to admit that I don't need either of these, I get nervous diving OC because there isn't something on my wrist reassuring me that what I'm breathing is what I want but it's OLEDs and OLED displays make me go all fangirl SQUEEEE!...
    Well it's not quite as good as the advert pictures, they've rather smudged the pixels, but it's not bad. The lens on the tube projects the screen to about a foot from your face so it's at the same distance as the wrist display is normally. You do retain the flashing LEDs on the standard display, because they are hard wired into the controllers while the HUS is, apparently, driven from the display module, and I know that these are separate items after my Flatline incident in the Red Sea.

    I was a bit perplexed by the kit of bits that arrived. The system comes with comprehensive operating notes but you are rather left to yourself on how to fit it. It obviously goes on the right hand side of the mouthpiece and they recommend wrapping the cable round the hose so I used the two Velcro ended tabs they supplied to lash the buzzer to the other side to normal and that seemed to do it. Admittedly I used to have the disco lights on that side so I swapped them back to the left and dug out the shorter clip to hold them.

    What is it like in practice? Well I was worried that that with your view already obscured downwards by the loop that this was going to make matters worse but it doesn't seem too. I started by mounting it very low so it only just peered over the loop and while that's OK but higher up seems better. You just seem to see round it. I did find it gets in the way when you do a nose pinch or a mouthpiece open/close but the trick seems to be to ignore that and push it straight again afterwards. As the aim to get a full image is a bit critical a tweak to get this right becomes second nature very quickly. Once you get used to it having the magic numbers hard wired into your brain, or so it feels, is wonderful. Doing stops with the ceiling and TTS plugged in just works for me.

    APD offering rechargeable batteries was a bit of a surprise as they have huffed and puffed as to how you shouldn't use rechargeables over the years as they tend to be OK and OK and OK and then die suddenly so all those battery tests at the start of a dive can't trap a cell that's about to pop its clogs. I'm guessing that if APD control the choice of the rechargeable cell then they feel they can characterise it and do a better job of predicting when the dive is all going to end in tears. I poked at the installed unit at the LIDS 2015 Dive Show and decided to go for it as well. Being reasonably paranoid the cells will always get a charge before a dive although I might add a 12V block to my 'save a dive' kit. Oh, and the white stickers on the charger are mine. The light sequence on every charger I own seems to be different so I just label them all up.

    Then they finally reworked the Vision handset. It's been a long time coming but the sort of changes that they need to make in waterproof housings mean that they don't want to run a new design out until it is reasonably sure it will be static for a good few years. AP have given us the long hoped for colour display, lots of memory so it logs all your dives and a Bluetooth download option.

    I'm quite pleased with it. It might not be as revolutionary as the HUS but I like real buttons that move so it makes my diving simpler and that suits me. I'm not going to use the screen colour editor they provide to tweak the colours because I don't care that much but it's a nice feature. You do need to protect the buttons while kitting up as I've managed to switch it off once.

    Overall I would say that the changes that they have rolled out since I got this new unit have been solid improvements. I confess I don't dive as much as I used to now but having the 'best mix for the dive' that a rebreather gives me is probably even more important as I grow older. Maybe I wish it didn't weigh quite so much but much of that is lead to deal with the unavoidable airspaces that a rebreather must have to give it a free-flowing loop. I'm pretty sure I've got a good few years diving left in me but I suspect I won't ever fill the 3000 hours of log space I have now.

    Most recently I was doing a 'Rescue Skills Refresh' evening with my club and when my partners octo didn't release cleanly I just stuffed it in my mouth - hey I'm roleplaying an OOA diver - and I got it upside down. Well it didn't clear because the vents were now at the top. Normally I expect a reg to clear by just breathing and only as a last resort do you need to press the purge but no, it didn't clear. OK I realised what it was and sorted myself out but that made me wonder about my octo. So I tried it and upside down it wanted to feed me a lot of pool water too. So I went out and bought an Apeks Egress Octo ans suplemmented it with the yellow mouthpiece. It seems to clear whatever way up you grab it unless you are actually facing upwards. I went for more yellow to make it easier to see. The old one is lost in the black, black on black colour scheme. Look back at Roy's picture of me on the USS Coney Island above - knowing it is on the yellow hose you can find it. (Have I mentioned that I hate black as a colour?)

    A wish list?
    A lever on the OCB. I'm sure it can't be hard to put an arm on the hose, possibly one on each side, so you grab it and push/pull and the hoses rotate opening or closing the OCB. This is the important one.

    Revised cable routing for the HUS and the disco lights. No, I haven't a clue where they could go but they are really scrappy at the moment.

    Slots for the scrubber hoses to leave the housing. It is a pig refitting the scrubber in a confined space, like a boat. By all means make them narrow so we have to pinch the hose to get it through but not this feeding through a hole while not dropping the can doesn't work. While we're at it can the O2 feed to the solenoid not be behind everything.

    Can we have the weight pocket on the top back please? It worked well while these ones on the wing don't. I need four kilos to trim out flat totally relaxed.

    Work on the HP hose crimps is in order. I've had three go in two years and my SPGs are now on Myflex hoses.

    Hydrophobic materials so that by the time you put it in your car all the water has fallen off. (OK. That one's not completely serious but it would be a neat trick.)

    So what happens next?
    When I first wrote this page I said
        Well I guess I'll just go and do a couple of years of varied diving and report back. Watch this space as they say. If it gets in the sea a lot and then sits out in the sun maybe it will fade a bit and not be quite so black, black on black.
    Well the diving is going OK but the black is still pretty resolute.


    Thanks to Giorgio Finella for the pool pictures and Roy Wood for the seawater one.