Wetsuit repairs

Every spearfisher wears a wetsuit, they are critical to keeping you warm, free from the harsh sun and performing at your peak whilst diving. Typically spearfishing wetsuits are of two piece construction with a hooded jacket and farmer john style bottoms. Wetsuits restrict water flow around the body where the body warms up the surrounding water and it stays close to your skin thus keeping you toasty warm. This is why spearfishers prefer open cell style wetsuits as you are most comfortable and flexible but they also conform to the body’s shape much better. When water intrudes and breaks this mass of warm water around your skin your body will become cold trying to keep your skin warm and you will feel cold. Any diver who has been cold in the water knows that it makes diving much harder as you struggle to hold your breathe. I notice I dive better in summer when the water is much warmer. The main cause of cold water entering a diver’s suit is holes or tears. Many divers overlook the little rips and tears in their suit however you will notice a great difference in your diving when wearing a hole free warm toasty wetsuit..

Repairing holes and rips in wetsuits is quite simple and easy to do for the average diver. However there have been some pretty dodgy attempts such as drowning the hole in wetsuit glue and hoping for the best! With a little care and time you will be able to fix your wetsuit to a standard that will last and extend the life of your suit. The things you need to gather to make a successful repair are as follows. Damaged wetsuit, neoprene glue, aquaseal urethane sealant, nylon thread with a needle and a bit of plastic wrap. See image 1.

You should be able to get wetsuit glue (neoprene glue/cement) and aquaseal at most good diving shops. The nylon thread I use is the stuff used to bind ‘eyes’ on fishing rods. I bought a spool for $7 at a bait and tackle store, you might have to ask for it but it is pretty common. If you use regular cotton thread it will eventually rot with the seawater – no good. The bit of plastic can be anything, just to stop you wetsuit sticking together which I will explain a bit later. Now this is quite a decent rip in this wetsuit. This will require not only gluing but stitching to make it a strong join. See image 2.

The first step to any repair is to put the plastic wrap on the inside of the suit. This is very important because if and when you get a drip of the glue falling off the join it will bond to the other side of the suit, consequently you may have a very tight fitting suit at the end of the ordeal. See image 3.

Now we are ready to start applying some glue to the neoprene. To ensure the strongest bond you need to apply two layers of glue. The first coast is to slightly melt the neoprene and get it ready for the bond and give the second layer a better grip. Smear a bead of glue on the neoprene part of the wetsuit as shown. You can then use a paddle pop stick or small brush to spread it over the area evenly. See image 4 & 5.

After you have spread the glue evenly over the area to be joined you must keep the two sides of the join apart for approximately half an hour and let the glue dry. After the glue is touch dry and not tacky in any way you can then go and apply another layer of glue to the sides of the join, also keep the two sides apart for 5 minutes so the glue only just starts to dry. See image 6.

After the 5 minutes we can now push the two sides together. Starting at one end ‘pinch’ the suit together whilst keeping it flat as not to get a raised up mountain look alike join. This is where the plastic you placed inside the side comes into its own, as you squeeze the joint together and keep it flat you will be guaranteed to glue your suit together in the wrong place if you didn’t have the plastic there. See image 7.

Keep pushing the join together from one end to the other remembering to keep it flat as possible. You can push any parts of the join that are raised up back down with a little pressure from your thumb. See image 8 & 9.

Once you have introduced the two sides to each other you should have a wetsuit that looks pretty spiffy and rip free.See image 10. 
Because this is such a large rip in the suit and along a seam which is a high stress area of the suit it needs to be stitched to prevent the join splitting open. For smaller cuts or nicks under an inch you can get away with using the steps so far, stitching is probably not required. I would suggest leaving the suit to fully dry for a few hours before stitching it. Using your needle & nylon thread you can blind stitch the join. Blind stitching is where the needle enters the surface of the wetsuit but does not come out through the other side; this keeps the stitching on the outside and much more comfortable to wear. I like to double over the nylon thread just to make it a little bit stronger. Simply thread you needle and cut a length of the thread and tie an overhand knot in the end. See image 11.

As far as the stitching goes there are probably a few methods out there but I just go for the simple in one side out the other and back over method. Ask the missus and she might even stitch it up for you! When stitching it is important you thread the needle through some of the outside nylon of the suit or the nylon thread will just pull through the neoprene and have no effect. I like to go about 1mm from the edge of the glue like so. If you go much further out the join will start to rise up like a mountain range as you stitch it. *WETSUIT12 IMAGE* After a few stitches you should have something that is looking like this, a nice flat join with even space stitching. Yes I pride myself on my masculine sewing ability. *WETSUIT13 IMAGE* All done. Now you can snip the thread off close to the surface of the wetsuit. See image 14.

The final part to the repair job is quite simply, smear some of that aquaseal goop over the stitching and join. See image 15.

Have another swig of your favoured beverage and then put a good lump of spit on the end of your finger and smooth out the aquaseal over the join to make it smooth. Make sure you spit on your finger so it doesn’t stick, you’ll have a hard time getting it off otherwise. See image 16. 
Now let the aquaseal fully dry overnight before you go diving in your new hole free suit. The inside should be even and flush, on this particular repair trying to hold a camera and squeeze glue at the same time led to a few drips as you can see. Glad that plastic was there to stop the suit sticking together! 
See image 17.

There are a few things that can keep your wetsuit being tear and hole free. The first is using appropriate lube for your wetsuit. All open cell wetsuits need to be lubed up to get into. To extend the life of other suits that are metalite, goldslick or titanium lined they should be lubed up too. The easiest lube is simply a few squirts of cheap hair conditioner into a sports bottle and some water. Personal lubricants such as ansell are said to make good wetsuit lubes when mixed with water however I have never tried it. Another great product is Green Goblin, ask around the Sydney clubs and you will be able to track it down. Keeping finger and toe nails trimmed will also reduce the amount of cuts you put on the inside of your suit too. Lastly when possible get someone to help remove your wetsuit jacket (keep the hood on too!) instead of trying to do a ‘get of a straight jacket’ impersonation yourself


Conduit knife sheath

Filleting knives need to be kept sharp to allow you to process your fish effectively and easily. Knives are sharp and will cut up your wetsuit, mask and anything else in your dive tub if simply thrown in unsheathed. This is how I make a quick, cheap and very practical knife sheath. Works great and I can throw my knives in with the dive gear razor sharp and no blink an eye. I pinched the idea off my late Grandfather who was a keen fisherman from Townsville for years.

What you will need first is your filleting knife and a short section of 25mm grey electrical conduit. The orange underground heavy duty stuff works but it takes a bit more heat to soften. Cut the section of conduit about 20mm longer than the blade of the knife.

Now get that gas bottle your use for making prangers and some insulation tape. Cover 3 of the 4 holes on the flame burner.
This doesn’t allow as much oxygen to the gas and lowers the temperature of the flame. This way you don’t burn the conduit…as easily! You can also stick the conduit in the oven for a bit until it is soft and floppy. I couldn’t be bothered waiting for the oven to head up! Now keep that flame MOVING over the conduit. Sit in one spot too long and the conduit will burn. Roll the conduit over to get even distribution of heat.

Obviously remove the flame from the conduit while moving it so you don’t burn your hand. After a minute or two the conduit will start to feel soft and mouldable. Once this is achieved put your knife in the soft conduit. Yes the conduit will be hot and you can use gloves if you’re not feeling manly.

Now quickly jump over to a wood vice and squash the conduit and knife in the jaws to make it all flat.
If you don’t have a wood vice simply get some bits of timber in a normal vice to clamp the conduit it. Now leave the conduit to cool in the vice for 5 minutes and then pull it out. You should have something that looks like this.

It should be a tight fit around the blade but it won’t touch the edge on the knife. To make it cover that last bit of the blade simply cut the sheath on a slight angle like so. You can shape them a little bit with a bench grinder or a file. I like to put holes in my sheath to allow for drainage of water if I put the knife in the sheath after washing it hopefully after processing a nice fish. Also if you have all the same brand knives and handles are the same you can see the blade through the holes and identify the knife.
So there you have it. Pretty simple to do and makes a great cheap sheath. No excuses for blunt filleting knives now!

Cutting Down Spears

Why would anyone want to cut down a spear? Ever had a tip snap off at the flopper hole? Bent a spear at the flopper on a long gun? Well now you should be able to recycle these old bits of steel for another gun and hopefully another fish. Other things you can do are add floppers to spears like those butterfly spears or change floppers from top to bottom. Whatever the reason you need to cut a spear down here’s how to do it.

First thing is spring steel spears are MUCH harder to drill and machine than spring stainless spears. But I haven’t come across a spear that I’ve never been able to drill…eventually. Particularly tough spears are the freedivers spring steel and the Rabitech spring steel spears. Rob Allen spears are fairly average to drill, Riffe are just as easy and Torres tuffs are like cutting butter.

The first part of chopping down the spear is getting the flopper off. This can be a little tricky depending on the manufacturer. Riffe spears are near impossible and you may as well buy a new flopper! Here is a freedivers spear in the vice ready for the flopper to be removed.
Now all you do is file off the rivet flush down with the flopper and tap it out with a centre punch. This doesn’t always work so you may have to flip it over and file down the other side and punch it out that way. Either way after a bit of stuffing around you’ll end up with a spear with no flopper like so:

Now the next part is drilling the spear. If you’re taking off 10cm from the spear obviously put a nice big pen mark 10cm from the end. Now get the flopper and position it about 1cm behind this mark. Where the end of the flopper sits is where you want your hole. Always have a little bit more tip than the length of the flopper.

So no you know where you want to drill your hole how do you go about drilling through these hardened bits of spring steel? Well the first step is a drilling jig. All this does is keep the spear locked in place by the stainless screw and it has little hardened inserts to keep the drill bit in the centre of the spear. You should be able to buy something similar from a dive shop, if you have a lathe you can knock one up on the lunch break. I used bits of silver steel for the inserts, did all the machining and then hardened them. I have two drill hole sizes, 3/32” and 7/64”. I use the smaller one for 7mm spears and the bigger for 8mm spears.

Enough of the jig, here’s how you mark your spear. Place the mark where the hole needs to be on the little hole on the jig and mark another line so when you shove the spear up the guts you know where to stop!
Now don’t go tightening the spear in the jig just yet. You may want to line the spear up so your flopper goes straight up and down (yes I’ve had them come out at 90° before!) I use a little bit of stainless or nail or whatever to make sure the spear hole in the back of the spear is vertical, THEN tighten the jig so your flopper hole will be up and down. Seems obvious but I’ve done it a few times!

Now to drill these spears I use a Formula Cobalt drill bit in the 3/32” or 7/64”. You will also need some cutting compound. You may get away without for stainless spears but with spring steel ones forget it. This is what I use, ‘Rocol’ it’s a brown turd coloured paste but it works a treat.
Another compound to use is ‘Molycut’ but it’s a liquid stuff. Either will work fine and make drilling a breeze. So set your bit up in a drill press and make sure you put a nice smear of cutting compound on the bit. Use the slowest speed possible on the drill. Don’t be tempted into “going faster means finished faster!” You won’t get anywhere. If you want to use a hand drill you can try but you will probably snap a few drill bits. A drill press is the way to go with lots a downward pressure and remember SLOW!

Once you’re through take the spear out of the jig and viola! If you can’t get through the spear which will happen on the odd freedivers spear try a new drill bit. If that doesn’t work you may have to heat up the area to be drill cherry red and then let it cool and then drill. After drilling put the temper back into the spear as follows below. Only do this as a last resort.

You should run over the drill hole with a larger drill bit to sort of counter sink it to get the burrs off. The next part of the whole process is putting a tip back on the spear. Lucky with spring steel spears they can be re-tempered which means ANGLE GRINDER. You don’t have to worry about getting it red hot because it’s going to happen down the track anyways. So go nuts and put that tri-cut back on the tip. Work one edge at a time to get a basic shape and the angles right. A few minutes later and you will end up with a nice tip like so. You will get better and better doing these tri-cuts so if the first couple turn out a little less appealing than the mother in law don’t fret, just practice on some old spears. A file isn’t really necessary after a while but it will help to clean the tip up a bit.

Note; only go hard out with the grinder on spring steel spears, on stainless try not to get it discoloured or red because you can’t put the temper back into them. It will take a while longer but then again they aren’t as hard as spring steel spears.

Now to put the temper back into the tip of the spear so it’s not soft as butter. Simply rip out that blowtorch from all those prangers you’ve been making and heat the tip up cherry red. Once it’s all hot plough it into a jar of oil. Any oil will work; I used the old stuff out of my car so it’s not critical! Don’t use water or you will cool it down too fast and the spear will be too brittle. A little smoke and smell here is normal.
Now we are back to where we almost started a spear without a flopper. Pinning floppers is an art in itself which needs to be practiced or shown. For a flopper pin I find a snap clip works a treat. Don’t be tempted to use nails or what not the pin needs to be pretty hard stainless. Some brands of spears use 316 pins and the floppers stuff up very quickly as the pin bends out of shape. Snap clips and shark clips are made from high tensile spring stainless steel and do the job perfectly, never had an issue with them. You can also use proper flopper pins from a dive shop. Snap clips fit perfectly in the 3/32” holes, bigger shark clips work well for the 7/64” holes. Use some bolt cutters to snip off a bit about 2.5mm wider than the flopper. Also check to make sure the flopper is on the bottom (yes that’s happened to me before as well!)
Now you will need an anvil of some description, a vice jaw works okay but I have a bit of railway track that’s perfect for it. Using a ball pin hammer gently rivet over one side.

Don’t go bashing it too hard and try to get it as around and wide as possible. Repeat for the other side. You have probably got a flopper that’s pretty stiff or something wrong with it. Not too worry this can be fixed! For a stiff flopper usually forcing a bit of 8mm stainless into it to make it wider will do the trick:
This should make the flopper swing open and close willy nilly. If not try some 10mm stainless or get the pliers out and wiggle it around, you should be able to pick the points of friction making it stiff. So assuming your flopper is nice and loose gently tap this area down with a hammer:
This hopefully will make the flopper swing open to about 30° and then lock open the rest of the way.
The best way to tell if a flopper is tuned properly is to put the spear in a gun and hold it upside down so the flopper is sitting down on the spear. Give the gun a sharp smack with your palm and the flopper should flick all the way open and stay there. That’s how a perfect flopper should be.

So now you have a perfectly working spear that can take down another few fish. This is particularly handy if you have all the same brand gun and you bend a spear on your 1400 and then just cut it down for a spare 900 gun spear. You can also put two floppers on spears if you’re keen. Also now you blokes should be able to put floppers on threaded shafts so you can have cool looking spears with prangers or points for comps!

Sting remedy flawed

Vinegar may kill rather than cure victims of box jellyfish stings, Queensland researches found. The remedy, used for decades, causes up to 60 per cent more venom from the lethal jellyfish to discharched into the victim.

The finding prompted calls for the Australian Resuscitation Council to revise its sting treatment guidelines.

Research co-author and venom specialist Jamie Seymour says the research changed hist mind about vinegar.

AAP. Illawara Mercury, Wednesday April 9, 2014.

Shared responsibility is the best approach to protecting our waterways

An oil discharge into Botany Bay during heavy rain last month has highlighted the potential impact that industry and natural weather events can have on our urban waterways.
Following the release of oily water into Botany Bay by Caltex Refineries as part of the company’s stormwater management emergency procedures at its Kurnell premises, oil was blown to the northern shoreline and onto rock platforms at Congwong and Little Congwong beaches. NSW Environment Protection Authority Chief Environmental Regulator Mark Gifford said businesses, individuals, emergency response services and regulatory authorities such as the EPA all have a role to play to prevent and/or minimise impacts to the environment during such incidents.

“While pollution incidents can often be exacerbated or even caused by extreme weather events such as heavy rain, environmental impacts such as that which occurred following this incident on 24 March are unacceptable,” said Mr Gifford. “Industries regulated by the EPA under Environment Protection Licences (EPL) have a duty to report pollution incidents threatening or causing harm to the environment, and are required to prepare Pollution Incident Response Management Plans. “The EPA also relies on members of the public who are aware of pollution to report incidents so the appropriate authorities can act as soon as possible.” There are a number of regulatory authorities who respond to water pollution incidents, including councils, marine authorities and Sydney Water, but in the first instance people can call the EPA’s Environment Line, 131 555, 24 hours a day seven days a week to report incidents. The appropriate response agency is determined by the nature, size, source and location of the water pollution incident. Typically, small incidents are managed by the local council, but if the incident involves hazardous materials, an emergency response service such as Ports Authority, Roads and Maritime Services or NSW Fire and Rescue will be the lead combat agency in charge of the initial clean-up. The EPA provides assistance and advice to combat agencies during incidents when requested and investigates suspected breaches of environmental laws. “Regardless of whether or not the EPA has been asked to assist during an incident, as the state’s lead environmental regulator we will always have officers on standby to attend and assess any environmental impacts,” said Mr Gifford.

“The EPA takes into account a range of factors when determining our response to pollution incidents. This includes the degree of environmental harm, health impacts, community expectations and the actions of the offender,” said Mr Gifford. “We have a range of regulatory tools we can use to achieve environmental compliance, including formal warnings, clean up or prevention notices, mandatory audits, enforceable undertakings, penalty notices, legally binding pollution reduction programs and prosecutions. “Our regulatory response is designed to hold the polluter to account, raise awareness about the problem, encourage behavioural change and repair any environment damage.” In the case of the Botany Bay incident, the EPA issued Caltex with clean-up notices to implement an ecological assessment program. The EPA is also conducting a detailed investigation into the incident. For more information on reporting pollution and the relevant regulatory authorities throughout NSW: EPA’s water pollution contact page. Meanwhile, people shouldn’t swim at ocean or harbour beaches during or after heavy rain. For more warnings about safe swimming, beach pollution forecasts for the Sydney, Hunter and Illawarra regions and the State of the Beaches 2012-13 report, visit Beachwatch NSW.

Other helpful links and contacts: All boat owners should understand their responsibilities for preventing pollution under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997.

Source: NSW EPA - April 2014

Loosing a mate to the sport you love

It wasn't easy waking up to hear reports that a spearfisher had been struck by a boat back home. It was early one morning, while I was holidaying at Surfers Paradise QLD, when I heard on the radio that a spearfisher had been struck by a boat off the coast of Currarong on the NSW South Coast. I immediately woke to grab my phone and started the frantic calls to check if it was one of my dive buddies. Three out of Four answered their phone. One phone went through to message bank.

I hopped online, switched on the TV and started looking for information. An hour had passed and I still didn't have a return call. I had a gut feeling that he was gone. FaceBook started to wake up and many posts started appearing in the online spearfishing fraternity trying desperately to find information. It was about half an hour later that I read on a mates wall “R.I.P” posted by a friend. It was now obvious to me, that the worse had happened to one of my good dive mates.

The day passed with many thoughts, mainly all the times that we went diving together and all the early morning calls that I would get, nagging me to go diving. Its only now that I am thankful that I did drag myself out of bed and go have a dive.

Months passed before I got back into the water. It was only then that I realised the dangers of diving. I had numerous close calls before with boats, but never really thought anything of it.
We were a drop in the ocean, I thought. We would have to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time, in the wrong 30cm x 30cm section of water, I thought. It would never happen to me or a mate, I thought. Oh how wrong I was.

Even though he was using a float and flag, was experienced and knew the area well, he still died.

At the time of writing, just over a year has passed. A day does not go by without the thought of a good mate passing away. I hope that this short life experience of mine at least gets one of you to use a float and flag, dive with a buddy and keep a damm good lookout.

I wish no one to go through the pain that I did. I wish that everyone in the ocean could work in harmony. Please keep the rules of diving at the forefront of every breath and dive safe.

King Fish Cup

THE KINGFISH CUP – A yearlong competition split into three geographical zones along the coast where each quarter divers submit photos and a 200 word story of their capture to the USFA.  All entries will be posted online on our website and on the USFA Facebook Page.  Great quarterly prizes and bragging rights will be up for grabs.  There will be a Kingfish Cup shirt with iron on transfers available for divers to record their catches on their shirts as bragging rights.  This is mainly aimed at the younger demographic who frequent the social media and aims to create friendly competition and all round traffic to the website.

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The spin offs for this will be the exposure the website and Facebook sites gain and the follow on quality information and resources we can then offer from that same site.  It will also tie in with the sponsorship with the traffic justifying the support from suppliers for prizes.  Long term archives will be created full of photos and stories which will in themselves be a drawcard to the site as the entries grow.  This is just a brief overview, but we are not far off having everything in place for this program to go live!