IN FORMER TIMES, one had to make one’s own entertainment when on liveaboards in remote locations. So it was on the Conde Vanessa in the Sudan, with owner/skipper Rosie Frampton.
The first thing you noticed about Rosie was that she was, at 6ft 3in, extremely tall for a girl.
I was in her wheelhouse when I noticed that she had feet the same size as mine. “Got any high-heeled shoes” I asked.
“Why Do you want to wear them” was the reply. A few minutes later saw me heading back down to the aft deck, where the other passengers were taking inter-dive tea. I was wearing Rosie’s stiletto heels and a sexy silk dress she had lent me. I thought it was like Tony Curtis in Some Like It Hot – very funny.
I may have looked stunning but I can only say that I was met with stunned incredulity!
I got a similar reaction when I told the importer of the original Aqua Lung Diva BC, a product designed especially for women, that I had used it for a DIVER Test. Perhaps I have too much confidence in my own sexuality.
So here are my impressions of the Lotus i3, another BC intended for the fairer sex, and scuba-diving cross-dressers like me.
I took care to photograph it while worn by the type of diver for whom it is intended. You’re not ready for such photographs of me yet!

Buoyancy Cell and Harness
The Lotus i3 has a few things in common with the Aqua Lung Zuma, such as the low-slung camband and tank-neck stabilising-strap that works so well with lightweight aluminium tanks.
The camband has some trim-weight pouches mounted on it, but I never needed them, because a tank that becomes floaty when empty is held perfectly to the lower back.
I know this because I frequently come up close to empty. Don’t grass me up to any of the training agencies, will you I’ll get struck off!
The Lotus i3 is a back-flotation BC with a buoyancy cell that expands nicely out towards the bottom when fully inflated. It gives masses of lift too.
The harness, called the Wrapture, is very well-padded along the edges and has a generous cushion at the back. It’s obviously intended for girls who dive in nothing more than a skimpy bikini. There are certainly no sharp edges.
The sternum-strap has seven different-height positions to suit particular needs, and the waist-strap is a simple wide webbing belt with an over-sized pinch-clip.
There are fittings to take a knife sheath on one side and an octopus rig on the other.

Integrated Weights
The waist-strap carries the Aqua Lung Surelock integrated-weight system. I managed to fit two blocks of 2kg lead into each of two pouches that effectively snap into place.
The load is carried by the vertical shoulder-straps of the harness, so there’s no fumbling around looking for the waist-strap when the time comes to clip it up.
Integrated weights used to be a thorny issue, with traditional divers refusing to accept that combining the upward force of the BC’s buoyancy with the downward force of the weights took away that torn-between-the-two feeling for divers with conventional weight-belts.
Once you’ve used a good integrated-weight system, you don’t look back.
The weight pouches are easy to whip out and pass up to boat crew if needs be, and they are positively and securely reinstalled afterwards, yet there seems to be no danger of them falling out accidentally.

The i3 System
Now we come to the thorny issue of the corrugated hose. There isn’t one!
Historically, the first BC or Adjustable Buoyancy Life-Jacket used a corrugated hose because you filled it orally and released air by lifting the hose and opening the oral inflation button.
Later, the direct-feed hose was invented, as were independently operated dump-valves. However, the corrugated hose was by then enshrined in training manuals, so people are still taught even today to use the corrugated hose in this way.
This makes it difficult to sell a BC without one, but drysuit manufacturers seem to do OK.
The i3 system has a single lever on a control fed discreetly by the direct-feed hose through the back of the jacket from the regulator. You push it down to inflate (on the way down) and raise it to deflate on the way up.
Simples “Ah, but what happens if it goes wrong during a dive” you ask. A conventional dump-valve on the right shoulder is operated by a pull-cord and toggle at the right shoulder.
What about inflating it if, like me, you arrive at the surface completely out of air Which, of course, you would never do.
As the stewardess on the aircraft informs passengers before take-off, you can top up
the buoyancy cell by blowing into the tube provided.
The tube on the Lotus i3 is much longer than on one of those airline life-jackets, and it is stowed under the left shoulder epaulet.
Every eventuality is covered. If you needed a corrugated hose, all drysuits would have them.

In The Water
My wife has gone on record in these pages as claiming that the i3 system works, and you
don’t need to be a diving god to understand it.
The little drop-down zip pocket on one side is just big enough to take an SMB, and the smaller pocket cleverly combined with it will take a small lamp. Four pre-bent stainless-steel D-rings take care of danglies.
Because the two dump-valves are operated by the remote control, you never notice which one is actually releasing the air, and the whole thing is superbly comfortable. Everything stays really snug, too.
At the surface, the Lotus i3 fully inflated very fast if needed, and there seemed to be masses of buoyancy available, though there is a tendency to push a shorter person forwards.
I guess the trim-weight pockets were added to the low-down camband to answer this criticism.
This would seem to be the perfect BC for a girl who doesn’t mind a little expense and likes to dive lightly clad.

COMPARABLE BCS TO CONSIDER:
Mares Kaila Airtrim, £450. This is the only other women’s BC to incorporate a remote-control system.

SPECS
PRICE £430
SIZES S, M, ML
COLOURS Black/Charcoal/Pink
MAX BUOYANCY (SIZE M) n/a
INTEGRATED WEIGHTS Yes, with trim weights
DRY WEIGHT 3.1kg
CONTACT www.aqualung.com
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