One of the problems we have is students do not look after the equipment they use, as it is not theirs, so we have to constantly maintain and repair it. This is something that is familiar to all divers. The temptation of putting off servicing equipment for a little bit longer can bring disastrous consequences. We quite often find that people are willing to have their regulators serviced on a regular basis but overlook the fact that their BCD also needs to be serviced.
A few years ago, whilst diving in the Red Sea, we did a negative entry drift dive. This was to overcome the problem of the surface current travelling a different direction to the current at depth, which we were going to follow. We all had a good briefing from the guide, and prepared for the giant stride entry. On the sound of the ships hooter, 16 divers entered the water in quick succession, to meet up at a depth of 15 metres as agreed. At this point, we would all check that our buddies were all ok and near us. Upon checking, I could not locate my buddy. First checking up and then below, I noticed my buddy at a greater depth than me, rapidly descending. With this, I dumped air out of my BDC and perused to give assistance. On this occasion, all’s well that ends well. I made contact with my buddy, slowly ascended and safely exited the water. The deepest point we had reached was 48 metres.
Once we returned to the boat and made sure everything was ok, my buddy asked what could have happened? While descending towards my buddy, I noticed that there was air escaping from his BCD shoulder dump valve. On closer inspection, the dump valve was full of salt that had crystalised over the previous year’s diving. Once cleaned, the valve was fine and worked safely for the rest of the trip. My buddy didn’t realise that you could get a build-up of salt in such location and without cleaning, this could become dangerous. Although this is a very rare occurrence, it could have been fatal.
All equipment should be serviced as per the manufacturer’s recommendations (BCD, regulators, dry suits).
Other equipment should be cleaned, checked and maintained on a regular basis.