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: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blotched_fantail_ray. 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: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cowtail_stingray 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: http://news.scubatravel.co.uk/2010/03/marble-ray-is-creature-of-the-month.html. 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.