Monday, August 29, 2011

Certified Jay Fortin as PADI Rescue Diver August 25-27, 2011 in Dibba Rock and Musandam

My logged dives #1068-1072

I know that Kathleen is seeing whale sharks and manta rays in the Maldives during these Eid holidays, before breakfast even, but meanwhile back in the UAE, someone's gotta churn out those certified divers :-)  This week it was the turn of Jay Fortin, who flew over from Doha to engage me for a one-on-one rescue course.  Bobbi had to work on Saturday to prepare her classroom for the coming school year, so I was missing her company this weekend.

I picked Jay up from Abu Dhabi airport on Thursday and we drove over to Dibba, reaching Freestyle Divers in plenty of time to kit up and enter the water for some self-rescue practice, and dealing with disoriented and distressed divers underwater and at the surface.  At one point a turtle passed by, in the shallow water just off the beach. We ended up with handling the unresponsive diver at the surface, ventilation and equipment removal, and finally experimented with effective carries to exit a victim from ocean to shore.

We then shopped for dinner at Lulu's, their Indian chat concoctions are to die for, and ate our purchases accompanied by duty free beverages at Seaside apartments, occupying just two of the three beds for only 250 dirhams in Ramadhan, very cheap.  Next morning we drove 15 minutes up the road to Freestyle Divers to knock out the rest of the rescue diver exercises in three dives there, planning the scenarios for the following day with Nomad Ocean Adventures.

Dibba Rock was a lovely dive at 9 a.m.  Jay and I started off with two exercises: simulated underwater recovery and surfacing the non-responsive diver.  I entered the water with a yellow shopping back I carry as a simulated victim and I left Jay at a place I could find again near the aquarium where we often start our Dibba Rock dives.  I then conducted a square pattern, just me, on which I concealed the 'missing victim.'  It was Jay's job then to find it.  He did this in a U pattern and speedily accomplished the goal, but focused on the task he missed spotting the large cow tail ray that was wondering what these silly divers were doing finning up and down like madmen.

Once Jay had found the victim, we conducted the exercise where we surfaced it, me in this case.  I survived so Jay passed that one, and then we descended for a fun dive.  We passed back by the aquarium and then headed over the reef where I almost immediately saw a shark cross our bow.  The schools of barracuda haven't been seen here in some time but there was one big one hanging out in that area.  Some German snorkelers on our boat asked me later what the big long fish was.  When we reached the western end of the reef and turned south on the L we found 7 or 8 turtles all together there.

We did two more dives on the reef, completing response from the boat to swimmers and unresponsive diver on one of them (saw a shark swim by a turtle right at the end of that dive!) and conducting the last one where I went down with the missing diver bag, hid it, surfaced, and called Jay to come find it using a square pattern, and then surface me to complete the scenario.  On all the dives we saw turtles and sharks.  On the last dive we hung out where the raspberry coral is coming back at the south end of the L and I saw three meaty blacktip sharks buzz by while hovering there (different ones, different sizes).  Nice diving on Dibba Rock that day, and highly productive from a Rescue Diver course perspective.

We checked out of the Seaside and took ourselves across the border into Oman where we turned up at Nomad Ocean Adventures in time to relax over cool drinks and then enjoy a beef stew buffet.  Next day we dove Lima Rock and Octopus Rock.

The dives were good ones.  We didn't see much on the sheltered north side of Lima Rock (I do recall a batfish, hovering mouth up, enjoying the administrations of a blue cleaner wrasse) but most of the divers in the group felt confident to push the currents at the east end of the island.  Jay and I went to the end and found a saddle where we hung out in the surge hoping for some devil rays or big barracuda.  There were jacks or trevally, or some kind of carangidae out there and lots of blue trigger fish, but nothing amazing, so I led us over the saddle to the south side of the island.  Apart from a huge honeycomb moray hiding in the saddle, again nothing amazing here, so I took us back hard against the current this time and led around the rock where I knew the current would spit us into the ocean.  Again I was hoping for schools of barracuda here but they were not there that day.  However the boat was waiting at the surface collecting all the divers who had opted for the freight train exit.

We did our remaining scenario during the surface interval, recovery of diver at the surface, getting the diver to and onto the boat, and then reviving the diver on board, during the surface interval.  Jay did well but the boat was crowded with 15 divers and most of those aboard treated the procedure as lunchtime entertainment, not doing much to help or clear space to receive the victim, so the scenario broke down at the point where in a real situation we would have thrown the bcd's overboard to make space to treat the victim (they'd have floated on the surface, but understandably no one did that, and had we pushed it we could have become a different kind of victim :-)

Rescue course out of the way, Richard requested Octopus Rock for the second dive, and since the currents were relatively benign, the request was granted.  Relatively benign but not absent, Jay had trouble following me down our first attempt at descent there and we had to meet up at the surface, then regain position for descent, which worked well the second time.  The trick was to descend into the current to where I correctly discerned that the current would be relieved near the bottom, which it was, leaving us free to wander into the valleys to the east of the rock.  We swam amid a school of big barracuda there and found clear vis, but no rays where they ought to have been in the sand at 25-30 meters. Also my compass was not rotating properly so I couldn't properly orient.  We circled one submerged rock which I realized only after coming a second time on an encrusted anchor whose boat had long departed.  I changed direction and tried to find our way on estimated compass direction but this led into the blue, so in the end I used the upwardly sloping bottom to get us back to the rock, which was swarming with fish, really beautiful, again nothing amazing for us, though others on our boat came across rays and for one lucky group, even a guitar shark.

For the record our dives on Dibba Rock lasted around an hour each and were conducted to 8 meters or so.  In Musandam we dived to about 25 meters each dive, and each lasted 50 minutes.  Water temperatures were warmer than the week before, maybe 26 degrees in Musandam, warmer at Dibba Rock.  Visibility was decent.  And Jay got certified, congratulations! my student in open water, advanced, and now rescue, well done!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Certified Luke Ingles in beginning open water August 18-20, 2011 in Musandam

My logged dives #1064-1067

Nice easy weekend planned with just one student, Luke, who turned out to have about the smoothest passage conceivable through the PADI open water dive course.  He did his elearning prior to our picking him up at his office Thu after work, 3 pm ramadhan timings.  We went over all the course explanations of what we were going to do in 3 hours on the road together, and we had him at Nomad Ocean Adventure by 6:30 that evening and in the pool an hour later.  Two hours after that we were having cook's delicious beef stew with appropriate liquid accompanyment, and two hours after that we had played some guitar and gone to bed.

I overslept the time to meet Luke in the morning but he was so proficient at his skills that we only needed 15 minutes in the actual water to get him through the module 3 skills and ready for the open ocean.  This was a bit harder to arrange in a boat with 14 divers in choppy seas, waves crashing up against the musandam coasline the whole hour in transit.  We skipped Lima and tucked in to the shelter of Lima headland.  We did a first dive there, touching near 18 meters at depth, 48 min. before Luke ran low on air.  Our second dive, for the record, was on the relatively sheltered north shore of Lima Rock, getting even closer to 18 meters this time, 51 minutes.

Both dives were pleasant in cool 25-26 degree water. Luke had picked up a 5 mm wetsuit but Bobbi was wearing a shorty over a lycra suit and I was wearing 3 mil long over lycra with a half mil rash vest on top, and on the 2nd dive I was chilled.  The vis was good.  There were tableaux of lion fish floating in full panoply and morays here and there, in including a large honeycomb on Lima.  There we saw large batfish, lots of puffers, and a small monarch bull ray in a cave.  It was a great day for Luke, a kind of mediocre one for Bobbi and I, but not a bad day out at all for any of us.

We got Luke through his dive #1 and #2 o/w skills and a few of the flexible ones as well, and after enduring the choppy ride back against an oncoming sea, I took Luke back in the pool and finished off his last two pool dives and 200 meter swim and float.   Luke asked if he could do the float in one of the inner tubes there while sipping on a beer, and I thought that was such a good idea I went and got one myself and kicked back in the center of the pool while he swam his laps around me :-)

Next day we slept at will, all rising in time for diving at 10 or 10:30.  You never know exactly but with Ivor in charge and not so many people on a Saturday, things ran more like clockwork and we were being asked to get ourselves down to the harbor at just after 10.  Seas were still contrary but the sun came out on the last half of the trip north and sea conditions ameliorated as the day progressed.  

Our first dive started in the same cove on Lima headland (Ras Lima) we had been in the day before.  The first day we had gone to the back of the cove and eased down through the sloping corals there to give Luke plenty of reference for his first ascent, but today we found a sandy patch and dropped onto it at 5 meters depth.  We then moved down to 8 where I tied off my SMB and ran it up for CESA.  I had Luke do his compass heading out and back and complete his other skills for that dive there in the sand before completing the CESA so when we arrived up top I could grab my marker and carry it back down with me deflated, and then pack it up as we went on our dive.

We had good luck with animals today.  We saw lots of lion fish and snappers and much larger species on all our dives, and several morays, plus a small torpedo ray on this dive, and a small ray poked head first into an alcove that was half as deep as he was round.  I think it was similar to the ones with darker coloring here:  We also found a flounder on the dive, a curiosity to first time divers.

Sea conditions were still not settled but dropping to the point where Ivor decided we could head over the bay to Pearl Island which was still getting waves on its east face, and some surge but not so bad on the western sheltered side.  Bobbi and Luke and I took our time getting in the water so as to be C divers with a surface interval of 1:32 min with 53 min NDL at 16 meters after having spent 50 min at 18 meters our first dive (which put us in T pressure group).  To prolong the SI we got Luke's weight and BCD removal out of the way at the start of the dive, in the sheltered part ol Lulu Island.  

Lulu is a nice dive.  The idea is to round the island to the north and then head east over the sand to arrive at the second island further out.  It's a nice spot that sometimes has barracudas.  Not today thoough we did find a large crayfish in a lair when we arrived at the submerged arm of the outer island.  We also found morays and a large marble ray there, without a tail, impressive creature, and the regular suspects such as trumpet fish, trigger fish, placidly improbably puffers, and tiny blue striped wrasse cleaning everything from eels to batfish to all of the above.

Back on the boat one of the divers in another buddy pair who had also seen the marble ray said its tail wasn't missing, "it was a cow tail," as if it was born without a tail.  Garbage, we looked it up: but these don't look like the ray we saw. The cow-tails at that link look flatter than the one we saw, which had a prominently raised head area, more like the marble ray here: There's no end to fish identification, especially after the fact, :-)

Nice weekend, nice people at Nomad as usual.  Good food, good company, some dodgy guitar in the evening and even dodgier jokes, but we all laughed politely and had a good time.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Abu Dhabi wrecks again, Ludwig and somewhere near Jasim, Aug 5, 2011

My logged dives #1061-1063

Bobbi, Dusty, and Michelle and I accepted an invitation from Al Mahara divers to come dive with Kathleen and Peter, our old friends (but not as old as we are :-).  We were trying to dig out our old GPS coordinates and locate the wrecks for one thing, and Kathleen wants to find them so she can take divers there for her new dive center.

I was helpful in locating the Ludwig.  That's always been one of my favorite wrecks.  That dive was a nice one. We dropped anchor after inching near the wreck but we couldn't get the boatman to get on it so finally we dropped anchor 200 meters from it, and the anchor dragged showing that distance increasing to 300 but then held steady.

In any event the Ludwig is not hard to find.  It's a big wreck.  It looms large if you know which direction you need to go to find it.  So Bobbi and I and Michelle crept up on it upcurrent at 26 meters or so till we saw the shadow of its hull. When we arrived there I led us to the stern and looked in the sand there for rays, found none, and so I led around to the deck side and then went up along the fo'castle to the high point of the wreck which happens to be the starboard side of the wheel house.  There the door was removed long ago making it easy to enter the wheelhouse which, being on its side, is a descent to the port side, which now lays in the sand.  The wheelhouse is roomy and doesn't feel that confined since there are window holes there that still overlook the ghostly deck.  But the big surprise was at depth where there used to be rubble there obscuring the exit to the sand.  It's been removed.  It's now an easy thing to go in the top of the wheelhouse, descend to the opposite side, and find and exit to the sand.  Who's been cleaning up this wreck?  Nice of them!

After that we proceeded along the bottom of the deck where the ship lays on its side until the bow.  I was keeping an eye on my computer, hoping to find something interesting at the bow (used to be lots of barracuda there) and knowing that we could then follow the deck up so as to manage the fact that we were then just one minute to deco.

To make a few more minute story even shorter, we followed the deck up as it contoured to 20 meters, the time to deco kept getting bigger but then counting down as we watched the fish up top. We were by now with Kathleen and her crew who were also finding their way up.  There was a rope trailing off the deck and I got my crew on it so as to have a reference for safety stop at 5 meters, and the entire dive lasted perhaps 40 minutes.

From there we motored south towards home and towards our GPS points for the Jasim, but we had worse luck here. I was unsure of where my coordinates came from.  Kathleen had some as well but in the end we tried mine, and these turned out to be on the tall buoy some distance from the wreck, so we never did find it.  Our dive with my group was half an hour in the sand at 25+ meters, to come up when the first person went low on air.

I still had 90 bar and Kathleen wanted to try her coordinates and see if we could find the wreck on a third dive, so I accompanied her, but she had no better luck, so we emerged from that one wrecklessly.

Finley the shark, seen below, wearing my face mask, gave his version of the Ludwig dive here: Finley, apart from these here, where are your pics ???