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Vance's Personal Dive Log for the year 2006

Vance Stevens, P.A.D.I. Open Water SCUBA Instructor #64181

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Diving with Jenny in the People's Republic of China, Hainan, January 2006

Date Logged Dive # Location Diving with Trainees and buddies
January 14, 2006 707-708 Sanya, Hainan, P.R.China William Divers, Jenny and a local divemaster I traveled to Hainan to try out the diving there. Hainan is the place to go in China, a southernmost tropical point in a country largely gripped by winter in January. The day I arrived I was shown a hotel beachside center where hoards of Chinese customers were being herded into try-dives. As I had some experience, I was offered a place on a boat with other experienced divers, but the crowded conditions and inflated price, over $100 for two tanks, didn't appeal. That evening I checked on the Internet for the reaction of others who'd dived Hainan and read some horror stories about poor vis, poor gear, and divemasters breaking coral and handling the animals. So I slept past the $100 boat departure and was planning to leave town next day without diving when out looking for breakfast I came across the William shop pictured above. The folks there were willing to take just me diving at my convenience from a beach not in Sanya itself, and the cost though not cheap, was 2/3 the price of the hotel cattle car operation. So I was assigned Jenny (in the picture) who arranged the boat and divemaster at the nearby beach.

We made two dives. The first was in abominable vis, and in a stiff current the divemaster decided to have us swim against at about 12 meters depth. Fortunately the three of us were highly competent and managed to stay together while making progress into the current, but we saw almost no fish and not much of interest at all, and it was cold and I was glad when 45 min later the divemaster signalled we should ascend with 100 bar left. We returned to shore where Jenny introduced me to a friend who worked at one of the beachside restaurants and I was given a coconut to drink and eat, no charge. Then we rejoined the boat and the divemaster took us to a point on the opposite side of the bay we'd dived before. Here the vis was marginally better and there were a few of the typical reef fishes. Still it was not a particularly stimulating dive until at the very end we encountered a big fish that turned out to be a baraccuda who had a few dozen friends who kept circling us at the top of the reef, though we could only make them out as they swept within a couple of meters of us. Well, it was fun and it gave me a glimpse of Chinese diving. William was a good PADI shop, well equipped, and followed the best of standard practices as far as I could see, well geared to the lone diver, and recommended if you're going to dive Hainan.
January 25, 2006 709-710 Nha Trang, Vietnam Coco Divers My book warned that diving was not good in Nha Trang into early January, but now it was end of January, and I had my eye on the weather once I had reached this far south in Vietnam. The wind was whipping and the waves were big, with white caps visible the day I arrived in Nha Trang. But at the dive shop they said the vis was ten meters and I booked for the next day. The diving was inexpensive, about $35 with entry to the nature reserve, and included breakfast and lunch at the shop in town before and after diving. From the shop they took us to the port where sturdy boats were departing loaded with tanks and divers. All seemed headed for the same destination, a bay of an island out of the wind. I was buddied with an instructor and we descended into vis so poor that I put a finger on his tank so as not to lose him. We went down to 20 meters or so but there was no improvement, and my guide signaled us to surface. I think he wanted to regroup and move to a different place but the boat had already moved to the bay downcurrent from us and the other divers were who-knew-where so we re-descended and made do. The current and surge were bad and I don't recall much of interest on the dive. We two instructors at least managed to have a dive, but another diver cut his hand when he got washed into a cave, and a guy named Javi from Spain seemed a bit put off at the idea of making a second dive there. Which we did anyway, since we'd paid for it. We motored across the bay and went for our second dive in marginally better vis. However, there was nothing to see here either and it was fine with me when the dive ended. Apparently we HAD hit a bad day. One group of snorkelers with us said the vis had been great a few days before.
February 10, 2006 711-712 Back home in Abu Dhabi, Old Cement Barge and Bateen Box (outside Breakwater) Arabian Divers, Osman at the helm Nice day out diving, Alisha Choquette's first two PADI Open Water training dives and Dan Batson's Advanced Open Water Wreck and Underwater Navigation dives. Our first dive was the cement barge wreck. There were divers down when we arrived, Greg on the Argentina, so we attempted to drop anchor in the sand off the wreck but on descent found the anchor to be on the metal near the stern and playing out to the east. Dan oriented on the wreck and we headed north along the east side to the bow, touching 11 meters in the process (high tide). There we measured out 30 m. of line to the west to give Dan a preview of what that distance was in time and kick cycles (26 for me). We found a chunk of rock at the end of the line and I upturned it. Must remember that route again in case I want to take other divers there for a compass nav exercise. As you head west off the bow you pass a couple of rounded coral chunks to your left and some hose to your right before coming on the upright rock 26 kicks later. After that we finned south toward the stern, dropping over the gunwales to the inside of the ship and reminding ourselves where the anchor was. At the stern I had Dan lead us on a south heading over the sand. He went farther than 30 meters but managed to return to the stern ok. After that we communed with the batfish and at 38 min. into the dive headed up the anchor line for our 3 min safety stop. My computer went out right as we began our stop, Err on the display, so Dan timed us on the stop and we ascended to Osman's coffee and bikkies.

We then went to the breakwater, Bateen Box. Vis on the wreck had been limited, just a few meters, but at the b/water we could see the bottom distinctly from the boat. Winds were calm but a tidal current was beginning. Alicia and I kitted first and went down on the shot line Osman had dropped for us and we ascended twice in CESA exercise. Dan was then to join us but he couldn't find his new integrated weights. He had complained of being bouyant at the end of the previous dive and now we knew why. Osman called Greg on his mobile and found that his divers had recovered the weights and were heading back to port. Sure, they could drop them by our location. Alicia and I did surface exercises while waiting for Greg's boat to pull alongside ours and return Dan's weights. Talk about service!

We all entered the water and finned to the bateen box. I had Alicia do her OW Dive #2 exercises there and then got Dan to do a square pattern. The current was noticeable in the 3rd leg and on the 4th we found ourselves swept past the box about halfway into the 30 meters. Dan had been on track though so we congratulated him and continued on our dive. I had decided we'd try and head upcurrent and if that was not possible we'd surface and I'd get my SMB which Osman had got from my bag for me (by good BCD was being serviced and the one I was using didn't have rings for clipping in my usual panoply of reels and etc). The current was stiff against us as we moved around the point but it was bringing in the fish life and water clarity was good so we kept at it. We found half a dozen brown delta shaped rays half buried in the sand and the impressions of several others. It was hard to distinguish the actual rays from their impressions except that the rays had a bulbous bit at the back and their eyes blinked. Apart from that the only way to really tell was to run a hand under the skirt. The rays tolerated that nicely, and even allowed us to scrape some sand off to see some coloring. I think I'll call them ostrich rays because they really believe if their heads are in the sand they must be invisible no matter what is goosing them. Apart from the interesting reef fish life, banners, snappers, angels, etc. and the rays, we came on a school of a couple dozen batfish. These are big, friendly and graceful fish, and seen together are truly beautiful. So we were pretty happy with our dive this day on the breakwater. 40 min into it with air just then dipping into two digit bar, we turned and half-drifted back to the boat anchor, where I had Alicia go out of air and surface with me on alternate air source. Our dive time was around 50 min (less than 10 meters)
Thursday 09 March 2006 713-714 Abu Dhabi, Delta Buoy and Bateen Box (outside Breakwater) Arabian Divers, Osman at the helm Day 2. Thursday 09 March 2006 Weather Sunny and warm. Wind The wind will be light southeasterly at 5-8 knots at first, becoming a moderate northwesterly of 10 – 13 knots later in the afternoon. Temperature Max 29°C Sea State 1 - 2 feet inshore and 2 - 4 feet offshore.

Alisha Choquette's final two PADI Open Water training dives for CERTIFICATIONand Dan Batson's Advanced Open Water Boat and Underwater Naturalist dives.

Delta Buoy was a great dive today. Vis was decent, I spotted the site a little near the buoy so down the anchor went to the north but thought it might be to the northeast a bit. I was right, it was. Just north of the the anchor there was a pipe with a knot at one end pointing the way back to the anchor, and north of that (following compass rather than instinct; either would have got me there but only one way to get me back) a sandy area with a ridge just starting to the east. I followed that and soon entered the gully I was looking for, 10.5 meters.

We had seen our first sea snake by the anchor while Alisha was doing her skills. The snake, perhaps really a poison eel judging from the fin along its body, meandered into what it hoped might be holes all around us, coming quite near, but otherwise completely ignoring us, eventually moving off. As we entered the gully we found ourselves surrounded by young barracuda shoaling left while yellow snappers schooled right in a swirl about us. The yellow theme was picked up by the black spotted grunts and black/yellow striped bream, and the angelfish with the yellow splotch on the tailfin. Big hamour raced ahead and along the ridges of the gulley till we came to the sandy patch at the end and the family all turned out to greet us, big papa positioning himself before us in the sand, the family all milling about nearer the rocks. A puffer hovered overhead and then a big lone tuna came into view, deliberately on the prowl. We saw another snake eel and then a true snake with black and beige banding. Vis was good and it was a cracking dive. We ended by retracing out the gulley till it ended, then heading south over the sand to the pipe that pointed the way to the anchor. At that moment Alisha showed me 50 bar and I pointed ahead, as the anchor was just then coming into view. At 50 min I had the pair practice buddy breathing up the line. We stopped at 5 meters and did an advanced dive safety stop (each on his/her own reg).

The slight swell was getting to my students and we opted to do the second dive at the breakwater. Vis was poorer here though water temp was a slightly warmer 23. The rays from last time had moved on and there were no bat fish. High tide had been at 8 and we were 2 and a half hours into the slack, so we decided not to fight the current around the point but went back along the wall past the box and then back to the box where I'd left a weight, from Alisha's belt, to help her with her hovering. 55 min into the dive we started our ascent from just 6-7 meters, did a token safety stop, then continued to surface near the boat.
April 4, 5, 6th, 2006 715-720 Sabang, Mindoro, Philippines Geert, owner of Triton Divers On Sunday April 2 I was in Malolos just north of Manilla for Neil and Connie's wedding and Monday I made slow progress with them with a long stop at Connie's sister's in Manila and finally took a bus to Batangas, stayed at Traveler's Rest next to the Other Place where I wolfed down 2 dozen mussels for just 90 pesos, not even $2, and about that much worth of beer, three of them. First thing in the morning I was at the harbor for the 8:15 benga to Sabang, and after taking the little shack with a porch over the lapping water at the very end of the catwalk at the far east end of the beach, 700 a night ($12), and grabbing my mask, fins, wetsuit, everything but my bathing suit in fact, but no matter, I walked the ten min to the other end of the beach through the familiar, friendly little waterfront town, and arrived at Triton Divers where I found Geert with no customers, so he said, let's go diving, and we did for the next three days.

We did the familar spots, me always following Geert. He always asked where I wanted to go, but I just said wherever you want. I figured wherever he would enjoy it would work for me. I don't remember the names of the spots except the Canyon of the northeast point seemed to figure into most of our dives. That was our morning destination, and sometimes we swung by on the afternoon dives, doing as many as 4 'sites' on a single dive. My favorite place is always shark cave. I wouldn't have minded passing by on every dive, but we only dropped in once. Bonus, there were two sharks inside, the big 2.5 meter one and a smaller 1 meter one, both just resting. On our way to depth I peeked in another overhang and there was a shark in there too. On one of our dives, we dropped in right over a school of tuna that swirled about us on the way down. Even Geert was impressed. Other than that we found a couple of sea snakes, a crocodile fish, lots of nudbranchs and other colorful slugs. New to me were the mantis shrimp. There were a few currents, and we nudged deco now and then, but mostly they were just fun, easy dives, refreshing 26-27 degree water, usually hitting 30 meters or so then working our way up through the big fish stations at the canyon, maybe ducking through the hole in the wall, then wrapping up in the shallow waters along the reef admiring the many triggers, nice clown triggers there and big emperors? can't remember, the aggressive ones.

One day I drummed up some business for Geert. I got William and Kim, Neil's kids, to do a discover diving session with Geert, and the two of us took them beneath the boats in the harbor to some coral bommies at 10 meters-ish. Wasn't all that exciting but always nice working with students, and what else is there to do in Sabang but dive?
April 13-14, 2006 721-724 Martini Bay, Martini Rock, Shark Island 7 Seas, Elias one day and Triciana next This weekend I did a complete 2+ day O/W course for David Hunt, son of a colleague of one of my former students who had recommended me to him. David came to my house the Monday before and watched the first DVD, having read the first module in the book. He took the first quiz and we went over equipment assembly, and he took the DVD off with him and watched the next two modules at home. Apart from that, the entire course was conducted over the weekend in Khor Fakkan.

We started out at 6 in the morning on the drive across the UAE. I went over the academics for modules 2 and 3 in the car and David read over the book and took the two quizzes before we reached 7 Seas dive center. We went by boat to Martini Bay where we found excellent conditions for confined water training. We did the skills for Module 1 in the shallows there and then returned to shore and dis-assembled and re-assembled the same tanks. We then did our first o/w dive as a shore dive from the shallows along the cove wall almost to Martini Rock. We saw brown and white morays foraging in the rocks, and a large school of barracuda at 8 meters. I kept the dive time to 30 min so we'd have air for the next 2 confined water modules.

On surfacing we found that our boat had left to bring tourists from the port but Mhmd was neaby with Kathleen and Peter and Allistair so they came and got us and took us to shore, where David and I did the skills for the next two modules in the calm, clear water off the beach, returning to shore in between to exchange tanks, esp. since mine had more air. Bobbi, who had accompanied us on our first dive, had stayed with Mohammed's boat and when we surfaced from our confined work, there was no boat around. We were making our way back to the beach when Elias reappeared with our boat with Bobbi and a German tourist, a lady who it turned out had aborted her first dive, but her husband (Manfried) had gone with Mhmd on a checkout dive and was still down with him. Back on board the boat, we went to collect Manfried with plans to all dive Martini Rock. When we got him back on the boat, Manfried wanted to wait an hour till his next dive, not convenient for us, and there was a language problem at first but Peter passed by in the water to translate and we agreed to commence our dive on Martini Rock as soon as Manfried had smoked his cigarette. We calculated that is dive with Mhmd, 14 meters for 25 min, had put him in about the same pressure group as David and I, with our earlier dive plus our three brief training modules, as Peter had explained in German to Manfried.

The Martini Rock dive was quite nice. I planned a 16 meter max dive calculating that we could stay for 41 min. As usual for Martini rock, it was covered in moray eels and scorpion fish, and green and yellow and purple corals. We perused the canyons, where I had David do his Module 2 skills, with feathery rainbow wrasse flitting overhead. On exiting the canyon we came on a turtle and I was able to get above and behind it and follow it closely out of its vision. At the deep end we found pipe fish in the sand, and there was a pair of large nudibranchs crawling in the anenomaes. We continued around the rock through a shoal of snapper where David signalled low on air, and we began our ascent after about half an hour down. We had a prolonged safety stop at the top of the rock where the purple coral atop the rock was especially beautiful.

After cleaning gear we checked in at the Youth Hostel. David watched the module 4 DVD there and module 5 at dinner at the Yacht Club in Fujairah where we'd gone on a "happy" bus that Kathleen had arranged for us. Once back at the hostel, Bobbi and I went to sleep but David took his module 4 and 5 quizzes before bed and we went over them in the morning. Mohammed again provided us our own boat accompanied by a pair of French tourists out for snorkeling. David and I started with our swim test in Martini Cove and then went to the beach for Module 4 and 5 training and skin diving. We consumed almost a whole tank in the two confined water shore dives, so we might have been down 40 min in total, including chasing a turtle with a remora under it, and while the boat was at anchor in 7 meters we did our CESA there. We then moved to Martini Rock and did a very nice dive there, taking David to18 meters this time, diving 40 min I believe, seeing more morays, pipe fish, scorpion fish, lion fish, etc. etc.

There were a lot of divers at the surface when we came up, all excited because someone had just spotted a whale shark. We drifted far from the boat looking for it, and Mhmd came and got us and took us back to our boat, still moored at Martini Rock. We then moved over to Shark Island and dropped in at the southeast point for a one-way trip along the south facing rocks. Vis was better than usual there, esp. considering that they are extending the harbor, and the animals appeared in schools, with one part of the dive dominated by coronet fish, another with a dozen puffers milling about overhead, and toward the end, a trio of cuttlefish appeared. We ended in the shallows, 50 min at about 12 meters max. The BEST part of the dive for Bobbi and I was after ascent, snorkeling at the surface, at the southwest point, where we saw three 2-meter large black tip reef sharks zipping about in just a meter of water right close to the island. They moved fast but we could keep them in sight for seconds at a stretch, and in their random movements they sometimes came right at us before veering off, not aggressive, just curious. They are often sighted there (by snorkelers).
April 21, 2006 725-726 Damaniyites Damaniyite Divers, Al Sawadi Beach I had gone to Muscat Wed for a conference and Bobbi had taken the bus down Thu and joined me at the Best Western right across from the Hyatt in tranquil Shatt al Qurum, Muscat. I had a jog there in the a.m. enjoying the bird sounds and greenery and return run up the beach, which they've left as is, unlike what they do to nature in the UAE. I went to SQU, gave a paper, had a drink or two with Eric Baber and Roland Sussex, returned to the Uni for dinner with Ali and Misbah Naqvi, and then Bobbi and I went on the the Suweiq Motel which we expected they'd be holding open for us since we arrived so late at night. NOT. The place was jumping. The parking lot was packed with Toyota pickups as well as smarter vehicles. The sound of music could be heard far and wide, including in the rooms, from the TWO night clubs there catering one to Hindis and one to Arab local gentlemen. It was too hot to camp, we'd brought a fan for white noise, and we slept fine in our room after partaking of a beverage at only a riyal for a tall can, while watching heavily made up Arab ladies (obviously not from Oman) with bare midrifs gyrate to an electonically enabled organ grinder. It was an interesting experience.

Next morning we drove 4 roundabouts back to Al Sawadi Beach Resort, stopping for dal and sobsi parota and instant coffee at a poor excuse for a restaurant along the roadside. Soon we were in a boat full of cliquish Italians and more friendly Swiss, French, and Brits. It didn't matter who we were with because Bobbi and I did all our dives together. The divemaster Said gave decent briefings including general direction he intended to take the Italians so we knew where we should come up and when, after an hour (I'm so glad I don't do this kind of diving with BSAC, who always surface at 50 min.). Bobbi and I know the sites, and we're compatible in air and what we like to see and do in the water, so just me and her make a very compatible buddy pair for a pleasant day of diving, no students for a change.

Except that it was cold, 24 degrees at worst, warmer above the thermoclines. We kept both dives to under 20 meters. The first one on the small island to the west of the one with the beach (what we used to call Jed, but the DM had a different name for it), had better vis than the back of Jun, our second dive. We saw similar animals on both dives: a black and white sea snake, some cuttlefish, a half a dozen or more big honeycombed morays, one exposed under a ledge, others in cabbage coral, several yellow mouthed grey morays, a turtle on the second dive, lots of blue trigger fish, big sweet lips, clouds of reef fish all over the walls,blue crayfish poking out of lairs in the rocks, a big black bull ray on each dive. The first ray wandered off when we parked ourselves in front of it, but came back to check us out and parked itself in front of me. I ran my hand under it and it swam off. Disappointingly no leopard sharks on these two dives, but snorkelers reported seeing black tips.

On the second dive, east end of Jun, we came on a dozen large concrete or ceramic inverted pots dumped or planted there. They make a good landmark. If seen again head south east over the coral gardens to find deeper water on the other side where leopard sharks sometimes hang out.
April 27, 2006 727 Dibba Rock Freestyle Divers After all these years, they have finally got two dive shops right opposite Dibba Rock, and it's possible now to leave Abu Dhabi by around ten and go for a dive at three from either, if you can book space to accommodate your schedule. Freestyle were happy to have us, and we were pleasantly surprised at the quality of the operation, and the possibility of renting modern comfortable rooms there at divers' rates, and sedating urchin and jellyfish stings with palliative liquids from the off licence there, which we patronized anyway before heading off to the youth hostel.

The diving at the Rock was its usual great. Besides Bobbi and I we had Jason, a dive gypsy photographer <; nothing to do with hip hop> who found us through Froglegs, and Andy Dunn who's dived with us before, my good friend Erik on leave from Tripoli, and Nicky whom we put up to choosing her buddy (she chose Andy, to the disappointment / relief / all of the above of the other males in the group). Nice group.

Andrew the boatman took us to the aquarium at the northwest corner of the rock and we dropped in there and ogled the swarms of fish, though the barracuda wasn't there, and no turtles. We went down to the sand at about 14-16 meters and looked for rays, saw none, and returned to the wall where there was one green moray after another. We were getting a bit jaded with morays when near the turn toward the shallows at the south end I saw a ray and went chasing after it over the sand. Nicky and Andy followed along with my buddy Bobbi, and we found two rays nosing each other affectionately in the sand. We hovered around them as they were quite engrossed in whatever it was they were up to, till eventually we got too close and they broke off and swam for it in separate directions. Andy and Nicky continued in the sand but Bobbi and I returned to the wall and found a cute little jaw fish who kept rotating toward us but wouldn't go back down in his hole. We annoyed him for a while and then headed back to the edge toward the shallows, and there our way was blocked by the passing of a raw sweeping over the rocks, tail stretched out behind, a graceful sight. I realized about then that I hadn't set a time for the dive. Bobbi and I had plenty of air but we figured we'd better go up when we reached 60 minutes. The others in their separate buddy groups soon followed suit.
April 27, 2006 728 Khor Fakkan: 3 Rocks (or Pinnacles) shore dive Erik had never made a night dive before so Andy and Jason and I decided to take him. We had saved full tanks for the occasion, and we sorted gear so that Nicky and Bobbi could proceed to the hostel in our car while we pulled off in Erik's and Andy's at the beach opposite 3 Rocks and took our time kitting up. There was still light as we slipped into the water and headed east. It soon developed that we were moving northeast and having to work our way s/e against a stiff northerly current. Jason aborted and returned to shore. I made use of the waning light to keep my eye on the rocks and when I found the pink mooring buoy it was dark, as I recall I shined my light on it so the others could see, while keeping myself in position by clinging to the mooring line.

When all had made the buoy we caught our breath and started our descent on the buoy tether line. Near the bottom Andy and I were recalled to the surface by Erik's signalling trouble by waving his light. We found that as we had departed from standard procedure, one that I follow 99.9% of the time, this being the 01% -- we had not buddy checked on shore. We had kitted as we had dived an hour before and assumed too much, and Erik had no weight belt. Andy was perfectly trimmed (nothing to lend) but I always carry extra weight so I gave Erik 2 kilos in his bcd pocket and had him pull himself down the tether line. At the bottom I dropped another 2 the sand. Due to my steel tank I was fine with the 2 kg remaining in my belt. We put the extra weight in Erik's other bcd pocket, and he was fine as well, so we continued the dive.

The dive was not all that comfortable. It was cold and once we rounded the back of the rock we encountered the current Aside from a really neat shrimp that was almost transparent except for reddish claws, who came wandering out of his hole dazed by the light, and some other brine shrimp and the usual morays and such, we didn't see much. We had surge and poor vis, not good conditions for Erik's first night dive. Andy and Erick both picked up sea urchin spines as we poked over the top and made our way through the canyons I think back out the side of the rock we had come in on, because my compass heading at that point was reverse what I expected it to be. There was also a big silver barracuda that swam across my beam as we entered the canyons at the top.of the rock. In the sand we switched off our lights and churned up the phosphorescence. After 50 min we surfaced and swam back to shore where a sampling of our purchases at the off licence were most welcome to counteract the salt and exertion.
April 28, 2006 729-730 Musandam: Lima Rock and Wonder Wall Mario in his new boat We were joined this day by Josh Stevens for his 2nd and 3rd open water training dives and his mom Debby (and dad, Frank, along for the ride). Because of Josh's depth limitations, Bobbi and I didn't get maximum effect from Lima Rock diving, but we had two pleasant dives in the area. Vis wasn't too bad, the water was pleasantly cool, and we settled into Josh's o/w work. He had completed the academics and the first 3 confined water dives, so we did dive #2 at Lima Rock, working west from the drop off point instead of east around the far tip as we most often do. The most exciting feature of the dive was a shoal of barracuda. Then we got Mario to take us to the beach beyond Wonder Wall and he was patient while Josh and I ran through the module 4 confined water skills, the module 4 duck diving session, and module 5 weights and scuba unit removal and replacement both on the surface and at depth. By then Josh was ready for dive #3, conducted at Wonder Wall Again his mom and Bobbi and I stayed together. At one point in the dive Josh pointed over the sand and made ray motions and questioning gestures, like where are the rays? I had been looking in caves and alcoves and in the very next one I shined my light in and lit up the eyeball of a hiding grey ray, hard to see, and Josh, when I got him over, didn't see it at first. But when he finally made it out he was very excited. There were also some brine shrimp in these caves, which I always like to see. Josh and Debby seemed very pleased with their day out.
May 5, 2006 731 Dibba Rock Freestyle Divers We went over to Khor Fakkan again for the weekend, got to Sandy Beach in time for a swim in the pool, crowded with Russians drinking by the poolside, and at 5 p.m. met the hashers for a run around the dam 10 km north of there. It was a nice run, not too taxing, followed by a bbq washed down by bevvies from the bottle shop at Royal Beach Motel. Next morning we were joined at coffee around 9:30 ish by Ben and Lekha, my current students, and Ben's wife Christiane, and their friend Darrin, who'd all driven down from Ajman that morning for Ben and Lehka's confined water module 1 to be followed by a dive off Dibba Rock. Horst and Yvonne had just been snorkeling Snoopy Rock and they'd reported seeing sharks in the northwest corner closest to Sandy Beach, so since the first order of business was a swim test for Ben and Lekha I decided we'd take our masks along and we crawled out there. It took us just over 5 min to swim there, vis was a little hazy, I was first to arrive, Ben and Lekha right behind me, and right as we arrived I saw a young black tip, a meter long or so, which I swam after. The black tip didn't try to escape, but didn't slow down, and I had no fins. I swam after him and got quite close, but he popped down the reef and disappeared. I turned and asked Ben and Lekha if they'd seen it. They were just far enough behind that neither had, so I suggested we go back to the corner of the island the shark seemed to like. We checked in the shallows and came on to other snorkelers ahead and I figured the shark wouldn't be there with those people splashing about. So I made a left turn in the direction of shore, eyes peeled on the reef, and there near the sand was another shark, bigger, a meter and a half, the mom apparently, as we saw the smaller one seconds later. I saw Ben's eyes follow that one as it circled him and swam out of site, and Lekha saw one of them, I'm not sure which. So that out of the way, we swam back toward shore. I was glad to see my two students handled themselves quite well in the water, good swimmers and snorkelers.

Next on the agenda was confined water module 1. I pulled my car around to the last room before the sea and ran Ben and Lekha through their first time ever kitting up. They were game but finding gear that fits and figuring out how it works, first buddy check, and so on is never a straightforward process. Shortly though we were fully kitted and heading down the steps to the beach and into the shallow water, leaning back on our inflated BCDs and strapping on fins. I had them play with the bcd controls and then follow me on a snorkel tour with all the gear on their backs. Both novices kept their heads down and breathed through the snorkel, and had no problem shifting the gear.

I led them in a circle back to shallow sand and told them we'd put our heads underwater and if that seemed ok, we'd sit on the sand. It went as planned. My purpose in seeing them sit in the sand was to see if they were weighted sufficiently to get down. I did have to make an adjustment later, giving off some of my excess weight, but all was fine, so we continued into the skills portion of the module, swimming slightly deeper and further out while conducting reg removal & replacement, reg recovery, alternate air source breathing, and returning to the shallows for partial mask clearing, spg check, and 5 point ascent.

All went well, the students were chuffed, we'd seen some fish, and it was time to move over to Dibba Rock. Our idea behind that move was do a dive at noon, be back on shore and ready to head home at 2, and get back to Abu Dhabi by 6. It didn't work that way. Because you can't rush students in their first confined water module, we were 50 min late arriving at the dive center, we missed the boat that had just left, and we sat waiting for it to return for two hours. We went for our dive at about 3, we were out of the water 50 min later, but we had to wait for the divemaster and his student 20 min more, back to the dive center at 4:30, 5 min boat ride, but then cleaning gear till 5 and paying the bill for 13 divers, we didn't get started on our trip home till about the time we had originally expected to be there.

Anyway the diving was pleasant once we got out to the rock and started down. Now it was time for Ben and Lehka's first o/w dive .My students had the predictable ear problems at the outset so all the other divers (Bobbi and Ursula, Horst and Yvonne, and Christiene and Darrin) went their merry ways while me and my divers took their time and had a very nice dive. Once they got their ears and buoyancy sorted out they followed me comfortably over the corals and outcroppings. Amazing shoals of fish everywhere, parrots nibbling at the tasty corals, some barracuda hanging out above the fray, a school of bat fish. I saw a nesting trigger fish (settled over its nest like a mother hen), cleaner wrasse going to work on compliant submissive fish of varying species, clouds of biomass swirling about, feeding in diverse ways, some silvery with jaws gaping open, others swimming up an down, sifting the sand at the dip in roller coaster motions, beautiful. I led them down over the coral wall into the relative cold and gloom above the sand stretches where the rays and jawfish hang out. But we didn't go there because I got a signal of ear problem from one of my divers and decided, yeah, a bit cold for me too, let's turn back. But at a depth of 45 feet on my guage (14 meters) I saw some pipe fish and dropped down to grab one, and handed it off to the students. We found our way back into the shallows, came eventually on the boat mooring at 4 meters, continued another ten minutes in a circle over the clacking snapping denizens living in the fields of coral, and surfaced near the boat, all having done quite well for a very first day of diving.
May 18, 2006 732

9 meters, about 45 minutes
Abu Dhabi, inside the breakwater Frank Stevens's small boat Josh Stevens (no relation) final o/w dive #4 for Jr. O/W certification, Glenn also along for fun.
Nice day out, a bit warm out, but water temperatures quite pleasant. We putted out to the breakwater in Frank's small but (just) serviceable motorboat and anchored off the buttress just back from the harbor mouth, in 9 meters of water. I took Josh down for an ESA, which he performed perfectly (well trained, that boy). We returned to the deep and took a NNW heading to the breakwater. I trailed a finger in the sand to make a path back and marked in my mind the configuration of ropes and other junk at the bottom there in hopes of finding these on our return and regaining the anchor point. The tide was low but still heading out so our direction along the wall was westerly against a slight current. We found a number of gopies with tiny crawfish excavating their lair, and small grouper (hamour) who positioned themselves in front of us, backed off as we approached, only made a dash for it at the very last minute. No wonder they end up on so many dinner tables. The staghorn corals were doing nicely in amongst the boulders, and sheltered blue and yellow angel fish. Josh had a few exercises to do. He led us over the sand to the south and right where we stopped we found an exquisitely tiny blue and black spotted nudibranch scouring the sand for morsels. Josh led us back to the start point spot on, removed and replaced his mask for the third time during the dive, and then I made a pass out over the sand hoping to kick up a ray, but found only a nice anchor, so nice that I sent my marker buoy up so as to retrieve it later. Josh showed me that he was at under 100 bar so I led us back along the wall, where we made good progress with the tide. When we reached the buttress area we came on a shoal of adolescent barracuda and chased them in and out of view, vis being not so good, only a few meters. At this point a big energetic tuna began darting in and out of my view, though I don't think the others saw him. As we passed the buttress I began moving out over the sand and found the ropes and rocks I'd noted on our way in, and from there found the trail I'd left in the sand and followed it out to the anchor point. My newbie divers are usually amazed at how I find my way under water, and the sudden appearance of our anchor is always a surprise and a relief for them when they're showing me 50 bar, no idea where they are, while I've managed the dive to put them at their ascent point right when they need to go up. But there was no anchor at the end of my trail since Frank had pulled anchor to fish nearer the rocks, so we ascended up an imaginary anchor line and waved him over. He took us over to my marker buoy and I went down to retrieve my reel and then used my bcd as a lift bag to haul the anchor to the surface, carefully, keeping an eye on my computer, to control my ascent. Up top I presented the anchor to Frank, who said he could use it aft.
May 25-26 733-735 Dibba Rock on the Thursday; Lima Rock and Wonder Wall on Friday Freestyle Divers in Dibba on Thu / Mike Ralph on Friday Diving with Bobbi in fun dives at the weekend; we stayed at Holiday Beach Resort and headed over to Freestyle Divers at Royal Beach Hotel for a Thu dive. I seem to remember some sharks in the very very shallows on the north side of the rock, what I call the aquarium. The following day, diving was not brilliant at Lima Rock but Wonder Wall was full of rays, including a huge bull ray a few meters across.
June 1-2 736-738 Dibba Rock on Thursday; Octopus Rock (the Stack) and Wonder Wall on Friday Freestyle Divers in Dibba on Thu / Mike Ralph on Friday Thursday, Bobbi and I did a dive at Dibba Rock, but I don't remember anything super. Diving on Friday was Dan Batson's Deep Advanced Dive for Certification at Octopus Rock and a second dive at Wonder Wall. Again, vis not so good, and not much spectacular to see.
June 15-16 739-741 The Pinnacles (Three Rocks) on the Thursday; Lima Rock and the second caves from Dibba on Friday Freestyle Divers in Dibba both days This was Ben Hayes and Lekha Fernandes's 2nd, 3rd, and 4th dives for O/W Certification. We left town at 8 a.m. and checked in at the Royal Beach by around noon, then hit the pool for Module 3 confined water. We met Nicky and Jason at 2:00 for a trip over to the Pinnacles, fighting a contrary seas. Vis wasn't all that great. I took Lekha in for a CESA and on surfacing we collected Ben and did the usual tour down the 12 meter mooring line, warm in only lycra half mil. My divers were doing well rounding the rock at depth (14 m). At the point where we headed back into the rocks we did some compass work over the sand, and Lekha executed a nice out and back. Coming up into the shallows we found an incredibly large and substantial jellyfish, tentacles a meter long, and later on a sleeping turtle. At that point we played buoyancy games, bouncing off the surface and back, but I retrieved my divers and took them around to the relatively good vis on the shallow side of the rocks. There wasn't a lot of interest over there, and after only 35 min or so air was consumed and we surfaced on our way back north to the boat.

We returned to the pool that evening for module 4 and 5 exercises but due to the proximity not to mention generosity of the local bottle shop we didn't make much progress on the final exams, which were finished at breakfast next morning. We then embarked on a day-long trip to Musandam, first stop Lima Rock. Lekha went in overweighted and had a buoyancy problems which shortened her dive. Aside from the really decent vis, the shoals of fish, and a pair of morays at our max depth of 18 m. it wasn't that great a dive, though Ben and I found some young barracuda of the western point, where the current carried us as we breathed off the dregs in our tanks. We didn't do any flexible skills on those dives, but went in kitted during the surface interval and knocked out most of the flex stuff while the others ate. This tired my guys out pretty profoundly, seas being rough and my divers getting sick, so when the boat moved to the second location, the mouth of a cave, it didn't look good for the home team. But once in the water the situation changed and the dive turned out to be a fairly relaxed one. We started into the tunnel. I had a torch and the entrance and exit were sun-lit and not what you would consider overhead without escape, but it was interesting terrain for new divers. Once into the exit we hit biting cold thermoclines at 14 meters but eventually climbed out of those. I saw a turtle at some point but don't think my students did. We saw a lot of the usual fish. Pretty and relaxed diving actually, and my students ended on a high note, and felt comfortable by the end of it.
Friday, August 25, 2006 742-743 Inchcape and Dibba Rock Freestyle Divers Fun diving with my familly: Bobbi and both boys, Glenn and Dusty. We had all just returned from Kyrgyzstan. I had broken my finger there and would be having surgery next Sunday and would probably be in a cast or something for next month. Dusty would be returning to California in a week, so it was a last shot for a family dive outing.

We had a couple of really good ones. First was on the Inchcape wredk opposite the Meridien. This is a 31 meter dive, 20 minutes to deco, and full of fish. The buoy was attached to the starboard stern which is where we hit the wreck, coming down the mooring line into a cloud of a few hundred snapper, so thick it was like cottage cheese. We dropped on to the bottom and there right up against the rudder my pen light elluminated the eyes of a blue spotted ray. We circumnavigated the hull looking for more and found lion fish, clouds of snappers, and a great variety of soft corals encrusting the entire surface of the wreck, a photographer's paradise.

Rising up to deck level, more treats were in store. There were three huge honeycomb morays poking out of the wreck. The decks were graced wiith scorpion fish. Barracudas prowled the green water forward of the bow and trevali passed by amid the snappers (what's a trevali?). It was really a remarkably relaxed and pretty dive, but as always, short, and at the appointed time, with our computers a minute into deco we ascended the line to our safety stop.

The boat returned to base and we got ready for our second dive on Dibba Rock. This is a dive I like a lot, often surprising. We dropped in at what I call the aquarium, the fishbowl at the NW corner of the island. When the vis is good, and it often is, this is an astounding spot. You can sometimes then move toward the rock and find sharks in the shallows.

Today, we heard reports of sharks in 6 meters of water further toward shore from the island, and today the vis wasn't good, so we saw none of the above. Near the island, surge was annoying so we turned east and went to depth in the sand at 16 meters. It was gloomy there, murky, full of goat fish and parrots and bottom trawleters, some pipe fish, some long tailed rainbow wrasse and triggers whose colors were suppressed by the lack of light.

But the SE corner was working. Here is where flat grey rays hang out in the sand. As we moved over the sand bottom, clouds of silt showed us where the rays had been, and then their long tails revealed where they were, mostly buried but for eyes and stingers. When we got near them, they rippled off in different directions, sometimes 3 or 4 at a time. We followed them for a while, and then returned to the reef and on that leg came across sassy curious jaw fish poking just above their holes, eyes on us constantly, rotating in their holes. They're so ugly they're cute.

We finished the dive in the shallows. Light was better, more hard corals and lots of fish, the typical reef kind. Nice dive, about 58 min. Fun diving all the family.
September 30, 2006 744-745 Abu Dhabi: Delta Buoy Ali's friend Ali Khalaf (in his boat) Ali's final Advanced Open Water Peak Buoyancy Dive for Certification
Lucy's Advanced Open Water Dives: Peak Buoyancy and Boat
Bobbi's Divemaster Training: ...
Glenn along for a fun dive
It was a nice day for boating with mild waves spaced well apart. We went to Delta Buoy on GPS and I spotted the anchorage I like, looking for the canyon I usually visit here. Bobbi helped with the student divers, neither of whom had dived recently. We eased into the water and down the anchor line, established neutral buoyancy on the bottom. I had GPS'd the spot at 100 meters n.e of where we were but I think that was where the boat had anchored on a previous trip and in the quasi-vis cluttered with white particles I saw shadows and fish to the north and headed there. Bobbi saw it too and pointed me a little more north and dropped us into the canyon. We carried on up the ridges to the higher walls and did some hovering exercises there. We saw angel fish and grunts and bream but only one grouper. With Ali at half a tank we headed back down the other side of the gully from the sand patch and eventually petered into the sand and rocks and wheeled south and east looking for terrain similar to the anchorage. We found the terrain, a certain pattern of rocks and coral and sand ripples on the sea bed, but didn't find the anchor so we ascended to 5 meters and hung out for 3 minutes, a good buoyancy exercise with no reference but a depth guage (and me). When we came up we found ourselves right by the boat.

Lucy had just under 100 bar so I proposed a second dive (Boat) on the buoy itself. Glenn took a spare tank and came along. We were doing fin pivots when a meter long ramora appeared. Persistent like a cat he kept trying to snuggle up to us but shied away when we tried to grab him or feel the bumps on his head. We dived for 20 min including the safety stop and he never left us during all that time, constantly swirling about us like a cat at our feet. Lucy thought he was a shark. Interesting dive thanks to the ramora. Nothing much else on the buoy itself in the area where the heavy chain had cut a wasteland in the sea bottom. The chain itself sometimes attracts batfish and baraccuda, and on this dive, the playful ramora.
October 7, 2005 746 Diving just off the beach hotel in Abu Dhabi Ocean Diving Center, Rotana Beach Hotel Stefanie and Aislinn White's first open water training dive
Bobbi assisting as divemaster in training

Glenn along for a fun dive

I started using the new ODC, run by my friend Issa from Masaoud's, the day before, with Aislinn and Stefanie in the pool at the beach hotel. On Saturday they were ready for their first dive, and the weather was too rough to get a boat out into open sea, so we did a shore dive off the beach hotel. Not much fish life there, just a grouper in the legs of a discarded chair and a few gopies and crabs. We mainly worked on Stephanine and Aislinn's bouyancy, and by the end of the dive I was chasing them to keep them from racing too far ahead. After the dive we went back in the shallows just back of the dive center for confined water training dive #2. Bobbi assisted as divemaster in training on both exercises.
November 3, 2006 747-748 Abu Dhabi: B22, Bateen Box and Breakwater - Seas flat with mild chop; Weather Sunny and very warm. Wind The wind will be moderate southeasterly at 10– 12knots, becoming a moderate northwesterly sea breeze of 10 – 12 knots for a short period in the late afternoon. Temperature Max 36°C Sea State 1 –2 feet inshore and 2 – 3 feet offshore. Ocean Diving Center, Rotana Beach Hotel, Boat provided by Dive-Inn I took a German young man and lady on a Discover Scuba dive, helped Vicky through a refresher, and signed logs for a French couple. Bobbi assisting as divemaster in training

Mohammed showed off his new Dive-inn boat, cruising with rap and arabic sounds, with a new (for me) dive site, 2/3 the way to Ras Ghurab, called B 22 (for 22 rocks, they said). The temperatures above and below water were ideal, comfortable but not overheated in a 3 mm suit. B22 was swarming with snappers and once the newbie divers settled into it, other fish as well. We came upon schools of yellow spotted grunts, I saw a few bream, angelfish, two sea snakes, a grouper. Vis not bad. For the second dive we moved to the b/water around the corner from the box, and here the vis was even better, not unlike a pool, maybe 10 meters. This time the male German discovery diver (Eier?) was confident and pulled ahead as I lingered looking under boulders, finding a sea snake resting coiled in the sand. We had a faint tail current and were at the corner in ten minutes, lots of bat fish there and some lean meat fish. I let my scuba discoverers lead because I figured it would be interesting to wind up at the box. On the way we found a ray in the sand, and at the box, another swooped in over head off the metal contraption. Eier was by that time at 100 bar so I signalled a return and here we encountered stiff current opposing. All divers kept up the finning though, and we had rounded the corner and were heading south before he got down to under 50 bar (in not 7 meters of water) and I figured we'd better come up in the school of batfish there at the moment. It was a really nice dive.
Nov 10, 2006 749-750 Dibba Freestyle Divers Sonya, Gillian, and Nick's first and second O/W dives - Bobbi acting as divemaster candidate, Oscar along for the ride Bobbi and I got up at 6 and got the tanks in the car and on the road by 7, arrival in KF at around 10:45 well in time to meet the students and get them kitted for an in-any-case delayed 11:30 ish dive The destination Dibba Rock, Cesar at the helm, and a boatload of divers aboard Our guys were keenly kitted for their first ever o/w dive, endured their first ever backward roll, and were soon easing down the mooring rope to a rather gloomy 12 meters There were pipe fish about and flounders in the sand, and morays, and bannerfish, wrasse, butterflyfish, snappers aplenty, parrotfish, clownfish in the anenomes, triggerfish, all in flux on the reeff. The divers struggled with their buoyancy, some had to be pulled back from trips to the surface, but eventually they gained control and 20 min into the dive, with air holding out at around 150, we came to the point where we would either cut across the wall or up into the shallows. I opted for the latter and immediately saw a turtle swimming over the reef. My divers followed as best they could and eventually we ended in the shallows among foraging sea bass, corals and reef fish, including a bat fish who appeared to be scratching himself on the sand. Nice dive, 55 min.

The second one was even better. We started at the nw corner where we sometimes see black tips, where at 6 meters when there's good vis the reef is alive with fish, including a meter long baraccuda who likes to lurk there. The baraccuda was home, and some grouper, and we paused there in a surge to do skills: mask clearing, reg recovery, alt air source, and fin pivots. Once the guys were buoyantly correct, we let ourselves get swept by the current. We found lots of fish to entertain us: morays in the rocks, puffers to be petted, long cigar shaped coronet fish. Seeing that the sand was at only 12-13 meters, and that my divers had buoyancy under control, I suggested a hunt for rays. We moved easterly in the void, and soon saw a ray hovering about over the sand. We hovered over it a while and then wheeled west back toward the reef. There was another ray there, and then just ahead a curious jawfish peeping out over his hole. We stared back for a while and then moved into the shallows where we had been the previous dive. We admired the panoply of tropical fish and skimmed over a bed of staghorn coral. At that point we encountered another turtle and followed it close and nonchalant, and ended the dive on that note and in alternate air source ascents, 13 meters, 45 min.
November 11, 2006 751 Abu Dhabi EDA Clean up Arabia Cleanup Arabia Weekend
See program Vance Stevens and Peter Burge, Instructors; Mike Parry, Divemaster; Bobbi Stevens Rescue Diver and Divemaster candidate; Advanced Divers: Glenn Stevens, Sandra Grenet; Snorkelers Aislinn and Stefanie White. Following the usual safety briefing we cruised to the site and I did the honors for boat cover while the others conducted the cleanup. I had Bobbi, Glenn, and Mike surface with more than 100 bar and I took Aislinn and Stefanie, my students, down for an extra o/w dive in low vis, 8 meters depth and lots of silt. They did well. We stayed down about 15 min. Not much to report about the dive, apart from the murk. Meanwhile other divers found a deceased turtle in a net and also picked up human remains, regarding which the police were called, and they roped off the area and curtailed the usual apres nettoiyer trash count.
Kathleen's photos:
Friday November 17, 2006 752-753 Abu Dhabi The coral patch north of Sadayat Island Nick Moran's Final Dives for O/W certification and Rebecca's first, Aisslan and Stefanie's second o/w training dive: We had planned to dive at 2 p.m so as to train my students first but a shamal was due to blow in and the dive was scheduled for 9 in the morning. This meant I had to get to the Beach Hotel at 7 a.m., skies still with an orange-pink glow and sea and pool like glass, very tropical, and train Nick in Modules 4 and 5, and Rebecca and Stefanie and Aislinn in Module 3. This was done in the nick of time, thanks to Bobbi helping as divemaster candidate, though she was denied (free) passage on the good ship due to its being at its maximum load, and we all tje rest piled aboard for the trip beyond the island. Seas were slightly choppy, but enough to induce upset in those least accustomed to it, but thanks to the kind administrations of Tiziana, we managed to get our divers kitted and in the ocean, Rebecca for the very first time. Due to ear problems with two of the divers, we took ten minutes to work our way down the rope to the bottom at 9 meters, but eventually we got them there and reasonably neutrally buoyant and we started our tour. I headed upcurrent north looking for a sand patch but found incessant coral and masses of the usual fish, attractive but not what I was looking for. I meandered right and eventually came to some sand and brought my divers in. Rebecca, on her first dive, watched while Stefanie and Aisslan did the Dive 2 exercise set, culminating in mask clearing, partial and full. Nick then did his for Dive 3, orally inflating his bcd to recover neutral buoyancy. We resumed our tour at leisure now, came upon a big grouper and schools of jack fish, and when after 55 minutes the students hit 50 bar, we surfaced upcurrent from the boat and had only to fin to west to be swept onto it. Rebecca was feeling off though so Nick helped her back, and I gave him credit for a tired diver tow.

The other divers had gone down for their second dive so we calculated our SI and PG's, found we could have 174 minutes if we dived then, so Aislinn, Stefanie, and Nick and I re-entered the water. I took Nick first down the anchor line and brought him up a couple of times in CESA practice. By then Aislinn had entered, the instructor on board monitored Nick, and I did the same with Aislinn. Stefanie came in last and we all submerged and did compass headings out and back East, North, and West of the anchor line and back. I then decided to demonstrate a square pattern, carefully counting out 30 kicks east, north, west, and south, but on arrival after 30 kicks vis was too poor to spot the anchor, though I could hear the chain rattling. I looked a little in a tight circle, thought about doing an expanding square, decided never mind, not important, and led us back to the east just looking at fish, not counting kicks. After a certain amt of time I turned south and kicked at leisure for an approximately similar amount of time. I then turned west and at about that time Stefanie indicated that things were not quite right and pointed at her stomache. I signaled I was heading back to the boat and made to continue my square. A minute later she signalled again, so instead of continuing west I steered northwest in what I assumed was the direction of the boat. After another minute Stefanie was clearly not comfortable so 40 min into the dive I brought us up at a NW angle. We surfaced near to and pointing right at the boat. This time Aislinn was credited with the tired diver tow assisting her ailing sister.
Friday, November 24, 2006 754-755 Dibba Rock Freestyle Divers Aislinn and Stefanie White's 3rd o/w dive; Rebecca Moran's 2nd o/w dive, Sonja and Gillian's 3rd and 4th o/w dives for certification; Bobbi along as dive-mistress in training. We slept till 6, left the house at 7, and pitched up at the Royal Beach Hotel at 11 for the 11:30 dive which didn't get away till noon in any event. Good timing for us as I got 5 students ready to go. Some had ear problems as they descended. Vis was good so with Bobbi assisting on the line I was able to work with the students on the bottom to get them to do their bcd oral inflations. We were at a mooring just west of the coral field and in sand so when we got all our divers sorted I moved them into the coral. Mask clearing came later in the dive, hardly worth mentioning, but our first charge came as we meandered along the north rim of the coral patch and marvelled at all the fish there. I saw a Spanish mackeral pass, a good 1.5 meters, thought at first it was a shark. And then there was a real shark, a blacktip, who came strolling along the reef hardly bothering about us, which was good for game viewing, as we were able to follow him for a couple of minutes before he outdistanced us. We were feeling pretty good about the dive at that point, still oggling at the schools of fish all around, when Gillian pointed into the gloom, and I saw a ray there. And quickly I noticed that its head had those little processes on it so it was a devil ray, and then there was another, both of which disappeared quickly into the gloom. We continued up the reef and came to a school of silver fish which had barracuda lurking beneath them, vis pretty good at that point. We let ourselves be surrounded by barracuda and then moved over the reef near where the wall starts and ended the dive there, hovering amongst the fish, a pretty good dive.

Stefanie had ear problems on ascent, suffered reverse block, so she and Aislinn thought it prudent to not do the second dive that day. Between dives I took Gillian and Sonja fully kitted on a snorkel past the boats and we knocked out the flexible surface skills in the deep water off the anchorage. We returned to shore for new tanks and ended up standing about while the sun dropped nearer the mountains in the west while we waited for Cesar to return with the boat. We were supposed to go to the Pinnacles but by the time we got going the plan had changed, wisely, to the much nearer Dibba Rock. As I had done with Sonja the dive before, I took Gillian down for CESA leaving the other divers on the boat. We had some aborted starts due to buoyancy problems and on one attempt Gillian seemed unable to kick to overcome the weight she was carrying so at the surface we dropped her from 8 to 6 kilos and everything went well after that.

Back up top after a successful 12 second CESA, we plopped the other divers in and on a day of what else could go wrong, it was getting late, one students' tank slipped its harness on entering the water, and another had a problem with the mask. And did I mention the current? That was one of the confounding factors with Gillian's CESA, and the students had requested we do the skills at the beginning. So I wrapped an elbow around the mooring line and helped them with mask removal / replacement and full mask flooding / clearing. All got through it despite the difficult conditions and then I let go the line, started drifting with the current, and beckoned all to follow (before it was too late). This was no place for fin pivots. I checked Sonja and Gillian's buoyancy through hovering as we powered over the reef and Bobbi followed with Rebecca in tow. We let ourselves be carried along the wall for a few minutes, but it was no longer in sunlight and was disappointing compared to the super-charged experience we had just had, so I decided we could drift over the sand in search of jaw-fish and rays, which are almost always there just beyond the wall. Because of the current I decided to move us out there from mid-wall so we would drift over sting ray city. I took an accurate compass heading to the N/E and led us into the sand. Midwater the current picked up and I quickly saw that this was NOT a good idea with inexperienced divers. So short of where I thought the rays would be I called for a turn-back, but this was much easier not said (hard to say things underwater) than not done (even harder to swim back to the S/W because the current was actually angled a bit away from the wall, and we were stuck in it). So I gathered my divers and checked air. All divers had 100 to 150 bar, we weren't very deep, and I figured we were not only safe, just 13 meters or so, plenty of air and nothing to bump into but water, but with a little effort we could power back to the wall. So I signalled them to go for it, and they did.

A couple minutes later we were back at the wall and we found some relief from the current there. It was still dark and sandy so first chance I got I headed for a gap and into the shallows at the East corner of the rock. The current was benign enough here for Sonja to do her compass heading and return, the last skill remaining for her and Gillian's certification. We skimmed shallow over the field of staghorn coral just off the rock and the same place they were last time, we found two of the turtles who live there, and one swam along with us as we ended our dive.

Back on shore we cleaned our kit as the sun went down and did one more dive into the local off license and emerged with tins of something called Cobra, tall ones for just 3 dirhams each. Experienced in such matters, Bobbi and I made sure all our kit was put away and back in the car before we started on our second one of those, and after the third one we drove over to the Holiday Beach Hotel, where we had booked a 2-br chalet (with our students) and had shish tawooks brought around by room service while we let ourselves be beguilded by the Cobra. It was a very nice way to end a very nice day, great diving and wind down on a catatonically comfortable note.
Saturday, November 25, 2006 756 Dibba Rock, 58 min. 9 meters Freestyle Divers Aislinn and Stefanie White's 4th o/w dive for certification Because Stefanie had had to drop out of her 4th dive the day before, we were not able to start her advanced course with a morning dive on the deep wreck Inchcape as we had hoped, but we later decided we had been fortunate in that happenstance. When that boat was leaving with the deep wreck divers we were in the glassy waters doing weight and BCD removal and replacement. We were on our dive boat by the appt'd time of 9:30 and we waited there an hour because Cesar cut his hand and Adam had to fill in as driver, and a group of divers arrived late and were not forthcoming with cert cards. Eventually we cast off, an hour late, but happy to see the devil rays leaping out of the water as we neared the rock. We moored at the mooring just west of the rock and as we had been kitted and ready to go for some time, we were first in. Stefanie's ears were ok and I took us to the east in the shallows up to just 2.5 meters in hopes of seeing sharks near the rock, where they sometimes hang out. The vis, crystal clear near shore, had more algae near the rock, but I suppose we had a good ten meters. We finned back past the mooring where another group of divers was just starting its tour. I headed south over the strawberry coral in the direction of the bait ball we'd seen at the surface in the vicinity of where the devil ray had jumped, and I led quickly so as to be ahead of the divers who had just descended. My divers followed competently. Sometimes it pays to be in the lead, sometimes the first there sees things that vanish quickly.

That's what happened this time, one of my most memorable moments in diving since the whale shark from Jan 13, 2003. Coming down into the deeper edge of the coral field, where the corals started to slope away and the sea looked dark green beyond, two very big black tips came gliding across the reef from right to left of my view. My eyes followed them but were almost immediately distracted by a big school of devil rays in my right field of vision, more than I could count, their white horns gleaming in unison, their skirts rippling in and out of view. I turned at first toward the sharks, pointing for the benefit of my divers off in both directions. If I had it to do over I would have followed them because we never found them again during the dive, whereas it seemed wherever we pointed for the rest of the 58 min we stayed down, we came on the schools of devil rays. Devil rays everywhere, and at some point in our wanderings over the coral a nice school of barracuda, and the usual triggers and parrots, and tang near the rock, and whatnot and whatever. This was a really wow dive, probably my best ever in the UAE (my whale shark sightings here have both been technically in Oman, Musandam).
December 1, 2006 757-758 Oman, Damaniyites Sawadi Beach Resort Not the usual great weekend at Sawadi Beach. Bobbi and I extricated ourselves from our routine in Abu Dhabi early on Thu and resumed the packing we had started but not finished the night before and with some effort and stress got ourselves on the road by around 2 p.m.and attempted to chill out en route. We drove through rain and drizzle after crossing the border and arrived at the resort in clear skies to find that there was a party by the pool with hundreds of people, loud music playing, and the restaurant staff stretched to cope with it. The restaurant was such a mess that we retired to our room and ordered room service and then tried to sleep through an airconditioner whose fan went off and back on in 30 min intervals. We went to breakfast next morning a bit frazzled but picked up when we at last got on the boat and headed to sea. We went to the far east end of the island chain, to the island with the government outpost. There were storms expected but they were holding off for the time being. Still the seas were a bit murky and the first dive was disappointing, not unlike a dive at Musandam on a low-viz day. The crew got the current wrong and we had to fin into it to go around the island in the direction they were expecting. The combination exertion and depth (24 meters) and the fact that the tanks were light at 190 bar, caused us to have to surface after 55 min, the last of it carried by the current in the shallows. All the divers were carried off the island and into the shallow channel beyond where the current kept them at its mercy till the boat could reach them, and none had any remarkable sightings to report. Second dive was only marginally better. It was shallower, about 16 meters, and there were lots of pretty fish about and soft corals on the rocks, and big bommies, nice healthy coral. Bobbi and I were quickly in the water and got ahead of Nigel from ADSAC and his buddy and so we came on the big bull ray in the sand and scared him off before the other divers could see him, but in so doing we missed the turtle everyone else saw. Again, no enthusiastic reports on the second dive and it was almost 4 when we returned to base. Bobbi cleaned the gear while I grabbed our stuff from the room as we had abused late checkout. We were packed to continue into the interior for camping and hiking but Seeb was reporting 40% rain the next day, there were clouds over the mountains, and the divers weren't really expecting to go out next day. We decided we had things to do and headed for home, driving at night. The cost of this misadventure, 70 riyals for a room, 50 for diving, plus about 30 for dinner and breakfast, plus visa at border crossing and fuel, about $500 for the two of us.
Dec 8, 2006 759 Abu Dhabi, off the Rotana Beach Hotel Ocean Diving Center Bobbi and Glenn and I turned up for Issa's first big event at Ocean Diving Center, one made memorable by Tatiana's remarkable organizational skills. Divers entered the water in morning and afternoon shifts. We thought we would save time by coming at 1 but we were requested to be there at 12:30 so we left the house at noon, the bbq wasn't till 5 and the ceremony at half past 6 and though it was great fun, with two free beverages provided, we spent an 8 hour day on the event. The diving, in 23 degree water, was less than stimulating (8 meters, 45 minutes), but divers did pull an amazing amount of debris from the water. I found a wheelbarrow but couldn't lift it with my bcd alone. We got a barnacle encrusted flowerpot we took home with us, and I recovered one of the ODC's snorkels in the mucky bottom. All in all a good day's event, and Issa's ODC is showing some spirit, driven by the personality of the dynamic Tatiana.
Friday, Dec 15, 2006 760 Dibba Rock Freestyle divers Omar Zaafrani, peak buoyancy advanced o/w dive Bobbi assisting as divemaster candidate, Dusty and Glenn along for a fun dive.

There was a lot of algae in the water so vis was 3-5 meters, depending. Water was colder than before. Andrew mentioned that the devil rays were still around so we had a really nice dive over the coral carpet, coming on devil rays frequently. We also saw turtles and baraccudas aplenty. The really neat thing about this dive was that the animals we encountered swam with us. The first turtle we came on in the coral carpet stayed put as we came on it and when it finally decided to move it just meandered so that we could follow it and swim right next to it. It made no effort to escape us. I figured he would lead us to where the devil rays were, but I was wrong. He took us to see his friends the baraccudas. However, not far from them the devil rays were playing. We zig zagged over the coral to find them in many spots. Some came close on this dive, and one even swam along side me for a good half minute. As he did that I edged closer and closer till I was looking him in the eye at the side of one of the processes extending off his head. I figured he could see me and didn't mind and remembering my experiences with mantas, who like to interact with divers tactily, I thought to pet his rippled underside, so I finned slightly ahead and moved my hand toward him. I'm not sure if reaching out startled him, or if I came too near or if I entered his field of view just then, but he accelerated suddenly and was gone.

At the time I was swimming with this ray I saw another group of divers to my left heading in a straight line over the reef, and I assumed these and other divers we saw from time to time in the coral patch were enjoying the devil rays too. But on the boat we discovered we were the only ones who had seen them, dozens of them, on this dive. Obviously I'm starting to figure out where they're likely to be, which others less experienced here don't know. Others had seen sharks though.

This was a pretty dive, but we were too cold for another, and I ended up with Joan and Jane for module 1 training in the very warm pool afterwards, and we all relaxed with purchases of 3 dirhams each from the off-license enjoying the sunset from the dive center veranda before moving into town for a great meal at Dibba's primo Lebanese restaraunt Noamaan and taking up residence at the Seaside furnished flats (NOT near the sea, they had pointed out over the phone, by way of truth-in-advertising disclaimer). Still, such a deal for 250 dirhams, about $60, a night, fully appointed with microwave and TV and stereo, two baths with shower/toilet, and two bedrooms, one with double bed and the other twin. Attractive building and spotlessly clean. Bobbi and I took the master bedroom, shut the door and turned on the a/c and became oblivious to whatever took place with the 5 adult kids we had with us spilling over onto the couches and floor of the living room. There was plenty of beer in the fridge, we heated up the leftovers from Noamaan in the microwave for breakfast the next morning, and checkout was at 4 that day so we could leave our gear there while diving. We'll be back.
Saturday, Dec 16, 2006 761-762 Dibba Rock Freestyle divers Omar Zaafrani, final boat dive for advanced open water certification; and Joan and Jane - first o/w dive, tour for pleasure, no skills. Bobbi, Dusty and Glenn were on the 1st dive, and the second was just Joan and Dusty and I

Next day the diving was not as nice. Vis was much reduced. On our first dive we took Joan and Jane for their first o/w experience. Right at the bottom of the mooring there was a turtle hiding. The water was cold and there was a mild current. There had been a similar current the day before into which we had finned to reach the coral patch, but with divers who were having trouble getting into fin position, and who were working out buoyancy control, the current was too much. I took them over the top of the nearest reef where there were lots of angelfish and snappers, and big trevali swimming by on the edge of the reef but the current wanted us to do the back side of the island, so we went with it at about 6 meters depth till Bobbi spotted an electric ray and tugged my fin, and we followed it down over the rocks to the sand at ten meters.

We continued up the back side of the rock, finding lion fish and morays to amuse the ladies, and then headed into the shallows leading to the landward side of the Island. Vis was clearer here, and the tropical fish and coral were pleasant, but it was very shallow, low tide, and we were finning again against the current. We were so shallow that I surfaced now and then to check the rock on my right. It was always there and I edged left to find deeper water but it seemed the depth was unusually shallow always. Finally the currect increased to where we could not make headway into it. This was 48 min into the dive and I decided to ease left rather than fight it.

I was surprised to see that this led us over the familiar coral patch. I glanced at my compass and saw SW, the way over the coral patch, and then realized we had rounded the island and were headed along the front side. The SW heading took us over the patch we'd wanted to reach at the outset, and we almost immediately came on a docile turtle there who didn't mind being surrounded by divers. We prowled over that a few minutes till the boat passed over head, and I figured that was Andrew's hint for us to come up now, so we did.

Joan was pretty stoked from that dive and wanted to try it again. Everyone else was cold but Dusty decided to come along and hold hands with her on her second ever ow dive. We went in down the mooring line and found visible algae everywhere. I found the reef on compass heading and swam over the coraltops. We'd fixed out heading so as to head over the coral but I decided I liked the edges of the coral where we were and I let us go north a bit. This was where I thought there might be rays, the edge of the reef, and we saw them as we turned in over the coral patch again, about half a dozen of them. That was it for rays that dive. Again the water was quite shallow due to low tide, and where I thought we were near the island there were scads of baraccuda about. They were interesting to see, as were the turtles. I turned again over the coral and saw a shark. The others were too far behind to see it and it disappeared quickly. Well, that dive soon became more of the same, lots of interesting reef and larger fish around but hard to see due to low vis, a few turtles, that kind of stuff. Pretty good dive actually.
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Last updated: December 9, 2006