Last Thursday night was party night at the Blanchflower’s. To those of you who don’t know him, Peter was a stalwart of the club for a number of years, including a long stint as Chairman. Now he and Alison are retiring to the UK but first they urgently needed to reduce the contents of their fridge – we were delighted to assist. It was striking how many people had past connections to the dive club and it was good to see them – Malcolm and Yvonne, Graham and Helen, John and Dee and a number others some of whom are still seen at the Wanderers. Peter is hoping to get to the club on Tuesday 7th May hopefully with some of the other past members.
The weather prediction was not great on Friday so we postponed the diving until Saturday when it was due to be calmer. This didn’t suit everyone so it was a reduced party that set off for the Ajman Glory. The sea state was a bit lumpy but not too bad and we got out to the site in reasonable time. There was a bit of current running over the wreck but nothing too serious and the viz was reasonable although not spectacular. There was the usual family of batfish around the tangle of rigging at the stern starboard side and some jacks at the bow.
When we surfaced we discovered that the weather had taken a turn for the worse. Both the wind and the sea had got up significantly and it had started to rain. The original intention had been to go on to the Dara but we found that enthusiasm for a second dive had waned by this point and with the sea conditions deteriorating discretion seemed the better bet and we headed back to the club instead.
With our chairman Mike Dalton doing the marshalling, the intention was to dive the Neptune on Friday. We weren’t sure we would get there as the weather was unsettled and the forecast ambiguous but adopting the principle of “suck it and see” we headed out anyway. As it happened, the sea state was fine but another boat had beaten us to the wreck. Normally this would only have saved us the bother of anchoring but as we were getting ready to go over the side, they casually mentioned that they had divers below with spear guns. We swiftly decided to give that one a miss, and headed instead to the Jumbo.
This turned out to be a good move. After last week’s dive on the same wreck, the viz had improved enormously and there was only a slight current stern to bow. Having a better view it was a bit easier to judge the condition of the wreck. Part of the stern section does indeed seem to have fallen over since last year and the bow may have punched further into the sea bed but the Jumbo hasn’t gone the way of the Taha and remains a worthwhile dive.
Meanwhile the wind had got up, and with the sea state had worsening, rather than hanging around to dive Neptune or the Anchor Barge, we headed to Karen’s Dhow which is on the way home. Once there the sea had calmed a bit so, we went diving. The wreck is the small but scenic remains of a timber dhow that sunk carrying a cargo of glassware some of which usually comes back with us. It’s not an easy wreck to hook and the best way is to send the anchor over with a buoy rather than the weight of the boat on the end of the rope. The first divers down secure the anchor and the rest of the divers follow. It took a couple of tries to re-learn this lesson and even then we twice got the buoy caught on the boat engine causing the boat to drag the anchor and thus completely defeating the object of the exercise. Eventually we got it right.
As well as glassware, the dhow is often home to barracuda and we were followed for most of the dive by large group circling round looking at us with their usual beady eye. Again the viz was very good. After that it was back to the club for a glass or two.
It was good to see Lela Kurtanidze dive with the club after a long absence. Unfortunately (for us, not her) Lela is leaving the UAE to get married and we wish her all the best for the future. A couple of bottles of fizz were bought and glasses raised.
Derek and Geoff have provided an account of their weekend adventures on the east coast:
Having been unreliably informed that BSAC 406 were heading out in one boat, with a crew of what appeared to be ten peeps, it was decided by our intrepid duo that we would rather go out on the East Coast with Freestyle Divers. We appeared at Dibba before 9 am as the wind was starting to get up and the waves were looking great . . . for windsurfing.
This point was seconded by the harbour master where the Freestyle boat was moored, so our first dive cancelled. A small group of Russians braved the waves and managed to stay near the shore, as did Richard, Sharon, Stella and Abilash with their snorkelling gear. With the breaking waves kicking up the sand, needless to say there was wasn't a great deal to see, although there was one particularly feisty clown fish that bopped Richard on the nose as a clear indication that he could 'come and have a go if thought he was hard enough'. A couple of turtles were also sighted later on from the shore.
Things settled down by late morning and we headed out to Dibba Rock with Dive marshal Max (of Freestyle) together with the snorkelers. The drop point was near to 'the aquarium' which was very much living up to its reputation with an abundance of shoaling fish. The snorkelling contingent headed anticlockwise, taking advantage of the lee, to the raspberry corals with all the usual suspects. However, the most notable sighting was a squad of squid moving slowly, and somewhat eerily, in formation to deeper water. Meanwhile, Geoff and Derek proceeded around the eastern side of Dibba Rock, letting the current drift us along. We saw a variety of fauna including- lion fish, black lion fish, porcupine/puffer fish (doe-eyed beauties), batfish, yellow snappers, pipe fish, lots of clown fish.
When we merged from the safety stop we met a snorkelling ex-submariner, who looked just like Richard. Max decided to abandon any thoughts of further diving for the day, he dropped us off at shore and took the boat to the harbour. It turned out that the sea went very calm but that is luck of the draw and a few Spanish punters missed out on their intended dive, "C'est la vie" as the Spanish say . . . when they are in France.
We launched from Al Khan at the weekend and mercifully everyone found it without making any extended detours. Having said that, some confusion might be excusable at the moment: The E311 that used to be Emirates Road except in Sharjah where it was the Sharjah Ring Road even though it wasn’t a ring, has now been renamed Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Road. Meanwhile the E611 formerly the Dubai by-pass in Dubai and the outer by-pass in Sharjah has now been renamed….Emirates Road. This leaves the Sharjah Ring Road as a two-sided square but I suppose that’s no big deal in a country where the roundabouts are all squares anyway.
It was good to see Sami Kyriakos and son John on the boat for the first time in a while. Sami’s only visiting for a short while this time around but he couldn’t go back to Beirut without a diving trip. Also on board another guest – Serguei from Belarus. I hope he enjoyed himself.
The first order of the day was to go looking for a new wreck of which good news and bad news. The wreck is certainly there and would make a good dive but unfortunately it came to grief in the middle of the entrance channel to Mina Khalid. The harbour master is naturally anxious for it to be shifted as soon as possible and a salvage operation was ongoing as we drove past. The best hope is that they sink it elsewhere but it will more likely go for scrap. A couple of pictures are attached.
We moved on to Mike’s Tug, a small wreck not far from the Neptune and Jumbo. The sea was flat calm so the trip wasn’t a long one. We haven’t dived it in a while, hence the visit and although perhaps not the most exciting wreck in the Gulf, it was a good dive nevertheless. The viz was good and the current non-existant. A pair of cuttlefish greeted us at the anchor and there were a lot of large barracuda circling around along with the usual snappers. There is also some nice soft coral on the wreck. You can get inside the vessel in a couple of places but it’s a bit of a tight squeeze.
For the second dive we made the short trip to the Jumbo. The viz was noticeably worse and the current had picked up but not enough to be a problem. Since our last visit in December, part of the superstructure near the stern seems to have collapsed. It was hard to be sure in the murk but it looked a bit different to me.
Photos by Derek Roberts and Cathy Terry
We thought we’d give the Sea King a miss at the weekend, having dived it a lot recently, rather heading instead for the Ajman Glory (née Dollard) which was another recent discovery after being missing for a number of years. This meant launching from Hamriyah, so first we had to find the port – not a problem you would have thought since we’ve been there so many times before – but this is to overlook the ingenuity of our divers. One of our number, confused by the roadworks and new road layout near Ajman City Centre, took the wrong turning and headed out towards Emirates Road. Meanwhile the rest of us launched the boat, loaded up – and waited.
Our Boats Officer, Mr Michael Anthony BSc CEng MICE, described how the steering wheel on the boat had been removed in order to cure a hydraulic oil leak:
“I fetched a large hammer”
“And that worked?”
“No, I had to fetch a larger one”
In due course our missing diver arrived:
“OK, I’ll buy the round, just don’t go on about it!”
When we finally got to the wreck we found we had company. DSDC had run a boat out there as well so we were spared having to anchor the wreck – we just tied on to the back of them. The sea state was more or less flat despite some predictions to the contrary and the dive was excellent. There was good visibility with a large group of barracuda and an even bigger group of jacks.
There was some discussion about whether to do a second dive with the sea state picking up and sandstorms predicted. In the end we decided to go to the Dara and assess the situation when we got there. During the journey the sea flattened off a bit if anything so we went diving and very nice it was too. The batfish seen to have gone from the cathedral apart from a solitary fellow looking for his friends but there was a much larger group – smaller but friendlier – near the bow end. Near the promenade deck there were some cuttlefish engaged in hanky-panky, a reminder of the first Sur trip a few years ago. There were also a couple of rays that hung around long enough to be photographed.
After that it was back to the club for Derek to buy his round – but we won't go on about that!
Ian Hussey and guest writers.