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Please school me on recreational DPV's

Discussion in 'Dive Propulsion Vehicles' started by gqllc007, Feb 28, 2021.

  1. Jack Hammer

    Jack Hammer Solo Diver

    Other than both being a DPV there truly is no way to compare it to high end technical scooters without making it sound like it's junk, which it isn't. They are in different price, performance, build, quality, reliability, power, and most importantly intended usage classes. One is designed as a solid entry level DPV for recreational use, the other for extended range exploration in much more extreme environments.
  2. Whitrzac

    Whitrzac Contributor

    Toyota Carola vs Bentley.

    The blacktip has similar power/range as other tec scooters, vs a recreational something with 45min burn. It has its issues though. Its works 'most' of the time and is a little rough around the edges. Its something I use where it failing would be an inconvenience, not a risk.

    They've sold over 1100 of them based on SNs...
    RayfromTX likes this.
  3. macado

    macado Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Salem, MA (North of Boston)
    In the realm of recreational DPVs (which is the subject of this thread) there is really nothing in the under $2000 price range that compares to a Blacktip. It has already been stated above but it's unfair to compare a Suex XK1 which retails for $8600 to a Blacktip which retails between $1500-$2000 plus applicable batteries. It's very much an apples to orange (or Toyota Corolla to Bentley like mentioned above) comparison.

    The next "closest" competitor would be the Suex XJ VR which I believe retails for $3600 USD. The Suex XJ VR by comparison has less static thrust, weighs more (35lbs vs 24-28lbs), has only two speeds, and lesser depth rating. It does however have a larger battery which equates to a marginally longer runtime.

    I suppose you could also include the Bonex Aquaprop as a competitor which retails for $2600 but that also has significantly less static thrust, only two speeds however it is much smaller than the Blacktip at ~14lbs. This model has it's own host of issues, however.

    Neither one of the above options (with lithium batteries configuration) are airline travel friendly. Both competitors also offer NiMH battery options but that obviously sacrifices runtime making them less attractive to some.

    Where the line gets sufficiently blurred is the Blacktip has decent enough performance that many feel it can be used for lite technical applications, myself included. It has carved itself out a small niche that sits between recreational scooters and high-end technical scooters. If you compare a Blacktip to ~10-15 year old school "technical" DPV designs like Gavins or SS UV-18 / SS-UV26 which have 45lbs of thrust, the Blacktip blows them out of the water and it doesn't weigh 90lbs. Note: I'm not talking about "hot-rodded" rewound motors or ones with lithium battery upgrades. These used to be considered "real" technical scooters back in the day.

    For what it's worth I'm an early Blacktip adopter but not really new to DPVs. I own an older Suex XJoy, have owned a Mako. I also have a decent amount of trigger time on a SS UV-18, Dive Xtras CUDA 650, Dive Xtras P1 and Suex Xjoy37 and Suex XJ VR. I'm sure I am missing some other models.

    In truth I got a lot of "sh*t" from my friends for not buying a true "technical" DPV. I also think some people have a little bit of insecurity that a $2000 "pool toy" can keep up with their $8000 super expedition grade highly technical DPV. I bought mine primarily for local boat diving because I couldn't really justify spending $6000-8000 on a scooter when New England visibility is typically 10-15ft (not really fun on a scooter but doable). Lots of smaller six-pack boats here are the "norm" and a 28lb scooter is much easier to deal with than 40-70lb scooter on a rocking boat with 4ft seas.

    I've done all these dives (multiple times) with my Blacktip and haven't had any issues. For a recreational DPV it does pretty well.
    • Ginnie Springs to Henkle (~3200') and numerous side passages on way out. No issues in lips / keyhole or other high flow areas.
    • Little River to Well Casing (I believe about 2300-2400'). Numerous times in various levels of flow.
    • Eagle's Nest Upstream (~280ft) to 2400' where the goldline ends. Numerous times.
    • Manatee Springs (Catfish Hotel to a bit past Water Sampling station to around ~3600'). Manatee can be super high flow. Admittedly I definitely taxed my scooter in some areas here.
    • Scootered up Suwannee River to entrance of Telford Springs. Struggled a bit when river was high but not any more than my friend's Bonex Reference.
    • Numerous 2-2.5 mile (10560-13200ft) roundtrip open water dives (towing a flag with GPS track to verify distances included). I did do one 3 mile roundtrip (measured by GPS) but I was not comfortable with battery reserve for that particular dive but I was towing a flag which adds considerable drag.
    • Stellwagen Bank Marine Sanctuary in New England (Patriot Wreck). Highly tidal and strong currents
    • North Carolina wrecks (Naeco 140' / Aeolus / Spar). Known for strong current
    • Ripping current in Florida Keys on (Spiegel and Duane). Mooring balls can be pushed under water. I lost count how many times I was able to lap the Spiegel on a single dive.
    • Ripping current in St Lawrence River (AE Vickery / Bonnie Castle circuit around island)
    • Ripping current on Roy A' Jodrey (240') in St Lawrence River. I scootered from bow to stern on Jodrey 3 days in a row. If you've done this dive you know the stern can have some extreme currents.
    • Ripping current in Piscataqua River, New Hampshire. Highly tidal.
    • A bunch of shore dives to get -.4nm-.5nm (~-2500-3000ft) to get out to scallop beds from beach.

    Is the Blacktip the right tool to go 10,000ft in Manatee? Absolutely not. Is a Blacktip the right tool to do 4 mile open water dives? Nope.

    For some people that just want to go 3000ft in a cave or tool around wrecks. It's a great tool. I don't know of another scooter in that price range that honestly compares unless you find something used.
  4. Wstern5

    Wstern5 Contributor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Brooklyn
    Which model Blacktip and what type of batteries are you using for the above mentioned dives? Do you think your Blacktip would be appropriate as a backup for bigger cave dives? Cheers!
  5. macado

    macado Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Salem, MA (North of Boston)

    I own a set of DeWalt 9ah and 12Ah. I bought the 9Ahs because I am cheap and I was doing a lot of open water stuff initially. Ginnie to Henkle and Little River to Well Casing are not problem with the 9Ah batteries. I did a bunch of these dives before I bought a set of 12ah batteries. With anything it's primarily a function of how much drag you have and how fast you want to go.

    It's hard to speak in absolutes but I would say the 9Ah are fine for 3,000ft / 900m one way (~6000ft / 1800m roundtrip). The 9Ah batteries basically have 90-minute runtime at cruising speed. So turning at 30 minutes (for sake of argument 100ft/minute gets you to 3000ft). Leaves you with 60 minutes (2/3 battery reserve to exit the cave.

    The 12Ah batteries have 120-minute runtime on cruise speed. You can scooter for 40 minutes (40 minutes x 100/ft = 4000') and exit with 80 minutes (2/3rd battery) remaining.

    My personal opinion (I'm sure I'm wrong and someone is going to come along and disagree with me shortly) is I think if you were solely using the Blacktip only a backup tow scooter to go one direction then ~8000ft would be the maximum one way trip I would plan. This still gives you a bit of wiggle room and battery reserve.

    For what it's worth I seemed to average 140-150ft/minute in Ginnie and Little River on Speed 4 on the Blacktip (speed 3 is cruise speed so one step above that). I find speed 3-5 to be the sweet spot, above speed 6 and you cook your batteries fairly quickly.

    Obviously the flow varies from dive to dive but I can get through the lips and eye on speed 4-6 without too much trouble. I needed to use speed 6+ in Manatee in some places and going up the Suwannee when the river was high to get to Telford.

    Having said all that, I think the 12Ah are much safer for cave diving and that is what I would recommend. You get a bit more range, more comfortable battery reserve especially if you count on having to tow your dive buddy. Two DeWalt 12Ah batteries is still only 432 watt hours of battery. (216 Wh x 2 batteries = 432 Wh) which is a woefully small amount of battery juice if you compare them to modern lithium battery scooters. For example, the Suex XJ37 (XJs or whatever they call it now) has a battery that has 940 watt hours.

    With the Blacktip you really have to plan things a bit more carefully and not decide you want to race your buddy to the Henkle on Speed 8. I can't remember where I heard this but I think it was @DA Aquamaster who said it but the Blacktip is not the scooter for you if you want to do a Roman Chariot-style racing down every single line and jump in Ginnie for 3 hours, get a XK or Piranha 2 if you want to do that :)

    Forgot to mention. My configuration for these dives is drysuit + backmount rebreather with two steel bailouts sidemounted plus an AL80 stage or drysuit + backmounted doubles with 1-2 AL80 stages. For Eagle's Nest I had rebreather two sidemounted LP95s, a butt clipped AL80 stage and another AL80 stage slung that I dropped. I'm certainly not going set any speed records but it works..
  6. Wstern5

    Wstern5 Contributor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Brooklyn
    Awesome, thanks for the info!
  7. Tom Winters

    Tom Winters Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: Boca Raton, FL
    The SeaDoos are THE finest recreational scooters ever made...just ask ANY satisfied SeaDoo owner.
    Oh wait, there aren’t any. Never mind.
    Buy the BT. Buy REAL —->Dewalt<—- batteries since you’re gonna be 150’ underwater and not making a birdfeeder in your backyard...which means DFAW cheap eBay batteries that will usually work great, unless they don’t.
    The 12aH Dewalts are actually lighter! than the 9aH batteries. Just buy ‘em - the 12’s.
    You dive deep caves for hour upon hour and/or shoredive the Andrea Doria from the coast of Massachusetts, maybe get a Genesis scooter or a surplus Sturgeon-class SSN.
    The SSN will be a little tough to trailer into freshwater dive sites though.
    You’ll be able to maybe salvage the long-lost and long-rumored tons of gold bullion on the Doria and pay for all of this.
    If there’s any leftovers, I’d sure like a 4 piece setting of the White Star china...
    Good luck with your choices.
    gqllc007 likes this.
  8. sunnyboy

    sunnyboy Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Vancouver Island, Canada
  9. Imsohappy

    Imsohappy Instructor, Scuba

    I bought a blacktip to haul me out to the reef and back. I plan my gas, and when I head for home, as if the scooter will fail at the worst possible time.

    I love the scooter. On my first trip I hauled as many as 4 divers out to the reef and back in a train of divers holding on to the one in front. We have touch signals for different problems and ok. It was amazingly effective and all these divers were in side mount or back mounted doubles.

    On the trip I'm on now I have hauled three divers, each with three tanks. Typically I haul myself with three tanks and my dive buddy with two and we do 3-4 hour dives, limiting the scooter to getting us out and back and crossing over from reef to reef and some exploration. We always plan for battery to spare because the current can and does reverse mid dive and can leave you working to get to your preferred takeout. Again we never count on the scooter but it continually gets us home with one exception. Actually it even got me home on that dive.

    On one solo dive as I started in from the reef it failed to stop. I grabbed the prop to stop it and when I got ready to go again it failed to start. I started kicking in but along the way I rapped it up side its head a few times and tried the trigger and it started. As I tried to upshift it stopped. I rapped it a few more times and when I got it to start, I just left it in speed three and took it all the way to the takeout without stopping, once again stopping it by hand.

    When I got home, I discovered that the magnet that is mounted in the trigger mechanism had come loose and rotated to the point that it wasn't activating the switch. I rotated the magnet and it started working again.

    Later I had another mishap with the scooter. Its display failed which I had heard could happen if the blue wire isn't connected fully so when I got back home I reached down in and disconnected and reconnected the three conductor Anderson connector. I dislike Anderson connectors and now I have another reason. When I reconnected them one handed down in the bottom of the scooter I accidentally shifted them over one terminal which the anderson connector allows to happen and didn't notice it. When I reinstalled the batteries, I fried the control board. Damn!

    This was on a Friday afternoon. I got busy contacting Divextra for parts and/or a new tailpiece. I checked with my supplier and they said there was a six week back order. I checked for dealers in the Riviera Maya and there is one in all of Mexico. They are in Playa del Carmen and had a used one they were willing to sell so they could get the tec version. I bought it on Monday. On Monday afternoon I got a reply from Divextra. They didn't have a tailpiece but sent me a complete parts list and the parts were all available. I ordered a new control board for 157$ plus shipping along with some extra rings and a couple of extra trigger mechanisms and an extra strap. A week later I got it delivered here in Cozumel and twenty minutes later I had two working scooters! Thing is that just before I left to come here I found a deal on a second set of 12AH batteries and bought them as backups, figuring a failed battery would be hard to replace here so I actually have two working scooters!

    I have had no further problems. I have a total of 65 dives with a total of 200 hours of bottom time on the blacktip scooter. I consider it a close second to my shearwater computers as my best gear purchases. It is rather perfect for what I'm using it for as it is lightweight, travels well and is strong enough and has enough stamina to do the dives I'm doing with plenty of reserve. I have run it to near empty when things went south literally. The current here is generally to the north. It sometimes reverses mid dive and leaves me motoring against the current or using an alternate exit point. I have always gotten to my intended exit including today when a reverse current left me motoring into the current for almost a Km and 45 minutes to get to where the truck was parked. No problem and had battery to spare at the end. I almost never use higher than speed 5 unless I'm almost home and have lots of battery left. I usually try to use 3 or 4 if it will buck the current because the run time at speed 3 is over 2 hours and speed 4 isn't much less.

    Oh and kudos to Divextra for their product, their firmware updates that improved it immensely and for getting me parts that were reasonably priced and arrived safely in Mexico.
    shoredivr likes this.
  10. RainPilot

    RainPilot OC/CCR Instructor Trainer Staff Member

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: UAE
    1700 plus batteries, you can get in the water with 2 hour runtimes at good speed for under 2k

    I have done about 20 hours on the trigger with a Blacktip now, never less than 2 tanks and a couple with CCR, 2x bailouts and a drysuit. needs to be at speed 4 (of 8) in order to not run away from the Suex VRX and has about 30% more runtime (with 9Ah batteries right now)

    I disagree completely, I have used it for normoxic current dives and it has been an absolute dream.

    That really isn't a fair comparison, but it blows my Suex VRX out of the water in every metric, and I very much doubt that the XK1 would be 6 times better than the Blacktip to justify the price. It can't be speed, and if its runtime I would rather have 2x Blacktip Exploration models with 12Ah batteries at around 2/3 the cost of the XK1 and then have redundancy. Also, speaking as someone who has had a battery issue on a Suex that had one dive on it, and then dealing with shipping big lithium packs to Italy for a warranty replacement, at my shipping cost, I won't ever get a non-PTB DPV again if I can help it.

    Maybe its my batteries on the VRX but the runtime of Blacktip on 9Ah is close but a little less on the VRX when diving mixed DPV teams.

    I have tried the Aquaprop and that really is a Rec DPV. It is great fun in single backmount, but once you get 2 tanks on it starts to show its limitations fast. Here I can get a Blacktip cheaper than an Aquaprop so its a no-brainer

    @RayfromTX and @NothingClever have been using their Blacktips to tow 2 or 3 divers long distances, as well as doing looooong open water dives, with great joy. I have done about 2-3 miles total travel distance on one here, shore dive out to reef and back, 4 hours with about 75% on the trigger, and getting back with at least half battery remaining.
    shoredivr, signal18 and gqllc007 like this.

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