A few of us gathered at the club last Tuesday for some carols and mince pies and a few mulled wines to wash it down. We also managed to get a dive club table for Christmas Day dinner. Efforts to get a dive going for Friday came to nothing however – people have a habit of going on leave or doing family stuff at this time of year. Most unreasonable but there you go.
As has become my habit, I’ll use this last newsletter of the year to reflect on the ups and downs of the last twelve months. First some numbers: Since 1stJanuary, 50 different divers have visited 34 different dive sites, clocking up in the process 651 dives on 48 days of the year, averaging almost a trip a week. Taken in isolation these figures are not earth-shattering and easily beaten by any number of clubs including one that springs to mind just up the road. But for a club of our size it is very respectable – we remain active!
A few highlights:
Our Eid Al Adha trip this year was a return to Beirut. The Eid dates and the weather were both more user-friendly this year than last, permitting an extra day and avoiding the on-the-spot changes of plan that we’d had in 2012. We were fortunate to have excellent viz on the Souffleur, the Vichy French submarine that was the main focus of the trip. To dive a wreck like this is to feel a sense of historical time and place – a bit like the Dara – which you don’t really get with most of the Gulf wrecks, however much fun they are to dive. The second day at the Lady Mary Cave was, in a different way, just as memorable. Sharp changes of temperature and water salinity as you enter the cave produce some weird optical effects and once inside, the water is crystal clear. Day three, experiencing Sami’s spectacular hospitality at his house on the slopes of Mount Lebanon was the icing on the cake. Beirut remains as fascinating as ever – one can only hope that Lebanon manages avoids the turmoil over its eastern border.
Not quite so far afield was our trip to Al Sawadi resort in Oman. This means diving the Damaniyat Islands which is usually very good and this was no exception, largely because of the appearance of a juvenile whale shark which spent about 20 minutes swimming around the boat while we all frantically finned around trying to get a closer look.
One of the things that keeps the diving interesting is discovering new things, particularly when they’re so new they’ve only been underwater for a week or two. Such was the Victoria Star which went down at the end of July in unknown circumstances. The sinking was reported in the press and was discovered after some detective work by Brian Lugg. It’s not often you get the chance to dive a wreck that new (the Mariam Express in 2006 was the last one) and for a few weeks it really was the only place to go. Since then the marine growth has taken over but the fish life is increasing so provided nothing untoward happens to it (its right on the entrance channel to Mina Khalid), it should be a good dive for years to come.
We’re a lot less cash-rich than we were last year thanks to the purchase of two new 4-stroke engines which should keep the club operating for a number of years to come. The old engines were getting on in years but the impending ban on 2-stroke engines forced our hand. We now need to build up the funds again to which end we would encourage a lot of diving on Fridays and a lot of eating and drinking on Tuesdays.
This year we said goodbye to Peter and Alison Blanchflower who are retiring back to the UK. Peter hadn’t dived much for a while but in his heyday was a loyal stalwart of the club who was on the committee for a number of years, serving as chairman. Rather than catch a boring flight, they took the overland route in a Land Cruiser via Iran and Turkey much as Mike Anthony did a few years ago on two wheels. Alison wrote an account of the journey in a series of emails which were very interesting. If I have time I’ll compile the lot into a single pdf file and get it out – it’s worth reading.
With your indulgence, some sincere thanks are due to those that keep the club running by serving on the committee: Mike Anthony whose efforts on the boat, trailer and vehicle are above and beyond the call of duty and go a long way to keep us functioning, Peter Jackson who as well as looking after our money, continues to produce increasingly slick looking videos, Derek Roberts who keeps the equipment in good order, Janette Elphinstone for her training, particularly the try-dive which was excellent, Cathy Terry for making sure we stay members and last but not least, Chairman Mike Dalton for his heroic efforts at keeping us in order.
Thanks also to those who have supported the club by running dives or simply turning up – may it continue in 2014!
Many thanks as well to Diving Officer Ian Hussey, for arranging the majority of our diving activities, towing our boats, and not least, for his regular weekly news-mails, both informative and entertaining.
Last weekend didn’t really happen in the end although we did try. The forecast was dodgy late on but seemed reasonable in the morning so we decided to have a shot at the Ajman Glory which we haven’t visited for a while. Before we even got to Hamriyah there was a bit of drama – the Discovery’s battery has been giving signs of distress for a couple of weeks and parked in the nearest Emarat, filling the boat with fuel it finally gave up the ghost. This necessitated a swift trip back to the club to pick up some jump leads.
Despite this we launched the boat, albeit a bit behind schedule, but it took only a few seconds out of the harbour before we realised the AG was a non-starter. We changed course for the Dara which is a lot closer but heading into increasingly large waves and mindful of the predicted worsening we decided to abort and returned to port. Back at base, after cleaning the boat and buying a new car battery, we retired to the dive table and ordered some breakfast.
Last Friday was the debut outing for our brand new 200HP Yamaha four-strokes on SP312, purchased at great expense to hopefully keep the club future-proofed for the next few years as far as engines go at least. The boat had been sea-trialled the previous day by the guys from the boat workshop which was not without incident. They didn’t realise that the boat needed bungs and nearly succeeded in sinking it before they returned to port. Disaster was averted however and the boat was delivered to the club.
Come Friday we needed a bit of time to reconnect some electrics to get the GPS and echo-sounder working but with this achieved we headed for Al Khan. We decided to go to the Victoria Star which seemed prudent for an engine test as it’s only a short distance offshore. The news is that the port engine is working fine but the starboard has a habit of cutting out above 3500rpm. The Yamaha guys are going to come out and have a look at it. The dive itself was mainly an exercise in net cutting although we did do a bit of sight-seeing as well. The fish life on the wreck is taking hold (hence the nets) and it is covered in barnacles. The viz was reasonable and the sea was flat calm so not a bad day all round. On the boat with us was Sami on one of his trips over from Beirut and also Chris Mathers who we hadn’t seen in a while. Chris now dives with Southsea Sub-Aqua Club in the UK who are one of the oldest clubs around (BSAC 009) and who achieved fame by locating the wreck of Henry VIII’s flag-ship the “Mary Rose” in 1971.
On Saturday Mike and I (mainly Mike but I helped) did a bit of work on the trailer, replacing the second pair of springs. This was only half successful thanks to a seized pivot but the trailer is functional and we aim to get the job finished shortly.
Our try-dive went ahead as planned last Friday and very successful it was too. More of that later but first an account of the dive earlier in the day. With SP 312 away getting its new engines fitted, this was a rare solo outing for our old soldier, SP 125.
PJ tells the story:
With SP312 in dock to get its new four-stroke engines fitted, for Friday’s dive to the Dara Mike Anthony put together a one-tank dive on the small boat, SP125, with Derek, Andy, Peter and his cousin Nicholas. Nick, just retired, had last week completed his Padi Advanced course and this was his first dive in the Gulf. With the sea flat, and no significant current, Mike, Derek and Andy dropped in first, well armed with scissors for a successful session of much-needed net cutting, though sadly in minimal visibility. But only after Derek, having carried out his checks on the boat and gone over the side, had to ask Nick to pass him down his fins: Fine number 1. When Derek emerged from his labours his wetsuit and BCD were almost entirely covered in minute crawling sea life, a testament to the enthusiasm of his net cutting. It took considerable effort to return his new found friends to their watery home.
Peter and Nick took their turn with a plan to show Nick around the cathedral and the stern section. Even the viz in the cathedral was abysmal, which is unusual. Mike had spotted a long rope, entangled with our anchor and suggested that this be collected and brought up, so the remainder of their dive was spent un-entangling and coiling what is now a useful spare anchor line. The current had picked up a little so at the end of the dive, unable to move it away from the net-festooned hull, Peter lifted it to the top of the hull, laying it carefully on the net, hoping that a clean vertical lift would free it, which thankfully it did. Back at the Clubhouse, on emptying the boat, it was noted that there had been no oxygen cylinder on board, despite a certain diver having affirmed before the dive that it was. Fine number 2 could not be disputed!
The day’s divers and non-divers alike convened at the club between 1 and 2pm to get the try-dive sorted out. As the name suggests, this is an exercise aimed at gaining up some new members with people new to the sport encouraged to take a short trip under water in the company of an experienced diver in the sheltered surroundings of the Wanderers swimming pool. With this sort of thing you never really know until the day how successful it’s going to be. We’d arranged for some flyers to be posted around the local schools and around the Wanderers itself but would anyone show up?
In the event we had 12 people plus a couple who turned up late but will be coming again on Tuesday. This is close to an ideal number being enough to make it worthwhile but not so many as to tax our resources. The try-divers were: Jonathan, Richie, Barry, Heather, Kathy, Adriaan, Nicolas, Alex, Claire, Shada, Dave and Ryan. Thanks for your interest – we hope to see you again. The underwater guides were Janette, Geoff and me.
In the evening we’d arranged for a barbecue round the pool which was also well attended. Janette and Ken had leant us their projector so we were able to show some of the videos that Peter has produced over the last year or so, using a bed-sheet pressed into service as a screen. It worked so well it will almost certainly be done again at some point – maybe the next time we organise something outside.
Many thanks to SWSC for putting on the barbecue and to all those who turned up and supported it.
A warning from our Treasurer: As the purchase of our two new engines has severely depleted our funds, the levying of “voluntary donations” for the practice of unorthodox or non-standard diving technique (see above) is likely to be undertaken enthusiastically in the near future!
Ian Hussey and guest writers.