Saturday, October 30, 2010

Diving Friday Oct 29 at Freestyle, DIbba Rock, and on Saturday Oct 30 in Musandam with Nomad Ocean Adventures

My logged dives #1015-1018

Friday Oct 29, 2010, Dibba Rock with Freestyle Divers

On Friday, a bunch of us met at Freestyle Divers before noon.  We tried a new extension to 611 built to the new airport in Dubai and it saved us 30 min drive time, so we arrived at the new Lulu in Dibba around 10:30 and even with the ladies buying everything  they thought looked tasty (for a half dozen breakfasts and lunches more than we needed, bless ‘em) we arrived at Freestyle an hour before we were due to be diving.  We met Jim and Mira Bakey and their tall son Michael there, Nicki had ridden up with Ian and his daughter Eva, and Joan and Dusty were with Bobbi and I for a group of 10.

Ian was taking my open water course but by now he had located his missing dive card, his daughter had brought it from UK, and he was finally able to show it to me, so he still wanted to complete my o/w course but now that he’d verified his prior training, he is actually good to dive independently.  His daughter Eva had just certified in February with Greg Heinrich’s but had not dived since, so on our way out to the boat from the Freestyle beach,  I took her underwater  and ran her through the skill set of mask clearing, alternate air source breathing, and reg recovery and replacement, and she did fine.  But as we descended on that dive, I kept an eye on her and made sure she was weighted properly. Joan had got a weight off me right at the start, and Mira too had trouble getting down and needed a kilo.  But Eva didn’t need my 3rd weight till the very end, and throughout the dive she kept herself right at my shoulder.

Unfortunately it wasn’t the best day for Dibba Rock.  The front side was quite crowded, there were a couple of Al Boom boats there.  Too many divers keeps the animals away, and the sun overhead reflected off the suspended matter and made the haze more pronounced.  I didn’t realize that the mooring we went down was right on the reef so I swam west a little and found the coral sparse, so then continued west to find the aquarium, nice fishes there, pretty diving and relatively relaxed and clear.  From there I could orient on the reef proper by swimming due east, but we hit some back current and found it rough going when trying to turn east at the tip of the V.  So I led us back the way we had come, just trying to keep the divers together and stay on the coral patch. 

It was when I came out on the mooring we had started on that I realized that mooring was on the reef.  That was good to know because Hasan had come down for the 3 pm dive and was waiting for us on shore when the boat came back.  It was his first dive ever, but he’d done well in the pool and I had encouraged him to make the trip after completing only just one module. We had plenty of time to prepare.  I would be his buddy.

I convinced Nicki to join us on the 3 pm dive by promising her a back-of-the-island dive.  Eva decided not to make the trip so it was just the 3 Bakeys and Joan and Dusty, Bobbi and Nicki, and Ian and Hasan and I.  When the boatman pulled to the backside drop off, I insisted on mooring because Hasan wasn’t ready for a free descent, but the boatman was unable to due to the exposed rocks there.  Nicki wanted to dive there regardless so I asked Bobbi to join her.  The Bakeys decided to go in there as well, and then Ian said he’d like to start there too. Ian was fun diving and not in student mode that day since he still had the last two pool modules to do before he could do the last two dives of his course, so sure, he could join in if he wanted.  Bobbi could at this point have opted to come with Hasan and I since Nicki had plenty of company, but she decided to leave the boring front side of the island to Hasan and I.

So Hasan and I were dropped in on the mooring we had visited at noon, which I now knew to be right on the reef we wanted to be on, and this dive was not boring.  For one thing, the angle of the afternoon sun and slight overcast removed the sunbeams from the water, so we could see better than at noon.  And apart from Iva and a few divers he was training in peak buoyancy (they tend to stay in one spot), we were the only ones there. It was not long before we found a shark, and I swam after it and made sure Hasan saw it well and up close.  We meandered the reef looking for more and ended up in the aquarium where there were schools of fusiliers and snappers and the schools of fish with gaping mouths that all snap shut in unison.  We saw pufferfish there and tangs and parrots and actually I could name almost all the fish in the handbook.  Then we headed west to the reef and saw our second shark there, might have been the same one.  We wheeled over the reef taking it easy now.  Hasan was on his first dive and has a lot to learn about weighting and buoyancy control.  At this point he was awkward in the water, expending a lot of energy in hand motions, and half an hour into the dive he was down to the red, so I suggested we just stay where we were for a bit.  A couple of minutes later a large 2 meter Spanish mackerel passed nearby.  We ascended from there, pretty satisfied with ourselves after that one.

Hasan had to get back to Dubai and work the next morning, so he left after the one dive (one of the best of the weekend for me!)  The rest of us cleaned up our kit and headed over the border to the Mauritian hospitality of Chris and his family at Nomad Ocean Adventure.  Beverages were in evidence when Ian and I headed for the pool to complete module 4 there.  We had to delay drinks gratification until forced to stop and come to dinner, grilled kingfish and pasta with shrimps, plenty of salad, a variety of quiches, et quelquechose rouge.  After a very convivial meal ensemble, people headed for bed early, and Bobbi and I slept more than 8 hours, when I got up at 8 to meet Ian in the pool and complete module 5 there.

Saturday Oct 30, 2010, Musandam with Nomad Ocean Adventures

Unfortunately Ian had an issue at work come up and couldn’t join us for the dive.  There had been a storm in Oman the day before and communications both phone and internet were not working on the Oman side of the border.  Ian was having to cross into the UAE to keep in touch with his office and as we were loading the boat he informed us that he and Eva would have to head out.  This left us down to 11 divers on our boat, as we’d had two added, Richard the French instructor who sometimes uses a rebreather, and his lady friend Allison who doesn’t, so when Richard dives with her he uses conventional equipment. 

However the lack of communications led to our herding people onto our boat before they were comfortably ready only to wait there for a captain who didn’t come, no one could call him.  After we had assembled our tanks for the first dive and sat for a quarter hour with no one around to help, I returned to the dive center and got Chris on the case, and eventually Sultan appeared, in his finest white pressed dishdash, since he’d been called away from a Saturday family affair.  Unfortunately Richard and Allison had left by then, not wishing to wait, but on the upside we’d been joined by Jonathan who had arranged to come down from Dubai but was a little late, so we had gone ahead, since he couldn’t reach us by phone, so we had no idea if he had got waylaid or what, but he managed to find us the way we always accomplished these hookups before mobiles became ubiquitous, somehow.

Sultan has captained out boat before, he’s a nice guy, always helps us with our gear and takes us where we want to go, even when we change our minds, so we were all back on even keel as we sped up to Lima Rock in the bright sunlight, the mountains of Musandam rising from the very sea in limestone formations speckled with under water alcoves and strewn with boulder swim-throughs.

By 1 pm we were descending for our first dive on the south side of Lima.  I had gone in and checked so I knew there was a current, one that pulled east toward Iran at that end of the island (take that one you might need a visa) and west toward Lima headland at the other end. We had gone to the north side of the island but found dhows and dozens of divers sheltering in the relative calm there, so we’d moved to the south side where we prefer to dive and decided to start midisland and put ourselves in the west current.

I briefed everyone about rounding the island, though not everyone got that far.  The dive itself wasn’t that interesting, poor vis, a few morays and crayfish, and lots of batfish being cleaned by wrasse, interesting to watch, the batfish seem to really enjoy it.  Nicki said she saw a huge Spanish mackerel resting on the bottom but I was tending to the divers.  Jim and Mira Bakey were first to show me low air and head up so I took charge of their son.  But he was at about 70 bar and everyone else I could still see had over a hundred.  So I led us up to 12 meters.  We caught the current and I led higher.  As we reached the end of the island we popped over some algae encrusted rocks at just 5 meters, and  sent Michael, by then below 50, up to the surface we could see rippling right overhead. Joan and Dusty and my buddy Bobbi followed me back down to 15 meters. And we continued in pleasant temperatures through the schools of fish on the north side of the island until we agreed to come up to safety stop depth, and when my computer reached 60 minutes I pointed this out to Nicki, who showed me 56, because her buddy had had a delay at the surface at the start of the dive, so I signaled Bobbi to join her, and I took Joan and Dusty up, as we were all getting low on air and I had admonished everyone not to dive overtime, or we’d assume they were missing and mount a rescue.

Everyone seemed to enjoy that dive and we were heading to Wonder Wall in the direction of home when I noticed Pearl Island about to go out of sight behind Ras Lima and I thought, and then actually said, why not there? The only time we’d dived it Bobbi and I had been led by Michael Diver (Facebook moniker, different Michael from the one we had with us) and we had met fierce currents.  It had been a difficult dive.  We’d had current at 1:00 but possibly it would have slacked by 3:00, and I thought I could recall the route (though not the direction which I thought was north, but I figured out during the dive that it was actually east).  All the divers still with us seemed up to the challenge.

The boatman pulled us behind the island where the new instructor Philip in another Nomad boat was just then taking down a group of open water students; likely he’d not be going where we were headed. We finished our sandwiches and kitted up and entered the water.  Vis was not great, maybe 7 meters or so.  Fortunately there was hardly any current to impact us as we headed north into the channel and then rounded the island to the east.  I wasn’t sure where I was but it looked familiar.  There were lots of grey morays in the rocks but I was looking for the fishpots that would lead us to the submerged islands to the (I now realized) east. At 16 meters I found them and followed their ropes over the sand.  About 20-30 meters out I saw a submerged outcrop looming to the south, so the heading was a little south of those ropes.

The sunken islands were fun and foreboding, teeming with fish life.  Going from one to another Michael noticed three rays on top of one and tried to get my attention but neither I nor the others saw them (and Dusty surmised they were actually batfish).  We picked up a current coming to the third one but got some relief from it as we rounded on the south and took the channel to the north down to 18 meters.  Here we found the hulking barracuda we had seen the time before.

The barracuda like current so it was a stiff fin into it to head back to the west the way we had come.  We lost Jim and Mira on this maneuver but again we had Michael with us, and Joan and Dusty, and Bobbi and I.  Nicky and Jonathan had not been seen since we headed east toward the sunken islands.  I presumed that any missing buddy pairs were enjoying themselves and caring for one another.

In the last part of the dive we passed one area where barracudas were visible at depth and schools of snappers were pouring off the rocks above. We finished up following a shoulder that rose to 5 meters, a good place for a safety stop.  There was lots of cabbage coral here, a favorite haunt of turtles though we didn’t see any.  It was really a beautiful dive, nice to get to know a new spot.

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