I took my "el-cheapo" diving mask to Bermuda and saw that the island's underwater wonders were everything my friends had promised.
PHOTO: GARY SZELE
This homemade prescription diving mask glue-it-yourself project is perfect for the short-sighted and short-funded snorkler.
A Homemade Prescription Diving Mask
I'd never even dreamed that I might someday have a chance to visit Bermuda . . . until some friends of mine came up with a low-cost vacation package to that balmy paradise. As my buddies expounded on the sun- and surf-kissed beaches, the shimmering blue ocean, and the magnificent coral reefs and fascinating underwater world that lie open to snorkelers, I found the lure of the adventure irresistible.
However, there was one hitch: I need either eyeglasses or contact lenses to enjoy any scenery . . . whether it's above or below water. I wondered, then, what would happen if I went snorkeling, wearing my contact lenses, and accidentally jarred my diving mask or was broad-sided by a wave. Likely, I'd wind up saying goodbye to a couple hundred bucks' worth of plastic. On the other hand, though, if I wore my glasses, the earpieces would protrude from the sides of my mask, preventing a tight seal . . . and who wants to snorkel with a face full of water?
I briefly considered having some lenses custom-ground to my prescription and fitted into a face mask . . . until I found out what that luxury would cost. At that point I was almost resigned to spending my Bermuda vacation topside . . . but then I recalled that a draftsman in my office, Bob Heims, is an eyeglass wearer with years of underwater exploring experience. So I asked my coworker how he'd managed to view the deep with his less-than-perfect sight.
Bob simply told me to bring in my diving mask, an old pair of glasses, a small brass screw (with a nut and a matching flexible washer), some epoxy glue, and a piece of sandpaper. I gathered up the requested materials at home . . . including a pair of plastic-framed spectacles that I no longer wore, but whose prescription still permitted me to see relatively well.
Back at the office, Bob removed the earpieces from the glasses with the aid of a small screwdriver, and checked to see whether the frames would fit into my diving mask without interfering with the rubber seal. Satisfied that my specs would work, he then had me position the glasses on the viewing window of the mask so that the lenses lined up comfortably with my eyes. Next, Bob carefully marked the precise position of the eyegear, picked up the sandpaper, and roughed up a small spot where the bridge of the nosepiece touched the snorkel rig's glass. He blew away the dust, applied a dot of epoxy to the scratched area, and set the brass nut in the middle of the glue.
With that done, Bob set the diving mask aside to let the epoxy dry and turned his attention to the earpiece-less frame. He drilled a small hole through the bridge, perpendicular to the lenses . . . slipped the washer on the little brass screw . . . threaded the fastener through the spectacles' nosepiece . . . and proceeded to screw the glasses onto the nut he'd glued to the viewing window.
Before my cohort turned the modified mask over to my eagerly waiting hands, though, he cautioned me that fastening the screw too tight might cause the nut to lift from its epoxy bed. Bob also pointed out that if I ever needed to lend my headset to a more eagle-eyed friend, all I'd have to do was unscrew my specs ... and the snorkeling rig would be almost the same as before (the small nut on the viewing glass would hardly impair the wearer's vision).
Well, I took my "el-cheapo" diving mask to Bermuda and saw that the island's underwater wonders were everything my friends had promised. I found it amazing to gaze through 40 feet of clear water and actually see the coral reefs, and multicolored fishes darting to and fro. Best of all, I was able to enjoy the oceanscape with near-perfect vision . . . without the worry of losing costly contact lenses or the expense of a custom-made diving mask.
And since my return, I've found that the el-cheapo snorkel rig can be useful when observing more prosaic sights than the deep blue sea off Bermuda. The handy mask could, for instance, be a valuable aid for anyone surveying the bottom of a farm pond, checking out underwater structures, or even inspecting the keel of a boat!