The forecast was less than promising for last weekend but Mike D optimistically posted a dive just in case the weather improved. It didn’t. Come Friday morning the high winds and waves made any kind of boat launch impossible. Peter and Connie made it over to the east coast from which came the following report:
With strong winds and high waves predicted off Sharjah, and not significantly better conditions expected on the East coast, Connie and I did not expect to dive this weekend. I use the YachtWeather App, which has proved pretty reliable over the last year or two. So, after a well deserved Friday morning lie-in, with a clear blue sunny sky beckoning, and much lower wind and waves forecast for Dibba, I gave Rosie at the Dive Centre at the Radisson Blu a call, just as they were sending a boat out to Sharm Rocks. We decided to chuck our gear into the car, and drove across to join a slightly delayed 12 noon dive. We changed quickly and waded out to the boat, waiting to take us to Dibba Rock in lightly choppy waters, led by Dive Master Spencer, only to find ein grouper of Germans and Austrian Instructor Susanne off for AOW exercises. Deciding it would probably be better not to mention the war [Ian’s note: after diving, Peter’s second favourite hobby is marrying German ladies], I rolled into 9m of fairly murky water, with my new buddy Connie joining from the other side of das boot.
Viz at the bottom was not great, especially without a blue sky, and it wasn’t warm either, but we immediately found a small shoal of batfish under a rock. Connie showed me she had been given a tank with only 180 bar, but with zero current it was a very relaxed and effortless dive, which we comfortably stretched out to 50 minutes, ascending after half an hour to the 3-5m shelf on the landward side of the Rock. The fish life was good, all the usual suspects, with a solitary long-spine porcupine fish, many small hamour, groupers and larger hind, beautifully colourful parrotfish and untidy broom tail wrasse, letting us get close in the low viz, without disappearing. There were quite a number of scorpion fishes often squeezed into crevices – which in retrospect might have given a hint of what would come. It proved very gentle and varied, ideal experience for Connie on her first post-qualification dive.
We were second group out of the water, which by now was somewhat rougher than when we entered. We had to wait a further 10 minutes before the AOW training group surfaced, and by which time conditions had deteriorated. Captain John was urging everyone back on board as quickly as possible, but it was soon clear it was now much to rough for us to land back at the hotel. It took us an hour running north, parallel to buffeting onshore waves to reach the shelter of the breakwater at Dibba-Fujairah port – not very far away, by which time we were rolling and pitching heavily, the bow dropping right into soaking waves. Mind you – not nearly as much as a tourist dhow with twelve or so aboard, initially keeping up with us to our starboard, but heaving wildly to a 45 degree angle each side as it tried to outrun the waves. John and Spencer received loud applause from us all as we slipped into the lee of the breakwater, and headed towards the floating small boat quay. As John steered us into a vacant slot, he was advised that the quay was being evacuated of all boats, at the same time as we saw three ambulances on the main quay wall with all lights flashing. There must have been an accident – John (who was telephoning to shore) said the dhow had sunk!
Spencer advised we would wait for calmer conditions for 20 minutes or so in the shelter of the breakwater, and dropped anchor as close to it as he safely could. We sat there shivering and soaked until it became clear that this wasn’t going to happen. Then tanks were removed from BCDs, with fins and all our gear then collected together, and a line was thrown to a staff member waiting for us on the breakwater. We climbed back into the water, and swam carrying our light kit to the rocks, Spencer swimming over with our BCDs and weights. We hauled ourselves carefully up to the rocks to appreciate the full dramatic fury of the gale and waves crashing and foaming against the breakwater and beach beyond. Manager of The Dive Centre, Mohammed was waiting for us with a couple of vehicles to take us back to the hotel, and explained the ambulances were waiting for us and the dhow coming in!
Back at the Centre, Connie and I told Rosie that we would prefer to give the second dive a miss! She was very good though, and didn’t charge any extra for the rock climbing experience. After a long warm shower and coffee, we began the drive home; over the pass just north of the hotel we saw cars parked at the roadside, and there was the dhow again, off Rul Dibba, or rather ON Rul Dibba !! (Photograph attached). Its engine had flooded and failed, and it was blown onto the rocks. All its passengers had been safely rescued and were later discharged from hospital without injury.
To go back a few days to last Tuesday we had an unexpected talk and discussion of a closed circuit rebreather. This was given by David Street of Dive Systems UK. David had been to DSDC the night before and had been pointed in our direction by Brian Lugg. Very interesting it was. David also chatted about the diving opportunities in Malta where he has an operation.
It was also nice to see Marc De Ruyter, whose travels have currently taken him to Kuwait. He signed up to go diving on Friday but better luck next time.