Sunday, December 5, 2010

UAE National Day diving at Freestyle and Nomad, Dibba Rock and Musandam, 4 divers completed their PADI course dives

My logged dives #1023-1024

Thursday, December 2, 2010
Thursday, Dec 2, was UAE National Day, so I arranged to take advantage of the long weekend by promising to finalize and conduct diving courses during 3 of the 4 days we had for the long weekend.  Hasan came with us to Dibba Rock and finished the diving portions of his course Friday Dec 3, while Ian Nisse finished his on the Thu and managed to complete the advanced course diving on Friday and Saturday.  Eric and Delilah drove down to Nomad Ocean Adventure on Thu but due to a wrong turn we will say no more about didn't start their course until Friday, but still they managed to complete it on surfacing from the last dive Saturday.  Congratulations for great work on the part of all concerned, and a quite memorable weekend!

We started at noon at Freestyle Divers. Dibba Rock showed us the best diving of the weekend, remarkably so. For the noon dive, Bobbi and I were met there by Ian and Godelieve and her kids Ianthe and Rosanna, who are getting tall and mature in their diving. Freestyle seems so warm and friendly, especially in great weather. The water is getting a bit cool though, 26 degrees, needs a full wetsuit. We got in the boat impeccably piloted by Iva the Diva. He dropped us on one of the eastern moorings so we had a long easterly swim to what used to be raspberry coral where the vis was decent for a change, the better to see the sharks. Once we were on the coral, they appeaed over the reef with great regularity. I saw at least a dozen. Others saw fewer but I think everyone saw something, except possibly Godelieve, because she was with Rosanna, who has developed a keen ability to discover things in rocks and sand that I miss while hunting larger game. We all at least saw the turtles, and Ian completed the skills for his 3rd open water course dive.

Hasan joined us for the second dive at 3, which was even better. This time we were dropped at a mooring east of the coral patch, where it was just a quick hop to where the sharks were. Our plan was to go north over the reef, pass by the aquarium corals to the east, then go north and east again around the island. However, divers in our group had some delays in getting down and moving on their way, and Mohammed had a group of beginners which due to these delays cut across our bow heading north, so I decided to move us down the reef to the south so we wouldn't be behind Mohamed's group with all the wildlife scared away. It was a good move because being in the lead like that I was able to spot a black tip right away and keep him in my sites long enough for everyone, I think, to see it.

We went to the end of the reef where I am sometimes no longer able to find the way west, and due to that I turned us around back to the north. There were turtles there, and in the distance I saw what I was sure was the eye spots and triangle shape of a devil ray, but it passed before anyone else saw it. We continued over the reef and picked up the school of barracudas we had seen on the previous dive, getting close enough for me to count 12. At the end of the reef I was lining up my compass on the sand patch for the trip to the aquarium corals to the east when suddenly a school of devil rays appeared between the two coral patches. We moved in close before they shied away. Bobbi said she counted 30, they were quite a sight.

We passed alongside the aquarium where there are always beautiful fishes, huge puffers amid a wall of snappers, parrots and fan tailed rainbow wrasse, but there was little else as interesting as what we had seen already. Hasan was low on air so I put up a marker buoy and attached it to Bobbi's bcd. I surfaced with Hasan and got Iva to pick him up and then went back down on the marker buoy. Bobbi was leading shallow in the rocks at the back of island, so when I reached her I took over the marker and headed down into the sand. We might have looked for rays and jaw fish there but only Ianthe was with us at depth (12 meters). The others were strung up the line between the bottom and the marker. So 45 min into the dive, we ended. Hasan had missed nothing after he left, but the first 30 min of the dive was excellent!

It was dark when we moved over the border into Oman. Due to national day in UAE the streets were festive with lights and cars decked out in flags and pictures of the country's leaders, kids standing with heads out of sun roofs, created a massive traffic jam. That afternoon there had been a regatta of gayly decorated boats, dozens of them, which motored across our shallow dive site, and it appeared they were about to do the same on the return leg as we were heading out in boats at 3. But the coast guard boat overseeing the event did a good job of nudging them away from the rock, so they were much more picturesque than dangerous. The cars on the road cruising Dibba and the roads into and out were less picturesque and a bit more dangerous.

But the worst thing to happen was that Eric and Delilah, heading up the 311, missed the turn for Dibba and continued instead toward RAK and over the border on the road to Kassab. They were almost there when they finally reached us and we turned them around and headed them back to where we were. I had agreed to give them a diving course this weekend and the plan was to go in the pool that evening at Nomad. However, they didn't arrive until almost dinner time, and they ended by taking the quiz that evening and picking out their dive gear, but not entering the pool for their first module due to the delicious fragrances eminating from Sophien's Brazilian BBQ. So we agreed to meet in the pool next morning at 6 a.m.

My logged dives #1025-1026

Friday, December 3, 2010

I was up then and about to knock on Eric and Delilah's door when it opened as they were just emerging wearing wetsuits, pretty keen for 6 a.m. in the morning. The trouble was the sun was hardly up by then, only an orange glow from over the ocean, and it was cold outside and especially in the pool! Freezing. Still we managed to get modules 1, 2, AND three done by about ten. For one of them Hassan joined us for his module 4, and when Eric and Delilah finished, I managed to get Hasan through his module 5 by 11:00. So in 5 hours that morning, I taught all the PADI modules, 1 through 5.

To complicate things only slightly, Ian was starting his advanced course as well, so I was organizing 3 open water dive students at different stages in the course and Ian's open water diving.  Nomad was busy on Friday so we were on Chris's new boat and had other divers with us, but I was relieved of having to organize that as Mark, another instructor, was doing the honors.

We actually got away in good order, well before noon, and by shortly after 1:00 we had our first time divers in the water and diving for the first time in their lives.  This created some awkward moments, as happens, and the first part of my dive was at 5 meters while I tried to keep people with ear and buoyancy problems moving in a safe space along the reef.  Meanwhile the other divers in our group moved below us.  When we got to the wall where the coral gardens end and the easterly currents begin I turned everyone around.  Meanwhile my divers were getting their act together and we were moving among the fishes at 12-14 meters.  I remember a lovely tableau of half a dozen lion fish hovering in midwater, but not much else about the dive itself, except that vis was good, it was quite pleasant, and everyone stayed down about 50 minutes.

We did our next dive at Wonder Wall, called locally Ras Sanut.  Ian was managing his own advanced course, having done a boat dive the first dive and planning to do multilevel the next.  He was buddying with Bobbi and he worked out a profile that would allow him to go to 18 meters for half an hour and spend the remainder of the dive at 12 meters or higher. Godelieve and her brood moved off on their own and I took my o/w students and got Hasan through his last exercises for the last dive and Eric and Delilah through their presentations.  We then moved off through the brooding underwater island landscape of Ras Sanut and came up in the current that is often present off the point.  I had warned Godelieve about it and told her if caught in it to just enjoy it and that is what she did.  We were on the same ride as we saw them at the end of the dive.  Everyone emerged from it happily being swept gently to the east.

My logged dives #1027-1029

Saturday, December 4, 2010
That evening Hasan left as did Godelieve and family, leaving Bobbi and I with Ian and Eric and Delilah.  Next day dawned with all staying in bed until the sun was coming up over the horizon, when I met Eric and Delilah in the pool at the ever so slightly warmer hour of 8 a.m.  They got through their last two pool modules in good order.  Ian proposed doing 3 dives that day so that he could complete his advanced course, but the request was denied because there were others joining us in our boat. But then the others got delayed in Dhaid and couldn't make it on time, so at 11 we were given the go-ahead to dive as a unit, just us on the boat, which had on board 4 extra tanks for the missing divers, so Ian got his wish.

Ian and I kitted up and buddy checked prior to arrival at Lima Rock, and we jumped down to 25 meters for his deep dive, did the exercises required, and then explored down to 30 meters looking for the leopard shark that had been there the day before, but couldn't find it, so we returned to do a safety stop right at 20 min into the dive before returning to the surface. There Eric and Delilah were ready to go under the guidance of dive mistress Bobbi and we popped in for their dive #3, and Ian's peak buoyancy.  On this dive everyone was comfortable and we had time to look around at 16 meters.  We found several torpedo (electric) rays and many grey moray eels. We surfaced after 45 minutes.

From there we went to Ras Morovi for our last dive, Ian's navigation.  On the surface I put Eric and Delilah through all the flexible skills, with Ian and Bobbi joining in the water just as we finished.  I had devised a cunning plan whereby we would drop down and put up a marker buoy for reference.  Then Eric led us to the south for 12 kick cycles while Ian continued for 27 with Bobbi, and we all turned 180 degrees and met back at the marker buoy.

So far so good, and this time Ian started his square to the west, with Delilah following just 12 kick cycles and taking us back to the marker buoy.  While Ian and Bobbi completed the square I took Eric and Delilah 27 kick cycles to the south to try and find the cup that Ian was supposed to have left at that point. We looked for it there but couldn't find it, but meanwhile Ian and Bobbi appeared right on cue, having completed their square to that point.  We all proceeded back to the marker buoy, which I retrieved and stowed as we completed our dive out on the reef at Ras Morovi, doubling back to the north to make our way through the cabbage coral on the far side of  the reef.  We didn't see much in the way of animals but it was a well executed dive, a great end to an advanced course and two open water ones.

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