Hookah diving equipment

I’m wondering if anyone on this board owns, or has used, any type of hookah diving equipment (i.e., surfaced based air supply). I am considering such equipment for underwater boat maintenance. There seem to be a number of different products available, some of which appear to be questionable.

Any comments and recommendations would be appreciated.

Zygote has a 12 Volt DC-powered hookah - a PowerDive Deck Snorkel (see http://www.powerdive.com/products/hookah/deck-snorkel) (if you click on ‘choose region’ and select ‘Americas’ the website reports a list price of US$895 and no distributors).

It’s a unit marketed for boat maintenance, And that’s its main use, although I bought an additional 10 metres of air hose (on top of the 14 m or so that comes standard) so it could be used for checking/resetting the anchor or any other activity that is tough just using a snorkel. It’s adequate for diving down to 7 m (about 22 feet). We’ve not tested the depth limit (and have no intention of doing so) but I wouldn’t advise such a unit if you have deeper ambitions.

I bought the PowerDive unit in Singapore, when Douglas of Calliste and I were doing the rounds of a boat show there (the long-term impact of that boat show on Douglas is another story!). It’s manufactured in Australia, started by a guy who used to import North American origin units and distribute them. But he soon wearied of warranty issues (design and construction weaknesses - exactly the things you meant by ‘questionable’) and realised he could do a better job. And he did.

The key parts of the PowerDive Deck Snorkel (which works perfectly - I could have sold a dozen from the inquiries whenever we use it in a marina/popular anchorage; alternatively, I could have easily recouped the money by taking up offers to clean hulls) are worth noting:

  • an oil-less (in terms of internal lubrication) 12V DC compressor putting out 45 litres/min [2 cubic feet/min], with a pressure limiter to 18 psi/125kPa, and a 5 metre electrical cable ending in a pair of alligator clamps that I put on the battery terminals;

  • air hosing that is standard 8 mm ID air hose, with standard Jopla (a quality Japanese brand) locking connections. Locking connections give a degree of security. Standard air hose and connections mean you can make up new hose easily. And brings the cost down, but delivers high quality because it’s available in volume;

  • a rotationally moulded HDPE air reservoir that removes any pulses from the compressor pump (bright yellow - so it acts as a highly visible float part-way along the air hoses and helps minimise tangles in the lines etc);

  • a relatively simple/inexpensive regulator (much less complicated than a standard SCUBA regulator) with a harness (I guess you could replace it with a standard SCUBA regulator); and a

  • diver below flag.

Zygote’s cook is PADI certified and does most of the submarine work. We pay attention to dive-related issues. And we maintain the hookah carefully - keep grit out of the air hose connectors, wash and check the air hoses and regulator, etc.

Our main use has been hull & prop cleaning, inspecting the underwater gear, and changing zinc anodes on the prop shaft. The PowerDive Deck Snorkel takes the effort out of the jobs (effort in terms of surfacing, clearing the snorkel, refilling the lungs and diving - we’re old enough to notice that effort).

My tips for hull cleaning are:

  • In high current setting, run a line from the Samson posts, through a hawse hole, and under the keel to the boomkin cleat or through to a primary winch on the opposite stern quarter. Draw the line up tight for the diver to use as a hand hold.

  • Add dive weights, aiming for neutral buoyancy at a depth of 1.5 metres after equalising naso-pharyngeal pressure.

  • Wear industrial Kevlar-reinforced work gloves (from an industrial safety goods retailer).

  • Swim against the current, if any, and then clean the hull while drifting back with the current.

  • To clean the hull efficiently, use a 3M 6473 Doodlebug handblock pad holder with a white pad. A smaller handblock pad, such as the size sold for barbecue grills, is useful around the propeller and rudder.

On Z, we stopped using expensive fancy antifouling targeted at yachties years back. We use commercial-vessel antifouling (the current stuff is International Interspeed 462 - its target market is planing hull or semi-displacement commercial vessels). Always get it sprayed on (to a wet thickness of at least 200 microns to give a dry thickness of at least 100 microns). Hull scrubbing replaces the eroding effect of high speed travel (in many marinas, we broom the water line). Lasts for years. And it is less expensive and more effective than the ablative yachty stuff.



Oh, that is great information, Bil , many thanks for sharing .

BTW, are you still trying to grease your prop to reduce barnicle growth ?

Another BTW, one boater here at the marina, has set up an air hose and dive regulator, that he attaches to a scuba tank that he places on the pontoon, next to his boat.

Unlike your hooka rig, he has to take the tank to an air fill station, in Singapore.

A problem that I have encountered with scuba tanks, is that the tanks have to be recently inspected and hydro tested, before they will fill them and each country seems to have different requirements, and they run out of date all too soon , and the worst part for me is that Singapore won’t allow the tanks on the public transport, that I use, here.


Douglas: Hi!

Yes, Zygote still uses the Bechem salt water-resistant grease. If we think we’re going to be in a marina for a month or so, the cook goes over the side and coats the prop with Bechem #2 grease. Works v well.

For longer periods in a marina or other high fouling area, Zygote uses the sockette/stockingette (aka ankle socks/candy socks or feet cut from pantihose etc) technique. First the cook greases the prop. Second, the cook slips one sockette on each of the prop blades. The cook’s assistant provides support during these operations, of course!

Bryozoans and other beasties colonise the surface of the sockette. But the sockette comes off a few seconds after the prop is spun. If the sockette is well colonised, it sinks and is difficult to recover. Uncolonised sockettes can sometimes be recovered and delivered to the terrestrial trash can. I prefer saturated pink or safety yellow coloured sockettes.

Yes, SCUBA tanks can be a hassle. Cumbersome beasts on board. I’ve seen one other cruiser use the ‘on dock’ technique with a SCUBA tank. In Scarborough Marina, two of the commercial guys who clean hulls use hookahs of bigger capacity than our Deck Snorkel - but they are landlubbers living in houses, not boats.

I strongly recommend the kevlar reinforced work gloves. They’re thin, so you have good tool feel compared to the usual diving gloves (but because they’re thin, they’re best in warm water). And resistant to cuts and penetration - which is their reason for being.



Thanks very much for that useful information, Bil. I emailed the manufacturer but have not yet heard back from them.

I am also aware of this information by reading different articles. The hookah system delivers air to divers below via hoses from a surface-supplied air compressor, rather than from scuba tanks. Another term for this technique is SSSA, which stands for Sport Surface-Supplied Compressed Air.

Does anyone know the underwater square foot area or square meter area of a BCC and it’s rudder ?

I am asking the local yard to quote on an complete anti-foul paint job and would like to provide the square footage area .

BTW , just in case anyone needs to know , a crude oil spill entering a marina, and the oil getting on the gelcoat, will stain it permanently .


Douglas: Hi!

The wetted area is about 24 metres squared. I say ‘about’ because short of covering the hull with sheets of paper, which you painstakingly measure, it’s really difficult to get an exact figure.

Zygote has met two oil spills.

I guess that Calliste has met the spill from the collision of the cargo ships in the Singapore Strait, right?

Your hull is GRP with gelcoat on the outside, or have you had the hull painted?

For gelcoat, I recommend:

(1) application of the best industrial detergent you can get, as fast as possible. Some industrial detergents are made to be diluted with kerosene or water. The combination of detergent in kerosene works quite well.

(2) Polish the hull, to remove any chalked gel coat.

(3) Use oxalic acid (best applied in a thick paste), to oxidise/bleach the remaining oil stain.



Gosh , Bil , you are spot on ! That recent oil spill caused by a small support ship , ramming into a bulk crude oil carrier, right here in the Singapore Straits , was the cause for Calliste to be oil contaminated !

I am sorry to hear that BCC Zygote has met two other , oil spill events, but your information on how to handle them , is valad and invaluable !

Previous to this event, I thought that oil spills and their damage , only happened to other people and their boats , but now I know different.

We are in the midist of having the local oil spill damage asertained by a local marine surveyor , that was hired by the Tanker insurance company, “The Poluter, Pays” , as the saying goes !

Our boat Calliste was berthed in a marina and I will try to attach a photo , here .

This is the oil guck that hit us and our marina, in the middle of the night !

Our learning curve, about responsibility and “their” insurance is almost verticle, at the moment.

We have two sailboats that were affected , my wife Lang’s smaller keelboat and my BCC .

Maybe John Cole , can increase the catagories to include an “Insurance Claims” , title , or something like that ?

I will never forget your advice to me , to get insurance, while I am cruising these, foreign waters , that advice saved me and my boat , from the Tsunami Damage repair costs , occured, to my boat in Dec 2004 , here in S E Asia .

That advice , alone , was worth many, like $ 65,000.00 , thousands of dollars , to my cruising kitty.

Sooo Good On You , Mate !!! And A Big Thank You , for contribuiting , to this forum .