The Primary Light, Goodman Handle and Side Mount Print
Written by Pat Fitzgerald and Trent Lee   
Tuesday, 05 June 2012 19:25

goodman-handleThe Primary Light and the Goodman Handle
by Trent Lee

Not many people know the history of the Goodman handle and what actually constitutes one.

Many manufacturers call any handle a Goodman, however the design points are very distinct. It must be flat and it must be rigid. Soft handles made of elastic or round ones really don't fit the design of a true Goodman handle.

By using a flat bar the grip of the diver is unimpeded with full use of the fingers. If you have adjusted the handle properly the light will always stay in position.

Below is a basic illustration of why the Goodman handle needs to be flat and thus aligned with a flat reel handle in order to work optimally.


It is clear that two flats is the most stable and least cumbersome platform, and you can also see why a round reel handle isn't going to feel stable with either a round or flat primary light handle.With Hogarthian back mount diver configuration, the light head is always in the left hand (the light cord crosses over the long hose from the canister which is on the right hip). The first metre of long hose is completely unimpeded. This means that the long hose can be donated without any need to stow the light head.

In an out of gas (OOG) situation, the long hose regulator is donated with the right hand and the left hand, with the Goodman light head still in place, delivers the bungeed secondary regulator to the donors mouth. Once everything has settled down (divers check buoyancy and reference the line and indicate they are OK), the donor then re-routes the light cord and frees the other metre of the primary regulator hose. Divers check all is OK and then exit.

If the donor diver was using a reel when the OOG incident occurred, little changes. Because reel and light head are both in the left hand the long hose would be donated with the right hand whilst maintaining tension and control over the reel, then the back up regulator would be placed in the mouth with their right hand, as described above.

The following is the Hogarthian procedure for primary light failure:

  1. Light head remains in the left hand.
  2. Reach back with right hand to right back up light.
  3. Follow shoulder webbing with fingers until the rubber inner tube retainer is felt.
  4. Put one finger into the inner tube and "pop" it off.
  5. The backup light will fall forward and hang vertically (as the diver is still in trim).
  6. With the backup light still clipped in to the D-ring the diver rotates the bezel and turns the light on. Never unclip a light unless it is on.
  7. With the backup light still clipped in but on, flash the buddy (who is already looking at you), point to the primary light and signal "Broken".
  8. With the backup light still clipped in (dangling) stow the broken light head and light cord.
  9. Unclip the backup light, move into the lead position in a two man team or middle position in a three man team.
  10. Exit

The Hogarthian system focuses on team work and situation awareness. The system is very effective because the team will acknowledge the failure nearly as quickly as you do. The first diver maintains passive light communication and keeps tabs on the diver behind. Team members typically space themselves 5 - 10m apart. At this distance the second divers light will cast a shadow of the first diver forward. If the second diver's primary light fails there will be an instant lighting change. At this point the lead diver would stop, reference the line by doing a 180 degree turn (inwards so as to maintain eye contact with the line) as he/she knows their buddy has had a light failure. By this time the diver with the failure will still have their primary on their left hand (via the Goodman handle) and will have their head up looking at their buddy (with the working light) and referencing the line which they can see in their buddies functioning light. If all else fails, the team member with the failed primary light will simply swim to the light.



The Primary Light and Side Mount Configuration
by Pat Fitzgerald

I commenced diving with a Goodman Handle and reel with a round handle, albeit with a flat edge so that the Goodman handle and the reel handle were effectively flat against each other. However, I always found this to be cumbersome and it annoyed me that I was simultaneously attempting to operate the reel and light the way forward all in my left hand.

I purchased a helmet, mounted the primary light on its left hand side and like magic I was automatically much happier in that my eyes could now focus on the way ahead** as my hands operated the reel and tied the line. This required little concentration as by muscle memory my hands already know how to operate the reel and guideline.

Other advantages were that I was faster and the reel was tauter both on the outwards and return journey. I also noted that I was looking and memorising more of the cave as we swam out and returned, simply because I was looking at the reel less and the cave more.

Having experimented for over six months I devised the following as standard practice for myself.

It is not meant to educate others nor is it instructional. It merely demonstrates my personal problem solving mindset, and it is likely to be refined over time and as my diving evolves.

As in the photo below, the two backup lights are fixed in position to the helmet with a pivotal screw to allow them to be slightly adjusted as required. When required, the diver simply reaches up with their free right hand and twists the light head to activate the backup lights.


My primary light is always on my left hand side, and the reel is always in my left hand. Were the primary light to fail I would simply reach up and turn on the lower right backup light first, signal my buddy that my primary light has failed, unclip the primary from the helmet and clip it to my left hand chest D-ring as it is no longer required.

The only small issue with the primary light on the helmet lighting up wherever I look is that, if I'm not careful, I may shine the light directly into my buddy's eyes. Therefore, to avoid upsetting my buddies, whenever I wish to look at the them and/or signal them, I first reach up with my left hand and unclip my primary light and then signal/communicate appropriately before returning the primary light to the helmet holder. For myself this small regular task is preferable to constantly handling the light and reel as one via a Goodman handle.

For an out of gas (OOG) situtation, my procedure is:

  1. Buddy signals that they are OOG
  2. Reach up and remove the primary light from the helmet holder
  3. Commence to donate my long hose regulator from the RHS, over my head
  4. Fully deploy the long hose
  5. Communicate and ensure all is good (as far as OOG situations allow)
  6. OOG diver moves to the front of the team - buoyancy and trim remain intact
  7. Primary light returns to the helmet holder
  8. Commence to exit the cave in an orderly calm fashion

The procedure I have developed for gearing up when diving side mount:

  1. The LHS tank has the short regulator hose. It is donned first with the regulator on a short bungy around the neck. I commence breathing as I lie flat in the water gearing up and running through self checks for the other steps below
  2. Wing inflator hose on the the LHS regulator connected
  3. RHS regulator has the 2.1 metre long hose, routed first over the left shoulder and then into the mouth from the right shoulder. Second stage clips to RHS chest D-ring when not in use
  4. Dry suit inflator hose on the RHS tank regulator connected
  5. Remove LHS regulator and commence breathing my RHS regulator
  6. Place and clip the helmet into position
  7. Take the primary light from my LHS chest D-ring and insert into helmet holder
  8. Ensure all critical components are true and correct
  9. Remove primary light from helmet and test ease of deploying RHS regulator with the long hose for OOG emergency. (This test is very important as without practice it is very easy to tangle the primary light and long hose)
  10. All OK. Commence the dive with buddies as per the dive plan

Play safe, have fun and most importantly hug a wet rock today!

** Why focussing on the cave horizon / path ahead is significant to me **
Previously I have ridden motorcycles 'at speed' and the most critical aspect of staying upright is ensuring that the eyes are constantly focussed on the paths horizon. All other body parts (hands, feet, thighs, bum etc) already know (via repetitive practice) what needs to be done to ensure you stay in control of the machine overall. The eyes will signal whether they are happy (go faster) or the eyes will signal danger and automatically all other relevant body parts take action based upon previously 'proven' learnings.

Continue to learn, continue to evolve and the margin for safety will remain relevant to the task at hand.


by Sheck Exley

A book by the world-renowned cave diver, the late Sheck Exley. A compilation of case studies of accidents that occurred in the USA and how to learn from them.


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