Back in about 2000, I was in a southern Sydney dive shop, Snorkell Inn that I used at that time for airfills (before I purchased my compressor), when I noticed that they still had two Apollo AV1 underwater scooters for sale after a couple of months on display. I asked the then owner, Geoff, what sort of money he wanted for them. After a talk to his partner, he nominated a figure, well above what I thought they were worth.
Later that day I spoke to Les, the half owner of my boat, and we agreed to see if we could purchase them. I offered $900 for the pair but this was rejected. As I thought that it was unlikely that anyone would want to purchase both and (at that time) there was very little private ownership of underwater scooters, I did not think that they were going to sell very quickly.
A week later I had not heard anything back and when I was next in the shop I asked whether they still wanted to sell for $900. They agreed to sell so Les and I became the owners of two used Apollo AV1 scooters.
I took them home and recharged the batteries and when I put them back together, I cleaned the o-rings. We rigged up some lines to hang off the boats bollards so that we could tie them off to the boat at the end of a dive (ropes went to 5 metres with a lead weight to keep them at this depth).
|Stingray and Thunderbird 4
On the first use the scooters worked perfectly, although the battery on one gave only about 40 minutes runtime before starting to die. Over the next few months we used the scooters a lot while exploring new sections of reef off Royal National Park in Sydney's south.
Some explanation about the scooter and its features. The scooter is powered by a sealed lead acid battery that is supposed to give at least 60 minutes runtime under normal conditions. The propeller has three settings, fast, medium and slow. The medium setting is the normal one and is the one on which the battery life is based. This speed is faster than a normal swim, perhaps as fast as you can swim with dive gear on for a very short period. The faster setting uses the battery much quicker while the slower setting gives longer life. I have never calculated what either of these might be. The propeller settings can be changed underwater. If you swim slowly along when using the scooter you get a longer range and speed.
Eventually, we had to purchase a new battery as the old one was only giving about 20 minutes runtime. For the next few years we regularly took them out on dives. For boat dives, all six people on our boat could get a change to use them on a site as generally the bottom time at a lot of the dive sites we visit limit the bottom time to about 25 to 30 minutes.
Even on shallower dives, four people could use for about 30 minutes each. We explored a lot of dive sites where we had previously only been about to see a small section of the site. This gave us a lot better idea of the site and where we could also anchor to maximise the dive experience.
I also took the scooters on shore dives to a number of spots where we did some exploration. The main one was Bare Island. At this location we circumnavigated the whole of the reef around the island on the one dive. This took almost an hour. On this dive I managed to finally put together all the bits of the reef, connecting them together and finally fully understanding the reef layout.
With care, you could also pull along another dive by getting them to hold onto your fins and kicking.
I also used to explore places like Indian Point opposite Bare Island, Mahon Pool and even the wreck of TSS Currajong in Sydney Harbour.
Since purchased, the scooters performed faultlessly. In October 2007 Kelly hurt her knee badly (doing a shore dive) a week before we were planning to go to Port Douglas to do a liveaboard trip out to the Great barrier Reef and Osprey Reef. It was so bad she could hardly walk. I had the great idea to take one of the scooters up there fore her to use. Luckily, one of our friends was driving up so I quickly dropped around to him one scooter, the other battery and the charger. Kelly ended up not missing a dive due to this, she just scooted around us while we dived.
However, in late 2007 I loaned one to a member of my Club who had a scooter of his own. It was supposed to be used by he and one other diver. However, there ended up being three. Instead of getting the other one from me, he and two other members tried to just use two scooters, which led to his scooter dieing and then the three idiots had all of them hanging off the one scooter. They returned it to me dead. It appeared to have burnt out the motor (as it stunk of burnt rubber/plastic) when returned.
I pulled it apart but could not get into the motor section which is sealed. I later found a manual that showed how to get into the motor. Soon after I moved house and the work on fixing the new place was more than expected, I did not get a chance to open it and see what the problem may be (by now I suspected that it was the wiring that had burnt out due to the smell of plastic).
In late 2010 I gave the broken scooter to a mate who has retired from work. There is nothing he loves more than tinkering with items like this (he is our Club's torch modifier/repairer) and he agreed to see what he could do. He easily got into the motor and sure enough, the problem was two burnt out wires that had obviously overheated due to the load they were under.
He also needed to replace some o-rings, one of which had to be purchased from the US and cost a bit when freight was included. All up, the cost of repairing the scooter was less than $100. We lost the spring for the clutch somehow and another one was substituted. However, this proved to be not strong enough as when on High and Medium, the clutch slipped. I added a small spring washer and it no longer slips, although the clutch still works.
Since then, we have again started to regularly use the scooters on the boat and on shore dives. They are brilliant!
All in all, we already have got our value/fun out of the scooters.