Saturday, October 30, 2010

Diving Friday Oct 29 at Freestyle, DIbba Rock, and on Saturday Oct 30 in Musandam with Nomad Ocean Adventures

My logged dives #1015-1018

Friday Oct 29, 2010, Dibba Rock with Freestyle Divers

On Friday, a bunch of us met at Freestyle Divers before noon.  We tried a new extension to 611 built to the new airport in Dubai and it saved us 30 min drive time, so we arrived at the new Lulu in Dibba around 10:30 and even with the ladies buying everything  they thought looked tasty (for a half dozen breakfasts and lunches more than we needed, bless ‘em) we arrived at Freestyle an hour before we were due to be diving.  We met Jim and Mira Bakey and their tall son Michael there, Nicki had ridden up with Ian and his daughter Eva, and Joan and Dusty were with Bobbi and I for a group of 10.

Ian was taking my open water course but by now he had located his missing dive card, his daughter had brought it from UK, and he was finally able to show it to me, so he still wanted to complete my o/w course but now that he’d verified his prior training, he is actually good to dive independently.  His daughter Eva had just certified in February with Greg Heinrich’s but had not dived since, so on our way out to the boat from the Freestyle beach,  I took her underwater  and ran her through the skill set of mask clearing, alternate air source breathing, and reg recovery and replacement, and she did fine.  But as we descended on that dive, I kept an eye on her and made sure she was weighted properly. Joan had got a weight off me right at the start, and Mira too had trouble getting down and needed a kilo.  But Eva didn’t need my 3rd weight till the very end, and throughout the dive she kept herself right at my shoulder.

Unfortunately it wasn’t the best day for Dibba Rock.  The front side was quite crowded, there were a couple of Al Boom boats there.  Too many divers keeps the animals away, and the sun overhead reflected off the suspended matter and made the haze more pronounced.  I didn’t realize that the mooring we went down was right on the reef so I swam west a little and found the coral sparse, so then continued west to find the aquarium, nice fishes there, pretty diving and relatively relaxed and clear.  From there I could orient on the reef proper by swimming due east, but we hit some back current and found it rough going when trying to turn east at the tip of the V.  So I led us back the way we had come, just trying to keep the divers together and stay on the coral patch. 

It was when I came out on the mooring we had started on that I realized that mooring was on the reef.  That was good to know because Hasan had come down for the 3 pm dive and was waiting for us on shore when the boat came back.  It was his first dive ever, but he’d done well in the pool and I had encouraged him to make the trip after completing only just one module. We had plenty of time to prepare.  I would be his buddy.

I convinced Nicki to join us on the 3 pm dive by promising her a back-of-the-island dive.  Eva decided not to make the trip so it was just the 3 Bakeys and Joan and Dusty, Bobbi and Nicki, and Ian and Hasan and I.  When the boatman pulled to the backside drop off, I insisted on mooring because Hasan wasn’t ready for a free descent, but the boatman was unable to due to the exposed rocks there.  Nicki wanted to dive there regardless so I asked Bobbi to join her.  The Bakeys decided to go in there as well, and then Ian said he’d like to start there too. Ian was fun diving and not in student mode that day since he still had the last two pool modules to do before he could do the last two dives of his course, so sure, he could join in if he wanted.  Bobbi could at this point have opted to come with Hasan and I since Nicki had plenty of company, but she decided to leave the boring front side of the island to Hasan and I.

So Hasan and I were dropped in on the mooring we had visited at noon, which I now knew to be right on the reef we wanted to be on, and this dive was not boring.  For one thing, the angle of the afternoon sun and slight overcast removed the sunbeams from the water, so we could see better than at noon.  And apart from Iva and a few divers he was training in peak buoyancy (they tend to stay in one spot), we were the only ones there. It was not long before we found a shark, and I swam after it and made sure Hasan saw it well and up close.  We meandered the reef looking for more and ended up in the aquarium where there were schools of fusiliers and snappers and the schools of fish with gaping mouths that all snap shut in unison.  We saw pufferfish there and tangs and parrots and actually I could name almost all the fish in the handbook.  Then we headed west to the reef and saw our second shark there, might have been the same one.  We wheeled over the reef taking it easy now.  Hasan was on his first dive and has a lot to learn about weighting and buoyancy control.  At this point he was awkward in the water, expending a lot of energy in hand motions, and half an hour into the dive he was down to the red, so I suggested we just stay where we were for a bit.  A couple of minutes later a large 2 meter Spanish mackerel passed nearby.  We ascended from there, pretty satisfied with ourselves after that one.

Hasan had to get back to Dubai and work the next morning, so he left after the one dive (one of the best of the weekend for me!)  The rest of us cleaned up our kit and headed over the border to the Mauritian hospitality of Chris and his family at Nomad Ocean Adventure.  Beverages were in evidence when Ian and I headed for the pool to complete module 4 there.  We had to delay drinks gratification until forced to stop and come to dinner, grilled kingfish and pasta with shrimps, plenty of salad, a variety of quiches, et quelquechose rouge.  After a very convivial meal ensemble, people headed for bed early, and Bobbi and I slept more than 8 hours, when I got up at 8 to meet Ian in the pool and complete module 5 there.

Saturday Oct 30, 2010, Musandam with Nomad Ocean Adventures

Unfortunately Ian had an issue at work come up and couldn’t join us for the dive.  There had been a storm in Oman the day before and communications both phone and internet were not working on the Oman side of the border.  Ian was having to cross into the UAE to keep in touch with his office and as we were loading the boat he informed us that he and Eva would have to head out.  This left us down to 11 divers on our boat, as we’d had two added, Richard the French instructor who sometimes uses a rebreather, and his lady friend Allison who doesn’t, so when Richard dives with her he uses conventional equipment. 

However the lack of communications led to our herding people onto our boat before they were comfortably ready only to wait there for a captain who didn’t come, no one could call him.  After we had assembled our tanks for the first dive and sat for a quarter hour with no one around to help, I returned to the dive center and got Chris on the case, and eventually Sultan appeared, in his finest white pressed dishdash, since he’d been called away from a Saturday family affair.  Unfortunately Richard and Allison had left by then, not wishing to wait, but on the upside we’d been joined by Jonathan who had arranged to come down from Dubai but was a little late, so we had gone ahead, since he couldn’t reach us by phone, so we had no idea if he had got waylaid or what, but he managed to find us the way we always accomplished these hookups before mobiles became ubiquitous, somehow.

Sultan has captained out boat before, he’s a nice guy, always helps us with our gear and takes us where we want to go, even when we change our minds, so we were all back on even keel as we sped up to Lima Rock in the bright sunlight, the mountains of Musandam rising from the very sea in limestone formations speckled with under water alcoves and strewn with boulder swim-throughs.

By 1 pm we were descending for our first dive on the south side of Lima.  I had gone in and checked so I knew there was a current, one that pulled east toward Iran at that end of the island (take that one you might need a visa) and west toward Lima headland at the other end. We had gone to the north side of the island but found dhows and dozens of divers sheltering in the relative calm there, so we’d moved to the south side where we prefer to dive and decided to start midisland and put ourselves in the west current.

I briefed everyone about rounding the island, though not everyone got that far.  The dive itself wasn’t that interesting, poor vis, a few morays and crayfish, and lots of batfish being cleaned by wrasse, interesting to watch, the batfish seem to really enjoy it.  Nicki said she saw a huge Spanish mackerel resting on the bottom but I was tending to the divers.  Jim and Mira Bakey were first to show me low air and head up so I took charge of their son.  But he was at about 70 bar and everyone else I could still see had over a hundred.  So I led us up to 12 meters.  We caught the current and I led higher.  As we reached the end of the island we popped over some algae encrusted rocks at just 5 meters, and  sent Michael, by then below 50, up to the surface we could see rippling right overhead. Joan and Dusty and my buddy Bobbi followed me back down to 15 meters. And we continued in pleasant temperatures through the schools of fish on the north side of the island until we agreed to come up to safety stop depth, and when my computer reached 60 minutes I pointed this out to Nicki, who showed me 56, because her buddy had had a delay at the surface at the start of the dive, so I signaled Bobbi to join her, and I took Joan and Dusty up, as we were all getting low on air and I had admonished everyone not to dive overtime, or we’d assume they were missing and mount a rescue.

Everyone seemed to enjoy that dive and we were heading to Wonder Wall in the direction of home when I noticed Pearl Island about to go out of sight behind Ras Lima and I thought, and then actually said, why not there? The only time we’d dived it Bobbi and I had been led by Michael Diver (Facebook moniker, different Michael from the one we had with us) and we had met fierce currents.  It had been a difficult dive.  We’d had current at 1:00 but possibly it would have slacked by 3:00, and I thought I could recall the route (though not the direction which I thought was north, but I figured out during the dive that it was actually east).  All the divers still with us seemed up to the challenge.

The boatman pulled us behind the island where the new instructor Philip in another Nomad boat was just then taking down a group of open water students; likely he’d not be going where we were headed. We finished our sandwiches and kitted up and entered the water.  Vis was not great, maybe 7 meters or so.  Fortunately there was hardly any current to impact us as we headed north into the channel and then rounded the island to the east.  I wasn’t sure where I was but it looked familiar.  There were lots of grey morays in the rocks but I was looking for the fishpots that would lead us to the submerged islands to the (I now realized) east. At 16 meters I found them and followed their ropes over the sand.  About 20-30 meters out I saw a submerged outcrop looming to the south, so the heading was a little south of those ropes.

The sunken islands were fun and foreboding, teeming with fish life.  Going from one to another Michael noticed three rays on top of one and tried to get my attention but neither I nor the others saw them (and Dusty surmised they were actually batfish).  We picked up a current coming to the third one but got some relief from it as we rounded on the south and took the channel to the north down to 18 meters.  Here we found the hulking barracuda we had seen the time before.

The barracuda like current so it was a stiff fin into it to head back to the west the way we had come.  We lost Jim and Mira on this maneuver but again we had Michael with us, and Joan and Dusty, and Bobbi and I.  Nicky and Jonathan had not been seen since we headed east toward the sunken islands.  I presumed that any missing buddy pairs were enjoying themselves and caring for one another.

In the last part of the dive we passed one area where barracudas were visible at depth and schools of snappers were pouring off the rocks above. We finished up following a shoulder that rose to 5 meters, a good place for a safety stop.  There was lots of cabbage coral here, a favorite haunt of turtles though we didn’t see any.  It was really a beautiful dive, nice to get to know a new spot.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Whalesharks Two by Two

Nicki has sent me a most remarkable photo.  It's a picture of me neutrally buoyantly enjoying one of our recent whaleshark encounters at Lima Rock.

Hang on a minute!  She noticed something in this photo.  In the upper part of the pic just to the left of the bubbles.  See it? ...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Diving in Musandam October 15 and Dibba October 16, 2010

My logged dives #1011-1014

Friday Oct 15, 2010

Dusty and Joan are visiting so we planned a weekend for them to do their first dive of their visit with us.  We intended to stay in Oman at (Discover) Nomad Ocean Adventure on Friday and move to Freestyle on Saturday, but NOA was fully booked for accommodation, though there was plenty of space for diving.  So we rented two apartments at Seaside in Dibba and filled them with Dusty, Joan, Bobbi, and I in one, and Rami and Nicole, fellow hashers and friends with Nicki at SKMC in the other, along with Nicki herself, and Ian, who was a certified diver back in 1985, though neither PADI UK nor PADI California could find a record of it.  He had been referred by Jay to do a refresher with me but was happy to convert to a full fledged open water course at the last minute due to the certification limbo. The problem was that at the last minute, the best we could do to get him in the water was for him to swing by our place at 5:45 a.m., me to ride up with him and administer his first three exams in the car, and then get him in the pool at 9:30 for module 1 confined water, which we finished just in time to await technical instructor Glenn from and his double-tank divers to join us on the boat for an 11:00 a.m. departure for Lima Rock.

It was a glorious day.  Air temperatures in the UAE are approaching benign, seas were mild, and the mountains rising straight up along the coast in Musandam glistened in the sunlight.  Water temperatures were ideal too.  I wore a 3 mm suit with holes in the back covered by a rash vest on top, and I was perfectly comfortable.  Michael was conducting the operation and leading the dives, so I didn’t have to select sites or take responsibility for anyone but my student, all the other divers in our group being advanced or rescue.

Ian hadn’t been diving in the past 25 years, so Lima might have been a little challenging for a first dive after so long.  Michael was trying to accommodate the tech divers who were looking for 42 meters, as well as my group wanting to stay shallow, so he chose what I would have, Lima south side, and started the dive in the shelter of a cove where it was easy for everyone to assemble on the surface out of the current. However, the current was pulling to the west, as was reported by the tech divers when they went in first, so I would possibly have moved my group to the north side of the island.  But Michael made the best call under the circumstances and all started well.  

It was a nice dive, comfortable water conditions, mild current to the west, but picking up as we started to get caught in it.  Ian was staying a little high in the water and I kept calling him down, and the first couple of times he responded.  So I thought he was weighted correctly if he was able to get back down, so I didn’t offer him any of the extra three kilos I was wearing.  But then a combination of factors caused Ian to abort his dive 22 minutes into it.  He was getting very high up in the water as the current swept us along when Michael led the group in a right turn fight against the current and headed around the island to find gentler conditions on the north side to the east.  At that time Ian was going into a slow rise to the surface, too far off the rock and susceptible to the westerly current, quite powerful at either end of the island. With some concern I tried to call him back, but saw him reach the surface. At least he was safe there, but he was now in the current that carries divers way to the west of the rock.

I had been trying to get him to rejoin me at about 16 meters.  I wanted him to come to me because for me to have gone up with him would have meant the end of both our dives, but now I had to do that, so I headed up slowly, minding the admonitions on my computer to take it easy, and finning to stay as close as possible to the rock, though I too was being swept off it.  After a couple of minutes I reached the surface and looked around.  I didn’t see Ian right away, but I saw our boat halfway between there and Lima Headland, a few hundred meters from where I was, and Ian was by the boat, being recovered.  He waved to me, I waved back.  I knew that instructor Glenn was there and Ian was being looked after.

So could I continue my dive? It was a long shot and I was being swept by a westerly current, but I finned back into it for all I was worth.  Here’s where weekly ten km runs pays off. With some duress I was able to make progress against it.  I was being pushed to the north by its northwesterly torque but as I came even with the island I got some relief and then I was able to approach the island and find bubbles.  I snorkeled along with the bubbles for a minute catching my breath, and when I recovered my respiration I descended and joined the divers.

So we completed a nice dive.  We saw several big honeycomb morays on that one, and Michael pointed out two pairs of nudibranchs, well spotted.  Nicky called us over to look at a spot of sand.  When we got there wondering what she was on about she waved her hand over it and uncovered a torpedo electric ray (had she covered it with sand before calling us? We’ll never know …). 

At 40 min into the dive, with Michael still leading at 18 meters, I had gone up to 15, where Nicole indicated she had 50 bar and wanted to surface. I showed her I had 50 as well (I had just a 12 liter tank).  I led Nicole and Rami steadily up the rock face and found some coral with placid schools of fish to hang out near at 5 meters for a three minute safety stop, surfacing at 48 minutes.

People in our group wanted to go to Ras Morovi for a second dive but Michael wanted to take us to Ras Lima.  Others in the boat objected to that choice as well so Michael agreed to Wonder Wall, which is usually a nice dive.  We started on the wall but Ian and I headed out over the sand to find rays (none there). We found big submerged boulders instead, inviting us to look for whatever else these subaqua features might have attracted.  We got down to 18 meters on our dive and spent it cruising among the boulders.  I don't remember so much from a wildlife standpoint on that dive, but it was pleasant and lasted about 45 minutes.  I ended mine in a required safety stop.

We returned to Dibba and Ian and I went into the pool to do confined modules 1 and 2.  Due to Ian's past diving experience we got through it quickly.  The others had gone on ahead into Dibba UAE to heat the chili Nicki had brought on the Seaside Apartments hotplate.  We passed by the hole in the wall on our way and returned to the Seaside for a grand communal meal in the cramped living room of our apartment.  The bedrooms were spacious though and we managed a decent rest before having to get under way at 8 a.m. for our next day diving.

Saturday Oct 16, 2010

Rami and Nicole had to get back to Abu Dhabi so it was just Nicki, Joan, Dusty, Bobbi, and Ian and I who turned up at Freestyle for the 9 a.m. dive on a gorgeous Saturday morning.

On this day, Ian was able to do one dive toward his course having completed through module 3 in confined water, and we did it on our first dive on the reef at Dibba Rock.  He and I dived together.  The others went to the back side of the rock and rounded to the other side, but Ian and I began in the aquarium exploring the rust colored porite coral, cruising shallow 3 to 5 meters.  We found a turtle to the south of the island that didn't seem to mind if we hovered nearby and then we went west toward the raspberry coral (now more accurately a patch of brown coral rubble). Still life is bouncing back there.  We found barracuda there and, always on the lookout for sharks here, I saw two.  The first one came right up to me before noticing me and swimming away to my left.  Ian was unfortunately just far enough behind at that moment to not be able to see it.  I saw the second as I was making my way back to the east to end in the aquarium.  Finning hard to chase after him I pointed its direction for tens of seconds, but Ian didn't know what to look for in the haze at the edge of the visibility there, so he missed that one too.

But next dive with Ian (fun diving), Bobbi and Joan and Dusty and Nicki and I found more turtles and half a dozen sharks.  This time Ian saw the sharks.  It seemed they were coming out of everywhere.  I did a decent navigation on the reef as well.  It's getting harder to find now that it's shrunk and shriveled due to cyclone and red tide.  We started in the aquarium and repeated our dive to the west to find the reef, and then moved south where we found the first few sharks.  I managed the turn to the east and led the divers to the end of the reef there.  They seemed to want to continue on but I corralled them and got them moving back west the way we had come.  50 min into the dive Nicki wanted to be a good customer and surface, but we had been one of the first groups in and I figured we could stay down a little longer, so she agreed to 5 more minutes.  That was a good thing because Ian and I found our one last shark who came at us from the sand and wheeled around us in such a way as to attract the attention of Bobbi who pointed down to show the others who were sort of heading for the surface by then.  Lovely dive that one, plenty of sharks for all to see, and a great way to end a weekend.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Certified Advanced o/w diver Vince Cording in Musandam October 1 and Dibba October 2, 2010

My logged dives #1006-1010

Diving with: Bobbi of course, Vince (advanced o/w training), Channin (whom I recently certified as o/w), Keith and January (whom I recently certified as Advanced o/w), and our mutual friend Joe (PADI advanced). Jay (whom I recently certified as Advanced o/w) came down on Saturday to dive with us at Freestyle.

One of my recently certified open water diving students Vince decided to carry on as soon as possible with his advanced course and he engaged me to put together a program that had us start the weekend Friday Oct 1 at Nomad Ocean Adventures with two dives in Musandam. NOA are now running night dives in Musandam, so we planned one as a third dive on Friday, followed on Saturday by a deep dive on the Inchcape wreck from Freestyle divers, and then a navigation dive on Dibba Rock.

Having set it all up as requested and recruited the others aboard, we pulled out from All Prints at 6:30 sharp on Friday morning but due to some mis-turns we arrived a little late at Nomad. Channin rode with us and Vince followed in his car. January and Keith and Joe Broeker were on their way in a third car.

We were assigned to Michael’s boat, first time I’ve dived with him. He’s a nice guy and a competent leader, so we didn’t mind so much when he changed the dives sites as we entered the Lima area. He had said we were going first to Ras Morovi and then to Pearl Island. I didn’t know Pearl Island but he said it would be a good place for navigation, so on the trip out I briefed Vince on deep and navigation dives for that day.

But on the approach to Lima Michael signaled the boat to stop short at Wonder Wall and announced we’d do our first dive there. We like Wonder Wall but it has a sloping bottom and wouldn’t be quite the same as a deep dive where there’s a drop, so Michael suggested we get the boatman to take us off the point where we could drop to 28 meters there. But the current in that case would take us quickly past the end of the dive and we’d have to just come up after the bounce, so Vince and I decided to go with the group on the shallower dive and leave the advanced deep dive for the next morning.

It was a nice dive. Vince was impressed with the live corals and abundant sea life, different from the dying reef at Dibba. At one point we found an electric torpedo ray in the sand, and there were lots of morays, some swimming around the coral dollops. Toward the end of the dive we let ourselves get swept along the wall toward the point. The first diver was low on air at 40 minutes so I found a shelter from the current and led everyone up to a safety stop at 5 meters. Vince and I had got down to 20 meters at the start of that dive.

Michael announced the second dive for Lima Rock, which I didn’t think would be good for navigation, so Vince and I decided to make these two dives boat and underwater naturalist. Michael headed the boat for Lima and rounded it, but then headed the boat for Pearl Island, which got me thinking about navigation again. Pearl Island is the point with a small island off it between Ras Lima and Ras Morovi. I’d never dived it before and Michael’s surface interval description of the dive made Vince and I want to do it with Michael leading.

When we all entered the water we found we’d have to fight our way north against a stiff current, good thing we weren’t planning navigation, impossible here in those conditions.In the water we found another torpedo ray (Vince had missed the first one and was glad to see this one). We found scorpion fish and a moray wriggling toward us along the sand. The dive plan was to round the island at the north, hence the struggle up-current, and on the north easterly heading we were looking for 4 fish pots. At this point if vis had been good we would have seen a submerged ‘island’ and beyond that another. As it was, we followed Michael, who led us where the fish life became interesting. Vince and I found a big crayfish lobster trying to back into a rock ledge. Most interesting was a school of a few dozen barracudas hanging in the current where it wheeled to the north and prevented us from rounding the island to the south. I found a rope and pulled myself into the current alongside the barracudas. That was cool but we could not proceed against the current so we headed back the way we had come. People’s air was getting low by then. Vince and I surfaced after 40 minutes, having got down to 16 meters or so.

We headed back to port talking about where we would do the night dive. Christophe had said we could go to Pearl Island though it was distant from Dibba, because there was red tide at the caves, the nearest option. But Pearl Island would not be good at night with current blasting the way it was. I thought perhaps the cove at Ras Morovi, but it was further still than Pearl Island. On the boat ride back I thought we should give Fishhead Rock a look. As we slowed down we could see there was red tide there. But I thought maybe it was clear at depth, so I went in with mask, fins, and snorkel and found that the algae was only a meter deep. I pronounced it fit for a night dive, and after returning to port and relaxing an hour over coffee at the dive center, we found our way back there after night had fallen.

There were four of us, Vince and I and Piotr, a student on a protracted course with NOA for whom this would be his last advanced dive so I was asked if I wanted to certify him. There was also a new instructor at NOA whom they wanted to send on the trip, so the four of us boarded the boat and headed out on the half hour trip north at dusk with skies afire over the fijords and mountains to Fishhead Rock.

It would be an interesting dive. I had the boatman search for the rock jutting out of the water that I wanted us to go down on, just as Vince and I had done a couple of weeks previously with Fares and Veronique. We got everyone briefed and in the water and with the help of our lights, over to the rock, not easy to find in the dark. Once there we used the rock for orientation to slip beneath the waves into the algae murk. Thankfully, the water cleared only a couple meters down and we settled onto the bottom where we found a rock to have Piotr do his compass heading back and forth from. It turned out to be like a lot of rocks in that area and I got confused, but Piotr felt he’d found his way just fine.  Vince followed that with his own compass work..

We found the overhang that looks like a cave but that we know has ways out overhead and we went in there. It’s spacious and interesting at night, lots of crevices to poke lights into. There were no rays but it made a fun maze. We went from the entry at 12 meters up to 5 looking for the exits but when I realized I couldn’t see them at night I reversed direction and retraced the way we had come.

On the outside we found squids dancing in our light beams, then switched those off to thrash our arms in the dark to make them sparkle with phosphorescence. Then I led us up into the bottom reaches of the algae for a 5 meter safety stop, taking us up to our specified dive time of 40 minutes.

Piotr said he thought the dive was “very interesting.” Vince felt that his first night dive, in comparison with those we’d been doing by day, was “Exactly the same, but totally different.” Well put!

Back at Nomad we enjoyed bbq tuna and chicken a la Mauritius cooked by Sylviane, who is back in charge of the kitchen, yum yum. We relaxed over smuggled beverages and slept exhaustedly.

In the morning we moved across the border to Freestyle Divers for another great day of diving. Temperatures were hot in the sun but comfortable in the shade where we kitted for our deep Inchcape wreck dive. January, Keith, and Joe were doing their first 30 meter dive, as was Vince, so I made sure everyone got a thorough briefing. Fortune smiled on us as we entered the water and found no current at all, so it was an easy swim to the mooring line. With some initial clumsiness on initial descent being overcome in good order by my good diving friends and buddies, we all arrived at the bottom safely.

Vince and I got there first, and we had a look around the boat, found an electric torpedo ray at the bottom near the bow, and explored the other side, finding eventually the two resident honeycomb moray resident eels. I put Vince through the paces with the cognitive test and comparison of depth gauges. Eventually we hooked up with the others. At 17 minutes into the dive, I was getting half tank signals, and all agreed to the thumbs up and slow ascent up the mooring line, greeted at all stages by batfish.

Meanwhile Bobbi had opted to dive Dibba Rock in a boat with only three people, and in the only boat on the rock that early in the morning. She and Channin, and Jay who had driven down for the day, had a great dive in the aquarium. The three of them each had a shark to play with. Bobbi says the sharks came pretty much right up to them, right in their faces, and stayed with them till they got bored with them (Bobbi says). They saw turtles as well.

That sounded like a neat dive, but when we returned to the spot at 1 pm there were too many people in the water by then and no sharks to be found. Vince and I ran up a submersible marker buoy and went through the advanced dive ritual, calibrating fin kicks and time for 30 meters, all based at the buoy. We did a compass heading to the west and left a plastic cup there, then returned on reciprocal heading to base at the SMB. Next we did a square pattern that took us en route to where we could collect the plastic cup and return one last time to the buoy, which we collected.

We finished our navigation in the nick of time because by then the current was picking up. We let it carry us over the reef but eventually beat our way back up current to come out at the aquarium. There the current was less evident, but no sharks were evident either. Vince and I looked around and when he got down to 50 bar we let ourselves be carried back over the raspberry coral patch (doesn’t look like raspberry anymore ).

We spotted a grand two-meter Spanish mackerel on that last pass, but no sharks. It was a relaxing dive, great compass work by Vince, leading to his certification as an advanced o/w diver.