This was the weekend I had long set aside as an opportunity to complete the training of two young Dutch girls, Ianthe and Rosanna. Bobbi and I met them at Freestyle Divers in Dibba for a planned day of easy diving along with their mother Godelieve. Also on our dive team were Oguz, a long-time 'listener' on our Froglegs Scuba Club list who lives in Turkey but travels to UAE occasionally and finally managed to get in on one of our dive trips, and Khalil, an advanced-certified PADI diver who had not dived for ten years and wanted to ease into a refresher with an instructor he'd located on the Internet (moi!).
We planned the first day at Freestyle because we could sleep till 6 and leave Abu Dhabi at 7 and arrive at Freestyle at 11 with plenty of time to get everyone ready for a dive at noon. We would do two dives there, get the girls certified, and then move that evening to Oman Dibba to Nomad where Christophe's family would have rooms ready for us and a delicious meal redolent in Mauritius flavors and hospitality, accompanied by our favorite beverages, and generally provide the welcome ambiance that is unique to their guest house. Next morning we would be up as early as possible and spend that day in Musandam on a speedboat that Chris would arrange for us. The weather was great for this, warm enough on the boats that we didn't think about chill but not so hot as to be uncomfortable, and sea conditions also were conducive to diving and distance travel with temperatures ranging from 29 near the surface to a chilling 26 in the thermoclines.
Terry had more divers than he could take in his one boat operating so he decided to take one wave out at noon(ish) and another later on. He offered my group and I the early departure but since I didn't want to rush the novices I opted for the late shift. This gave us time to kit up at leisure and walk all our divers out to the salt water for weight check, and as we had time to kill we decided to go for a little depth and do the 3rd dive underwater skills, ascend, and then get rid of a lot of the surface work while waiting for Terry to return with the boat, and when he docked it, Ianthe and Rosanne and I simply snorkeled over to it to climb aboard and be taken on a continuation of our dive. The others waded their equipment out in the shallow water while we waited.
Vance's logged Dive #875
Vance's logged Dive #875
It was a good thing we had done our skill set early. We had picked Dibba for the easiest diving but that turned out to be not necessarily the case. The only mooring still at Dibba is the one just inside the eastern shoulder of the rock, and there was a current ripping through there that carried the first divers in quickly astern. Terry had fortunately put a line out with a life-ring attached to it so no one got swept away. He was also able to haul divers via this line upcurrent to the mooring line which divers managed to ease down as they managed to reach it one by one, each diver hanging off the line like a pennant in a wind. The depth there was only 5 meters there so there was little relief from the surface current at the bottom.
So conditions were not ideal to start our dive, but all did quite well in the circumstances. The group stayed together and we managed to reverse into the current so we could fin against it get some control over lateral movement. The current was due west, exactly the direction I wanted to go, what a happy coincidence! I just had to keep easing us a little south of west so as to not get swept past the reef, but I listened for the loud clacking, so I knew when to turn south over the coral patch.
Vis was hazy, but the patch looked exciting and I kept envisaging sharks and turtles there, but we saw none at all. These poor girls are so unlucky in their experiences with me. Still I think everyone enjoyed the dive. Vis was better than at any other time in the course, there were plenty of fish about, especially barracuda, and at one point we found a friendly remora looking, as were we, for sharks (not finding any either :-( ... I take that back, I thought I might have seen a shark but wasn't sure (so it doesn't count) and Oz said he saw one at about that time, so were not entirely without shark sightings at Dibba Rock, which before the many months of red tide I would have thought quite unusual.
At the point where the reef turns north Godelieve and her daughters were carried a little to the west and off the interesting parts, so at that point we had to hold hands so the stronger swimmers could help the weaker ones back on to the reef. But as we traveled north into the lee of the island the current diminished and by the time we reached the aquarium we were swimming comfortably. We ended our dive in that area, lots of colorful fishes around, with about 58 minutes of diving in 6 to 7 meters of water.
Vance's logged Dive #876
Vance's logged Dive #876
Terry got us back to shore at about the time his 3 pm dive would normally leave but he took another wave out at 4. This time we asked to be put in at the aquarium rather than have to fight the current and Andrew (relieving Terry on the boat handling) complied. But there wasn't a mooring there and by the time we all got in the water we found we'd drifted well to the west of the aquarium. And the reef in general. I suggested we snorkel to the rock but the littlest girls who are hardest to fit in fins and bcds and were struggling upcurrent at the surface with oversized equipment, so we decided to descend and travel in 8 meters at the bottom. We reached the aquarium about ten minutes into our dive.
Here I had the girls remove and replace their masks and then hover and check out the fish life, schooling snappers mainly, triveli or jacks, fusiliers, bannerfish, angel fish, bream, and even a couple of bat fish, and both did marvelously on these exercises. My idea was to head south and then east over the raspberry coral but before we could even reach the coral patch we encountered current and I decided not to go there. So we returned to the aquarium and were languishing there when I decided to take us toward the back side of the island. I kept our depth to 6 or 7 meters to avoid the chilling thermocline and to sustain everyone's air. The kids found morays on the back side, and Rosanne was especially excited over a small honeycomb moray which she spotted before anyone else (yes, that was a SMALL one). We finally surfaced after about 55 minutes, getting down to maybe 8 meters on that dive.
We hadn't actually completed the course that day. Due to currents and missing moorings we were not able to get in the controlled emergency swimming ascents, no fixed lines for me to conduct the exercise within standards, but we would be together next day, and it's nice to overlap a couple of dives in order to complete a course at a pleasant pace for all concerned :-)