Mar

16

Introducing the Atomic BC1

SCUBA boards online have been buzzing with rumors and chatter about Atomic Aquatics’ first BC for more than ten years now. That’s how long it has taken the luxury brand to perfect the first BC worthy of the Atomic name.

Atomic Aquatics doesn’t rush anything. They prefer to take their time and carefully craft the toughest and most user-friendly dive gear on Earth.

Just as they redefined regulators, masks, and fins with careful attention to design details, Atomic re-examined every BC feature to create the most durable, long lasting, and high performance model the market has ever seen.

We are excited to say that the long wait is finally over; the new world-class Atomic BC1 BCDs are here.

The Atomic BC1: the BCD worthy of the Atomic name is finally here

What makes Atomic Aquatics BC1 so special?

Revolutionary tank cam and pad

The ratcheting tank band design sets a new standard for easy and always secure BC mounting.

Atomic engineered this completely different mounting hardware using principles from ski boots and snowboarding to create an easy to use system featuring a tightly locking, over-center buckle band.

This is simply the best and most user-friendly tank cam system ever.

In addition to the ratcheting buckle band, there is also a tank positioning strap and a non-slip, molded tank pad built in to the back of the BC, complete with CNC-Machined Stainless Steel hardware. This system eliminates the pesky rubber non-slip strip found on other tank bands.

These features combine to make mounting easier than ever before while also ensuring the end of slipping tanks, repeated adjustments, threading buckles, and the usual trouble of changing cylinder sizes. No existing tank cam band has even come close to the ease of operation of the BC1.

We think this game-changing feature alone makes this the BCD of choice, but that’s not all. The high-performance BC1 introduces several other new features that set it apart:

Water resistance

The state-of-the-art matte fabric is laminate coated on both interior and exterior and as water resistant as a raincoat. Yet it is remarkably soft to the touch. It’s something you’ll have to feel for yourself.

Other BCs promised to be quick drying; the Atomic BC1 never seems to get wet at all.

The laminate layer is thicker on the outsides to increase durability by protecting against rips, tears, and leaks.  It’s so tough that it will accommodate nearly double the pressure of other BCs.

Sand and corrosion resistance, too

The large accessory pockets feature zippers that are self sealing to prevent sand from filling pockets or gunking up zipper teeth.  Mesh pocket interiors drain easily.

D-rings are conveniently placed inside these oversized pockets to secure things. Keep your stuff securely attached while using it, without having to undo and reattach.

All D-rings are 316 Stainless Steel and coated with PVD Titanium to resist salt water corrosion. Atomic generously  and strategically placed these for convenient attachments. For example, The D rings along the bottom edge are tucked neatly behind the pockets, rather than dangling from your BC.

EZ-LOK weight release system

The EZ-LOK weight system is another feature that you need to see and experience for yourself to fully appreciate how much Atomic has improved what a BCD can be.

Atomic fins are favorites because everyone loves their EZ-LOK fin straps. The BC1 uses this exclusive patented system to eliminate any struggle with integrated weights.  They are secure, easy to release, and loading the weight pockets into the BC is a snap.

Weight pouches glide in smoothly, snap to lock in place, and easily release with a tug on the handle. They are so easy that you can operate them using just one finger, but they snap securely into place, so you’ll have no worries about accidental release.

The weight system on this BC is versatile and super easy to use: each pouch holds up to ten pounds of hard or soft weight. The pouches that come with the XL will hold up to 14 pounds.

There is also a pair of additional, non-releasable, integrated weight pockets in the rear. These hold between six and ten pounds each, depending on jacket size. The placement of these trim pockets significantly improves diver profile underwater.

Maximum comfort and adjustability

The BC1 features a large area of elegant diamond-quilted back padding and an adjustable lumbar pad, making this the most comfortable BC available.

There is also a convenient carry handle.

It offers three planes of adjustability for a custom fit.  The BC1 includes torso, sternum, and waist straps with impact resistant easy side release buckles.

It also has an adjustable cummerbund for added comfort, security, and fit.

Patent-pending exhaust pull dump technology

The two Stainless Steel Dry Glide pull dumps have extra long cords and patent-pending Anti-Float Pull Knobs for easy reach.

Inflator options

The Atomic inflators are sold separately. This gives you a choice of high performance options.

Your choices:

You could choose Atomic’s innovative corrosion resistant Ai power inflator, which comes in both Stainless Steel and premium Titanium options. These are the best and most diver-friendly power friendly inflators in the world.

Or you could ditch your octopus and opt for the Atomic SS1 in Stainless Steel or Titanium. This revolutionary device couples a power inflator with a secondary regulator that breathes like a primary. It features ergonomic controls, a low-profile design, and incorporates Atomic’s patented seat-saving orifice that prevents problems and leaks, as well as doubling the service cycle from annual to two years. It also has an integrated purge cover, a lifetime warranty, and more.

While some may balk at the Atomic price, the BC1’s rugged durability, elegant design, and user-friendly features offer tremendous value that will outlast and outperform any other BC on the market.

We invite you to come by the shop to check out this beauty for yourself. We’re here 9am-6pm Mon-Sat.  Bring your swimsuit and take it for a test dive in our pool.

Jan

25

 

*

What are 6351 cylinders?

Aluminum 6351-T6 is an alloy that was previously used for SCUBA and SCBA cylinders. There is a problem specific to that alloy that makes them potentially very dangerous,so most fill station operators will not fill them. This is an old problem, but there are some of these cylinders still around and many divers are unaware of the dangers.

Several companies produced and distributed these, including Walter Kidde, Luxfer, and Cliff Impact.  Many millions of these high-pressure cylinders were produced from this alloy. It was discontinued for these by 1990, due to a metallurgical anomaly which can cause sustained load cracking (SLC) along the neck and shoulder areas.

SLC: an explosive problem

SLC cracks tend to develop slowly over several years, most frequently in tanks that have been stored full of air. SLC has caused the explosive rupture of many of these cylinders and multiple losses of life and limb.

Before the technology to electronically detect this problem was invented, we had one of these cylinders explode in our store during a fill. The force of the explosion tore a hole through the roof and knocked a chunk from the concrete slab floor. Damage to the steel frame of the basketball hoop hanging over our pool is still visible today. It was caused by just a small piece of the cylinder hitting the heavy gauge steel and shredding it apart. Luckily, no one was hurt.

This happened with many of these tanks, both in the US and abroad. In some cases, such as the incident in our store, the explosions caused damage but did not result in injury. In other cases, they caused serious injuries and even death.

The explosive problem occurred often enough to warrant a DOT investigation, which resulted in advisories and warnings but no recall. However, we know the problem has been understated. For example, the explosion at GCD has not been included in the known SLC explosion data reported by Luxfer, though we reported it when it occurred and then again later brought it to their attention that it was not included.

Luxfer, who produced most of these cylinders, switched to a proprietary 6061 alloy and phased out the use of 6351 completely in June 1988. They issued several bulletins regarding the SLC problems and offered replacement incentives for many years in an effort to get these older cylinders out of use.

Eddy Current Testing

Because of this significant issue, a new method of tank inspection, eddy current testing, was developed. You may have heard this referred to as VIP Plus, which is a specific brand name. The visual only method previously employed for tank inspection is no longer sufficient for testing, thanks to the metallurgical anomaly associated with the 6351 alloy. Eddy current machines use electronic waves and can detect cracks that are invisible to the eye.  DOT rules now require electronic eddy testing at the same time as hydrostatic requalification, but manufacturers recommend eddy current more often.

Dive Stores and fill stations are well aware of all this and have been for many years. Both the US DOT and NIOSH released multiple detailed safety advisories. Luxfer addressed the topic in several ways, including a seminar at DEMA, the largest annual diving industry trade show, and this may have been the most attended meeting in DEMA history. The room was packed full to standing-room only, and attendees overflowed into the hallway as well.

Do you have 6351 cylinders? Here’s what to do

Many individual divers, however, were not, and some still are not, aware of this significant problem. If you have aluminum SCUBA cylinders manufactured by Luxfer prior to July 1988, or any Walter Kidde tanks, they are likely 6351 cylinders. There are almost no fill stations who will agree to refill these now. While GCD does not have a store policy against this, we will not force our employees to do so. Due to their advanced age and the well known issue of SLC, we prefer not to fill them. As stated above, we have already had one of these tanks rupture and explode in our store.

In an effort to get these bottles out of use, we will issue a $40 credit toward the purchase of a new tank for each 6351 cylinder trade out.

*Image courtesy Extreme Watersports

Feb

10

April is traditionally the month that cobia start migrating thru the gulf coast on their westward journey.  The time of year and the speed of the migration has everything to do with water temperature.  The magic temperature seems to be 68 degrees.  The first cobia to show will arrive almost simultaneously with the gulf temperature warming to 68 degrees.

Early season cobia hunters usually sight-fish for the distinctive brown shapes, while cruising within 1/2 mile of the beach.  Once spotted the boats move ahead of the pod and try to intercept the fish and cast lures, silver eels, and jigs.  The key to sighting the fish is to get as high above the water as possible to increase the downward line of sight.

A new trend the last few years is for spearfisherman to follow this same sight-hunting tactic, but with a twist.  We troll the beach looking for the pods, then when sighted, we run the boat ahead of the fish and put a couple free-divers in the water.  Armed with mask, snorkel, fins and speargun, we rely on the natural curiosity of ling to swim close enough to check us out.  It usually takes many drops before we luck into a curious fish.

Any spearo that has had the luck of spearing a cobia knows that they can be a handful.  Cobia are very strong fish that will sometimes lie motionless after being shot, fooling the diver into thinking they stoned it with a great shot.  But boy can they come back to life.  Any angler that has gaffed a “green” cobia can attest to their surprising strength.  I’ve heard stories of sprained arms and shoulders, broken gaffs and many, many lost fish.

Known locally as “ling” or “lemonfish”, cobia are the main focus of anglers and spearfisherman looking for an adventure in late March and April.  For information on spearfishing call Gulf Coast Divers at (251) 342-2970.

Feb

3

Give the gift of adventure with a Gulf Coast Divers Cash Card!

Load it with any amount and give it as a Gift Card or use it yourself as your scuba shopping card.  Our Adventure Gift cards were a popular stocking stuffer at Christmas, but y’all came up with another use that we didn’t anticipate.  Divers are buying Adventure Cards and reloading them each payday as a way to save towards a new piece of equipment.  “If I keep the cash, I’ll spend it and regret it.  If I put my extra dollars on my gift card, then it is like I am saving towards my scuba system,”  explained Mike.  Great idea, dude.

The Adventure cards can be used to purchase new gear, training, a dive trip, anything…it is like cash. We know how hard it is to buy for a diver, why not make it easy and let them choose what they want? Or encourage friends and family to come and contribute to your Adventure Card rather than buy you a pair of socks that you are going to return to Target anyway.

Christmas, birthdays, anniversary, Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, Arbor Day, Just Because Day…any event is a good time to ask for dive gear.

Jan

10

How Anti-fogs work

Mask fogging results from warm humid air inside the mask meeting a lens surface cooled by water. Warmer air is capable of holding more water vapor (water in gas form) than cooler air. Therefore, when air is cooled, a portion of its water vapor condenses into tiny liquid droplets, or “fog”.  Anti-Fogs prevent fogging by creating a thin, invisible film on the lens which creates a “sheeting effect” – eliminating the formation of condensation droplets.

Divers that say, “Defog doesn’t work for me” are usually not applying it properly or are washing it out.  The procedure that I have always had the best luck with is to apply an oily-style defog (orange-top Sea Drops are my favorite) to a dry lens, rub around the inside of the lenses to fully coat, then scoop some water in the mask and swish.  I dump the suds out and scoop and swish one more time, then empty the mask put it on my face and don’t take it off until I’m done diving.  Many divers prefer the 500 PSI brand defog because it lasts longer.  It is much thicker so you have to rub a lot to coat and clean.  It is a slightly longer process to treat the lens, but the reward is 2-3 fog-free dives.

Remember for any defog to work the lens needs to be clean and ALL new mask must be scrubbed prior to using.

Jan

3

Well the time has finally come. Our beloved pool got it’s first facelift in almost 40 years.  It has seen thousands of divers, tens of thousands of dives and hundreds of dropped weights.

We have been talking about resurfacing for years, but it has been impossible to schedule 2 weeks that we didn’t have any classes.  As it is, we had to move the New Years week classes off until next week.  Thanks to Lewis for letting the crew in every day while the rest of us were out of the country diving.  Come by the store to view Lewis’s construction pics,  Todd’s Honduras pics, and meet the shark and turtle tiles in the pool.  We welcome suggestions for names of our new pool critters.

Wayne and Rick at Deep South Pools did an awesome job, giving up a portion of their Christmas and New Years holiday to get their crew in and get it done.

It actually took longer to refill the pool than it took for the work.  To get an idea how much water 125,000 gallons is…it took 120 hours to refill.  That’s 5 full days of hoses running full on, 24 hours a day! Anybody that thinks water is cheap, can cover our water bill for January!  Another week of filtering, heating, balancing pH, alkalinity, and chlorine and we will be up and running.

Dec

20

True to Atomic’s name, this mask is super-engineered and was all the talk at this year’s dive-industry trade show.

Atomic Aquatics is calling this mask the Venom, and it’s a blending of their SubFrame and Frameless masks. It has a reinforcing internal frame that’s molded directly beneath the surface of the silicone rubber skirt, like the Subframe, yet it offers the relatively low profile of the Frameless. Also, its faceplate is single window like the Frameless, but it has a high bridge and tear-drop shape similar to the SubFrame’s dual-window design.

The Venom comes across as a high-concept, stylish-looking piece of gear when it’s being held in your hand, and it’s really comfortable when mounted on your face. Its easy-to-use squeeze-to-adjust buckles are soft-mounted to the mask skirt, which allows a little bit of flexibility in strap positioning, plus they can be folded flat for packing.

Where the Venom differs from its SubFrame and Frameless cousins is in its faceplate construction. While the SubFrame and Frameless lenses use Ultraclear glass, which has quite a rep for optical quality in its own right,  the Venom mask uses an even higher-quality glass imported from Germany. Called Schott Superwite glass, it allows more light to penetrate than even Ultraclear glass.

In the water, we find a testament to a good mask is that you don’t notice it on your face. The Venom does a good job of getting there. Like its cousins, it offers a superior field of view, and the soft skirt and watertight seal combined to make the Venom feel like a part of our face. Looking at the sights through this bright distortion-free Superwite glass is like looking through no glass at all.

It’s called the Venom and the only antidote is salt water, and lots of it!  Come by Gulf Coast Divers and check it this awesome new mask, just in time for your Christmas stocking!

Nov

25

At Gulf Coast Divers, we’re never content with the status quo… continually expanding and improving every product line. That’s why we suggest these “Essentials” line of accessories. Each is perfectly designed to work with your Atomic product to further enhance your diving enjoyment.
Comfort Swivel Hose
A significant innovation for Atomic Aquatics regulator owners, this unique device eliminates cumbersome binding that some divers experience from their second stage. Available in either mirror-polished stainless steel or lightweight Titanium, the Atomic Aquatics “comfort swivel” increases your comfort on every dive! We can install the lightweight Atomic Aquatics Comfort Swivel in less than 20 minutes. Once you dive with it, you’ll wonder why no one else ever thought of this highly comfortable and useful innovation.
Universal Comfort Swivel Hose
One of the most popular innovations for the Atomic Aquatics regulators is now available to fit other regulator brands. The Universal Comfort Swivel will fit virtually any second stage on the market today. If your regulator uses a standard 9/16″-18 low pressure hose fitting as most do, the Universal Comfort Swivel simply replaces your existing hose assembly. Constructed of chrome plated brass and stainless steel.

Dual-silicone Comfort-fit Mouthpiece
Atomic Aquatics’ engineers and award-winning designers are always listening to diver’s requests for product upgrades and enhancements. One such request was for a mouthpiece that would be both durable and comfortable. The result is the popular dual-silicone mouthpiece that was introduced with the M1 regulator. Made from two types of silicone material, this mouthpiece is incredibly durable, yet easily one of the most comfortable mouthpieces a diver will ever use.

Exhaust Deflector
Since the dawn of diving, divers have sought ways to keep exhaust bubbles away from their field of view. Different designs have offered different solutions. But Atomic Aquatics’s latest design, first introduced with the M1, offers a different and effective solution to bubble interference. This new design, one of several Atomic Aquatics innovations first introduced with the popular M1 model, is constructed from two-tone molded material specially-engineered to steer bubbles away from a diver’s face. Extended areas on both sides provide a wider area of dispersal – perfect for allowing a diver to truly enjoy their dives. This upgrade is a must for photographers. Fits all Atomic second stage models.
M1 Stainless Steel Cave Ring
An important accessory for cave divers, the Atomic Aquatics Cave Ring is designed to work with the M1 regulator. This important tool allows divers to disassemble their regulators underwater during a dive to clean out sand and sediment. Made from stainless steel, the Atomic Aquatics Cave Ring is another innovation that keeps Atomic Aquatics at the top when it comes to diving technology and performance.  This is a popular upgrade for many spearfisherman, too.  It eliminates that 2nd stage hissing caused by the fast flow of water over the inhalation diaphragm while racing your buddy to the bottom.

Deluxe Padded Regulator Bag
You’ve made a wise investment purchasing an Atomic Aquatics regulator. We want to help you protect your regulator so you can enjoy diving with it for years to come. The Regulator Bag is spacious and built for any model Atomic Aquatics regulator.  I have 2 of these bags.  I use one as a photo bag and the other for a regulator bag with enough extra space to accommodate most of my save-a-dive kit items.

Oct

15

The power went out a couple of mornings ago which sent me searching for a flash light. Showers can be awfully dark at 5:30am. The only flashlight with good batteries I could lay my hands on was a crevice light from my dive bag.  Like many divers, and every dive instructor I know,  those new household lights must do double duty as dive lights.

You might think buying a new light would be very simple, but there really are a lot of things to consider. There are hundreds of lights to choose, so you will have to do some weeding out to come up with the one that is right for you. To get started you should set up a list of criteria, that will, hopefully, sort  the scores of lights available and bring you down to your ultimate choice. Here are few considerations to get you pointed in the right direction:

  1. Type of diving you do (day, night, cavern, cave, wreck)
  2. Lights you already own (crevice, full size, canister)
  3. Type of bulb (Halogen, Xenon, LED, HID)
  4. Battery type (standard, lithium, rechargeable)
  5. Size/ Power (1.5W- 15W)
  6. Price ($15-$1000)

If midday dives are all you do, you might be thinking you don’t even need a light. My personal feeling is, if you aren’t diving with a light on every dive you are missing out on more than you realize. Virtually every dive site is loaded with nooks and crannies that hide strange and fascinating creatures just waiting to be discovered. Without a crevice light all you see when you peer into that crevice is darkness. A small crevice light, that easily fits in the pocket of your BC is all you need to reveal all of those hidden critters. In addition, since reds and oranges are filtered out of natural light at very shallow depths, most dives appear blue-green. You will be surprised how colorful that “green” reef really is when you shine your light.

Night dives require something more than your small crevice light, although that light can be a sufficient back-up. With the advances in LED technology your primary night light selection is no longer limited to huge honkin’ light cannons. Technology has contributed to more light in a smaller package. Before the advent of LED light technology, brightness and power depended on battery size. The really powerful dive lights held (8) D cell or lantern batteries that you really needed to consider part of your weight system.

Light gloves are becoming very popular with divers seeking hands-free illumination.  Whether a canister light (separate battery pack and light head) or traditional light, I recommend having a back-up, if you rely on it.  Cave divers and night dives require light to dive safely, so a minimum of 3 lights is standard.

Whether it is hand held, clipped on your BC, head mounted or attached to a speargun, it has to work.  Check your batteries the day before you dive, so you have time to purchase new ones if they are weak.  I have robbed batteries out of radios and household lights to power a dive light at the last minute.  I don’t like rechargeable batteries because they discharge while being stored and give little warning before dying.  Traditional batteries become weaker as they discharge which dims the light.  This is my warning to deploy a back-up or plan on replacing batteries soon.

Dive lights can be as little as $15 and go to over $1000 on some canister lights.  Call Gulf Coast Divers (251) 342-2970 and talk to a light expert about the best light for your diving style.

Oct

7

We get calls almost daily regarding questions on the worth of a piece of used equipment someone is considering buying.  Putting a value on a piece of used equipment is a tough task because there are many things to consider.  I always suggest that you mentally add the cost of service to the price of anything you are buying.

Even if the owner says it was recently serviced, I recommend a complete overhaul.  This insures that you KNOW it was serviced.  Being totally confident of the service will give you an idea of how it has been maintained which can tell you a lot about it’s remaining life.  Servicing can expose any deteriorating diaphragms and hoses and gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling that your new piece of equipment will perform properly.

I suggest that divers only buy used equipment post-servicing.  The regulator that you got for a good deal may not be, after inspection.  If inspection reveals that you need service AND all new hoses AND inhalation diaphragms AND mouthpieces, you can easily be over $250 just to make it safe to dive.  Now your $200 “deal” has become a $450 regulator!

It is also important to know “What” you are buying.  The question is usually posed to me like this, “My buddies neighbor has a dive regulator he wants to sell for $200.  I know regulators can be expensive, is that a good deal?”  My response is “That’s like asking if $1000 is a good deal on a used car?”  If it’s a Yugo, then no.  If it’s a Porsche 911 Turbo, then probably.

I don’t intend to turn anyone off of the idea of buying used gear.  It is a good way to get a scuba system to fit a smaller budget.  That way someone who can’t just drop a cool $2500 on the credit card, can still get what they need to get out and get wet.  But you need to know what you are getting.  Your best option is to buy from a dive shop that sells used equipment.  That way you get someone and somewhere to go if you have any issues with the equipment.

Gulf Coast Divers has a large selection of used gear spanning many makes and models and can help with the decision making process.  Everything we sell is serviced prior to putting it out.  We put it in the best shape it can be in and it comes with a 1 year service contract.  That means that we stand behind it for a year.  So you get the gear and our service departments guarantee.  This takes the worry out of used gear.  The used inventory changes daily as new gear comes in and others are sold.  It runs the spectrum from the top of the line to the Yugo.  But we guarantee it will be the safest, best performing Yugo, you can find!

To get away from the Yugo comparison, we don’t buy or sell junk.  We turn away more equipment than we actually buy because it isn’t serviceble or someone wants too much for it.  We only sell good quality and we want it to be a good value for the next owner.  It is because of all these reasons that our “pre-loved” gear sells quick.  The next owner knows they have nothing to worry about with our used equipment.

On more than one occasion we have had someone bring in a Craig’s list purchased regulator to find out that it is unserviceable.  This can be because the manufacturer is out of business, the model isn’t supported anymore, or that the cost of repair way exceeds the value of the regulator.  I deliver the bad news and tell them that is the second time we have delivered the news re: this same regulator!  Yep, the last guy that bought it got the bad news, and listed it again. I’m sure the first guy learned his lesson,  but still wanted to try and recoup some of his bad investment.  I can’t remember seeing the same regulator three times, but I’m sure it is coming.

Be careful,  invest wisely and try before you buy.  Ultimately, your best DEAL on used equipment is going to be from a dive shop with an in-house service department and a pool to try BEFORE you buy.  For answers and advise on purchasing used equipment call Lawren @ Gulf Coast Divers (251) 342-2970.