This comes to you from the sunny (ish) UK where I’m taking some time to get my house in order and rediscover the joys of driving on the other side of the road (no accidents so far). But diving goes on and it was an eventful weekend. Geoff tells the story:
"With several regulars being away for various reasons six divers met up for what was to be an interesting day. After Mike and Big Brian’s labour during the week to fix a fractured spring and replacement of the depth sounder transducer on Friday morning itself we set off for Al Khan and what has become our favoured dive site of late, the Victoria Star. Only one of the group had taken the Tuesday evening dive instruction for fancy dress seriously and got a bemused look from the Al Khan coastguard when providing the boat details in a Spiderman mask.
On leaving the harbour it was immediately evident that the sea was still reeling from a storm two days ago as SP325 made slow but steady progress into a heavy swell. Even so, the proximity of the wreck to Mina Khalid Harbour meant we were soon on location and a barnacle encrusted mooring line that had made its way to the surface indicated we were close. Big Brian free-dived to check where we were and on his return advised there was little more than 2-3m vis, a fast current and an ominous repetitive thud, which later became painfully clear for one diver.
Derek (aka Spidey) and Brian Larkin were first in, followed by Mike and Wendy, each with their own objectives for the dive. Wendy searched the galley [a woman’s place is…?] for more components of the mincing machine she has been collecting but was unable to locate the machine itself. After about 25minutes Derek and Brian returned to the surface with Brian looking white as a sheet. While making his way along the vessel, Brian had grasped the rim of an open window only to have the fingers of his right hand crushed when the window slammed shut in the surge (the ominous repetitive thud). Suffering from shock, Brian was put on oxygen and received first aid to cleanse and dress the wounds, which had broken the skin. This combined with Wendy’s “Jesus” cake managed to settle the patient and bring some colour back.
With Brian stabilized, Big Brian and Geoff descended and headed for the lifeboat only to find that it was no longer on its davits, torn away presumably by the storm. After checking the prop, more of which has been revealed due to the turbulent waters scouring the sand away, the majority of the dive was spent clearing debris and various hazards set to ensnare unwary divers from the galley. This also opened up another route into the dining area. Everyone agreed on just the one dive so we could return to port and enable Brian to get his hand checked out at hospital where he discovered that he had fractured his middle and ring fingers but was otherwise ok".
The incident naturally provoked some comment, some serious some less so:
· The fickle finger(s) of fate was unkind to Brian
· Despite the presence of Spiderman, this could not prevent the Hand of God…
· Do you think Brian was a little cut up about the hole ordeal?
Thanks to Derek and Big Brian for these valuable contributions to diver safety.
Some more serious reflections:
The incident was perhaps a timely reminder that underwater in general and shipwrecks in particular are a hazardous environment and nothing should be taken for granted. Also it showed how essential both the O2 set and the 1st Aid Kit – always put on the boat but so rarely used – really are. Geoff also makes the good point:
The other ‘top tip’ to add is that in cases of finger injuries such as this to remove any rings as soon as possible. If the injured finger swells the ring will restrict blood flow and may result in losing the finger if the ring cannot be removed.
While all this was going on, PJ was in Germany presenting Uwe with a souvenir of the Victoria Star (see attached). Why this particular souvenir I don’t know – perhaps he had Georgia on his mind! (PJ- I was concerned that Uwe wasn't flagging - and he wasn't - that isn't just a smile: that is flag-elation!).
To start at the end for a change, one of the boat trailer springs died on Friday and after some hard work by Mike Anthony and Brian Lugg on Saturday the trailer is in bits and new springs are procured. On Tuesday night we’ll be putting the thing back together in time for next Friday so we need a few bodies with overalls to help with the lifting. No excuses accepted (well possibly if you need a flight to get here but otherwise…)
We actually had company on the Victoria Star this weekend. Not DSDC as we might have expected but Ali Fikree and a team of divers in a smart looking dive boat. Our ride out was very smooth but with a full moon, we were expecting strong currents. Not on the first dive as it turned out – we must have hit slack water and there was nothing to speak of.
Calm it may have been under water but things were not so relaxed on the boat. Waiting for the return of the first wave, Mike noticed the stern a bit lower in the water than it ought to have been. Yup – one of the bungs was missing and the boat was in danger of joining the Victoria Star on the bottom. They say the most efficient pump is a desperate man with a bucket and Mike was soon bailing away having first jumped into the water to plug the hole.
By the time we were on the surface the crisis had passed although we were bailing away for a good while. By the time of the second dive the current had got up as expected and it was a big effort just to get to the anchor line. Still – once on the wreck it was much calmer so we were able to further explore the workshop and engine room.
Our Eid trip to Beirut is gathering pace. The main target is the “Souffleur” a Vichy French submarine sunk in 1941. A nearby wreck the “Alice B” is also well worth a visit.
Last weekend we were back to Victoria Star (surprise!) for some more exploration. We probably won’t have the ship to ourselves for much longer now that the Notice to Mariners is issued so we want to make the most of it. The sea was a bit lumpy but the current was non-existent so we had a better time of it than the previous weekend. Geoff is busy making a plan of the vessel to assist in navigating inside. Brian Lugg could certainly advise him some places to avoid. As he delicately put it on Facebook:
There is saying: "a bad day’s diving beats any day in the office..." After today's escapades I'm rethinking this. Managed to find EVERY toilet and the entire engine room full of sewage today. Swimming amongst the turds also brings a new meaning to "diving in shit viz..." On the upside – with all the crap going down I somehow managed not to lose my buddy!!!
Not exactly Dostoyevsky but a graphic description nevertheless.
One thing about the crew though – they may have been lousy seamen but they were certainly regular.
But enough of this toilet humour. Mike and I paid a visit to the workshop next to the engine room. Elsewhere on the vessel, the marine growth continues – it’s remarkable how quickly it takes hold – and fish life is starting to increase although it might be some time before it reaches Dara type proportions. As well as the usual snappers, a couple of juvenile groupers have found a home on the ship.
We welcomed a couple of new faces – Peter and Rose from Emirates Airlines who hope will be coming out with us again. With Peter on board and Andy back from his summer holidays, we had two American divers which I can’t remember happening before. Rose had brought along a bottle of the fizzy white stuff which we selflessly offered to help her drink. Glasses were in short supply (apart from Andy who had brought up a cup from the Victoria Star’s galley) so we butchered some Masafi bottles. Crude but effective.
After that it was back to base. PJ and Cathy joined us at the dive table and we enjoyed a glass or two and a meal while the sun went down. All in all an excellent day from dawn’s early light to twilight’s last gleaming.
On Saturday morning a small working party convened to do a bit of tidying up in the yard and to erect our new drying racks. Having acquired a new washing pool last year we can now dry our gear on something better than the old flimsy clothes dryer. Ever onwards and upwards…
We were slightly tempted to give the Victoria Star a rest and do something different at the weekend – I mean how many weeks running do you go to the same place? But none of the suggested alternatives are going away any time soon and Derek was keen to visit the new target have missed the last few weeks. None of us needed a lot of persuading.
So the Victoria Star it was and the sea was more or less flat giving a quick journey out there. The current was mild to start with so the exploration continued. There are one two nice swim throughs in the accommodation area although obviously care is needed. Some of the wooden doors are disintegrating and we’ll probably remove them completely over the next little while. The marine growth continues to take hold – at the moment the wreck becomes noticeably more encrusted each week.
By the time it got to the second dive, both the sea state and the current had increased significantly to the point where one or two of us aborted having found it impossible to reach the anchor line. It has to be said that this decision was encouraged by the sight of Derek producing a few cans of Fosters. The trip home was rough and wet although Geoff did the best he could – the photo attached might give some idea.
Ian Hussey and guest writers.