|I purchased an APD Inspiration Rebreather in 2001. It had its good points
and its bad points so I discuss some here. Actually it's very difficult to
comment fairly at times. There are bits I'm not happy with but conversely
APV/APD are just the people to deal with. Their attitude to customer service
makes them my preferred supplier regardless of the idiosyncrasies of the unit.
I would not want to be using dive kit like this without people on the other end
of the phone who want to help.|
I will run over some of the features of the item as I bought it and as I saw it as a novice rebreather diver. Take it as just that. I have changed a few of my ideas in some areas since then but I am not a novice engineer.
When you start rebreather diving you are warned that you are beginning again and that is really how it is. You have much to unlearn and even after many dives and now with a growing familiarity with the unit I still keep discovering things where what I used to do is now wrong and skills that I once learned slowly that are now useless, even embarrassing. <sigh>
This is the original computer handset (see later for the update). There are two
of them. They're a bit simplistic but when operating them in gloves in the cold
they are reasonably chunky and you get what you ask for. The trick is that the
first one to come online is the master and runs things. They both monitor and
display the three oxygen sensors and if the master quits the slave takes over
The switch at the bottom is power on off and the three buttons are sliders that move about half a centimetre and, I believe, sweep magnets over sensors to reach inside the sealed case. These seem to be a running fault as everybody seems to have their own tricks to get a sluggish switch to work.
Don't think "Computer? Like my dive computer that reads my depth and time and plans deco for me?" These are simple voltmeters to read the oxygen sensors and present it as a partial pressure reading with a control loop to drive the solenoid to add extra oxygen when it is below a preset level.
They certainly were not designed by instrument makers but I suppose I'm not a scuba equipment manufacturer so I shouldn't complain too loudly. They perform well maintaining the loop ppO2 quite accurately even when I was going through the beginner phase of relearning buoyancy control.
|This is the wing inflator and fallback reg so you can breathe the diluent
tank if it all goes pear shaped. Currently I think it sucks. Every unit I have
dived (all 3) needs treating nicely or it free flows - even my brand new one -
and it has too many buttons. However other people with far more experience of
the unit than I have seem to tolerate them so maybe I'm being too picky. I
added the whistle because one has saved my bacon in the past but it has to be
the Buddy part as the connector is a weirdo, like nothing like anything else I
I stripped it and screwed the adjustment up a bit tighter after it free-flowed on me inflating a blob. The only fix at the time was to shut off the DIL, complete my stops and reopen it to surface when I needed it to inflate the wing.
|This is the original mouth piece. If you hold the black bits and turn
the white bit so the mouthpiece points down you close off the opening. This is
needed so you can take the thing out of your mouth without allowing water to
run back into it. This would at worst flood the loop so you can no longer
breathe from it and make you several kilograms extra negatively buoyant or at
minimum sentence you to a dive with gurglly sound effects. The stories I hear
from when people have failed to do this seem to indicate that the design of the
unit successfully keeps water from the important bits.
I tried to change the jaw-breaking mouthpiece supplied for a more comfortable Scubapro one but the fitting is bigger and it split. After a while you just get used to it...
|At the bottom of both counterlungs are the injectors. The left hand
counterlung (right hand image) is equipped to inject the diluent, air to
newbies like me, and the other one injects oxygen. They both have a gauge so
you can monitor the contents of the tanks.|
You need the injectors for the manual control of the unit. You add diluent on the descent to make up for the loss of gas volume as the pressure increases and the oxygen injector enables you to drive the system yourself if the inject solenoid quits.
You can see that my unit has a plate to fit an alternate injector. This allows you to carry two diluent mixes. Admittedly people who dive sophisticated mixes don't seem to have one but if I like it I have it.
Since taking these pictures I have rearranged the gauges to run down the inside edges of the counterlungs. This makes them more intuitive to get my hands on them. There is an incredible amount of Velcro and stitched channelling on the counterlungs, most of it is unused and much of it incomprehensible.
|These are the T pieces on
the shoulders of the counterlungs. They have blades inside to try to ensure
that any liquid entering the loop is dumped into the right hand (exhale)
counterlung. It's harmless there and you can drain it out after the dive. You
use this mix of exhaled body fluids and other gunk to gross out the more
squeamish team members.|
This is the main dismantling point for the hoses so you can give it a good clean out with disinfectant. Since what you breathe out is going round and round this is considered a life expectancy issue as it could culture up some very interesting stuff.
|Yeah I put my name on it. I
don't like wearing brand names (except Honda who I owe) so the id is me. I had
lots of these stickers to reletter the race bikes after the inevitable
happened. I don't actually need it for identification as if you're diving with
a couple of rebreather divers I'm the one with the yellow wings. (I hate that
black on black look.). The fun is that I have once been recognised in the water
by the name and a diver I had only ever exchanged internet forum postings with
came over to introduce himself. After a few years the letters began to fall off
so I have a more sea-proof set made by
Overall I'm not very impressed with the harness. It has too many clips, adjustments and fiddly bits. There are 6 clips to do up all with their own pull to tighten adjustments. What I need the D rings that are trapped between the wing and my shoulder blades for currently eludes me and why does the wing have a hole in it so you can fit a suicide bottle? Nostalgia? At least the collar for the bottle gives me somewhere to stow the reg on the 100% side. I added this as the manual gives bailout examples which call for breathing 100% shallow but I fitted an Apex sliding shut off valve, as recommended in the manual, to stop anybody making a big mistake deep.
|These are the integrated weight pockets that I bought as an extra. I
finally figured how they fit, it only took a couple of months, they might work
a bit better now. The trick it to zip-tie them to the matching bands under the
back plate. If you don't do that the moment you try to pick the unit up they
drag forwards, pulling over the vertical strap they locate around and getting
horribly knotted up. The other thing you can do is run an awl through the
Velcro and zip-tie the bottom shut. I don't do dumpable weights as I consider
that, as yet, I'm too young to die.
I need 12Kgs in a dry suit in fresh water and 15Kgs in the sea. This pretty much matches my 12L single rig which is rather sad. It renders the total Inspiration very heavy. I was hoping to shed some weight going from twin 300bar 10L tanks but it certainly doesn't feel like I have.
|This is a before and after picture of the bolts that hold clips that snap the back cover on. In picture one you will see the nuts and shaft that project into the body of the rebreather and scrape the paint off my tanks. In the second picture you will see what happens if you remove the screws and put them in the other way round. No gouge now? Well sorry no. My tanks are already gouged. But what the heck? These are only life support items made of steel that I will immerse regularly in sea-water. No. I'm not impressed. This is typical of the standard of the secondary engineering on the unit - it let down the excellence of the primary design but thankfully I notice they are gone on the current versions.|
|I wasn't too pleased when the lid of the
scrubber came unglued. This is mission critical stuff. The scrubber seals with
an O-ring that seats at the top of the inner canister so if that top leaks
the dreaded CO2 can bypass the Sofnolime
virtually scot free. Now as CO2 is getting a
very bad press in rebreather circles at the moment that was a NO DIVE moment
and as the dive was booked and confirmed for the next day I was significantly
browned off. Oh well. At least it's APD who do turn round repairs fast unlike a
lot of people in the dive business.|
Carbon-dioxide at depth is not like carbon-dioxide on the surface. You don't just get breathless and tetchy - this is panic, tensed up, task locked and finally unconsciousness. You are warned to be seriously careful packing the scrubber with Sofnolime but this one isn't on the check list.
|Similarly when the thread stripped on the 'nut' that holds the battery compartment lid on I was upset. Now I think I'm mechanically sensitive and I don't remember cross-threading it or being needlessly vigorous but it just let go. Fortunately it happened while I was sitting on the back of the car doing battery voltage checks not when I was doing a stride entry or something so it was just an annoyance. It was time to walk up to the chandlers and buy a stainless M8 nut and promise myself a rebuild in brass next time I was in the workshop. This little thing holds both batteries in place so it is a single failure that takes out both computers simultaneously so there would be nothing to warn you until you next look at the display and it's blank - grab for the other - it's blank too - DIL flush and bail out - clean underwear on the boat.|
|◊||Harness improvements. It must be possible to make it simpler. You need to wash it so you take off all the hoses and clean them down in the sink and then it's time for the counterlungs. These were fitted with a sewing machine so it's time to fit screw on covers to the first stages and put the entire thing in the bath. This is silly so see the modifications section.|
|◊||Better computer displays. The Classic was far too clunky and could do a better range of warnings. People have died because they didn't switch them on, which you must admit isn't APD's fault, but auto switch on when immersed is hardly complex electronics. Forgetting to switch up a set-point is also a serious problem and needs only a depth sensor (even just a pressure switch) to beep at you until you do something about it. The later Vision handset is much better.|
|◊||The big breathing hose connectors catch you out as a novice as you can start to unscrew the wrong part and it is very hard to retighten them if you slacken it. On a unit this expensive any special tools required to fix basic problems should be in the box. It's only a bit of tube with some studs in it.|
|◊||Perhaps a revised glue on the scrubber lid might be worth considering. I like solvent glues that effectively weld two pieces of plastic into one solid lump. They do cause distortion but that can be managed. Things don't fall apart then. Again I notice a design change on the Vision.|
|◊||The AutoAir is a joke but it is so designed in that you are effectively stuck with it. I will very seriously look into fixing this with something that does not need babying and that is suitable to hand off. As it stands the Inspiration is effectively designed for solo diving. Its breathe-the-wing feature worries me. It will let you breathe in from the wing automatically if the tank runs out and then you exhale into the water. If you ever get to that point it means you have just discarded a lung full of buoyancy. I would far rather it went hard in my mouth and gave me the choice.|
|◊||I was a little disappointed with the weight. With my additions it tips the scales at 30kgms but I suppose that is to be expected. This is including two 4Kg tanks, about 3Kgs of Sofnolime and a couple of kgs of gas. Then there are two first stages, gauges, computers, hosing and such. I expected it to be less but it's built to survive and I can't complain at that. Like all AP stuff it won't break with a bit of real world use.|
I acquired a second hand Bob-DSV. This replaces the original mouthpiece which is just on or off with a system where the off position connects you to a conventional regulator on the Diluent. To try and get around the problem of the whole thing becoming too stiff with a second hose to your mouth Bob made this swivel and, although it seems a bit strange at first, it seems to work quite well.
I decided a DSV might be a good move after a run in with CO2 breakthrough where I discovered elevated CO2 levels hit my breathing reflex so hard that I was not able to switch to the bailout as as I was taught as stopping breathing, even for the few moments needed to change to a regulator, was simply not an option. I solved the problem at the time by exhaling through my nose so the ADV fed me new gas rather than breathing the loop and recovered enough to be able to swap onto my bailout gas.
Although this will only connect me to the small onboard DIL bottle it might, if ever I find myself in that situation again, enable me to come down to the point where the stage regulator is not a step to far. I've had one go at CO2 so I hope I never need to find out for sure.
I originally though the CO2 hit was down to me loose packing the scrubber and I resolved to always bang it down hard but, after talking to Martin Parker I'm not so sure now. Whatever it was it wasn't fun and I don't want to do it again. I still pack it a bit more firmly than their demo video but not as solidly as I once did.
After an unhappy couple of years with a Halcyon Proteus 6 10W HID with a determined habit of either flooding or breaking the very expensive bulb I realised that I'd never had a complete dive out of it and sold it on Ebay as "flooded - can't be bothered to mend it again!" and bought a Fa-Mi LED 75 unit and it's been quite good. Admittedly I didn't think much of their take on a Goodman Handle so I rebuilt it to suit my ideas but the torch bit just works - light when I want it. I hope it will stay that way. I mounted it on another Metalsub bracket but on the right hand side. I also have a 3L pony of air I clip on here to provide support to an OC buddy on a single or for those times when it is my turn to bag the shot up.
"No, no way. I like the fully closed idea and will stick with it although, as you will have gathered, I'm not very impressed with some of the details on the unit I have. However I'm still happy to believe it is one of the best available. It sure beats O/C both in use and for safety.That rather sums up the following years. I dived and made changes and dived some more. I progressed from a rather green CCR novice to somebody for who diving is CCR diving. I've never been a very skilful diver - I have to work hard to learn my in-water drills and practice to retain them but I do the time and although I had problems I fixed most of them and progressed.