I was one of those in Abu Dhabi last Friday to see the Stones so I wasn’t on the boat. It would have been nice to go diving as well but you can’t always get what you want (ouch!). Derek has kindly put a few words together:
With the legendary Rolling Stones performing in Abu Dhabi, Friday’s dive boat carried fewer numbers than usual but were no less enthusiastic about another dive on the Victoria Star, ‘the wreck that just keeps giving’. After prepping the boat, Mike ‘the Silver Fox’ Antony, ‘2m Marc’, Brian ‘Larky’ Larkin, Geoff and Derek set out for Al Khan on a bright February morning. Also joining this merry band was Derek’s non-diving brother Keith who was on holiday in the UAE.
On checking in with the Coast Guard one of their fine members boarded SP312 to check the transponder was switched on …. unlike the officer who failed to notice he had only five ID’s yet there were six on the boat. The honourable gentleman who did such a fine job of gathering the IDs had in fact omitted to pass his own over! The beauty of the Victoria Star being so close to shore is the short journey time, just as well as the steering was largely unresponsive due to a lack of oil to support the hydraulic steering mechanism. Regardless of this, ‘2m Marc’ successfully manoeuvred the boat over the wreck with the anchor landing in the cargo hold just in front of the bridge.
Geoff, Brian and ‘2m Marc’ were first over the side into a fast running current and descended in 21 C water. The dive plan was to search for the ships’ records further to discovery of the fire plan the previous week. ‘2m Marc’ managed to locate some interesting documents including the ships Class certificate and crew list while Geoff managed to find the second of three fire plans in a cylinder located on the Captain’s Deck, starboard side. Mike and Derek on the second wave also had a successful dive and found an Aldis lamp in relatively good condition after seven months underwater. Still not a great deal of marine life evident apart from the increasing number of barnacles and a solitary bat fish.
Brian decided to skip the second dive and after a suitable surface interval, a spot of fishing by Keith and a sea snake sighting on the surface, the second dives followed a similar pattern to the first with further exploration of the vessels’ interior and Captains’ cabin. Back at the club some careful handling of the retrieved documents enabled photographic evidence to be obtained before they sadly disintegrated apart from a couple of certificates that had been laminated.
A few photos and documents are attached
This email comes to you from Jeddah, KSA, where I’ve come for a few days to check out a sinking quay wall. Although Saudi is superficially similar to the Emirates, you do feel the conservatism of the place that Sharjah, for all its foibles, only hints at. Walking round the local shopping mall, I saw no other westerners and I estimated about 60 – 65% of the women wearing a niqab. This I suppose, still leaves 35 – 40% with uncovered faces and there was no obvious “official” presence trying to correct that. Almost all the shop assistants are male aside from a few shops with signs: “families only”. The mall sold almost nothing apart from clothes, shoes and jewellery although this at least gave me an opportunity to buy a few shirts from M&S. I’m not a fan of shopping malls but there’s no other entertainment around here anyway. And Jeddah is liberal by Saudi standards – one wonders what Riyadh must be like.
But I digress. The Dive Bar will be open as normal – I sincerely hope to see you there for a drink!
After a couple of dead weekends, it was good to resume normal service on Friday. Geoff was unable to make it back from Amsterdam in time but Marc turned up instead so we had a reasonable boat load. Doubts as to whether we’d remember what to do proved not entirely without foundation. To begin with, towing the boat to Al Khan, I sailed straight past the turn off from Al Wahda Road and ended up going round three of the four clover leaves to get back on track. No big deal – just a bit of cornering practice.
The coastguard station and pontoon at the harbour has vanished and the (Lady) “Gha Gha” has re-appeared after a long absence. The system remains the same however, although they now seem much more interested in whether or not the transponder is working: “How many lights?”. “Two green” was the correct response that got us on our way.
We hooked the top of the bridge at the second time of asking and prepared to go diving. Before we even got in the water the day was enlivened by a large pod of dolphins that circled the boat for twenty minutes or so before disappearing. Over the last couple of months the sea temperature has come down to around 21 degrees which is not much in northern European terms but is a bit chilly for around here. Marc in a skin suit and overalls lasted 15 minutes under water before coming back up the line although he came with a prize: a crew list and plan of the vessel which, after six months under water, would need treating with care if they were to yield any information. He also saw a large ray which was clearly alarmed by the sight of a tall Dutchman and promptly vanished.
The fish life on the wreck does now seem to be increasing. Although not up to the standard of the Taha in its prime (that wreck is sadly almost entirely swallowed by the seabed), the concrete blocks in the hold are turning into an attractive reef and there were some monster barracuda circling the stern. There were also some batfish that seem to live near the bridge.
The second dive was a comedy of errors. Anticipating the cool water I had brought my two-piece 5mm wetsuit (which in the time-honoured manner, seems to have shrunk a few cm since last year) and dispensed with the integrated weights in favour of a traditional weight belt. The only problem with this approach is that a weight belt doesn’t automatically attach itself to one’s body. Yes… you guessed. With Derek (using a 12 litre ally tank in place of his usual 15 litre steel) also a bit light, we came up, grabbed some extra lead and went back for another go. This obviously shortened the eventual dive somewhat, but we did manage a trip to the bow before depleted tanks forced us back to the anchor line.
Back at the club, Marc spent a while trying to get the boat plan unfolded and photographed before it disintegrated. This was successful and the result was a series of photos taken in a bath of fresh water. He has stitched these together and the result is below
A good day – thanks to Derek for doing the marshalling.
Marc’s stint in Dubai has ended for now but he’ll be at the club on Tuesday night for a farewell drink – not a final one we hope. Also on Tuesday our Boats Officer, Mike Anthony, will be ringing the bell in honour of him completing another trip around the sun. I trust we’ll try not to make it too cheap for him!
Ian Hussey and guest writers.