Sunday, June 12, 2011

PADI advanced and rescue courses, plus Discover Scuba Diving, in Musandam June 10-11, 2011

My logged dives #1049-1052

I had a lot going on this weekend. I had a guy who wanted to do an o/w course on the elearning program and Graeme and Rachel wanted to work on their rescue course so I tried to book them in at Nomad Ocean Adventure. Nomad was fully booked and couldn't actually accommodate everyone so the elearner decided to postpone. Graeme and Rachel still wanted to dive and our mutual friends Steve and Anna decided to join us snorkeling, so I offered to give them a discover scuba course just to sweeten the appeal and they accepted. And then Roger whom we had given our Blazer to decided to join as well and start on his advanced course, so in the end we had an interesting mix of agendas that made for some fun diving and plenty to keep an instructor fully entertained and busy.

Logistically we started out with Roger's deep dive as dive #1 on Lima Rock, north side. He rode up with us in the car that morning so I was able to explain the dives he'd be doing in the car on the way up. We worked out a nice 24 meter 24 minute multilevel profile with a second level at 16 meters for 16 minutes, followed by 12 meters for as much as 35 minutes, which is to say, until the air runs out. The profile was so mnemonic I don't know why I hadn't hit on it before, and next day I proposed he use it to conduct a multilevel dive for his 3rd advanced course dive.

The deep dive itself was pleasant but not exciting. Vis was excellent for a change. Sea conditions were rough, with wind, and whitecaps foaming off the south of Lima Rock, which was why we went for the back or north side. It was fairly calm there. This time last year we had seen whale sharks here (on the front or south side), but there were none today. Roger and I went straight to depth and did his exercises in the sand, leaving the others behind, but then we returned to the rocks and found the others. We continued until at about 40 min into the dive, our first divers needed to surface. I remember a huge barracuda swimming amongst us at about that time, a large one with a tuna shaped head, a lone wolf, unschooled as it were (get it? alone, unschooled?). Rachel and Bobbi and I ended up completing the dive, coming up after 65 minutes. No one was limiting us, it seemed, very comfortable. We saw a large honeycomb moray with a blue wrasse cleaning its teeth toward the end of that dive, pleasant and relaxing.

We went over to Ras Lima to get out of the wind and swell and had lunch. We found a calm bay ideal for Roger's u/w navigation. Nice spot, about the right depth, with corals on the floor to give us something to look at and navigate on. I started by deploying my submersible marker buoy and tying it off to give us a reference and then leading us out from there 30 meters in a direction that Roger should be able to retrace. Roger calibrated his fin kicks on my estimate of 30 meters and then led us back to the SMB on dead reckoning. Then I had him take us 30 meters to the north and left a weight belt at that spot before we returned on a south heading to the marker. The weight belt would become a lost buddy for Graeme and Rachel who were kitting up to come in and rescue it. But I needed it for Roger's excercises just now. From the SMB I had Roger do a square pattern starting on a westerly heading followed by a turn to the north, so that on the third leg to the east we came out right on the weight belt. Perfect.

I had Roger wait with the weights while I ascended and called out to the boat that I had lost my buddy at that spot. Bobbi on board the boat was making note of the coordinates and would direct Graeme and Rachel to the spot where they would descend and conduct a square search pattern, 5 kicks one way, 5 at right angle, 10 at the next right angle, 10 at the next, 15 and 15, 20 and 20 and so on until the object was found. Meanwhile, Roger and I moved off the spot to the south and found my SMB, completing the square and his tasks for the u/w navigation dive.

I left the SMB in place in case we needed a reference to retrieve the weights, in case they weren't found by the rescue divers. I took Roger along the wall and we ascended to find Graeme and Rachel in possession of the weights and returning them to the boat. So all divers had accomplished their goals for this dive and it was time to have some fun.

The first day, Steve and Anna were snorkeling so they were not a part of the diving, but they saw 8 devil rays from the surface and another diver mentioned a 'massive' sting ray 5 feet across (almost 2 meters). We didn't see much that I recall. It was pretty diving but nothing to write home about (or to recall for a blog entry). Graham had an ear problem and ascended early on with his buddy Rachel. Bobbi and I ran Roger low on air and just after he ascended Rachel appeared with us having tracked our bubbles from the surface. We finally came up the three of us after 70 minutes on my computer, the entire dive spent above 18 meters.

The boat ride was pretty rough going back, and on arrival it was Steve and Anna's turn to start on their DSD course with an evening dip in the pool and then going over the flip chart poolside. After an hour of that we got their equipment together and went in the pool for those exciting first moments on Scuba. They were no trouble to train, and two hours later we had cleaned the gear and Bobbi and I were sitting down to an excellent meal of rice and meaty stew, with quiche, salad, and a mystery desert, all tasty and suitably filling after a long hot day of diving. We slept fine that night.

I wasn't sure what time we would start next day. There was a couch surfer among us who unfortunately arrived after Steve and Anna had finished but wanted to get in on the DSD course. I said if he was keen he should knock on our door at 7 next morning. Bobbi and I were safe though because he'd be coming from UAE Dibba where everyone else was staying, and he'd have to come by cab, so that didn't happen at 7 and Bobbi and I were still in bed at 8.

But we got up about then because we were expecting Steve and Anna to come try on wetsuits and take them in the pool with weights, and I was going to co-opt one of them to be victims for Graeme and Rachel, whom I could show rescue techniques for saving unconscious divers at the surface. But taxis in UAE dibba were scarce apparently (two many staying over there to fit into Steve and Anna's car) so they didn't arrive until almost ten.

So Bobbi became the victim and Rachel and Graeme rescued her a couple of times from the pool (poor Bobbi, sometimes married to a dive instructor, she really does become a victim :-). Meanwhile Steve and Anna had appeared and I had them try on wetsuits and then swim with them in the pool, and more importantly be sure they could sink there. I then had them add 4 kg each to compensate for salt water and air used on the dive, and if anything they were overweighted for their try dive (preferable to being underweighted).

We had a sunny day but rough seas again so we ended up on the north side of Lima Rock same as the day before. But this time I had first time divers on a discover scuba course and they were very brave to get their kit together on a pitching boat and enter the water with a backward roll first time ever, then wait in the surge where I had spotted some u/w boulders I thought we could use as reference on descent. I had already checked for current on arrival at Lima Rock so at least we didn't have drift to contend with.

Vis at that spot was as clear as a swimming pool. I had them come in to the rocks and descend on a beautiful patch of orange coral. They did well to come down gradually and I think they were so beguiled by the batfish there and the blue tangs (surgeon fish) and the parrots and rainbow wrasses that they soon forgot their trepidations, and next thing we knew we were all doing swim throughs and enjoying ourselves comfortably in the cool water.

Again we didn't see much apart from a huge variety of beautiful fish. Roger was paired with Bobbi and he conducted his advanced multilevel dive on the same profile as the day before. Graeme and Rachel had no skills lined up since I had needed Bobbi to team with Roger, but when Graeme and Rachel appeared suddenly I pretended to go catatonic so they could come over and recognize and handle a distressed diver situation.

My DSD divers ran low on air early and we were back on the surface after 40 min, having been mostly at around 12 meters but having touched around 17/18 meters. We then headed over to Ras Lima again, where we accepted to go because reports were that it was choppy at Ras Morovi, and also we were taken to a bay with a small beach, which I decided we could use in training. So after lunch I had Bobbi kit up again and go 'diving' alone, and of course she ended up on the surface face down in the water. Fortunately Graeme and Rachel and I had anticipated this and were already kitted up, so we entered the water and went to work on Bobbi, removing her gear in turns, and eventually getting her to the beach where we practiced carrying her onto it by practising a couple of dead lifts and carries.

The boat had drifted distant by then and I thought we could rescue one of us to the boat. Bobbi had been a victim too much today so Rachel volunteered, and said later that she learned a lot from being a victim. Graeme ventilated her every 5 seconds and removed her BCD while Bobbi and I waved and called the boat to come in a hurry. It came over to cut short Graeme's work and then we thrust Rachel's arms overhead and Sami pulled her onto the boat. We made sure he administered two more breaths before 30 seconds had passed, and we'll complete the scenario with CPR next time.

Now it was time for a last dive, an u/w naturalist one for Roger, and Graeme and Rachel could practice bringing a diver up from the bottom. I took a much more confident Anna and Steve on their second DSD dive of the day. The vis was not as good here and I didn't see much, just a moray, and one of those interesting helmeted crustaceans. Everyone else saw string rays. Bobbi saw one swim right over Anna and I, and Anna saw some in the sand where she was starting to get a bit deep, I thought, so I was staying higher up to get her to rise and so I didn't see them. Darn.

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