Browse Category

OW Articles

Deep Stops

We all remember from our open water training that a stop at 10 to 20 feet for three to five minutes is recommended before surfacing from every dive. You may have read or heard about “deep stops” or Plyle stops”.



Hogarthian Gear Configuration

The Diver vs. Murphy’s Law

by Jeff Petersen


Hogarthian diving is generally considered a specific “configuration style ” of back mount cave diving and there are numerous articles out there on the specifics of the Hogarthian configuration. Instead, this article is more about the psychological underpinnings and guiding principals of Hogarthian diving. The Hogarthian mindset and its concepts can be applied to the various forms of cave diving (and other types of diving).

With the plethora of articles expounding on proper hose lengths, regulator locations, and fittings, such a focus on the gear configurations isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Instruction on the specifics of gear configuration does allow the adopter to immediately leverage the “lessons learned” by so many others in the past. However, this focus on the mechanics of gear set-up can often be at the expense of not giving students a sense of the underlying motivation behind the configuration. A little appreciation of the Hogarthian psyche allows students to tailor their configuration according to their specific diving needs.

In a subsequent posting, I’ll put together a primer on the specifics of the back mount configuration for those unfamiliar to Hogarthian Style.

The Hogarthian emphasis on both safety and efficiency – with near equal importance – is why this method of gear placement does more than any other configuration “style” to generate synergies that minimize risk and maximize efficiency simultaneously.

The Hogarthian mindset is fundamentally about risk management. This mindset was borne from an exploration-intensive environment. And since exploration dives are intrinsically more risky, all other elements of the dive needed to be managed appropriately to minimize the risk.

The following summarizes the Hogarthian goals and strategies (rather than the specific gear configuration that results from the concepts). From the goal statements, the mindset evolves and then, in turn, this leads to the conceptual tools that the Hogarthian mind utilizes to realize the goals.


* Maximize your safety – For those without chemical imbalances, this is the number one goal – for the obvious reasons.
* Maximize your efficiency – While technically a secondary goal, this is a very close second. Since cave dives tend to be very goal-oriented (e.g. “we need to make it 3,000 feet into the tunnel to look for a side tunnel”), the ability to make it with the least risk and effort allows greater success and safety. More diver efficiency makes a dive safer; all things equal, the more efficient you can be, the less likely you are to create riskier situations. And if you do, the efficiency gives you more resources (e.g. lower air consumption) to manage a problem in the most expedient manner.

Mindset of a Hogarthian diver

* Treat all dives seriously – whether large or small, familiar or new cave, complacency can be a killer
* Constantly seek to refine – not re-invent – your gear
* Dive Team/buddy mental synchronicity – dive with like-minded divers

Guiding tool/principles

* Minimalism – less is better (up to a point)
* Simplicity

– Idiot-proofing – making sure you can use the equipment as easily as possible under any conditions

– Bullet-proofing – elimination of unnecessary failure points

* Consistency of gear set-up (with a critical eye for constant re-assessment for improvement)
* Self-sufficiency – don’t be dependent on your dive team to save you; they should be an additional asset, not a crutch

The number one goal is safety, but we all know that we can’t engage in underwater activities with absolute safety. Since there will always be some degree of risk, the name of the game is risk management. In other words, what is (or what should be) your level of acceptable risk? Based on personal observations of divers, there is clearly a wide range of individual thresholds for acceptable risk. Unfortunately, many display an objectively high level of acceptable risk (based on their behavior), while their perception is quite to the contrary; they think they have a very low level of risk.

Dissecting risk… and your gear

Let’s break down the idea of risk into some manageable and more concrete categories to help illustrate how these concepts have to be addressed. Generally, risk increases with increased complexity. More gear equals more risks/failure points. Also a more complex item will invariably be harder to use properly in a stressful situation, thus increasing risk. These rules are bounded by the practical consideration that some increases to complexity introduces far more safety than the incremental risk introduced, such as adding an octopus (the back-up second stage) to your configuration. Generally, the increased safety it affords far out weighs the incremental risk of hazards such as free-flows and entanglement hazards. Of course these risks, in turn, need to be managed.

For the purposes of this discussion, I’m going to break gear risk down into three components: 1) Internal risk, 2) Accessibility risk, and 3) Environmental risk. Acknowledging that these components do, of course, have some interdependencies, let’s look at these forms of risk in greater detail. To help ground these seemingly academic distinctions, I will carry the analysis of our aforementioned second stage throughout the discussion.

Internal Risk

This asks the question, “What is the probability the gear will work as it’s supposed to when it is needed.” How complex is the gear? How many internal components (i.e. how many possible failure points are there in the item)? Are the components electronics, mechanical, or some of both? The more internal components that are crucial to the function, the greater the risk of failure (i.e. more failure points). While risk describes a level of danger, a failure point represents a component whose individual failure renders the equipment inoperable.

Taking our octopus example, the selection of what secondary to put on the end of the hose is crucial. While most of your gear is quite literally your life support system, many people place an inordinate focus on the cost of the gear. This concern over cost must be weighed carefully against what risk are being managed (or exacerbated). Why would you want your secondary regulator to be of a lower quality than your primary? If you have to resort to it, you should expect the same level of performance that your primary affords you. This helps reduce physical and psychological stress and in turn, reduces the likelihood of greater gas consumption during its use. To draw conveniently from a couple handy clichés to make the point: Do you want to place your life in the hands of “the lowest bidder?” And: “How much is your life worth?”

A secondary risk is, given a functional failure, what is the reparability of the item. Can the gear be readily repaired underwater (i.e. immediately repaired)? For example, second stages with screw off covers are preferred over models where the diaphragm cannot be accessed without tools. This allows for re-setting the pop-it and flushing out foreign objects that may be causing a free-flow or other undesirable events.

Accessibility Risk

This one is a little more obvious. Now that we have an octopus that should work as expected and, in the event of probable failures, can be fixed, we next ask: “Can the gear be deployed so that it can be used as intended?” In other words, can it be reached and deployed – regardless of the circumstances? With our new high performance and functioning octopus, we need to figure out the optimal location to store it. Since this is a back-up device, it has to be “stowed away” and may not be needed at all, but it must
always be readily available. One of the signature characteristics of Hogarthian configuration is the location of the octopus. It is worn like a necklace, resting just below the chin, held in place by a thin bungee tied around the mouthpiece. Ease of deployment is crucial. Given its location, some divers can retrieve it without using their hands by tilting their head down. For the less adept, it still takes only one free hand and a split second – even is zero visibility – to move the regulator into the mouth. If the necklace is too long the octopus will flop around and potentially get entangled with other equipment; it could also be more difficult to grasp in an emergency. If the necklace is to short, you can’t raise it to your mouth and keep it comfortable seated in your mouth for use. In the Hogarthian configuration, the octopus hose comes off of the regulator mounted over the left shoulder, laying behind the BC, and draped over the right shoulder. Hose length is selected to ensure that the second stage rests just below the chin and the hose doesn’t “hang” off the shoulder – another entanglement hazard.

Environmental Risk

Our last gear related risk asks the question, “What risk does the gear introduce that is unrelated to its function.” How will its presence – whether during use or “idle” – impact or be impacted by the environment? Is it an entanglement hazard with other gear? Does it hamper access to other gear or mobility? For example, will it impair the ability to use the power inflator or attach/deploy stage bottles? For our octopus example, one consideration is the overall size of the second stage. Larger stages create a larger profile extending off your chest. This can create a greater entanglement hazard in a very tight squeeze or even produce free-flows in tight all-rock restrictions. Are the exhaust vents and mouthpiece going to allow easy intrusion of sands, shells, etc? One solution to this is to place a section of window screen across the mouth so that when the rubber mouthpiece is attached, it holds the screen in place, taut across the opening.

While all of this may seem excessively academic and analytical, no one questions the value of having a back up second stage, but this illustrates just how focused the mindset of the true Hogarthian diver is on all the “little things” that could turn into big problems.

These attitudes can manifest themselves quite poignantly in dive site chatter. I have overheard countless divers describing their planned dive with boastful tones on how they were going to use multiple stage bottles and a scooter to reach the target penetration. To hear them talk, one would think they were getting points for each additional piece of equipment they could get into the cave with them. Conversely, a Hogarthian diver will pride himself on achieving the dive goal with as little additional gear as possible – while still remaining safe.

In the Hogarthian world, you don’t bring something unless you truly need it. True need here is the operative phrase and the more contentious consideration. We all realize that if a specific set of events occurs, our hypothetical item will be needed. In the end, these “what if” exercises boil down to gut-level probability analysis of the genuine likelihood of need, the items true value, and the risks it introduces during all of its “downtime.” Then – after all of that mental math – if you decide to bring it, make sure it works.

We discussed how the first macro risk is gear and that all of it will fail – eventually. The next macro failure point is you – your brain and your body movements. To minimize your risk of failure, you need to practice and configure yourself so that everything can become second nature, like learned instincts. Then, under stress, you don’t have to consciously manage your actions; instead, unconscious reactions suffice. One of the keys to the success of this concept is to always configure your gear the same way. Whether you are in a large or small cave, deep or shallow, everything needs to be in the same place. That way, your body and mind get trained where to reach for the octopus, the pressure gauge, the power inflator, without fumbling around or requiring thought.

On the brain side, stress itself is a huge risk factor. Since stress can lead to bad decisions and ultimately panic, the near elimination of stress is crucial for safety. Managing your gear – knowing where it is instinctively and using it with ease – will avoid additional stress.

A term that has gained significant popularity as a community and market segment is “Tech Diving.” Unfortunately, the “tech” in Tech Diving means technical and technical translates into gear – more and more gear. For the Hogarthian diver, “tech” is about technique. Technique can always be counted on – you always have it with you.

Another consideration as a failure point is the rest of the divers in your dive team or other divers diving in the system during your dive – or even previous to your dive. Can you trust your life on a stranger’s placement of a line arrow pointing the way out?

While this topic warrants a separate posting to do it justice, for now, the key take away is that your dive buddies should have the same mentality and gear configuration. With the same configuration, each diver is better poised to help each other out. This can be crucial in low visibility and stressful situations where your next action may make the situation safer or much more deadly. You know where everything is on your buddy when he’s having a problem, because it’s in the same place on you – the gear placement that has become second nature for you from consistent placement and practice.

Some people think of the Hogarthian style as rigid and stagnant. The Hogarthian configuration does continue to evolve, although its evolution now is in incremental refinements rather than massive redesigns. Changes to the configuration are based on more of a “scientific method.” A change is proposed, analyzed and evaluated by peers, tested, and then if the test results bear out, adopted. Of course, there is no “Hogarthian Institute” that reviews and ratifies revisions to the doctrine, but there is a strong word-of-mouth-community where new refinements are vetted and either adopted or abandoned based on experience.

Ultimately, understanding and embracing the Hogarthian mindset ensures that when you tailor your configuration, it is a genuine enhancement appropriate to the specific peculiarities of your diving needs. While the Hogarthian goals of safety (risk reduction) and efficiency (getting the most out of your dive) are grounded in cave exploration, the Hogarthian mentality can serve any diver well – be it 30 foot reef divers, nitrox or mixed gas divers, deep wreck divers, or spearfishermen. No matter what kind of dive you’re doing, there’s always a fair amount of effort that goes into making it happen, so you want to get the most for your effort and money. And regarding safety, we’ve all heard the admonition “it only takes a few inches of water to drown.”


  • hogarthian configuration
  • scuba hogarthian
  • konfiguracja DIR/Hogarthian

Get an AED and Don’t Pay

by Colum Sullivan

HeartSine Samaritan AED

The Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) was introduced over two decades ago. It is designed to administer an electrical shock to a victim’s failing heart in an effort to restore a normal heartbeat. Over the years, the AED has become remarkably effective at saving lives, its ease of use has increased substantially, and its purchase price has come down dramatically.

 HeartSine Samaritan AED

How successful is an AED at saving lives?

On land, when an adult victim’s heart stops, it is most frequently due to the naturally occurring deterioration of the health of the heart due to age or illness. Nonetheless, on land, when a victim suffers cardiac arrest, the immediate application of an AED to the victim’s chest has proven successful in restarting the victim’s heart approximately 74% of the time.*

In water, when a victim drowns, an AED has proven to be even more effective than when used on land. The reason for its increased effectiveness is, in part, due to the fact that when a victim drowns the heart stops abruptly and the health of the victim’s heart is usually not an issue. Consequently, in drowning cases, where an AED is immediately applied to the chest of a drowned victim suffering cardiac arrest, the AED has proven to be up to 97% effective in restarting the victim’s heart.*

How do you use an AED?

Unfortunately, too many laypersons are intimidated by the AED because they view it as a complicated machine that could electrocute the untrained. Fear not, because the AED will never shock a healthy heart, and it is as easy to use as 1-2-3: (1.) Press the “On” button, (2.) plug the cord connecting the pads into the AED, and (3.) stick the pads to the victim’s bare chest. The AED will then provide you with voice prompts, instructing you whether the victim’s heart is stopped and if you need to press the “shock” button. That’s all there is to it. Don’t be afraid to act.

Is an AED expensive?

AED units used to cost over $5,000 each, but thanks to the improvements in electronics, software, and mass production, AED units now range in price from only $1,195 to about $2,000. At this price, saving lives becomes affordable.

Why don’t more businesses protect lives with an AED?

If AEDs are so effective, easy to use, and affordable, why don’t more businesses employ an AED? Businesses typically site two reasons why they don’t have an AED on hand and ready to save lives: (1.) lack of training, and (2.) cost. But, we now know that AEDs are easy to use and quite affordable, even to the small business. So let’s start saving lives with AEDs.

Aqua Sports, Inc. “No Excuse AED Policy”
The $1,195 minimum AED retail price still discourages most small businesses from making the commitment to better protect lives. As a result, Aqua Sports, Inc., a Fort Lauderdale, Florida based “Elite SCUBA & Rescue Training Institute” has partnered with to provide AEDs to dive boat operators at no cost. Aqua Sports, Inc. will furnish as many SCUBA day-excursion and live-aboard boats as possible with an AED. Aqua Sports, Inc. provides the AED in exchange for dive services for Aqua Sports, Inc. clients, so the purchaser never has to pay a dollar out of pocket. That’s right. You can put an AED on your dive boat, without paying a single dollar. It is what Aqua Sports, Inc. calls their “No Excuse AED Policy” focused on eliminating the AED purchase price obstacle. Aqua Sports, Inc. has been a leader in the SCUBA & Rescue industry and is committed to saving lives. It has furnished dive boats and live-aboards in New England, Florida, the Florida Keys, California, and the Caribbean. also provides grant and subsidies for businesses that cannot afford an AED. Thanks to Aqua Sports, Inc. and, dive boats and small businesses can no longer claim that obtaining an AED is too expensive.

For more information contact:
Aqua Sports, Inc.
[email protected]

[email protected]

*American Heart Association, 2005 ECC Guidelines

Charter Boat Diving

by  David Miner

Dive charters are a big part of the diving industry. Without dive charters, many of the dive sites would be inaccessible unless you had your own boat or new someone who had a boat. Having your own boat or knowing someone who does is great for diving your local area, but when traveling to other diving locations, it’s not practical. Thus, signing up for a local dive charter is the best way, and many times the only way, to get wet and have some great dives.

The dive charter and boat captains typically are very knowledgeable of the area, know where the best dive sites are, and have a boat that is specifically designed to accommodate divers. Many charter services have dive masters that accompany you on the dives, have boat crew that help you on and off the boat, switch over your gear for the next dive, explain each dive site thoroughly, and help you with almost anything you need. They want to make your trip enjoyable, safe, and want you to come back again. They also want a tip at the end of the day. Using a dive charter is a must in many locations around the world and is typically the best way to dive the best dive sites available. However, there are things you should be aware of and things that you can do to make your next dive charter experience the best it can be.

Before booking your dive charter

Research the available dive charters in the area you are traveling to or live. Don’t just sign up for the first dive charter you find or hear about. If you know other divers in the area, ask them about the local charters. Once you find a couple to choose from, call them and read the information on their websites. Getting as much information up front and knowing what to expect can be the difference between having a great dive charter experience and having a bad one.

  • Find out what type of diving they offer and the different dive sites they go to. Do they focus more on technical diving or recreational diving? If you’re looking for technical diving, don’t sign up for a dive charter doing 30-foot reef dives. Where do they dive: reef dives, wreck dives, ledge dives, or a combination? Are
    the dives drift dives or does the boat anchor to the bottom? What are the depths of the dives? What is the water temperature going to be when you get there? Do they offer 2-tank or 3-tank dive days? How much do they charge? Do they offer discounts if you book more than one trip?
  • Ask questions about the dive boat. Find out how big the boat is and how many divers it accommodates. If you’re looking for a smaller group of divers, you don’t want to sign up for a boat that takes 20+ divers. If you’re a photographer, does the boat have a camera table? Do they have fresh water rinse buckets?
    Do they provide weights? If you’re traveling, you don’t want to carry a weight belt with you. Do they have snacks and drinks on board or do you need to bring your own? If you bring your own snacks and drinks, is there a cooler with ice to keep it cold? Is there a head (bathroom) onboard? Is there a place for dry storage of personal items? If you were interested in getting a suntan, is there a sundeck or area for you to relax and soak up the rays. Find out how many boat crew are on board. If you’re someone who likes special attention or help, don’t sign up for a dive charter that only has one crew member helping everyone.
  • Find out what time the boat leaves and returns to the dock. If you’re looking for a 3-4 hour, half-day trip, don’t sign up for the three-tank charter that lasts six hours.
  • Ask questions about how the dive charter operates. Does a dive master accompany you on every dive or do you get to make your own dive with your buddy? Some dive charters require you to dive with a dive master, which may or may not be what you like to do, so make sure you understand the operation before signing up and spending money on something you won’t enjoy. Are you limited to a certain depth (some limit you to a certain depth, so if you were interested in something deeper, you may need to look for another charter)?
  • Ask questions about tanks and gear rental. If you’re nitrox certified and want to dive nitrox, make sure it is available and how much they are charge per tank. If you need to rent dive equipment, make sure it is available. Some dive charters are only dive charters, not dive shops where you can rent gear. Typically, many charters are associated with a local dive shop, so find out which one and contact them about the gear you need to rent.

While you’re on the dive charter

There are a number of things you can do while you’re on your dive charter to make it a better experience and it starts the minute you arrive at the dock to board.

· Arrive early and get the best spot. Don’t wait until the last minute to show up at the dock and jump onboard as they’re casting off.  By arriving early, you get the better parking spot at the dock, which makes it easier to unload and load your gear. You also get to pick the exact spot you want on the boat to set up your gear. Some boats have a covered area and an exposed area at the back of the boat where you can set up your gear. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Being in the back of the boat means you get off the boat first and don’t have far to go when you climb back onboard after a dive. You’ll probably get a better suntan at the back of the boat, but you’ll be closer to the exhaust of the boat engines, which can be pretty bad on some boats. Setting up towards the front of the boat may offer you covered protection from sun or rain, but it’s a further walk to the back of the boat with gear on. Sometimes it’s a better spot to avoid engine exhaust, but sometimes it isn’t, as the exhaust gets trapped under the covered area. Locate a good spot for your personal items that you want to keep dry. Ask the boat captain where to stow it and pick a convenient spot so that you can access it during the trip.

· Listen and learn. Once you’re underway, the boat captain and/or dive master will brief you on the boat, the safety equipment onboard, the dives you are getting ready to do, and the protocol for the dives. Don’t be off somewhere playing with your gear or listening to your iPOD and miss this briefing. Lots of valuable information is presented during these briefings.

· Ask questions. If you don’t understand something you are hearing or seeing, ask the boat captain or dive master. Don’t assume anything. Don’t think you know everything and don’t be shy about asking a question. This can be the difference between having a great dive and a really bad dive.

· Dive within your ability. When you’re planning your dive and once you’re in the water, dive within your ability. Don’t try and dive beyond your experience level. By pushing your limits, you jeopardize your own diving as well as the other divers on the boat. Don’t be the last one on the boat with everyone waiting for you, the dive master looking for you, and only having a couple hundred PSI left in your tanks. Depending on their rules, you may be sitting out the next dive.

· Keep track of your dive times, surface interval, and equipment. Monitor your own dive times. Don’t rely on a dive master to monitor your dive time. Keep track of your own surface interval time. You may be the first in the water and last out, which means you had the longest dive and need the longest surface interval time. Don’t just follow the dive master’s lead. He/she may be calculating surface interval time on an average of the dive
group. Speak out that you’d like extra time before making the next dive so that you have the opportunity to have a decent bottom time. Typically, dive masters will give you the extra time. Also, keep track of your own dive equipment. Fins get piled up at the back of the boat, masks get dropped in the mask bucket, and cameras get dropped in the rinse bucket. Pick up your gear and keep it together in your spot on the boat. This way, when it’s time to dive, you know where everything is and can get geared up easily.

When the dive charter is over

On your way back to the dock and after the boat docks, there are things you can do to make the ride home and off loading of your gear easy and smooth.

· On the way back to the dock. Depending on where you’re diving, you may have a very short ride or a longer ride back to the dock. Take advantage of this time, no matter how long or short it is. Get your gear together and get it packed and stowed. You don’t want your loose gear bouncing around on the boat during the ride back. Find the tip jar and tip the crew as you see fit, and then stow your dry gear so that it doesn’t get wet
on the way back. Find a comfortable location and relax. Go for the sundeck or bow and get some sun.

· Once back at the dock. Once you’re back at the dock, collect all of your belongings and begin to unload everything. Check and double check that you have everything. If you’re diving with the same charter the next day, find out what time you need to be at the dock. Some charters allow you to keep your gear on the boat if you’re diving with them again the next day. If they allow this, pack it all in one bag if possible so that your stuff doesn’t get separated.

Using dive charters that know the local areas, have everything set up for diving, and can accommodate your desired type diving are many times your only choice for diving a particular area. They can take you to the best dive sites and show you the best diving in the area. With everything, there are always ways to make experiences better so that you have more fun, aren’t surprised or shocked, and get the most for your money. By following the tips and asking the questions we outlined here, your dive charter experience will be better and a lot more fun!

Diving with a Purpose

Surveying the reefs of the Cayos Cochinos Natural Monument off the coast of Honduras

It was 7AM on Saturday morning at the Banana Republic Guesthouse in La Ceiba where I found myself with eleven other diving enthusiasts on the morning of the first day of our expedition. We had come together from various parts of the world to spend two weeks with Biosphere Expeditions to survey the reefs of the Cayos Cochinos Natural Monument in the Caribbean Sea, off the coast of Honduras (this part of the Meso-American Barrier Reef, the world’s second largest reef system, and has been identified by the Smithsonian Institute, The Nature Conservancy, the Word Wildlife Fund, and the World Bank as one of the key sections of the barrier reef system to preserve). The purpose of the survey program is to provide data on the current biological status and population levels of protected species of the reefs within the marine protected area for the Honduras Coral Reef Fund (HCRF), the managing agency responsible for the conservation of the islands. All this is part of an international coral reef research program, called the Reef Check monitoring program. The results from the Cayos Cochinos survey will be compared to other parts of the Meso American Barrier Reef System and worldwide in terms of the abundance and diversity of corals, algae, invertebrates, and fish.

Keep Reading