Saturday, November 15, 2014

Certified Molly Carter PADI Open Water at Blue Planet Diving, diving Dibba Rock November 14-15

My logged dives #1312-1315

Certified Molly Carter in PADI o/w, also diving with Marian Slangen, working on PADI open water course; Dan Miles, PADI Master Scuba Diver; and dear Bobbi, PADI rescue

On Oct 22 I submitted my passport for visa renewal and have been without it ever since. On Nov 6 I was supposed to take Marian Slangen to Nomad Ocean Adventure but the passport was not returned by the time they needed to apply for a permit for me so I had to cancel but I tried to take her to some place on the East Coast UAE where I wouldn’t need my passport. I called around trying to arrange an alternative and found places at Scuba 2000, but in the short time it took me to get Marian’s confirmation on her willingness to go, Hassan emailed me his apologies, but the places had been already taken.

Bobbi remembered that Dro Madry had been putting photos on FB from around Dibba Rock, and he was using Blue Planet Divers (Freestyle having moved to Um Al Qawain, and Freestyle were involved in beach cleanups that weekend, and they didn’t think the weather was going to be good anyway, and they were right.)  We managed to get places at Blue Planet Diving at Holiday Beach opposite Dibba Rock, but they informed me Friday morning that the UAE Coast Guard was prohibiting small boats from leaving port, so we decided to go for Saturday, but in the end that was cancelled also, same reason, so we didn’t go anywhere that weekend.

We had reservations the following weekend at NOA too, for Molly Carter and others who wished to join us, but come Monday, same problem, still no passport, had to cancel diving for the six who were booked in with me.  I gave my students the option of going ahead with Nomad, postponing with me for a later date when I could get there, or I could try an east coast UAE alternative as I had the weekend before, only now I had the contacts. Molly wrote back that she would prefer I taught her, she didn’t care where, and her Master Scuba Diver friend Dan said he’d follow us as well, so I booked five of us into Blue Planet for Dibba Rock diving, and apologized to NOA, who were understanding about the situation.

Thu night Nov 13, Marian, Bobbi and I ended up taking an apt at the Alia Suites in Dibba for 250 a night, 125 per room with 2-baths, kitchen, and sitting room, and Molly and Dan too, one across the hall. We went shopping at Lulu’s and brought a decent meal home and washed it down with beverages we didn’t have to sneak across the border. Molly took her eLearning quick review and filled out the paperwork,  and we had a pleasant evening together in one of the sitting rooms and retired at a reasonable hour.

Blue Planet came alive at 8 a.m. and we planned to be there then to get our gear ready for the pool at 9:00. Waking up wasn’t a problem because of the pigeons and doves outside our window cooing gently at 6:30 sharp. We had coffee from a press brought from home and breakfasted on items from Lulu’s and were in the pool at 9 for Molly’s module 1 and repeat practice for Marian.

The plan was to get Molly through pool module 3 that morning, which Marian had completed in Al Ain, so that both could do two dives with BPD that day. We had some equipment issues and the usual unexpected occurrences that compounded into delay, one of them being that the pool was icy cold. We endured it for module 1 but were under-dressed in lycra, and were happy to get out of the pool and back to the sunshine at the dive center.  I tested the water off the beach and found it to be clear, calm, and warmer, so we decided to do a shore dive there, but Marian had not been totally comfortable in the pool, so I thought we should work on mask clears for Module 2 as our next move, and as time was getting on, I changed the plan to do a shore dive at our convenience that morning rather than try and make a 1:30 dive boat, and dive the 3:30 at Dibba Rock as our second dive of the day.  When things went longer than expected still, I decided to get Molly through module 3 as quickly as possible leaving just barely time to do a shore dive along the breakwater extending past our confined water area.  There wasn’t much there, just a few fish, but I managed to get a minimal dive in with the two students going out and back along the jetty, focusing on buoyancy and acclimatization in the water and on gradually increasing the depth.

We were back on shore in time for the scheduled 3:30 dive in which Bobbi and I took Molly on a PADI OWSI dive #2 for the course. She had had ear problems in the past but worked her way down the mooring line ok. It was an entertaining slow descent with schools of fusiliers near the surface and huge jacks milling about near the bottom, and as I waited for Molly on the line, a pair of large barracuda passed near the rope. At the bottom we were in the aquarium with its schools of snappers and parrot fish and sergeant majors. In the sand there I got her through the skills ok while Dan and Bobbi wandered off on their own. We caught up with them soon enough and found a puffer with one eye, and Bobbi and Dan found pipefish, morays, and a flounder in the sand. But Dan went up early, cold he said, so Bobbi and Molly and I drifted with a steady current over the shallow rocks looking for big stuff, finding plenty of small, and generally enjoying the dive. We got barely lower than 5 meters, and at the end of the safety stop, Molly and I ascended on alternate air source, as required in that module.

Overnight, and after another communal meal and civilized sipping, Marian reflected on what she would need to do to improve and emerged next morning a stronger diver than the day before. She is analytical and matter of fact, and if she surfaces prematurely, sometimes it’s to ask a question that will help her to better understand what she should be doing to correct a problem. I try to keep students underwater to the extent possible, but it’s Marian’s learning style to do it her way, and with patience, it seems to be gradually working.

So Saturday we arrived at the dive center a little after eight and when the boat left for Inchcape for the first dive of the day (to 30 meters, not for us) my group were in shallow confined water by the breakwater for Molly’s module 4. Marian decided to observe and practice the basic skills, which was the best way for her, but after helping Molly through her hover, we took the tanks back to shore and Marian succeeded in duck diving with air control through snorkel breathing at the surface. So she accomplished a good start on Module 4 training, and Molly completed hers.

Molly disassembled and reassembled her equipment and we returned to the pleasant water off the beach for her final module where she removed and replaced weights and scuba unit at the surface and again at the bottom, to complete her pool training. Marian came along for the experience and managed a mask clear competently. We exited the water in time for the scheduled noon dive at Dibba Rock.

We had to wait a while till the boat returned from Inchcape, and during this time we ate and I explained the compass to the two ladies, and they did their 200 meter swim tests out to the end of the breakwater and back. We were thinking to enter the water to do some flexible skills when the boat arrived, so we boarded instead, and went to the east of Dibba Rock where the mooring is a bit deep for concerned beginners, 8 meters, but at least there was a mooring line to descend on, and no current. Vis appeared good from the surface but at depth it was cloudy. Marian was uncomfortable with these conditions but descended part of the way with us, and when she decided to return to the surface it was in a safe and controlled manner.  Molly was working on her ears to 8 meters and on arrival at depth orally inflated her bcd. We were about to do a mask clear when Bobbi started banging her tank, shark! I instinctively focused on the shark for the seconds it took to pass us, Molly saw it and got excited (she said later, with pleasure I hope), but the change in breathing took her to the surface in no time, and we had to work through the ears again to return to the same depth. Again we managed it, and as we resumed our dive, again we saw a black tip, and again another. I got a good shot of one of the sharks and panned to Molly and Bobbi in the same segment. In all we saw 4 sharks, a real treat to see them back at Dibba Rock. And to top it off, as we passed along the reef to approach the aquarium, finding pipefish and lion fish along the way, Bobbi found a huge barracuda at just 3 meters and was trying to get our attention when a turtle came meandering toward her, again on video. Great dive

It was almost 2 p.m. when we regained shore and went back to switch our tanks to the ones we’d been using earlier with still 150 bar remaining. Acting on Alla’s suggestion that we try the jetty at the far end of the beach which had a reef extending from it to the north, we plotted our last dive there, with intent to get all our flexible skills and surface work done in the water as we snorkeled out. So the four of us, Bobbi, Molly, Marian, and I kitted up, buddy-checked, and walked down to the far end of the beach where we entered the water over the rocks. I  remember the time, because it was just an hour before high tide at 4 p.m. We did the surface exercises en route and dropped in at around 3:30 to just 3 meters of water near the point, so I led us to the north, looking for suitable depth and a place where we could set up a controlled emergency swimming ascent. On the way I found impressions in the sand of an odd-looking ray so I wasn't surprised when a cloud of sand kicked up and I saw a guitar shark shoot into the haze to scoot out of our way and vision.  We carried on and soon came on the same shark (presumably) lying in the sand – must have been the same as he hadn't had time to bury himself. I was pointing it out to the others and fumbling for my camera when he performed his quick escape trick, leaving us in a puff of silt. But now my camera was ready so when he re-appeared skimming the top of the reef to our right I got him on flash memory, I think.

The guitar shark made this dive a memorable one, and a great end to the weekend. Afterwards I had the ladies do an underwater compass heading round trip, which they did just fine, and Molly removed her mask and replaced it and hovered on the reef. Marian did great and stayed down at over 5 meters for almost 40 minutes. At that time I rigged my reel with a marker buoy to the surface and we all surfaced together, Molly in CESA mode. We came up in balmy conditions with a long swim back to the beach but everyone happy and coping well with the exertion.

Molly thanked me for pushing her and called me a legend. Marian was happy with the weekend and appears to have surmounted the hurdles that were preventing her from truly enjoying herself. Molly got certified and Marian will be back to finish the job. Thanks to Alla and Slava, personable owners of Blue Planet Diving, Dibba, Fujairah, for facilitating things with their flexible and professional services, and looking forward to diving with them again soon.

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