Review By Greg Blair (Professional Diver)
SEA-DOO SEASCOOTER (Personal Water Propeller).
Do you want some FUN put back into your diving? Are you becoming jaded with finning around your favorite dive sites? Finding it hard to make a decision about which version of split or paddle fins you will buy next? It may be that the answer to your dilemma is right here with the SEA-DOO SEASCOOTER!
The SEA-DOO SEASCOOTER is manufactured under license to Bombadier by Daka Development. Bombardier, already well known for off-road vehicles, snowmobiles, personal watercraft (PWC), then a logical inclusion for their range is to create a personal underwater craft that can be used by swimmers, snivelers or scuba divers.
The SEASCOOTER comes in a bright yellow "dive" style bag with handles and shoulder strap. Packed inside is all that you need to use this machine including a battery charger pack and a clear plastic kit with the various bits required to safely "blow" the housing apart to get to the battery compartment and a container of silicon grease for the o-rings. The SEASCOOTER is surprisingly light at around 5 kilograms in weight and the whole deal easily fits into a car boot or rear seat of a normal sized sedan easily.
The outer casing is constructed from a safety yellow colored plastic compound and the controls, handles and propeller safety shroud is a contrasting charcoal/black. The handles are attached well to the main body with no flexing or movement apparent. The controls are two levers, one main master lever governing the battery connection (LHS) and a control lever on the right hand side that is the on/off trigger for the motor. The trigger features a "soft start" that introduces a slight delay before full power is applied. The controls are quite well positioned and easy to operate.
Removing the locking levers, lifting off the nose cone and removing the buoyancy tank allows you to gain access to the battery compartment by attaching a "safety" o-ring and then the air inflator pump. Pressurizing the battery compartment blows the housing apart to provide access to the roomy battery compartment where two sizes of SLA batteries can be fitted, a 7AH (50-60mins) or an optional 12AH (90-100mins).
The unit seems to be well constructed and well designed. When operated above water then it can sound quite harsh and "plastic" although this is comparable to other underwater scooters.
Putting it into action
Test 1, Daveys Bay, Snorkeling, Three testers (2 female, 1 male)
A friend of mine recently had extensive abdominal surgery and this was to be her first time back in the water in roughly 8 weeks. The conditions were too nice NOT to give her the opportunity to join me in testing the SEASCOOTER and it also allowed for me to gather other people's opinions on the unit.
This dive site has a gentle gradient from shore to around 6 meters combined with a fairly extensive rocky reef area that extends well out into Port Philip Bay. As a shore dive, making your way out to the end of the reef to the marker is quite a swim, so it was a fair test for the SEASCOOTER and my friend's stamina. Another friend also joined us for this particular paddle and as she is not a qualified diver was interested in having a look around.
Both girls were impressed with how light the unit was for something that looked as large and well constructed making as the SEASCOOTER and how easy it was to carry down to the waters edge. Gearing up and wading out to a reasonable depth saw me using the unit for the first time. After a couple of loops and quick spins around to become familiar with how the unit felt in the water and how the controls reacted when depressed and released then saw the three of us being towed by the SEASCOOTER over towards the reef. Not quite a conga line, the girls had a grip on each fin, it was surprising just how well the unit coped with additional drag.
In no time we were over at the deeper sections busily looking at the abundant marine life at this sheltered site. I concentrated on putting the unit through its paces zooming around this area. With no additional weighting inside the nose cone then the unit is quite buoyant and can become tiring to your hands and arms holding the unit down in position. This also most likely added to the hand cramps I experienced while gripping the controls. I soon became use to how the unit responded and the cramps were gone after realizing there was no need to apply the "grip of death". After towing the three of us out to the deeper section near the "bath plug" I passed the unit over to the girls for them to use and neither of them had any problems with using it or hand cramps (it must be a boy thing!!). This also allowed me to assess if the unit was annoying to others nearby with any "machinery" noises being generated, which I am happy to report that unless the user is within 3m then there is no audible sounds.
Speed wise, although not quite the tortoise and the hare, a fit diver/snorkeller will out pace the SEASCOOTER but with the disadvantage of being fatigued. The other noticeable thing is that with a reduced need for finning and the subsequent reduction in heat generation, you will need good thermal protection if you are to cope with the temperate waters of Victoria.
Test 2, Mornington Pier, Single cylinder
After spending some time to get the unit neutrally buoyant (a old three pound weight inside the buoyancy tank) I used this unit to cruise around Mornington Pier and surrounding reef towards Snapper Point. Having now settled into the "relaxed" wrist and arm positioning and stopped strangling the controls made this dive a pleasure.
If anything, the pace through the water means that you can miss the normal "macro" life seen when normally pottering around although the ability to cover distances when using the unit could outweigh that. Again, the unit was a delight to use and I can now say that I have covered far more of this dive site than previously.
This dive also allowed me to assess things that would be nice additions, a lanyard for your wrist, a battery level/charge indicator array and a method to clip the unit to a harness d-ring for one-handed operation.
Test 3, Rye Pier, Single cylinder
This was another opportunity to pass the unit around to other divers to use and gauge their reactions. All that used the unit commented on how much fun it was zooming around the area and how simple it was to use. It also highlighted to me how that the "prop wash" would stir up the mud/silt or sand if a user is a little careless.
The unit is light and easy to use.
It seems to have been designed so a minimal amount of maintenance is required and access to the battery compartment is simple.
Using the unit does bring a smile to people's faces (they all seemed to have fun!!) and I did not receive one negative comment from those that used the SEASCOOTER.
Victoria may not be the best area for using the units and it may be better suited to areas with extensive shallow reef systems.
The depth limit of 20M is a bit restrictive for our Victorian sites although this does mean that the unit fits well with the Open Water (18M) rule.
As mentioned previously, the SEASCOOTER has a bright yellow colored main body with a contrasting charcoal trim and safety grills and shrouds. The unit survived with only a few minor scrapes from rocky reefs marring its surface. Considering the dive sites where the unit was tested and the things "bumped" into during testing then it should remain looking good for some time. Hosing down the unit after use or washing it as part of your normal dive gear will ensure that it continues to keep it in good condition as well.
Some "Nice to Haves"
During discussions with the importer of the units some additional features are to be introduced as part of later models. Some of these such as a remaining battery charge indicator would be nice as standard. While the unit didn't go "flat" during the test sessions, I think that there could be situations where you travel further than expected and may not have the available battery capacity to return. A wrist lanyard would also be a nice addition so that you are able to stop and "drop" the unit without it drifting away and the same with method of connecting to a harness tow-ring for one-handed operation would be a good inclusion.
All in all a fun device to use. Would I own one? No… but I would have two!! As the price of the unit is quite affordable and the fact you could buy three SEASCOOTERs for the same price as the other scooter that is commonly available in Australia then my statement isn't as silly as it seems. The SEASCOOTER is probably best in the rental market for a resort in the reef areas of Queensland but the price makes it pretty attractive for the next dive toy you must have.