BC SeaQuest Fusion

FOR A GROUP OF PEOPLE SEEN BY OTHERS as on the adventurous side, we scuba-divers are, on the whole, a pretty conservative bunch.
     Major advances in equipment which have benefited us over the years have all met with great resistance. BCs, drysuits, RIBs, computers, rebreathers and nitrox were all seen as dangerous when first mooted, only to be adopted by the masses later.
     Yes, there have been some evolutionary dead-ends such as automatic buoyancy control and certain electronic underwater navigation devices, but even these have probably been less than successful only because their price outweighed any perceived advantages.
     Take the original BC, the ABLJ or Adjustable Buoyancy Life-Jacket. You wore it and put air into it as you went deeper, releasing that air again on the way up. Why did those early bottom-scratchers find this to be such a problem
     How did you put the air in You took a breath from your regulator and blew it via a hose into the ABLJ. How did you release air You raised the hose to the highest point and trickled it out. The hose was corrugated to make it more manoeuvrable.
     With drysuits you can control your buoyancy in a similar way. You put air in on the way down, via a direct-feed hose from your main air supply, and you trickle it out either by way of a cuff-dump or a constant-volume dump on the way up.
     So why do we need a corrugated hose on a BC if we dont need one on a drysuit
     The fact is that makers of BCs supplied corrugated hoses only because ABLJs had them. ABLJs had them because they were included before direct-feeds were thought of.
     But no manufacturer was brave enough to supply an ABLJ without a corrugated hose, even if they realised it was unnecessary. Conservative-minded divers would not have bought it, and even today most instructors teach their trainees to use their BC as if they had an early ABLJ, raising the hose to dump air. Why, when they have efficient dump valves fitted
     Welcome to the 21st century. Goodbye corrugated hose. Hello a whole range of BCs that use the same mechanisms as a drysuit. Every manufacturer seems to be doing it, and the SeaQuest Fusion is the latest of these jackets from the Aqua-Lung stable. It includes some other recent ideas, too.
     Its a sleek wing under water, and a luxury armchair at the surface. To achieve this, it has a buoyancy cell based on a ligamented design that wraps around the tank, offering the sleekest profile. Air is located in the recess between diver and tank. There is no flapping spinnaker and there are no bulky side buoyancy effects while swimming.
     A second strap below the single tank camband gathers up any tendency for the bag to billow, and the substantial angled backpack holds that tank securely in position.
     The harness fits snugly around you with rotating buckles, so that the straps sit where it suits you. The harness has a sternum strap and there is the usual adjustable-for-length cummerbund with strap and pinch-clip over.
     Four stainless-steel D-rings supply sufficient anchorage points for dangly items. Drag is reduced to the minimum by the ligaments used in the construction of the buoyancy cell, keeping everything tight. Air is added by way of a standard-looking (Apeks) low-profile drysuit-type inflation valve with a hose that feeds from your regulator neatly through the material of the BC.
     Air is dumped by means of a choice of three dump valves, and the toggles for these are fed neatly through to the front.
     There is only one at the top, and its on the right shoulder for sedate feet-first descents and controlled head-up or body-horizontal ascents.
     There are two dump valves at the lower back, presumably because you have to grab whatever is easiest for a fast head-down descent, or if you suddenly find yourself floating up feet-first. The toggle for the one on the left falls naturally to hand on the left, next to the inflator.
     A fold-out pocket will take a small reel and the like, and you can roll it away into an integrated pouch if its not needed. I preferred to avoid it flapping and ignored it, leaving it where it was stowed. On the opposite side is a similar pouch which contains the oral inflation tube. This is for those who have mismanaged their air-supply and arrived at the surface with insufficient air in their tank to inflate their BC otherwise. That really is mismanaging your air supply!
     The integrated-weight system uses SeaQuests patented Sure Lock buckles, which keep everything securely where it should be unless you really want to shift it. Weights are held in place in the pouches with the help of some Velcro-covered webbing.
     These weight-pockets are installed on either side and are augmented by two top-loading trim-weight pockets which will take an additional 4kg of lead. They are closed by pinch-clip buckles. Trim-weights prove useful where using floaty aluminium tanks.
     In size ML, the manufacturers recommended maximum weight capacity is 13kg. That should be enough for the biggest diver in the thickest semi-dry suit.
     When it came to packing the Fusion in my dive bag it seemed very heavy and bulky, although it is made of mediumweight 840 denier cloth. It approaches 5kg on its own, yet it doesnt give a massive amount of maximum lift.
     In size ML, for example, the buoyancy cell is 17 litres, which is better than many BCs but not as much as I expected.
     So substantial was it that strapping myself into the Fusion made me feel like an armoured bear. However, I strolled about the aft deck of a liveaboard in perfect comfort, with the load of heavy tank and weights spread evenly between my shoulders and waist.
     In the water it really became part of me. I never felt that the 15 litre steel tank I was using was actually there, because it was held in place so securely by the unique backpack and camband combination. My attitude was always perfectly horizontal when I wanted it to be.
     During ascents, air was dumped efficiently and without problem, including the very last drop, by the top shoulder dump or either of the lower dumps. After a weeks diving, there was absolutely no ingress of water into the buoyancy cell.
     The inflation valve worked as well as you would expect the same item to work on a drysuit, except that the limited possibilities for positioning it meant that it could be worked only by the left hand. This did prove inconvenient at times when I was busy with my camera.
     At the surface, the whole thing expanded to hold me upright with head held high above the surface. And at all times I felt extremely comfortable.
The Fusion represents the state-of-the-art when it comes to BC design for a single tank. It comes in five sizes from S to XL and costs a whopping £499.

  • Aqua-Lung UK 0116 2 12 4200, www.aqualung.co.uk

  • Divernet Divernet Divernet
    + State-of-the-artBC for a singletank diver

    - Expensive