We went back to the Dara last Friday in the hope that the good viz might have survived from the week before. This would have been counter to most previous experience but you never know. We were delayed leaving the slip when Mike Anthony failed to carry out an adequate “butty check” (ouch) and had to nip back to his car and retrieve his lunch.
On the way we were pleasantly surprised to find the sea almost flat calm and on hooking the wreck the current was almost non-existent. Sadly but predictably, this didn’t translate into good viz – it was pretty murky down there. Before we even got into the water a turtle came to the surface, took a couple of breaths and went back under. Although the spectacular clarity of last was missing, we did see an anemone with a couple of clownfish just forward of the promenade deck and a shoal of baby barracuda. There was also some booty – a long length of stainless steel chain that some boat must be upset about losing.
During the surface interval, both the sea and the current had picked up considerably which did nothing for the conditions underwater. Scope for exploration was limited by the current but some net cutting at left the wreck in a slightly better state than we found it but a sustained effort over a period of time will be needed to clear the entire wreck. Janette suggested a monthly net-cutting trip and that sounds like a good idea to me. Call that a belated New Year’s resolution.
A warm welcome to Davidson, making his first dive with us – we trust he’ll be making plenty more!
Last Friday we decided to revisit our old favourite, the Dara, hoping for better things after the previous week and its less than ideal conditions. Except having got there we found some resort divers splashing around so we decided to head off elsewhere first. The first idea was to go to Cathy’s Barge which was last dived three years ago. Having got there and had a look at the pimple on the seabed that the echo sounder revealed, we concluded that it wouldn’t be as exciting as all that so Plan C became the Nasteran.
The Nasteran is an upturned landing craft that was once little more than a metal box although with a few interesting swim-throughs that needed treating with some caution. The passage of time is causing the hull to break apart and revealing more areas to explore. It was in one of these that Uwe found the spare prop that now does sentry duty outside the Dive Bar.
Last time we visited there were three or four marble rays on the wreck but no such luck this time around. Still it was a pleasant dive in reasonable viz with very little current. After lunch we headed back to the Dara assuming that the other dive boat would have gone by now as was indeed the case.
It turned out to be well worth the effort. The viz was around 15m which is to say pretty spectacular. It was one of those rare occasions when you could just float around a few metres above the wreck seeing a good part of it. Mike did a bit of net clearing but the rest of us were mainly sightseeing. There was a huge shoal of snappers and assorted other batfish, angelfish, parrotfish and others. Right at the end of the dive on the bow of the ship, a turtle was swimming around and stayed for a while before gliding away into the distance.
PJ made a video of the dive, an edited version of which can be seen above.
Superstitious – moi? Last weekend was Friday 13th June and although nothing bad happened it did become a bit too much like hard work in the end. To start with the weather was dubious. There were waves inside the harbour and a heavy swell outside it although once moving it could have been a lot worse and we made respectable time. The targets were a couple of dhows – co-ordinates courtesy of Brian Lugg and some local fishermen. Aside from the fact that they definitely existed, nothing was known about the wrecks so there was an element of excitement about what could be down there.
The anchor hooked at the second time of asking and Mike Anthony and Brian Lugg went first over the side. Brian was in such a hurry that he overbalanced and went in a bit prematurely. “I meant to do that” he claimed afterwards. Of course! The sea had calmed a bit by now but this didn’t translate into good viz which was maybe a metre at best. The other discovery at this point was that we hadn’t hooked the wreck but a fishing pot. Mike and Brian followed the line attached the pot and a circular search located the wreck. It’s wasn’t that much to write home about to be honest although further exploration in better conditions might show the dhow in a better light (literally).
The second dhow was only about 50m away and conditions weren’t going to be a great deal better so by popular vote we headed for the Victoria Star instead. The first divers came back reporting the visibility worse if anything with an ominous clanging as doors opened and shut in the current. Those who were left decided that enough was enough at this point which may have been a good move as the wind was picking up and the sea state with it. Although the journey back was hardly flat calm, we were travelling with the waves not against them and we escaped relatively dry.
For the next few weeks the dive club will be conspicuous for a large hole in the wall which is due to some improvements to the kid’s play area next door. Everything will be made good when the works are complete.
BSAC 406 went on tour last weekend, making a trip up to Khasab to do some diving in the Musandam with Extra Divers located at the Atana Resort (formerly Golden Tulip). We last went up there about a year ago. Compared to that trip the numbers were slightly down but at least this time we all made it over the border without the comedy of errors that nearly resulted in one or two of us not making it. No such trauma this time around – some of us arrived on Thursday night with the remainder travelling up on Friday morning. Those of travelling Thurday could not help but notice the rough sea state and we could only hope for better seas on Friday.
Leaving the harbour in the morning, the sea was appeared slightly calmer and we could relax and soak up the magnificent scenery of the Hajar mountains rising out of the sea with wooden dhows at anchor as they must have been since time immemorial. Says Mike Anthony “Just look at that block wall. Not sure about the breakwater though – the armour’s packed a bit tight”
Pure poetry! Engineers are born not made I always say and I speak as one myself.
Calm though the water may have been in harbour but in open sea as we headed up the coast it was quite a lot rougher. This didn’t seem to trouble Abdul, the boat skipper who simply put his head down and opened the throttles. “I wonder if he’s related to _____ or _____ ?” I thought, the two people in question being noted for their uncompromising approach to boat driving. Looking at Abdul, probably not.
After about an hour of travelling we arrived at Musandam Island at the tip of Oman in the Strait of Hormuz. The first dive site was named “Deep Purple” on account of the corals. It was a bit flat at the point of entry with assorted but not overly abundant fish swimming around. As we went around the reef the terrain became more rugged and the fish more plentiful. We saw angelfish, triggerfish, batfish, parrotfish and most of the usual reef suspects along with a solitary but enormous barracuda. The current was close to non-existent making for a very relaxing dive.
During the surface interval a couple of devil rays (like mantas but smaller) came flying out of the water. We also saw a solitary bird of prey perched on the cliff looking down, lord (or possibly lady) of all it surveyed.
The second dive was also on Musandam Island but round the corner on a site called “Barracuda Ride”. This was quite a contrast to the first dive. Dive Master Kurt had described it as a drift dive and he wasn’t joking – there was only one direction it was possible to travel (fast). This wasn’t to everyone’s taste but most made it round the corner. The highlight was a 1.5m leopard shark seen by a few of us – the last time I saw one was at least 12 years ago.
While we were de-kitting there was another surprise – a sailfish flying out of the water. The trip back was a lot smoother than the way out and hence a bit quicker. A night dive had been on offer if there were enough takers but the bar proved a more powerful attraction for the majority at this point. This was followed by a very good buffet meal on the terrace washed down by a glass or two. There are worse ways to spend a weekend.
Many thanks to Geoff who organised the weekend, to Kurt and Sandra of Extra Divers and to boat skipper Abdul. The divers were: Mike, Wendy, Ian, Cathy, Andy, Emily and Geoff. Mention should also be made of Martin, a Dutchman from Aberdeen who was sharing our boat and who joined us afterwards at the dinner table.
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.
Ian Hussey and guest writers.