January 22, 2010: My logged dives # 938-939
Dibba Rock, Freestyle Divers
Susi McGrath's first o/w dive; Daniel Sobrado's first and second
Fun divers Bobbi, Greg, and Oliver
Diving was good off Dibba Rock this weekend despite vis being pretty bad and the water temperature about 24 degrees centigrade, cold enough for a 5mm wetsuit, Neither Bobbi nor I had 5mm wetsuits and though I wore 0.5mm lycra and t-shirt, plus a thin chicken vest, for maybe 4mm on my torso, it was chilly. Air temp was pleasant, so the outside temp at least allowed us to warm up between dives. Bobbi got herself sorted but only on our way back to Abu Dhabi from Dibba, when we stopped at Scuba Dubai and Bobbi found 5mm wetsuits on sale and bought one. I want one too but the men's weren't on special.
I had two students. Daniel Sobrado was sprinting through the course and finished this weekend. Susi McGrath was more tentative, but had done fine in her first open water pool training the night before we set out for Dibba. She had brought her partner, Oliver du Toit, who had joined us in the pool for a refresher. Greg Golden joined our dive team as well (I had trained him in Advanced PADI o/w recently). With Bobbi driving, we left Abu Dhabi at 7:30 and took the new Yas Island highway to save time over the old road to Dubai. We met Oliver and Susi at the ADNOC Oasis in Taweela, Susi joined our car, and she and Danel did module 4 academics on tables and module 5 final exam in our car on our way to Dibba. We arrived at Freestyle an hour early for a noon dive as a group of six.
It was a warm calm day out with placid seas, but the drop in water temp had brought on the algae, and as we descended first time, the water was brown with suspended matter, disorienting for my first-time divers. However, reflexive claustrophobias were bravely overcome, and we landed in a shallow 6 meters of water on a new mooring that's just west of the raspberry coral. Once we'd achieved neutral buoyancy we moved onto the coral patch, very disappointed in the vis, impossible to see beyond a few meters where fish flitted in bright flashes, was it a fin? no, just a larger fish than normal, beguiling.
But there were barracuda about and we could get quite close to those, dozens in a school. We came on some turtles, several, observing us tamely for the most part as we observed back. We spotted some cuttlefish. Bobbi and Greg moved off from us and saw batfish. Susi seemed to like the big puffer fishes. The new divers were trying on weight though. I was plopping bricks in their bcds and still they were having trouble staying down. The excess vertical movement took a toll on their air consumption and our dive ended after 38 minutes, maximum depth 8 meters.
Sill, all had gone well for an initial dive. In the surface interval I took Daniel in the shallow water off the beach to complete the module 3 confined water skills we had not had time to finish last time in the pool. So he was ready for his 2nd o/w dive at 3:00 but Susi, who hadn't started module 3, would do hers as a practice dive.
For the second dive, we started at the mooring nearer to the rock and I took Daniel down for a quick controlled emergency swimming ascent. Bobbi managed to get the other divers in the water as we surfaced. On our second descent, Daniel ran through his Dive #2 skill set while everyone was adjusting their buoyancy. We then moved toward the rock and came onto the aquarium with the red corals, and lots of large fish milling about, including some good sized barracuda. We headed from there over the raspberry coral and saw the usual suspects on the second dive. All divers were starting to get comfortable by now, and the dive time was longer, 42 minutes, at 8 meters max.
January 23, 2010: My logged dives # 940-941
Dibba Rock, Freestyle Divers
Fun divers Bobbi, Greg, Oliver, and Susi (in training) - CERTIFIED Daniel Sobrado
Daniel and I had gone in the pool after diving the day before and finished off modules 4 and 5, so he was ready to complete his 3rd and 4th o/w dives on Saturday. Susi decided she'd like to take it easy the following day, and she seemed much more relaxed in the water without the stress of having to perform skills. The wind had come up and seas were slightly choppy, but vis had cleared a bit below, and we could now see 3-5 meters. We dropped in the far west buoy and i told everyone we'd head east to the coral. I was expecting a 20 meter swim but in fact we were there in a couple of fin kicks.
We saw a pair of turtles straight away and after that schools of barracuda. I'm always on the lookout for sharks when I see barracuda. Waiting for the others to catch up I saw one fade into the gloom and I finned to catch up but couldn't see him clearly more than a few moments at a time, and couldn't leave my new divers behind. But I used the standard hand signal to report the sighting and this heightened everyone's expectations. We continued off the reef past the anchor that's been embedded in it forever to explore the boulders marking the aquarium. It was clearer here, but I wheeled us around and led us back over the coral. Here I saw a pair of sharks skim across my bow and I went after them and watched them wheel in a circle right around me. Bobbi was alongside, pointing, but I'm not sure who else in my group saw them. But no matter, we got a third chance, a lone one this time, coming in close and showing off to everyone. Susi was pointing, quite chuffed. We finished off with more barracudas and sightings of schools of yellow fish hovering over the coral. Everyone was doing better on air, 46 minutes at 8 meters.
For our last dive we decided to do the back side of the rock. We were again dropped just off the raspberry coral so we got to swim ten minutes among the turtles and barracuda on the raspberry patch, and back through the big fish in the acquarium. There were a couple of Really Big Barracuda there, and on our way over the raspberry patch we saw a huge 2-meter Spanish mackerel that some other divers in the area who saw it mistook for a shark.
I swam slowly to pace myself with the beginners and it was 15 min into the dive before we started heading down toward the sand at 10 meters at the back of the island. Unfortunately this part of the reef hasn't recovered as before from the cyclone and red tide. It's rare to see eels here anymore, and the pipefish in the sand are gone. On Daniel's compass heading into the sand we saw no rays, nor did we see any when I led us out to 15 meters on a second foray. But on our return leg Bobbi pointed excitedly. She had seen a jawfish. We had all come on top of it and scared it back in its hole, but I had all the divers back off from it. They didn't know what I was pointing at but they understood to wait, and soon the little jawfish head appeared wanting to know the nature of what was stalking it. There used to be a lot of them here, but it's good to see that they are bouncing back, if tentatively.
By now my new divers were pointing at their pressure guages suggesting that it was time to end the dive, so I lead them back to the wall and up to shallow water. We hadn't made it around the rock but our boat was waiting for us where we surfaced. Despite the depth, air consumption was still improving, 49 min this time, at 15 meters maximum depth.