Saturday, June 25, 2011

Certified Steve and Anna in beginning open water, and Roger as advanced open water, June 24-25, 2011 in Musandam

My logged dives #1053-1056

Another great weekend, what else to do when temperatures are in the 40’s in the UAE.  Water temperatures in Musandam can be only slightly less, in the warm 30’s near the surface, or a bracing 20’s, depending on which thermoclines you pass through.  Visibility varied in the thermoclines as well.  Sometimes the cold water brought clarity; other times the cold water was green-brownish with algae.

A whale shark was spotted on Friday off the east end of Lima Rock while we were there but not by us.  On Friday there were slightly rough seas. When we came up to Lima Rock on the south the swell was not pleasant for my novice divers Steve and Anna, on their o/w course on the eLearning package.  We had Dusty and Michelle with us, and Nicki to dive with Bobbi, plus Roger completing his advanced course with Peak Buoyancy diving.  Also we had three pleasant and experienced Arab divers who were agreeable to whatever we wanted or needed to do. 

I got in the water to test the current, not bad, but vis was poor, so I suggested we move to the north side where there would be shelter.  All other dive boats had reached the same conclusion so there were dozens of divers in the water when we went down there, including some BSAC people with mechanical scooters.  The scooters were annoying but effective.  It was they who spotted the whaleshark, and they said they found a pod of dolphins to boot.  I guess the scooters are just the thing for the currents at either end of Lima Rock, which I usually try to avoid with my students.

I was doing dive #2 with Steve and Anna which has a set of the basic skills in it.  When we got through those I led along the rocks and Anna discovered a huge honeycomb moray.  There were a lot of swim-throughs for Roger to practice his peak buoyancy skills in, and more morays and I can’t recall what else. It wasn’t a great dive, but a pleasant one, in decent vis.  When Steve and Roger ran low on air and we surfaced together at over 50 min into the dive, Bobbi, Nicki, Dusty, and Michelle were not yet on the boat. Anna and I still had 70 bar so we decided to go back down for another 15 min, extending our dive shallow, very pleasant and cooling.

For the second dive I suggested Ras Morovi, a good place for open water skills.  Steve and Anna had done a discover scuba course with me on June 11 (2 dives) and had completed modules 2 and 3 in the pool the night before and that morning, so according to PADI standards they were “qualified” to do just one more dive on their course that day, and the first dive on Lima Rock was technically their 2nd PADI O/W course dive.  Thanks to the flexible skills system we could continue diving a second dive that day and record the skills they did against dive #2, although this was their 4th dive in their logbooks.

We had lunch while being buzzed by wasps, sitting ducks for them on an open boat in the small bay in Ras Morovi.  It was nice to escape them by getting in the water for surface work.  We worked on compass headings, cramp removal, and snorkel regulator exchanges and then found a rope attached to a fish pot on the bottom in 8 meters of water that I thought would do nicely for a controlled emergency swimming ascent.  With those skills out of the way we went over to the wall and headed down to the sand.  We found a nice outcrop and Anna led us west from there and then returned us to the east to approximately the right spot, given there was a some current pushing us south.

We proceeded on a very pleasant fun dive.  I know the site quite well. If you follow the wall you come to a flat spot where you can go left and come up the tongue on the other side or keep going and circumnavigate a submerged hill.  I had briefed everyone to check their compasses to understand where they were headed, since if you keep the reef on your left, you don’t notice otherwise when you are rounding the hill or coming up the other side, going from a southerly to northerly heading. In our case when we reached the saddle we had a current preventing our further movement south so I led us over the saddle and down the other side.

Here we came onto brilliantly dancing squids and their counterpart cuttlefish. We also saw morays during the dive, and I can’t remember what else. Maybe Steve or Anna can leave a comment here if I’m leaving anything out.  We surfaced in the channel, the boat collected us, and whisked us back to port.

Anna and Steve and I refreshed in the pool that evening, finishing our last two confined water dives in plenty of time for communal dinner. Over beverages afterwards, Ivor pulled out a guitar and showed us more of his talents.   I’ll need to practice for the next time if we’re going to start that nonsense.  Steve played a mean Red Hot Chili Peppers song that used to be covered by Voodoo Hedgehogs.  Nicki produced a platter full of smelly cheeses but many of us avoided that because we had sampled the night before and we all had awakened groggy with headaches, presumably from the cheese.

With the pool work out of the way we had a relaxed start on Saturday morning.  I got Steve and Anna to do their swim tests, but that was all there was to do before heading down to the boat.  We were booked with Ivor the divor today.  Sea conditions were flat, finally, for a change, it would be a good day for the near side of Lima Rock.

The dive started on an excellent note.  We put in to clear water and were just easing over the edge when we found ourselves confronted by two large eagle rays coming right at us.  The lead one looked almost like a manta as he curled his wings on approach, then noticed us, and warped in muscular contraction to turn suddenly and speed to open water.  I watched their shadows circle in the distant water and disappear.

Unfortunately there was a dhow anchored there at just that moment discharging at least 30 divers aboard, and they caught up with us in the direction we were about to go, so I didn’t go to the east as I’d thought but went back to the west toward the middle of the island. I hoped to avoid currents as well.  We saw lots of fish here, particularly bat fish, and fusiliers, snappers, parrotfish, angelfish, damsels, jacks in midwater and morays in the rocks.  Nicky and Bobbi had moved on so it was only Roger and I and Steve and Anna. Suddenly I saw another eagle ray cross just ahead of us and head to sea.  I noticed rocks there we could hover over so we went there and all my group hovered comfortably, not seeing the ray again, but surrounded by biomassive schools of fish.

As we neared the west end of the island the current picked up and I decided to try and avoid that so I reversed our direction and to conserve air led higher up the rocks, 9 meters or so.  I was hoping to return to calm water but perhaps there had been a current all along, unnoticed, and now we seemed to be swimming incessantly into it.  This was wasting breath and tiring us, so I changed my mind again and decided to take them with the current on around the island.

Using hand signals I tried to get the three of them into position for the quickening current.  I couldn’t tell them in words, but I wanted us all together, low down where I was, and next to the reef.  Venturing into open water would be anathema here.  They did well. They weren’t sure what was coming, but when we were caught in the current they followed me well.  We started getting knocked about a bit as we came to the edge of the island and the critical moment was to turn a sharp right and get into shelter out of the current and start heading up the back side of the island.  My divers were right behind me.

We found a last honeycomb moray back there, and a large crayfish, but we surfaced on the opposite side of the island where the boat would be looking for us.  Nearby there was the crack in the rock with a keyhole passage to the other side that I’ve often seen but never really visited.  It had surge in it but it was gentler than it looked and wouldn’t really smash us on its ceiling.  I entered and the guys followed.  We passed through this beguilingly aquamarine passage and on the other side encountered the swirling current we’d just left, ready to sweep us clear of the island. Anna was not with us so I pointed the three of us back into the gap and we reentered and swam through to where Anna was waiting for us, hesitant because of the surge. Later we found that Bobbi and Nicky had used this passage to scuba to the north side and thereby avoid the worst of the current at the end of the island.

The boat eventually picked us up on the north side and once we’d recovered Bobbi and Nicki, we headed for the shelter of Ras Lima for a calm-water lunch.  The wasps were not so bad here. Steve and Anna were but one dive away from completion of their o/w course.  This dive would be at Lulu Island, which is interesting because we always put in from the shelter of the first island off the mainland and then swim underwater to the EAST to arrive at the second island.  Steve and Anna had tank and weight belt removal and replacement at the surface, tired diver tows, and then Steve could demo his compass skills by leading us to the east to the underwater island.

All worked like a charm and we arrived at the island after the easterly heading right at the sweet spot.  I led us to the north along the wall and on around the island from there to come south on its far side. We saw lots of morays here, sometimes surrounded by lion fish. It was interesting but the vis was murky with algae and the thermoclines here were the coldest yet.  As we turned into the current I hoped for barracuda but there were none.  Heading back west now it was time to bail to the other side of the island but the current was against us for getting over there.  I tested it, made headway against it, and figured I could get us where it would dissipate.  This worked well, my divers followed again despite conditions marginally poor for beginners.  However when I finally found shelter from the current on the west side I was surprised to see we had arrived back at the sweet spot we had reached by going east from where we descended.

So we rounded the island again, slightly higher this time to avoid the chilliest of the water. We continued to the point where we again confronted the current and basically got boxed in there and surfaced. 

Congratulations to the newly certified divers Steve and Anna, and to Roger for completing his advanced open water.

Photos from Steve Elwood's Facebook photostream

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Vancipoos for a really awesome weekend.
    It was lots and lots of fun.
    Keep up the brill dive bLogs, I really look forward to reading them after our dive weekends.
    PS. Dang cheese.....
    PPS. Some underwater pics of the weekend to follow later once I've uploaded them.