Saturday, May 28, 2016

Certified Mohammed Chowdhury as a PADI Scuba Diver at Divers Down, UAE

My logged dives #1449-1451

Friday-Sat, May 27-28, 2016

Certified diver #233

Our good friend Jay from good old days in UAE, now in Bahrain, flew to Dubai from there with two colleagues expressly for the purpose of having me train them in PADI open water diving.  Jay likes to stay at the Miramar so he asked me to arrange to train through Divers Down, the dive center based there. Bobbi and I thought what the heck we might as well stay there too. We decided to treat ourselves despite the fact that this would consume my earnings for the weekend. Another way of looking at it was, free stay at the Miramar for two nights with breakfast in return for simply training two divers. 

So Bobbi and I got there early Thursday, checked in at the Miramar, relaxed by the pool and beach, and had dinner at the beachside open-air veranda Bahari restaurant, and when Jay and Abdulhameed and Mohammed arrived around 10:30 pm we sat on our room patio and talked about what we would do in the morning. We didn’t talk long because our day would begin at 7 am, the earliest we could get breakfast.

I briefed the day at breakfast next morning, the students took tests and filled out forms, and then we walked beside the beach to the dive center for more forms and equipment, which we donned and walked to the pool. The plan was to get through as many of five pool modules as we could that morning, make the last dive of the day at 3 pm, then wrap up the pool modules that afternoon, and complete the course with three dives the following day.

As often happens, things don’t necessarily go to plan. It’s not unusual for people to take time to overcome instincts when breathing underwater, and aptitude for scuba depends to some extent on people’s prior experience snorkeling. Mohammed and Abdulhameed had purchased new ScubaPro snorkels with balls in the tip. I remember this design in my youth. The idea was that the ping pong ball (which is what they used in the 50’s) would lightly sit on the tip and prevent water getting in while allowing air through. But ScubaPro had designed some special ball that kept getting stuck and preventing air flow. It complicated our pool work, along with other acclimatization problems.

As a result we had to scale back our plan. By the time of the 4 pm dive both students had qualified to do their PADI o/w dive #1, but Mohammed would need more practice in the pool to allow him to do the next two dives. To top things off the long morning in the unshaded pool and not anticipating how much drinking water we would need left Abdulhameed too dehydrated to go on the Friday dive.  So just Mohammed and ended up as buddies on the late-afternoon trip to Three Rocks, along with Bobbi, Jay, and Greg Raglow, who has been joining us on some of our dives lately.

The dive on Three Rocks was at maximum depth 12 meters. This is the site we used to call the Pinnacles, and we used to drive our cars there at night and swim east to the exposed rocks for our night dives. We’ve met some stiff currents there in our many dives there, but today the sea was benign. A troupe of batfish have taken residence on the south east corner, and there are schools of other fish, pipe fish, morays, and even glass shrimp in some of the crevices.

That night over dinner (back at the easy-breezy Bahari again) we decided the best option for Mohammed and Abdulhameed was to go for the PADI Scuba Diver certification as a plan B. It’s 60% of the o/w course, requires 3 pool modules and two dives, plus certain flexible skills in the ocean and pool, and can be converted to PADI o/w by simply carrying on with the course later.

We were joined at dinner by Naira, who had completed hercourse the week before, and her boyfriend Chris, also a diver, visiting from Switzerland. They had arranged to dive at Nomad, diving Dibba Rock Saturday and Sunday. Naira, who was taking Sunday off work to dive there with Chris, reported seeing three sharks at once there on Sunday, when there wouldn’t have been so many people around.

Dibba Rock was where we went with Divers Down at 9 a.m. Saturday. We put in at the east mooring and went down the rope in fairly clear water. As we dropped on the rocks there a green moray wriggled across the plateau looking for a hole to hide in. We circled the rock looking for one of the snorkels which had been lost on descent (poor ScubaPro snorkel holder design as well, what’s wrong with the old reliable rubber bands, the real snorkel ‘keepers”). We decided it had been picked up by other divers from our boat (it had) and after completing our skills, we headed into the valley that led to the sand flat where the rays hang out. 

We were lucky. We came across two rays. We also encountered a fish pot that had a pair of hungry morays in it and a few stressed fish finding it difficult to maintain the eternal game of evading the morays in such close proximity, with nowhere to shelter.

The way forward after our dive would also be stressful. The sun was intense and hot, and the sea was salty on the throat, so it was only Mohammed who joined me for open water flexible skills in deep water just off the beach (we had had the boat drop us near the edge of the swim area). We got these out of the way and returned to shore. But Mohammed still needed to complete some confined water module 3 skills before we could officially do a PADI o/w dive #2 and complete his PADI Scuba Diver rating. It was not easy, and he had to complete a 200 meter swim and 10 minute float as well. But he did it. 

We did our last dive at Three Rocks, as peaceful and relaxing as the day before. Mohammed encountered problems but kept his cool and worked through each in exactly the way that he had been trained to do over the past two days. I was quite proud of him when he completed his last flexible skill, a snorkel – regulator exchange on the surface, and we got him back on the boat a certified diver.

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