A metal detector and a Hookah rig. About as perfect a marriage as a weekend treasure seeker could want. Walking the beach as the sun comes up offers its own special pleasures. But what about what might be out there just beyond the surf waiting...waiting for you to just go out there and pluck it up. Maybe its too heavy to wash up on the beach. Be still my heart. How then do I find out? How can I stay underwater long enough to find out? If only I could breath somehow.
How about if I hold my breath, dive down, set up my search pattern, start my search, glub-glub. Get real. Youre not a kid anymore. And if you were youd be looking for softer, warmer treasures. Sigh!
I remember in the movies, the hero would escape the bad guys by breathing through a three foot reed. I could make a long snorkel out of an old garden hose. Thank God, the paramedics made it in time. Guess what, it only works in the movies.
What if I wear Scuba gear. No, that stuff is heavy out of the water and cumbersome in shallow water. Besides, who wants to lug the tank back to the store every hour or so. I could have two tanks, but I still would lose time changing them in an hour. Small pieces of jewelry wont wait. If conditions are right now, will they be right when I come back? They never are theres a rule about that. And then its back to the store anyway. And what if the store is closed when I need air? I could buy a small tank-fill compressor. Not a bad idea. But what about time? Small, tank-fill compressors can be taken to the site, but their size dictates about a 30 minute fill time. Leisure time is too precious to have to wait. And theres still all the gear to wear.
What I need then, is a continuous supply of breathing air without wearing a lot of heavy gear, with a power source whose fuel is readily and cheaply available and a winning lottery number. But if I have the number, do I really want the other stuff? You bet your sluice box I do! Its fun; its exciting; its satisfying. All the money in the world doesnt change that.
Lets examine a Surface Supplied Air apparatus. They used to call it Hookah, but they got fancy. My nephew recently got fired, but they called it downsizing. Fired, canned, downsized; hes still out of a job. This has nothing to do with treasure, but if you need someone, I promised my sister I would tell everyone where to find a perfectly good, downsized nephew.
Surface Supplied Air (SSA). Youre probably acquainted with the concept. A low pressure, oil-free compressor on the surface pumps air down to as many as three divers at a time. For purposes of this discussion we will assume you will always dive with a buddy for safety. (Remember, my nephew is available.) A good two-person rig will contain the following: a tough float that will withstand the abrasion of a rocky beach, air hoses fit for breathing with non-corrosive, quick connect fittings that will swivel, and mouthpiece/regulators made for SSA, not for Scuba. Scuba regs adapted for SSA have restrictive hoses and fittings. So what? SSA uses lower pressure and needs a slightly larger conduit to be most effective.
The most efficient power supply will be a small gas engine. There are some 12-volt rigs on the market and, at some point way down the line, will probably be the machines of choice. For now, however, they are heavy and usually provide air for only one diver. And you are confronted with the same time constraints as Scuba, maybe worse. A store Scuba fill will take five to seven minutes, not including shlepping. A battery could take six or more hours to recharge. Go back and find that ring. Dream on.
A well-made, gas-powered rig will run for three hours, conservatively, times two divers nets six underwater hours. Much more and you might as well grow gills. Even if your compressor unit runs dry, another gallon of gas in a small, approved can will keep you going for another eight hours. Eight, count em, eight beautiful hours. On the downside, all that time would keep you away from the house and the lawn mower for long periods. Win a little - lose a little.
A genuine downside could be when you are working in or near the surf. Very often thats where the good stuff is - where the surf has stirred up the bottom, releasing its captive bits of booty for precious few seconds. It goes without saying that a really pounding surf is telling you to change your plan unless six weeks in a full body cast is your thing. Common sense and basic fear will dictate the agenda. Even with a moderate surf, getting Poseidon mad at you and flipping your piece over on the beach could very well take the edge off your day. And deep, shaking sobs are not considered manly. This could prove to be just a logistical problem. With a helper (nephew?), a small anchor and a plan, you could turn the tide. The plan simply involves having the floating compressor held in place beyond the surf. As the diver works the line, the helper moves the float. A small sand anchor a bit further offshore will make it easier to control the float if conditions warrant.
Calm lakes, ponds and rivers offer many of the same rewards as more turbulent bodies of water, without some of the hazards. Consider this: traveling with complete dive gear for two in two suitcase-sized packages. Worth saying again is that one gallon of gas will produce air for eight hours continuous or 16 hours total underwater for two divers. Assuming that I can be trusted (ex-altar boy) with my estimation that one standard Scuba tank equals one hour, imagine the space you would need for 16 Scuba tanks. And at 40 pounds each lets see...that would come to hmm...a lot. Most weekenders would own and deal with two tanks each. That would equate to eight visits to the dive store; a task requiring considerable feats of strength and endurance. Only two people really benefit the store operator and your chiropractor.
With a good SSA package, however, all your time is quality time. No heavy gear is worn. A weight belt, a tow belt to keep the hose connected to your body (strongly recommended to prevent spontaneous denture launching), a regulator, mask, fins and whatever tools you think you need. Trips back and forth to the shoreline are without strain, incident or hernia. The compressor/engine unit will weigh in at just 40 pounds - the weight of just one Scuba cylinder. Deflated float, hoses and regulators will weigh another 30 to 70 pounds compared to 640 if you did indeed carry 16 Scuba tanks and you will, one way or another, to match the SSA performance. The two diver rigs will supply air to a depth of 30 feet. Probably deeper than youll go off the beach, but nice to know that you can. Models for three divers at 30 or two at 60 feet are available, but are a bit heavier. But at three hours run time for three divers, a veritable plethora of Scuba tanks is replaced.
Youll want to play it safe way before the dive. If you buy your gear from one of the major manufacturers, youll be assured of quality. Maintenance will be simple - usually a good wash down and a light coating of a protectant. As long as your program includes a riffle time for post dive clean-up and a regular maintenance schedule, you can expect continued limited-care operation. (Remember - Care-free isnt, and one-size-fits-all doesnt.) But then anything worth having is worth caring for. (Thats why its better to borrow from your neighbor. Use it till it breaks then let him worry about it. Care Free Home Maintenance 101.")
So continue walking the beach. Its great. But why not give yourself the edge. A small, light Surface Supplied Air system expands your sphere - gets you where your imagination takes you and (big finish) gets you where dreams come true. For information on professional SSA, contact Brownies Third Lung at 940 NW First Street. Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33311. Voice: 800/327-0412. Fax: 954-462-6115. Visit a great website at browniedive.com
Footnote: You will be pleased to learn (or youve read this far so you might as well finish) that the nephew is no longer available. He is away at some high class college. l think they got it backwards though. Ever hear of State Penn?