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BlueWater

Airbrake, Version A Airbrake, Version A Airbrake, Version B
BlueWater Airbrake, Version A Airbrake, Version B
Guardian Ranger
Guardian Ranger

Overview


BlueWater
(#869)

Front Rear Top
Front Rear Top
 
Left Right Bottom
Left Right Bottom

Technical Details

I acquired my BlueWater from Mark McIntyre in 2007.

The BlueWater is a typical two-slot belay tube with a rigid keeper. It is forged from aluminum alloy and soft anodized. Mine is 48 mm. long, 57 mm. wide, 83 mm. high, and weighs 49 g. The slots are 32 mm. long and 15 mm. wide. The top of the Omega oval carabiner that I use for comparing belay tubes sits 13 mm. below the ends of the slots.

One side of my BlueWater is marked "BlueWater."

Comments

The BlueWater has a rigid rod keeper that stands up to the rope running over it (by accident, of course), but makes the device harder to pack. The keeper is loosely pinned in place, and the ends are visible as they are on the Smiley Atoga - not that it matters either way. Aside from the visible keeper ends, it looks much like the Advanced Base Camp Brakeman and Liberty Mountain belayer.


Airbrake Version A
(#667)

Front Rear Top
Front Rear Top
 
Left Right Bottom
Left Right Bottom

Technical Details

I acquired my first BlueWater AirBrake, Version A from Exkursion in 1995, and a second from Kenneth Belk in 2021.

The BlueWater AirBrake, Version A is forged from aluminum alloy. Mine is 55 mm. long, 48 mm. wide, 19 mm. high, and weighs 48 g. The slots are 34 mm. long and 13 mm. wide. The top of the Omega oval carabiner that I use for comparing belay tubes sits 11 mm. below the ends of the slots. The AirBrake came with a stiff cord keeper.

The top of the AirBrake, Version A has a raised BlueWater logo.

Comments

The BlueWater AirBrake blah blahblah blah blah. Blah blah AirBrake blah blah blah.

Actually, that’s what the instructions say, probably to see if anyone was awake. BlueWater has a sense of humor.

The Airbrake has thick walls where the rope runs, which is good because unfinished aluminum wears quickly. It uses a stiff cord for a keeper, so it is easily replaced if it would break. The cord is more likely (i.e., guaranteed) to get tangled with the belay rope if the user is not careful. When this happens, it will be destroyed. Even though the cord was stiff to begin with, I wrapped mine with adhesive tape to stiffen it and help keep it out of the way.

Instructions Instructions

Airbrake Version B
(#857)

Front Rear Top
Front Rear Top
 
Left Right Bottom
Left Right Bottom

Technical Details

I acquired my BlueWater AirBrake, Version B on eBay in 2007.

The BlueWater AirBrake, Version B is forged from aluminum alloy and then hard anodized. Mine is 55 mm. long, 48 mm. wide, 19 mm. high, and weighs 46 g. The slots are 33 mm. long and 13 mm. wide. The top of the Omega oval carabiner that I use for comparing belay tubes sits 11 mm. below the ends of the slots. The AirBrake came with a stiff cord keeper.

The top of the AirBrake, Version B has a raised BlueWater logo.

Comments

Airbrake Version B should wear better than Version A.

In 2022, Marty Karabin gave me a set of AirBrakes taken at steps in the manufacturing process. Here are those samples:

  1. The first step would be to cut a blank for forging, and showing that would be rather boring, so there is no sample to show.

  2. (#3803, 3804) The next step would be to heat and stamp the blank into shape. Marty gave me two samples marked "2" and "3." At first I thought that these might be steps 2 and 3 in the process, indicating that each blank was to be struck twice. This does not appear to be the case. After I suggested this to Marty, he sent me photos of five more AirBrake stampings, including ones marked "1" and "4" and three that lacked numbers.

    We don't know what the numbers mean, but they do not seem to indicate steps in the manufacturing process like I first guessed. Marty suggested that they may relate to the temperature of the blank before stamping, and that makes some sense. I see that the four numbered ones have significant cracks that propagate nearly to the finished AirBrake, but that the other blanks are not cracked that far. Perhaps this entire set was made while trying to dial-in the manufacturing process?

  3. (#3805) The next step would be to trim the blank.

  4. (#3806) Milling the slots follows the trimming step.

  5. (#3807) Next comes drilling holes for the keeper.

  6. (#3808) Depending on the version, the optional step of anodizing the shell would occur at this time.

  7. The final step is to thread and tie the keeper cord in place.

Guardian
(#1788)

Front Rear Top
Front Rear Top
 
Left Right Bottom
Left Right Bottom

Technical Details

I acquired my BlueWater Guardian from JustRescue in 2012.

The BlueWater Guardian is a notched belay tube. It is forged from aluminum alloy and soft anodized. Mine is 52 mm. long, 46 mm. wide, 117 mm. high, and weighs 91 g. It has two slots with ribbed v-grooves and a plastic-covered cable keeper. The slots are 30 mm. long and 14 mm. wide. The top of the Omega oval carabiner that I use for comparing belay tubes sits 19 mm. below the ends of the slots. A hole in each side of the Ranger slightly reduces its weight.

One side is printed with "BlueWaterRopes" with several concentric circles around the "R."

Comments

The BlueWater Guardian is one of the following closely-related notched belay tubes:

Image Device Side Keeper
Alpidex Aiolos Alpidex Aiolos Solid 3.8 mm.
Black Diamond ATC-XP, Version A Black Diamond ATC-XP, Version A Solid
/w Logo
4.7 mm.
Black Diamond ATC-XP, Version B Black Diamond ATC-XP, Version B Solid 4.7 mm.
Image Device Side Keeper
Black Diamond ATC-XP, Version C Black Diamond ATC-XP, Version C Solid 4.7 mm.
Black Diamond ATC-XP, Version D Black Diamond ATC-XP, Version D Solid 4.7 mm.
Black Diamond ATC-XP, Version E Black Diamond ATC-XP, Version E Open 4.7 mm.
Image Device Side Keeper
BlueWater Guardian BlueWater Guardian Round Hole 3.8 mm.
Climb X XP Climb X XP Solid 3.8 mm.
Kailas Kguard Kailas Kguard Solid 3.8 mm.

Each of these is 53±2 mm. long and 46±2 mm. wide. Their weighs range from 64 to 95 g., with variations in the lightening holes (or their absence) accounting for the differences. Their slots are all 32±2 mm. long and 14±1 mm. wide. They all have plastic-covered cable keepers, with the Black Diamond keepers being and stiffer than others.

The Black Diamond ATC-XP was the first of these to appear, by many years. Version A was an improved version of their ATC. From there, the basic design evolved and similar devices appeared from others.

Each of these has V-slots to give additional friction for belaying or rappelling. Each side of each groove has three V-shaped slots, giving the grooves "teeth" to grip the rope more effectively. These teeth act to guide the rope deeper into the slot, in much the same manner as the teeth on the Wild Country Hand ascender work. The teeth do not have the narrow angle found on the Trango Jaws or its equivalents, so they do not create the same wedging action. For this reason, I find these less effective than the Jaws family. On the other hand, the teeth on the ATC-XP provide a larger bearing area for the rope, which helps reduce localized heating. These are more massive than the ATC, but will still overheat on long rappels.

The ATC-XP and equivalents are rigged like the ATC, with the V-slots on the brake hand end of the rope. Alternately, they may be reversed to disable the V-slots.

Some of these have a hole or an opening in the sides and the central rib. When present, these reduce the device's weight, but also reduce the devices' surface area for rejecting heat.

My preference from this set is for the Black Diamond ATC-XP, Version C, which is the lightest of the group and has the stiffer keeper; however, it requires closer thermal monitoring on rappel.


Ranger
(#1789)

Front Rear Top
Front Rear Top
 
Left Right Bottom
Left Right Bottom

Technical Details

I acquired my BlueWater Ranger from JustRescue in 2012.

The BlueWater Ranger is a notched belay tube. It is forged from aluminum alloy and soft anodized. Mine is 93 mm. long, 43 mm. wide, 105 mm. high, and weighs 97 g. It has two slots with ribbed v-grooves at one end. The slots are 35 mm. long and 14 mm. wide. The top of the Omega oval carabiner that I use for comparing belay tubes sits 23 mm. below the ends of the slots.

The Ranger has a release hole underneath the v-grooves, and a carabiner eye at the end opposite the grooves. It also has a stiff, plastic-covered cable keeper. A hole in each side of the Ranger slightly reduces its weight.

One side is printed with "BlueWaterRopes" with several concentric circles around the "R."

Comments

The BlueWater Ranger is one of the following closely-related belay tubes:

Image Device Side Eye Keeper
Black Diamond ATC-Guide, Version A Black Diamond ATC-Guide, Version A Thin Round 4.7 mm.
Black Diamond ATC-Guide, Version B Black Diamond ATC-Guide, Version B Open Round 4.7 mm.
Black Diamond ATC-Guide, Version C Black Diamond ATC-Guide, Version C Open Pear 4.7 mm.
BlueWater Ranger BlueWater Ranger Round
Hole
Round 3.8 mm.
Climb X Guide Climb X Guide Solid Round 4.7 mm.
Edelweiss Guru Alpin Edelweiss Guru Alpin Solid Round 3.8 mm.
Image Device Side Eye Keeper
Fixe Descender Fixe Descender
(a.k.a. Miku V2)
Open Round 3.8 mm.
Salewa Alpine Tuber Salewa Alpine Tuber Solid Pear 4.0 mm.
Wild Country Pro Guide Wild Country Pro Guide Solid Round 3.8 mm.
Wild Country Pro Guide Lite Wild Country Pro Guide Lite
Version A
Open Round 3.8 mm.
Wild Country Pro Guide Lite Wild Country Pro Guide Lite
Version B
Open Pear 4.0 mm.
 

Each of these is 97±4 mm. long and 41±2 mm. wide, but their weights range from 72 to 100 g., quite a span. Their slots are all 35±1 mm. long and 14±1 mm. wide. They all have plastic-covered cable keepers, with the Black Diamond and Salewa keepers being and stiffer than others.

The Black Diamond ATC-Guide was the first of these to appear, by many years. Version A was an improved version of their Black Diamond ATC-XP. From there, the basic design evolved and similar devices appeared from others.

RiggingThese extend the ATC-XP and equivalents by adding a carabiner hole at the one side and a cord hole beneath the jaws. When belaying a second from above, a guide can clip the device to an anchor sling with a carabiner passed through the carabiner hole, belaying in an autostop mode, much like one might with a Kong Gi–gi. One can release a jammed device by passing a cord through the cord eye and pulling on the cord - possibly by looping it through a carabiner and applying body weight - but don't let go of the braking end of the rope! All in all, I like these devices

Each of these has V-slots to give additional friction for belaying or rappelling. Each side of each groove has three V-shaped slots, giving the grooves "teeth" to grip the rope more effectively. These teeth act to guide the rope deeper into the slot, in much the same manner as the teeth on the Wild Country Hand ascender work. The teeth do not have the narrow angle found on the Trango Jaws or its equivalents, so they do not create the same wedging action. For this reason, I find these less effective than the Jaws family. On the other hand, the teeth on these devices provide a larger bearing area for the rope, which helps reduce localized heating. These are more massive than many belay tubes, but will still overheat on long rappels.

Some of these have a thin sidewall, a hole in the sides, or an opening in the sides and the central rib. When present, these reduce the device's weight, but also reduce the devices' surface area for rejecting heat. They weight savings is small and offset by heavier keepers on the Black Diamond devices.

I do not see any difference between the field performance of the round vs. pear-shaped eyes.

My slight preferences from this set are the Salewa Alpine Tuber and the Wild Country Pro Guide Lite, Version B These are the lightest of the group and have the stiffer keeper; however, they require closer thermal monitoring on rappel.

See the page for the Black Diamond ATC Guide for an illustration of their use.