BC Mares Morphos

IMAGINE FLOATING IN A SWIMMING POOL in a pink inflatable armchair, martini to hand and stockbroker on the phone.
     That was the fantasy view of rich people that was portrayed in comedy films of the 1980s. Now imagine floating in the ocean, with nothing to drink and your pension gone down the drain.
     Thats the 21st century for you.
     I was musing along these lines recently, while floating at the surface after a dive in the Sudan.
     I had fully inflated my Mares Morphos BC and my buddy had observed that it looked as if I was supported by something akin to an inflatable sofa.
     As I had applied its direct-feed, it had just grown and grown. Had I possessed a small outboard, I might well have driven myself back to our mothership - people have made it from Cuba to Miami on less. Not only that, but the importer could supply me only with an example in size Small, because supplies of this new BC were, at the time, so difficult to obtain.
     It didnt matter. I easily strapped it about my 42in chest, and there was plenty of adjustment in the straps, even if the cummerbund could have been a little longer.
     Of course, there are many BCs, mainly wings, with enormous buoyancy bags. When not inflated and under water they may have a tendency to flap and wrap around the tank, reminding me of Ellen MacArthur under full sail.
     Without a fair wind, too much sail can slow you down. The Morphos does not slow you down. It is sleek and aquadynamic. In fact, it doesnt even slow you down when it comes to travelling to the dive-site, because it conveniently turns itself inside-out, zips up into itself, and becomes a useful cushion.
     The Morphos must represent the ultimate single-tank BC that Mares has come up with to date. It features the pneumatic Airtrim system that originated from the HUB and the Mares-patented optional integrated-weight system which retains the weight-pockets using a positive stud system.
     As a product, it is surpassed only by the more expensive Morphos Twin, which has two pneumatically operated dumps and uses stronger material in its construction. I was continually impressed by this BC during a weeks liveaboard trip.
     At first I was concerned that the integrated-weight pouches looked rather small, yet I was able to stow 4kg on either side. With an aluminium tank I would have made use of the rear trim-weight pockets to add a further 2kg each side, and that is surely enough for most wetsuit divers. The steel tank supplied on the liveaboard did not require the trim-weights.
     The main weight-pouches slot in easily and are held in place until you want to relinquish them. I had no trouble passing them up to the RIB driver after a dive.
     There is no traditional corrugated hose. The Mares Airtrim system uses pneumatic controls to operate the centrally mounted dump valve at the centre top of the buoyancy bag, via a big button near the front left of the BC.
     A second big button operates the inflation valve fed with air by the direct-feed hose from the regulator. This control is large and easy to find but sleekly merges with the divers profile.
     I found I could use it easily with either hand, although it is clearly designed for use with the left.
     When it came to dumping air during the ascent, I found that the Airtrim system worked smoothly and progressively. Contrary to the predictions of some obviously uninformed critics, it did not dump all my air in one go.
     My only observation is that this hi-tech pneumatic system is probably very hard to deal with out at sea if it develops a fault, unlike the low-tech alternative of the corrugated hose.
     I hate to see divers with the danglies, me included. With my octopus rig on its long hose stowed under bungees around my tank, and my high-pressure hose tucked away under my waist band, the sleek Morphos presented nothing to catch or snag. Thats the way it should be.
     The aesthetics were spoiled only by the bit of extraneous material provided to allow the user to turn the jacket in on itself and zip it up into a cushion-like parcel. For transport, I found it more practical to spread the Morphos flat in my dive-bag. If I owned a Morphos I would dispense with this facility and slice it off.
     Getting into it three or more times a day, on a heaving deck, and then transferring, fully kitted, to the RIB for a high-speed chase across the waves to the dive site was never a challenge.
     The hard backpack was separated from my body by a comfortable cushion, and the shoulder harness instantly adjusted and pulled tight. The sternum strap stopped the shoulder straps from slipping off even though this BC was not supplied in my size.
     Under water, the buoyancy was always where I wanted it and there was no heavily loaded saddle-bag effect from the integrated weights. I was always snug and comfortable .
     The pockets were not enormous but certainly big enough for a current-claw and a dead fish to be used as a shark lure on one side. The left side contains the manual inflation kit for use should you arrive at the surface with an empty tank. I opted to keep this clear of other paraphernalia.
     For wetsuit diving, this has to be one of the best BCs I have used in a long time. Yes, I liked it!

The Mares Morphos comes in sizes S, M, L and XL and costs £383.

  • Blandford Sub-Aqua 01923 801572, www.mares.com

  • Divernet Divernet
    Sleek front layout, with nothing to snag.
    Lower dump valve
    The centrally mounted rear dump valve
    + Good weights arrangement
    + Pneumatic controls
    + No danglies
    + Well-distributed buoyancy

    - Zip-up cushion effect not needed