Following our Lebanese adventure we were back in home waters last weekend. The main dive was postponed until Saturday because a few of us had other business to attend to – in my case kicking a spherical bit of leather around some artificial turf at the American University of Sharjah (lost in the semi-final if you’re interested - I thought not).
But Friday was not devoid of action, as Geoff tells it:
"With the clubs’ main dive set up for Saturday, Derek, Andy and myself headed over to the East coast on Friday to hook up with Sami and Oli of Freestyle Divers. After an update on Max’s mishap with his chopper (a radio-controlled helicopter that he had managed to ditch in the sea), we set out for Inchcape 1, which proved a popular choice. On arrival, four dive boats were tied to the buoy and a fifth circling, so we waited for about 30 minutes before kitting up and dropped in up-current of the buoy rather than face a long surface swim from the rear of the flotilla. On descending the line we were greeting by four lion fish of various sizes hovering just behind the starboard engine hatch. A quick foray into the engine room was followed by entry into the cabin but visibility inside was not as good as it normally is suggesting it had been visited by some of the previous divers. Visibility outside was around 5m with a mild current. Marine life was in abundance as usual with the two large resident morays in view and large shoals of catfish and snappers around the bow. No sign of the sea-horse this time but the wreck remains a healthy habitat and great dive spot.
"The second dive was around Dibba Rock. Dropping in to the north of the island near ‘the Aquarium’ we immediately saw a lion fish and pipe fish on the bottom. However, these were quickly overshadowed by the 1.5m black tip shark that circled us for about 30 seconds before swimming off. The rest of the dive around the east coast of the island and then along the submerged wall heading south was just as interesting and revealed a great variety of marine life including needle fish, more lion fish, 3 different types of moray, harlequin shrimps, flounders, broom tailed wrasse and two scorpion fish to name a few. Two enjoyable dives that contributed to a full on dive weekend!"
For the Saturday dive, Brian Lugg wanted to tie a permanent buoy to “Wreck X” which is often difficult to hook due to its orientation in relation to the currents. The tides and weather forecast were looking co-operative so it seemed like a good weekend to try it. It would also be a change from “Victoria Star” which we’ve been diving almost continuously for a couple of months.
The wreck is about 50km offshore so the sea needs to be reasonably calm or it takes forever to get there. It turned out to be not quite as flat as advertised but we still made reasonable time and got there in about 90 minutes. “Wreck X” is a fishing trawler that went down in the mid 80’s, about the time they were outlawed in the Gulf, though whether that’s coincidental or whether someone wanted the insurance money is not known. Also unknown is the real name of the vessel though there may be some artifacts left on board that would give it away. It lies on its port side in 35m of water and is about 40m long.
Brian’s cunning plan was as follows:
· Send shotline on to wreck. Divers descend to make it secure.
· Boat picks up buoy and ties off.
· Using shotline as a guide the chain is sent down with 50-gallon drum left floating on surface.
· Divers secure chain to vessel.
· Using a pulley system and the boat engines, the drum is taken down to about 6m depth, out of reach of fishermen.
Simplicity itself! Mike Dalton did identify one potential problem – “Is the chain and rope long enough?” – but Brian assured him there was no problem.
The first part of the plan went remarkably well. A DSMB was the signal that the shotline was secure so we tied off the boat and sent the chain over the side. At this point the Brian discovered to his embarrassment the chain and rope was indeed too short by about 3m and he, Derek, Peter and Geoff had to return to the surface. During the surface interval some more rope was added to the line which would hopefully now reach the wreck. Brian also livened up our lunch by recounting some of the work of the pioneers of decompression theory and their experiments on live goats: “They knew the ascent was too fast if the goat exploded”. Charming.
On the second dive we found to our relief the chain could now be fixed around the vessel’s prop shaft. With this secure the engines were started we found that on about three-quarter throttle, the buoy could be hauled below the surface. Brian secured it and the operation could be declared successful, even if the buoy ended up a bit deeper than anticipated. This may be because the chain became wrapped around the vessel and might sort itself out with the changing tide. We’ll find out next time we go.
In between times, we did a couple of normal dives on the wreck. There was no current to speak of and the water was warmer at depth than at the surface - with a definite thermocline at around 18m. There are one or two holes that could be explored although time is short at that depth and care must be taken. On air we managed 12 – 13 minutes bottom time although nitrox would have given us longer. It’s also the jellyfish season and there were plenty of them down to about 10m causing safety stops to consist of intricate dances as we tried (successfully) to stay out of their way.
The sea had flattened noticeably by the time we set off home so trimmed about 15 minutes off the journey. Eventually, sitting by the pool we could raise our glasses to a job well done.