Saturday, May 29, 2010

May 28-29, 2010 - certified 3 advanced open water divers: Borja, January and Keith and 3 open water divers Tammy, Roger, and Mila

My logged dives number 979-981 Friday and 982-984 Saturday

Daniel Sobrado took pictures and posted them to his Picassa account here: Thanks Daniel for permission to post some of these here.

My running friend and o/w and advanced dive student Graeme put some of his friends from Dubai on to me and they agreed to do their academics through PADI eLearning and meet me at Discover Nomad on Thu May 27. So I met Tammy, Mila, and Roger for the first time at the dive center in Dibba and took them through confined water pool dives 1 and 2 at the pool there before dinner and bedtime.

On Friday May 28, we got up early for confined water dive 3 which qualified the three for two open water dives that day. By 10:00 the rest of those diving with us had arrived for our dive trip up to Musandam. At 1:20 we descended at Lima Rock in what I was conducting as an advanced boat dive for Borja, January, and Keith, and O/W dive 1 for Roger, Mila, and Tammy. We were a large group. Besides Bobbi and I, Bruno, January's colleague from Brazil, and also Renato and his wife Kelly (snorkeling) were on board. Leslie and Caroline had also joined us for fun diving, and they saw the whale shark on their dive (but the rest of us didn't :-(

We had the boatman take us to Ras Morovi where at 15:00 we were heading down for one of my complex combined open water and advanced navigation dives, advanced for Borja, January and Keith, and dive #2 for Roger, Mila, and Tammy. After our exercises in the cove we moved out the tongue as we had the week before. Vis had improved since then but it was still milky there. We got the boatman to drop us by the Cave on the way home, which we started diving at around 17:30. I had proposed this as a third elective dive for January and Keith (either underwater naturalist or peak buoyancy). Funny we couldn't actually find the entrance to the cave, very puzzling as I'd been there many times before, but we found huge crayfish wandering around in the rocks just outside the alcove. Due to the waning light, we kept it to a shallow dive for just 30 minutes.

It was at this site that we found a bird in the water, nearly immobilized and struggling to stay afloat with wings caked with oil. While Keith and January and I were diving the others rescued it and we took it back to the dive center with us where it was bathed by dive center staff as often as they could get around to it. Despite frequent cleansings the oil could be only partially removed, and on Saturday the bird died, just a glimpse to us of what's being wreaked on wildlife on the shores ringing the Gulf of Mexico right now.

Sat May 29, Tammy, Mila, and Roger completed confined water dives 4 and 5 in the pool next morning and at 10:00 we again departed for another dive trip up to Musandam. At noon we were diving Lima Rock south side on a deep dive with multilevel profile for Borja, January and Keith. The other qualified divers dived on their own. We saw the usual fish there but again no whalesharks. After collecting everyone back on board, we puttered around to the sheltered north side of the rock where Roger, Mila, and Tammy finished their flexible (mostly surface) skills in shallow mooring area. At 14:00 we went down for Dive #3 for Roger, Mila, and Tammy and an advanced underwater naturalist dive for Borja. Everyone else remained at the surface, including Keith and January who worked on their decent surface interval while plotting out their last advanced dive, a multilevel one we planned for 15:30 off Wonder Wall.

Since Borja had done two dives already, I had him join Tammy, Mila, and Roger and I for a shallow advanced peak buoyancy dive (hovering for everyone). Bobbi joined January and Keith for their multilevel dive. Wonder Wall was a place we hadn't been to lately but it was a lovely spot. The fish life was very attractive but the highlight of the trip was a ray that glided casually ahead of us as we shadowed it in the sand, then turned to check us out, then headed up the reef and back down to the sand, putting on a nice show for us. Bobbi and Keith and January saw the same ray. At the end of the dive as we neared the point the current picked up and divers were being collected even out to sea, but all re-boarded safely and we made it back to harbor and home late, exhausted, but happy.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

May 21-22, 2010 - certified 4 advanced open water divers: Ianthe, Rosanna, Johan, and Daniel and 1 open water diver Camille

My logged dives number 973-975 Friday and 976-978 Saturday

See more pictures from Dibba reef and Musandam (whale shark), thanks to Advanced Diver Daniel Sobrado! And thanks to Daniel for permission to post these:

On Friday, we all met at Freestyle Divers at Dibba Rock and did three dives from the same location, the mooring on the west side of the island, with the current sweeping to the east. We did the noon, 3 pm and night dives. Divers with us besides Bobbi and I were Godelieve, her kids Ianthe and Rosanna, and their friend Johan; plus Daniel and Camille.

The first dive was Camille's first and for the others a refresher and advanced boat dive conducted with some difficulty due to the current. Since the mooring at Freestyle was new to me I had trouble finding the reef but eventually found it for the last third of our dive, and with it calm water, and I managed to get Camille pretty much right next to a prowling black tip. The second dive was centered around an advanced navigation dive, where square patterns were difficult in the current. Johan and Daniel managed one, disappearing and reappearing near a large coral bommie while I took Camille through the PADI o/w dive #2 skill set. Ianthe had to surface accompanied by her mom, due to stomache problems after stress descending in the current at the mooring, but Rosanna managed her square once we got her into calmer water in the reef at the western edge of the rock, where we swam with turtles. The final dive of the day was the night dive for all the advanced candidates. I followed bright eyes to find the glass shrimp behind them and we found interesting crustacians in the sea bed, and hopped over the border afterwards for a warm reception and good food and beverage at Discover Nomad.

Saturday we got a late start, quarter past 11 departure. Things had gone well up to the point where we were told our boat was waiting for us. I'd got up at 7:30 and met Camille and Daniel at breakfast, and Camille and I got in the pool and got our confined water dives out of the way, and 8 divers and six snorkelers were told they could go down to the harbor any time after ten. But our food with our name on it was missing, and that gave us one more thing to disorganize on top of getting our gear ready etc. It turned out Michael had taken the food down to the harbor where he was waiting with our 20 tanks. That was the good news, the bad was that the boats had buggered off. The boatmen had said 20 minutes. My divers were at least given shaded seating on a nearby dhow and I took the opportunity to brief them on multilevel and deep diving. We worked out profiles for Rosanne, my 12 year old jr advanced o/w water candidate who was going just to 21 meters. For the others, I recommended no more that 24 meters, and we worked out a 26 meter profile that in the end gave everyone 21 meters at depth, ascent to 16 meters for another 20 minutes, and both profiles allowed 45 minutes to an hour and ten at 12 meters, in case anyone had that much air left, not likely on a deep dive.

So despite the late start we were at least at the rock an hour later where we joined several other dive boats following bubbles. We were told a whale shark had been spotted, and my divers excitedly kitted up. We were planning the advanced deep dive and everyone had been briefed. I tested current, found it slightly to the west toward the mountains, but it was essentially slack. Still the boats were all drifting west, perhaps wind blown, as the divers entered the water, instructed to remain near a large rock. They held position well, Cami was disappointed she wouldn't be able to join us as she was only two dives into her o/w training and couldn't go to our depth, even though it was only 3 meters below her limit. We have to keep to the standards, which require me to directly supervise o/w students as well as deep divers in training.

Eventually we got the divers in the water and heading down. Rosanne was having slight ear problems so I moved her over to the rock wall where she could come down with visual reference (this is probably how I missed the big honeycomb moray Daniel was snapping pictures of :-), and soon I had 7 divers with me on the sand bottom in 21 meters of water. We ran through our exercises smoothly, we had enough tables to go around for calculation of minimum surface interval (at depth), we found some discrepancies in gauges reporting how deep we were, and then we were on our way to enjoy the dive.

We had excellent vis, the fish life was abundant, fish pouring over the rocks and coral, moray eels, and big batfish enjoying their full wrasse makeovers at the numerous cleaning stations, and I was taking it all in while keeping a half dozen advanced divers on task, when my buddy Ianthe reached over and grabbed my slate. “Aren't we supposed to go to 16 meters?” she wrote. I checked my computer, 19 minutes. Yep, good thing she was watching the time. I started to lead us up to the next level. Plan your dive, dive your plan.

Unless of course you happen to see a sting ray in the sand at 20 meters, a big one, and you think there's flexibility in this profile, we didn't go to the calculated depth of 26 meters, none of us, my computer is showing double digit no deco time, and after we dropped down to check the big guy out, I took us up to 16 meters, where for the next several minutes we saw shoals of barracuda sweeping in from the deep water off the wall.

What could top that? The next thing to appear out of the blue was a growing baby 5 meter whale-shark. These things are massive compared to anything else on the reef and they are curious about the next massive thing, us.

When whalesharks appear to a group of trainee divers, diver decorum sort of goes out the window. I was of course out there with it swimming around me but I was also looking out for my buddy and keeping track of how far off the wall I was. I watched my divers chase after it (except for Johan, playing it cool like me, hanging back, staying aware of all his surroundings). Actually I lost sight of my divers momentarily until I could get around an outcrop they'd all gone behind, and then I was pleased so see the whale shark coming back towards me surrounded by a cloud of divers and bubbles, so it was nice of him to bring them back to me.

But the cloud of bubbles and whaleshark headed back into the blue, and my divers with it. I tried to get Bobbi's attention to bring them back into the reef, currents can be bad here, but there was nothing she could do. And then we were at the flat featureless wall leading out to the point. I felt the current pick up. This would have been my turn-around point, but my divers were now caught in it. I watched them disappear around the next outcrop like cards being spewed from a squeezed deck.

I finned fast ahead of them. They now realized they should check for instructions and I motioned them to get near the wall and stay low in the water as we were swept along involuntarily. They all did very well staying together and managing the situation. It wasn't dangerous, but we were clearly coming to the end of the dive, whereas had we gone the other way at the turning point we might have had longer. On the new course, I would have directed them around the gap to the other side but we hit a bit of back wash and were able to stay in one place for a moment, so we paused to collect ourselves.

The whale shark reappeared at that moment. I noticed him just off the rock pointed into the current, scarfing up plankton, facing us, as if he planned to watch us and see what we would do. I thought we might have held that standoff and happily watched one another for a few minutes, but some of our divers swam over to him, this seemed to surprise him, and so he flicked his tail and took off upcurrent and that was the last we saw of him, until next time of course, but we had to do our safety stop without him :-).  Daniel got some great pics:

I decided I'd take Camille on a shallow dive to see if we could see the whale shark again. I had 100 bar and I didn't change my tank, I expected conditions to be much the same as the dive before, and I'd keep the diver short but conditions had changed. We put in at the same rock we had started at an hour before, and at first we just slowly settled to the bottom as before, except I noticed that the vis had gone cloudy. It was feeling strange, the current even started to grab us and carry us along so this would be a one-way dive, not like the one before. I kept to 10 meters. We passed the big batfish and schools of jacks, but apart from the phenomenal schools of fish, nothing really big in evidence. We were really trucking along with the current and I was down to 70 bar when I noticed Daniel overhead snorkeling. I decided it wasn't wise to continue diving there with a beginner so we ascended to meet him. He reported that the boat was just downcurrent, out of sight around the corner. I could see the water rippling at the surface at that corner where the current was in turbo mode. I wouldn't have gone for it had Daniel not said the boat was just on the other side, so with a grip on Camille's bcd we went into it like long swimmers in a rapids. It was like river current, fun, and took us right to the boat, where we were rescued aboard.

That was the last of the great diving we would have that day, though in the calm bay at Ras Morovi, there was a devil ray that entertained us with arial acrobatics, doing several somersaults out of the water, and then entertained our snorkelers. Cami and I saw it as we finished off our surface skills for her o/w course (and I bounced down briefly to see the mottled brown markings on its back).

Ianthe had asked to complete her navigation work in the calm shallow waters of Ras Morovi and I could take Camille there and have her do the skills for her o/w dive #3 at the same time. In order that she could do her o/w compass work there I devised a cunning plan. For this I would need two plastic drinks cups from the boat trash. Starting at the alcove in the corner of the bay, Ianthe would lead us west her calibrated 30 meters, where I left the 1st cup wedged in the coral, hopefully not in such as way as to damage it. She then led us back to our starting point, a rock on which I'd placed a sea cucumber. Now it was Cami's turn. I instructed her to lead us south 30 meters, but the metric I used was the number of kick cycles I'd counted for Iante's leg, so the distance would be the same, see? Cami then led us back to the north to the rock where the sea cucumber still held vigil. Ianthe then led us west again where we recovered the first cup from the coral. But now she headed south the requisite number of kicks, stopping exactly where I thought she should. She was actually doing an excellent job. I was following, letting her lead, but double checking her direction, which was spot on. She also looked back now and then to be sure her buddies were with her, helping her avoid rising up in the water by checking she was still at the level of her buddies, another excellent habit I may have taught her :-). In any event, the test was on the next leg, where we expected to find Cami's cup. Ianthe stopped at the right distance as did I but we didn't see the cup right away. But the terrain looked right so we scoured that area and found it. From there it was a simple matter to return to the rock where I in turn returned the sea cucumber to his proper bed of sand.

There's something very satisfying about navigation. It's reassuring when theory is corroborated by reality. It's nice to see students appreciate their accomplishments in navigating a course successfully, doing something that's challenging, and that they could not have done when I started training them as open water divers when they were even younger kids a couple years back.

We finished the day with everyone diving the tongue extending from the protected cove at Ras Morovi. It was the most convenient spot and is usually a lovely dive, but on this day it was brown and murky with cold thermoclines that kept us above 10 meters most of the dive.  Still the squid were there and the lovely fish, nice way to end a great weekend.

Coda: Some of my advanced diver candidates have vowed to never again touch whale sharks, and I have made it a part of my dive briefing since then.  It disturbs them and makes them want to leave the area. When you touch them, they visibly recoil.  Let's not do that anymore :-)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Diving Abu Dhabi with Al Mahara Diving Center, May 15, 2010, my logged dives #971-972

Congratulations to Ala Jadooa, certified as a PADI open water diver today, and also Elizabeth Peters, who successfully completed her first two dives for the course!

Al Mahara is a diving center recently started up by my long-time friends in Abu Dhabi Kathleen and Alistair Russell.  We've dived together often before but this was my first time with them under the new dive flag,

We went to Delta Buoy which I hadn't visited in some time.  Alistair moored NE of the gully I used to visit often when I would drop in between there and the buoy itself.  I would approach from just east of the buoy (west of the gulley) and I used to know pretty spot on where it was, and I left some poles propped upright there to help me find it, so I used to go there my every visit to Delta Buoy, but this time, coming from the opposite direction, I wasn't able to find the spot I was looking for, though we did find some significant ridges with angel and banner fish, black spotted yellow grunts, and a few hamour lurkng about, with snappers spilling over them in a dense rush.

It was pleasant diving.  The ladies both did very well.  Ala started off with a well-executed CESA from 9 meters, and back at the surface, after resolving minor weighting problems, we all descended together into pleasantly cool water, vis about 10 meters, 10:44 on my watch.  Ala had to hover and removed her mask and replace it, and Elizabeth's task was just to enjoy the dive.  We meandered looking for fish (me trying to locate that certain gully, in vain), 10 or 11 meters max, until at 11:25 Ala signaled low on air and we came up some distance from the boat.  This gave us a chance to run through Ala's remaining surface skills before the boat reached us and we climbed back aboard.

For the second dive Alistair dropped us at a nearby reef I'd never visited before, called Phil's Reef I think, after someone who had found several bamboo sharks hiding under a rock there (why not bamboo reef, I wonder?).  At least that was the story.  There was a stiff surface current that complicated entry though once we headed down the anchor line at around 12:30 it wasn't too bad at the bottom.  I used the anchor to fix a point for Ala's compass out and back, her last skill to complete her course.  She started into the current and then got carried by the current past the anchor on the return leg, but she was keeping track of kicks so she managed to turn and look around before she had gone far, well done for a novice.  I had Elizabeth do her module 2 skills in the same spot and then we were ready for a look around.  I tried to keep to a square but the current combined with curiosity to exam outcrops here and there blasted that away.  I tried to head us into the current more or less on the assumption that would keep us at least in the vicinity of the boat, but it didn't work, and when Ala went low on air we surfaced where we happened to be.  This time it was Elizabeth's turn to do surface skills while we waited.

That dive was 10 meters (or 11, max) for about 35 minutes.

Lovely day out in Abu Dhabi out of the heat and traffic.  I'm ready to revisit the wrecks!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Ho hum, another Whale Shark - Dibba / Musandam April 30 / May 1, 2010 - My logged dives #967-970

I had been teaching a course for two of Bobbi's colleagues at work for the past couple of weeks. The ladies had borrowed the DVDs and watched them, and they'd taken the tests up to module 3 so they could go in the pool for modules 2 and 3 on Thursday night so they could do dives 1 and 2 in the ocean on Dibba Rock with Freestyle Divers on Friday.

It had been hectic and not entirely smooth going but two very keen ladies had persevered and turned up outside our flat at 7:30 Friday for the 3.5 hour drive across the UAE to Dibba. We arrived at the east coast at 11 and had plenty of time to get the newbies kitted and sorted for their very first ocean dive at noon-ish, as it said on the schedule of who's on what boat at Freestyle, which in the event turned out to be about 12:30 departure, which fazed not one of the laid-back customers enjoying their day at the beach with the relaxed boys at Freestyle Divers (Hayley wasn't there, so it was just the boys).

Although the shore-facing side of Dibba Rock is a forgiving 8 meters maximum, and therefore suitable for beginners, there are sometimes currents, and today it was a stiff one pumping to the east. Fortunately this carried us on to the reef from the western mooring, but of course i had to be careful that the ladies turned with me to zig zag on the reef. They were controlling buoyancy well and accomplished this manoeuver well enough, and we were rewarded with a turtle resting on the reef. We didn't see much beyond the schools of tropical reef fish after that. I recall a pleasant dive, some parts of the reef thick with snappers, 26 degree termperatures, mediocre visibility (better than 'bad'), and the first diver low on air at 31 minutes, not unusual for first-time divers adjusting to the changing buoyancies and current pressure in an unfamiliar underwater environment, so we surfaced.

We signalled the boat to pick us up and while waiting we drifted off the reef. When our low-on-air diver got picked up, three of us still had 100 bar so we decided to descend and go on compass to the Rock where Bobbi had seen sharks playing last time she was there with Daniel Sobrado. We were fighting the current to do this but Channin managed it well for a first time diver. We arrived in the shallows and found improved visibility but no sharks cavorting, so we moved into an area of red corals teeming again with fish, even some small bat fish, and got some relief from the current there. It was pretty here but we'd been down an hour by my wrist watch (my computer had restarted timing while we waited at the surface), so at 13:55 I signalled up.

My divers had to complete a couple of module 3 confined water skills we hadn't quite got to the evening before when they ran us out of the pool at nine, so as soon as the boat tied up to discharge the other divers my students and I re-entered the water to get through our confined water oral inflation of BCD underwater, emergency swimming ascent siimulations, and breathing from a free flowing regulator. This non-stop activity was a bit demanding on a hot day on first time divers, who had to then exit onto the shore and immediately replace their tanks with full ones and get out to where a boat load of divers and snorkelers were patiently waiting for us. Therefore it was understandable when Ala opted not to do the skill set for dive number 2: mask clear, regulator recovery, and alternate air source breathing, but rather to make it a fun dive for experience instead.

A fun dive it was. We saw some of the best Dibba Rock has recently had to offer after the subsequent eco-disasters of Cyclone Gonu and the prolonged Red Tide. We found a couple of turtles and a school of barracuda that we could swim among (and one of the turtles was swimming alongside the barracuda, serene). We found some cuttlefish and squid, and at the end of the dive, a big blacktip shark that prowled in close across our path. Ala, right at my shoulder, pointed excitedly and flashed the very OK sign. Channin didn't see the shark but she had passed her first two dives plus all the diving skills for modules 1-3, and Ala had done the same, up through the first o/w dive.

The evening had only begun. We washed and packed our gear and headed over the border into Oman to be welcomed by Chris and his family and staff at the Discover Nomad hostel, bed and breakfast plus the best meal deal in Dibba. Ala and Channin busied themselves with the academic portions of the final two modules and after dinner I helped them understand the tables and then waited while they took their final exam. It was after midnight by the time we had gone over the 50 question final exam and signed off on their papers. Bobbi was already asleep, and I was too as soon as my head hit the pillow.

I was disoriented in the morning when the knock came on the door that it was time to get up and prepare to go in the pool at 7:00. It didn't seem enough sleep, but the girls were getting ready and Daniel's friend Borja joined us as well. The boys had driven down the evening before. Borja's PADI certification was back home in Spain and we couldn't find in PADI's online database what combination of Francisco de Borja etc could possibly constitute a first name, middle initial, last name, and birthday that PADI requires be entered exactly as it is in the dbase before the system will return you a hit. So I checked him out in the pool and he was fine in the water, had obviously done the course and was well trained, The ladies too soldiered through the last two pool modules of the course, and we were out of the pool and into the croissants and coffee by around 9 a.m.

Chris's staff were sending everyone to the dive boats. I was designated 'guide' on one and I was assigned in addition to Channin and Ala and Daniel and Borja (and Bobbi and I) Robert from Munich and his team of divers Karsten and another Daniel, with Robert's Phillipina 'buddy' Ashley along as a snorkeler.

My job now was to ensure that all of these folks got their equipment and weights etc on board, and that I didn't forget the food, and that we had enough tanks. These small tasks having been handled mainly by others, and the personable Captain Mohamed having appeared to conduct us north, our boat left Dibba by 11 a.m. and we set out upon choppy seas, with some overcast misting the mountains of Musandam.

Despite the rough ride I managed to squirm into my wetsuit so that on arrival at Lima Rock I could jump over the side and test the current, which I find is the only sure way of knowing what it's doing. Today I detected a strong current driving toward the Lima headland and I suggested to Robert and his group that we not dive there just then, too challenging for beginners, who could be swept from one end of the rock to the other if they had any delay in descent, or ear problems keeping them near the surface. Robert's team agreed to my call, and I suggested Ras Morovi instead. Again general agreement, and Capt Mhmd willingly motored us over. I had him pull into the calm bay one back from the channel between the headland and the island. Here my divers could kit up comfortably, and the water was smooth and clear and beckoning.

This turned out to be an excellent dive, mainly due to the clear visibility. The rocks were alive with fishes and morays, including a honeycomb (always impressive) that was curled up and hidden entirely in a hole. We found cuttlefish and squid, or perhaps young cuttlefish, not sure, but they were darting about in large numbers, and in one place they played right in front of our face masks and tried to hide in the rocks, nice try, but only inches away from us, within grabbing reach (but I'm sure they were faster than we in the water, and would have elluded our grasp; in any event we observe, do not disturb). We again found turtles swimming, and in the tall alcove just after where we had turned north into the channel and passed over the cabbage coral, we found a cloud of fish fry almost stationary in the water in the back of the cave, and beneath them an electric ray resting. Nearby under another ledge there was a large brown sting ray resting in the sand, blinking at us to please go away.

No rest for the weary, after an hour down for Bobbi, Channin, Daniel and Borja, we collected all divers and motored back across the chop to Lima headline where we could eat lunch out of the weather, again in calm waters. After a short break to do that, it was back in the water for Ala and Channin and I for dive flexible skills for both ladies. We worked on compass and on breathing through snorkels, and tired diver tows, and cramp removal, and then I Ala exited the water and I took Channin down for her controlled emergency swimming ascent, the rehearsal and then the real thing. While we were waiting for the boat, Channin removed and replaced weights and BCD, completing all but the final dive to complete her course.

And what a dive that was. Our German friends were amenable to whatever I decided for our group but Robert asked if we could try the calmer lee or north side of Lima Rock, and that was fine with me, as long as the current was ok for my students, but in negotiating this we decided I should check out the current again on the weather south side, and I felt there was no harm in that. On the way over I asked Mhmd what he thought the current might be doing on Lima Rock and he said in fact he wasn't familiiar with the currents here, but he was happy to take me to check it out.

The seas were choppy still but I found no current so we decided to go in at the middle of Lima Rock. In retrospect we should have gone to the lee side to kit up. It wasn't long before someone started getting ill. Another lost his mask over the side and jumped in the water to rescue it, to no avail, it was adding to the confusion, and I suggested he reboard, kit up, and try and find it on scuba. The Germans kitted themselves in good order and rolled over backwards. Our team was more affected by the unsteady conditions and taking more time. Then the German Daniel shouted from the surface that a whale shark was directly below. Channin was already in the water, where she had gone for some relief from boat sickness. Some of the others decided the best bet was to go in the water on snorkel. I was among those but I couldn't find my mask. I soon spotted it on one of my divers in the water who had grabbed it in his haste to jump in to try and see the whale shark. By the time I managed to find a mask one of the snorkelers wasn't using and get in the water myself the whale shark had passed and all we could see of the Germans was their bubbles. Knowing that whale sharks like to hang around divers I tried to reassure my divers they might see it later and get them back in the boat and get them kitting systematically and taking their time and not hurrying and missing out essential steps of the buddy check system. This plus the pitching of the boat plus divers wanting to get off the boat and into the relatively calmer water made this something less than a military operation but my divers had at least all been well trained :-) and they were waiting for me in a group and resisting the dispersal tendencies of the slight current when I finally managed to enter the water myself.

The visibility on the rock was quite nice and I found that if I kept at about ten meters I could see the surface and also the sand below at 25 meters, so I led us on a comfortable up-current fin where we admired the fishes, finding some moray eels and lots of huge batfish enjoying the wrasse at their cleaning stations. Hoping to allow everyone the best air time I kept the group shallow and didn't even drop in the sand for exercises. Eventually I found a rock we could rest on and had my divers do their mask exercises and hovering on it. Channin had the technique down by then and Ala was making consistent progress. When the current became more noticeable near the point I wheeled us around and revisited the way we had come. 35 minutes into the dive Ala needed to surface so I brought her up and got Bobbi and Channin to stay just below where I could keep an eye on them. When the boat came for Ala I descended and continued the dive. Daniel was next up (he'd gone deep in search of the missing mask), and I let his buddy Borja accompany us until he too got too low on air, so I kept my eye on him as he surfaced proficiently.

Bobbi said later that she knew what I was doing. I was keeping us underwater and at just the right depth for as long as possible in hopes that maybe, just maybe, the whale shark would return. Channin's air was holding out as well as Bobbi's and mine. We all had 100 bar when Borja went up, and no one had told us 50 minutes or 50 bar. So we continued around the rock to the north side, and found some blue crayfish in their lairs in the rock wall. We were comfortably maintaining ten meters depth, just cruising slowly and methodically, when Bobbi noticed we had been joined by a 4th buddy, a whale shark that came right along beside her. So she got the best view and I saw it as it turned in front of us, showing off its remorahs. It was small for a whale shark, maybe 3 or 4 meters, but an impressive fish, docile, and just the thing you want to show your open water student who has just completed her final dive for certification. Bobbi, who had been down the whole time of that dive, had 64 minutes on her computer, and I had 59 (5 min on the surface waiting for a boat). So my strategy paid off with yet another whale shark experience on Lima Rock. The boat ride home was a joyous one for the three of us and the Germans, who had seen it first, and everyone had a great weekend out of the capital, so there were no complaints as we motored back to Dibba Oman harbor, home port :-))

Reactions from my two students this weekend: (Thanks!)