Saturday, October 2, 2010

Certified Advanced o/w diver Vince Cording in Musandam October 1 and Dibba October 2, 2010

My logged dives #1006-1010

Diving with: Bobbi of course, Vince (advanced o/w training), Channin (whom I recently certified as o/w), Keith and January (whom I recently certified as Advanced o/w), and our mutual friend Joe (PADI advanced). Jay (whom I recently certified as Advanced o/w) came down on Saturday to dive with us at Freestyle.

One of my recently certified open water diving students Vince decided to carry on as soon as possible with his advanced course and he engaged me to put together a program that had us start the weekend Friday Oct 1 at Nomad Ocean Adventures with two dives in Musandam. NOA are now running night dives in Musandam, so we planned one as a third dive on Friday, followed on Saturday by a deep dive on the Inchcape wreck from Freestyle divers, and then a navigation dive on Dibba Rock.

Having set it all up as requested and recruited the others aboard, we pulled out from All Prints at 6:30 sharp on Friday morning but due to some mis-turns we arrived a little late at Nomad. Channin rode with us and Vince followed in his car. January and Keith and Joe Broeker were on their way in a third car.

We were assigned to Michael’s boat, first time I’ve dived with him. He’s a nice guy and a competent leader, so we didn’t mind so much when he changed the dives sites as we entered the Lima area. He had said we were going first to Ras Morovi and then to Pearl Island. I didn’t know Pearl Island but he said it would be a good place for navigation, so on the trip out I briefed Vince on deep and navigation dives for that day.

But on the approach to Lima Michael signaled the boat to stop short at Wonder Wall and announced we’d do our first dive there. We like Wonder Wall but it has a sloping bottom and wouldn’t be quite the same as a deep dive where there’s a drop, so Michael suggested we get the boatman to take us off the point where we could drop to 28 meters there. But the current in that case would take us quickly past the end of the dive and we’d have to just come up after the bounce, so Vince and I decided to go with the group on the shallower dive and leave the advanced deep dive for the next morning.

It was a nice dive. Vince was impressed with the live corals and abundant sea life, different from the dying reef at Dibba. At one point we found an electric torpedo ray in the sand, and there were lots of morays, some swimming around the coral dollops. Toward the end of the dive we let ourselves get swept along the wall toward the point. The first diver was low on air at 40 minutes so I found a shelter from the current and led everyone up to a safety stop at 5 meters. Vince and I had got down to 20 meters at the start of that dive.

Michael announced the second dive for Lima Rock, which I didn’t think would be good for navigation, so Vince and I decided to make these two dives boat and underwater naturalist. Michael headed the boat for Lima and rounded it, but then headed the boat for Pearl Island, which got me thinking about navigation again. Pearl Island is the point with a small island off it between Ras Lima and Ras Morovi. I’d never dived it before and Michael’s surface interval description of the dive made Vince and I want to do it with Michael leading.

When we all entered the water we found we’d have to fight our way north against a stiff current, good thing we weren’t planning navigation, impossible here in those conditions.In the water we found another torpedo ray (Vince had missed the first one and was glad to see this one). We found scorpion fish and a moray wriggling toward us along the sand. The dive plan was to round the island at the north, hence the struggle up-current, and on the north easterly heading we were looking for 4 fish pots. At this point if vis had been good we would have seen a submerged ‘island’ and beyond that another. As it was, we followed Michael, who led us where the fish life became interesting. Vince and I found a big crayfish lobster trying to back into a rock ledge. Most interesting was a school of a few dozen barracudas hanging in the current where it wheeled to the north and prevented us from rounding the island to the south. I found a rope and pulled myself into the current alongside the barracudas. That was cool but we could not proceed against the current so we headed back the way we had come. People’s air was getting low by then. Vince and I surfaced after 40 minutes, having got down to 16 meters or so.

We headed back to port talking about where we would do the night dive. Christophe had said we could go to Pearl Island though it was distant from Dibba, because there was red tide at the caves, the nearest option. But Pearl Island would not be good at night with current blasting the way it was. I thought perhaps the cove at Ras Morovi, but it was further still than Pearl Island. On the boat ride back I thought we should give Fishhead Rock a look. As we slowed down we could see there was red tide there. But I thought maybe it was clear at depth, so I went in with mask, fins, and snorkel and found that the algae was only a meter deep. I pronounced it fit for a night dive, and after returning to port and relaxing an hour over coffee at the dive center, we found our way back there after night had fallen.

There were four of us, Vince and I and Piotr, a student on a protracted course with NOA for whom this would be his last advanced dive so I was asked if I wanted to certify him. There was also a new instructor at NOA whom they wanted to send on the trip, so the four of us boarded the boat and headed out on the half hour trip north at dusk with skies afire over the fijords and mountains to Fishhead Rock.

It would be an interesting dive. I had the boatman search for the rock jutting out of the water that I wanted us to go down on, just as Vince and I had done a couple of weeks previously with Fares and Veronique. We got everyone briefed and in the water and with the help of our lights, over to the rock, not easy to find in the dark. Once there we used the rock for orientation to slip beneath the waves into the algae murk. Thankfully, the water cleared only a couple meters down and we settled onto the bottom where we found a rock to have Piotr do his compass heading back and forth from. It turned out to be like a lot of rocks in that area and I got confused, but Piotr felt he’d found his way just fine.  Vince followed that with his own compass work..

We found the overhang that looks like a cave but that we know has ways out overhead and we went in there. It’s spacious and interesting at night, lots of crevices to poke lights into. There were no rays but it made a fun maze. We went from the entry at 12 meters up to 5 looking for the exits but when I realized I couldn’t see them at night I reversed direction and retraced the way we had come.

On the outside we found squids dancing in our light beams, then switched those off to thrash our arms in the dark to make them sparkle with phosphorescence. Then I led us up into the bottom reaches of the algae for a 5 meter safety stop, taking us up to our specified dive time of 40 minutes.

Piotr said he thought the dive was “very interesting.” Vince felt that his first night dive, in comparison with those we’d been doing by day, was “Exactly the same, but totally different.” Well put!

Back at Nomad we enjoyed bbq tuna and chicken a la Mauritius cooked by Sylviane, who is back in charge of the kitchen, yum yum. We relaxed over smuggled beverages and slept exhaustedly.

In the morning we moved across the border to Freestyle Divers for another great day of diving. Temperatures were hot in the sun but comfortable in the shade where we kitted for our deep Inchcape wreck dive. January, Keith, and Joe were doing their first 30 meter dive, as was Vince, so I made sure everyone got a thorough briefing. Fortune smiled on us as we entered the water and found no current at all, so it was an easy swim to the mooring line. With some initial clumsiness on initial descent being overcome in good order by my good diving friends and buddies, we all arrived at the bottom safely.

Vince and I got there first, and we had a look around the boat, found an electric torpedo ray at the bottom near the bow, and explored the other side, finding eventually the two resident honeycomb moray resident eels. I put Vince through the paces with the cognitive test and comparison of depth gauges. Eventually we hooked up with the others. At 17 minutes into the dive, I was getting half tank signals, and all agreed to the thumbs up and slow ascent up the mooring line, greeted at all stages by batfish.

Meanwhile Bobbi had opted to dive Dibba Rock in a boat with only three people, and in the only boat on the rock that early in the morning. She and Channin, and Jay who had driven down for the day, had a great dive in the aquarium. The three of them each had a shark to play with. Bobbi says the sharks came pretty much right up to them, right in their faces, and stayed with them till they got bored with them (Bobbi says). They saw turtles as well.

That sounded like a neat dive, but when we returned to the spot at 1 pm there were too many people in the water by then and no sharks to be found. Vince and I ran up a submersible marker buoy and went through the advanced dive ritual, calibrating fin kicks and time for 30 meters, all based at the buoy. We did a compass heading to the west and left a plastic cup there, then returned on reciprocal heading to base at the SMB. Next we did a square pattern that took us en route to where we could collect the plastic cup and return one last time to the buoy, which we collected.

We finished our navigation in the nick of time because by then the current was picking up. We let it carry us over the reef but eventually beat our way back up current to come out at the aquarium. There the current was less evident, but no sharks were evident either. Vince and I looked around and when he got down to 50 bar we let ourselves be carried back over the raspberry coral patch (doesn’t look like raspberry anymore ).

We spotted a grand two-meter Spanish mackerel on that last pass, but no sharks. It was a relaxing dive, great compass work by Vince, leading to his certification as an advanced o/w diver.

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