After last week’s excursion over to the east coast, we were back in familiar waters close to home last weekend. At least some of us were. I had a week off playing football (again) but Mike Anthony took a boat to the Victoria Star. I’m grateful to Mike Dalton who has stepped up to the plate and written a report:
What a fabulous day!
6 of us set out (including 3 from DSDC - all most welcome) for the Victoria Star launching from Al Khan slipway. The wind had started to get up and by the time we hit the open sea it was lumpy with blowing spray over the boat and a much reduced speed.
All went well until we reached the site of the wreck, without the echo sounder (under repair) it was a case of getting as close as possible on the GPS and throwing in the anchor. We did that twice and ended up drifting 20 - 30 - 40 - 50 metres and more from the wreck. In the heavy weather the anchor had no chance of holding without a direct hit. On the third attempt, and after a few minutes spent driving round in circles (can't recall who was at the helm), we threw the anchor, line and marker buoy over the side. Bingo, this is the way to do it in heavy weather and with no echo sounder.
Mike Anthony and Dean were first down the line to discover the anchor about 15 metres off the port bow (not a bad result). Petra and Gavin Walker followed leaving Mike Dalton and Derek Roberts on surface cover duty. It was decided not to tie the anchor line on board as we did not know how well Mike A and Dean had been able to secure it. The wind speed had by now increased considerably and the tension on the anchor would be significant. Eventually Mike A surfaced and signalled it was safe to secure the anchor line on the boat.
The VS has become popular with fish life. Shoals of barracuda (some large ones hunting in packs with their beady eyes) were spotted and 3 beautiful leopard rays with distinct black and white markings and extraordinarily long, thin tails who appear to live under and around the bow of the wreck. The barnacles have mostly abandoned the VS to be replaced by a slippery and slimy growth over most railings and flat surfaces. The visibility, surprisingly, was excellent and as good as it has ever been. The water has warmed up considerably and is now around 26 degrees centigrade at the bottom. 3mm wetsuits are just fine.
Mike Dalton and Derek Roberts were finally in the water, after a guided tour around the boat (twice), a venture into the kitchen at the stern, we ended back at the anchor after about 40 minutes. At this point I recalled Mike Anthony suggesting earlier we may want to lift the anchor and make it a one dive day. A philosophical underwater debate ensued, with the help of the dive slate. I can't recall the exact wording but something to the effect of "did Mike A ask you to free the anchor on account of the weather?" Derek wrote back , "No, I am OK for a second dive". In the end we decided to leave it hooked up and both quickly learnt that underwater debates are tricky to get exactly right. The opportunities abound for missed nuances in meaning.
On the surface it was clear the weather had worsened and the anchor had to be freed. Mike Dalton started off down the line (having checked and verified plenty of air - so he thought). After a few minutes and 10 metres down the line a hard look at the gauge showed 55 bar, clearly a massive leak had taken place in the previous 3 minutes that had gone totally undetected, or somebody was misreading a gauge. The black needle near the red numerals means you have at least 100 bar right? Wrong! Anyhow Derek was duly dispatched down the line and recovered the anchor.
Back in the harbour the Chairman was rescued by Gavin Walker's superior boat handling skills in getting the boat on to the trailer - although even he would admit it was tricky with a strong cross wind. The technique is to travel in to the wind, keep up the speed and adjust the boat orientation using both engines (forward & astern) at the last moment, once the bows are through the guide poles. Trust me, this is a lot easier to explain than to achieve.
A great day out. The weather did not get the better of us!
On dry land I couldn’t help noticing the wind getting up considerably during the afternoon so the decision to call it a day after one dive was clearly correct. At the finish the divers (plus me) convened at the dive table for a few glasses of decompression fluid by the pool.
As promised, last weekend was camp-out time, although switched to Friday / Saturday by popular demand. We elected to head for the hills rather than the beach as the weather has taken a turn for the hot and sweaty so some altitude seemed like the best plan if we were to get any sleep. Before then though, Geoff and Andy decided to slip in an early dive as Geoff now recounts:
With the dive club camp out planned for Friday evening Geoff thought it wise to get his diving in before refreshments ensued and headed over to Freestyle at Royal Beach Hotel to embark on the 09.30 dive. Andy and Emily were also diving with Freestyle that morning and took the Dibba Rock option while Geoff headed for Inchcape 1 with Ollie and four others.
On arrival, five dive boats were already on the line and after kitting up the Freestyle boat manoeuvred ahead of the flotilla and dropped the divers upcurrent to drift back to the buoy – a significantly better option than to haul oneself forward past five boats! Visibility was about 3-4m and the large number of divers did not help matters. However, the usual schools of fish were seen in abundance around the bow and the highlight was one of the large resident honeycomb morays swimming in the open around the base of the wreck. Although diving on nitrox the others in the group were all on air so bottom time was limited to 19 minutes. A slow controlled ascent, with a safety ‘deep stop’ at 16m returned everyone towards the surface to find a swirling mass of divers from the buoy at 6m and up. In such circumstances it is best to hang a few metres back from the line, watch your depth and grind out your 3minutes safety stop!
The second dive on Dibba Rock was more civilized, with Geoff joining Andy and Emily for a sedate but enjoyable slow drift around the seaward side of the island. Visibility was quite good, maybe 7-8m making it easy to see a wide range of marine life including zebra and honeycomb morays, broom tailed wrasse (they seem to be multiplying rapidly!), squirrel fish, a school of Indian mackerel, lion fish and a solitary pipe fish to name a few. After the dive, while the dive gear dried in the afternoon sun, the ‘406’ divers aided their surface decompression by relaxing with some liquid refreshment and a snack from the Royal Beach restaurant.
By the time Geoff arrived at the camp-site the rest of us had the camp established and were getting the fire going. Numbers were a bit down on previous events but we’ve never let that stop us having a good time. We also had a visitor – a donkey came over looking to share the feast but went ambling off when it realised there was nothing doing. The climate was good, the night was relaxed and I felt pleasantly mellow seeing off some fizzy wine and good food. The Michelin star goes to Richard and Sharon for their fish, spiced up with ginger and spring onion, prepared on site, wrapped in foil and gently barbecued. Not to mention their unfeasibly large prawns. They might have overdone the provisions as Sharon was constantly offering lots of stuff to the rest of us. It looked good and I would have been tempted but having (almost) seen off a steak the size of a house-brick, I couldn’t have eaten any more if you’d paid me.
In the morning the donkey was back and this time we were able to offer a breakfast of bananas and carrots – gratefully received. Breaking camp and heading back down the mountain, we hooked up the boat and headed for the coast. We launched from the new slip at Husn Dibba (Resident Engineer – Mr M.G. Anthony BSc CEng MICE) and headed for Dibba rock. We got there just in time to be first hooking up to one of the permanent buoys. We were soon first in a line of three boats with two more the other side of the rock and a few others floating around amongst the divers and snorkelers. I counted eight boats in total.
I’m happy to report the viz was good and the fish plentiful. We saw morays, a couple of big cuttlefish trying to make some small ones, plenty of clown fish fiercely protecting their anemones, parrot fish and the usual reef inhabitants as well as large shoals of snappers. It didn’t go quite according to plan. Diving with Cathy, I took a wrong turn at some point going round the rock and ended up rather further from the boat than I’d intended. Saving us a swim back, one of the boats spotted us and came over: “Are you with the white boat?”. Since all the boats on site were pretty much the same colour (white), this didn’t narrow it down an awful lot but it seemed prudent to keep this thought to myself. I kept my mouth shut and the guy helpfully went back and notified one of the white boats (the right one) which came and picked us up. Yes Peter, I will pay a fine.
After that it was a drive home and a couple of drinks around the pool. A good weekend!
That’s what you get for trying to be clever I suppose. I am reliably informed that it’s “Eliot” not “Elliot” for which I stand corrected – cheers Robbin! Anyway – having secured my place in this month’s Pseuds Corner, I can describe the weekend’s diving if only briefly. I wasn’t there myself as I was taking part in one of the Wanderers periodic football competitions but Mike Anthony took a boat out to the Jumbo and Neptune. Quite a full boat it was too which will gladden the heart of our treasurer. The sea was flat calm and the viz was in the region of 10m which is well above average for round here. More than that I can’t tell you since the promised report hasn’t appeared for which serious offence some fines may well be extracted!
This coming weekend all being well, we’ll be up in the mountains on a camp out. Details will be worked out but the general plan usually has us setting up at the camp site on Thursday evening, having a barbecue washed down with a few beverages and diving on Friday morning. A good time is confidently predicted.
Looking further ahead, we are planning another trip for Eid Al Adha. For the last two years we’ve been to Beirut enjoying the hospitality of Sami and his family. Good though this was, a change seemed in order and we’ve decided that Cyprus will be this year’s destination. The main attraction will be the wreck of the Zenobia – a ro-ro ferry that capsized in Larnaka harbour in 1980 when its stabilisation system went haywire and started filling water tanks on the wrong side of the boat. Other dive sites will be identified between now and then.
There’s plenty of time to save up!
The quote by TS Elliot threatened to come true last week and may yet do so for one of our number. We were all quite excited to start with – our dear friend and valued member, Mr Brian Lugg, had apparently spotted a report of yet another ship on fire and sinking off the coast of Sharjah. So keen were we to get out there that no-one studied the supposed coordinates very carefully or stopped to think that “Gulf Jockey” is an unlikely name for a vessel even by the standards round here. And that last Tuesday was the first of… Yup you guessed. Oh well– it was a good joke and once we’d got over our mirth we resolved to forgive Brian completely. Once we’ve stitched his limbs back on that is. His neck is probably safe as no-one can reach it.
We didn’t in the end go diving at the weekend although this had nothing to do with imaginary wrecks. The forecast for the weekend was rough on Friday but a bit calmer on Saturday so we opted for a Saturday dive. By the time the weekend rolled around, these predictions had exactly reversed but by then people had made other plans for Friday. Instead three of us spent a couple of hours doing a bit of gardening and rubbish clearing in the yard which looks a bit less of a waste land as a result. We did wonder about a Saturday dive after all but decided against which was a good call as it turned out as the winds were strong all day and the sea looked extremely lumpy off Ajman Beach.
Ian Hussey and guest writers.