While I’m still gallivanting around the sub-arctic UK, diving goes on in the warmer temperatures of Sharjah. Mike Anthony reports:
Quick report. Crew was Dearbhla, myself and the same named Andres, father and son. All the rest cried off. So whilst the troops charged tanks I fitted the batteries and checked over the motors. Both started so things looked hopeful. We left for Hamriyah with my truck towing. Launched, port engine a bit reluctant to start and keep running. Technique discovered by Andre senior was to run the boat with the starboard engine. Start the port engine, then put it into gear. (I am here talking about SP125).
Got to the Dara, no problems, ran out on a flat sea at 51kph. Threw in the hook although the echo sounder screen has really had it. It is working but is very difficult to read. As the Andres had not dived the Dara before I went first to find where the anchor was. Took young D down with me. Anchor was in the sand but only about 10m away from the wreck on the starboard side almost at the stern. Laid a line to the wreck. Took D round the stern over the rudder into the cathedral. Viz outside was barely 1m and inside not much more than 3m. Emerged out of the cathedral and encountered two new nets (amazing how the word has not spread amongst the fishermen).
Started cutting. Was a reasonable current and I was a bit worried about D being in the wrong place. Also no knife or scissors. So I gave her my knife. But she still in the wrong place relative to the net. Scissored my way right through a net ascending as I did so. Cut it off. Descended again. Shit! No D. Searched imagining her caught in a net and panicking. Could not find her as viz so bad. Surfaced and saw only the Andres in the boat and it about 100m away. Saw bubbles. Big relief, she is still breathing. Followed the bubbles and found her hanging on a net at 6m. Surfaced in good order but she very shaken. Apparently she had become caught in a net. Panicked, even screamed. Said afterwards she could see me but could not get to me. (I was obviously not seeing her although I could hear her breathing) Anyway she calmed down and cut herself out with my knife - bet she does not leave her knife behind next time! she came up with 50 bar!
The Andres went down. They turned right at the reel attachment point and also became entangled in a net. Son cut father out - he is the one with the commercial ticket. But that they enjoyed it. Apparently the viz in SA is even worse, they said.
Usual fish, but right at the start as I was swimming away from the anchor with the reel in my hand I almost had a collision with a grey coloured cowtail ray about 800mm diameter. It just missed me.
After this decided to hit Cathy's Barge as I knew that was simple, upright and hopefully no nets. 8 kms later we were there and the hook as it turned out, was in the sand 15m away from the stern. But I found the wreck easily and tied off the line. D and I did a 20+ minute dive and a 3minute stop. It is 24m to the bottom. She surfaced with 60 bar so I had timed it about right (I had 120) Barge is upright, 2 decks at rear, open hold and a vestigial mast just forrard of the hold. No engines or props. The Andres dived and said they enjoyed it. Back to the Wanderers for a couple of beers. D none the worse for her experience.
I think the lesson here is Keep Your Eyes On Your Buddy!
Mike was due to be taking a boat to the Dara yesterday as I write but I don’t know what happened there. Instead to go back a week, a small but keen group had a drive through the wadis and arrived for a camp out in the mountains above Wadi Sena. It was a bit fresh up there but we soon got the fire going and a barbecue soon followed washed down by some liquid refreshment. A very good evening – hopefully a few more people next time.
The weekend was not devoid of diving. PJ explains:
While the more robust were braving a winter night in the mountains, I drove Connie and Tim across to the East coast to meet Janette at the Radisson Blu near Dibba, for two open-water training dives off Dibba Rock. Palm Divers have a great facility there, with comfortable change rooms and lockers, and an indoor training pool. The first dive was close to the rock, but a strong current made it difficult to complete Janette’s planned underwater exercises. I followed them, happy not to be filming for a change, and found them an undulated moray, albeit a small one, before Tim was down to 50 bar in adverse conditions, at which point we hit slack. I continued on my own for a further 15 minutes, enjoying the many wrasse and parrotfish, trunk fish and a pair of beautifully striped tobys, among a profusion of life around the corals. Here the camera would have been quite handy!
We returned only briefly to the dive centre before it was time for the second dive, this time recorded on video. This time Janette chose the Artificial Reef, a little north of the Rock, and now attracting dense shoals of fusiliers and reef-fish. It comprises groups of hollow concrete balls, tyres and precast concrete wedges, and a sunken sports boat, each group of objects connected by a rope line, so perfect for training dives, especially when pointed nose rays are to often concealed below them, as we found. The highlight was a large cow-tailed ray, with its own remora, resting close by on the sand, dramatically turning and swimming off in a silty cloud when we approached too close. Great diving for Connie and Tim, full of smiles, the day was rounded off with a very pleasant lunch sitting by the beach at the Radisson.
This time last week the prospect of diving on Friday was looking a bit uncertain to say the least. The size of the breakers crashing into the beach didn’t inspire much confidence in a calm weekend. We shouldn’t have been so pessimistic. Come Friday the sea had come down to such an extent that it was almost mirror smooth. Our exit from the club was again delayed by a couple of flat batteries but this resolved, we headed down to Al Khan and out to sea. The target was the Victoria Star and the mission was to relocate Mike’s new torch which he had mislaid on the wreck two weeks ago.
The journey was a short one on a flat sea and the anchor went into the cargo hold at the first time of asking. It wasn’t long before we had company – a boat from DIMC came shortly afterwards and having checked we were on the wreck, tied on behind us.
Mike and Cathy were the first down the line and having shifted the anchor to the bridge, they then went torch hunting. Murphy must have been having a day off as the torch was quickly discovered, none the worse for two weeks underwater. Result! They spent the rest of the dive net cutting. Peter and I followed behind. With the torch found and consequently nothing to search for we did a tour of the ship. The fish life was a bit sparse compared to what it has been but there was a shoal of barracuda on the port side including a real granddaddy that I came face-to-face with as I emerged from the accommodation deck. We also did some net cutting so the wreck is now reasonably clear, at least until the fisherman pay it another visit.
On the second dive, we gave Connie her first wreck dive. This was necessarily relatively shallow but she enjoyed it all the same. We did a couple of circuits of the accommodation decks and took her twice through the bridge before returning to the boat. After that it was back to the club for some welcome refreshments.
Happy New Year!
BSAC 406 got back in the water on Friday, diving the Victoria Star, although this did seem doubtful for a while as the sea gods seemed to be conspiring against us. To begin with a tyre on the new trailer was flat. Geoff attempted to inflate it but this succeeded only in breaking off the valve so a wheel had to be changed before we could go anywhere. We then discovered the boat batteries had gone flat due to me neglecting to turn them off after bringing the boat back from Joff’s yard a couple of weeks ago. So the second task (for Mike) was a battery swap with SP 125. In the end we were an hour late leaving the club.
The good news is that the new boat trailer tows very nicely (thanks Joff). The bad news was that in all the excitement we had neglected to take the blue folder with us. This contains the boat registration card which is an essential document if the coastguard was to let us go to sea. Mike volunteered to go back and fetch it which he did but in the meantime another half hour disappeared. The sea turned out to be flat calm although the wind has a nip to it at this time of year.
The sea temperature is now about 23 degrees at the surface so wet-suits are now mandatory. Cathy was clearly out of practice, needing several attempts to get into the garment. The first attempt (inside out) was followed by the second attempt (twisted out of recognition) and finally the third attempt (successful).
The viz was extremely average but we didn’t do a lot of exploring on this visit. The anchor had landed at the bow and we finned along the vessel up to the bridge which we found covered in nets. This is nothing if not a challenge and we spent most of the dives hacking them off. We didn’t completely succeed but it’s now a lot clearer was it was before. Geoff and Brian Larkin managed a trip to the engine room and we all did a bit of exploring, but this turned into mainly a working trip.
The sea gods hadn’t finished with us yet. Mike lost his new torch which may necessitate another trip to the Vic Star in the not too far distant future to try and find it. As for me, a fin strap broke as I was carving some nets apart. Efforts to fin one-footed only had me swimming in circles, so I had to haul my way from the bridge to the bow using my hands.
After that it was back to the club a bit later than normal for some refreshments. Despite the hurdles, it was a good start to the new year.
Ian Hussey and guest writers.