COMPUTER Beuchat Voyager
Voulez-vous plonger avec moi Well, if you put it like that, how could I refuse If you live in Britain and feel that our nearest neighbours, the French, seem a little foreign at times, imagine how they seem to Americans, who sometimes have difficulty relating to someone from an adjoining state.
     The last French-made computer I tried was a Beuchat, and it was a little quirky compared to the other European-made computers I used alongside it. It seemed to use a totally different decompression philosophy and it could be set only for air or nitrox 32 or 36.
     I wish my nitrox supplies came that precisely mixed (perhaps they will be, once membrane systems for producing nitrox are as widespread in Britain as they are in most other parts of the world). But then, I never got to see many people using those Beuchat computers, not even French people.
     By comparison with that past model, the new Beuchat Voyager computer seems rather familiar. It uses a 12-tissue Haldane algorithm modified by Rogers and Powell, rather like many US computers. No-stop times seemed to be more in line with US figures than typically more cautious European ones.
     I imagine that the Americans have put aside their resistance to French fries and Jean LEtranger and cut a deal.
     In line with most other computers on sale today, the Voyager can be used as an air or nitrox computer and in depth-gauge and timer mode, when it is rated to 120m maximum depth. It is set up with the aid of two push-buttons and is of the current popular hockey-puck style that can be mounted either on your wrist or in a console.
     I took it on a series of typical leisure dives during a liveaboard trip in the Red Sea and used it in nitrox mode. I set it to 21% O2 when I used air.
     This is a full-function nitrox computer adjustable from 21 to 50% O2. It reverts to a worst-case-scenario oxygen 50% nitrogen 79% if you forget to set it. I found it best to set it immediately before diving (pressing the two buttons together for a couple of seconds to get into nitrox setting mode) to prevent this.
     If you forget, your dive will get very noisy because of presumed overloading with oxygen toxicity units, but the Voyager doesnt lock out. It still allows you to use it for the following dive, reset for proper nitrox values. You can choose maximum ppO2 values from 1.2 to 1.6 bar.
     Ever pragmatic, as the French tend to be, the Voyager comes with a key for resetting it. I guess thats to make it more practical for computer rental at dive centres where different divers might use a single computer in a day.
     Jump in the water with it and you will see that not only does it activate automatically but the LCD, which has big figures and is very easy to read under water, shows remaining no-stop times, stop depths and times, maximum depth and dive duration. An alternative display, activated by pushing the left button when the Voyager is set in nitrox-mode, gives current depth, water temperature and time of day.
     A bar graph shows decreasing no-stop time and another displays increasing oxygen accumulation. A third indicates ascent rates, which are variable from 18 to 9m/min, depending on whether you are shallower than 18m or not.
     After ascending to 6m from a no-stop dive, the Voyager automatically goes into Safety-Stop mode and counts down three minutes at 4.5m. If you get into deco-stops, it shows stop-ceiling depth and the time required to wait there.
     At this time both the main display and three alternative displays are available. These reveal just about everything you would need to know on a single-tank dive, including the actual ppO2 of the nitrox mix set at the current depth, plus the total ascent-time needed.

Disable wet-activation
     The computer has the usual single-mix dive-planning features. Get it into set-up mode before diving, and you can access operations you might perform at the dive site, such as setting the nitrox mix and alarms for maximum depth or dive time, and also PC downloading. It remembers the last 24 dives.
     A second set-up mode is for more permanent settings, such as metric or imperial measurements and setting the date and time. The usual history and logbook functions include total desaturation time remaining. Amazingly, you can also opt to disable the automatic wet-activation feature. Why would you
     The Voyager automatically adjusts for ambient air pressure, which takes care of diving at altitude, and its display is self-illuminating. Its user-changeable 3.5V lithium battery is said to be good for 300 hour-long dives.
     I compared its no-stop times with those derived from modern Suunto and Uwatec computers also strapped on my arm. It was always far more cavalier with its recommendations than I would have preferred. In fact, I never got it near getting into deco-stop mode in more than 10 dives, though I did with the other two. Make of that what you will.
     I made my last dive with it on 4 July, appropriate due to its country of manufacture. Despite the French branding, I didnt think it necessary to wait the extra 10 days for Bastille Day.
The Beuchat Voyager costs around £240.
  • Beuchat, www.beuchat.fr/catalogue

  • Divernet Divernet
     + Easy to use
    + Clear to read

     - Less cautious than some truly European rivals