Dive toys of the London Boat Show

Exhibition hall showcased dive-related goodies too

Author: Pat
4th February 2012

There was plenty to keep a diver interested at the London International Boat Show – if you knew where to look.

Despite its proximity to London Docklands and a large body of water, the ExCel exhibition centre is a rather sterile place to advertise luxury wares. For 2011, organisers decided to inject some atmosphere by installing a large pool inside the building. Would-be customers queued up to sample sailboards, motorboats and other watercraft on the indoor lake.

This didn’t extend to diving unfortunately so my fins stayed dry but scuba products were to be found amidst the ropes, lights, fenders, electronic aids and a million other things of the typical chandlery.

South coast dive retailer and training centre Andark was a large presence with its range of sailing equipment. Off to the side was the Microdive Mini B system.

In case you’ve missed it, Microdiving is the brainchild of Rob Hart of Essex, who became convinced that basic scuba equipment is needlessly complicated. The Mini B rig consists of a canvas bag containing a standard reg (parts are de-badged Cressi ones, the Andark rep tells me), inflator hose, small SPG and 1.5-litre cylinder. Other, more elaborate Mini B units are offered, some with octopus, flashy graphics… but in essence, this is all that’s required.

Along with the unit, Microdive sells a dedicated training package. The first module is a DVD and questionnaire to be completed at home, before sign-off can be done in a matter of hours by a qualified instructor – BSAC, PADI and others recognise the qualification.

Such a small cylinder will provide short bottom times but with a strict 9-metre depth limit, the manufacturer says this won’t be a problem. It’s really aimed at those for whom diving is too complicated, but snorkelling too restrictive: Microdive’s presence at the boat show reflects their success in selling to yacht owners who enjoy the occasional bimble, or just want to de-foul their keels.

The other main dive kit to have crossed over to boaters is the DPV – the dive propulsion vehicle. Hailing from Germany is the achingly cool Bladefish, which looks like a carbon fibre extractor fan with an Apache gunship joystick mounted on either side. The unit is quite heavy, although they produce several versions in an array of dazzling colours. The lightest weighs in at 3.8kg. Recharging of the lithium-ion batteries up to 80% takes under an hour.

Costing between 300 and 600 pounds, true underwater laziness has never been more affordable, or more stylish.

You can’t say the same of the Seabob. Stylish, oh yes but affordable? Not unless you’ve got a spare 14 grand lying around. The colourful Seabob looks akin to a lifeguard’s float, with a pistol grip for each hand and a small screen in front of the rider’s face. A squeeze of the trigger fires the electric motor, propelling the rider at high speed into the blue, who steers by shifting his weight from side to side.

Judging by the promo video playing on the exhibitor’s stand, this looks to be one hell of a ride, requiring proper breath control, and even guts: a Seabob rider points his machine nose down and vertically descends 10 metres in the blink of an eye.

It doesn’t seem likely we’ll see Seabob riders circling the James Eagan Layne, more’s the pity. In fairness, the adverts – and the price tag – show that this is a toy to accompany a luxury superyacht. But if you own one of those, what are you waiting for?

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