With hindsight it might have been just as well that we didn’t do too much last weekend as this one was hectic for all concerned. Some of us were on a two-day, two-night dhow trip in the Musandam of which more later but a diving party also went out on this coast, tempted by the recently sunk “Victoria Star”.
Brian Lugg tells the story:
Brian Lugg, Brian Larkin, Geoff and Chris had signed up for the Friday dive. We met at the club at 7am, and were joined by old time members Soren, and Brendan. The 6 of us loaded the boat and headed off for Al Khan slip.
Brendan who has not been diving for over a year was so eager to get wet that when he got to the quay side, he did a backward giant stride entry into the water fully clothed and overcome with joy from getting wet, he donated his sunglasses to a local hermit crab. Chris thought this was a good idea and sent his iphone in as well.
Once loaded we signed out with the coast guard and headed off for the new dive site but first a little background information courtesy of Geoff.
Ship Type: General cargo
Year Built: 1972
Length x Breadth: 80 m X 12 m
Gross Tonnage: 1485, Dead Weight: 2500 t
Speed recorded (Max / Average): 6.2 / 6.1 knots
Flag: Sierra Leone [SL]
Call Sign: 5IM646
IMO: 7111004, MMSI: 667054600
Vessel's Ex Name - Last Reported:
MCW ILSABE 1993-01-01
ORCHID MOON 1984-01-01
About half way out to the wreck, SP 312 got wind of our intentions and tried her best to keep the location of the Victoria Star a secret by decoupling the steering link at full throttle. This resulted in an impressive 180 degree turn to starboard, this time without injury. When asking “Does anyone have some tools?” well, you can guess the response. It was only 8 minutes later that SP 312 came to another grinding halt, but this time it was because we had arrived.
The seas were flat calm with a few ships anchored in near proximity and the search began. The report had a number of co-ordinates listed, all of which (especially the one near Abu Musa) were wrong. This is what 2 hours of searching for a wreck looks like on the chart plotter:
Just as we began losing all hope of a dive, we spotted a few fishing pots near us. On the premise that nothing escapes the local fishermen, we went to investigate. The pots were not on a wreck but the distinct smell of diesel in the air was a dead giveaway; we were close, and 20 meters away we found the cause – Victoria Star.
The bottom depth is 21.8 meters, minimum depth of 11 meters on the bridge. Her bow and stern masts have fallen over. Her cargo is insulated concrete blocks, she sits upright, and her cargo hold doors are open.
Geoff adds a few words:
While this was going on, PJ, John, Debs, Ian and Cathy were joining DSDC on a live-aboard trip in the Musandam. It’s an interesting thought that when the trip was first planned, the Victoria Star was still floating. Originally, we and DSDC had come up with the same idea for the same weekend, but with both struggling for numbers, it made sense to join forces. We duly convened at Dibba Harbour at 8pm Thursday evening –all of us that is apart from an unfortunate diver (Vic) who was unable to talk his way past the Emirati check-point, his details having failed to arrive. The rest of us boarded the “Yas” and settled down for dinner on the top deck, during which we left port and headed north.
On Friday morning we woke up with the dhow cruising among the islands at the north tip of the Musandam in the Strait of Hormuz. The first dive was on Abu Rashid island where the dhow anchored. A fast boat had been towed up and it was this that ferried the divers to the site. The currents can be strong in this area even on the neaps and this was a drift dive north to south. The viz was reasonably good and there were large shoals of jacks and snappers and a few barracuda. There were also plenty of triggerfish many of which seemed to be resting in some nook or cranny with only the tail sticking out. Most of the fish this far north seem to be bigger than their counterparts nearer to the population centres probably because they’re not fished as much.
After breakfast, the dhow moved on a short distance to Musandam Island where we were to dive a section known as the Ridges. The current was weaker at this site and we were able to dive up and down the reef, returning more or less to the starting point where the fast boat picked us up. We’d brought wet-suits with us as a precaution but it had become apparent that the water was not that cold, unlike the Damaniyats a few weeks previously, and the overalls or skin suits would be sufficient.
The third dive of the day was also the best. The dhow moved south to Mushroom Reef, a ridge that stretches between Red Island and Black Island about six metres below the surface. The entry is slightly unusual in that instead of descending the side of the rock, you simply go over the side and plunge straight down on to the ridge, following a shot line put down for the purpose. No sooner had we done so when an eagle ray glided into sight and came quite close before disappearing. Following the north side of the ridge, there were shoals of jacks and Indian Mackerel that seemed happy to let us swim among them. After about 25 minutes we crossed to the south side of the ridge and made our way back towards the shot line.
Before dinner but after sundown, there was time for a short night dive in the bay of Red Island where “Yas” was to anchor for the night. PJ returned to report a close encounter with a small cuttlefish, and a squid that attacked his torch!
After another excellent meal there was a short quiz provided by DSDC. It was fairly anarchic and the 406 contingent dipped out of the last couple of rounds. The quiz became much calmer after that – draw what conclusions you like! Oh well, we won one round at least.
In the morning, the party split in two. The first wave was to dive White Rock, which is usually an excellent dive although it can be prone to strong currents. On this occasion, the currents were certainly there but not that bad and easily manageable. We entered the water on the north-east corner and made our way round over the underwater ridge that connects the rock to the mainland. As we passed Steve and Tina Lockie, Steve was energetically flapping his arms indicating rays in the area. We headed down the ridge away from the rock but at nearly 30m we could still see nothing so we headed back. Steve later showed us video of a squadron of six or seven eagle rays, one or two of which came very close. So we missed out there but there were still large shoals of jacks and mackerel and very good viz.
Wave two dived Ras Khayseh, the bay where the dhow was moored. Peter and Debs came back enthusing about the fish life and the exceptional visibility of 20m or so.
The final dive was on Umm Al Fayarin or “Mother of Mouse” to her friends. Again this was done in two waves with the majority opting for the north side which is a shallow reef. The dive was scenic rather than exciting but nevertheless Peter and Debs had a close encounter with a turtle and there were a lot of trigger fish which by this time we were getting used to seeing. A relaxing end to the diving after which the dhow set of towards home and we got showered and changed. Wave 2 on the fast boat had elected to dive the south side of the island which is less scenic but carries the possibility of sunfish if you’re lucky. Not on this occasion unfortunately but apparently a good dive nevertheless.
The dhow anchored in the calm water just outside Lima harbour where the fast boat with the wave two divers caught up with us. After a bit of tidying up we sat down for lunch followed by the awards ceremony. The 406 divers managed to garner two accolades – PJ for dropping his weight belt over the side and Debs for hunting all day for her weights, only to find them in her dive bag. Clearly she had ignored the biblical injunction:
“Thou shalt not have in thy bag divers weights, a great and a small.” – Deuteronomy 25:13 (King James Version)
Actually I don’t think that’s what the Good Book really meant to say but why let that spoil a good quote?
A very good weekend all round and many thanks to the organisers and DSDC, as well as to boat skipper Saeed Al Dhahouri of Sheesa Beach Dhow Cruises and his crew.
Ian Hussey and Dive Club writers.