Equipment Matters

SWIM- EAR Ear drops

There are few divers who don't need or use at some stage a lotion or potion which claims toprevent the problems which can arise when water bearing a variety of impure ingredients gets into the ear. There's a variety of products on the market and a while back we asked readers to let us know their experiences with Swim-Ear drops, newly launched in the UK and developed in the US where it is said to have more than one million users annually.The several favourable responses included one from Martyn Gough of Richmond, Surrey, who used it on a liveaboard trip to the border of Sudan on the Sea Surveyor. 'It was the first ever two week trip when I have not caught an ear infection. Some people aboard did get infections so I assume that the Swim-Ear kept me free of problems. I will use it again!'

Another tester, with a history of minor ear problems since childhood, and more than five years of regular diving around the world, used it for the first time in the Red Sea. It was only on about the third day of her week-long liveaboard trip that she properly read the instructions (very small print, is her excuse) and started putting in the correct five drops in each ear instead of one. And to be on the extra-safe side, she put them in before and after each dive and after each shower on board. For the first time ever she did not have to visit her GP for antibiotics when she returned home. And yes, others on the trip missed dives because of ear pain or problems.

Several readers reported that the lotion had a stinging sensation which put them off. But our female tester, not made of the stuff that Operation Raleigh requires, reports back that the sensation is a mild one and in fact rather refreshing. You must not use it if there is already any ear problem. Basically it works to dislodge trapped water from the sides of the ear canal, allowing it to run out within a few seconds. Another recommendation is that Swim-EAR has been awarded the 1996/7 Award of Merit for Diving Innovation.

For details of stockists in the UK, contact Co-pharma on tel: 01923 710934. Price £4.60 a bottle including postage and packing.

Fox 40 Whistle

The Red Sea was somewhat choppy, the boat was too far away to spot our tester and her buddy, when she took out her whistle to summon assistance. Her buddy, an instructor and guide, was almost incredulous - of course they won't hear a whistle, he said. But work it did and the boat's crew were swiftly at hand. All in a dive's work for the Fox 40. Ours was a larger version, which comes in a variety of bright colours and costs £5. But you could go one better and get the smaller, glow-in-the dark version for £4. The story goes that it was first invented for Canadian ice hockey referees Ð the old 'pee-type' whistle used to freeze or ice up and the players couldn't hear the ref under their helmets and with the screaming of the crowd. Also apparently used by the US and Canadian Coast Guards, in NATO survival kits 'and even at the last Olympics' say UK distributors Markat, it's now in your local dive shop.

Markat is on tel/fax 01935 815424.

Keep it with Kevlar

Made by Markat in Sherborne, Dorset, a variation on these coated coiled cables was originally made for the Ministry of Defence to attach soldiers' guns to their belts. Police officers in Northern Ireland and elsewhere have a similar black coil attaching their guns. to their belts. All black, of course. Dive accessories name Markat's yellow version has been a big hit with divers - for a start, it's much easier to see, it can stretch to 2m, and keeps safe those expensive and/or useful diving extras. You're most likely to attach a torch, a knife or a piece of camera equipment, ('loading strain must not exceed 90 kilos') but we found it perfect for attaching a whistle, which then tucks comfortably into your BC pocket. RRP £6.

The coil comes with two plastic cable ties and fairly comprehensive instructions, with an illustration of a choice of two knots you can use to secure it. There's a disclaimer that says there's no guarantee your knot won't come undone, as its only as secure as you doing it correctly according to the instructions. Our tester found the illustrations rather hard to work out Ð but it must have worked, because the whistle cannot now be removed from her BC without cutting it! Now in black, too, from good dive outlets or stockists details from Markat, tel/fax: 01935 815424

AP Valves' SMB

It is probably not until you've been diving a while that you fully realise the importance of safety devices. In particular, SMB's or surface marker buoys. They can mean the difference between a diver bobbing up and down in the ocean unobserved by his or her dive boat, or being quickley picked up. AP Valves makes several such safety markers and they're not only invaluable in choppier British waters. We put their closed surface marker buoy to the test in the Red Sea and found it invaluable. The older version looked like an orange handbag with a black carrying handle and was a bit of a squash in some BC pockets, but this has been modified to roll up even more compactly.

Our tester attatched a reel beforehand, inflated the SMB underwater with the second spage, and sent it up on the surface - while the diver and buddy held on to the line to do their safety stop. Because it is a 'closed' version, it doesn't accidently deflate at the surface.

The APSMBC, as it is unromantically named has a variety of other uses: inflate it pre-dive at the surface as a permanent surface marker buoy. Or as a safety aid to drift diving. You can hold it out of the water as a distress flag or even use it as a buoyancy aid. Made from tough polyurethane coated nylon. We say, why dive with out one? Price £28.67 from dive shops or details from AP Valves on 01326 561040.

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