Saturday, May 28, 2016

Certified Mohammed Chowdhury as a PADI Scuba Diver at Divers Down, UAE

My logged dives #1449-1451

Friday-Sat, May 27-28, 2016

Certified diver #233

Our good friend Jay from good old days in UAE, now in Bahrain, flew to Dubai from there with two colleagues expressly for the purpose of having me train them in PADI open water diving.  Jay likes to stay at the Miramar so he asked me to arrange to train through Divers Down, the dive center based there. Bobbi and I thought what the heck we might as well stay there too. We decided to treat ourselves despite the fact that this would consume my earnings for the weekend. Another way of looking at it was, free stay at the Miramar for two nights with breakfast in return for simply training two divers. 

So Bobbi and I got there early Thursday, checked in at the Miramar, relaxed by the pool and beach, and had dinner at the beachside open-air veranda Bahari restaurant, and when Jay and Abdulhameed and Mohammed arrived around 10:30 pm we sat on our room patio and talked about what we would do in the morning. We didn’t talk long because our day would begin at 7 am, the earliest we could get breakfast.

I briefed the day at breakfast next morning, the students took tests and filled out forms, and then we walked beside the beach to the dive center for more forms and equipment, which we donned and walked to the pool. The plan was to get through as many of five pool modules as we could that morning, make the last dive of the day at 3 pm, then wrap up the pool modules that afternoon, and complete the course with three dives the following day.

As often happens, things don’t necessarily go to plan. It’s not unusual for people to take time to overcome instincts when breathing underwater, and aptitude for scuba depends to some extent on people’s prior experience snorkeling. Mohammed and Abdulhameed had purchased new ScubaPro snorkels with balls in the tip. I remember this design in my youth. The idea was that the ping pong ball (which is what they used in the 50’s) would lightly sit on the tip and prevent water getting in while allowing air through. But ScubaPro had designed some special ball that kept getting stuck and preventing air flow. It complicated our pool work, along with other acclimatization problems.

As a result we had to scale back our plan. By the time of the 4 pm dive both students had qualified to do their PADI o/w dive #1, but Mohammed would need more practice in the pool to allow him to do the next two dives. To top things off the long morning in the unshaded pool and not anticipating how much drinking water we would need left Abdulhameed too dehydrated to go on the Friday dive.  So just Mohammed and ended up as buddies on the late-afternoon trip to Three Rocks, along with Bobbi, Jay, and Greg Raglow, who has been joining us on some of our dives lately.

The dive on Three Rocks was at maximum depth 12 meters. This is the site we used to call the Pinnacles, and we used to drive our cars there at night and swim east to the exposed rocks for our night dives. We’ve met some stiff currents there in our many dives there, but today the sea was benign. A troupe of batfish have taken residence on the south east corner, and there are schools of other fish, pipe fish, morays, and even glass shrimp in some of the crevices.

That night over dinner (back at the easy-breezy Bahari again) we decided the best option for Mohammed and Abdulhameed was to go for the PADI Scuba Diver certification as a plan B. It’s 60% of the o/w course, requires 3 pool modules and two dives, plus certain flexible skills in the ocean and pool, and can be converted to PADI o/w by simply carrying on with the course later.

We were joined at dinner by Naira, who had completed hercourse the week before, and her boyfriend Chris, also a diver, visiting from Switzerland. They had arranged to dive at Nomad, diving Dibba Rock Saturday and Sunday. Naira, who was taking Sunday off work to dive there with Chris, reported seeing three sharks at once there on Sunday, when there wouldn’t have been so many people around.

Dibba Rock was where we went with Divers Down at 9 a.m. Saturday. We put in at the east mooring and went down the rope in fairly clear water. As we dropped on the rocks there a green moray wriggled across the plateau looking for a hole to hide in. We circled the rock looking for one of the snorkels which had been lost on descent (poor ScubaPro snorkel holder design as well, what’s wrong with the old reliable rubber bands, the real snorkel ‘keepers”). We decided it had been picked up by other divers from our boat (it had) and after completing our skills, we headed into the valley that led to the sand flat where the rays hang out. 

We were lucky. We came across two rays. We also encountered a fish pot that had a pair of hungry morays in it and a few stressed fish finding it difficult to maintain the eternal game of evading the morays in such close proximity, with nowhere to shelter.

The way forward after our dive would also be stressful. The sun was intense and hot, and the sea was salty on the throat, so it was only Mohammed who joined me for open water flexible skills in deep water just off the beach (we had had the boat drop us near the edge of the swim area). We got these out of the way and returned to shore. But Mohammed still needed to complete some confined water module 3 skills before we could officially do a PADI o/w dive #2 and complete his PADI Scuba Diver rating. It was not easy, and he had to complete a 200 meter swim and 10 minute float as well. But he did it. 

We did our last dive at Three Rocks, as peaceful and relaxing as the day before. Mohammed encountered problems but kept his cool and worked through each in exactly the way that he had been trained to do over the past two days. I was quite proud of him when he completed his last flexible skill, a snorkel – regulator exchange on the surface, and we got him back on the boat a certified diver.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Busy weekend certifying 3 open water divers Naira, Alfredo, and Rodrigo, and Cheryl Advanced o/w at Nomad Fujairah

My logged dives #1444-1448

Friday-Sat, May 20-21, 2016

Certified divers #229-232

Been doin’ a whole lotta divin’ lately ... The weekend of May 20-21, I certified 4 divers, three in open water and one advanced, at Nomad Fujairah. On this weekend we found renowned local underwater photographer Jean Michel "Dro" Madery at Nomad Fujairah. He posted this video on Facebook and gave me permission to repost at my blog.

The three o/w courses were all started at Nomad Ocean Adventure in Dibba Musandam (Oman), but not completed there for one reason or another. The two Spanish divers Rodrigo and Alfredo had started the course last June on a weekend where diving was canceled one day due to bad weather.  They had trained with Roula and Jahine, two Lebanese ladies who had returned to Musandam to complete the pool training and ocean dives, but the lads were never able to complete the course despite having booked (and having to cancel) on several occasions. One of them was even caught in an odd conundrum whereby his elearning expired mid-May, before we could book him for diving, so he would have to renew his academics before he could continue his training. And his training anniversary, when he would have to repeat his training as well, was coming up in June. We consulted a course director who approved my suggestion that we allow him to complete a paper-based regime to tick in the boxes on his training record. We were up to 2:30 a.m. the night before diving, getting it done, but we were at the dive center at 8 a.m. ready to hit the pool for training, so they could finalize their open water training in dives at 12:30 and 4:30 later that day, both on Dibba Rock.

These guys were joined by Naira who had had difficulties in her first day of training on her o/w course the week before but had overcome them spectacularly and was now keen to get her open water training behind her, so she joined Alfredo and Rodrigo in the pool and on our Dibba Rock dives that afternoon. Naira had trained with Cheryl who had successfully completed her course at NoA the weekend before but wanted to join Naira when she completed hers, and she opted to do so as an advanced dive student. So I spent the morning in the pool with Naira, Alfredo, and Rodrigo, and contrived to arrange our o/w dive program so as to combine courses to include advanced o/w dives for Cheryl.

Friday afternoon, we did our first dive on Dibba Rock as an advanced boat dive for Cheryl, and as open water training dive #3 for the three open water students, each of whom had already completed dives 1 and 2. Cheryl had brought along her friend Rakesh, who was a PADI rescue diver, so I had Cheryl do the topside boat-dive requirements on the way out (she was cued to ask, when it was mentioned in the briefing, where exactly the oxygen was kept, in case it would be needed). I briefed her to be sure and do a safety stop, also required for the dive, and set her and Rakesh to carry out their dive under my indirect supervision, and focused my full attention on my open water students, and the skills they would need to perform on their dive.

I started the dive by taking Alfredo on a CESA (controlled emergency swimming ascent). Instructors may not leave o/w students unattended underwater or on the surface, so my idea was to take one student, have him exhale all the way to the surface, and then be joined by the other two students, who would enter the water at that point from the boat, and we would begin the dive all together. 

This worked well, but it would only produce two CESAs in two dives that day, so I was planning to finish Naira's the next day (Alfredo and Rodrigo were leaving after certifying on Friday). But Naira had a good idea. What if, she said, I took her on the second CESA. She didn't have ear problems so she could ascend on her CESA and go back down when I got Rodrigo in the water and took the two of them down and up again. That worked well, and with the two of them back on the surface, Alfredo joined us so we could begin our second dive.

I planned the 2nd dive that day to be Cheryl’s navigation dive. The site had originally been planned for artificial reef which is ideal for navigation, but it was shifted instead to Dibba Rock, which we dived from the east mooring, near where the stingray flats are. I proposed to my divers a plan whereby all would follow me for 30 meters over the sand while Cheryl calibrated that in time and fin kicks, and then led us back to the point where we had started, the valley just below where the mooring line was fixed on the rocks nearby.I wanted to do our compass work further out over the sand where the stingrays sometimes are so I moved the group from the valley out further to a rock outcrop I thought would be recognizable and which would put our navigation legs over featureless sand. Our groups then separated. Rakesh and Cheryl went to the north 30 meters and left a plastic bottle at the end of that leg, then returned on the reciprocal heading to the starting point. I took the open water students and had them navigate to the east. 30 meters is a little long for open water students to navigate, but they maintained their headings, and I dropped a bottle full of sand 30 meters east and, the o/w students navigated the reciprocal heading to meet up with Cheryl and Rakesh at the outcropping. 

Cheryl then took us east to where the o/w students had dropped their bottle and recovered it fine. She then finned north to complete the 2nd leg of the square, and headed west from there to find where she had left her bottle on her out-and-back leg. We never found it. Had we not had o/w students with us I would have had us conduct a search pattern to look for it, but some had low air and we needed to get on with it, so I had her close the square by heading south 30 meters. We noticed we were heading into a current, and this was altering our ability to navigate accurately. As the current was against us, when we arrived without finding our starting point, I continued tentatively. Eventually we found where we had left the CESA line tied to the mooring rope.

We sent Alfredo and Rodrigo off as certified divers and they returned to Abu Dhabi. Meanwhile Cheryl, Rakesh, Nicki, and I kitted up for Cheryl's advanced open water night dive, which you can join in the video here:

Note to self: avoid rookie errors. Hold light in FRONT of camera to prevent shadow from the camera, duh!!  Do NOT shine dive light directly on subject.

The next day began with Cheryl's advanced deep dive at the Inchcape wreck. You can see in the video how this went. Jean Michel "Dro Madery" was on this dive and he pointed out to Cheryl and I where the large honeycomb morays were. In the same movement he curled his finger in a seahorse sign and indicated a direction. He was holding a large camera, and I didn't see the curled finger, but I recognize the place where he went next as being the home of the seahorse in the video he took, which I've copied off FB. So Cheryl and I missed the seahorse, but we saw two large honeycomb moray eels in the course of a 20 min dive on Inchcape.

Cheryl completed her Advanced o/w course with a Peak Perfomance Buoyancy Dive on our final dive of the day, on Dibba Rock. We started at the Aquarium mooring, west side of the rock. I had briefed her on the dive beforehand, and she carried out the skills outlined in the briefing. Diving as a newly certified o/w student, Naira was getting quite comfortable in the water as well.