BCSea Quest pro QD Plus SL

If you go diving in British waters without some form of surface marker, you are likely to get plenty of time, while you wait to be found, to examine your life, think about your loved ones, and consider all the mistakes youve made - including going diving without some form of surface signalling device.
     On the other hand, many leisure divers (lets not be anti-American at this moment!) go diving in places such as the Caribbean and expect to bob up in a flat-calm sea. If by some mismanagement they have missed the boat, they expect someone to rescue them pretty fast, or there will be hell to pay.
     The problem has arisen that many of these leisure divers, having grown tired of the sameness of the Caribbean, are venturing out to other parts of the world and thereby discovering the phenomenon of ocean currents.
     With ocean conditions, not only have you little chance of getting back to the boat under your own steam, but there are often big swells to hide your head from the view of those whose job it is to pick you up. So dive-boat operators, notably those operating liveaboards, dish out safety-sausages to be inflated by divers when they reach the surface.
     These sausages are less visible than a flag but they are handy to stow and give crews a better chance of spotting distant divers at the surface than nothing at all.
     They are low-tech devices which need to be inflated by the diver and then, with the open end held shut, to be pulled slightly below the surface to be sure of staying erect.
     Of course, this can lead to operator error. In keeping with customs on the far side of the Atlantic, it was only a matter of time before someone thought of making an automatic version. Its called the Surface Observation Signal, or SOS.
     The SeaQuest Pro QD and Pro Unlimited BCs have already been reviewed in these pages but Aqua-Lung UK sent me the latest Seaquest Pro QD SL Plus BC with which to try the device.
     It fits at the back and substitutes for the lower dump valve. It is fastened additionally with some elasticated webbing and a pinch-clip passed through the back part of the buoyancy bag. The sausage stays rolled up in its pouch until you wish to deploy it. By then you will be on the surface with the BC fully inflated.
     Pulling the rear toggle equipped with a small D-ring releases the safety sausage and allows it to fill with air, which it shares with the main buoyancy cell of the BC.
     To get it to inflate fully you need to fill the BC until its over-pressure release valves vents. So far so good.
     The problem is that the sausage tends to lay down, so you have to lie back to grab it and attach a little lanyard and karabiner that is fitted halfway along its length to a D-ring on the shoulder of your BC. So far but not quite so good.
     It gets worse. The problem seems to be that for the sausage to stay erect and therefore effective, you must maintain the air pressure within it. Unfortunately the Pro QD Plus seemed unable to do this.
     As my test diver, Chris from Wraysbury Dive Centre, bobbed on the water, the changing pressure on the BC tended to make its over-pressure valve blow off a little, thereby losing pressure and causing the sausage to suffer some flaccidity.
     As you can guess, a flaccid sausage is about as useless as it sounds. In fact, to keep it erect, Chris need to apply more air repeatedly by way of his direct-feed inflator.
     I fear that at sea a diver would soon run out of air in his tank after a dive and need to continue doing this by mouth. The small leaks which often occur in BCs would make matters worse.
     Our sausage continued to fall over. It was a severe case of divers droop. So our verdict was: SeaQuest, youre aving a larf!
     What of the BC, the Pro QD SL Plus
     The good news is that it has integrated-weight pouches vastly improved over its predecessors. These SL pouches are now no longer reliant on slabs of Velcro to keep them in place.
     Velcro works well in dive shops but you can come unstuck with it in the less-forgiving environments found while diving daily in hot countries, and where freshwater rinsing of the BC is rarely accomplished.
     The weight-pouches of the Pro QD SL Plus are retained by a new system of sprung pinch-clips and toggles. Velcro is used only to retain the weights within the pouches.
     The pouches were a little on the small side. I felt that 8kg of lead might well be the best they could take, not a lot when you consider that there are no auxiliary trim-weight pockets at the back. This BC is not for the drysuit diver with no additional weightbelt.
     So what do all those abbreviations stand for QD is presumably Quick Ditch and SL is Sure Lock.
     Otherwise, the Pro QD SL Plus is a conventionally styled BC with swivelling buckles at the shoulders so that the straps are routed comfortably; a choice of dumps at each shoulder, one operated by pulling on the corrugated hose; and just the right number (six) of stainless-steel D-rings.
     Two concertina-style pockets are closed by zips and a comfortable cushion pads the lumbar region. This BC gives plenty of surface buoyancy for the single tank user. It is a simple, well-designed item that does its job well. We liked it.
     The SeaQuest Pro QD Plus SL comes in sizes S, M, L and XL and costs £380. The optional SOS system is £60. For more information about the SeaQuest Pro BCs see previous tests.

  • Aqua-Lung UK 0116 212 4200, www.aqualung.co.uk

  • Divernet Divernet
    The safety sausage fits in a pouch at the back where the lower dump valve would be, and is released by pulling the small D-ring.
    The SeaQuest Pro QD SL Plus BC has improved, if small, integrated-weight pouches
    Pro QD Plus has improved integrated weight system

    - No space fora lot of lead
    - Get an independent safety-sausage or a flag