Tuesday, September 15, 2009

September 11 and 12, 2009 - Certified 3 divers: Greg Golden (advanced), Bill Nash and Gulya Oblokulova (open water)

My logged dives 920-925
Vance helps daughter-in-law Gulya with her compass heading - Photo by Nicki Blower

I had a rather ambitious weekend planned for myself in Dibba, diving with the ever-amenable Freestyle Divers, with Greg Golden slated to do an advanced course and his friend Bill Nash wanting to join him for all 4 of his beginning open water dives. Gulya was preparing to move to Qatar and she wanted to finish off her last two open water dives as well. Bobbi too wanted to dive but unfortunately she took on all the babysitting for granddaughter Gwen so Gulya could do her diving, and she didn't get wet once all weekend. Nicki joined us as well to take pictures of all the fun.

Both Gulya and Bill had done all their academics (just barely, in Bill's case in the car on the way down). Gulya had finished all her pool work but Bill had done just the first three modules in the pool which qualified him to do the first two open water dives in the course, so he'd have to do the last two pool modules before I could take him back in the ocean for his last two o/w dives on Saturday. Greg had joined Bill on one of his pool modules for a bit of confined water refresher, so I had some idea beforehand of his skill level (confident, partly as a result of the refresher). He needed to do two dives that the open water students couldn't do, night and deep, so that was one more ball in the air I'd be juggling that weekend. Therefore I'd need to do six dives: the four o/w dives plus the two advanced-only ones, plus conduct all needed confined water sessions between the dives.

I mapped out a plan for us that would keep me busy hopping for the weekend. It looked like this:

7:30 Friday – Leave Abu Dbabi for 11:00 arrival at Freestyle in Dibba

12:00 – Greg would do an advanced boat dive, no skills required on the dive. Gulya would do her o/w dive 3, and Bill could do his o/w dive #1. Gulya would be the only student with skills for that dive. She had to flood and clear her mask and orally inflate a BCD to achieve neutral buoyancy.

For this dive we dropped in west of the reef and had to fight an oncoming current to reach it. I remember there wasn't much to see on the dive apart from barracudas and reef fishes, and a few turtles. The students were dealing with weighting and buoyancy issues, and the red tide seemed to be lingering in the water, not that bad, but hazy with suspended matter, reducing vis. The students managed to settle themselves as we went along. I recall the dive was short, about 45 minutes or less. Nicki got some great turtle shots with her new fish-eye lense.

Between dives I took Gulya and Bill in the open water off the beach for flexible skills: compass heading at the surface and snorkel, regulator exchange.

3:00 – Greg would do his advanced navigation dive. Gulya had to take care of Gwen and had stopped for the day, so I decided to have Bill do a compass heading out and back in conjunction with Greg's square pattern, in addition to his normal o/w dive #2 skills.

Since Gulya had dropped out I had Bill do his CESA at the beginning of the dive. Once he recalled what he was supposed to do, he did fine, coming up from only 3 meters of water. I then led us west to find the raspberry coral to do our navigation there but I came upon set of coral bommies that was so salient it was just crying to be used as a base for navigation work. Our first heading was to the west. My students were a little confused over the role each was to play in this endeavor, but I managed to get all of us following our own headings west, and each returning on his idea of east, we all arrived back at the bommies, so apart from some buddy separation issues, which I addressed via hand signals, the out and back exercise was deemed to be a success. Then we repeated it to the south using the same number of kick cycles we'd traveled to the west. At the end of that leg we came to a coral head on which I placed a bit of bleached coral found on the bottom as a marker. We returned to our bommie base and then the fun began as Greg began his square pattern. We headed back to the west where I found the rock I'd reached before (I'd left a sea urchin on mine). Bill was with me and Greg a little further away but set to turn 90 meters for the second leg. At the end of that one we turned more or less the same position and headed east and found the coral head with the bleached coral on top. Perfect. It was an easy fin back to the bommies from there.

Bill was getting low on air but I led to the west still trying to find the reef until he had to surface, so we all went up and called a boat over. I had 39 minutes on my computer at that point, so Greg and I resumed our diving. By then we had drifted over the coral, so we descended and found some turtles. I'm trying to recall exactly, but did we find a shark as well? I'm sure we saw at least one that day, either first dive or second. Maybe Greg can remember and comment.

After this dive, sun dipping just over the hills ringing Dibba bay, I took bill for his module 4 confined water dive, entailing removing a mask and swimming 15 meters underwater, and hovering practice. There was also a duck diving component to this training dive which we completed at dusk. We were planning to get module 5 done as well but darkness was descending fast and we decided to postpone that for the following day. Besides, it was almost time for ...

6:30 – Greg's night dive was not too exciting for me. We saw some morays, clams, lots of crabs walking about, and the reef was teemng with brine shrimp with glowing eyes revealing presence of delicate animals attached. The weather was perfect for night diving, water tepid, wish it could be like this all year long!

9:00 a.m. Saturday September 12 – Deep dive with Greg Golden, Nicki along for the thrills, Gulya and Bobbi both administering to granddaughter Gwenny. This was a pretty hopping dive. We tied up to Al Boom's boat and delayed our entry purposely waiting for the other divers to wrap up their twenty minutes below. Our timing was impeccable. We reached the anchor line just as the first of the Al Boomers was coming up from her safety stop. “How was it?” we asked. “Terrible,” she said. “Can't see a thing, dark, cold.” She said she had come up after only nine minutes on the wreck. Oh, well, we shrugged, we're here, down we go. We descended into Al Boom bubbles, and watched all those divers leave deck and inch up the rope while we were doing our skills. Vis there looked normal to us. The wreck was covered with fish as usual. We toured where the hull rested in the sand at 30 meters and found three electric rays, what Nicki calls torpedo rays. Two were resting one atop the other. We moved to the deck where Nicki found a small moray in a pipe. I had just swum back to tell her about a huge honeycomb moray I had found amid-decks but she was summoning me to show me her find. Then we meandered up the deck to find a second big honeycomb. Exactly 20 min. into the dive we were heading back up the anchor line. Up top we all waxed effusive over a great Inchcape dive.

We got back from this one before 11. Bill was waiting on shore and joined me as I was exiting the boat. We had just enough time to return to confined water and finish off training dive #5, in time for ...

noon – Gulya had arrived by now so we would finish off her last o/w ocean dive, and Bill would be doing his 3rd. Greg was now on his last dive for the advanced course, an elective, and he chose underwater naturalist. I started this dive taking Gulya for her CESA. She had become nauseous on the boat and was not comfortable at the bottom of the anchor line, but after a moment's recovery she performed a flawless 7 meter ascent on one exhalation. Back down vis was brown and murky. While my divers established buoyancy and did their skills, Greg and Nicki wandered off, not to be seen again till they reboarded the boat.

We had decided to do the back side of Dibba Rock on this dive. We moved at first over the boulders in brown water, looking not particularly attractive or appealing. But as we sloped deeper toward the sand at 10 meters, the water turned bluer and became clearer, also noticeably colder. Still there was not much here, so we went to the sand where Gulya led us on a compass heading 15 kick cycles north and back to the south to the rock we'd marked as our starting point. Her next skill was hovering so I was checking in the boulders for something to see there. I found two turtles to hold our attention while we breathed in lotus position. Further ahead I spotted a fish with a saddle back where a larger fish had taken a bite out of it. The wound looked mortal, but the fish was swimming along with only a slight wobble from its missing dorsal fin. Then I found a hermit crab with a shell of soft anemone on its shell and handed it around (and replaced it; I think I'd seen that very crab before on the west side of the rock). Next there appeared a good sized black tip swimming down over the boulders. He circled us so it was possible to swim a little ahead of where he would be and keep him in view. Bill and Gulya both saw him well.

We also did a compass heading NE into the sand, then SE parallel to the wall, and SW back to the wall, but we saw no rays and nothing much more on the dive. Coming over the lip into the shallows to round the rock we encountered stiff current. This and the rapid change of depth as we pushed up the gap into the shallows caused my students to become buoyant and rise to the surface. Bill was already into the red at 500 psi, so 40 min into the dive we ascended. Small problem, we were still on the backside of the rock, no boats in sight, so I finned against the current to catch sight of Garith on the near side. He spotted me and came round the rock to the back. He said he wouldn't have looked for us there anytime soon if I hadn't finned up current to get his attention.

After the dive I took Bill out behind the anchored boats to finish his flexible dive skills, surface tank and weight removal. Gulya had not been able to complete her skills on her last dive but she had recovered from her seasickness by the time I had finished with Bill so I went back in the water with her to do the skills I'd just completed with Bill and also to descend and have her remove and replace a mask for completion of all skills for her final dive of the course.

3 p.m. - Time for my last dive of the weekend, just to complete the course for Bill. He had only two skills left to do, remove and replace a mask, never a problem for him, and hover. We found some barracuda on the reef and accomplished that skill there.

It was only Bill and I on this dive, and I thought it was a pretty good one. Greg would have joined us but at the last minute on the boat, Angelika from Germany / Qatar requested a buddy and Greg volunteered. As he had done with Nicki the dive before, he opted to take his lady off on his own, later we found he had circumnavigated the rock and come up in the raspberry coral near where Bill and I surfaced.

Vis was poor but not impossible, and we scoured the reef for anything interesting. Bill and I went its entire length and apart from a turtle and the schools of barracuda, we saw nothing of great interest at all. Retracing our fin kicks it was a different story. On a slightly different tangent we found turtle after turtle, a dozen or more, resting in crevices in the coral. At one point a shark cut across my bow and kept in view for several seconds as I pointed and tried to indicate it to Bill, right behind me. But Bill was looking down at that moment and missed it, too bad. Whenever we lacked for something to see, it seemed a school of barracuda would appear. Nice way to end a long and hectic but thoroughly enjoyable weekend.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sept 4 and 5 2009, logged dives 913-919 from Al Marsa LIVEABOARD dhow in Musandam

Photo credit: John Brodie

Sept 4, 2009 began the night before on the 3rd. We fought Ramadhan pre-iftar traffic getting out of Abu Dbabi just in time to make it to Dibba harbor after dark and slightly after 8. There, several hands helped us get our dive gear from the car to the Al Marsa dhow we would be living aboard the next few days http://www.musandamdiving.com/. We set sail not long after that and were soon enjoying a buffet dinner al fresco on the upper deck. Being Ramadhan we were not sure what beverages they would be serving aboard the dhow but we had brought a coolbox replete with our own. The 3.5 hour drive through Suweihan, plus the day’s work before that had exhausted us, so we were in bed early in our cabin, Bobbi and I squeezed onto a single bunk, lulled to sleep by the roll of the boat and the steady drone and vibration of the engines as we completed the 5 hour journey north. At 3 a.m. I awoke to notice that the roll and drone had stopped, but the hum of the a/c remained, and I easily feel back asleep.

We were up at 6:30 for coffee :-(instant) with the other dozen divers aboard, and at 7:00 we assembled for our briefing. We had sailed overnight to Sheesah Bay. A check on my gps showed we were just around the corner from White Rocks, out of sight past the headland we were about to dive. See: http://www.musandamdiving.com/eastern-musandam/map.htm

This became our routine for Friday and Saturday, coffee at 6:30, briefing at 7:00, diving via short speedboat ride to the nearby first dive site, return to the dhow for breakfast on the top deck, relax until time for a noon dive, followed by lunch, more leisure and a 3:00 p.m. dive. On the Friday we also had a rest for an hour before the night dive, pre-dinner drinks, and dinner.

If you have to have a routine this will do! We paid for it of course, about $1000 for the two of us, Bobbi and I, two nights, 7 dives, 6 meals on a luxurious (remodeled in fiberglass but otherwise had the shape of an) Arabian dhow. Musandam is an incredibly scenic place with fijords lined with rock walls where you can see the exposed strata sheered into cliffs and turned at right angles on itself in upheavals over the millennia. The water there can be clear blue or, when the plague of red tide is present, murky and brown till the depth at which the tide stops.

The dives themselves were competently managed with regard to the dive leader Jay keeping people together and knowing the sites well enough to lead on them. He was also very good at spotting the small animals in sand and sea grasses, the scorpion fish and seahorses. But dive companies and dive leaders who work at them come and go frequently in the UAE, and Jay and his assistant, Phillipe (free lancing, working occasionally with Al Marsa and Divers Down) had perhaps not been in the area long enough to know that many sites, or they were being conservative with currents and avoided the more difficult sites. For example, at Sheesah Bay, they led two dives on the north and south headlands but didn’t take us on White Rocks offshore, though that rock stood mid-ocean just a few hundred meters off the headland and would likely attract interesting animals (and currents, but liveaboards tend to be patronized by experienced divers - see my logs from the only time I'd dived it before: http://www.vancestevens.com/divelogs/343to344.html).

They bypassed some other good dive sites, like Mother of Mouse for example (Jay told me later it had been trashed by smugglers, who were using it as a base). The smugglers had weapons and sometimes harassed the dive boats, so Al Marsa went no further than Sheesah, and that’s a real shame, because the further north you go toward the Straits of Hormuz, the wilder the diving gets.

So we did two dives on headlands at Sheesah Bay and then headed for Ras Sirkan, but when we encountered red tide there, we continued south to Octopus Rock, which can easily be reached by speed boat on a day trip from Dibba. This is to say that whereas the liveaboard experience was thoroughly enjoyable, the ability to get into the north of Musandam to some very different and infrequently dived sites was capitalized on less than we'd hoped, so the diving was about the same as would have been possible on a speedboat day-trip from Dibba.

But still the diving was quite nice. And we did lots of it, 4 dives the first day including a night dive, and three dives the next. We were of course in great anticipation of our first dive of the series, up at 6:30 for coffee, finding ourselves at anchor in Sheesah Bay, and speedboat ready to take us around the southern point to Ras Khaysa, what a way to spend the morning!

Sept 4, Dive 913 - Ras Khaysa

The dive wasn’t all that interesting though, vis ok but not excellent, and not a lot there apart from some large honeycomb morays and the usual reef fishes. We hit a current that swept us pell mell across the rock face (perhaps one reason Jay wanted to avoid White Rocks later that day). One diver got forced by it into a corner with sharp rocks that bloodied his legs. The part of the dive where we were being barreled along was fun for Bobbi and I but things went by faster than we could absorb our surroundings. The turmoil of the current was perhaps why most divers ran out of air early and had to surface before the 50 min. dive time limit, and Nicki came up with cramping stomache, but Bobbi and I and a Malaysian lady who later told us to be sure and go to Perhentian Island and stay at Flora Bay, stayed down with Jay the full 50 minutes.

Sept 4, Dive 914 - Ras Ahrous

Back on board breakfast was served under the sun shade on the top deck, second dive scheduled for 11:00. That’s when I noticed from my GPS that White Rock was just around the corner, a km away, and I mentioned it to Jay, but he had already prepared a diagram for Ras Ahrous, the north headland of the bay, and besides he thought the currents would be strong at White Rock. So our second dive of the day was pretty much the same as the first. We saw an electric ray in the sand, and a couple of turtles. The reefs were pretty with soft blue corals and teeming with fishes, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Sept 4, Dive 915 - Octopus Rock

Lunch was served on the top deck while the boat steamed south to Ras Sarkan, midway between Shisha and Lima Rock. When we arrived at Ras Sirkan just in time for a 3 pm dive, it turned out to be covered with red tide, putting our leaders in a quandary, since that late in the day, options were limited. I suggested a site nearby I had dived with BSAC called Brenda’s Nipple (sorry, don’t know the story, but see the night dive at http://www.vancestevens.com/divelogs/369-371.htm ;-),

There was red tide present there as well and by now we were heading for Octopus Rock. We arrived there before 4, found red tide there too, but with the sun nearing the ridge line of the mountains to the west, there was no choice but to dive it anyway. There was current here as well, Jay put us in the water in its lee and told us to hug the rock to “hide from the current.” All divers followed instructions and descended together and fortunately visibility turned out to be fairly clear just a few meters down.

Octopus Rock is usually a good dive (BSAC Divers used to call it ‘the Stack’). There are some resident sea horses, our goal for this dive, and Jay took us right to them, showing us two at 25 meters. We then negotiated the caverns playing carefully with the currents which are notorious around Octopus Rock. We had many photographers in our group, and divers with cameras were lagging behind Jay’s lead. Bobbi and I hesitated at one gulley and then another waiting for them to catch up, and the second time was awkward since there was stiff current there. Jay motioned us to head upcurrent to the left so we went on and left the group behind. Sometimes pulling ourselves along on the bottom, we found schools of fishes, blue triggers, big batfish, jacks, snappers, all milling about thick everywhere we looked as we finned hard into current and then headed parallel to it hoping to round the rock and be carried down the other side. It was here that in a place swarming with fish midwater we saw among them a free-swimming electric ray, looking a little out of place among the fishes, but no bigger or smaller than the others, and he was unconcerned when we chose him to follow.

We then rotated more with the current being careful not to be swept off the rock, which I turned toward to round it counter clockwise. We weren’t actually on Octopus Rock however, so as we came up the wall 50 minutes into our dive we ran out of rock at the top. It was at the right depth for a safety stop, so we clung there 3 minutes for our safety stop. I got out my submersible marker buoy but needed an extra hand, one to hold the bottom open, one to interject air by purge from my alternate air source (never again with the main one!) and a third hand to release the reel once the buoy became inflated enough to head smartly to the top. I needed a fourth hand to hold on to the rock in the meantime but Bobbi was helping with that by holding me in place. When our three minutes was up we had to let go and get carried with the current to ascend mid-water. At the surface we saw other divers nearby getting picked up in the speedboat, and Jay was already aboard with those who had run out of air first. They came over as soon as they could, all divers recovered.

Sept 4, Dive 916 - Ras Limah

Our three dives so far that day had all been to 27, 25 meters, but we had our night dive still to go, and back once more on the dhow had to wait an hour for the briefing. It was dusk when we all re-boarded the speedboat to be carried just a hundred meters away on Ras Limah to the drop in point for our night dive, the idea being to end up somewhere near the dhow. We descended in twilight and descended on top of a large honeycomb moray eel, then were soon scouring the bottom for whatever else might be living there. We saw a few more morays and again an electric ray, some parrot fish sleeping concealed in the rocks, but nothing really amazing (some people would find ANY of this amazing, I realize). There is one thing I always like to do on night dives -- Bobbi and I moved off from the others, and then we cut our lights and waved our arms and kicked our fins in the dark water, just to light up our limbs with sparkler phosphorescence.

To commemorate a great day. Bobbi and I showered and fixed ‘moonlighters’. We had missed our traditional ‘sundowners’ in order to be compos mentis for the night dive, but gin and whatever hit the spot with the full mid-Ramadhan moon rising over the cliff we were moored next to, the full moon just visible to us from the railing on which we leaned while sipping. Our dinner buffet was just a few steps away on the top deck. We had wine with that, and went early to bed. Others were feeling as comfortably tired as we were. This was not a late night party boat.

Sept 5, Dive 917 - Lima Rock South Side

The day dawned as the one previous, but the excitement today was in anticipation of seeing whale sharks. We had seen them on our past several dives on Lima Rock:

But we would be disappointed on this day. We blamed Nicki, who had chosen Bobbi and I as her preferred dive buddy for the day, and Nicki blamed Phillipe (got to blame SOMEone! :-)). Seriously, there simply weren’t any whale sharks around, because if they are there, being curious creatures, they come to the divers, and they often arrive at the start of the dive.

We were a bit deep for them, 25 meters or so, for much of the dive. I got to 30 at some point, thinking I had plenty of air, but breathed much of that when we mounted the wall and had to fight current to cut through to the north side of the rock. There were eagle rays there, some mid water, and two down in the sand at 20 meters. I went down to 15 meters to have a closer look despite being right at 50 bar at that point (and this is how I knew they were eagle rays, Jay insisted they were devil rays, I’m pretty sure I was right about these though, I clearly saw their pointed heads and the mottled coloring on their backs – something about the coloring of their heads can appear to be the silver processes of devil rays from a distance, as I had thought at first myself). After watching the rays swim around just off the sand bottom, I angled up and stayed high the rest of the dive, which we ended with a 3 meter safety stop starting 50 minutes into the dive, my needle hovering just off the red at 500 psi.

Bobbi wanted me to mention an interesting crustacean that Nicki found for us on this dive, a lobster out on walkabouts with no claws, a flat carapace at its head. It looked delicious but we all left it alone.

We returned to the dhow for breakfast, and the next dive was brought forward to 10 a.m. since most of us needed to get back to Abu Dhabi that evening (didn’t want to think of it!). At the briefing of our second dive, Jay brought out a diagram of Ras Limah, where we had done our night dive the evening before, but that wasn’t a popular choice, and I suggested Ras Morovi just to the north. On a clear day you can see it from Lima, but it was a destination that some weeks previously the boatman had refused to go to when we had been at Lima with Discover Nomad (too far, not included in the price, he had said, leaving us only Lima dive spots as options: http://vancesdiveblogs.blogspot.com/2009/08/more-whale-sharks-at-lima-rock-in.html).

Today it was no problem, Jay agreed, and we headed there, ten minutes in the speedboat. Ras Morovi has an island to the east off the point with a channel between it and the mainland. Last time I dived there I went to the bay just inside the south headland and we worked our way out around the rocks to the west of the channel and found wonderful teddy bear coral and lots of fish on it. We had turned back from the channel due to currents and returned to the bay. http://vancesdiveblogs.blogspot.com/2009/05/nomad-diving-in-musandam-may-16-2009.html

Sept 5, Dive 918 - Ras Morovi

Today Jay took us to the north side of the island and we started our dive in the channel heading south, diving its east side. The surface current was sweeping north but Jay expected it would diminish at depth and it did. It turned out to be our best dive of the weekend. There were schools of barracuda in the channel (see John's photo at the top of this post). We came on lion fish and scorpion fish and many morays, honeycomb, green, and grey. At one point Jay rounded a rock and startled 4 eagle rays who zoomed from their resting place in the reef out to sea. Jay had barely time to bang on his tank to attract my attention when zap, zap, zap, a delay, and then zap, one more, the big rays passed right in front of us and were gone in a matter of seconds. I was at Jay’s shoulder and Bobbi was right behind me, and of all the divers with us I think we were the only ones who saw them. Nicki, behind Bobbi and fulfilling photographer duties for us, didn’t see them and the rest of the group were behind her, too far back to see.

But Nicki’s powers of observation of smaller things enabled her to find a seahorse in the green whip coral just a little further ahead. Jay had gone left but I had continued straight to peer over a rock wall that plunged ten meters to the sand, hoping to see something big and interesting over the side, and so only those who followed us saw Nicki’s seahorse. No telling what we missed by not following Jay, he was also good at spotting things, but angling up the wall to begin our safety top at 5 meters we found morays and crayfish lobsters there. Nicki photographed one green moray in a broken bit of coral forming a shell, and she asked later if I’d seen the shrimp on it. I hadn’t so I hope she sends us a photo, and we thought this was a pretty good dive.

Picture credit: Nicki Blower

Sept 5, Dive 919- Lima Rock North Side

There was time for lunch, and an hour’s rest before our last dive at 2 pm. This time we would be diving the north side of Lima Rock. I always find this side a bit of a letdown. It’s shallower that the south side, where the boulders are more dramatic. I rarely see much of interest here, though I’ve seen rays this side and once or twice a whale shark (but half a dozen sightings on the south side). There’s always a chance of seeing a whale shark anywhere on Lima, but today it was not going to happen, and we had to be content our last dive with crayfish, lion fish, scorpion fish, and the usual schools of tropical reef fish. Except at the first of the dive Jay managed to find three or four seahorses. He knew where to look (in the sparce green whip corals in the sand at the north west corner at the start of our dive east). Apart from the two we’d seen on Octopus Rock the day before, I’d never before seen more than one on any single dive.

If you like diving and good company this is possibly the most enjoyable weekend available in the UAE. I suppose if I were leading the dives, I’d try and be more adventurous, like Mike Ralph used to be when he was leading dives in the area, but then again how Mike favored divers was not always in the best interests of his employers, except where they benefited from repeat satisfied customers (f there were spare tanks, he let us use them, no charge; he did the dives he himself liked to do, risky sometimes but everyone survived!).

Speaking of repeat, Bobbi and I will surely repeat this trip again, one of these days, when we feel we’ve earned a good pampering, in celebration of something, or when Nicki goads us into it again.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The SHARKS are back, fine diving returns to Dibba with logged dives 909 to 912, August 28-29, 2009 - Freestyle

Bobbi and I took Nini diving for her first dive of my course and our first dive off Dibba Rock in some time. Dibba Rock used to be our favorite dive site but then it was hit by cyclone Gonu, where a lot of the coral was churned up and deposited on the beach, and then by the red tide earlier this year, which choked a lot of the life out of the ocean there. So we didn’t know what to expect and were very pleasantly surprised!

Dive 909 - The sharks are back. We saw lots of sharks our first dive this day, running rampant on the reef. We just hung out under a school of barracuda and enjoyed their comings and goings. There were lots of turtles too, some with remora fish on their shells (what the remora were getting out of it, no telling). There were cuttlefish in many places on the reef, and big jacks passing through. Everyone coming up to the surface was going on about what a great dive it was. Someone with a huge camera was showing his pictures. I asked him how many sharks he saw. Sharks? He didn’t see any, he said (a down side to underwater photography). Nini was quite lucky to have such a great first dive on Dibba. Her air lasted 42 minutes, which was fine since we’d seen plenty, 7 meters depth.

Dive 910
- That was the noon dive. On the 3 pm dive we approached the reef from the western mooring, stopping beforehand to get Nini’s dive #2 skills out of the way. Once on the reef it was a little harder to see the animals because of the angle of the sun on the suspended matter, it seemed cloudy compared to the relative clarity of the noon dive. Still we saw a few of the same animals as before. Air was better this time. Nini and I registered 53 minutes, though Bobbi had 58 because she had waited on the bottom when Nini and I had gone to the surface at the start of the dive.

Back in shore, Nini and I worked a little on her module 4 confined water skills, but she was getting tired and flustered and we decided to continue in the morning with a fresh start.

At the Seaside we discovered a nice Pilipino restaurant right near the residence. We had to go there to order but they brought the food up and we got to bed early after a few refreshing beverages.

29 Aug 2009

We told Nini she could wake us up if she was serious about wanting to do her skills before a nine o’clock dive the next morning, and at 6:15 she was knocking on our door. By 7 we had had our coffee and by 7:30 we were kitting for confined water just offshore. Nini is persistent and always progressing in overcoming phobias in diving but there is one she continues to have trouble with, taking a mask off, swimming without it, and replacing it. It’s one that Bobbi stopped on as well. I often say that I have a lot of respect for people for whom diving is not easy who overcome their hardships, and I’m sure that Nini is one of those (and a few hundred dives later, Bobbi is diving with the best of them now).

But this day, though we even moved to the swimming pool, we could not get through that one skill. Options were to persist and skip the nine a.m. dive, or treat the 9 a.m. dive as a fun dive and worry about the hard part later. I recommended the latter. I think it’s important that diving be fun. I think hard skills will become easier once the student has more experience and is task loading less, and it’s best to associate the sport with fun and leave the hard parts for when the student is ready.

Nini liked that idea and without having to worry about stressing over skills, she became a perfect diver, comfortable in the water, with Bobbi and I the whole way.

Dive 911 - Our first dive of the day was off the western mooring, so we came quickly on the reef, but this morning didn’t see all the animals we had seen the day before. We saw the barracuda but no sharks until we were down at the part of the reef where the turtles hang out. We were slightly naughty, diving for more than an hour.

Dive 912 - The second dive we went to the eastern mooring and decided to head for the back side, but first Nini and did an CESA, which went well. Back down we finned to the north east through the boulder area and then in the shallows where we go over the reef and then descend in layers to the sand at 15 meters. Nini came down each level with no problem at all, and in the sand some distance off the reef we found a brown mottled sting raw resting, but as we descended on it, it gathered up its skirts and ruffled off from us, dancing as it went. We headed back to the wall , looking for jawfish in the sand, found none, and ascended up the wall, finding different kinds of fish than we see on the coral.

I thought we had rounded the rock and I was taking us into the aquarium area at the northwest corner of the rock. As we ascended and headed as we thought to round the rock, Nini started to rise and we ended up at the surface, which was a good thing because we saw that we were in fact still on the eastern side of the rock. We would still head shallow now, but with the rock on our right, not on our left. It was a different dive plan.

Essentially we were going back the way we had come at the start of the dive. I was having a bit of trouble locating the good reef from that direction. We were always shallow so It was easy to surface and check from time to time. Eventually I came to a point where I wasn’t sure of the direction but I heard the clacking, so I chose west, and this took us onto the raspberry coral with its turtles and sharks. Actually we didn’t see that many sharks so I kept us down for over an hour again until I saw one at the very end of the dive.

We lasted 63 minutes this time, same depth, stretching slightly Garith’s request that we keep it to 50 min 50 bar. I like it that Freestyle are not adamant about that, though Garith does specify in his briefings now that an hour and a half is too long, so we try to come up before then.

Some lovely diving this weekend, nice to see the animals back at Dibba Rock.