Saturday, April 30, 2016

Open Water Dive Course for Cheryl Bradley and Naira Khalid from Nomad Ocean Adventure, Musandam

My logged dives #1440-1443

Friday-Sat, April 29-30, 2016

I started writing this in the car at 17:45 having just left Nomad Ocean Adventure after a taxing weekend training two open water divers and finding the tailback at the border that used to be a speed bump with no control to stretch for over a kilometer. We were going to be there a while, so I knocked this out while waiting.

Molly Carter, who completed both her open water and advanced courses with me, insisted her two colleagues Naira and Cheryl take their open water dive course from me and so we set it up to meet Thu Apr 28 at Nomad Ocean Adventure. Bobbi and I arrived first and relaxed while waiting and when the ladies arrived and checked into their room we went to the majlis for paperwork. It was dark when we went to the pool to get them fitted into dive gear, and darker still when we finally started the module one training. We worked on it till ten at night. Naira had a problem needing time and acclimatization to overcome and we decided to leave it till morning.

We found there was a problem with the border not delivering permits till 9:30 am Friday and Chris decided to set the dive time back two hours next day to 11 am rather than 9, which would be good for Naira and Cheryl since we'd have an extra couple of hours to complete modules 2 and 3 in the pool next morning. So we decided to sleep an hour late and meet at 7 for training (usually we start at 6). Once in the  pool, we worked on completing module 1 for Naira, but module 2 with its mask removal and replacement needed more time than we had, so we got only Cheryl through the two modules she needed to in order to do her o/w 1 and 2 dives that day. Naira tried really hard, but eventually we had to get ready for boating. I told her I would try to take her for more training in calm water during the surface interval between dives.

So it was just Cheryl and I on the first dive at Lima Rock north. Greg Raglow was with us and he and Bobbi went on ahead while Cheryl and I were making our way down to 12 meters. Lima is always a nice dive. On this day we saw squids that turned iridescent in front of our cameras, and coy morays in the rocks. We avoided the currents that would take us to the barracudas at the points.  Greg and Bobbi were doing the same, turned around when they felt current, and we met up with them mid-way for easy peaceful diving.

See the video above ^

Naira had gone snorkeling for experience while we were under water, and when we exited the water, people were eating lunch on board, so we didn’t move to a place where I could take Naira for confined water work during the surface interval. When the boat eventually moved it took us to the next dive site at Ras Sanut, or Wonderwall. We went to a shallow cove where the staff suggested Naria and Cheryl get down together and the boat would move more toward the point, drop other divers, and come back for Naira, so I could take Cheryl for her second dive. I couldn’t take Naira for an actual dive as she had not yet mastered mask clears.

It seemed a bit complicated but turned out to be a good move for all of us. We started in water we could stand in and went into just a couple of meters, but there were a lot of fish there and we just moved up and down the shallows as if in a swimming pool. We spent half an hour just letting Naira try out an authentic but controlled environment before I went up to see what was going on with Hassan, the boatman, and found him waiting for us there.  We escorted Naira to the boat and Cheryl and I went down for her o/w dive number two. We saw a big turtle on that excursion.

Naira was transformed. She said she had had to clear her mask while she was following us around, and had managed it. She was eager to try it out in the pool where we got back to port. We went straight to the pool after diving.

The water in the pool was cool and refreshing. We started with the 200 meter swim. After that we did the duck diving exercise before putting on shorties and carrying on with our confined water work.

Cheryl had to complete the last two modules in order to do her last two ocean dives on Saturday and we set for Naira the goal of completing the mask clear in modules 1 and 2 and then doing what Cheryl had done that morning in order to do the first two dives of her course on Saturday.

Things went well after that. Naira had successfully overcome instinct and was able to clear the water from her mask without having to surface, so we moved her on to module two, where she now had to take her mask off and breathe for a minute without it before putting it back on and clearing the mask. She had cracked it now. She completed this skill with greatly improved confidence and competence.

We decided to push on into the night to complete all our confined water work in preparation for our dives the next day. For Naira, this would be what she had done with Cheryl earlier that day: establish neutral buoyancy and hover, give air to a diver using alternate air source and swim with that person, respond to air depletion by taking a buddy’s alternate air source, swimming, and surfacing with it, and finally horizontally simulating a controlled emergency swimming ascent.

To complete her final confined water module, Cheryl needed to do a different skill set. She needed to descend and remove and replace weights, remove and replace her scuba unit underwater, complete the last flexible skill of removing a low pressure inflator, and beforehand plan a simulated dive which would include her reviewing at least one previous skill.

This made it interesting. In order to complete the last module Cheryl had to plan the sequence of events that would cover all the agendas, and this is what we came up with. We would enter the water with a giant stride. The ladies would check each other for appropriate weighting. We would descend and set Naira to working on her hover and I would demonstrate and assist Cheryl with weight removal and replacement. Naira was able to hover much faster than anticipated so she observed and assisted while I demonstrated and Cheryl executed a BCD removal and replacement. We had decided next that Cheryl would review the skill of alternate air source breathing by taking Naira’s air, and Naira conducted her around the pool for several meters. Now Cheryl would do the low pressure hose removal on her own bcd, and resume swimming. I used the opportunity to trim Naira as well and with both ladies swimming neutrally buoyant I stopped Naira and shut off her air supply in the back. She knew to breathe until her air ran out and then go for Cheryl’s alternate air source. Both ladies were aware that neither of them would have use of their low pressure inflators, Cheryl’s because she had disconnected it, and Naira’s because she thought her air was switched off (I had actually turned it back on, literally behind her back). Therefore when they reached the surface on the ascent both would have to establish positive buoyancy using oral inflation. The ballet was choreographed well, and it was a pleasure to watch the ladies carry it out on the basis of Cheryl’s planning. They were both ready for the ocean now.

We finished the module with Naira’s CESA simulation, exited the pool, cleaned and stowed our gear, and went to dinner. We could sleep late in the morning, till almost 8 a.m. We were told we would be leaving the center at 9 a.m. for the boat to depart at 9:30. But at 9:30 there were people still in the swimming pool. Our group went to the harbor anyway where we were first on the boat. We had half an hour to organize our things and review our plan for the day before the others arrived. When they did, we were on our way by 10:30.

The dives went well. Both ladies showed they had learned a lot in 2 days of training. We dived from the Kayak Beach at Ras Morovi, starting in water shallow enough to stand in. But we moved to deeper water where both ladies did their required exercises for their course, and we swam against current to the crayfish cave where unfortunately none were home. That reef is beautiful though, full of teeming blue triggers. We followed the current over the saddle where the ladies pointed out morays for me to film. Turning north we headed over the cabbage coral, found no turtles, but saw a cowtail ray scurry ahead of us, disappearing more than once into the milky haze that reduced vis on this dive. We ended the dive with a CESA for Cheryl, which she conducted brilliantly from 7 meters.

The boat picked up Naira and left Cheryl and I to complete most of her surface work, so that the next dive, again on Ras Sanut, Cheryl had only to plan the dive and how we would work it around Naira’s o/w dive 2 requirements. We started with a compass navigation exercise at the surface for Naira so that she would have practice for a similar exercise under water. Down below we found a distinctive arched coral with a feather star sticking up from it and went 12 kick cycles south from that. There was a significant current pushing east so when the ladies turned around I tried to get them to hurry back north, since any delay was going to push us off our return leg. They delayed some and passed to the east of the rock on return and I thought they weren’t counting fin kicks but then they stopped and looked around. I pointed out the rock, predictably just up current from us.

We continued our dive with the current, constrained by PADI standards to going just 12 meters deep on Naira's ow dive 2. The current picked up as we neared the point, an interesting experience for beginning dive students. Here we encountered jacks and a few barracuda passing overhead. I had coached the ladies on dumping air as we went up the reef to our safety stop at 5 meters, a depth where a 5 mm wetsuit can become unexpectedly buoyant. They did a fine job coping with the current which at the end threatened to sweep us off the reef. But they stayed together and stayed down, and Naira was able to do her last exercise, surface on alternate air source, perfectly.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

PADI Advance Open Water course for Laura Youngson and Molly Carter at Nomad Dibba-Fujairah, and Musandam

My logged dives #1435-1439

Friday-Sat, April 22-23, 2016

Divers certified #227-228

Bobbi and I drove over to Dibba after work Thursday and met up with Doug Cook and his wife Laura Youngson, and our mutual friend Molly Carter, for a PADI advanced dive course. We started with paperwork, dinner, and aperitifs at Alia Suites and moved to Nomad Fujairah in the morning for four dives that day. The first was a checkout dive on Dibba Rock in the morning, followed by a PADI Advanced Deep dive on the Inchcape 1, 30 meters off Al Aqaa beach south from the dive center, followed by a PADI Advanced U/W Navigation dive on the artificial reef left as a legacy dive site by Andy Moore, owner after his dad of Freestyle Divers whose shuttered shop still graces the shore on the premises of Royal Beach Resort, where Nomad have set up shop. And finally we did an interesting night dive on Dibba Rock, braving the cold wind that came up after dusk.

This video compilation shows the first dive on Dibba Rock, not a particularly interesting  one as Dibba Rock dives go, but we saw a scorpion fish, a cuttlefish,a pride of lion fish, and  schools of fish such as snappers and fusiliers on the rock itself. 

The second  part of the video shows our dive on Andy's artificial reef. The last exercise in the UW Navigation exercise is to swim a square. I did it like this. 

We started at the boat you see in the video and all swam east 30 meters where I left a small plastic water bottle there filled with sand. The students were measuring fin kicks 30 meters on that leg there and back to the boat. Next the students took us on a west heading 30 meters where we dropped a second marker and then led us back to the boat (out 30 meters and return to the same spot). We then split into buddy teams. Molly and I navigated west to the 2nd marker while Doug and Laura went east to the first one. We then took the heading that had us meet in the middle of the course. The next instruction was for each team to do the third leg of their respective square and retrieve the markers we had left there. The final leg would be a return to the boat. The video shows Laura and Molly showing the markers they had collected, proof that each team had completed the square.

That was our third dive of the day. Back to the first one, the checkout dive on Dibba Rock, we had limited our dive time to 45 min at 14 meters max depth, leaving us with a nitrogen debt on tables that worked out to give us only 14 min on our second dive of the day, the deep dive at 30 meters, after an almost 2 hour surface interval. Since we wanted to have 2 hours, we took our time getting ready for that dive. 

On the dive itself, Molly had ear problems and took her time getting down, consuming almost half that 14 minutes on the descent, and the other half was spent doing cognitive, depth and color puzzles at the bottom. We all had computers and were several minutes away from deco, so we decided to do a tour of the wreck after all. We ended up spending 20 min there, all divers safely starting their ascent just a minute or two before deco alarms sounded. This was a good lesson in the significant difference between diving tables and computers.

Here's the video we made on the 30 meter Inchcape Wreck, our Deep DIve required for the PADI Advanced Open Water course. We saw a couple of large honeycomb morays on the wreck (notice one svelt diver swimming right between it and my camera, apparently without seeing the moray). Doug found a nice scorpion fish and the other honeycomb was in the hold with a timid school of catfish.

After the night dive we moved over the border to Nomad Ocean Adventure on the Oman side, where dinner and comfortable beds were waiting. Next day we motored up to the Lima area to finish our dive course with boat / underwater naturalist / peak performance buoyancy dives, depending on how the students logged them.

Our first dive was on Lima Rock South. We went down as a group but bubbles pouring from Molly's tank and an air gage that quickly slipped to 150 bar caused Molly and I to abort this dive to replace her tank that had a valve leak with another on board. We recovered and got in a pleasant dive observing batfish at their cleaning stations and hulking honeycomb moray eels poking out of their lairs.

On Finger Rock, almost to Fishhead Rock on the way home from Lima, we found a massive stingray, and I found a small swim-through housing a crayfish colony. 

One dive-leader instructor on the boat complained to others about my coming too close to the ray, but you can see from my videos that I wasn't the closest diver, and also that the ray was not perturbed by the distance I carefully maintained from him.

You can also see in the video that my advanced student divers were displaying their peak performance buoyancy skills as they hovered around and above the ray.

Congratulations to Molly Carter and Laura Youngson on completion of their PADI advanced open water dive course, April 23, 2016.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Diving Musandam Oman with the David and Gail Muirhead party on the ABBA disco dhow

My logged dives #1430-1434

Friday-Sat, April 15-16, 2016

Here are videos from Diving Musandam Oman with the David and Gail Muirhead party on the ABBA disco dhow

Photo credit: Walter Cramerstetter

Be sure and watch these videos using HD at maximum resolution on YouTube

April 15 Lima Rock South

A pair of crayfish on our night dive on the Stack in Hablayn

April 16 Octopus Rock in remarkably clear water

April 16 Lima Rock North