Saturday, January 28, 2012

Finished PADI Advanced o/w course with Luke Ingles in Musandam with Nomad, Jan 27, 2012 - and Dibba Rock from Freestyle Jan 28

My logged dives #1107-1109

After our diving was aborted by bad weather (or expectation of bad weather) the previous week, Luke and I returned to Nomad with Nicki in tow, Bobbi stayed sick in bed. We did a multilevel dive our first dive.  We planned a 30 meter dive for 15 min, to come up to 20 meters for 10, and then finish out the dive above 16, but in actual fact we did this on our first dive at Ras Morovi:

We entered the water at 12:33
  • We dove only to 75 ft (22 m) for 30  minutes to accumulate nitrogen up to PG Q
  • We then came up to 50 ft (16m) for 15  minutes to  accumulate nitrogen up to PG V
  • And we finished above 40 ft 12 meters for 11 minutes to emerge (after a safety stop at 5 m) in PG X
The dive wasn't phenomenal.  We were last in the water, Ivor shepherding some open water students and photographers so we had no one to guide us to the deep spot at 30 meters where the barracuda hang out.  Luke, Nicki and I plunged as far as we could but reached only 22 meters where I didn't see the tell-tale sea grasses I was supposed to be watching for. So we worked our way back up the channel where Nicki started finding stuff. First she found some neat miniature crabs in some anemonae.  Then she discovered a flounder (sole) in the sand and not long after that a scorpion fish.  We both saw the turtle at the same time.  It was Luke's first time to see a turtle, though I've seen that particular one before, a small one with barnacles on its back.  He's young and likes to move fast in the water.

The second dive was across the bay at Lulu Island. This was one where we start inside Lulu Island and round the point and then head east.  It's a cool navigation exercise since after 10 min we arrive at these looming submerged rocks, swirling with trevali and other interesting fish. We didn't see much on this one, a moray on the way over, another scorpion fish.  We came up the back side and crossing the saddle to the inside of the crescent which these islands form we hit stiff current, very stiff.  I was already coughing since it's winter here, the water is 23 degrees (5 mm wetsuit helps :-) and I'm getting over a cold.  But with the current, exertion, coughing, I was low on air at 40 min.  Luke too, the two of us came up together, though I popped back down to see what Nicki was up to at 5 m, not much from what I could see.

For the record, on this dive
  • we descended at 14:45 after 1 hour 12 min surface interval as G divers
  • Dived at 16 meters for 42 minutes (47 min NDL)
We were  very glad we didn't dip below 16 meters at any point during the dive because then we would have had only 34 min NDL and such a dive might have posed serious health risks.

It was a cold boat ride back to Nomad but Luke and I were prepared for it with lots of layers of wrap.  It was relaxing.  Back at Nomad's homey hostel, Luke and I went for a run up the road to the Golden Tulip and then returned on the beach, a lovely sunset run dodging waves lapping.  On arrival back at the hostel, someone handed me a welcome beverage and I never showered from the run, just sat until dinner time enjoying the company, enjoying the company after dinner, doing a round on guitar, nodding off at the table, finally going to bed just after midnight, and sleeping till 8:40 a.m.

We had booked in at Freestyle for a boat ride out to Dibba Rock at 9:00 but at our breakfast table at Nomad I checked an email from them that said they were doing an expedition south in their only boat, but we were welcome to come and shore dive, so that's what Luke and I did.  We got there at around 10:30 after espresso and croissants at Nomad, found a gorgeous day with calm clear seas, walked Luke through his last remaining advanced navigation dive on dry land, kitted up and hit the water for the long swim out on a 30 degree heading.  We were doing fine until we neared the island and picked up a noticeable current that started sweeping us west.  I told Luke we should descend and continue underwater, our only hope of not being swept off the site entirely.

We descended and found ourselves trying to tack north by facing east and keeping ourselves crabbing toward the reef to the north. It was hard work trying to insinuate ourselves onto the reef that way and not get hammered off it, as the current was trying to do.  However as I worked my way onto the reef I was rewarded by the sight of half a dozen devil rays swooping overhead.  I looked back toward Luke but there were only bubbles.  Up ahead a turtle veered off the reef, again Luke a bit too far behind.  I clawed my way onto the reef hand over hand grabbing whatever boulders I could find.  Another turtle darted overhead.  I found a sandy patch and waited for Luke. When he arrived I pulled out a slate and wrote on it, "6 devil rays, 2 turtles."

But this was not easy diving, and how were we going to do any navigation work in this current?  I thought the only way was to get into the lee of the island.  That would be to the north. I wrote on the slate and handed it to Luke "must go north."

I moved in that direction heading my body almost east, tracking to the north, just kicking myself into the current and letting the current move me north.  A shark came into view.  I turned to look for Luke, again trailing behind.  I stopped and added to the slate, "1 shark".  When Luke caught up I showed it to him.

Amazingly the shark came back.  I saw it at the edge of vision where the shark moved, difficult to see if you weren't accustomed to their movements.  Luke peered that way.  The shark kept in view, circling us.  Eventually he turned our way and I went his.  He was in plain view now, Luke saw it, his first ever in the wild.

When the shark passed we continued north and soon arrived at the Aquarium in the lee of the current, and here we were able to conduct our navigation exercises.  Luke did fine, but all the exertion had taken us below 100 bar. We still had to get back to shore, many hundred meters the way we had come.  I wrote on the slate "home = 210 degrees".

We headed back that way but I deviated to follow the reef. The entire dive we were shallower than 10 meters. Overhead a devil ray passed and Luke saw that one.  There were lots of other fish, like giant puffers, but no more really salient creatures.  We reached the end of the reef and headed out over the sand.  When Luke ran low on air we surfaced.  Up top we were caught in the sideways current and had to fin at an angle toward our destination, partly against the current.  But the closer we got to shore the more the current relented.  Our only problem here was the bloom of jelly fish, small ones, most of whom were benign.  Occasionally one would get caught in a mask strap or get trapped in our lips or neck and caused minor annoyance.  But we made it back ok, interesting diving, truly advanced.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Started PADI Advanced o/w course with Luke Ingles in Musandam with Nomad, Jan 20, 2012

My logged dives #1105-1106

It was just Luke and I, Luke driving, as we set out on Maroor Road in Abu Dhabi just before 7 a.m. and arrived at Nomad Ocean Adventure just after 10 a.m.  We got Luke a 5 mm wetsuit and before heading for the harbor we plotted a multilevel profile on the giant presentation wheel at NOA which Luke would execute on his first advanced deep dive.

The profile was
  • 27 meters for 20 minutes
  • 18 meters for 10 minutes
  • 18 meters for 40 minutes is allowed, but we decided to limit ourselves to 20 min at 12 meters
    which would put us in W pressure group
In the event, we didn't have enough air for a 50 min dive including some time at 27 meters, and we came up from the first dive at 40 minutes, or 43 including the safety stop at 5 meters. But since we didn't have a wheel with us and couldn't recalculate, we went with the conservative measure and used that to calculate how long we could stay down on our next dive.  If we had a 2 hour surface interval and limited our next dive to 16 meters we would have 59 min dive time. As it turned out we went down with only 1:45 min surface interval which I realized as we were descending on the second dive.  But we were carrying tables with us and were able to recalculate as we descended that after surfacing from a first dive as W divers, with a 1:45 min surface interval, we would be ok at 16 meters with 55 min dive time.

I'm really cheeved at PADI for discontinuing production of the wheel, a remarkably versatile instrument for such situations.  The new electronic planner can't be taken underwater so it's impossible for beginners to recalculate on the fly underwater unless they are carrying computers, in which case no recalculations necessary. But there is great value I think in knowing how close you are to DCS, and in being able to visualize that, whether you have a computer or not.  Of course my computer was mostly showing 99 minutes of no-deco time on these dives, but if you're diving tables, then an electronic dive planner that can't be taken with you in the water is a really poor replacement for tables and wheels.

So much for the technicalities of our diving.  The dives themselves were not great but were pleasant and replete with fish.  On the first dive at Ras Sarkan we saw a large cow-tail ray trying to hide out in the sand.  The others on the boat saw turtles.  On the second dive at Lima Rock we saw not much more than a moray eel plus the other fish you normally see there, triggers, batfish, snappers, trevali, etc.  Vis wasn't great, the water was cool, but with 5 mm wetsuits we were fine. It was much colder up on the boat.

Seas were calm but skies were overcast.  That night it rained, and it was drizzling in the morning so the gear we cleaned and left out to dry stayed wet.  I had an email from Freestyle telling me they had cancelled their Inchcape trip for Saturday due to expected bad weather.  We assumed the UAE coast guard had restricted boating.  The Omanis don't impose such controls for Musandam but Nomad weren't going out either, except maybe to the caves, so Luke and I decided to make the best of a less than perfect situation and get home and do things we needed to get done back in the real world.  We re-booked our dives for the following weekend and headed back to Abu Dhabi.

To be continued (next week) ...