Sunday, December 11, 2011

Certified Tim and Laura Charge with Nomad Ocean Adventure December 8 thru 10, 2011

My logged dives #1101-1104

We had another lovely weekend in the company of our friends at Nomad Ocean Adventure this weekend. The occasion was the training of Laura and Tim Charge, recommended to me by Graham Mullen through the grapevine at the British Embassy. Laura and Tim agreed to do the elearning online and meet me at NOA on Thursday. Bobbi and I managed to get there by around 7:30 pm even though I had to go back to town and pick up my passport (new 3-year UAE visa!) and Bobbi who was able to get off work before 4 pm. We had to leave Nicki behind though, we would have arrived in Dibba too late for pool training, but she came up with Andy the next morning.

Laura and Tim had completed their test and form filling by the time I got there, so we were able to get confined water dive #1 done in the NOA pool Thu evening, before sitting down to a delicious meal of Mauritian cuisine. A winter chill has touched the evenings and mornings in the UAE and we had to get up at 7 am to do modules 2 and 3 in the icy pool, so we were tired before getting down to the harbor and motoring out to the dive sites mid-Musandam.

December 9 we went to Lima Rock and Ras Lima with Theo in charge. Vis was poor in both places. At Lima Rock we got our team into the water for what was actually my students' second time ever on Scuba since they had done a discover scuba course previously in Malaysia. Still they were well aware of their limitations. Plus to counter the cold 17 degrees in the pool and 24 degrees in the ocean, Laura and Bobbi and I all had 5 mm wetsuits which are like balloons in shallow depth, requiring more than the usual degree of buoyancy control, so the new divers were going up and down between our max depth at 16 meters and the surface whenever I led the dive shallow. Still we saw batfish being cleaned by blue wrasse, a copious variety of trigger fish, morays, and many more of the usual fish suspects. It was not an exciting dive for Bobbi and Nicki and I but Laura and Tim seemed to enjoy it. Their air lasted not bad for new divers, around 42 minutes, and when I took them up to the boat, Bobbi and Nicki waited for me below, since we three still had 100 bar. As I was delivering my student divers back onto the boat at the surface Theo warned me about a down current to the west of Lima Rock, the direction we were headed, and when I submerged I found Nicki and Bobbi not below me where I had left them but at the edge of my vis in that westerly direction. I was able to call them over and get them headed back to the east, the way we had come. Thus we dived another quarter hour without incident, apart from Nicki finding a nudibranch on a rock that I wouldn't have seen had I looked straight at it for 5 min, but she's good at spotting small stuff in busy backgrounds. Back on the surface, we heard tales of divers who had been swept deep by that swift westward down current, so lucky we turned back.

We motored over to Ras Lima for the surface interval and had lunch moving in and out of sunshine as the boat drifted into the shadow of the headland, and divers complained of cold and the boatmen moved out into the sun again. We did our dive from where we were on the headland. Bobbi and Nicki went on together and I took Laura and Tim to do some surface interval skills but conditions weren't right, there were stingers in the water, and we didn't accomplish them at the beginning of the dive. So we went underwater and did the dive #2 skill set, and then dived in shadow and through algae bloom in kind of dreary conditions, limiting ourselves to 14 meters. We had another 45 minute dive, relaxing, and with much better buoyancy control from Tim and Laura. When we surfaced the boat was nowhere to be seen. Conditions were better though, so we completed our surface skills there.

The boat ride home was cold so when we arrived back at our accommodation we just wanted hot showers and cold drinks, and then another great meal at NOA. There was a french group there who had been diving all week from Chris's place, showing slides each evening of what they had seen that day, and today one of them had promised photos of a 'petit poisson' which turned out to be a whale shark that just two of them had seen and photographed that day at Octopus Rock (not a good place to take beginners unfortunately).

The next morning we started again at 7 am, a lie in for Bobbi and I these days, with Laura and Tim doing much better in the pool than previously, completing the last two modules well before 10 am. An hour and a half later (after Pascal showed us where they hide the espresso machine at NOA) we were motoring off toward Lima Rock on an exceptionally lovely morning. Aliona was in charge of the diving for the day. The sea was calm and glassy, and we could see Lima Rock from just out of Dibba, the sky was so clear. Usually it's too hazy to see it before we reach Fishhead Rock.

We weren't actually going to Lima Rock through. We had mostly students and novices on board so we agreed to start in the protected bay on Ras Morovi. Aliona was proposing to lead the advanced divers out to a place where barracudas are almost always seen. I didn't know that spot and offered to take my students there by following Aliona as far as 18 meters. Most of the divers wanted to do something similar so they all went in the water together. Nicki and Bobb were in that group but delayed descent waiting for Tim and Laura and I, who were last in the water. When we were in position at the surface they had all gone down and we were set to follow, but we had adjusted weights in the pool that morning and despite best guesses for needs for an ocean dive. Laura was underweighted, and since the boat was right there and we hadn't descended yet, I surfaced and got 4 more kilos from the boat, stuck 3 in my pocket weight belt, and gave one to Laura, which made her descend perfaectly, but by then the divers had all gone. So we set out on our own dive.

It was a nice one and the best of the course. The coral at that spot is lovely, green whips, cabbage coral, purple soft corals, green tree coral, and coral boulders, all swarming with fish, triggers, big pufferes, surgeon tangs. I led into the sand looking for rays but turned back when we reached 18 meters. We continued a very pleasant dive, rounding the far underwater mountain, heading back to the north, and encountered Nicki, Bobbi, and Pascal, who were chasing a moses sole (flounder). I noticed then that my divers had gone down to nearly 50 bar, so I conducted them up the reef into the cabbage coral patch, sometimes a good place to see turtles. They controlled buoyancy sufficiently to make a safety stop there, and then I had them ascend on alternate air source. Their dive time was 31 minutes, 34 with the safety stop.

I still had 100 bar so I went back down to look for Bobbi and Nicki. On this foray I saw a turtle, and after I'd caught up with Nicki and Pascall, I spotted a scorpion fish hidden in the coral. Pascal photographed it and we all got a very close look..

Back on the boat, we had lunch against a setting of karst rocks rising from placid water, skies of blue, and warm sunshine to counter the chilly breezes. Winters in UAE can be quite pleasant.

We planned a last dive at Ras Sanut (Wonderwall) utilizing Nicki as divemaster. Nicki would go in first with her reel and set me up a line for CESA. Bobbi joined her at the surface and the students and I followed. I left Tim to do cramp removal, and weight and BCD replacement at the surface with Nicki while I took Laura down for her CESA. She was having ear problems and breathed on the ascent as often it happens that students need to repeat the exercise. She didn't want to do it right away because she seemed slightly overweighted. She was on her third BCD from NOA. All of them leaked and this one didn't support her properly at the surface, which contributed to her distress. So she gave her weight belt to Nicki to remove a weight while I took Tim down.

It wasn't that nice a dive actually. The algae was blocking out most of the light and there wasn't anything interesting to see apart from a moray eel. My students completed all their skills for dive number 4, Laura led us in a compass heading over the sand and back, and we carried on for half an hour underwater before people got cold and tired. When we surfaced we found we were last on the boat, so it was time to motor home to port, and from there drive 4 hours to reach our flat in Abu Dhabi, have dinner, and get 5 hours of solid sleep before crawling out of bed at 5 in the morning and head for work.