The forecast was less than promising for last weekend but Mike D optimistically posted a dive just in case the weather improved. It didn’t. Come Friday morning the high winds and waves made any kind of boat launch impossible. Peter and Connie made it over to the east coast from which came the following report:
With strong winds and high waves predicted off Sharjah, and not significantly better conditions expected on the East coast, Connie and I did not expect to dive this weekend. I use the YachtWeather App, which has proved pretty reliable over the last year or two. So, after a well deserved Friday morning lie-in, with a clear blue sunny sky beckoning, and much lower wind and waves forecast for Dibba, I gave Rosie at the Dive Centre at the Radisson Blu a call, just as they were sending a boat out to Sharm Rocks. We decided to chuck our gear into the car, and drove across to join a slightly delayed 12 noon dive. We changed quickly and waded out to the boat, waiting to take us to Dibba Rock in lightly choppy waters, led by Dive Master Spencer, only to find ein grouper of Germans and Austrian Instructor Susanne off for AOW exercises. Deciding it would probably be better not to mention the war [Ian’s note: after diving, Peter’s second favourite hobby is marrying German ladies], I rolled into 9m of fairly murky water, with my new buddy Connie joining from the other side of das boot.
Viz at the bottom was not great, especially without a blue sky, and it wasn’t warm either, but we immediately found a small shoal of batfish under a rock. Connie showed me she had been given a tank with only 180 bar, but with zero current it was a very relaxed and effortless dive, which we comfortably stretched out to 50 minutes, ascending after half an hour to the 3-5m shelf on the landward side of the Rock. The fish life was good, all the usual suspects, with a solitary long-spine porcupine fish, many small hamour, groupers and larger hind, beautifully colourful parrotfish and untidy broom tail wrasse, letting us get close in the low viz, without disappearing. There were quite a number of scorpion fishes often squeezed into crevices – which in retrospect might have given a hint of what would come. It proved very gentle and varied, ideal experience for Connie on her first post-qualification dive.
We were second group out of the water, which by now was somewhat rougher than when we entered. We had to wait a further 10 minutes before the AOW training group surfaced, and by which time conditions had deteriorated. Captain John was urging everyone back on board as quickly as possible, but it was soon clear it was now much to rough for us to land back at the hotel. It took us an hour running north, parallel to buffeting onshore waves to reach the shelter of the breakwater at Dibba-Fujairah port – not very far away, by which time we were rolling and pitching heavily, the bow dropping right into soaking waves. Mind you – not nearly as much as a tourist dhow with twelve or so aboard, initially keeping up with us to our starboard, but heaving wildly to a 45 degree angle each side as it tried to outrun the waves. John and Spencer received loud applause from us all as we slipped into the lee of the breakwater, and headed towards the floating small boat quay. As John steered us into a vacant slot, he was advised that the quay was being evacuated of all boats, at the same time as we saw three ambulances on the main quay wall with all lights flashing. There must have been an accident – John (who was telephoning to shore) said the dhow had sunk!
Spencer advised we would wait for calmer conditions for 20 minutes or so in the shelter of the breakwater, and dropped anchor as close to it as he safely could. We sat there shivering and soaked until it became clear that this wasn’t going to happen. Then tanks were removed from BCDs, with fins and all our gear then collected together, and a line was thrown to a staff member waiting for us on the breakwater. We climbed back into the water, and swam carrying our light kit to the rocks, Spencer swimming over with our BCDs and weights. We hauled ourselves carefully up to the rocks to appreciate the full dramatic fury of the gale and waves crashing and foaming against the breakwater and beach beyond. Manager of The Dive Centre, Mohammed was waiting for us with a couple of vehicles to take us back to the hotel, and explained the ambulances were waiting for us and the dhow coming in!
Back at the Centre, Connie and I told Rosie that we would prefer to give the second dive a miss! She was very good though, and didn’t charge any extra for the rock climbing experience. After a long warm shower and coffee, we began the drive home; over the pass just north of the hotel we saw cars parked at the roadside, and there was the dhow again, off Rul Dibba, or rather ON Rul Dibba !! (Photograph attached). Its engine had flooded and failed, and it was blown onto the rocks. All its passengers had been safely rescued and were later discharged from hospital without injury.
To go back a few days to last Tuesday we had an unexpected talk and discussion of a closed circuit rebreather. This was given by David Street of Dive Systems UK. David had been to DSDC the night before and had been pointed in our direction by Brian Lugg. Very interesting it was. David also chatted about the diving opportunities in Malta where he has an operation.
It was also nice to see Marc De Ruyter, whose travels have currently taken him to Kuwait. He signed up to go diving on Friday but better luck next time.
There was no diving at the weekend thanks to the sandstorms blowing through the region. Peter and Connie attempted to go to the east coast but even this was aborted.
Last Tuesday was the Dive Club AGM which was well attended this year. The minutes will be circulated but it’s worth repeating Chairman Mike Dalton’s thanks to all those committee members who have put the work in to keep the club going. I would also add our thanks to Mike himself. A couple of items to highlight: Firstly, I am stepping down as Diving Officer this year in favour of Geoff Patch. I’ve done it for a few years now and it’s time for a change. Geoff is more than capable and as a son of Ilford will maintain the claret and blue heart of the club (which admittedly might be disputed by some). Secondly, Mike Anthony’s huge efforts as Boats Officer over 17 years were recognised by the award of Honorary Life Membership. Well deserved sir! And it was the eve of a very special birthday - photos below.
The 2015 committee is:
PJ's report of a successful day’s diving at Dibba:
Janette led a group of five of us with the Dive Center at the Radisson Blu and Dibba for Friday dive practice for Tim and Connie, joined by Maureen and myself. Connie having sat and passed the Padi Open Water exam on Tuesday evening, only had to satisfactorily complete her last two open water dives.
We arrived for the 12.30 boat out to Dibba Rock, as the early boat was destined for the Inchcapes. Maureen just made it having first succesfully completed the RAK marathon - what enthusiasm! There were no waves and no current. The first dive was fine, plenty of fish to enjoy including a pipe fish, though I managed to dive under-weighted, which was rather hard work, especially with an ali tank. At least I should have known better! Viz was 4-5m and the water temperature 23C. After 10 minutes Maureen and I managed to lose the student team - both of us filming.
The second dive saw the five of us get on the boat, and then another 14 local divers appeared, both men and women; to say there was not much space on the boat is an under-statement, especially when trying to kit up. However, once in the water, it proved a great dive. Our team stayed together this time, and saw plenty, including a large shoal of baracuda, a couple of morays, and a number of Moses soles. When it was time for Tim to signal 60 bar and ascend with Janette, Connie still had sufficient air to be able to join us for another 10 minutes or so. Together we further explored the raspberry corals, finding shrimp gobys and their burrowing crustacean partners, a large sole, and within a large shoal of fusiliers a shy cornetfish. Being Valentine’s weekend I demonstrated to Connie the art of underwater osculating, unfortunately caught on camera by Maureen. Back on the surface we had to wait a good 10 minutes or more while the boat picked up its full complement. Connie finally climbed aboard as a qualified Padi diver, then duly celebrated with anti-dehydration fluid at the pool bar.
I was in transit last Friday so thanks to Mike (again) for the following words:
With the re-registration of SP312 finally achieved - thanks Cathy - we were able to go to sea last Friday with the big boat. As it happened the sea conditions were almost dead flat and an easy run was enjoyed to the Ajman Glory. There were five of us so the first three were Mike D+Robin+Mike A. The anchor was on the main deck just forward of the bridge so that was swiftly transferred to a depth of 21.5m on what is left of the navigation bridge. We had a swim round to the bow and returned to the bridge where Mike A had a grovel and unearthed the ship's flares and an Icom radio. But sadly after more than 25 years there is little chance of these being useful again. The second pair were Dearbhla and Geoff. Nothing too exciting in the way of fish apart from some curious bat fish near the collapsed rigging and moorish idols around the bridge area.
Next we ran at almost 70kph back the 15kms to the Tek. We cleared this wreck completely of nets a while back but once again the fishermen have been busy losing their gear and it was heavily encrusted. Mike A spent his time net cutting at the bow whilst Mike D + Robin were doing similar on the roof. We cleared away quite a bit but there is much more work to be done. We have to go back to find Mike's big torch which is somewhere near to the bow perhaps under clumps of nets. There were many fish on the wreck clouds of small grey things. A cowtail ray was spotted early on near to the anchor.
And so back to the Club where a convivial session round the pool was had with much discussion regarding ‘50 shades of divers’ and to how we could get more people to join the club. Recruit more fit young men was the suggestion from Dearbhla and then the girls will follow! Currently we are seen as a club of old men - which is true unfortunately.
This is being written in my parents’ living room as I contemplate the remainder of my leave. Having been at Upton Park watching Man Utd grab a lucky injury time equalizer, I now have a few days pulling weeds out of my driveway in Wales. But life goes on in the real world – Mike Anthony describes last weekend’s diving:
An intrepid quartet of Mike Dalton, Brian Larkin, Dearbhla O'Conner and your scribe set off with the small boat having first checked important things as oxygen cylinders etc.
Launched the small boat at Mamza and proceeded to sea, a 12km run into the short wavelength waves up to 4ft height which made life very difficult. So we zig zagged in the manner of a sail boat to be able to make some progress. Arrived to find that Sanaf and six from DSDC were already on the wreck so we tied on the back. The viz was not much better that 2m I suppose and it was a bit boring down there. The DSDC divers had already been swimming around the ships internal spaces so the viz inside was about as bad or worse than the outside.
Brian and I ended up on the bow where we had been told that there were some barracuda but we did not see them. There was a large fishtrap on the forc'stle area trapped in some nets. DSDC were cutting out the trap when we arrived so I swam inside and encouraged the fish to leave before we cut it out of the net and heaved it over the side of the ship. And with a bit more net cutting in the same area we called it a day to find Mike D and Dearbhla on the line plus some DSDC. As I was last up and upon surfacing could see that things were not getting any better with the sea state I asked DSDC if they wanted the anchor removing which they did and so I pulled it out of the hold and folded it and put it over the side into the sand.
On the way to the Victoria Star the port side engine cut out and I gave up struggling with it as we were making progress anyway. On the way back I did not bother and ran back at up to 40kph just on one engine surfing as we went. Not a pleasant day, truth to be told, but we got wet and then had a convivial afternoon at the pool with the Jacksons joining us.
As Mike mentions in his report, DSDC were also on the wreck. Courtesy of Mr Chris Head, there follows a few words from the other side of the fence:
Here we expected perfect visibility as is usually the case... except someone had been in there before us! So we bimbled around for a while before exiting and investigating the rest of the wreck. We took the opportunity to follow the port anchor chain although after about 50m this petered out into the sand – I’m guessing she was at anchor when she sank but can see no damage to the hull indicating a collision. On returning to the bow we found a shoal of large barracuda and bumped into Mike Anthony from Sharjah 406 diving in a shorty wetsuit... in 22° water! Deciding that having such a raving lunatic in the water with us was probably not safe we finished the dive after a very pleasant 92 minutes on the wreck... gotta love rebreathers!
It appears Mike has been sussed out at last! Not sure how you “bimble” around a wreck though. I’ll have to quabble over to DSDC one day and ask Chris to explain.
Ian Hussey and Dive Club writers.