Monday, June 4, 2012

Certified John Foster in PADI Open Water, May 31-June 2, 2012 in Musandam with Nomad Ocean Adventure

My logged dives #1120-1123

One of the other boats went to Ras Morovi and Ras Sanut on this clear-diving weekend and posted this video on YouTube, to give you some idea of what good vis looks like in Musandam:

On the weekend of Thursday May 31 through Saturday June 2, 2012, I did a PADI open water course one-on-one with John Foster, whom I met first time on the Thursday. That was our first encounter because John had decided to do the elearning beforehand and get the wet parts done in a weekend at Nomad Ocean Adventure.  NOA still offers the course for 1800 when students arrive having prepared the elearning in advance.  The elearning course with PADI is about $130 and 1800 dirhams is less than $500 but that includes 2 nights accommodation and 2 buffet meals of Mauritian flavor, plus two days of continental breakfast (with unlimited tea and instant coffee) two substantial lunches on the boat between the two ocean dives each day, all of that diving and all equipment and tanks for diving and training in ocean and pool, and a nice family ambience, plus a fee for the instructor that pretty much covers diving and accommodation for the instructor and his spouse, so it makes a great weekend for Bobbi and I at a break-even deal in return for services rendered.

The services rendered are quite pleasant this time of year.  There are times in winter when the pool is 15 degrees centigrade, and getting through the modules and out of the pool is the best part, but in June evening temperatures are still pleasant in UAE, and the pool is like a warm bath with no need for wetsuits.  John was an ex-water polo player who was quite at home in pools, so all of the pool training was a matter of going through the motions with him, no delaying surprises, followed by joining his friends by the side of the pool and accepting offers of what was in their cool box.  He’d brought along his wife, Naomi, a PADI advanced diver who was snorkeling with us this weekend, and three friends of theirs, Mark, an advanced diver, and Emma and Helen, two young ladies, certified o/w with a few dozen dives between them.  All were teachers at Al Khubairat school in Abu Dhabi, where Rachel works, and where I’d trained a number of teachers there already and was getting some nice referrals.

We did our first pool module before dinner Thursday evening and agreed to meet for breakfast at 6:30 and get in the pool at 7:00 to knock out the remaining 2 pool sessions that a student must complete before doing a second dive in the ocean, planned that day, so we needed to complete the course through module 3 in the pool.  This went well, and we were done by 9 a.m., in plenty of time for us to have more coffee and wait for word that our boat was ready and we could go down and board.

While waiting I went online and found the CALL for papers for the next TESOL conference in Dallas.  I was told at work last week that I would be a good candidate for funding to such conferences.  Having paid my own way to the one in Philadelphia in March, I had not planned to submit a proposal to the next one, but with this new knowledge, I’d jotted down a proposal in the car on the way to the dive center, and that morning I found that the CFP was still open and would be until midnight that night.  Meantime we got the word we were waiting for and headed to the harbor.

The boat motored us up to Ras Morovi, which Aliona had selected as our first dive. In addition to my open water student, she had 4 DSD (discover scuba) divers.  It was funny to see her in the water holding one from sinking, and reaching down to catch another on the way down.  She literally had her hands full, but she’s tall and confident, and always manages competently. She gives the impression on Facebook that she feels quite lucky to have such an agreeable job.

Our diving went very well.  We started out in the bay north of Ras Morovi, where Nicki and Ian and I had done our Christmas diving a couple years ago <>.  Vis was quite good, and the coral gardens were clear as an aquarium.  Bobbi and John and I dived as a trio.  I took care of John while Bobbi kept on the lookout for things to see.  We saw triggers, snappers, surgeon fish, bat fish, rainbow wrass, parrot fish, all the usual suspects, and Bobbi clacked from above and pointed out a turtle, which swam high and ahead of us, so John didn’t see what we were pointing at.  But we came upon another one later with his back encrusted with a dozen barnacles.  This one was right next to us, impossible to miss.

At times during the dive we went out in the sand to look for rays and at 13 meters encountered cold thermocline. The thermocline served as sort of a depth gauge that kept us above 14 meters on that dive.  The most interesting things were higher on the reef, so John’s air lasted over 50 minutes, and we finished the dive in a prolonged safety stop at 5 meters.

We had lunch on the boat and then crossed the bay to Lima headland, where we did our second dive, Bobbi entered the water and waited as John and I did a little surface work.  He swam on a westerly heading toward a point on the headland and when I was satisfied that he was holding a course, I stopped him and we finned over to where Bobbi was, John doing snorkel / regulator exchanges.  We descended again in nicely clear water and found a bit of coral with a hole in it, which I tied my reel off on, so John could do a CESA, controlled emergency swimming ascent.  He did that fine and we descended to the reel where he did his module 2 skill set near a walking sea urchin. Then I collected all the reel parts and stowed them on my BCD, and we went off on our dive.

I was looking under rocks for rays but found none.  However half an hour into the dive Bobbi clacked to point out a large, lion fish hovering atop the reef.  It was unusually large, a foot long and almost as wide, if we include his panoply of spines.  We let ourselves drift up the reef to where he was and then an interesting and unusual thing occurred.  As I was drifting to where he was, he let himself drift down to me, until we were literally meeting eye to eye.  I had never seen such a large lion fish so close and apparently I was just as interesting to him.  His eyes blinked perplexedly as he held himself just before my facemask, while I studied his face and he studied mine, both of us hovering motionless, though unbeknownst to him I was partly focused on avoiding any contact with his venomous spines. Bobbi and John looking on corroborated later that it had appeared to them an ethereal encounter of a cross-species kind.

Later Bobbi spotted a cuttlefish which we chased into some silk white haze.  This one was unusual in that he was alone, and also that he sought to escape us. He succeeded in escaping us better than we did at catching up with him, so we made our way back to the boulders with green and black coral, splotched with purple.  When John went low on air we ascended on alternate air source, as called for in PADI training.  Again the dive lasted around 55 minutes, and again the thermocline kept us above 14 meters, which would have put us about where the tables said we could tolerate regarding nitrogen (but our computers, on the other hand, sampling at more accurately discrete intervals and depths, were telling us we had 99 minutes of no deco time throughout most of the dive).

It was a warm ride home. I slept some of the way, and when we reached port we found the afternoon sun still strong.  So it was that when we collected our gear and hauled it back to the dive center, John and I decided to cool off with another module in the pool.  We felt we had accomplished a lot that day when it finally came time to sit poolside and enjoy the evening with our new dive buddies. And before dinner, I went online and submitted the proposal I had dashed off in the car to the conference website I had found that morning to be still accepting proposals. Then it was time to really relax.

With only one module left to do in the pool next day, Bobbi and I let ourselves sleep to 7:30, a real lie-in for us. Despite that, John and I were at the pool by around 8:00 and out of it having completed the last module by a quarter till nine.  We had arranged for an early departure of the boat this morning, and Aliona signaled us to move just a little after nine.   We headed to the port, got in the boat, and put to sea.  Half an hour out, one of the engines started puffing white smoke, a sign that water was getting in it. We had to turn around and return to port.  On the way, Aliona was able to raise Mohammed, the boat owner, on the satellite phone. When we limped back to port at a quarter past ten, a new boat was ready and waiting for us.  We transferred our gear quickly and were away at 10:30 having lost just an hour in the snafu.  It could have been a lot worse.

As it was we got our diving in on a normal day’s schedule.  Richard the French guy who dives alone on a rebreather  had joined us and requested the first dive at Ras Morovi, but we wanted to go to Lima Rock because a whale shark had been spotted there the day before, and conditions looked good for an early dive on Lima. Richard agreed to that if we would do the second dive at Ras Morovi.

When we reached Lima Rock at last, we found very little current and excellent visibility.  Aliona went in to test the current and said it was moving toward the center of the island, but by the time I entered with my divers we were beyond the flat wall where the current starts pumping toward the east end of the rock, and Bobbi and John and I had to fin hard and pull ourselves along the wall to turn the corner toward the center to reach a place where we knew the current would lighten up.  In doing this we got down below 16 meters, which combined with the exertion, shortened John’s dive in the end.

It was a beautiful dive, like diving in tropical waters.  We kept looking up in hopes of seeing whale sharks but saw barracudas instead. Out in the blue, schools of trevally swirled, and on the rock the reef fishes moved in endless motion.  Giant honeycomb morays were moving about, streaking from lair to lair, poking their heads out and being administered to by blue wrasse who seemed to avoid the inside of the gaping mouth somehow. The little blue wrasse were active as well in stations where batfish lined up for their makeovers.  Batfish were schooling in bat caves where I would shine a light to see if there was anything lurking on the floors.  Nothing L  We moved up to safety stop level at 5 meters and felt the current increase near the west end of the island.  With John getting low on air I had us reverse direction and we popped John to the surface at 42 minutes into his dive.  While we were waiting for the boat, I had John remove his weight belt and tank, and replace both, and then with him safely aboardship, Bobbi and I resumed our dive and continued for another 20 minutes more.  We saw two more giant honeycomb morays (or maybe the same ones) and we enjoyed the dive, despite seeing no whale sharks.

Aliona suggested we stay at Lima Rock for the second dive, since conditions were so unusually favorable, but Richard wanted to move, so we honored our agreement and motored over to Ras Morovi.  You never know what you'll find wherever you are, but as it happened conditions had worsened at Ras Morovi since the day before.  There was now a fine silk haze in the water and not many unusually interesting animals about, though one lady said she saw several turtles. At one point on the dive we encountered Richard in his rebreather coming the other way and examining a place where it looks like a slab of rock had been quarried at about 16 meters depth.  I almost passed it up but remembered that Aliona had said it was a good place to find nudibranchs, so we stopped to look for them with my torch (but neither Richard nor I found any). Still the diving was pleasant and we got John through the hovering and mask removal underwater on the fourth dive for certification. When John signaled low on air at around 45 minutes, we dropped him by the boat, and then Bobbi and I went down again for another 20 minutes, heading out in the sand this time looking for rays. We found none.  But we still had fun and congratulations to John on getting through the course, my 199th certification by my reckoning <>.  Who will be #200 I wonder?

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