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Vance's Personal Dive Log for 1998

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

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These dives all logged since July 91 (not including unlogged dives since certification in 1966)

January 2, 1998

Khor Fakkhan Dive 17 and 18; dives logged since July 1991 = 211

dive entity: Oceanic

place: First dive, Martini Rock; second at the Hole in the Wall

buddies: Veronica, Kevin and Steve Reay the second dive

depth/time: less than 14 first dive, about 10-12 the second

particulars: I wore 8 kg with Body Glove, purposely slightly overweight

dive leader/instructor: me

Remarks: Martini Rock had strong current and not much vis, plus it was a little deep for K & V's dive #4, but we made do. We postponed the surface compass work for later, and we crawled down the anchor line rather than risk a no ref descent, since it was too stiff for a buoy. The exercises went well and then we headed for the rock and prowled the shallow bit with blue and yellow soft corals and shoals of fish. K and V liked a large puffer that the other groups saw as well, and V liked the needle fish (coronet). A nice dive, but short. Timings: 10:05 to 10:25.


Next one, at Hole in the Wall, we went in at 13:55 and returned at 14:25. The area was good but V's bcd leaked in and she was all over the place with buoyancy, not her fault, but stressed herself and ran out of air fast. Other than that, we only got to explore one rock after the exercises. Still, there I found a red and black banded eel I'd never seen before, coiled in the urchins like a coral snake. Couldn't find its head. Nice day diving. Certified Kevin and Veronica.



April 2, 1998

Bateen Box jetty, Dives 19 and 20; dives logged since July 1991 = 213

dive entity: ADSAC

place: First dive, around corner from box; second at the Bateen Box itself

buddies: John and Alistair, novices on first ocean dives

depth/time: 5 meters first dive, 30 min; maybe 6 the second, 44 min

particulars: I wore 6 kg with Body Glove

dive leader/instructor: me

Remarks: I was asked to help give instruction on behalf of BSAC. Roger was the instructor in charge and John was our boatman, a competent one. He's a sports diver but a competent one of those as well.

My task was to take John the novice and Alistair on their first two ocean dives. John had in fact dived in the ocean on a PADI course he was taking simultaneously with Al Sharifi. The first dive was just a tour. The second was reg recovery, mask removal, shared air, and buddy breathing. Both divers performed excellently on all exercises and the second dive was spent mostly in touring.

First dive was best ever for the Bateen Box area. Vis was excellent as were the weather and sea conditions. Boat ride was cool going out, water chilly. Perhaps because of good vis we saw some fish. First off, there was what I took to be a ramora, large with flat head and body and appearance like a shark, but w/out dorsal fin. I gathered it was a ramora because it tried to cozy up to Alistair. Not at all shy, it dogged us for several minutes, like a puppy. We saw it after a pass over the sand off the jetty. I had written on my slate "Let's look for rays" but we saw none over the sand. But right as the ramora was taking its leave a spotted eagle ray darted out from the rocks and headed out of sight over the open sand. Right after that we saw a huge grouper crawl along the bottom and then head into the rock pile. Best dive ever in that water. Second dive was uneventful in comparison, a dull crawl along the rock piles, the usual aquarium fish.


By the way, I'm not sure if this ramora actually was one. For one thing, it was large, over a meter long. It looked like the fish we saw masses of in the Similan Islands, fish look like shark, not shark.


April 9, 1998

Damaniyites, Oman, Dives 21 and 22; dives logged since July 1991 = 215

dive entity: Blu Zone

place: Clavre Rock, for first dive, second at the southernmost Damaniyite, from s. tip to sandy beach

buddies: Bobbi, and Bill, who'd been in Oman for 15 years and knew Michael Neff

depth/time: 25 meters first dive, 40 min; down to 22 the second, most at 10 m, 50 min

vis: quite good, Edmund said 15 meters

particulars: I wore 8 kg with Body Glove, overweighted


First dive, superb, popped down to 25 m. to wall past the sand patch. Saw some grey morays on the wall, one big honeycomb. As wall petered into coral, a large grey ray came sailing out over the reef heading for the blue zone. Unusual to see one that high up and moving so fast. Bobbi saw a second flat pancake ray, as she put it. Lots of cuttlefish, perhaps a couple dozen seen snorkeling back to boat. Corals attractive, soft blue, tabletop, brain, cabbage. At least one turtle. Lots of thingies in them, like brine shrimp. Saw a crayfish. Lots of those at dinner later that night. Dive profile was less than 20 min at 28 meters, then 20 min. at 16, (45 at 12 was also allowed, didnt get to it.).


For second dive, we went in at southern tip of island and were supposed to drift to beach, though we came up far short. Not much in the way of biggies, though there was the largest honeycomb seen on trip who turned into his hole and poked out the other side to threaten Bill. Amusing thing was another diver came over the reef on top of this thing chasing a cuttlefish and ignored my signals, so missed the eel. Other than a few morays, lots of cuttlefish, and a turtle, not much to see besides beautiful reef and large variety of fish. Other group of divers returned chuffed over cavorting with friendly leopard shark right off sandy beach.


April 10, 1998

Damaniyites, Oman, Dives 23 and 24; dives logged since July 1991 = 217

dive entity: Blu Zone

place: Fab Rock/Island (exposed rock), for the first dive, second at the southernmost Damaniyite, from n. tip to next island over, the one off which Bobbi and I saw a few sharks (snorkeling) and the whale shark, on the other side of the same island a couple years back

buddies: Bobbi ill so an Afrikans dive pro joined me first dive (maybe her name was Raya), and I dived with Jim 2nd dive

depth/time: 22 meters first dive, 45 min; down to 4/5 meters the second, 50 min

vis: quite good, Edmund said 15 meters yesterday, about same and less in planktony spots today

particulars: I wore 8 kg with Body Glove, overweighted


Our first dive was absolutely superb, best in years, best this side of Borneo and south of Hormuz. We angle down to 20 m. over a picturesque reef leading to a wall at the base of which is a sandy patch. We swim along this with maximum vis for the day, spotting a barracuda or 3 oceanside, some other big commercial fish, and a honeycomb moray where the wall meets the sand, which we go over to investigate. Then along comes a leopard shark swimming happily just off the wall in open water. He comes quite near and I swim up towards him, but my buddy makes biting motions, so I back off and the leopard shark swims zigzaggedly on his way. Meanwhile, the honeycomb moray is swimming full undulant length along the wall, thinking we won't notice with all the distraction. Continuing a little further we encounter a school of maybe 100 barracuda. I see them behind my buddy and point, but I notice she's pointing behind me. She looks back and sees the barracuda swimming right behind her; I look back at where she was pointing and see that the other side of the circle is behind me and we're in the center, in the middle of a swirl of them, some really big ones. When we swim toward them, the circle moves away, and we skim over the top of the reef, ascending slightly from 20 m., and there are a few of the big barracuda there hanging out, cleaning each other, but otherwise motionless in the slight current. They eye us as we eye them. One of them points straight at me. This is odd; usually you see them broadside. Also it's odd to see them sit in one place where you can get right up to them. Eventually we turn to clear the reef and come into sand the other side and spot another leopard shark resting. This time my buddy seems not so concerned about biting, and we head over. She wants me to lead, either because she's not used to them, or more likely she wants to see what I'll do first. So I position myself parallel to the docile shark and skooch in close till I'm lying right next to the him. He doesn't budge so I take a breath and float over him and exhale so I come down on the other side. The shark stays put, eyes impassively glazed over, and I notice that my dive buddy is reaching behind me and stroking it. Touching is ostensibly fobidden by the Blu Zone, but she's the pro, and if she's doing it, ok, me too. As I run my finger down the side of the animal, he decides he's had enough intrusion and he languidly moves off in such a way that allows my hand to follow on down its tail. He moves off into the gloam but circles and returns to settle in the sand not far from where we're still watching. The lady and I look at each other through our masks, and with eyes and gestures signal, yeah, let's go play some more. So we fin over to where Mr. Shark is lying puppy-like and we each settle on either side of him. He tolerates us a little more before he decides this is beyond the pale, and he shoves off for good. We're running low on air (at least I am, my partner ended the dive with 100 bar) and we move on up the reef. A turtle fins by, a few more cuttlefish, some grey morays in the shallow rocks, and we surface through a spiralling school of a couple hundred fish who glitter in the sunlight like silver foil and who, all in sync, extend their jaws wide to feed, and at some signal, all close them at once. Back on the boat, as my partner is describing the wonders of the dive we've just had, I complain to Edmund that he promised us some rays but we didn't see any.


On our surface interval anchored off Sandy beach, one of the divers calls our attention to scads of black nudibranchs on the bottom, with blue irridescent circles. Dusty can't get down to them so I bring one up on a swim fin. Someone else has found a turtle to swim around with.


Second dive would almost be a throw-away, sent out over masses of coral at snorkel depth (Dusty is even finning overhead; he saw 3 sharks on his snorkel-dive). The coral is extensive. Not much within it of great interest, but barracuda cruise over the top. At one point, a turtle darts through a coral alley like he's being chased by something, maybe other divers further down. We head toward the sand at the edge of the reef and run right onto another leapard shark resting there. We are three in our group, and another pair are approaching. As they all draw up, I position myself parallel and just behind the shark and start inching near. But one of the divers kicks up some sand and the shark darts off, making a threatening turning motion toward the diver who broke etiquette before heading off into the edge of vis for us. I watch him circling out there. If it were just me, I'd wait a while, but my group are finning off, so I have to follow. And there's not much more on this dive except maybe another turtle, lots of cuttlefish, scads of reef fish, the pick of Oman's extensive fisheries whose isolation is no longer protected in these once protected islands. See it while you can! By Abu Dhabi standards, this dive is a 10, by Damanyite standards, about a 5.


April 17, 1998

Khor Fakhan, Dive 25; dives logged since July 1991 = 218

dive entity: Sandy Beach

place: Martini Rock

buddy: student Lucia Arpon (PADI O/W training dive #1)

vis: not so good, planktony, maybe 4/5 meters

seas: calm, minimal chop at site

depth: 13-14 meters in a 12 meter dive

time down: 10:29

time up: 11:12, 43 min.

particulars: I wore 8 kg with Body Glove, overweighted; This was Lucia's first open water dive

u/w skills practiced: buoyancy with inflator, half mask clear, reg recovery, alternate air static

critters spotted: two green morays, one sort of sitting in a sandy crevice exposed

lots of lion fish, particularly attractive in the soft white, yellow, blue coral gardens

long coronet (trumpet?) fish

nice frilly tailed rainbow angel fish

lots of triggers, one starting on a nest

Nice enough dive, Lucia's first. She did very well for first dive, good buoyancy control, very collected at hectic boat boarding and site entry. Skills dispensed with quickly, tour was nice through soft coral gardens. Lots of lion fish, lots of fish in general. Pretty dive, excellent for a first go.



April 17, 1998

Khor Fakhan, Dive 26; dives logged since July 1991 = 219

dive entity: shore dive

place: Pinnacles

buddy: student Lucia Arpon (PADI O/W training dive #2)

vis: not so good, planktony, maybe 3/5 meters, though clear patches on near approach to rocks

seas: calm

depth: 10-11 meters

time down: 14:14

time up: (about an hour) this was an up and down dive, lost track of actual time, no danger of decompression

particulars: I wore 8 kg with Body Glove, overweighted; This was Lucia's 2nd open water dive

u/w skills practiced: buoyancy with oral, full mask clear, alternate air ascent, emergency swim ascent

surface skills practiced: cramp removal, tired diver tow

critters: a brine shrimp in a hole in the rocks

a flounder near a crown of thorns

some large puffer fish

the schools of fish with jaws that open and shut on cue

a cuttlefish


This was not as good as our recent snorkel when we saw barracuda and turtle. I thought vis was good at first but it turned out to be cloudy. Lucia did well despite sickness and ear problems on descents, multiple ones. Tour portion of dive was extensive. A little tar on beach and in water, but sea was calm, so swim out was easy, about 20 min. Dropped line too shallow and had to move it, then couldn't find it again (should have left it deeper other side, afterthought, but there's plenty of air to do shallow dives all over pinnacles after doing grunt work in the clearer lee side of islands). Lots of fish about but not much coral and too cloudy to see larger animals in more open water. Still, a few points of interest. Chill water occurred in patches.


Fri, April 24, 1998

Abu Dhabi, Dive 27; dives logged since July 1991 = 220

dive entity: Ali Bushnaq's boat, with Peter along in his

place: Ras Al Gharab coral patch

buddies: students Lucia Arpon (PADI O/W training dive #4) and Sandra Bushnaq (PADI O/W training dive #1)

vis: not bad for RAG, a little planktony, maybe 3/4/5 meters

sea conditions: mild roll brought on a little sickness

depth: 7 meters max (up to about 20 ft)

time down: 12:03

time up: 12:35 (Lucia low on air)

Descended on my dive buoy line which I'd dropped, but Sandra had ear problems and with hovering about and low vis, managed to lose the line.

Got Sandra down by helping her monitor progress on my depth guage till we could skim the top of the reef, and she was hooked after that and worked through the ear problems. The reef was teeming with fish floating all over it, and on first pass we saw a turtle, which Lucia swam after once I'd given permission to break strict buddy rules temporarily. She was never out of sight of course, and kept checking back with us.

We hit a sand patch and I let Lucia and Sandra establish buoyancy. Then Sandra did a half mask clear and a reg recovery. We swam over the reef again, found another sand patch, and Sandra took Lucia's octopus reg for a simulation.

Next pass over the reef and L signaled out of air so we had a normal ascent up the suddenly spotted lost line, and we put S back on the boat. Then L did a 50 m. snorkel reg exchange and a compass heading back to boat, weights and bcd removal and replace at surface, and we headed home in slight chop.


Fri, May 15, 1998

Abu Dhabi, Dive 28; dives logged since July 1991 = 221

dive entity: Marina Divers, Al Sharifi

place: Cement Barge

buddies: students Lucia Arpon (PADI O/W training dive #5) and Jon Phillips (PADI O/W training dive #4)

vis: not bad, maybe 3/4 or 5 meters

sea conditions: mild

depth: 10 meters max (up to about 30 ft)

time down: 10:17

time up: 10:46 (Jon low on air)

We descended on the cement barge wreck and saw a big barracuda right off, crossed the barge to look at fish, and settled in sand at 10 m. where Jon fin pivoted while Lucia took a mask off and replaced it, Jon flooded his. Then Lucia did a compass heading out and back, kept level well. We went around the wreck and encountered huge schools of huge barracuda, maybe 100 swirling about. Got real close. Nice. Also bat fish about and an angel, speckled grouper. Lucia hovered nicely. Jon ran low on air so we made a casual return to the anchor line and Lucia went up it in an emergency swimming ascent. Great dive for the cement barge. Jon did his surface snorkel reg exchange out and compass back, then removed tank and weights. Nice day out, back by noon. Certified Lucia.


Thu, May 21, 1998

Khor Fakkan, Dive 29; dives logged since July 1991 = 222

dive entity: 7 Seas, Mohammed

place: Coral Gardens

buddies: Bobbi; Al and Ali on Deep Dive, their first Advanced O/W dive

vis: not bad, 5 meters

sea conditions: mild

depth: 21 meters barely

time down: 11:56 to 21 meters for 25 min. (13 min at 16 min)

time up: 12:34 plus 3 min safety stop


I planned a 20 min dive at 22 and 20 more at 16. Hard to get a fix on how deep the dive would be. Prior to diving Mhmd told me Martini Rock could get 22 meters, but as we needed depth (turned out M/Rock wasn't really that deep after all), Mhmd decided to drop us off at Coral Gardens while M/Rock divers fried in sun on Mhmd's unshaded boat. Shade frame was up, but no shade cloth. Mhmd's boat dive briefing was that we should swim North or east for greater depth. So we dropped in over sand, a few iridescent yellow soft coral horns about, and swam north at 18 meters, on and on. It began to occur to me that it would have been MOST convenient if Mhmd had taken us a bit out to sea and dropped us deeper, but we spent first 15 min of deep dive in 18 meters heading north through not much of anything. Meanwhile, Al lagged. His tank came off its clamp and he scurried along to show us. Showed good presence, but should have sorted it out beforehand with proper fit in the boat. It was the d-bolt clamp type. I made a quick strap adjust and put him back together. Al did something else funny, I forget. Also dropped his dive slate but Bobbi came along behind having picked it up. She did well the whole dive. Ali tapped me on the shoulder and asked for a slate. Body breath he wrote. Body breath? Oh, buddy breathe, I figured out. I ignored him and pushed on. He hadn't truly prepared, did not understand exactly what we were doing on this deep dive. With Al below 100 bar I finally picked up a bit of reef and a slope down. Ali signalled zig zag let's look around. I would have liked to, but I had to ignore him again and stop in 21 meters of water and have the divers do the cognitive tasks. A turtle swam by as we were settling in. We compared depth gauges, got some variance. Al was down to 70 so I signalled return on the bottom. We were at 20 min into the dive but nothing to see at 16 meters so I decided to stay on the bottom at 18 rather than go up one level. No problem there from an nitrogen standpoint. When Al got down to 50 at 25 min I signaled a rise and we continued on south heading in midwater. At the moment I was about to signal a 3 min safety stop, Al let me know he was totally out of air. Fortunately, he was keeping good buddy distance and was right beside me. I had plenty so I gave him my octopus. I now had Al one one arm breathing happily away on my spare hose and a depth gauge and compass on the other, and had to lead the group north (might as well get back to the boat, wherever it was) at 5 meters for 3 minutes (safety stop not required for dive, but a performance requirement of advanced dive). Bobbi and Ali kept perfect buoyancy and Al was very collected, almost complacent finishing up the dive on my air. We surfaced about 30 meters from the boat.



Thu, May 21, 1998

Khor Fakkan, Dive 30; dives logged since July 1991 = 223

dive entity: 7 Seas, Mohammed

place: Martini Rock

buddies: Sandra Bushnaq's 2nd O/W dive

vis: not bad, 5 meters

sea conditions: mild

depth: 12 meters

time down: 13:07

time up: 13:47


Not looking forward to now having to wait while others dived Martini Rock, I was pleased when Sandra said she was kitted and ready and wanted to go diving. A spare tank was found for me and we went in. We corkscrewed around the rock while Sandra overcame her ear problems. The usual corals to see, blues, purples, yellows, whites. Lovely stuff. Lots of trigger fish about: blue, pale brown, green. We eventually made depth and Sandra did a mask clear and replace, buoyancy on oral inflate, and octopus breathing exercise. Then we cruised and found a speckled honeycomb moray in the rocks right by the anchor. Eventally we surfaced on a shared air ascent. I forgot to have Sandra do her surface work, and we put off the ESA till dive 5, but it was good to give Sandra a pleasant experience diving. She was stoked on the whole thing, probably looking forward to the next one.


Thu, May 21, 1998

Khor Fakkan, Dive 31; dives logged since July 1991 = 224

dive entity: 7 Seas, Mohammed

place: Shark Island

buddies: Al Plucknett

vis: not bad, 5 meters

sea conditions: mild afternoon chop, strong surface current

depth: 10 meters, allow 12

time down: 15:41

time up: 16:15 plus 3 min safety stop


This was Al's second advanced dive, underwater navigation. Current conditions made us consider reverting to boat dive, but underwater, current was not bad, so we went on with the navigation dive. We found a fishing pot near the anchor line and in view of the boat overhead and tied my 23 meter rope to it and I unraveled it as Al swam out at the rate of about a meter per kick cycle, time about 30 seconds over 20 meters (my recollection, not exact). I made a cairn of available materials and Al and I swam back to the fish pot while I took in the plastic rope. Actually I left a loop of it floating free as a cheat reference. Al was then to eyeball back to the cairn and return to the fish pot. In fact, he had taken a compass bearing, so when he started out for the cairn, he set out on a heading. In any event, he came near enough to it, so that I could at least see it in the murk. Then he reversed on a reciprocal. I tried to get his attention by banking on my tank, but he was oblivious and he headed back to the pot using a compass. He said later that he had heard the banging and wondered what it was, but buddy contact was not in his mind, which was focused on task. He at least arrived near the pot, but then I was at a loss of what to do, since he'd just done the compass work, so I suggested a heading of north and return. Al executed this fine. Then he was to swim a square pattern. He took off on a westerly heading and by the end of 20 kicks he was a few meters above me in the water. I at the bottom expected him to look around at me so I could get him back down, but he didn't and went on with the second leg, and I watched him in effect perform a safe ascent. He didn't realize it till he was lining up on his third leg. He saw he was at the surface, spotted me on the bottom, and came back down. By then the square pattern was out of whack and he had not met the performance requirement of maintaining buoyancy. Plus we had lost the fishing pot and my line attached to it. On reflection, we should have just gone back over the route just taken, but instead I headed on the hypotenuse for where I thought it should be. This would have been hopeless except that we came upon the rope attached to the fishing pot. I followed it the wrong way for a while, realized my error, and went back the correct way until we arrived at the pot at the end. I recovered my line. Al was low on air so I suggested a look around for sting rays. None spotted but we completed a brief circuit back to the fish pot and could have ascended straight to the boat. In the event this might be our boat dive I figured we'd best do the required 3 min at 5 meters, plus Al could use the practice he'd missed out on clinging to me in the deep dive. So we drifted down from the boat at 5 meters, holding our place mid-water. Al did fine and we surfaced away from the boat and swam back to it.


Thu, May 21, 1998

Khor Fakkan, Dive 32; dives logged since July 1991 = 225

dive entity: Shore dive NIGHT DIVE

place: Pinnacles

buddies: Al Plucknett

vis: not bad, 5 meters

sea conditions: mild

depth: 12 meters

time down: 21:05

time up: 21:45 (est)


This was a FINE night dive (Al's advanced). We left the motel in dusk and stopped off for batteries, shawarma, and mango juice halfway. After 30 min we were nearing Sandy Beach and pulled in at the underwater park sign just north of there. We could see nothing in the pitch black water, no moon, and we mulled our option to go to hidden cove where there would be a point we could follow directly off the shore. There was a boat on the Pinnacles with a light, probably Sandy Beach doing a night dive, and we took a compass bearing on it, due east. This being Al's first foray into night diving, it took considerable pluck for him to carry on at this point, but he showed no signs of being hesitant about entering the dark water and swimming on a heading to a rock we could easily miss, the boat by then having returned to Sandy Beach, so we kitted up and headed out. I had warned Al about the 20 min swim. He is not a strong swimmer and was having trouble with his Impulse snorkel, which was filling with water at the purge, so he was spouting water continually. This tired him and eventually we exchanged snorkels. After 15 min into the swim Al expressed concerns about his ability to carry on with it. I told him I didn't want him to overextend and informed him honestly that it could be another 10 or 15 min, but we could do it at his pace. He seemed satisfied that he could continue, and in fact we started seeing sloping bottom about 5 min later. It was worth the effort. We descended among the islands and found morays piled one on top of another all over the place. Hundreds of them. We found a fish pot with marker buoys trailing off it and I suggested Al do his compass work from there. He headed out and disturbed a sting ray in the sand before realizing he was on top of it. The ray buggered off. Al had got a little high off the bottom, but not at all like before, and he came back down for the return leg. On the return he skirted by the pot which was out of his light beam to the right. He wasn't keeping track of his kicks, and he wasn't doing his buddy checking, so he got well past the pot and into the rocks before realizing it couldn't possibly be there and turning around and finding me with a light on the pot. He hadn't missed it by much, but his failure to keep track of kicks had sent him well past it. I was satisfied with his headings, his buoyancy was improving, and he could work on his buddy checking and kick counting. Continuing the dive we found much of interest. We went out over sand looking for rays and found lots of invertebrates emerged from the sand fan feeding. There was a hole that looked like it had been cut with a drill bit that had cool water coming from it. In the rocks, big hermit crabs were out carrying shells swarming with anenomae. We captured cuttlefish in our light beams and brought them before our face masks. We spared the huge puffers. We caught parrot fish in their lairs. There was a big red crab and a tiny crab on a rock by a moray. Morays were small grey ones and bigger greens. A sea urchin with articulated purple spines had iridescent blue at its center, animated beauty. Angel fish came out in multicolor, bright red star fish were striking in our torch beams. The Pinnacles were teeming, excellent diving.



Fri, May 22, 1998

Khor Fakkan, Dive 33; dives logged since July 1991 = 226

dive entity: 7 Seas, Mohammed

place: Lima Rock channel

buddies: Al Plucknett, Veronica Hookstead, Steve Reay

vis: poor, 3/4 meters

sea conditions: mild chop

depth: 24 meters

time down: around noon

time up: 15 min. later

Veronica and Steve's Advanced O/W deep dive

Al's Advanced O/W multilevel dive


A typical day begins with Mohammed the 5 star PADI dive leader. He arrives late at the shop complaining that he overslept because the hotel didn't awaken him. Apparently there is no alarm function on his dive watch. He rushes off to get his boat leaving us at the shop to sort ourselves out and figure out where to meet him at Dibba. At Dibba harbor two of our divers, not impressed with his boat handling and neglect of shade from the day before, are now concerned that the boat is overloaded (two were promised, only one arrived) and they depart in a huff leaving ten divers, about the right amt. for Mhmd's small boat. I notice dockside that I've left my reg in the bathroom of my hotel. Fortunately I'd picked up an extra at the dive shop for use with the 5 meter emergency tank required on our deep dive, so I slap that on my tank and off we go. We head north up the Mussandam coastline. Mhmd points to a rock in the distance and says that's our destination. Closer to the rock, he notices it's not and we continue north for an hour and a half total. On the way he mentions that he doesn't actually KNOW the dive sites off Lima rock since he's only laying on this trip for his friend John Barrington. This becomes obvious as he pulls in on the shore side of Lima Rock. It's choppy here and rocking the boat. I figure that's why he anchors further offshore out in the channel from the island. Divers start going over the side. In our group we figure we could use more weight, but Mhmd doesn't seem to have thought to bring any extra in his rush that morning, so there's not a spare weight on the boat. Steve is going in awfully light, only 4 kilos, but he runs through a calculation for me, sounds like he knows what he's doing, and as he's a distance runner and small and wiry, he could be a sinker. It's sweltering in the boat with wetsuits on and Al goes in without a buddy check and without notifying anyone. Now he's in the water and we're in the middle of the channel. Eventually we all join him at the anchor line and are about to descend down it when Mhmd advises us from topside NOT to do that, as the boat is anchored in 40 meters of water, he says. We've planned a 24 meter dive and require a tactile or visual descent, so to get that now we'll have to swim for shore. As we make our way there, about 150 meters distant, Mhmd pulls anchor and motors past us in the boat. Why didn't he just drop us over there, I wonder. Possibly because Al was already in the water, but I find out why later from Jan who followed the anchor line down to 35 meters and found it floating midwater (a meter off the bottom, fortunately for him). We were never anchored!


Meanwhile, big tuna wander by just below as we fin on the surface. My group is approaching the point. There's a backwash current that is pushing us off as we approach it. Al lags but motors on, and Veronica complains that this is tiring. I suggest a sprint swim or we'll never reach the rock. All agree, and we get there to find that the rock wall goes straight down, no bottom in sight. While we get our act together for descent (includes an orientation with a compass check to find that south is the direction to the wall), we drift far enough off the wall so that when we do go down there is no reference. We can't see the rock and there is no bottom. Steve can't get down. I swim up and pull his fin, thinking to get him over the point where compression takes over and he sinks. He never reaches that point. We descend gradually to 24 meters. Each time I let go of Steve, he wants to go up. He has NO air in his bcd. I have Steve hanging on me and have to monitor compass and depth gauge as I try to keep on a south heading. As I swim, I get the impression I'm going in circles. The compass needle is always pushing off to the left. All around is brown murk. Except that we're surrounded by barracuda. Big ones, hundreds of them. We're in a spiral of them. There are also tuna here. We're in deep water stuff. Somewhere in here, I manage to get a kilo off my weight belt and into Steve's bcd pocket, and he is finally off my arm and able to swim on his own. I'm confused and frustrated at not being able to swim south to the rock when suddenly a bottom appears. We swim to it and I hold my compass to it. The needle deflects so that south now points east. Veronica is doing great considering this is her 5th dive ever, and Al, keeping excellent track of depth and time through all this signals time and up and leads us to the next level. We head there and immediately get a low on air sign from Steve. We head up at a correct rate of ascent and at 5 meters hang out for three min, all divers doing very well throughout all circumstances. Only glitch is that Steve arrives on board without a weight belt, which we figure is 50 meters down. My weight belt unfortunately. No one wants to go back for it. Anyway, after getting over the shock of having been dropped again in the wrong place in potentially dangerous and at the very least inconvenient circumstances, all agree that this was a strikingly interesting and unusual dive, the barracuda being really COOL. None of the other divers saw much of anything, as we hear as they begin to emerge from all over the ocean, having been spread asunder by the currents in the channel. Bottom line: all survive to tell the tale.



Fri, May 22, 1998

Khor Fakkan, Dive 34; dives logged since July 1991 = 227

dive entity: 7 Seas, Mohammed

place: John Barrington's Cave

buddies: Al Plucknett, (Veronica Hookstead, Steve Reay)

vis: variable, 5 meters and less in plankton clouds

sea conditions: mild

depth: 16 meters

time down: around 2:00

time up: 35/40 min later


Al Plucknett's final Advanced Open Water Checkout dive, officially a boat dive

Veronica and Steve's Advanced O/W boat dive


For this dive we go to a cave entrance that John Barrington has found on a previous dive. The cave goes into the rock and out at another place, and I decline to take my divers there as it is not clear if there would be an escape to the surface on all points of the dive. Also, Al has to repeat the square pattern from the day before. I make it clear to V and S that they can buddy independently if they wish. They decide to follow us, but we agree on a wave-off if they want to go it alone. Mhmd briefs us for a 9 meter descent and shallower water up the coastline. Naturally, we find 16 meters as we go, but at any rate, Al executes a good square pattern from the anchor. He doesn't buddy check, but he keeps his buoyancy, kick count, and headings right on. And, in a repeat of the night before, he compasses right onto a sting ray that's waiting for us at the anchor line. The 4 of us regroup and head left along the coastline. After a few min we encounter a thermocline of thick silt, so I decide to return to the anchor and continue the opposite direction. As we pass the anchor, V and S head up it, 15 min into the dive. S signals five fingers, which I take to mean he's out of air. In fact it was V's face mask on too tight, and S was signaling that they would do the 5 meter safety stop as required for a boat dive. At any event, Al and I continued for another 15-20 min meandering among the rocks at 16 meters out and 12 back, with a safety stop inside the cave. Not much to see apart from the usual colorful fish and coral. Congrats to Al on completing his course.




Fri, June 5, 1998

Khor Fakkan, Dive 35; dives logged since July 1991 = 228

dive entity: 7 Seas, Mohammed

place: Martini Rock

buddies: Turlough O'Brien, Dusty, Jon Phillips

vis: variable, 4 meters, not too good

sea conditions: mild

depth: 14 meters

time down: 11:10

time up: 12:10, after dropping off Turlough and Jon midway


Jon Phillips' final Open Water Checkout dive

Dusty and Turlough's first Open Water dives

Kevin did a boat dive for his Advanced course, buddied with Al Plucknet


Martini Rock not disappointing. We headed down the anchor line, me first, and a turtle was wandering our way. So I dropped down to the turtle's depth and awaited it, all my group with hands on the line right above mine. It came right up to me and only ducked off when I touched its head. It then visited Dusty, and scooted off when Turlough tried to grab a barnacle off its back.


We were too deep down the anchor line so I toured around trying to find a shallower spot for exercises. We encountered thermoclines too cold for Turlough who had not arranged a wetsuit (we'd had extras in the car, I'd asked if anyone needed anything ...) Eventually we roosted at 14 m., did buoyancy, had Dusty and T throw away regs, clear half flooded masks, breath off alternate air. Then Jon removed & replaced his mask, attempted a hover, and headed out a sand path on a heading and returned to the original spot. Then we swam around and found a few of the morays and the usual yellow, white and purple soft corals that live on Martini. But T and J exhausted air early, so we spiraled up the rock and dropped them at the boat after half an hour, and Dusty and I, with 100 bar each, continued essentially a repeat of the dive, but Dusty looking real cute in his oversized dive gear. He did extremely well his first dive ever, kept buoyancy, monitored air properly, seemed to enjoy it.



Fri, June 5, 1998

Khor Fakkan, Dive 36; dives logged since July 1991 = 229

dive entity: 7 Seas, Mohammed

place: Shark Island

buddies: Turlough O'Brien and Christina MacKenzie, Dusty

vis: variable, 4 meters, not too good

sea conditions: mild

depth: 14 meters

time down: 13:14

time up: 13:59


Dusty and Turlough's second Open Water dives


Dusty wrote about this one, what a bore. I guess I pretty much concur. The usual Mhmd briefing, he saying we'd be in 9 meters, an ideal depth for PADI OW dive #2, but the anchor was in 14 meters, and so I started out looking for sand at shallower depth. Inside the island where we'd been dropped off, we found no coral to speak of, only sparse brown boulders, no surface for exercises above 14 meters, and not much of interest in fish life, though there was one trigger fish that made a few passes at me, so I guess it must have been getting on to egg-laying season. Christina and Turlough had an interesting signal for box fish, and there were lots of coronet fish. Dusty and T eventually surfaced on alternate air and we returned T to the boat. Dusty returned to depth to attempt an ESA from 14 meters down Mhmd's anchor line. T was having ear problems, so I didn't have him do an ESA as well. 14 was too deep (as it clearly states in the manual, to do this exercise in from 6 to 9 meter) and I learned that I should have gone down the line to that depth and conducted the exercise from there. The experience gave me tangible support for the advice that an ESA was an out-of-air option only at depths to 10 meters, so I learned something, as I often do while instructing.



Thu, June 11, 1998

Abu Dhabi, Dive 37; dives logged since July 1991 = 230

dive entity: Greg, charter boat at the Intercon

place: Cement Barge

buddies: Turlough O'Brien, Scott Benson, Dusty, Al Plucknet along for the ride

vis: variable, 4 meters, not too good

sea conditions: mild chop, 1 to 2 foot swell, enough to make Dusty uncomfortable

depth: 9 meters

time down: 9:27

time up: 12:10


Dusty and Turlough's third Open Water dive #4

Scott's dive #1


Greg's boat was a nice surprise, immaculately kept, shady, well tended, organized, professional briefing, tanks gleaming, each date stamped Sept 1997. After the police boat at the mouth of the harbor, Greg pointed out the chop and suggested we head for shelter, but said it was my call. I consulted the divers and consensus was to go for the barge. The chop to me was nothing unusual, and Greg had a platform at the back where he could hand each diver his kit and let him do a giant stride and hang on the tag line. Here we checked buoyancy, gave Scott some more weight, and headed down the anchor, Scott and I on it and T and D off to the side. Vis on the barge was crap, and not all that many neat fish about, so we dispensed with our exercises and examined the barge. There was plenty of time, with all divers doing well on air, and so I had Dusty and T run compass courses out over the sand and back to the boat. On one of these, we came on the school of barracuda that hangs out at the barge. The barracuda managed to elude our seeing them unless we kept swimming at them since they were able to hang just out of our vis range, but this turned out to be the big siting of the day, and not all in our group saw them, or saw them well. Meanwhile back at the barge, we hovered a bit, doing a few things in anticipation of the next lesson, which turns out to be a great way to work. In the pool, we'd often anticipate exercises from the coming lesson, which meant students got a crack at them in a non-evaluative mode, and were therefore better able to do the exercises when the time came. This worked well with D and T, both competent divers. We surfaced up the anchor line, T doing an ESA just fine. We put Scott on board and did snorkel reg switches and surface compass headings, the chop a bit much for Dusty, so when Greg asked where next, coral gardens or shelter, Dusty said shelter, and that's where we headed.




Thu, June 11, 1998

Abu Dhabi, Dive 38; dives logged since July 1991 = 231

dive entity: Greg, charter boat at the Intercon

place: Inside (channel side) of "Three Green Peaks", the 3 umbrellas

buddies: Turlough O'Brien, Scott Benson, Dusty, Al Plucknet along for the ride

vis: variable, 2 meters, terrible

sea conditions: calm, which is why we'd retreated here

depth: 9 meters

time down: 11:36

time up: 12:40


Dusty and Turlough's FINAL Open Water dive #5, certification granted

Scott's dive #2


Vis was utterly abysmal on this dive and we saw little in the way of fish life aside from some shrimps in holes behind guppies that Greg had alerted us to. So we did exercises and made it a technical dive, the immediate challenge being to stay together in the haze. At some point we found a bit of pipe at the base of a conical rock and I had D and T do compass headings out and back. Both did very well, Tulough right on top of his origin point and Dusty not far off. We wandered off to where I thought we should surface and have a look around, and I had Scott take D's octopus and head up. Both needed reminding about dumping BCD's but after an initial balloon ascent, settled into a model performance. At this point, T and D were certified divers, so we marked the boat at 240 degrees and decided to fin across the sand on that heading, in hopes of at least seeing a ray, agreeing in advance that if D and T got separated, they should dive together. Al decided to stay with Scott and I, which was a good thing, as he and Scott had trouble keeping up with the two boys, and after a while, I just lagged with S and A. Much to my great pride, D and T ended their dive right near the boat, having perfectly done their headings. S and A and I turned north and relocated the jetty wall and surfaced there with enough air to take Scott back down at the anchor line and have him do his ESA. All this activity turned what would have been an utterly boring recreational dive into something of an accomplishment. And of course I'm looking forward to doing some interesting dives now with Dusty, and with Glenn too when he gets here.



Fri, June 26, 1998

Abu Dhabi, Dives 39 and 40; dives logged since July 1991 = 233

dive entity: ADSAC

place: Hannan, Delta Buoy

buddies: young Chris first dive, Al Smith second

vis: 2 or 3 meters

sea conditions: mild

depth: 1st dive to 20 meters; second maybe 7 or 8

time down: don't recall; 30 min first dive, 40 min second

time up: who cares


An hour 15 min out to the Hannan in fairly smooth seas. Vis was ok heading down but became murky after 10 meters. The Hannan even obscured unless you were right on it. I was teamed with Chris by virtue of the fact that neither of us had computers. He was a young novice diver with spirit and I enjoyed diving with him. We crawled into the wreck a bit as I'd brought my light. Not much to see otherwise. On the hull side we found the barracuda and went chasing after them. We lost the boat. I'd noted it was lying north south and after a few fins the wrong way tried to recall, which end was the north one. Funny how impressions crowd out intuition. Intuition was leading us west, the wrong way. Impression suggested that north was the end we were tied to, so we should go east back to the boat. I called a halt. Chris pulled out his compass too and signalled North. No, I returned, west. We headed that way. I counted kicks. At about 20 the hull appeared dark haze. Two cycles later we were there. Conclusion, vis 2 meters. But coming up at the stern, we found ourselves in the swirl of barracuda. In fact we headed up in their center. We stalled the ascent since they were all around and we could get a great look. And when we hit ten meters, we could see them clearly. We did a 3 min stop with barracuda swirling in view just below. Nice.


No one wanted to do the Hannan again. Not that big a wreck. So we GPS'd to Delta buoy and expended a tank there. We went in teams with one group doing 40 min and Al and I teamed to go in when the first lot came up, since we were following divers meandering in the gulleys Al kept talking about. I followed Al through these gulleys and basically it was just passing time. Not much but a few fish and a few rocks and various kinds of coral: brain, cabbage, elkhorn, sponge. Not colorful, but living coral. An anthropologist's dive.



Thu, June 25, 1998

Damaniyites, Dives 41 and 42; dives logged since July 1991 = 235

dive entity: ODC, Al Sawadi Resort

place: Fad, or Fab (heard differently) and end of protected reef, drifting back along turtle beach

buddies: Dusty and the silly miss P

vis: someone estimated 10 meters, but I might have thought less, maybe 7 at depth; they said the vis was "forever" just two weeks before

sea conditions: mild chop

depth: 1st dive to 21-22 meters (depending on guage), and steady 12 second dive

time down: 10:15 to 10:47; 13:07 to 14:04

time up: 14:04


Dusty's advanced open water deep dive


Going out to the site, we were treated to the sight of hundreds of dolphins frolicking, some leaping in the air and spinning, all around the boat. Actually the boat went over where the dolphins were. Lots of babies in the several pods.


We decided on a multilevel profile: 22 meters 30 min, Q; 16 meters 10 min U, 12 meters 30 min

Dusty did a C to F conversion in 20 sec on the surface and in less time at depth (but he used a slate at depth, and worked in his head at the surface)

At depth Bobbi had 22 meters on her depth gauge and Dusty had 21. We took a bottle of Tanoof water down with us for compression effects. We drank the water on the surface while awaiting boat pickup.

There was no oxygen tank over the side because the boat was picking up drift divers. We did our 3 min stop at the top of the reef in 5 meters of water.


The sea was rocky where we stopped by Fab or Fad rock. Bobbi had taken dramamime and was not sick. Dusty was a little effected by the seas but got suited up buddy checked and in the water before us. Bobbi and I joined him and held on to a short rope from the boat while getting set. Then we let go and Dusty did a last minute strap readjustment as we drifted, so when we went down we were too far downcurrent from our entry point and had to fin for it in shallow water to the dropoff. Bobbi waving at me the whole way like she's got a problem, me trying to get us out of the shallows where the current is. Finally at the edge of the drop, what's on my mind is minimizing sucking up air trying to get out of current in shallow water on a deep dive, and she wants desperately for me to stop and give her a slate so she can write something. What she writes when we finally get one to her is "Slow down".


That bit of silliness out of the way we proceed to depth in very disappointing conditions for Damaniyites. We find 21 meters and do exercises as above. Then we're off on a dive. We don't see a whole lot considering the drive and expense, but it's always fun as a family. Possibly a most memorable moment is a honeycomb moray in one hole next to a couple of crawfish crowding another. Blue triggerfish were out to get us - definitely an egg laying month. They'd come right up to us. Swarms of fish, coral that sort of thing.


Snorkeling with Dusty during the surface interval at the protected beach area, we'd finished a shoof of the reef and I'd passed my fins aboard. I was having one last look underwater before climbing aboard when I called for my fins back. A large, armspread size dark ray was passing underneath. Dusty and I chased after him He gracefully cruised the reef, skirts rippling, ignoring us. When I dropped down in front of him, he seemed curious. I couldn't herd him back over to Dusty or to shallower water. On one last duck dive I grabbed his skirt. He didn't react in the least, just went on his way.


Second dive I had high hopes. We were dropped at the start of protected reef for a drift back. I stayed in the sand edge hoping to see a leopard shark like last time or another ray. Instead, lots of cuttlefish, a single white faced ray (with orange processes), some biggish fish passing by in the gloom. But a long dive 57 minutes. Nice one all in all. Dusty doing very well, Mom behaving herself.



Fri, June 26, 1998

Damaniyites, Dives 43 and 44; dives logged since July 1991 = 237

dive entity: ODC, Al Sawadi Resort

place: Jazirat Jed (turns out to be the name of the island we always dive)

First dive, the back side, second the island where we saw the whale shark years ago

buddies: Dusty and the silly miss P

vis: better than yesterday, 4 meters at depth, 10 or more higher up

sea conditions: better than yesterday, mild, and we stayed in sheltered areas

depth: 1st dive, 21 meters; second 16 to 18

time down: first dive, down about 10:15, up around 11:00, earlier

time up: second, down at 13:12, up 14:00 on the dot


No dolphins on the boat ride out, but I did see one yellow and black banded sea snake rippling on the surface just before it was swept aside by the wake of the boat.


This dive we went back of the island to the spot where mom and I did our very first dive at the Damaniyites. It was one of Simon's live dives, everyone off the boat and drifting to the exit where Simon would pick us up. As usual we dropped to the sand bottom hoping to see the biggies, but after twenty minutes in the cold below the thermocline, with poor vis, and drab brown walls with not much but the teems of fish and the odd moray or crayfish, we finally hit an interesting corner of the reef, and saw there a ray without a tail. By then we were low on air. Dusty gave me seven fingers when I thought he had at least 100, so I took us up to the shallows and we spent about a quarter hour floating in some strikingly lovely coral heads with fish all around, all kinds, really peaceful and beautiful. We seemed to drift forever there, Dusty staying on 50 bar a good amt of time, Bobbi and I just below 100. The trigger fish were becoming a bit aggressive, as they were last July around Martini Rock. There were lots of crayfish here, and in fact I remember them from the last time, this being a particularly good spot for them. We finally surfaced at the end of the island and got a signal from the boat that it had seen us just as we drifted out of sight around the corner.


The surface interval was spent in the usual snorkel spot, but this time it was more unusual. Instead of one ray there appeared two, big ones, skirts rippling as they drifted along in 5 to 7 meters of water. One had a collection of fish around him that were obviously feeding, including a coronet fish that would dart occasionally. We were enjoying the rays when I happened to notice that a leopard shark had taken residence in around 8 or 9 meters, just below most people's ability to get down to him. I was myself able to get down next to him and give him a pat or two, and eventually I figured out how to anchor myself on a coral head next to him and touch his oddly hard skin (unlike the soft skirts of the rays). I could do this in such a way as not to disturb him. Meanwhile Dusty was the only other in our group of ten with the audacity and ability to approach him, and he got increasingly deeper on repeated dives, until he managed to get within reach on one and bonk the shark on the head, at which point the shark decided to motivate himself to a slightly deeper resting place. While it lasted it was surely the best surface interval I have ever enjoyed.


Meanwhile Simon was thinking to break pattern of ALWAYS having the second dive in the same spot near the surface interval and he took us to the next island down where Bobbi, Dusty and I had seen the whale shark a few years back. This turned out to be the great ending to our short holiday, easy drift dive. We headed down to a 16 meter bottom. Dusty and Bobbi had been efficient getting in the water and we managed to get ahead of the fat oldsters who had been our companions that day. So we saw all the animals before everyone else. I looked under a ledge and found a turtle there, and we had a good look while the turtle turned himself around and exited the cave slowly as the others in the group managed to just glimpse his departure. Further ahead I saw what looked to be a twig floating in the water just above the sand, but this twig had a head and turned out to be a seahorse, in fact one of two sea horses. Bobbi was very excited since she'd been wanting to see one.


The leopard shark was lying in the sand just where we'd hoped to find him after three dives of lurking off the sand bottoms. We came upon him all three of us and Dusty seemed to ask if he could touch him, so I signaled help yourself. But he swam over to the shark and then dipped down as if to get on his knees next to him, and in so doing his fins churned up sand. I tried to pull him back to a prone position, but the shark was already discomblomerated and finned off into the shadows. Fortunately for the others just coming on the scene at that point, he did a circle, at one point heading straight at me, veering off nonchalantly at the last moment, and settled back in the sand. But a Dutch woman had come ahead of her crowd, and she grabbed him by the tail, so he buggered off again, and that was our leopard shark experience for that dive.


After that, there were a honeycomb ray, several trigger fish, lots of streamlined seagoing fish, big batfish, and a solitary barracuda skimming over the top of the reef that only I saw. There were also a couple of turtles lounging on a rock wall who scampered off as slowly or as fast as turtles can go when we approached. We ended the dive in a drift among purple and yellow soft corals, and some lovely white and purple species. A really spectacular dive. Lucky Dusty!


Mon, July 6, 1998

Khor Fakkhan, Dives 45 and 46; dives logged since July 1991 = 239

dive entity: Mohammed, 7 Seas

place: Martini Rock first dive, second at Hole in the Rock

buddies: Scott Benson - Scott's final Checkout dives

vis: not bad; about 4 to 7 or so, really decent higher up

sea conditions: pretty mild

depth: 1st dive, 12-13 meters; second 14

time down: first dive, down about 12:00, up around 12:45 (guessing)

time up: second, down at 14:01, up 14:45


first dive round and round at 12 meters on Martini Rock. Saw a couple of morays and some turkey fish and that's about it. The usual purple, white, gold soft corals, nice but ... after that we got rid of all the others who had hiked to the top of Jebel Kiwi and just Scott and I went out with Mohm'd. We swam through the hole in the wall, in which we saw a flounder, and further out in the reef, a scorpion fish, Scott saw a large manta in mid water, but couldn't get my attention in time. Nice dive considering so shallow and close to shore.



July 18, 1998 Taka II, Great Barrier Reef

Buddied with Ron, a divemaster living in Saipan

Vis is about 15 meters, sea conditions groovy (some grooves on the surface, boat travels in 1-2 meter swells)

Cod Hole 30 m, 50 min, most of the dive around 16 meters, dive 47

Cod Hole famous fish feed 28 m, 40 min, most of dive at 16 meters, dive 48

Pixie Pinnacle 26.2, 50 min; 24 min spent at 24 meters, remainder at 14 and up, dive 49

Pixie Reef, night dive to 16 meters, 50 min., dive 50; dives logged since July 1991 = 243


The boat started moving at around 8 or 9 for Ribbon Reefs in Northern Barrier Reef area; morning found us cruising past Lizard Island with the reef on our right. First stop was Cod Hole. We were first in. Right under boat was a Maori Wrasse, big Napoleon character, and a lot of other largish fish. Vis quite good for what I'm used to these days. We headed to 30 straight out to get depth on our computers as each dive of the day MUST be shallower than the one previous, but there was nothing much at that depth except for a BIG starfish sprawled on a rock, so we worked back up above 20 meters. We found a couple of potato cod, which let us move in close, though they didn't like being touched at that point. I don't recall there was much of anything else on that dive. Next dive, following half an hour on the first, was a cod feeding production, complete with video cameras. This time Ron and I went to depth on the other side of the reef, again saw not much of anything exciting, and resurfaced to where bald divemaster Mark was perched on a rock with a big almost 2 meter cod at his knee. Most people drifted off, but some returned to kiss the cod (for the camera). Ron and I wandered into the current but the strain took its toll and Ron was down on air after 40 min so we had to upside it. Cool clams on this dive, one giant one fully open. Also those hump-headed reef eating fish that cruise the reefs like buffalo.


Next dive was on a pinnacle and it turned out to be a good dive for Ron and I. This was because at the base of the pinnacle I decided to lead us off the bommie for a look at the next over. Lots of mackerel and/or travelli there, and one big tuna, plus a cod resting on the bottom in the trek that ensued. Trek because we missed the pinnacle and swam past it to the point where compass heading was getting ridiculous. So we surfaced 24 meters and re-located the site, swam over and went back down on it. My computer didn't log the surface time as part of the dive, so we got 24 min at 24 m, a 7 min swim, and 26 more minutes looking at little stuff on the pinnacle. There was one big camouflaged cod in among the jewels, and I found a black flatworm with orange halo that rippled constantly. Not a bad dive.


The night dive began at dusk, everyone piling over the side as they were being handed a light. As usual, not much down there, except for a big red hermit crab in a cone shell, several red-eyed shrimp, including one that jumped, a largish crab, a large honeycomb sized moray which was brown in color. Some nice fan and elk corals, plus the brains and cabbages and so on.


Night finds us traveling 10 hours to Osprey Reef, which we're all looking forward to. So far the trip's not too bad. Castlemains XXXX helps.


Next thing we know the boat is rolling and pitching and people are barfing up a storm. Personally, I didn't get sick but sleep came very fleetingly. I slept like a log -- one that was rolling loose inside a lumber truck.



July 19, 1998

Northhorn, Osprey Reef, Coral Sea

Dive 51, 32 meters, 45 min

Dive 52, 29 meters, 50 min; dives logged since July 1991 = 245

See some Sharks (Vance's Coral Sea photos) 

Next morning was worth it. Awake off Osprey Reef in the Coral Sea at a dive site called NORTHHORN. Ron and I were first down as usually, down a reef wall teeming with white tips, black tips, and stout whaler sharks. The sharks were cruising about from anywhere from 15 to infinite meters, a couple dozen of them. We went to depth , about 35 meters, and then back up to explore the wall. A stiff head current kept us from going anywhere fast so we returned to a ledge near the mooring and just hung out at 16 meters, getting our 50 minutes worth watching the sharks scroll past. The sharks retreated when the mass of divers appeared, but most divers retired before we did, and as the divers retreated, the sharks returned to the point they had vacated for a few minutes, and Ron and I had a last look for 3 min at 5 meters on the mooring line.


Next dive was a shark feed. A cable had been run down from the dinghy. The sharks sensed a feed about to ensue. They had obviously done this before. White and black tip, venerable whalers, and even a couple of potato cods were mingling in anticipation among the divers, who were positioning themselves, also in anticipation. Once the divers were situated in the rocks and at a few tugs on the cable by Mark, who stayed nearby with the photographer, fish heads were lowered to the circling sharks. The ones nearest the surface went after the bait as it dropped, and it took quite a few hits before it hit the bottom. Hard to describe the melee. In a way it was less frenetic than I'd expected, more on the order of feeding a pack of dogs, more comical than visceral. Only a few sharks gave did more than a pass and a chop. One shark took a head and went in a spin that eventually entangled him in the cable, at which point he went limp, but the cable unwound and he swam off. The potato cods ate their heads by the gulp. Almost unnoticed was a large green moray poking out of the rock at the base of the tangle of sharks, taking tidbits as they fell his way. All this was recorded on film by Chris the boat photographer who is selling copies of the whole shebang for $60 aussie dollars, about $36 U.S.


On the first dive a manta ray was spotted just under the boat by divers boarding at the time, and on the second dive, Ron and I saw them in flotilla at about 50 meters down, just at the edge of what we could see. We could only tell they were mantas, but we couldn't really see them properly.


Ron and I were the last to leave the water after the feed, and we watched the sharks calm down considerably. Some even were going to sleep on the bottom as we were hanging off the mooring line doing our 3 minutes at 5 meters.



July 19, 1998

Northhorn, Osprey Reef, Coral Sea

Dive 53, Halfway Wall

Dive 54, Entrance; dives logged since July 1991 = 247


I don't recall these dives being particularly good, esp. after the first two of the day. At halfway we saw a whaler shark cruising below us at around 40 meters, but not much else on that dive that I can recall at the moment.


The entrance was supposed to have an old anchor somewhere, but other than a sleeping shark on the bottom, not much there as I can recall a day later. A lot of clams.


In the night we moved back down south to the ribbon reefs. Another rough night but not as bad as the one before. Got some sleep.


July 20, 1998; dives logged since July 1991 = 251


Dive 55, two and a third, 31.4 meters, 50 min. Sort of a boring dive. A few spotted rays in the sand flats hopping over the sand like road runners. Ron spotted the garden eels before they had a chance to slip back to the slime. What else ... we tried hard to shoot the rest of a roll of film, which was not easy, since not much was there, ended up posing for shots like in skin diver magazine.


Dive 56, Steve's Bommie, 30.1 meters, 50 min - slight improvement over first dive. Some people saw a snake (on film) and there was rumor of underwater siting of the minke whale that surfaced while people were watching from deck while the boat was being moored. But Ron and I were relegated to the second wave so we submerged into a wall of bubbles and there wasn't much hope we would see anything that wasn't glued to the reef. There was a big Giant Grouper moving about in the blue and at the end of the dive I saw a neat nudibranch, black and white, eye stalks barely visible with my magnifying glass. Nice masses of fish in the corals, and some biggies at depth and all over for that matter. Biggies = trevelli, jacks, and / or mackeral (I can't tell), and at least one tuna.


Dive 57, Temple of Doom, another bommie, 26 meters, 50 min - a nice bommie with a white tipped at the bottom that followed us about trying to find a place to nap. We saw a lot of this shark through the dive, even at little depth. There was also a big grouper in the gloom and lots of jacks or trevally, mackerel, and a tuna or two. Lots of yellow fish, cleaner wrasse had em lining up, neat cabbage corals, various grouper and other stuff hanging about under the coral overhangs


Dive 58, Beer Garden, 16 meters, 50 min. Night dive, cold, lots of red-eyed shrimp walking around all over the walls, an interesting marble-shelled creature with green rubbery outer lining, and a loggerhead turtle in a hole we were careful not to wake up, piles of elk coral hiding little grouper.


Looks like tonight is a 2 hour trip to our morning dive, and early morning dives not hoping for much since too close to Cairns, which will be a couple hours away at that point.


July 21, 1998; dives logged since July 1991 = 253


Dive 59 - Hogs Breath, 20 meters, 50 min, a dawn browse through the bommies. Not much to see in that light, at that hour. A white tip swam overhead. A spotted ray sat tight for us and only darted off after we'd had a good look. Other than that, just lots of cabbage and elkhorn coral, anenoemie, and such like.


Dive 60 - by now just an excuse for diving. Poor vis off 3 Sisters bommies. Ron and I went to the no-go one. Saw little you wouldn't see off Khor Fakkhan. A couple big grouper, mackerel off the far bommie. Got cold. Shoulda stayed in bed?


Fri, Aug 7, 1998

Dives 61 and 62, Cano Island (Canyo), Costa Rica; dives logged since July 1991 = 255

dive entity: Drake Bay Wilderness Camp

place: 1st dive at Baho del Diablo, 2nd just off the ranger station

buddies: the whole family Dusty, Glenn and Bobbi, plus Gail and dive leader Jose

vis: pathetic, maybe 7 or 8 meters first dive, about 4 or 5 the second

sea conditions: mild, though Dusty was sick on first dive

depth: 1st dive, 80 feet for Dusty and Bobbi, or 24 meters, and 70 feet for me

depth: 2nd dive, 20 meters on my watch

time down: first dive, down about 9:24, up around 10:10 (46 min)

time up: second, down at 13:31, up 14:18


First dive wasn't all that special, I guess because it fell so far below expectations. We were delayed entry until other divers came up, since only 10 are allowed down at any one time. Glenn and I went snorkeling on the top of the reef while we were waiting, and I thought I saw a bunch of white-tips. Turned out they were milk fish, similar to sharks, but with scissor tails.


When we got to diving, we crossed a bommie and there was a white tip resting on the bottom. Everyone glommed on it; meanwhile, I saw a second white tip in the reef to my left which headed up the reef and across the top of the other divers. I tried to get their attention, but for the 20 seconds the shark was swirling on everyone's tail, no one looked at me, including my buddy, who shall remain nameless, except to mention that she was silly.


Other than that, there were bunches of big fish schooling about, jacks and snappers. We passed over canyons full of garden eels. Jose introduced us to the razor fish, a small blennie type thing with a mane (I want to say the feathers on the top of helmets) going back over his head to the end of his body. When startled, this fish disappeared in the sand. Other than that, a couple of morays in nondescript rock formations, not much coral.


Second dive was much better. Vis was much worse. We dropped down on sand, right on top of a ray. There were several morays in the rocks. There were big bat fish. We kept coming across white tips. Jose tried to keep the divers back so we could get close to them. Ultimately we would disturb them and they would meander around before finning off. Sometimes there were 3 together. It wasn't high charged shark diving but it was good for the kids to see sharks, esp. Dusty, who was seeing white tips while diving for the first time. Toward the end of the dive a hawksbill turtle headed out over the reef. Other than the sharks and other large fish, the dive looked about like a typical low-vis Abu Dhabi dive, brown tones on rocks with little coral, sand patches, bommies looming in the gloom, but now and then a shark. Give it a 5 on a scale of ten. Max.



Sat, Aug 8, 1998

Dives 63 and 64, Cano Island (Canyo), Costa Rica; dives logged since July 1991 = 257

dive entity: Drake Bay Wilderness Camp

place: 1st dive off Paraiso, 2nd dive at Baho del Diablo

buddies: the whole family Dusty, Glenn and Bobbi, plus Gail and dive leader Jose

vis: improved, 10-15 meters

sea conditions: mild to calm

depth: 1st dive, 80 feet max, most of the dive at 60

depth: 2nd dive, slipped to 22 meters on my watch at first, up immediately to 18 meters, where we spent 40 min.

time down: first dive, down about 9:13, up around 10:00 (almost 50 min)

time up: second, down at 13:53, up 14:33


First dive pleasant with current not too bad, but we explored a small area and saw it all in 15 min, then meandered back and forth not really getting anywhere. There was one shark on the premises. Dusty and I saw him coming in hidden by an overhang while the others were looking at razorfish, and later Jose found him cowering under a rock, so we chased him out of there. We saw spadefish (look like batfish). A baby ray. Schools of yellow grunts that you could swim into, kind of pretty. There was a school of (big, yellow stripe, look like jacks) that came blasting by at some point. Pretty dive, but restricted to just a small area.


2nd dive: Dusty remembered an eel protecting a queen eel while she moved from rock to rock. School of barracuda. We wandered up canyons with white sand bottom while Jose pointed out stuff in the rocks on the side. He was doing that when two white-tip sharks moved in and turned heel up the reef before finding the exit. Dusty was with me so he saw that, but we were a little ahead of the other divers, so I don't know who else saw them. On the other hand, sharks were getting commonplace so maybe we missed whatever Jose was into on the bottom. The canyons were full of huge fish just hovering in place: jacks, snappers, big ones looking like jewfish. Trigger fish and parrot fish munched the coral. There was a huge triggerfish, blue-purple.


These dives, the vis was better than before, but the current was a pain the second dive, and again we couldn't cover much territory and explore what was there, so I'd give it a 6 out of 10. Last dive we were on the edge of the wheel, 40 min at 18 meters being the MDL for an A diver.



Fri Aug 21,1998

Dive 65; dives logged since July 1991 = 258

dive entity: Abu Dhabi Sub Aqua Club

place: Either the Jassim or Lion City, probably the former

buddy: Glenn

vis: poor

sea conditions: mild

depth: don't recall

time down: don't recall, but bsac dives are always timed to a t

time up: don't recall


Don't remember much about this dive. There was nothing much to record. I am logging it a month later.

This might have been the lion city. Later in Dec I went on another wreck with Glenn and I think it was a different one, though not sure again. Hard to tell about these wrecks. I've got to ask someone about his one.


Dives 66 and 67; dives logged since July 1991 = 260

dive entity: Pearl Marine Sports Center (Lamjed Elkefi)

place: 2 dives off the Dara, Hamriya Port, Northern Emirates

buddies: John Barrington and his pal Rick, Robin from Oz, and Steve, instructor, all HCT

vis: maybe 4 or 5 meters, not great

sea conditions: calm as a lake

weight: 6 pounds with a lycra suit, could have used an extra kg at 12 meters w/ empty tank

depth: Both dives 20 meters

time down: first dive, down at 9:45, up at 10:23, 2 min short of NDL at 20 meters; decided to wait 1 hr. 19 min. for second dive so as to go in as E divers and have 25 min at 20 meters, 45 min at 12. Down at 11:45, one minute premature (buddies impatient). Did multilevel on schedule at 11:10 and I don't recall exact time up after that, but well within limits

time up:


A couple of interesting dives. The wreck was teeming with grunts, fish everwhere. Jellyfish at surface didn't bother anyone. Not much on the wreck besides grunts, the occasional grouper, till we played around in the mess around the stern and then we saw leopard rays in the sand. Finned out over the sand and saw a barracuda. Vis too poor to spot animals very well, rays skeedaddled just as we saw them. The first dive was done at slack tide, perfect conditions. The second, the tide was changing, and a current came up. We headed straight for the stern and finned due south into the sand. I counted 12 lazy kick cycles and stopped when I realized we were being pulled east. Steve finned ahead but came back in a circle heading north. To go north now we had to power kick, double or triple the 12 cycles. Lots of rays on the trip back, and one on the wreck came off the stern and glided overhead. Nice dive. Big angel and bat fish at the 9 to 12 meter top. Lots of nets clinging to the wreck, too clingy to strip away. Nice dive.


The M. V. Dara is perhaps the most historic of the west coast wrecks.

Sunk as a result of an Omani rebel mine, the Dara constituted the

greatest loss of life at sea, during peace time, since the Titanic (238

lives lost). The vessel lies on her starboard side in 20 meters of

water. However, this dive is classified as an advanced dive due to tidal

influences. Having sunk in 1961, the marine life is very well

established and provides an excellent dive if the conditions are

favourable. - cut from




Fri Nov 27, 1998

Dive 68; dives logged since July 1991 = 261

dive entity: Al Sharifi, Marina Divers

place: Ras Gharab

buddy: Hal Ott, Jon Phillips, Lucia Arpon

vis: ok

sea conditions: mild

depth: 7 meters

time time: 40 min

surfaced with 95 bar

6 kilos with a 3 mil body glove wetsuit


Not much for US to see at RAG. Lucia wanted to do a dive, so that's why we went. Jon decided he could use the practice, and Hal was doing his first dive in years. Rhonda saw barracuda and turtles from the boat, and other divers saw a sand shark. There had been some of those the day before. Be WE didn't see much of anyhing. And Lucia went low on air at which point I buddied with her and put the other two together, but they were back on the boat before us. Still, nice day out, nice temperatures this time of year.



Wed Dec 2 and Thu Dec 3 1998

Dive 69, 70, 71, 72, 73; dives logged since July 1991 = 266

dive entity: 7 Seas with Martin, Mohammed, Ibrahim

place: Musandam out of Dibba: Lima Rock, Camping Beach, Somewhere near camping beach, Lima, the Cave

buddies: Dusty, Mom, Al Plucknet, Scott Benson, Mark Warney

vis: abysmal to decent

sea conditions: mild

depth: 25 meters max

time: 40 min avg

6 kilos with a 3 mil body glove wetsuit


This was a Musandam experience. Bobbi, Dusty, and Mark Warney & I busted balls to get to Dibba by midnight and camp on the way to Wadi Bih with a donkey braying, roosters at 5, prayer calls from 5:30, heavy equipment moving up the road at dawn, and goats all around. We were having breakfast at Dibba port by 8 and expecting the crew at 9. By 10 they still hadn't arrived, but then they appeared in a convoy of a couple dozen vehicles, French, German, Brits, Americans. A disparate group, they and their gear were plopped willy nilly on 2 dhows. At one point, to even the load, someone suggested personal gear go on one dhow and dive gear on another, but those whose gear would have been separated from them protested. Finally the flotilla departed and got as far as the shore patrol, which wouldn't let us pass due to lack of permit. It was noon, with us sitting on an increasingly overheating boat, no shade of course (a Mohammed trademark), before the thing was sorted out via speedboat dispatch back to the harbor.


The ride to Lima took 3 hours. We were plunked in the water, same place as before with Mohammed, and vis was so bad we had to surface to regroup, having lost 2 divers. Plus, at that late hour, we were now on the shady side of Lima Rock, so no sunlight, and a pretty poor dive, with not much in the way of creatures. Just confusion. The students of 7 seas were worse off. The instructors went in first leaving the students on the boat to get themselves in the water. One diver lost a weight belt and another had another problem I forget what. Under water, one diver was told to wait while an instructor went off to look for other divers and was left on his own for the duration of his air supply. Back on the boat we had a choice of another dive there or make for camp. We did the latter and reached there with pinks and purples of sunset reflecting off placid waters. Convoys of smugglers in speedboats were the only activity on the fjords as we pulled into our big-sand beach. BSAC were there.


We went off to find a camping spot away from the loud music and so missed the call for night divers. The boat with the kitted divers pulled in for batteries just as we were looking for the dive. We were told to go to the dhow and kit up. The dhow had all our diving kit on it, but it was moored just off the beach and was impossible to climb onto without a small boat to serve as a platform. A boat took us there and left us. We expected the first group to complete their dive and come back for us. We waited an hour and a quarter on the dhow before I jumped in the water and swam for shore to tell Mhmd to arrange a boat to take us to the dive site. He managed it, and we were conveyed to where the other boat was. A first wave of divers was sitting there waiting for the second wave to come up. We got in the water about 9 and weren't back and eating till about 11. Dinner was chicken and lamb chops and bread. It was good and plentiful and there was beer. Still, had there been a dive plan, we would have known to present ourselves at such and such a time and would not have been so inconvenienced.


This was Dusty's Advanced Open Water Night Dive, about 12 meters max for 45 min apprx. Dusty did a GREAT out and back compass navigation. I piled sea cucumbers on a rock and he went out 10 kicks in poor vis and returned spot on. The rocks were full of brine shrimp eyes, and we saw some morays. Plus a really big barracuda dropped in on us mid way, coming close up to see our lights.


Morning was more of the same. No dive plan was in effect by dawn. I got up at 8 and went down to see what was up. Eggs were being fried and tea was being brewed and a dive trip was in the works. I had to go back and get Bobbi and we just missed the first boat. But we made the second with Dusty this time. Barely it seemed. A bunch of divers had gathered on the beach with no way to get up to the dhow because one boat was on the dive trip and the other had been taken off by a bunch of the Arabs with us. We knew that if we were to do all the dives planned we would need fast turn around. The boat with the Arab shebab pulled up just in time and the 2nd wave divers were able to kit up just as the dive boat returned with the first wave. The first wave had left at 9, returned just after 10, and the second was off by 10:30. We were back at the dhow by noon having dived a spot teeming with fish. However, the turnaround was more by chance and by organization of the divers involved rather than by direction of 7 seas.


This was Dusty's Advance Open Water Drift dive. About 35 min. to 25 meters for 20 min and above 16 for the duration.


The two boats loaded and departed. Most of the lunch food went on the cruise boat with the result that the divers has only zatar bread and their personal stash for the rest of the day (and some of us had disdained the eggs for breakfast). Bobbi had forseen this and got the 4 of us hamburgers before the cruise ship left, so we were ok. We steamed for Lima rock, arriving just after 2 (by which time we had turned A divers). Dusty and Bobbi opted out but Al, Scott and I had what turned out to be the dive of the weekend. Diving the far side of Lima rock this time, we dropped right down on a brown ray. We worked our way into masses of purple and yellow corals, with a wall of soft white, all teeming with fish. The rocks were full of really huge crayfish, and one harbored a small sting ray. I wandered into a cave with agitated bat fish. As we surfaced a school of barracuda swam by. Divers just down from us were buzzed by a shark as they awaited boat pickup. Vis was good. It was a great dive.


Having not made a plan for the morning, e.g. dive boat leaves at 8; be on it! We didn't arrive at our final dive site until dusk. Bobbi decided to sit it out so it was just Dusty and I on what turned out to be a night dive. A good one too. We popped down to 16 meters and went up to the cave. Under a ledge we spotted a gleaming eye and went to investigate and came upon a spotted black ray. We went through the keyhole cave and found a flounder on the far side, spotted by DUSTY! We saw a moray and I found a turtle under a rock that I thought was a chunk of coral until I had examined it closely. It was a neat dive. Dusty decided he likes night diving, especially with his Dad.


Getting back on board in the dark and sorting out kit was the most confusing ever. Taking care and using our flashlights, we managed to get all the little pieces in dive bags we picked from the pile of personal gear, but lost Dusty's bcd and reg because I had put the wrong one on the boat in the dark. We retrieved it back on the dock when we arrived at 9. Paying up was a hassle, with Mhmd engaged in heated negotiations with the French who were trying to stiff him.


Later in the car, trying to analyze what it was we didn't like about the trip, Mark noted that Mhmd wouldn't be getting any repeat business, which one would think he would depend on to survive. Who would go back to THAT, he said. Exactly. Mhmd has a lot to learn about simple matters of organization. Let's hope Martin can help him out. Personally, he's a likeable guy. But all in all, we enjoyed the trip. The diving made up for the moments of aggravation and hassle.


Dec sometime during Glenn's visit

Dive 74; dives logged since July 1991 = 267

dive entity: ADSAC

place: Hannan, or maybe the Jassem

buddies: Glenn

vis: best I'd yet seen the this wreck

sea conditions: mild

depth: 20? I forget actually

time: 40 min about, again, forget

6 kilos with a 3 mil body glove wetsuit


This is a bit nuts. I can't recall which wreck it was. John Sneiderass would know. He's got the compass one of us left on board the dive boat. From BSAC there was also an older fellow with a daughter perhaps. Must get the names.


The dive this time was really good I thought. After the long boat ride 1 hour and a quarter, found the buoy alright. Dived down however many meters and had good enough vis to check out the barracuda hanging about. There were plenty of rays about. I found one almost right off, but the best was one lurking off the bow, not in the sand, but overhead, coming in for a landing. I got under him, good view of his underside, and close enough to see the spots as he settled in the sand just ahead but took off again into the gloom. Another treat was the tuna, almost canned, about 5 trapped up close in a fish pot. Also lots of tuna swirling about on the ascent. So, lots of fish, and Glenn did well, seemed to relish the day out, though he wasn't as sanguine about the diving as I was.

These dives all logged since July 91 (not including unlogged dives since certification in 1966)
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