Reel Secrets

Or the art of tying off…

So this is something that has been on my mind since I came back from doing my introduction to cave diving, aka Cave 1 class with GUE – I wanted to deliver to you a closer look on how to handle a reel and how to approach and do a good tie-off. Cave divers have to run a continuous guideline from the open water to the permanent cave line and connect side passages with jump spools if they decide to venture off the permanent line. And during the cave class, although the message of continuous guideline is incessant, there is no real emphasis on the art of laying the line and using the reel. Yes, it is an art, ok?

How to keep it reel?

How to keep it reel?

A bit like a naturally “left to the side skill”. Not saying we do not teach reel handling and line laying but it feels that there is something missing. So in this article I hope to cover as much as I can without going to deep into details…but also will be revealing line laying secrets… Ha!

we will talk about:

  1. The tool
  2. The technique
  3. The know-how secrets

1. The tool aka weapons of choice

From a primary reel to a jump or gap spool, what we look for is its simplicity, as in, ease of use, robust and jam-free…
Por favor!! Dive Rite peeps, if you read this blog, by any chance, why not discontinuing your reel-jammer?? It would make the life of modern cave/wreck divers, so much better!!
Rant over… 😀

Anyways, let’s look at the reel as a tool we’ll use for each connection to a permanent line. We could also use a spool for that matter. As long as we keep it simple!

Any type of line can be on the primary reel but the best one is knotted line as you never know what you may encounter in your dive, who knows, maybe some virgin cave passage.
When I started my exploration/survey dives, my friend and buddy, Alan F said to me once: “I will always go with two primary reel. Once to connect from the O/W to the main line and the other, with knotted line, just in case!”
It has proven true and this could soon become a famous saying in our sport. 🙂

Primary Reel - made for explorers ;)

Primary Reel – made for explorers 😉

2. The techniques

The primary tie-off “PTO” consist of two loops around any fixed object/rock/tree branch etc… Just make sure it is strong enough. Often a mistake done or a beliefs, is that the bigger the object  to tie onto, the better… Not the case. Many of the caves have just what is needed to secure a primary tie-off without using too much line wrapping around a whole boulder… If you dig what I’m sayin’? If you are exploring a virgin cave, you need most of that line to explore the cave, so keep the tie-offs to the strict minimum.

Tie-off your cave line so it is secured and with the minimum stress on the line and object you tie onto.

Tie-off your cave line so it is secured and with the minimum stress on the line and object you tie onto.

Of course, needless to say that it will be done in open water! 😉

As the diver laying the line is team captain/leader, team #2 will give light and confirm tie-offs are done well and in a good enough spot.
Team #3 stays out of the way.
Holding the reel as doing the tie-off, needs some practice and like an underwater photographer needs to know his/her camera before going diving, a cave/wreck diver should practice on land the handling of the reel he or she has acquired.

If primary tie-off is in O/W, the secondary is already in the over-head environment. As soon as PTO is the done, the focus is already on the secondary and eventually the third tie-off. Anticipation is key 😉
While swimming with the reel, it is important to keep a good trim and a controlled buoyancy. Keeping the arm holding the reel at 90 degrees (from the body) and a bit bellow the trim line. This will prevent the diver to become entangled in his own line as laying it. Anticipating where the tie-off will be is key in keeping the momentum of the dive. For this, only team captain can decide where he/she wants to go. As long as it is in the big dark tunnel ahead of the team. 😉

When attempting at laying a line, anticipating where is the first and any subsequent tie-offs will make your work a bliss.

When attempting at laying a line, anticipating where is the first and any subsequent tie-offs will make your work a bliss.

Once a tie-off is done, the subsequent one should already have been spotted. This in turns, stop team captain from doing what we call placement. An involuntary placement is an unsecured tie-off. As when laying line, it is important to think of the “worse case scenario” aka following the line in zero viz while sharing gas. Doing involuntary placement can create a line trap when line comes undone. Following slack line in zero viz is a pain int he wazou as our friends at the “World Learn To Dive on Its Knees” would say. If you don’t get it, send me a PM 🙂 LOL

So, now that we know how to run the line from open water to the permanent cave line, we have an idea of what it takes. Mostly, is anticipation from one tie-off to the next.

3. The tying off secrets aka The Ninja Moves®

There is no substitute to time spent underwater to improve your scuba diving skills and comfort level. Laying the line of your reel or spool bares no difference.
The more you do it, the better you become at it. But, your practice can take giant step when learning from active cave divers, explorers and instructors.

We may have some difference but one thing is certain, is that we are all good at this 🙂

In a short video, I will try to share with you the ins and outs of some secret moves that I have decided to call Ninja Moves®


Hope you like and please, comment if you feel the need to and rate even if you didn’t like it 😉


About Jason

Essential Scuba Training is aimed at divers looking to better their skills in recreational and technical diving while using a holistic configuration. Be it recreational or technical and/or cave diving, Essential Scuba Training will put it's twenty years of experience at your service. View all posts by Jason

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: