On most courses that we teach, a lot of time is spent reconfiguring student’s stage and / or bailout cylinders. This is to be fully expected on entry level courses, where a student may not have dived with a stage before, or may have bought it specially for the course. On higher level courses a students stage and / or bailout cylinders should just require a bit of tweaking at the most. Oh how I wish this were always true! I seem to find myself spending more and more time configuring stage cylinders on courses than needs to be necessary.
To give you a bit of a heads up I though I’d jot down some notes on stage cylinder and bailout cylinder rigging. This is not meant as a definitive guide. It is not you must do it this way, but look at why I have done it this way and apply that philosophy to your equipment.
The Bad Stage
This Bad Stage image might be something I’ve made up for this post, but I’ve seen plenty of stages like this (or close) over my years of diving. Hopefully you can spot what’s wrong with it without me really having to comment!? A quick glance should tell you that this cylinder is going to be a pain in the bum to use on the dive. The hose routing is poor and un-streamlined, resulting is more drag and the danger of damage. The hose lengths are all wrong, and are not secured very well (here it’s odd bits of bungee that were lying around tied into loops of assorted tension). The handle / rigging kit is too big for the cylinder, and poorly fitted as well.
Sadly, I see one or more of these aspects on far more courses than I would like. A clean and efficient equipment configuration (in general, not just stages) is going to make your diving much easier, never mind safer.
The Stage Cylinder
The aim of any stage or bailout cylinder rigging should be that it is clean, practical and user friendly (safety is important, but if you aim for the first three then safety should happen naturally). The following are what I always try to achieve with my stages / bailout cylinders:
Clips: These are suitably sized for the temperature of water and gloves that I regularly dive in (cold, thick respectively), but not overly or novelty sized.
Handle / Rigging kit: The clips are held in place using a rigging kit. It’s job is two fold, to secure the clips in place and to provide a handle for in water use only. I don’t use the handles out of the water – they stretch and become messy. The top clip is tight to the cylinder, holding it rigid. the handle is also tight against the cylinder body. the bottom clip is on a loop of cord so that it can be lengthened or shortened as requires (see the link on rigging for details)
Hoses: All the hoses point down, streamlining. The hoses are all the correct length for their job. LP reg hose is 100cm. The LP inflator hose is a backup, so is short and tucked away. HP hose is 6inch.
Tank Bands: These are rubber bands (tyre inner tube works great). The reason for using these is that they are strong and hold the hoses neatly. Most importantly, they do not roll or fall of the tank when deploying / stowing regulators.
Clutter: There are no additional attachments anywhere on the stage. I don’t need to clip the reg off, the tank bands hold it in place. I don’t also attach anything else to the stage cylinder.
A bailout cylinder is the cylinder you would bail out too from a CCR. The configuration is exactly the same above, with a couple of minor modifications:
Pressure Gauge: this cylinder is now an emergency cylinder. Hopefully I am not going to use it on the dive, therefore the gauge is not tied up like on my stages. If I do need to use it, I can just pull it out and wedge it in place. In 10 years of rebreather diving, I have only had to bail out in anger once so the gauges primary use is to check the cylinder is full at the start of every dive.
Pressurised: The bailout cylinder is always dived fully on and ready to go.
Neck Strap: if the CCR I am using does not have a bailout valve (BOV), then I will run the bailout regulator round my neck (just like the backup regulator on a twin set configuration). I hang it on a loop of cord via a small bolt snap attached via a O-Ring (to provide a break point in an emergency).
In both options, the cylinder is kept nice and clean and streamlined. If the reg is deployed underwater, it only takes one hand and can be done with out looking (I’m talking about getting the reg out, not the gas switch procedure here). Just as importantly, it can be stowed exactly as it was if I don’t need to use it any more. for a bail out cylinder, this is very important. I want to be able to put my hand on that bailout regulator instinctively via muscle memory alone. I don’t want to have to search round the cylinder for it, or have it dragging in all the silt.
The general styling of the stage / bailout cylinder has a very GUE feel to it. While I’m not a GUE diver, I have no problem is looking at what they do and how they do it, then adapting that to my diving. As I said, this isn’t my notes on what you must turn up with on a course, more a demonstration of how I do it. If you planning on coming on a course with me, or any other technical instructor for that matter, then have a look at your stages and see if they can be tweaked and cleaned up before you arrive on the course. It will make your diving much easier, and means your instructor can work on more important aspects of your diving.
If your looking at purchasing a stage, or already have one but aren’t happy about it’s configuration, then have a chat to me (or your chosen instructor) before hand. All technical instructors will be happy to dispense a bit of advice to ensure you have the right kit. It’s makes your diving easier and safer.
Correct labelling of your stage cylinder / bailout cylinder is a whole other topic, and agency / team dependent.
Keep an eye on the site as I have a few other comments on equipment and skills that any potential technical diving student should have really mastered before attending a course (mask skills anyone? DSMB?)
Stage Rigging Guide – DIR Diver I have no problems with building your own rigging kit, but do it neatly! Blue poly-prop rope, grubby hose pipe for a handle and climbing style carbines are not an option here!
Thanks to Scuba Pursuits in Cannock for lending me the 7ltr Steel Cylinder used to make up the bad stage photo. I didn’t want to use a photo of a real stage brought along by a student!