Where to start? First of all, Barry Thomas arrived at the club last week as promised and we had a few drinks together. The country has changed a bit since he was last here with the Union Defence Force in the 70’s but we were able to let him know something about what we’ve been up to since. It was good to see him and have a chat. Barry was on his way to Australia and should be passing through again on the way back (in April if I remember correctly).
And last weekend… This was one our regular camp-outs, this time in the mountains above Wadi Sena. We convened at the club about midday, firstly to cut some timber, then to re-attach the canopy to the boat (SP312) and finally to have a bite to eat and before setting off. Robin was towing the boat for the first time and made it to parking place without difficulty. All the same the journey to the camp site wasn’t entirely without incident. Polly’s car was fine on the tarmac but proved inadequate for the mountain road so she had to retreat to the village with the assistance of some friendly locals after which Mike brought her up the hill to join us. Derek made it up all right but didn’t notice the site and continued on for several kilometres before realising his mistake and turning back.
Despite these minor problems (without which no camp-out is complete), we soon got the fire going and even sooner cracked a few cans and had a stab at putting the world to rights. As well as the 406 faces, it was good to see Jim and Marion from DSDC and Brian Lugg (plus dog), their Diving Officer. Brian brought with him a birthday cake, duly presented to Mike Anthony on the occasion of his ?>60th birthday which was a few days ago. He also had some out-of-date flares which made for a good firework display. We eventually settled down in our respective tents (and cars) pleasantly happy.
In the morning we cooked some breakfast before striking camp. Some of the utensils didn’t survive the experience and there was some debate about the most appropriate exhibition for the frying pan that Polly had used for her eggs. (I think Damien Hirst got the verdict). It was very windy up the mountain and we did wonder whether it would be similar at sea level. First of course we had to get there and after reassuring Robin that yes, his car was safely back at the club and not sitting at the bottom of the hill, Derek discovered he had a puncture which needed sorting out. His jack turned out to be broken (and small) so I leant him one of mine. This was too big but I had a smaller one which was just right as Goldilocks would have said.
And after all this we did manage to go diving. We launched the boat from Dhadnah and convened at the beach next to the Sandy Beach Motel. The sea was calm but this disguised some serious breakers rolling on to the beach. It is just as well the boat is self draining or we might have lost it as a big wave broke over it and left about 200mm of water in the back. As it was the ladder went missing but we recovered it after a short search. The diving location was the Pinnacles, on which someone has now planted a UAE flag. The visibility was disappointing but nevertheless we managed to see some pufferfish, pipefish, boxfish and a solitary turtle. There was similar hassle with the waves getting back on shore so we ended up anchoring a bit further away than ideal and swimming for it. After a relaxing half hour or so we headed back to Sharjah for a glass or two and a bite to eat by the pool.
Overall a very good weekend and we’d like to get another one away before the weather becomes too hot.
With few around last Tuesday night, and fewer interested in diving, PJ suggested a trip back to Freestyle in Dibba. Two wanted to go Friday, two Saturday. Finally Friday was agreed, partly to accommodate a refresher for Dave, a veteran UAE expat and diver, friend of Robin. When you are a team of four, the SMS received driving into Dibba, that Dave & Robin had over-imbibed, was not appreciated - and I'm not being saki! But Freestyle are a welcoming bunch, and were still prepared to take Polly and PJ on a 2-tank dive across to Inchcape 1 followed by the Pinnacles. Karin K joined us in the water, probably regretting it, as we swam the length of four other tethered boats, against the current. Trevor was the sensible one - he stayed in the boat, as the three of us descended through clouds of bubbles. Piccadilly Circus?! Viz was however reasonable, in between the other divers, with highlights of a shoal of lined eel catfish, and two scorpion fish.
Polly preferred to do her second dive back at Dibba Rock, so Karin and Peter did a leisurely dive around Sharm Rocks (Pinnacles). with a max depth of 12m the viz was not as good as Inchcape, but we managed to see a large shoal of good-sized yellow tail barracuda, and close by a pair of "double-ended" pipe fish. An illegal and very full pot on a line caught our attention, and a rescue operation was successfully undertaken.
Later at Freestyle it was time for the last dive of the day, the first for Derek that Friday. Unfortunately after his two dips, our Treasurer had failed to get warm again decided to be sensible and not dive. This left Polly and Derek R to brave the depths of Dibba Rock with Max( of Freestyle) on boat duty. The sea was a 23 C and the viz was about 10 m, not the best conditions but certainly by no means the worst compared with the West coast recent dives. Polly and Derek rolled off the boat - South of Dibba Rock and headed on a bearing North. The current was gentle and the conditions were very benign. We saw the usual suspects of yellow snappers, monacle bream, lion fish and a big old puffer fish with their large doll eyes on show. Then on a reef we saw a pipe fish with the head of a sea horse and a long body, lying there taking in the vista. Heading away from this Poly got distracted by another pipe fish and stopped to fulfil a desire to get more on film. Unfortunately, Derek did not spot this and by the time he realized it was time to switch to the lost buddy drill. A quick search around and neither Poly nor Derek could find each other sur la mere so it was time to surface for a reunion and this brought a premature but controlled conclusion to a very pleasant dive.
Next day - 16th Feb- Dibba and Freestyle on Saturday morning, two more BSAC 406 members-Geoff Patch and Derek R went out with Trevor and Max of Freestyle Divers to go down to Inchcape 1 at 29metres. Weather above sea level was fine and we soon found our way to the bottom. There was a very respectable size flounder that would have looked good on anyone's plate, sat looking up at us and it decided that it preferred the sea bed to a bed of lightly tossed salad and seasoning. We were then were taken by a mildly excited Max doing an impression of a rodeo rider(underwater?) to see a beautiful sea horse of about 10" length holding on to the flora with its tail. Derek had his new pony with him but the sea horse was just not interested in a cylindrical bit of metal, even if it did have 38% EAN in it. There were shoals a plenty and one of the most memorable was a shoal of balling lined eel catfish, Captain Patch decide he wanted to get in amongst it but the catfish decided that they would ball no more, at least not with the captain. It could be said that the catfish did have good taste, without being cooked. We had a great view of a decent sized yellow honey combed moray wrapped round the railings on the top deck. There was a very respectful swim through the lower deck of Inchcape with the surreal lights from outside. On exiting the lower deck we were met by two Lion fish hovering like they do, almost like they were waiting their turn to enter. On the way up the deco stops were 15m, 12m , 9m and 6m and then it was back to base for a modest barbecue and a bit of decompression fluid. I missed out the bit about Derek driving everyone mad on how to set his Suunto computer for different gases, because that would be boring, even if he did get nearly everyone involved/mad and it did work in the end.
After our recent dives in poor viz, and fruitless searches for wrecks in the Gulf, and only two signing up for another local wreck dive last Friday, a Saturday dive on the East coast was suggested. With Ian and Cathy in the UK, and Mike off to Oman for the weekend, it was either the prospect of Jackson towing the boat, or just a need for something completely different, that suddenly we had eight names on the board! As it was, we settled for six on the first dive with Freestyle on the Inchcape 1, and eight for a lunchtime dip over the reefs of Dibba Rock.
A lovely misty morning-light drive across to Dibba, saw returnee Brian Kerman joining Polly, Chris, Richard, PJ and son Oliver meeting at Freestyle at high tide. Kapitan Karin of Freestyle had us quickly on board, with 5cm high waves crashing mirror-like about us. Even without a GPS, Karin easily found Inchcape 1, professionally homing onto Al Boom’s boat tied up to its buoy! With nice timing for our dive, Al Boom divers were making their way back up the line as we descended.
A seriously pleasant 30M dive ensued, with great viz in zero current, starring an electric torpedo ray (sadly missed by most of us), a large friendly thorny seahorse on the stern, a large honeycomb moray starboard on the sand, and a shy sand perch, and a couple of devil fire-fish on the deck, under large shoals of snappers and fusiliers. A busy reticulated file-fish scavenged on the deck, and at the submerged barrel on the safety stop we were entertained by a shoal of tiny immature file-fish. The water temperature was 23 degrees – a little warmer than the Gulf, and with Karin serving tea and coffee before our heading back. Not bad for a Scandihooligan!
For the second dive around Dibba Rock, Derek joined us after a night out with Geoff at the Fujairah Hilton, following a Friday Wadi Bih relay marathon (his story) and with Sharon for some snorkelling – though I suspect to keep an eye on Richard! She needed not worry, a turtle and black-tip kept him out of mischief. For the rest of us we had to be satisfied with the antics of clownfish, a military turkeyfish (check-out the video), prolific and large colourful wrasse (including an unusual small shoal of sunset wrasse) and many large parrotfish chomping the coral. A charming Moses sole unsuccessfully tried to hide from Polly and I, by which time I had a flat battery. But it was the cold that finally got us, and a strong current, threatening to take Oliver and Freestyle’s instructor Max off to Fujairah!
A fine day out, seriously relaxing, with everyone having plenty of something different to see. Thank you Karin & Max!
This is written from the not so sunny UK where I’m spending a couple of weeks chilling out. I would have preferred that phrase to be metaphorical rather than literal but I suppose that less than tropical conditions are to be expected when you go to northern Europe in February.
Still the diving goes on even without my name on the board and Mike took a boat out at the weekend. The intention was to have another look for the Beatrix Maria which we thought we’d spotted the previous weekend but couldn’t locate despite a promising signal on the echo sounder. The story was not one of unqualified success however as Mike describes it:
“Ok Friday. Well the crew were Derek and Geoff and Polly and me. Peter sounded like someone had sandpapered his throat when he rang to cry off. So with the trees rustling just a bit but blowing off the land we launched at Hamriyah. Slightly worrying was the return of 3 fishing boats as we set out. As we cleared the harbour and set out to sea due north for the Beatrix coordinates the sea was following us. I could see that things were getting lively but we were not shipping too much water and Geoff was doing a good job driving. We arrived at the spot and turned on the echo sounder. We circled the zero point several times but all we got were spikes due to the rough seas and the transducer leaving the water and otherwise a steady 23.3, 23.4m so a flat bottom and nothing there. So I do not know what it was that you saw but there is nothing there.
We set course for the Dara but after 30 seconds abandoned that idea as we were directly into the waves and instead turned at right angles to them and ran for the shoreline landing off Umm Al Quwain. Tight inshore the waves were a lot less and so we turned south and battered our way south to Hamriyah. On the trip back the canopy completely collapsed but was fortunately still attached to the boat. So back at the yard we removed the canopy completely and it now lies in the yard. We removed the fixings from the gunwales as well as the broken ends of the canopy uprights were still stuck inside. They are at my workshop now getting pressed out. A new disc in the angle grinder will trim the uprights and then maybe on Tuesday the canopy can be reinstalled.
Thus sadly not a tale of a new wreck but one of no dives and a broken boat although it will be put back to full health shortly.”
No doubt the disappointment was alleviated with some refreshments by the pool afterwards!
Ian Hussey and guest writers.