14 April 2013
While cruising the Interwebs, I happened upon a photo of what looked like a huge shark leaping out of the water ~ with people inside, visible through a transparent canopy. Intrigued, I began to search for the source.
Until recently, one- or two-person submarines were ungainly-looking, expensive, and usually equipped for scientific or military research at depth. Now a new generation of mini-subs has surfaced (so to speak), one aimed squarely at recreational use. An example is Seabreacher, a personal submarine designed for surface or near-surface play. It is capable of speeds of 40 mph on the surface, and up to 20 mph submerged. By design, It will not dive much deeper than 5 feet. Generous hull flotation means the sub is inherently stable, and unsinkable even if the cockpit and engine bay are fully flooded. An optional snorkel (to feed air to the engine) is available for extended shallow-submersion cruising.
A variety of custom cockpits and paint schemes is available. My personal favorite is the orca design (image above, click to enlarge).
Interestingly, the company recommends that a companion boat be deployed, in radio contact with the sub. This is to prevent other watercraft or swimmers from trying to approach too closely. Under Coast Guard rules, the sub falls in the same class of watercraft as jet skis, and is capable of operation in fresh or salt water. No special license is required for operation.
Like jet skis, these personal submarines are mostly intended for fun. Still, I suspect an enterprising soul could find practical uses to justify the expense. Swimmer rescue? Smuggling? Patrolling nude beaches? Thrill rides for hire? Could be fun.