As I write it’s the UAE National Day so the roads were a bit quiet this morning. A working day but I’m not complaining as we got yesterday off, the country having lately adopted the enlightened habit of attaching public holidays to the nearest weekend. Even the moon now seems to appear at more convenient times than it used to although National Day being a secular holiday that wasn’t a issue on this occasion. As promised a few of us (me, Mike A, Geoff and Brian Lugg) spent some time on Saturday and Sunday cleaning up the equipment room and the yard which are looking a lot better as a result. And the big boat…
As you may know, 2-stroke engines are being phased out over here so we’ve taken the plunge and ordered a couple of 4-strokes which as well making for a quieter ride out to the dive sites, should future proof us for a while at least. On Saturday we took the old engines off and shipped the boat up to the workshop. By next weekend hopefully, we should be back in action with some new machinery. Needless to say it’s not a cheap course of action and has all but wiped us out of funds. We have two parallel strategies to overcome this problem: Fridays – dive as much as possible, Tuesdays – drink as much as possible. I trust I can rely on your full support.
After last week’s wash-out we were back in the water at the weekend. This was the Dara trip that we should have made last week but weren’t able to. On the boat with us was photographer Olivia Arthur, who is preparing an exhibition of images of Dubai as seen through the eyes of a fictional Dara survivor. Olivia had a piece in Time-Out Dubai this week which is attached for your interest. We guided her around the stern of the wreck where the anchor was hooked, through the cathedral and up to the promenade deck. She got some good pictures which hopefully will be useful for her exhibition (for details see the attached article).
The wreck is covered in nets again and a clearing operation looks called for. Mike and Cathy did their good deed for the day by cutting out a large leopard ray that had become entangled. Although struggling to start with, the ray seemed to realise it was being helped and settled down while Mike went to work with the scissors. Cathy meanwhile, mindful of what happened to Steve Irwin, was mentally rehearsing a controlled buoyant lift. Fortunately this wasn’t needed and the ray swam gracefully away having lived to hunt another meal.
Speaking of nets, the word from DSDC is that the Victoria Star is now covered in them although less so now after 2½ hours of hacking and cutting. Cheers guys! Having spent years doing the same on the Dara, to call the fishermen “slow-learners” is to severely overstate the speed of their thought processes – in this respect at least.
The sea got up a bit for our journey back but nothing to get excited about and we soon sipping a few glasses of decompression fluid back at the club.
Owing to a number of us (including me) having prior commitments last weekend (and Geoff’s lack of practice at towing the boat) we didn’t get a dive on the west coast but a few divers – not to be denied their weekly fix – headed over to Freestyle in Fujeirah for a dive or two in the Gulf of Oman. This turned out to be a good decision of which more later but first let Geoff tell the story:
With just three names on the board for Friday’s dive Geoff, Andy, ‘Larky’ and guest diver Darren headed over to our friend’s at Freestyle on the east coast. The usual Freestyle crowd were present – Andy, Ollie, Phil and his lovely daughter Cora, and newly qualified instructor Trevor (congratulations!) sporting a moustache that a seventies porn star would be proud of displaying. As Freestyle had several newbie Open Water divers and snorkelers the first dive was on Dibba Rock. With a stiff breeze coming in off the sea our four intrepid divers along with Conrad (a visiting Canadian) entered the water to the north of the island.
Visibility was not great, maybe 3-4m but a good number of resident lion fish, morays, flounder and broom-handled wrasse amongst others were sighted as the team headed around the east of the island. On surfacing, the wind had picked up further and was whipping the waves into a frenzy. Back on the boat, Andy advised that since he had just deposited the ‘newbies’ in the water he would collect them after dropping off everyone else at the beach.
Back on shore, it was evident that with the increasing wave action and receding tide it would be too dangerous to bring the boat in. The second wave of newbie divers had to disembark some way off the beach with one of the more robust chaps struggling to get ashore and needing support to overcome exhaustion – a good reminder that maintaining a healthy lifestyle and reasonable level of fitness is an important factor in diving. Inevitably, the planned second dive was called off and after farewells to Larky and Darren, Andy and Geoff headed for the hills to camp out with the intention of joining Saturday’s dive at Freestyle.
On reaching the camp spot overlooking the plain leading into Dibba many dense black clouds could been seen accumulating over the Hajar mountains to the north and it was not long before a spectacular lightning storm broke over Jebel Yibir, slowly moving towards the camp spot. The rain soon followed but only lasted 20minutes or so before the sky cleared and the scene was set for the traditional BSAC406 camp and ‘Blazing Saddles’ menu – burgers, beans and Bud.
Surprisingly, after the previous day and evening fare, the wind had dropped and a dive on Inchcape 1 looked good to go. For once, on arriving at the wreck buoy there were no other boats on site and with 34% nitrox in the tanks, Geoff and Andy were first in the water. The first 8-10m or so were quite murky, not a good sign, but beyond that the visibility cleared considerably, accompanied by a significant drop in temperature indicating that ‘boiler suit’ season could be over. The wreck came into view at about 20m with the stern section completely enveloped by a huge shoal of yellow snappers. With visibility at ~6-8m it was quite easy to see the now familiar family of Lion Fish and two large morays.
After a quick foray inside to practice buoyancy, trim and finning techniques, a line was tied to the stern and the two divers headed out over the sand. A large porcupine fish was seen hovering over an old tyre and a large ray (maybe 1- 1.5m across) on the sand, which after pondering the situation for a while decided he wasn’t happy with the uninvited guests and took off in dramatic fashion towards the wreck, where he was seen again upon the return. After 28 minutes bottom time the divers embarked on a steady controlled ascent with a 1 minute ‘deep stop’ at 15m before entering the murky but warmer water near the surface and final safety stop. All in all, a good weekend!
The weather might have affected the east coast diving but it was also significant on the other side. The following is an extract from this week’s email put out by Nancy from our sister club, DSDC:
Talking about diving, I know and for sure our Supreme Leader and his crew went diving on the week end, all crews left the club in good spirits armed with good weather condition, reached the dive site, first wave in.... second wave starting to get ready when FREAK weather arrived! Storm, strong winds, high waves... phew... it was a freaky adventurous Friday for all on board!!! All are safe home and enjoyed our impromptu BBQ. Hope the East Coast dive was a good one.
Some of you may remember a similar incident two years ago when a storm blew up from almost nothing causing a seriously scary situation for us. The account is here in the Dive Log (28 January 2011) if you want to read it. Whether we had it worse then or DSDC did on Friday I can’t say but it’s clear that the sea state changed just as quickly. For me the lesson then and now was to keep an eye on the weather and consider aborting the diving if black clouds are looming. It doesn’t happen that often after all.
And as Chris Head said in a later email:
A point worth noting for all of us... the Gulf may be benign but can get rather unpleasant at very short notice as friends of the club and our sister clubs have also found out in the past.
The weather was looking promising so with PJ volunteering to marshall the dive we headed out to the Jumbo which is about 35km offshore. This is a cargo vessel about which not much is known – even the location was a mystery until it turned up on a seabed survey carried out ahead of the dredging for the Palm. It lies on its port side and is fairly broken up but has some nice swim-throughs and usually good fish life.
We got out there quickly enough and anchored at the first time of asking but once under water the viz turned out to be around 1-2m – pea soup in other words. The anchor had landed in the centre of the boat but close enough to the deck side but even so it took a couple of minutes to work out where we were. After that we did a couple of circuits – it was quite an eerie atmosphere down there and the ship was mostly a few odd shapes in the gloom.
Diving the second wave PJ reported some big barracuda circling above but mostly it was an exercise in navigation. We all decided that for the second dive we’d move ourselves a bit closer to the bar so we headed for Karen’s Dhow. This was another site from the seabed survey – you’d never know about it otherwise and we tend to dive it quite a lot. As well as a convenient location half way to the Jumbo and Neptune, it’s also a good dive in its own right. It’s not huge and can be difficult to hook but it’s usually full of life. Friday was no exception although the viz was only marginally better than it had been at the Jumbo.
The dhow was carrying glassware and we usually come back with a few pieces – or in PJ’s case quite a lot. It’s not quality gear but if you must have a fruit bowl you may as well have one you’ve salvaged yourself. The journey back was smoother than the outbound trip and we were soon back for a few refreshments by the pool.
After sending out the pictures of the boat last week, it was pointed out (by Pete Elvin) that the dive flag is now flying all the time. Well bang to rights there I guess, though no-one’s complained yet. Pete probably remembers an earlier occasion when we were pulled up by a coastguard for the lack a flag which was a bit tricky as we didn’t have one on board at the time. Still necessity is the mother of invention (or something like that) and we were soon improvising with blue fins and white T-shirts hoping that this might look convincing from a distance at least. The result was. . . well. . . let’s just say the experiment was never repeated!
This will be a shorter than usual email as it was a shorter than usual dive. The initial target was the Ajman Glory but with the sea already lumpy, driving straight into the waves and forecast to get worse, we had a swift change of plan and went to the Dara instead.
The two Mike’s were first down the line but the sea condition was not promising. Apart from the waves on the surface, the current was howling through and the viz was extremely average to put it kindly. All the same, they did manage to get a decent dive out of it and Mike Dalton reported a large ray on the wreck.
Ian and Cathy were not so lucky. Cathy’s mask had recently become a dog’s dinner (literally) and Cathy borrowed Peter’s for the day. Unfortunately, their faces aren’t the same size (which will probably be a relief to both of them) and the mask shipped water. A leaking mask in a current and poor viz is no fun and the dive was promptly aborted. Peter didn’t even get in the water.
After a quick bounce to free the anchor, we headed back to port and an early bath. Still, there followed a not unpleasant afternoon putting the world to rights over a few jars. And after all, we still manage to dive 90% of our weekends - which is surely not a bad achievement.
Ian Hussey and Dive Club writers.