Owing to a number of us (including me) having prior commitments last weekend (and Geoff’s lack of practice at towing the boat) we didn’t get a dive on the west coast but a few divers – not to be denied their weekly fix – headed over to Freestyle in Fujeirah for a dive or two in the Gulf of Oman. This turned out to be a good decision of which more later but first let Geoff tell the story:
With just three names on the board for Friday’s dive Geoff, Andy, ‘Larky’ and guest diver Darren headed over to our friend’s at Freestyle on the east coast. The usual Freestyle crowd were present – Andy, Ollie, Phil and his lovely daughter Cora, and newly qualified instructor Trevor (congratulations!) sporting a moustache that a seventies porn star would be proud of displaying. As Freestyle had several newbie Open Water divers and snorkelers the first dive was on Dibba Rock. With a stiff breeze coming in off the sea our four intrepid divers along with Conrad (a visiting Canadian) entered the water to the north of the island.
Visibility was not great, maybe 3-4m but a good number of resident lion fish, morays, flounder and broom-handled wrasse amongst others were sighted as the team headed around the east of the island. On surfacing, the wind had picked up further and was whipping the waves into a frenzy. Back on the boat, Andy advised that since he had just deposited the ‘newbies’ in the water he would collect them after dropping off everyone else at the beach.
Back on shore, it was evident that with the increasing wave action and receding tide it would be too dangerous to bring the boat in. The second wave of newbie divers had to disembark some way off the beach with one of the more robust chaps struggling to get ashore and needing support to overcome exhaustion – a good reminder that maintaining a healthy lifestyle and reasonable level of fitness is an important factor in diving. Inevitably, the planned second dive was called off and after farewells to Larky and Darren, Andy and Geoff headed for the hills to camp out with the intention of joining Saturday’s dive at Freestyle.
On reaching the camp spot overlooking the plain leading into Dibba many dense black clouds could been seen accumulating over the Hajar mountains to the north and it was not long before a spectacular lightning storm broke over Jebel Yibir, slowly moving towards the camp spot. The rain soon followed but only lasted 20minutes or so before the sky cleared and the scene was set for the traditional BSAC406 camp and ‘Blazing Saddles’ menu – burgers, beans and Bud.
Surprisingly, after the previous day and evening fare, the wind had dropped and a dive on Inchcape 1 looked good to go. For once, on arriving at the wreck buoy there were no other boats on site and with 34% nitrox in the tanks, Geoff and Andy were first in the water. The first 8-10m or so were quite murky, not a good sign, but beyond that the visibility cleared considerably, accompanied by a significant drop in temperature indicating that ‘boiler suit’ season could be over. The wreck came into view at about 20m with the stern section completely enveloped by a huge shoal of yellow snappers. With visibility at ~6-8m it was quite easy to see the now familiar family of Lion Fish and two large morays.
After a quick foray inside to practice buoyancy, trim and finning techniques, a line was tied to the stern and the two divers headed out over the sand. A large porcupine fish was seen hovering over an old tyre and a large ray (maybe 1- 1.5m across) on the sand, which after pondering the situation for a while decided he wasn’t happy with the uninvited guests and took off in dramatic fashion towards the wreck, where he was seen again upon the return. After 28 minutes bottom time the divers embarked on a steady controlled ascent with a 1 minute ‘deep stop’ at 15m before entering the murky but warmer water near the surface and final safety stop. All in all, a good weekend!
The weather might have affected the east coast diving but it was also significant on the other side. The following is an extract from this week’s email put out by Nancy from our sister club, DSDC:
Talking about diving, I know and for sure our Supreme Leader and his crew went diving on the week end, all crews left the club in good spirits armed with good weather condition, reached the dive site, first wave in.... second wave starting to get ready when FREAK weather arrived! Storm, strong winds, high waves... phew... it was a freaky adventurous Friday for all on board!!! All are safe home and enjoyed our impromptu BBQ. Hope the East Coast dive was a good one.
Some of you may remember a similar incident two years ago when a storm blew up from almost nothing causing a seriously scary situation for us. The account is here in the Dive Log (28 January 2011) if you want to read it. Whether we had it worse then or DSDC did on Friday I can’t say but it’s clear that the sea state changed just as quickly. For me the lesson then and now was to keep an eye on the weather and consider aborting the diving if black clouds are looming. It doesn’t happen that often after all.
And as Chris Head said in a later email:
A point worth noting for all of us... the Gulf may be benign but can get rather unpleasant at very short notice as friends of the club and our sister clubs have also found out in the past.