We had planned to go for WreckX last Friday but come the morning the forecast was deemed to be too much for a trip of that distance (46km from Al Khan). With the benefit of hindsight, we would probably have made it without problems but the journey back would have been a bit rocky.
Plan B was the Dara, as requested by Peter and Chris so we duly headed up the coast to Hamriyah. DSDC have reported problems with coastguards of late but so far the Sharjah guys have been reasonable. The letter from the Wanderers declaring us to be fine and upright citizens (well I wrote it) seems to working so far.
Once over the wreck, dive marshall Mike Dalton found that the echo sounder wasn’t working. Fortunately we are well practised at sorting out technical problems of this nature and a short diagnostic check revealed the most likely solution: the application of a small downward pressure to the “on” button. This proved 100% effective and we soon anchored on the wreck.
This will not unfortunately go down as one of the best. A strong current was running and the viz was seriously poor with the wreck being covered in nets from the mid-section forward. Frankly at the moment it’s dangerous so anyone thinking of going there should take care until the nets are cleared – perhaps a project we could undertake in better conditions. A ray was spotted in the murk but personally I didn’t hang around down there long. On exiting the water Robin managed to lose a fin, which was eventually recovered by him swimming the length of the safety line and more, assisted by a bit of engine power before the current took it out of sight.
For the second dive we went to the Tek. This is a small tug – not remarkable in itself but home to some very nice fish life and delicate soft corals. After a long circular search the tug was found about 20m from the anchor-line. One large yellow-tail barracuda was spotted, and a number of small burrowing gobys, as well as the usual monocle bream and shoals of snappers. and yellow-bar angel fish. In the meantime the current had dragged the anchor further from the wreck with Peter's and Chris's combined lines at limit, giving us a fair swim back before ascent.
For the long weekend last Friday, Geoff organised a trip over to the east coast with Freestyle Divers at the Royal Beach Hotel. Resort diving can be criticised in some quarters but it’s nice to let someone else do the worrying. The first target was the Inchcape 1, a deliberate sinking for divers that sits in about 32m of water. Arriving at the wreck we found we were the third in a daisy-chain of boats, the first one being tied to the permanent buoy. This would not be a problem in slack water but this time there was a current running and it was seriously hard work pulling along the sides of the boats to reach the line. Having struggled to the front we found the buoy still 30m away and quickly receding – the front boat’s line had snapped and the sea was soon a mass of boats and divers floating aimlessly.
After a re-group we got down the line at the second attempt. It was worth the trouble as viz was excellent and the Inchcape was covered in fish life as normal. You can swim inside the wreck very easily as most of the hazards have been removed although you need to take care as with any wreck penetration. At that depth you don’t get very long at the bottom but it’s only a small vessel.
After a short break ashore we went out to dive Dibba Rock. The landward side of the rock is like a natural aquarium and very nice to hang there watching the fish life go by. The seaward side is deeper and those that followed the current round that way saw lots of good stuff including a reef shark although no-one produced any photos to back up the claim. We’ll believe it!
Former member Brian Kirman has not yet hung up his fins (perish the thought!). He has written the following from somewhere in the Greek islands:
“I finally got my dive gear on after a busy season sailing. There is a nearby wreck (2 hours sailing away) that I have often snorkelled over and now have finally dived. Avantis3 is a recent wreck of a pretty big cargo ship (sadly only concrete and building materials) and at 3am one morning just crashed into a cliff. Must have been a good football match. It lies at 13m down to 40m with viz around 30m. Since it wasn't a planned sinking the wreck is full of stuff - and the anchors and propellers are huge - beyond a dive outfit's capabilities – though there is a motorbike on deck that might have been worth the effort - some years ago. Will return with bigger tanks and nitrox.
"Epidive" a local dive Co. posted this splendid video.
Regards to all my old chums in Sharjah.
The original intention last weekend was to head out to WreckX, so named because no-one knows what it’s really called. It was located by Brian Lugg and at 35m it’s one of the deeper ones that we do. The other statistic is that it’s 43km offshore meaning that the weather has to co-operate which last weekend it unfortunately didn’t. There was a big swell which although not uncomfortable, brought the speed of the boat down to the point where it would have taken too long to get there.
As a fallback we went to the Taha instead. Same direction but closer. The Taha has now been down about two years and was an Iranian registered cargo ship carrying tyres, diesel engine oil and bags of concrete when it fell over for reasons unknown. The ship’s radar adorns the roof of the dive bar and even turns when connected to a battery. On the whole though, the vessel seems to have been constructed with more than half an eye on economy and early hopes of a brass festival came to nothing. The fish like it though and there’s always plenty of mostly small stuff with what seems to be a family of batfish who like to hang out around the bridge section. There’s a nice (if a bit tight) swim through from the hold into the engine room and out the other side. The bridge is easily accessible.
By the time we’d finished at the Taha, the sea had flattened out and we went the Anchor Barge for a change rather than Karen’s Dhow which would have been closer. The Anchor Barge is big measuring around 80m x 30m and not particularly interesting apart from an opening on one side allowing access into the wreck. Care must be taken as although the spaces are wide open, you can swim around one corner too many quite easily. Lines should be used if going through more than one opening. Back outside the wreck, I was looking at the barracuda over my head when an eagle ray swam past. Very nice.
After the Eid weekend adventure we were back on familiar territory last Friday – a trip to the Neptune and Jumbo. The Neptune is an upturned barge that went over after a collision whilst it was a supporting vessel fighting a fire on a rig. It landed upside down and while the general shape of the wreck is clear, it’s never been obvious to me which is front and which is back. (Bow and stern for the technically minded). There used to be a nice swim through but that part of the wreck has now collapsed leaving some new holes for exploration with care and maybe some other routes through.
The wreck was teeming with snappers, perhaps not the most exciting fish in the sea but after seeing the scarcity of fish in the Med the previous week, it still makes you realise what we have here. On the way up the line we were accompanied by a shoal of barracuda circling around and a solitary batfish that took a fancy to my octopus.
Dive number two was the Jumbo which is only about 2km away (and closer to the Neptune cardinal buoy than the Neptune itself is). The Jumbo was a deliberate sinking for the benefit of the local fisherman but little is known about it. The wreck was lost for a number of years until the coordinates turned up on list of obstructions following a survey ahead of the dredging for the Palms. It’s a cargo vessel lying on its port side in about 22m. It’s fairly broken up but the bow and stern are clearly identifiable (not least because of a prop that is too big even for Mike to contemplate sawing off). In between there are some nice and unthreatening swim-throughs and again a lot of snappers.
After that it was back to port on an extremely flat sea and thence to the club for a few refreshments by the pool.