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.

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