The first order of the day on Friday was to have a look at some co-ordinates for the Darya-Vand XI which was on the same chart as we used last weekend to find the Moraffi. After that successful search we had some hope but this time we were out of luck – nothing but sandy bottom was down there. The problem is that some of these co-ordinates are “last known position” which can be a long way from the actual location of the wreck even if it exists. We had some co-ordinates for the Ajman Glory long before we found it about 15km away.
The main intention was to have a go at Wreck X which is in the general direction of the Neptune / Jumbo but about 12km further on. It soon became apparent that this was going to be difficult without a lot of discomfort as we were heading straight into the waves. Abandoning this plan, we first had a look for the Jamal which we haven’t dived for a while and which was close to where we were at the time. Well at least it should have been. We know it’s there somewhere but despite searching at two possible locations, nothing was found. We need to check the co-ordinates I think.
Plan C was Karen’s Dhow which was the next nearest target. Having anchored the wreck at the second time of asking, Mike A suddenly discovered that his overalls were in the car rather than on the boat. He was compelled to dive in his trunks and a rather fetching top he borrowed from Polly thus becoming possibly the first cross-dresser in 406 history.
There was a bit of a current running at the surface but it was calmer under water. The barracuda were unusually absent and the resident turtle seems to have found pastures new but there were plenty of other fish including a large group of sweetlips. There was also a large crab lurking in a small steel drum. As normal on this wreck, we brought up some glassware to decorate various shelves and sideboards. For the second dive we decided to stay put rather than go to the Bigprop Dhow which is not that interesting now that the bigprop in question is safely at the club rather than attached to the wreck.
For the last weekend we had the return of a familiar face – Sergey Lazarev who last dived with us in 2012 but hasn’t been seen in a boat since then (not in ours anyway). Don’t leave it so long next time, Sergey! We also had our promised guests – seven divers from the Kuwait Mantas Dive Club who were over here for a few days. Our Chairman, Mike Dalton is a former Manta (and has a T-shirt to prove it) and going back further in time, Sami Kyriakos was instrumental in giving the club its name.
All these people added up to a couple of full boats – 16 divers in total – which would have made for slightly uncomfortable conditions even if the weather had been kind. As it was we were lucky to get out at all. The forecasts varied but all agreed it would be a bit lumpy. It turned out the most pessimistic forecast was also the most accurate and progress was slow and wet. We were going to the Victoria Star again because that was the Manta’s preferred destination but we wouldn’t have got much further in any case.
Compared to recent weeks, the visibility had deteriorated but the current was reasonably slight. The barracuda were still there but reduced in numbers and mainly just off the wreck. There’s still a family of batfish and some jacks in evidence but of the rays seen recently there was no sign. Never mind – we had a good time swimming around and inside the wreck and we hope the Mantas were suitably impressed as there’s nothing closely similar in Kuwait. After the first dive, the weather had picked up still further and whitecaps were beginning to appear. At this point we decided that discretion was the better part of valour so we called it a day and headed back to shore, getting another good soaking in the process.
Back at the club, the Wanderers had laid on a barbecue and with that and a few glasses of decompression fluid (not so easy in Kuwait I gather), we could relax by the dive table. The Mantas were: Stephanie, Andreas, Brian, David, James, Oliver and Marie. We hope to see them again sometime.
It was a bit of a wreck hunting trip at the weekend. Brian (Lugg) had a couple of sets of co-ordinates that seemed worth investigating, one of which, the Moraffi, was very close to the Neptune – a wreck that we haven’t dived for a while. The sea going out looked flat calm but in fact there was a bit of a swell causing a few bumps and a slightly slower trip than it might have been but we still made reasonable time.
The co-ordinates come from a locally produced chart that isn’t ultra reliable and sure enough nothing was visible on the echo-sounder except sandy bottom. Just the same we noticed some fishing pots not too far away so we checked out that area and found a lump on the seabed that was clearly something significant. Brian and Mike A were duly dispatched over the side to investigate further.
The Moraffi it turns out, is a barge about 25m x 15m, sitting upright and about 3m from seabed to deck. The sides have rotted away on the port side particularly allowing access inside where you can squeeze around a forest of internal struts. At the stern a swim-though is possible. There are plenty of snappers of various sorts that call the wreck home and there were five or six sweetlips at the bow end. Mike and Brian had spotted a leopard ray but it had gone by the time the rest of us got down there. To be fair it’s not the most exciting wreck in the area but the fish life was scenic and it makes another target close to the Neptune which is about 500m away.
And so to the Neptune. To those unfamiliar with it, the Neptune is an upturned barge rather larger than the Moraffi that came to grief after a collision. There are some areas to access inside although a nice swim-through that we used to do has now gone after part of the structure collapsed. It’s easy enough to do a complete circuit, checking out some holes as you go round. Again the fish life is very attractive.
We were back at the Dara last weekend but this time it was more of a working party than a sightseeing tour, the idea being to see if we could make some inroads into the nets that still cover the vessel. We were back down to one boat but six divers is a worthwhile expedition and the sea was reasonably calm as we set off.
The current was running during the first dive but the tide turned slack later on and it calmed down. Doing surface cover for the first wave, bits of net and floats were seen popping up so someone was working hard. We couldn’t bring much of the nets up but getting rid of the floats and hacking them off the wreck and on to the sea bed at least reduces the hazard to divers. When our turn came, we headed for the middle section and spent almost 45 minutes tearing into the nets before returning to the anchor line.
One or two of us accidentally brought up some tiny gobies with our dive gear. The first one was spotted happily swimming around in a puddle in the middle of the boat. These were all returned to the sea. During the surface interval, Chris gave us the benefit of his sage advice on how to survive a shark attack: “Just stab your buddy”. I can see that getting a bit tricky if the buddy has the same idea!
For the second dive, we tackled some nets at the top of the cathedral section. After some minutes of cutting, we found we had some friends: a lot of fish including a couple of large batfish were enjoying a meal from all the sediment we were stirring up. It’s clearly going to take more than just a couple of dives to clear the wreck completely but if we do a bit each time we go… Mike D and Brian took some time out from the cutting and spotted a large leopard ray. All in all an enjoyable day – we really felt we’d earned the beers that evening.
A few weeks ago, former members Peter and Alison Blanchflower came to the club for a drink with us before heading off into retirement. Rather than fly home, they’re driving back, initially across Iran.
Attached is the Dive Club piece in the latest Time-Out Sharjah. Featured on the page is Peter Jackson and inset is Sergey Lazerov. The words came from a telephone interview three weeks ago. I don’t remember claiming 1000 dives (though it can’t be that far short now) but the facts otherwise seem more or less accurate. All we need is for some people to read it and make contact.
After last week’s adventures in foreign parts we were back in more familiar territory at the weekend – a trip to the Dara. This was largely dictated by the fact that we had 17 (count ‘em) divers sign up for the trip and the only feasible way of doing this is to make it a beach dive from Hamriyah. In fact a few drop-outs reduced the numbers to the point where we could all fit on two boats but unfortunately the change of plan didn’t reach everyone leading to all round confusion at the start. Apologies to those inconvenienced.
For the day we welcomed three members of Kuwait Mantas Dive Club (BSAC 1045) who were over here for the long weekend. Mike, Sharon and Line all enjoyed themselves – there’s nothing quite like the Dara in Kuwait so it was something of a change for them. We hope to see them again.
The trip out was made on a reasonably flat sea but having got to the wreck we found we had company. Not only was there a dive boat on station but a coast guard vessel was prowling around. After a quick discussion it turned out that the divers were suspected of spear-fishing. Sure enough, eventually a diver surfaced and was strangely reluctant to get back into his boat. He couldn’t float there forever and when it became clear the coast guard wasn’t going away he climbed back on board having first handed up the offending weapon. I think that’s what you call “bang to rights”.
The miscreants were soon returning to port “under escort” and with the place to ourselves SP312 hooked into the wreck at the first time of asking and SP125 tied on behind. It’s now officially overalls weather and the wetsuits can be retired for the summer unless you seriously feel the cold. That said there were some strange thermoclines down there with the water temperature varying a lot in different parts of the wreck.
The viz wasn’t wonderful but neither was it that bad and the fishing nets that still cover the wreck could be easily seen and avoided. There was a bit of a current – not huge but noticeable at the stern. There were some barracuda circling the anchor line on the way down and the usual multitude of other fish. Having been down so long, the vessel is growing some hard and soft corals more usually seen on the east coast and just forward of the promenade deck there is a small anemone with a very small clownfish in residence.
For the second dive we decided to stay put. Our visitors were happy to do the Dara again and the nearby Tek is not particularly exciting. Also during the morning the sea state had got up so moving further away was not appealing particularly for those in the small boat, SP125. The second dive was enjoyable anyway with a leisurely swim along the length of the vessel including a couple of trips through the cathedral. Towards the end a small leopard ray was seen although it was a bit shy and didn’t hang around once spotted. Mike A and Chris did their bit for the environment (and divers) by cutting some nets off the wreck but to remove the lot would be a major undertaking.
The trip back was a bit lumpy to say the least but it’s not a long journey and we were soon out of the water heading back to the club. In view of the numbers we got hold of a barman and got the Dive Bar open which was better than sitting outside as the temperature now seems to have cranked up for the summer.
The following day, Janette organised a trip over to the east coast with Freestyle Divers for a couple of dives including a night dive. Andy, Derek, Polly and Peter made the trip – Derek's' photos on the Dara and Dibba Rock below look pretty good to me.
Ian Hussey and guest writers.