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BCD failed while shore diving in the Phillipines

Discussion in 'Basic Scuba Discussions' started by Timothy Hayes, Feb 10, 2019.

  1. Timothy Hayes

    Timothy Hayes Garibaldi

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: korea
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    Hello,

    I am a relatively inexperienced PADI open water certified diver. I'm sure we probably covered this in the course but I wanted to make sure I had the right solution to the issue I experienced. I shore-dived in Oslob, Phillipines with rented gear and the sea was only about 20 meters deep, but my BCD failed while diving. Our guide saw me struggling to swim on the sea floor and grabbed me and we ascended together. My question is, if my BCD fails in open water, what is the best thing to do?

    I thought that dropping weights would be the best solution, but I am unsure. I appreciate all advice and any help, thank you.

    -Kind Regards,
    T.H.
     
  2. lexvil

    lexvil Loggerhead Turtle

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: jamestown, ca.
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    Explain “failed”, how much weight and exposure protection?
     
  3. npole

    npole Barracuda

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    If the vale is leaking you can't inflate it;

    If the valve is failing, you can inflate it by mouth (you learned how to do it in your course);

    If you cannot inflate it, it's not a big issue, you should swim up, reach the surface, drop your weights, this is usually enough to stay afloat even with a not inflated BCD.

    If you're struggling to swim up, it means that you're heavily overweight, while it is a common thing along the inexperienced divers, it is very dangerous (as you have experienced), and it happens because there's this bad habit of many instructors to overweight the new divers to have them staying at the bottom to do their exercises without controlling their asset, despite the fact that the big organizations (including PADI) are constantly reminding their instructors that these exercises must be performed neutral and not at the bottom on the knees.

    So, if you're overweight and you're struggling a lot to come afloat you have to consider to drop your weight, however dropping them all (if you have many) it could lead to a too fast ascend (another reason of weight you correctly) so you may want to consider to only drop enough weights that is enough going up (remember: shallower you go, more positive you became .. so if you drop too much weight you will accelerate your ascension in the last meters...).
     
  4. CT-Rich

    CT-Rich Solo Diver

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    At 20 m in a wet suit you will be negative. If you try to swim up and find you cannot make progress, you have a couple of options. Having a buddy assist you in swimming to the surface worked in this case. Dropping some weight to get off the bottom will work, but you will become more positive as you get closer to the surface and may lose control of your ascent. If you have your weight distributed in a way so you can ditch a portion at a time, this is safest. I wear a weight belt and two weight pouches on my BCD. I have the option of ditching 25% of my lead. That is about the equivalent of the gas in a full tank. When you get to the surface, it is your call how much lead you drop. If you are stressed and face a long swim, get rid of more or hand it off to your dive buddy to carry into shore.

    If you are diving dry, the dry suit is your redundant buoyancy. If you can fix it on the bottom, that is best. My one failed BCD experience turned out that the LP inflation hose was probably catching on the shoulder dump and pinning it open. It was a night dive and I should have been able to fix it if I had realized that was a possible cause of the problem. I had no problem getting to the surface, but for the long surface swim, I dropped weights.
     
  5. 2airishuman

    2airishuman Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Greater Minnesota
    2,379
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    Hello Timothy

    As others have mentioned it depends what has gone wrong.

    I think probably the most common and most serious problem with BCs is stuck inflator valves, which means that they provide excessive buoyancy instead of insufficient buoyancy. The fix is to disconnect the hose, but you've got to be quick or you'll be on the surface.

    If the problem is just that it won't inflate, well you can inflate orally, or fin up towards the surface until you become neutral again.

    I find that I can swim up even if I am over 10 pounds negative. It's a good experiment to run once in a while.

    Ruptured BCs or ones where the hose has come completely off the bladder or wing are rare but serious. If you are properly weighted you should be able to swim to the surface or at least slow your rate of descent to buy time. If you have an SMB or lift bag you can inflate that for emergency buoyancy. In some cases it may be possible to swim with the torn portion of the BC facing downward so that it is possible to fill the rest of it with air, and recapture some buoyancy.

    Yes, you can ditch weight, if faced with that I would ditch as little as possible to allow me to swim up.
     
    Doc, CT-Rich and Steve_C like this.
  6. Doc

    Doc Was RoatanMan

    # of Dives: None - Not Certified
    Location: Chicago & O'Hare heading thru TSA 5x per year
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    Good stuff above.

    Add to the mix: Discerning the precise REASON for a BC not providing lift is often invisible to the diver in question.

    (Only) Advanced levels of comfort (experience) would allow for one’s auditory perception of inflator valve activation vs. the expected sound (and effect of lift) or tactile inflation sensation of the bladder.

    If the diver has the skills to discern above as “fail”, then he must revert to training, as in: check inflator hose connection. (Re-attach or go to various Plan B strategies in above posts) If that diver has those skills to discern that, thus eliminating I’d guess maybe 80% of the audience (who are already inexorably immersed in thought and action in re Plan B)

    So, for the remaining 20% of divers....on your own, figure out where the BC is leaking the air. (Imagine communicating that odd query to a dive buddy?) This is tough as you pretty much so can’t SEE the problem. Start with the highest dump valve- maybe you can see that valve or a trail of bubbles. Fiddle with the dump valve. That will fix 93.6% of leaky valves.

    For the remaining 6.4% who are not yet heading skyward...the Fix otherwise? Orient your position in water column so that leaky valve is “down”. Tough to do, especially under stress.

    I carry a small plastic parabolic mirror (for car visor baby-in-the-backseat viewing) attached to my flashlight. It allows me to see everything from my eyelashes to a buddy 10’ behind me. Astronauts have them, why not us? It has helped me diagnose personal equipment issues many times without delay.

    If you have a bladder rupture, orient that section down and monitor ascent as you slowly replenish leaking air.

    Here’s the crazy tough one: a diver goes positive. (@2airishuman +1)They purge and get neutral. This happens constantly. DM and student getting annoyed. What could it be? Consider an inflator valve stuck in a SLOW leaking open position, always adding sips of air to the BC which you keep purging. (Yes, I built an inflator to create this problem for my PSD (victims) students)

    Plan B is where 80%+ will revert, and barring barotrauma it has worked pretty well so far.
     
  7. Timothy Hayes

    Timothy Hayes Garibaldi

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: korea
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    I'm not sure exactly what the issue was but it seems as if my best option in open water would be to try to inflate my BCD manually, and if that fails then to ditch a small amount of weight for as controlled an ascent as possible. Thank you all for the advice and I will pay more attention next time to the BCD and check it better before diving for any possible malfuntions.
     
    StefinSB likes this.
  8. JackD342

    JackD342 Dive Shop

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Highland Park, IL
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    While you may not know the cause, you can certainly provide info on just what the effect was that you perceived as a “fail.”
    From your second post, I surmise that you couldn’t inflate. Assuming that your BCD wasn’t dumping air as fast as you were filling, I can think of just a few causes:
    1. Failure of power inflator mechanism, almost always resolved with oral inflation.
    2. Poorly connected LP inflator hose. Oral inflate and/or secure connection. (tug on hose after connection during assembly to confirm the QD snapped in)
    3. Blockage in LP hose or schrader valve. Orally inflate. Very unlikely.
    4. User error. Press the correct button! Attempt at oral inflation will solve quickly, as something will happen regardless of which button you press.
    Assuming you aren’t panicked enough to lose control of the situation, dumping weight is a last resort, usually used only if your BCD won’t hold air.

    Bonus note: fully inflate the BCD before use to be sure it holds air.
     
  9. caruso

    caruso Banned

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Long Island, NY
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    You've had many personal equipment issues that you've diagnosed many times using a mirror?

    Just out of curiousity what were those many equipment issues? In almost 400 dives I've never had even one. I mean I've had an issue here or there with equipment- a lose tank, or a mask that keeps flooding, a lot backup computer that was on a retractor that broke- but none of those would have been diagnosable with a mirror.
     
  10. CT-Rich

    CT-Rich Solo Diver

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    All four of your problems listed were inflator related. There are plenty of other potential problems aside from those you have listed.

    In my case the shoulder dump was wedged open and any air pumped into the BCD simply flowed out. An incorrectly assembled dump could fall apart or jam open. A seam can fail, either from age/fatigue or from piercing by an object before or during the dive. Some BCDs have pull cables inside the inflator, enough tugging and it could come off in your hand. Possible causes are limited by our imagination.
     

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