Blog posts from Gareth, Imogen and Neil
I while ago I wrote an article on standard hose lengths, explaining what went where and why on the standard GUE kit configuration. It has subsequently occurred to me, that taking a step back and explaining why the long hose has been implemented as standard for the primary regulator would be a better starting point.
Most of us learnt to dive in kit which had two short hoses attached to the first stage; one for the primary regulator and one for the octopus, which my buddy could grab is needed.
Here's a question: have you ever been out of gas? I hope the answer is no. We work on planning dives appropriately and employing sensible gas management strategies so that the OOG scenario doesn't rear its ugly head.
The reality is though that sometimes, just sometimes, things go wrong. Maybe you or your buddy suffered from a navigational misdemeanour. Maybe you worked harder or were colder than anticipated elevating your SAC rate more than you'd anticipated and you have to return to the shot to ascend. Or most likely, maybe you or your team mate has suffered a kit malfunction. Either way finding yourself out of gas can be a scary and stressful position to be in.
Using a short primary regulator hose there is no way for either the OOG or donating diver to create space for himself. The result is an effective gas share, but an uncomfortably close position to maintain for the remainder of the dive. Potentially this could be for only very short period or not, depending on decompression obligations or how far back you are in a cave/have to travel to your next gas source.
Let's think about this situation for a moment. Being close to, or running out of gas is immensely stressful. You're breathing hard, eyes are on stalks and meanwhile your face is stuck to your mate's. Meanwhile, you've now got to perform a controlled ascent and remain really stable otherwise you could easily bash your team mate about, who just so happens to be attached to you gas supply. You're going to have to jostle around each other amount to dump gas from your dry suit and wing whilst trying not to dislodge the reg from your mouth and maintain buoyancy control that is in perfect union with your mate. I can feel my stress levels going up just writing this scene down!
Now let's go back to the start again. Imagine exactly the same scenario, but the donated regulator happens to be on a hose that's twice as long, about 2m.
Taking the actually procedure of donation out of the situation for now, let's go back to the bit where we're now sharing gas. I can push the diver to whom I've donated back. A whole extra metre. Doesn't sound a lot, but believe you me that's awesome.
This extra space gives you much more control over the whole situation. You can actually see your team mate and reassure them more effectively. If they happen to be having a temporary loss of fabulous and there are flailing limbs every where, you can back off and keep out of harms way whilst still providing that diver with gas, until they calm down. The whole stress level of the situation drops from nightmare down to minor inconvenience.
You can swim together single file if necessary, side by side (either way around) and have ample room to move around face to face as well. It won't matter if you're 3 miles back in a cave, have 45 minutes of decompression to do before your next gas switch or have to perform a minimum deco ascent from where you are. It works for all these situations.
The long hose configuration doesn't just work for a "technical diving rig", it can be set up on a single tank. The beauty of the GUE configuration is that it works no matter what your diving level for the day. The long hose can be knotted to keep it tidy on the boat, waterside. On you, the regulator would always be either in your mouth or clipped off to the left chest D ring. The secondary (back up) regulator is hooked onto the first stage by the bungee necklace.
We can see the benefits and how the long is connected, but now you have an extra metre of hose that going to flap around in a breeze getting all over the place. Divers have created two common solutions to stow the hose when using this configuration. The first system is the GUE standard, the second is not, we'll discuss both and make your own mind up.
Firstly, the long hose runs behind you on the left side of your kit. The hose would be tucked either under the weight pouches, or underneath the primary torch battery cannister if one is present. The hose the crosses the diver's chest from his/her right hip to left shoulder and runs behind the diver's neck creating a loop (hog loop) around the neck. This ends up with the primary regulator hanging over the diver's right shoulder where it is clipped to the right chest D ring or put into the diver's mouth. This method means the long hose is used as the primary regulator, which is also the one that is donated. This system works best when divers use a primary donate procedure for an out of gas scenario.
Alternatively many divers choose to stow their long hose underneath bungee alongside their cylinders . Let's think about this for a moment. It's perfectly neat and tidy, certainly stowed out of the way and not going to snag on anything. There is a difference however. This diver may be using a primary donate system and breathing off the long hose himself as his primary regulator. There will be quite a bit of slack hose between the top of the wing and his mouth if this is the case.
On the other hand he may be breathing the regulator on the necklace as his primary while the regulator on the end of the long hose is clipped off someone on the body as a spare. This system would be employed should the diver be expecting to have a primary take from the out of gas diver. So now we have two possible procedures to understand.
Finally, as an aside the stowing method may be great from an entanglement hazard point of view, and you certainly aren't going to be strangled during a OOG situation, or any other for that matter, it's nigh on impossible to restow by yourself once underwater. What's the issue with that? None, if you are sharing gas for the remainder of the dive. Well, until you get back on the boat and you've now 2m of hose to catch on the lift or trip over. If you reach a new gas source or fix the failure so gas sharing is no longer needed - or even better are practising the drill, restowing the hose easily is beneficial.
I have discussed this with divers that stow the hose this way, and once given the hose back they tend to hog loop it for ease when getting out of the water. Great. Good idea. But why not do it in the first place.
Two common concerns of the looped system are:
1. Entanglement hazard;
2. Injury to the diver wearing the hose in a hog looped fashion.
Both methods dealing with the hose present a tidy solution with a very low entanglement hazard. I've seen more trailing alternate air source regs drag along the sea bed, coral reef and even been ripped off as a diver got it trapped in a wreck and panicked.
There is a fabled concern about the hop loop causing a potential strangulation risk to the diver wearing it. The hose runs behind your head. Part of GUE training focusses on practising gas donation. In fact it is the only time GUE divers drop their heads, allowing the hose to pass freely forwards. Practising this drill, like any other, instils muscle memory and the head drops instinctively after a few practice attempts. Even if the OOG diver were to take the reg from your mouth rather than you donating it, with a drop of the head the hose will come free.
Either way you choose to stow the long hose, just make sure you practising donating the regulator. The time you or your team mate needs it, is not the time to find the system you're using doesn't work as well as it should have done.