Jud - s/v Sputnik

Hookah/floating shallow dive compressor - anyone?

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Just some random thoughts on a topic I have followed both at SA and other sites for quite sometime.

There are a lot of options with a big price point range.  Truth be told there is no one size fits all answer.  Something like a SCUBA tank with a first and second stage regulator and maybe 50 feet of hose and a reasonable vest/harness to keep the hose from pulling the mouthpiece out of your mouth  is a simple solution for cleaning your bottom.  Might even work for something like diving your anchor or a little exploring.  On the other hand some of the top tier options with powerful compressors reserve tanks and multiple hoses can also allow things like exploring shallow reef and other types of recreational diving with a buddy; along with the possible bigger advantage for some of multiple dives over days, or even weeks or months, in places where filling SCUBA tanks are not an option.  I once worked out that with a five gallon jerry can of gas my Hookamax system was the equivalent of more than a hundred 72ft SCUBA tanks.  Even if you can carry ten or twelve tanks on your boat; something not realistic for lots of cruisers a hookah provides a lot more dives between needed fills.

Which brings up another consideration.  Back when I first started SCUBA diving I was always the last guy back on the boat; the reason being I was a fearless kid in good shape and never seemed to get nervous in the clear South Florida/Bahamas waters and was breathing normally.  Some folks seemed to simply gulp the air down and seemed to me like they were huffing and puffing way more than I was.  I also tended to have neutral body so I hardly ever had to kick to stay where I wanted while others seemed to be flailing around with their arms and legs.  I do know plenty of guys who are better at this than I am; but a lot more are worse.  So a person considering getting a hookah needs to realistically assess just what they want to use it for and even more importantly assess their skill level in terms of diving.  Not to mention if they are considering a DIY option realistically assess their skill level at DIY projects.

Most of the ready made options like Hookamax and Gator Gil also have what I call a filter system to clean the gas as it enters the system.  They also sometimes have other "filters" to reduce the amount of moisture in the gas.  No question you can add these options to a DIY system.  The thing is just as your skill set is a consideration in which system best fits your needs you also need to realistically assess what I will call how well your lungs have held up.  Not just things like smoking, working in a dirty environment, genetics, and many other things may have left you with lungs that need especially clean dry air.

If you look at a lot of threads on sailing sites there seems to be what seems to me unrealistic desire to do things as cheaply as possible.  It is common to see the comment 'the most expensive thing you can buy is a cheap boat'.  To some extent this is the case with hookahs.  You need a compressor that is not just powerful but able to deliver clean air to a filter system, probably a reserve tank, taking into consideration heat in the system, quality regulators, quality hoses, a decent mouthpiece and some system to secure the hose to your body so the mouthpiece stays put.  Putting together a DIY system takes not just the parts but the ability to select the right ones.  Next you need skills to put the system together.  For some folks a DIY system is worth their time and effort; for others a store bought system means they can get in the water sooner.  YMMV

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31 minutes ago, Tomfl said:

Just some random thoughts on a topic I have followed both at SA and other sites for quite sometime.

There are a lot of options with a big price point range.  Truth be told there is no one size fits all answer.  Something like a SCUBA tank with a first and second stage regulator and maybe 50 feet of hose and a reasonable vest/harness to keep the hose from pulling the mouthpiece out of your mouth  is a simple solution for cleaning your bottom.  Might even work for something like diving your anchor or a little exploring.  On the other hand some of the top tier options with powerful compressors reserve tanks and multiple hoses can also allow things like exploring shallow reef and other types of recreational diving with a buddy; along with the possible bigger advantage for some of multiple dives over days, or even weeks or months, in places where filling SCUBA tanks are not an option.  I once worked out that with a five gallon jerry can of gas my Hookamax system was the equivalent of more than a hundred 72ft SCUBA tanks.  Even if you can carry ten or twelve tanks on your boat; something not realistic for lots of cruisers a hookah provides a lot more dives between needed fills.

Which brings up another consideration.  Back when I first started SCUBA diving I was always the last guy back on the boat; the reason being I was a fearless kid in good shape and never seemed to get nervous in the clear South Florida/Bahamas waters and was breathing normally.  Some folks seemed to simply gulp the air down and seemed to me like they were huffing and puffing way more than I was.  I also tended to have neutral body so I hardly ever had to kick to stay where I wanted while others seemed to be flailing around with their arms and legs.  I do know plenty of guys who are better at this than I am; but a lot more are worse.  So a person considering getting a hookah needs to realistically assess just what they want to use it for and even more importantly assess their skill level in terms of diving.  Not to mention if they are considering a DIY option realistically assess their skill level at DIY projects.

Most of the ready made options like Hookamax and Gator Gil also have what I call a filter system to clean the gas as it enters the system.  They also sometimes have other "filters" to reduce the amount of moisture in the gas.  No question you can add these options to a DIY system.  The thing is just as your skill set is a consideration in which system best fits your needs you also need to realistically assess what I will call how well your lungs have held up.  Not just things like smoking, working in a dirty environment, genetics, and many other things may have left you with lungs that need especially clean dry air.

If you look at a lot of threads on sailing sites there seems to be what seems to me unrealistic desire to do things as cheaply as possible.  It is common to see the comment 'the most expensive thing you can buy is a cheap boat'.  To some extent this is the case with hookahs.  You need a compressor that is not just powerful but able to deliver clean air to a filter system, probably a reserve tank, taking into consideration heat in the system, quality regulators, quality hoses, a decent mouthpiece and some system to secure the hose to your body so the mouthpiece stays put.  Putting together a DIY system takes not just the parts but the ability to select the right ones.  Next you need skills to put the system together.  For some folks a DIY system is worth their time and effort; for others a store bought system means they can get in the water sooner.  YMMV

Thanks for the long and thoughtful reply.  You bring up lots of things I hadn’t considered (not surprisingly!).

I’m not exactly diving into this sight unseen, but I do truthfully know little about diving/air systems, etc.  (I plan to take a scuba course for background.)  I was, however, intrigued by the ideas in the James Baldwin article and video that I’ve referenced (above) to see how it’ll work - he’s a well-known and very experienced sailor/DIYer (which doesn’t mean he knows how to do this, but he always seems very thorough and methodical in his projects, from ham radio on board, to an array of other projects).  He specifically decided to make his own hookah rig in order to be able to fit it on a small boat (28’), with minimal current draw, and to minimize his investment in case it didn’t work. He just wanted it for simple bottom cleaning.  Same considerations for me.  It’s all about trade offs, really...and a bit of seeing what might work now, since I’m just not ready yet to commit the money to a full-size hookah rig.  Maybe it will make sense to keep a proper, bigger one at home that I can occasionally dinghy out to my boat on its mooring to clean the bottom with occasionally.

We’ll see in the spring how the homemade one works...will try to remember to post an update here.  But it may be too damn cold then and, being new to it, I may hire a diver then and just wait until warmer summer temps to test the set up at more leisure! :-)

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1 hour ago, Jud - s/v Sputnik said:

Thanks for the long and thoughtful reply.  You bring up lots of things I hadn’t considered (not surprisingly!).

SNIP

The reason I have both of my hookahs is more for recreational diving in places where filling tanks is not realistic and I want to dive for days or weeks at a time.  For simple bottom cleaning I would just go with a tank, and I am not sure I would even bother with a hose, just regular SCUBA if there was a shop to fill the tank.  But my Seawind only draws 3'9" so to clean the bottom I take the boat in 4'6" of water, stand on the bottom and clean as much as I can standing and bending down.  Then I dive the rest but it is so shallow I don't have much of a problem.  I also use self polishing bottom paint and often clean the bottom every week or two when cruising.  Makes thing very easy as there are normally only small places with growth.  Another advantage of self polishing  bottom paint is on a fast boat (specs say more than 10knots) the growth is removed by the speed and friction of the water.  I can usually sail that fast on a regular basis.  

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On 12/3/2019 at 9:32 AM, Bull City said:

Yes, 25,000 feet up is one thing, 3 feet under water is another.

No, what people have told you is dead right. You simply cannot breathe at depth of 1m from an unpressurised surface supply. It's pretty easy to test next time you go swimming.

WRT the cheap compressors I'd be very wary of them unless they're oil-less compressor heads. Even then I'd like some decent filters.

Friend of mine owns a commercial dive shop, I designed/wrote the software he uses to keep track of all gear testing and equipment maintenance including the air banks/compressors so I know just how picky the requirements are for clean air. It's not something I'd be comfortable jury-rigging myself (though I did buy a Senco oil-less baby compressor thinking one day I might. But only *after* having a couple air samples tested).

FKT

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20 hours ago, Fah Kiew Tu said:

It's not something I'd be comfortable jury-rigging myself (though I did buy a Senco oil-less baby compressor thinking one day I might. But only *after* having a couple air samples tested).

FKT

Interesting.  Any idea who might do this?  I know someone who has an abatement company for lead/mould/asbestos in buildings.  I suspect someone like this might know where to get air samples tested?

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34 minutes ago, Jud - s/v Sputnik said:

Interesting.  Any idea who might do this?  I know someone who has an abatement company for lead/mould/asbestos in buildings.  I suspect someone like this might know where to get air samples tested?

In my case I'd get my dive shop owner friend to arrange the testing. In your case, I'd go ask a tank fill place who does their air quality testing. If they say that nobody does, I'd look elsewhere for tank fills myself. My friend has a hell of a lot of business with fish farms and the like, recreational diving is a smaller part of the biz, and all his plant is certified with regular checks. Not all places are so rigorous.

FKT

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I’m just going to agree with basically everything Fastbottoms said. I’ve got about 500 hours on my DIY rig with no issues. It’s easy to build a safe rig. 
 

The real problem is untrained, unprepared divers using hookahs. I’ve been snagged by curious muppets twice while cleaning the big shiny race boat in town, had to cut the air line both times. Don’t ever dive with a hookah unless you’ve got a VERY accessible knife. 

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3 hours ago, solosailor said:

I have an 80 and a 30 dive tank.    To clumsy and bulky so I bought one of these 4 years ago:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01F438AZE/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Comes with a fill adaptor to the standard tanks and I get 3-4 refills from a tanks.   

Roughly how long does the air last in that little tank?  Do you use it for basic underwater maintenance (simple bottom scrub, prop scrape, zinc replacement?)

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5 hours ago, Monkey said:

The real problem is untrained, unprepared divers using hookahs. I’ve been snagged by curious muppets twice while cleaning the big shiny race boat in town, had to cut the air line both times. Don’t ever dive with a hookah unless you’ve got a VERY accessible knife. 

How is that? Spit out the regulator, float to the nearby surface. What am I doing wrong?

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9 hours ago, El Boracho said:

How is that? Spit out the regulator, float to the nearby surface. What am I doing wrong?

If your hose goes to a harness as described above you can't just spit out the regulator.  The harness is useful so you are not having all the hose pulling on the mouthpiece. Although I think I would have a quick disconnect at the harness. 

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Roughly how long does the air last in that little tank?  Do you use it for basic underwater maintenance (simple bottom scrub, prop scrape, zinc replacement?)

10+ minutes.....    Rarely did I need a refill while cleaning the bottom, only if it had been skipped for a while.   I could refill it from the water by having a regular tank laying on the dock, refilling takes seconds.

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9 hours ago, seaker said:

If your hose goes to a harness as described above you can't just spit out the regulator.  The harness is useful so you are not having all the hose pulling on the mouthpiece. Although I think I would have a quick disconnect at the harness. 

Ahh, I see, that seems foolishly complicated. Sometimes I tuck a but of hose under my weight belt, but usually the hose just floats free. Seems to work just fine.

6 hours ago, solosailor said:

10+ minutes.....    Rarely did I need a refill while cleaning the bottom, only if it had been skipped for a while.   I could refill it from the water by having a regular tank laying on the dock, refilling takes seconds.

...so half the refills give less than 5 minutes. That is the way it works without a compressor.

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??    An 80 charges it full on 3+ times and I get the same run time.   My use was I'd rent a tank for $8 to feed the pony bottle, clean the bottom, then again the following week, fill the pony for a 3rd dive which was 2 weeks out and return 80 tank.   I'd get my full dive time on that 3rd dive no problem.   

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49 minutes ago, solosailor said:

??    An 80 charges it full on 3+ times and I get the same run time.   My use was I'd rent a tank for $8 to feed the pony bottle, clean the bottom, then again the following week, fill the pony for a 3rd dive which was 2 weeks out and return 80 tank.   I'd get my full dive time on that 3rd dive no problem.   

Yes- the only problem is that it puts a hull diver out of work. :lol:

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On 12/5/2019 at 9:12 PM, 2airishuman said:

What could possibly go wrong?

Sample size of 1

 

Dove for about 15-20 mins last night doing a light rudder and prop clean using Atom’s hookah set up (link in one of my posts above) with the small oil less compressor/aquarium pump/dive hose.  Minimal electrical draw on the boat’s batts.  Easy to breathe.  Seems fine for now for just keeping on top of hull and prop maintenance a few times a year.  (I’d probably invest in a more robust/larger capacity system, and/or a dive tank, if cruising full time.)

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Another hour with the little compressor last night. Small foot print.  (Flip flop for size reference :-) ) Seems to work fine...just don’t breathe TOO hard :-)

Allowed me to scrape prop and rudder and put a plug in a through hull ok.   Not being a diver, now I’m really keen to do a proper dive course, as I can see what it will open up.  But this little compressor set up seems fine for occasional, light use. 

202C323C-4952-496D-9098-31CFB9FD0B83.png

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11 hours ago, Jud - s/v Sputnik said:

  Not being a diver, now I’m really keen to do a proper dive course, as I can see what it will open up.

It will change your relationship with the water forever.  At least, it did for me.

Diving is one of the few activities that I find to be inherently fun.  Most of the others cause side effects like pregnancy, addiction, and obesity.  It took me about 50 dives before I got to the point where I didn't have to think about it any more.

On the other hand being on a cruising sailboat gives you snorkeling and freediving opportunities that aren't available any other way.  I have found that the more I scuba dive, the more I appreciate good snorkeling/freediving opportunities.  Some of the skills cross over.

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On 11/29/2019 at 5:34 PM, Jud - s/v Sputnik said:

Maybe.  I just remembered that what first made me think about making a hookah set up was an article I came across by James Baldwin, who’s nothing if not very methodical and thorough.  (I’d forgotten about this article - his boat is only 28’, so he’s very pinched for space:  https://www.atomvoyages.com/articles/improvement-projects/393-diy-dive-hookah-for-boat-bottom-cleaning.html)

Another update for the masses on my James Baldwin/Atom Voyages hookah set up.  Just got back from my last dive of the year.  Feet still quite cold.  Don’t want to dive in winter, though I could - no need to.  Today’s hull clean/zinc maintenance will carry me through until next spring.  Currently sitting by the fire drinking rum.  That was cold enough for me, even wearing a drysuit!

About an hour in cold northern water, cleaning prop, shaft, rudder, and changing the prop shaft zinc. 

The set up works great and has easily paid for itself by now (in not paying for a diver, and/or hauling out).  More importantly, perhaps, it’s given me the convenience to clean the hull whenever/wherever I want.  It’s compact and stows easily on board, which is very nice.  The only possible limitation I can perceive so far is as James Baldwin notes in the article I linked to above (and the associated video he made on the hookah at the end of his article - after first using a small compressor, he soon upsized his compressor from the smaller size one he originally got.) The slightly larger compressor is adequate for diving 8-ish ft/2.5 m deep —as far as I go for cleaning the bottom of the keel.  I don’t feel like I’d really want to go too much deeper than that with it - (1) because I don’t have the diving experience, and (2) because I’m not 100% confident that it’s an adequate system for such deeper dives.  But for basic underwater boat maintenance, at a very reasonable cost to build, and (what’s really nice) to get something easy to store on a sub-35’ boat, it’s a great system so far.

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Cold water is tough haha makes you really appreciate the warm stuff!!  Everything is a little harder so don't be surprised if you use more air or tax the compressor some.  It's a good idea to set limits as well.  It's way more productive to do three days at 45min than to try and bang out one several hr day.

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12 minutes ago, SASSAFRASS said:

Cold water is tough haha makes you really appreciate the warm stuff!!  Everything is a little harder so don't be surprised if you use more air or tax the compressor some.  It's a good idea to set limits as well.  It's way more productive to do three days at 45min than to try and bang out one several hr day.

Definitely - that’s what I’ve come to realize.  Less tiring, esp. in cold water, to spread it over a few days.

But the issue here is that my wife or daughter, or a friend needs to be on board to make sure I’m safe underwater - i.e., just makes sense to have someone onboard at the same time I’m under water.  And preferably sitting in the cockpit where the compressor is. 

And since non-rainy days are few and far between these days, and it has to be on a weekend during the day, when there’s daylight (not after work)...if I’ve got a few spare hours on a Sat or Sun, that’s the only time I can fit it in...

Oh well.  I’m pretty happy with what I’ve been able to do.  Nov 1-March 31, I am NOT going on the water :-)

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They are all from Madera and probably breath under water no worries....

We have a awsome postcard pic same era Catalina of a little kid riding a tuna on the beach, Sunday dress and all.

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