We tried to get a dive away yesterday (Friday) but the weather wasn’t co-operating. Strong winds and heavy seas were the order of the day so we got to have a lie-in instead. In truth the demand wasn’t great in any case – this sometimes happens over the holiday period.
With the New Year approaching, it’s perhaps worth reflecting on the year just gone. The club remains active, diving on 43 of the available weekends since 1st January. After a slow start due to bad weather during January and February this is a very respectable record for a club of our size. There was a dhow trip up the Musandam organised by Janette, a mountain camp-out followed by a dive on Dibba Rock and a couple of trips over to the east coast to dive the Inchcape wrecks.
All of these trips were very enjoyable but the core of our diving remains the wrecks of the Arabian Gulf and which accounts for most of the Friday expeditions. The most popular dive site over the year was the Ajman Glory – of which more below – but the Taha (another relatively recent discovery), the Dara (old favourite) and Karen’s Dhow also had regular visits. As well as exploring the wrecks themselves, the fish life can be varied, numerous and fascinating on a good day and you might come back with a nice piece of brass or a copper nail. And not just below water – one of the year’s more memorable moments was on the Taha in May when a lonely cormorant, for reasons only it could explain, took a fancy to Mike Anthony who was just emerging from the water. The resulting video is much in demand on Tuesday nights.
Over the year, we’ve lost some members (Simon, Sarah, Forrester) and gained some (Chris, Polly, Derek Brown) - overall the membership numbers are steady (ish) but we’d like to grow a bit over the next year if we can. This is certainly the view of our new Chairman, Mike Dalton who took over from Brendan at the AGM in July. Mike came to Sharjah via the Kuwait Mantas club and we’re very happy to have him on board.
This year we also said goodbye to Harry and Karen Adamson who finally left the UAE after a number of false starts. Harry and Geoff Taylor built the current dive club at the Wanderers after the demise of the old one in Mahattah and although Harry didn’t dive much over the last few years (he preferred jumping out of aeroplanes), he and Karen were very much part of the club and will be missed.
Highlights of the year? Two spring to mind. Firstly there was the Beirut trip. An Eid al Adha trip has become a regular event since the trip to Sur in 2008 and this one was memorable – not least because if you believe the newspapers a civil war was about to break out five days before we were due to arrive. Happily this proved to be exaggerated but a genuine civil war going on 100km down the road does give pause for thought and Beirut itself bears the scars of its less than harmonious recent history. The point of the trip was to dive the Vichy French wartime submarine, the Souffleur. Richard, a former submariner himself, wrote a very moving account of this dive which went out with the weekly email and is now on the web site (Dive Log - October 2012). Meanwhile some of us were enjoying the generous hospitality of former member Sami who appears at the club from time to time but now is semi-retired to the Lebanon. A very good trip and I would certainly like to go back.
The second highlight to me was the saga of the Ajman Glory. We weren’t expecting that much when we were given the co-ordinates by a dive boat anchored on the Dara but it turned into a story that just ran and ran. We found a 50m long vessel on the site which could have been anything. Brian Lugg contacted the UK Hydrographic Office who suggested a possible identification, Marc De Ruyter and David De Marneffe independently found some photos of the ship on the internet and the whole club who scoured the wreck taking measurements, photos and videos leading eventually to a positive ID.
There were two interesting sequels to this story. Firstly there were a couple of press articles in The National and Outdoor UAE which was all good publicity for the club and for divers generally. (The Outdoor UAE was much the best although since it was written by me and Brian the possibility of bias can’t be completely discounted). Secondly, Marc managed to get in contact with a former crewman (though not at the time of the sinking), Mr Cor Dijk, who was obviously moved to see photos and videos of his old ship.
Sadly, the year also saw the passing of Jutta Jackson and Tony Nicklinson. Jutta was not a diver but nevertheless put in a lot of work on the web site and was a regular at dive club nights and dhow trips. More often than not she’d meet Peter and the rest of us at the dive table on Friday afternoons and listen patiently to our tall stories. Originally given 3-6 months, she rang the bell and bought a round on the first anniversary of her diagnosis. Sipping our drinks we all wondered if it were possible . . . but sadly it wasn’t.
Tony was also a non-diver but was very supportive of the Dive Club during his tenure as SWSC Chairman. It was Tony who devised the “Associate Member” formula which helped enormously at a time when the Wanderers (as opposed to Dive Club) fee was seen by some as an unnecessary cost. He also engineered a sponsorship for us in return for us putting the Wanderers name on the sides of the boats which was a very welcome boost to our bank balance. The struggles of his recent years have been well documented but that is now over and one can imagine him now energetically organising and improving whatever cosmic realms he now inhabits – inspiring and annoying in equal measure but getting the job done nonetheless.
A few thanks are in order:
· Mike Anthony for permanent loan of his old Discovery which can be used as the boat towing vehicle as long as it keeps running and is drivable by any club member. Also for efforts above and beyond on the small boat engines.
· Steve Higson and the Wanderers for building us our nice new tank for washing the kit post-dive.
· Mike Dalton for agreeing to take over as club Chairman despite the fact that he’d met us.
· Peter Jackson for performing his treasurer’s duties with energy and thoroughness and as well as that, keeping the memberships up to date while Cathy has been ill and maintaining the web site. This despite extremely difficult circumstances for him this year.
· Janette Elphinstone for her training efforts and for the RAK barbecue which could hopefully become a regular fixture on the calendar.
· Derek Roberts for keeping the equipment in good order.
· Sami for his kind and generous hospitality in Beirut.
· Everyone who has organised dives or any other event over the year and without whom…
Next year we aim to carry on diving as much as possible with maybe a few more east coast trips. We’d also like to grow the membership numbers if we can. The club is in good shape financially which is down to a number of factors but mostly because we continue to put people into the water at weekends. This we intend to carry on doing!
A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL AND SEE YOU ON THE DIVE BOAT IN 2013!