Tuesday, September 15, 2009

September 11 and 12, 2009 - Certified 3 divers: Greg Golden (advanced), Bill Nash and Gulya Oblokulova (open water)

My logged dives 920-925
Vance helps daughter-in-law Gulya with her compass heading - Photo by Nicki Blower

I had a rather ambitious weekend planned for myself in Dibba, diving with the ever-amenable Freestyle Divers, with Greg Golden slated to do an advanced course and his friend Bill Nash wanting to join him for all 4 of his beginning open water dives. Gulya was preparing to move to Qatar and she wanted to finish off her last two open water dives as well. Bobbi too wanted to dive but unfortunately she took on all the babysitting for granddaughter Gwen so Gulya could do her diving, and she didn't get wet once all weekend. Nicki joined us as well to take pictures of all the fun.

Both Gulya and Bill had done all their academics (just barely, in Bill's case in the car on the way down). Gulya had finished all her pool work but Bill had done just the first three modules in the pool which qualified him to do the first two open water dives in the course, so he'd have to do the last two pool modules before I could take him back in the ocean for his last two o/w dives on Saturday. Greg had joined Bill on one of his pool modules for a bit of confined water refresher, so I had some idea beforehand of his skill level (confident, partly as a result of the refresher). He needed to do two dives that the open water students couldn't do, night and deep, so that was one more ball in the air I'd be juggling that weekend. Therefore I'd need to do six dives: the four o/w dives plus the two advanced-only ones, plus conduct all needed confined water sessions between the dives.

I mapped out a plan for us that would keep me busy hopping for the weekend. It looked like this:

7:30 Friday – Leave Abu Dbabi for 11:00 arrival at Freestyle in Dibba

12:00 – Greg would do an advanced boat dive, no skills required on the dive. Gulya would do her o/w dive 3, and Bill could do his o/w dive #1. Gulya would be the only student with skills for that dive. She had to flood and clear her mask and orally inflate a BCD to achieve neutral buoyancy.

For this dive we dropped in west of the reef and had to fight an oncoming current to reach it. I remember there wasn't much to see on the dive apart from barracudas and reef fishes, and a few turtles. The students were dealing with weighting and buoyancy issues, and the red tide seemed to be lingering in the water, not that bad, but hazy with suspended matter, reducing vis. The students managed to settle themselves as we went along. I recall the dive was short, about 45 minutes or less. Nicki got some great turtle shots with her new fish-eye lense.

Between dives I took Gulya and Bill in the open water off the beach for flexible skills: compass heading at the surface and snorkel, regulator exchange.

3:00 – Greg would do his advanced navigation dive. Gulya had to take care of Gwen and had stopped for the day, so I decided to have Bill do a compass heading out and back in conjunction with Greg's square pattern, in addition to his normal o/w dive #2 skills.

Since Gulya had dropped out I had Bill do his CESA at the beginning of the dive. Once he recalled what he was supposed to do, he did fine, coming up from only 3 meters of water. I then led us west to find the raspberry coral to do our navigation there but I came upon set of coral bommies that was so salient it was just crying to be used as a base for navigation work. Our first heading was to the west. My students were a little confused over the role each was to play in this endeavor, but I managed to get all of us following our own headings west, and each returning on his idea of east, we all arrived back at the bommies, so apart from some buddy separation issues, which I addressed via hand signals, the out and back exercise was deemed to be a success. Then we repeated it to the south using the same number of kick cycles we'd traveled to the west. At the end of that leg we came to a coral head on which I placed a bit of bleached coral found on the bottom as a marker. We returned to our bommie base and then the fun began as Greg began his square pattern. We headed back to the west where I found the rock I'd reached before (I'd left a sea urchin on mine). Bill was with me and Greg a little further away but set to turn 90 meters for the second leg. At the end of that one we turned more or less the same position and headed east and found the coral head with the bleached coral on top. Perfect. It was an easy fin back to the bommies from there.

Bill was getting low on air but I led to the west still trying to find the reef until he had to surface, so we all went up and called a boat over. I had 39 minutes on my computer at that point, so Greg and I resumed our diving. By then we had drifted over the coral, so we descended and found some turtles. I'm trying to recall exactly, but did we find a shark as well? I'm sure we saw at least one that day, either first dive or second. Maybe Greg can remember and comment.

After this dive, sun dipping just over the hills ringing Dibba bay, I took bill for his module 4 confined water dive, entailing removing a mask and swimming 15 meters underwater, and hovering practice. There was also a duck diving component to this training dive which we completed at dusk. We were planning to get module 5 done as well but darkness was descending fast and we decided to postpone that for the following day. Besides, it was almost time for ...

6:30 – Greg's night dive was not too exciting for me. We saw some morays, clams, lots of crabs walking about, and the reef was teemng with brine shrimp with glowing eyes revealing presence of delicate animals attached. The weather was perfect for night diving, water tepid, wish it could be like this all year long!

9:00 a.m. Saturday September 12 – Deep dive with Greg Golden, Nicki along for the thrills, Gulya and Bobbi both administering to granddaughter Gwenny. This was a pretty hopping dive. We tied up to Al Boom's boat and delayed our entry purposely waiting for the other divers to wrap up their twenty minutes below. Our timing was impeccable. We reached the anchor line just as the first of the Al Boomers was coming up from her safety stop. “How was it?” we asked. “Terrible,” she said. “Can't see a thing, dark, cold.” She said she had come up after only nine minutes on the wreck. Oh, well, we shrugged, we're here, down we go. We descended into Al Boom bubbles, and watched all those divers leave deck and inch up the rope while we were doing our skills. Vis there looked normal to us. The wreck was covered with fish as usual. We toured where the hull rested in the sand at 30 meters and found three electric rays, what Nicki calls torpedo rays. Two were resting one atop the other. We moved to the deck where Nicki found a small moray in a pipe. I had just swum back to tell her about a huge honeycomb moray I had found amid-decks but she was summoning me to show me her find. Then we meandered up the deck to find a second big honeycomb. Exactly 20 min. into the dive we were heading back up the anchor line. Up top we all waxed effusive over a great Inchcape dive.

We got back from this one before 11. Bill was waiting on shore and joined me as I was exiting the boat. We had just enough time to return to confined water and finish off training dive #5, in time for ...

noon – Gulya had arrived by now so we would finish off her last o/w ocean dive, and Bill would be doing his 3rd. Greg was now on his last dive for the advanced course, an elective, and he chose underwater naturalist. I started this dive taking Gulya for her CESA. She had become nauseous on the boat and was not comfortable at the bottom of the anchor line, but after a moment's recovery she performed a flawless 7 meter ascent on one exhalation. Back down vis was brown and murky. While my divers established buoyancy and did their skills, Greg and Nicki wandered off, not to be seen again till they reboarded the boat.

We had decided to do the back side of Dibba Rock on this dive. We moved at first over the boulders in brown water, looking not particularly attractive or appealing. But as we sloped deeper toward the sand at 10 meters, the water turned bluer and became clearer, also noticeably colder. Still there was not much here, so we went to the sand where Gulya led us on a compass heading 15 kick cycles north and back to the south to the rock we'd marked as our starting point. Her next skill was hovering so I was checking in the boulders for something to see there. I found two turtles to hold our attention while we breathed in lotus position. Further ahead I spotted a fish with a saddle back where a larger fish had taken a bite out of it. The wound looked mortal, but the fish was swimming along with only a slight wobble from its missing dorsal fin. Then I found a hermit crab with a shell of soft anemone on its shell and handed it around (and replaced it; I think I'd seen that very crab before on the west side of the rock). Next there appeared a good sized black tip swimming down over the boulders. He circled us so it was possible to swim a little ahead of where he would be and keep him in view. Bill and Gulya both saw him well.

We also did a compass heading NE into the sand, then SE parallel to the wall, and SW back to the wall, but we saw no rays and nothing much more on the dive. Coming over the lip into the shallows to round the rock we encountered stiff current. This and the rapid change of depth as we pushed up the gap into the shallows caused my students to become buoyant and rise to the surface. Bill was already into the red at 500 psi, so 40 min into the dive we ascended. Small problem, we were still on the backside of the rock, no boats in sight, so I finned against the current to catch sight of Garith on the near side. He spotted me and came round the rock to the back. He said he wouldn't have looked for us there anytime soon if I hadn't finned up current to get his attention.

After the dive I took Bill out behind the anchored boats to finish his flexible dive skills, surface tank and weight removal. Gulya had not been able to complete her skills on her last dive but she had recovered from her seasickness by the time I had finished with Bill so I went back in the water with her to do the skills I'd just completed with Bill and also to descend and have her remove and replace a mask for completion of all skills for her final dive of the course.

3 p.m. - Time for my last dive of the weekend, just to complete the course for Bill. He had only two skills left to do, remove and replace a mask, never a problem for him, and hover. We found some barracuda on the reef and accomplished that skill there.

It was only Bill and I on this dive, and I thought it was a pretty good one. Greg would have joined us but at the last minute on the boat, Angelika from Germany / Qatar requested a buddy and Greg volunteered. As he had done with Nicki the dive before, he opted to take his lady off on his own, later we found he had circumnavigated the rock and come up in the raspberry coral near where Bill and I surfaced.

Vis was poor but not impossible, and we scoured the reef for anything interesting. Bill and I went its entire length and apart from a turtle and the schools of barracuda, we saw nothing of great interest at all. Retracing our fin kicks it was a different story. On a slightly different tangent we found turtle after turtle, a dozen or more, resting in crevices in the coral. At one point a shark cut across my bow and kept in view for several seconds as I pointed and tried to indicate it to Bill, right behind me. But Bill was looking down at that moment and missed it, too bad. Whenever we lacked for something to see, it seemed a school of barracuda would appear. Nice way to end a long and hectic but thoroughly enjoyable weekend.


  1. Lovely blog Vancipoos. Will send you some pix of the turtle and the wreck, feel free to post them if you wish. I'm quite pleased with them. Bubbles, Nixi

  2. Thnx Nixi, I found the ones you'd tagged of me in Facebook. I can also link to your Picasa photostreams. I can download photos from there (with your permission of course) and put them on my blog. I haven't seen the turtle shots posted yet but looking forward to seeing them and of course more turtles next time we visit Dibba Rock ~^V^~

  3. Sorry Vance, only just seen your comment. Can you not download the pics from Facebook? I love seeing my pics on your famous Blog! If you can't, then let me know and I will stick them on Picasa too and you can use what you want.

  4. Hi Vance, sorry, only just seen your post when I logged back into your Blog.

    I didn't realise you had to download the pics from Picasa, I thought you could get them from Facebook too. If that's the case, let me know and I will pop them on Picasa so that you can use what you want. I love seeing my pics on your famous Blog!


  5. Hi Vance, sorry, only just seen your post when I logged back into your Blog.

    I didn't realise you had to download the pics from Picasa, I thought you could get them from Facebook too. If that's the case, let me know and I will pop them on Picasa so that you can use what you want. I love seeing my pics on your famous Blog!