Coming Full Circle: Diving the O2ptima…again.
By October of 2007, I had become an Optima diver. Trading in my doubles for a rebreather was a careful decision; one involving research and asking questions. I certainly did not want to buy a “garage made” rebreather and Dive Rite, a major manufacturer of technical diving equipment, was presenting a “factory made” rebreather.
Eventually, I sold it to buy a different one. Rebreathers have become more “sophisticated” and I felt it was time to move on to something else. So for the last few years, I was able to train on and dive multiple units – a total of seven. Being able to dive different rebreathers awarded me a new perspective and an appreciation for their differences and similarities.
It was at DEMA 2014 where I spotted the “new” Optima. It had a much cleaner, more streamlined appearance. It looked really good and I became curious. Dive Rite had made multiple refinements. The loop is redesigned, making it smaller and less bulky than other over-the-shoulder-counterlung rebreathers. The biggest improvements, of course, are the electronics. Gone are the bulky, unreliable Hammerheads. With Shearwater electronics and the DiveCan system, the Optima offers redundancy like never before. There still was the issue of not having a repackable scrubber, but Dive Rite was already working on one. As I understand it, soon I can dive the Optima with either the cartridge or a repackable scrubber. A great option. I walked away from the Dive Rite booth thinking, “I really would like to dive an Optima again”.
Well it took a few more months before my wish came true. Last week, I finally got my itchy fingers on a new Optima. I dived it for six days in the beautiful North Florida caves – a total of ten dives. It was a real treat!
My first impression diving the unit was how well balanced it is. I dived it with 2 Liter steels and a dry suit with zero weight. The trim on it was phenomenal! We had an enjoyable dive in Ginnie Springs and the Optima performed flawlessly and was easy to manage. Because of its short loop and smaller counterlungs, diluent or oxygen flush responses were prompt. Buoyancy was easily fine tuned on this unit. It made me look good.
In Little River, I got to find out how it would keep up under increased workloads. Work of breathing was easy. We had pretty good flow at Little River that gave me a bit of a workout and the unit performed impeccably. Maintenance between dives was easy and quick.
When I sold my Optima, I would not have guessed that I would like diving another one that much. This unit is great! I bought it originally because I liked its concepts and I would buy one again, now that it has been redesigned and improved in so many ways.