A few of us gathered at the club last Tuesday for some carols and mince pies and a few mulled wines to wash it down. We also managed to get a dive club table for Christmas Day dinner. Efforts to get a dive going for Friday came to nothing however – people have a habit of going on leave or doing family stuff at this time of year. Most unreasonable but there you go.
As has become my habit, I’ll use this last newsletter of the year to reflect on the ups and downs of the last twelve months. First some numbers: Since 1stJanuary, 50 different divers have visited 34 different dive sites, clocking up in the process 651 dives on 48 days of the year, averaging almost a trip a week. Taken in isolation these figures are not earth-shattering and easily beaten by any number of clubs including one that springs to mind just up the road. But for a club of our size it is very respectable – we remain active!
A few highlights:
Our Eid Al Adha trip this year was a return to Beirut. The Eid dates and the weather were both more user-friendly this year than last, permitting an extra day and avoiding the on-the-spot changes of plan that we’d had in 2012. We were fortunate to have excellent viz on the Souffleur, the Vichy French submarine that was the main focus of the trip. To dive a wreck like this is to feel a sense of historical time and place – a bit like the Dara – which you don’t really get with most of the Gulf wrecks, however much fun they are to dive. The second day at the Lady Mary Cave was, in a different way, just as memorable. Sharp changes of temperature and water salinity as you enter the cave produce some weird optical effects and once inside, the water is crystal clear. Day three, experiencing Sami’s spectacular hospitality at his house on the slopes of Mount Lebanon was the icing on the cake. Beirut remains as fascinating as ever – one can only hope that Lebanon manages avoids the turmoil over its eastern border.
Not quite so far afield was our trip to Al Sawadi resort in Oman. This means diving the Damaniyat Islands which is usually very good and this was no exception, largely because of the appearance of a juvenile whale shark which spent about 20 minutes swimming around the boat while we all frantically finned around trying to get a closer look.
One of the things that keeps the diving interesting is discovering new things, particularly when they’re so new they’ve only been underwater for a week or two. Such was the Victoria Star which went down at the end of July in unknown circumstances. The sinking was reported in the press and was discovered after some detective work by Brian Lugg. It’s not often you get the chance to dive a wreck that new (the Mariam Express in 2006 was the last one) and for a few weeks it really was the only place to go. Since then the marine growth has taken over but the fish life is increasing so provided nothing untoward happens to it (its right on the entrance channel to Mina Khalid), it should be a good dive for years to come.
We’re a lot less cash-rich than we were last year thanks to the purchase of two new 4-stroke engines which should keep the club operating for a number of years to come. The old engines were getting on in years but the impending ban on 2-stroke engines forced our hand. We now need to build up the funds again to which end we would encourage a lot of diving on Fridays and a lot of eating and drinking on Tuesdays.
This year we said goodbye to Peter and Alison Blanchflower who are retiring back to the UK. Peter hadn’t dived much for a while but in his heyday was a loyal stalwart of the club who was on the committee for a number of years, serving as chairman. Rather than catch a boring flight, they took the overland route in a Land Cruiser via Iran and Turkey much as Mike Anthony did a few years ago on two wheels. Alison wrote an account of the journey in a series of emails which were very interesting. If I have time I’ll compile the lot into a single pdf file and get it out – it’s worth reading.
With your indulgence, some sincere thanks are due to those that keep the club running by serving on the committee: Mike Anthony whose efforts on the boat, trailer and vehicle are above and beyond the call of duty and go a long way to keep us functioning, Peter Jackson who as well as looking after our money, continues to produce increasingly slick looking videos, Derek Roberts who keeps the equipment in good order, Janette Elphinstone for her training, particularly the try-dive which was excellent, Cathy Terry for making sure we stay members and last but not least, Chairman Mike Dalton for his heroic efforts at keeping us in order.
Thanks also to those who have supported the club by running dives or simply turning up – may it continue in 2014!
Many thanks as well to Diving Officer Ian Hussey, for arranging the majority of our diving activities, towing our boats, and not least, for his regular weekly news-mails, both informative and entertaining.
Ian Hussey and Dive Member Contributions.