We got a call from AB at Nomad Ocean Adventure as we were leaving the house on Thursday to head down early and meet some dive students. He wanted to inform us of the developing weather situation. The north of Musandam was experiencing rough seas and boats were not putting out from Dibba harbor that day. Local weather sources were reporting as much but the usually trusty Windguru raised no alarms, as in this view from earlier that morning:
We were looking forward to the weekend, meeting 4 students there that night, and if worse came to worse we could do pool modules all day Friday. Nomad said the storm was due to diminish by mid-day and perhaps we could take a boat out then. I sent email to my divers and Bobbi and I hit the road for Dibba. We took the way from Shuweib to Madan to Dhaid, and except for wind blowing sand across the highway, blocking one lane for a long stretch and reducing visibility, we missed the traffic on the 311 Sharjah and reached Dibba through the scenic mountain pass from Masafi in 2:45 minutes from Al Ain, a comfortable drive.
Our students had rental car insurance hassles and didn't arrive till 10 pm. By then most divers had cancelled including all the fun divers in our party, except Daniel Sobrado who was coming with his Spanish friends Alfredo and Rodrigo, to whom he'd referred me as a dive instructor, along with Roula from Lebanon and Jihaine from Tunisia. These all worked together at the same bank and would be my students for the weekend. It didn't look like diving would happen next morning (Brad was going down at 5 a.m. to check with the coast guard, and when he got there he called the group from Dubai and told them to forget it).
So our group met at 7:30 for breakfast and briefing. We would try to get three modules in by noon and see if we could go out in a boat then. That turned out to be impossible since the weather was still rough in the north by then, so we made a long day of it in the pool. We were finally in the water around 9:00. There was no rush, and with 4 divers at different ability levels, delays can be expected. With the extra time, we made sure everyone had plenty of space to accomplish the skills successfully. We finished module 2 in time for lunch, and what happens after lunch? Siesta :-) We were in no hurry. We knocked off module three that afternoon. The group was willing to continue but it was getting dark, and frankly, we were all tired. We decided to relax over dinner.
We met again at 7:30 next morning to see if we could do module 4 but only managed the underwater part, no time for the surface work before we had to get ready and go diving at 9:30. In the event we got off to an only slightly late start and cruised in fairly smooth seas all the way to Ras Morovi. There we found plankton and green, murky water, so AB recommended we move down to Lulu Island for our first open water dive of the course. This is sometimes a challenge for many students. The water was colder than expected, and ear and buoyancy problems kept us in the shallows for the first ten minutes, while poor visibility split our group temporarily (but AB is an instructor, they were with him, and he returned them safe and sound). We eventually got our dive in, all of us underdressed, me in lycra and rash vest, and the two guys in shorties, so it was cold, visibility poor, but there were moray eels, and fusiliers and jacks as we rounded the island south to north, and the group stayed together and ascended well.
I didn't take any videos on that dive and I changed into 5 mm for the next one, which we did after a surface interval that included a 30-min siesta on the boat in the sheltered waters off Lima headland north. Everyone found a place to stretch out it seemed until AB barged forward and brought us out of our dreams. He offered us our choice of spots, so I selected Lima Rock north, so AB would have a chance to see the big fish with the initials WS, and Daniel could dive with him and maybe see it too. I checked the current on snorkel before agreeing to the spot, but the depth here was not ideal for our group of beginners, as sand there begins at 11 meters, and we would have to go there to do our skills. All divers had made it that deep on the first dive, but ear problems forced one to stay shallower than that on the second one, so in the end I took the three to the sand who could make it there and will plan a shallower dive for the other next time.
We didn't see the big fish with the initials WS but we found better visibility and more life on Lima Rock. I found a crawfish in a cave as we were descending, and Bobbi found a couple of cuttlefish that didn't mind us coming close and filming. There were lion fish and moray eels, and while doing skills with one of the students, I saw a disc move into view just at the edge of my vis and settle on the sand, looked like a ray of some kind. I finned to check it out and found a torpedo ray (these are electric and will jolt you if touched). He moved about and rippled around for me and this rounded out our videos.
It's only the second time I've not been able to complete a course at Nomad due to weather in many years of working with them, but I'm looking forward to having this group back in a couple of weeks, and signing them off as open water divers.