The sea state being predicted to be flat and on a neap tide, we had another go for the Zainab on Friday and wonder of wonders – we made it. It helped that Mike had got the GPS back into action and I also brought my own so no need this week to go frantically chasing after other dive boats, hoping they’ll guide us to a wreck. Except that we nearly didn’t get out at all. The coastguard at Umm Suqeim 1 was a serious pain checking life-jackets, transponders and demanding proof of ownership, by which he meant a labour card showing that someone on the boat worked for the Wanderers – which of course we didn’t have. Some time ago I wrote a letter on SWSC headed paper explaining that we were authorized to take the boat out. This was hastily retrieved from the blue folder and after a telephone conversation between the coastguard and his boss, was deemed acceptable. I was left with the impression that if he could have stopped us from going out, he would have done. Those using US1 be warned!
Not so much follow that boat this week as follow that moon. As chance would have it, our celestial neighbour was exactly on the bearing we needed to follow. So all commander Mike Dalton had to do was to keep an eye on the sky to guide Apollo 406 to a soft landing on the Sea of Tranquility. Appropriate as the sea really was flat calm. Also possibly fortuitous – Mike’s recent navigational record – albeit under water not on top of it – is a little less than exemplary.
The Zainab was a favourite when it first went down, over ten years ago now. The number of port holes and brass that came up was exceeded only by the amount of Iraqi crude that attached itself to the diver. A small price to pay. Nowadays there’s still some oil dribbling out of the wreck and causing a sheen on the surface. Under water there were plenty of snappers, jacks, a few batfish and angel fish and some barracuda circling around with their usual beady eye.
The wreck has some areas accessible inside. The bridge section is easy and the engine room is also good if you don’t kick up the silt. Since this is easier said than done, string lines are advised and vital if you’re going any distance past the entry point.
Back at Umm Suqeim we found ourselves in the middle of the rush-hour with boats being lauched, being recovered, entering port, leaving port all at once with some officials attempting to control the shambles. Derek got a caution from a policeman after an altercation with a gentleman who was demanding to launch instantly. We escaped with some relief and headed back to the club.
Ian Hussey and guest writers.