As was widely predicted, the great and good of the Moon Sighting Committee managed to spot the crescent moon last night meaning that it’s officially Eid Al Fitr and we have a couple of days off work. A dive is planned for tomorrow of which more next week but for now a few words about last Friday.
PJ wanted to celebrate his impending nuptials by volunteering to be dive marshall for the day. We weren’t about to talk him out of it. The Ajman Glory was the target and although the forecast was not very promising we decided to go for it anyway despite the possibility of an uncomfortable ride home. The sea was pretty calm on the way out and we made very good time. Sadly the calm sea didn’t translate into good viz – it was like pea soup down there as has been the case rather too often this year. Most of us managed a reasonable dive nevertheless. There was a turtle down there spotted by one or two and it was possible to grope one’s way around the ship and in and out of the accommodation areas.
With the sea state picking up we headed closer to home for the second dive. This was the Tek – a small tug boat that we haven’t dived for a while. On our last trip we finished clearing the wreck of nets, a selfless undertaking but as it turned out a pointless one as it’s now more covered than ever. After a couple of circuits – which is all you need really – we set to again with knives and scissors. We didn’t get very far but at least it’s a start.
After that it was back to base to wash down the boat and indulge in a few refreshments. In the light of his upcoming happy day, I think it’s only fair to ignore Peter’s attempts to attach his BCD to his tank upside down. Instead I’ll tell the story of a certain lady diver who took good advice and instead of spitting in her mask to de-fog it, decided to use baby shampoo for the purpose. Very effective so I’m told but it’s crucial to rinse the mask thoroughly or you spend the dive with your eyes in a bubble bath which is pretty much what happened.
On which happy note…
The numbers were a bit down at the weekend compared to the giddy heights of the previous weekend. Still six in the boat makes for a comfortable trip particularly if the sea state is relatively benign as was the case on Friday. We welcomed another new diver and soon to be new member – Andrej Krnetic from Croatia. Andrej may have set a club record for the most unpronounceable surname.
We decided to go to the Neptune and Jumbo on the basis that we hadn’t been for a while, we needed a break from the Dara and Victoria Star and that the sea conditions looked favourable. Having spent so much time on nearby wrecks recently, it seemed a long way out although we used to make the trip regularly and will again.
The Neptune is a big barge that foundered after a collision. There are a few routes inside and through the wreck, for the most part unthreatening provided care is taken. The mid-section has started to collapse taking with it a nice swim-through that existed until a couple of years ago but the same process has opened up new areas so it’s still a good dive. The viz was not exactly stunning but was still a big improvement over a week ago. There were plenty of snappers down there and a shoal of jacks. We also spotted some batfish and a couple of small groupers.
The second dive was the Jumbo which is only about ten minutes away and is actually closer to the Neptune buoy than the Neptune itself is. The Jumbo is a 50m cargo vessel, known about but location lost for a number of years until rediscovered as an obstruction on a pre-dredge survey. It’s fairly broken up but the stern is recognisable although the bridge has tipped over. There is a large prop which looks good although one of the blades is twisted. From the cargo holds forward there are a couple of nice swim-throughs with no danger of getting lost. After that it was back to the club for some refreshments.
It turned into an interesting day last Friday. We had 13 divers out which meant that both boats had to be launched. With five different nations represented there was an international flavour to the trip that we once took for granted and which we have always valued. May it continue! To begin with though, we had a more pressing problem than uniting the human race, namely the fact that a mooring rope had wrapped itself around one of the props of SP312 while we were reversing away from the quay.
Janette manfully (womanfully?) volunteered to free the prop without getting wet and was soon wedged between the engines, perched precariously at right angles over the water pulling at the rope. It was only after the rope had been successfully removed that she realised that getting back in the boat would not be so easy. The gap between the engines was – if I may use London slang – rather smaller than her Khyber Pass. (No offence – anyone’s would have been!). To cut a long story short, with a bit of assistance she managed to haul herself upright and back on board but not before Peter had captured the glorious moment for posterity. I look forward to seeing the video on Tuesday with great interest.
The destination was the Victoria Star and the trip out was reasonably smooth although with a bit of a swell and we anchored the wreck at the second time of asking. A commercial dive boat joined us shortly afterwards and we were soon three boats in a line. It soon became apparent that the viz was below average to put it charitably. In fact it was like pea soup down there but we still managed a couple of good dives apiece. There were a couple of groupers and a family of batfish visible through the murk although the barracudas from a few weeks ago seem to have moved on. Having said that they could have been out of sight a couple of metres away and we wouldn’t have noticed.
It was better inside the wreck – with the internal partitions collapsing there are some good swim-throughs although care must still be taken. All the sediment floating in the water didn’t seem to have seeped inside and the viz seemed clearer than outside.
After that it was back to the club for a few refreshments. A good day all round – many thanks go to Geoff for doing the marshalling. A couple of group photos are attached. Same to you Davidson!
A warm welcome to Andrea and Catherine who were making their first dives with us. Many more to follow we hope.
Rob Gill has regrettably left the UAE but he sent the following report from Aqaba in Jordan:
“When eventually leaving the UAE to return to the UK permanently, there’s a long list of things that need to be sorted: Cars need to be sold, junk disposed of, plants given away, dive kit sold (who wants to dive in the UK anyway?), shippers organised, bank accounts closed, visa cancelled, landlord deposit returned……….. The list goes on and ought also to include “if visiting Jordan for a short holiday en-route to the UK, remember not to let the shippers pack your diving qualifications as you may wish to sample the underwater delights of the Red Sea”.
Hmmmmmmm. Yeah, you can guess the next bit. We rocked up in Aqaba where Toby’s PADI Junior Open Water qualification allowing him to dive to a maximum depth of 18 metres was immediately recognised and welcomed by our hotel’s dive outfit. I, on the other hand was told that as I didn’t have any qualifications with me, I would have to do a ‘Discover Scuba’ dive to check me out with a properly qualified ‘Dive Master’ and even then I’d be limited to shore diving to a maximum depth of 12 metres on the house reef. Yeah great.
One quick call to Extra Divers however (yep, the same guys that have operations in Khasab and Muscat) who have an operation Aqaba’s South Beach and it was agreed that if I could get an email from BCAS 406 telling them that I am indeed qualified to dive, all would be fine. One e-mail to Mr Hussey and a couple of phone calls via the Silver Fox to get his number to make sure he checked his personal e-mail and all was sorted. Thanks buddies.
Well, all was kind of sorted…… Toby decided to answer ‘Yes’ to the Extra Diver’s medical questionnaire saying that he’s suffered from Asthma in the past. This meant that we needed to take a taxi ride (an adventure in itself) to Aqaba’s brand new military hospital to sort out a medical certificate. Here we were met with staff who couldn’t be more helpful and personal service from an NCO who took us from one department to the next to ensure everything was sorted. I’d like to think that the service provided by the NHS for a Jordanian visiting the UK would be just as efficient.
Anyway, back to the diving: Our first dive was on the Extra Divers house reef. Frogfish, lion fish, nudibrancs. Lots of coral and a fair sized turtle. The water may have only been a chilly 24degC (been diving in the Gulf too long) and the coral may not have been up to Damaniyats standards but with 20m visibility and only a 50m walk from the dive office, we couldn’t complain.
On the basis of this, we decided to sign up to the afternoon boat dive on the local wreck, the ‘Cedar Pride’. This is a 100m long cargo ship which was deliberately sunk in the 1980s on the orders of King Hussain as he and his family liked diving and wanted to offer other divers something more than endless coral reefs. The result is a FANTASTIC wreck in 25 metres with 30 metres of visibility. Could it get much better? Well yes it could actually. Rather than being a stripped bare hull, The Cedar Pride was sunk with all the interesting bits left on it. Windlasses, windows, masts and doors all covered with just the right amount of growth to make a really pleasant dive. A couple of King fish minding their own business within sight of the anchor line just topped it all off.
It was another trip to the Dara last Friday. We didn’t mean to go there three weeks running but Geoff wanted a swift getaway so couldn’t manage one of our longer trips. In practice this meant either the Dara or the Victoria Star, both close to shore and both dived a lot recently. In the time-honoured fashion a coin went into the air (“jugs or dirhams?”) and came down Dara side up.
The trip out was reasonably calm and the anchor went securely into the wreck just above the cathedral. Compared to recent experience, the viz wasn’t as good as two weeks ago but much better than last week and the current was minimal. This made for a much better experience. What seems to be the resident turtle came up for a couple of gulps of air while we were on the boat and one or two lucky divers saw it under water as well.
Me and Cathy decided we were going to do a bit of net cutting which meant we didn’t see a lot of the wreck other than our chosen spot though we did have a tour of the cathedral on the way back to the anchor. Net cutting tends to disturb a lot of sediment producing poor viz in the vicinity but plenty of fish who ignore the divers in pursuit of an easy snack. It will take plenty more dives to make a significant difference overall but we left our little patch significantly cleaner.
And so back to the club for a 4th July glass or two – happy Independence Day!
Ian Hussey and Dive Club writers.