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While in another life, Rebecca may have been a fish, or a dolphin, or a shark, I most decidedly would have been a land creature. Quite likely one that lived far from the ocean, perhaps up in the mountains. I was never taught to swim as a young child, and thus barely muddle through it at the best of times. That said, I do enjoy snorkeling, and have spent many an hour cruising along the surface of Caribbean bays, or diving down to check out the sea life hiding below it. I’ll just never be a natural, and I know that I’m not alone.

I’ve had the same snorkeling mask for more than 10 years. It fit my face well and was comfortable enough, so I never bothered changing. Even when the strap that held the snorkel to the mask broke, I kept on using it. I just replaced the strap with a couple of tie wraps and kept on going. Sadly, during my last trip into the water, the mask developed a serious crack along my forehead, allowing water to flow freely around my eyes. Oh well, it has led a good life.

masks

I have not been oblivious to the recent development of full-faced snorkeling masks, and their increased popularity with some people. Rebecca and I first got to handle one of these masks in a tourist shop, upstairs above the ferry terminal in St. John, USVI, back when we were first running charters. The owner of the store had just acquired some to rent to his customers, and he boasted that many of them raved about new masks and that they were especially good for folks who didn’t feel comfortable with a traditional mask and snorkel. He also commented though that if we were happy with a normal mask, and liked to dive underwater a lot, he didn’t think that they’d be of much benefit to us.

mask

Rachel is using the Tribord EasyBreath

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, we were pleasantly surprised to see that Rachel and Allen, our most recent guests, each had one of these full-faced snorkel masks with them. They told us that they were big fans of the new masks, and demonstrated that by putting them to good use several times during the week that they sailed with us. On one of our last stops, Allen offered me a chance to try his mask, a Mares Head Sea Vu, and while I didn’t do more than swim out to check on our anchor, and swim a lap around the boat, I have to admit, it was pretty cool. I found myself intuitively breathing through my nose instead of my mouth, something that is impossible with a normal mask and snorkel. The mask, which admittedly had not been really adjusted to my face, did leak a minuscule amount around my chin, but it was almost unnoticeable. Any leakage was certainly much less than my personal mask, and there was absolutely zero fogging!

mantus

Our well-buried Mantus anchor.

While my limited trial could in no way be considered a thorough review, I did come across this post that does go into a fair amount of detail. It’s worth noting that, just as you’ll read on that link, some opinions on the internet can be, how should I say, less enamored with the concept of these new designs. Which brings up one of my pet peeves… anonymous keyboard warriors who spout “advice” as if their opinions are the gospel. That things are solely black and white, and if you dare to entertain an opposing view, you must be an idiot. Life is not so black and white, and people who portray it as such really drive me bananas!

Anyway, back to the mask, I don’t own one, and since we have several more normal masks on our boat to replace the one that just broke, I doubt I’ll purchase one right now. For those who are looking for something to make the snorkeling experience a bit more comfortable though, or who are just getting into it, these masks may be just the thing. If you have one or end up purchasing one, please let me know about your experiences. I’d love to hear them.

12 Comments

  1. I ordered one on ebay.com from China for $18.00 with the camera attachment in pink! I hate using a snorkel as my jaw gets sore clamping down on it and hate getting salt water in my mouth. I am hoping for it to arrive this week( long journey to Canada) and try it out when I go lane swimming first. I saw this mask in the BVIs this year and sparked my interest! Will let you know how I like it, I can’t dive under the water with snorkel in my mouth and come up and push the water out of the snorkel like most do, so hoping this will make my under the water life that much more fun!

  2. Hi Mike,
    I could not find a e-mail address for you so you may delete this as it is an ad of sorts… Anyway as you may remember, we have a 1989 Amel Maramu hull #261 that I have 90% restored. Due to not being able to sell my retail business and go, I have been storing our boat for over a year now. Your blog post “What is a year worth to you” is coming to mind and at this time I would rather sell to someone who will use her now rather than later. We hopefully will look for another in a couple of years or try to buy back this one.
    Any advise you guys may have or maybe you know of someone looking. The boat is in Long Island Sound near NYC. My contact is rossny@mail.com or 845-825-7657.
    Best Regards,
    Ross
    Amel Maramu #261 1989

    • Hi Ross

      Sorry to hear of your challenges. I can certainly relate as the single most difficult thing we had to do prior to setting off cruising was to find someone suitable to take over our business. Persevere and I’m sure you’ll figure it out.

      As for the boat, I don’t really have any advice, beyond perhaps listing it with a good broker, and putting it up on all of the sell-by-owner pages. As it is, none of that really worked for us, and we ended up selling it to some good folks who were following our blog.

      Best of luck!

  3. The concept looks good, but I would be concerned about not being able to pressure equalize when going to depth.

    • I was doing some reading yesterday to see if there was a way to effectively equalize without pinching your nose. I didn’t come up with a great solution, although I seem to recall one of our free diving friends telling me that there actually was a way to.

  4. Was thinking of buying one of these masks but have been told they scratch easily and therefore don’t last long. Would be interested in hearing from someone who has had one for a while.

  5. I wonder if some of the difficulty Bruce reported with a snorkel had to do with facial hair. Beards and mustaches are strictly forbidden using respirators in an industrial setting. Yes, you can get kind of get a seal if you crank the straps down… but it is uncomfortable. A little Vaseline helps. Shaving is better.

    • I suspect that if a beard/mustache person was presented with the choices of having to shave completely, or buy a new mask, they’d opt for the new mask 99% of the time. That should, in fact, be an advertising campaign for these companies!

  6. You misunderstand. The beard is often an even more severe leakage issue with full face masks. It all depends on texture and extent of the beard, and to a great extent, the shape of the face. So maybe you are right.

    I often had to warp full face respirators a bit to get them to fit just so. Typically I would leave them some place hot with rope wrapped around the right places. That might help customize the fit with these too. In general, the plumper the face, the easier the fit.

    I grew out a big beard this winter, in part to surprise my daughter when she came home for Christmas, and in part because I never had. I hated it and shaved it off the night after she came home. But it was well worth it for the laughs!

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