After last week’s excursion over to the east coast, we were back in familiar waters close to home last weekend. At least some of us were. I had a week off playing football (again) but Mike Anthony took a boat to the Victoria Star. I’m grateful to Mike Dalton who has stepped up to the plate and written a report:
What a fabulous day!
6 of us set out (including 3 from DSDC - all most welcome) for the Victoria Star launching from Al Khan slipway. The wind had started to get up and by the time we hit the open sea it was lumpy with blowing spray over the boat and a much reduced speed.
All went well until we reached the site of the wreck, without the echo sounder (under repair) it was a case of getting as close as possible on the GPS and throwing in the anchor. We did that twice and ended up drifting 20 - 30 - 40 - 50 metres and more from the wreck. In the heavy weather the anchor had no chance of holding without a direct hit. On the third attempt, and after a few minutes spent driving round in circles (can't recall who was at the helm), we threw the anchor, line and marker buoy over the side. Bingo, this is the way to do it in heavy weather and with no echo sounder.
Mike Anthony and Dean were first down the line to discover the anchor about 15 metres off the port bow (not a bad result). Petra and Gavin Walker followed leaving Mike Dalton and Derek Roberts on surface cover duty. It was decided not to tie the anchor line on board as we did not know how well Mike A and Dean had been able to secure it. The wind speed had by now increased considerably and the tension on the anchor would be significant. Eventually Mike A surfaced and signalled it was safe to secure the anchor line on the boat.
The VS has become popular with fish life. Shoals of barracuda (some large ones hunting in packs with their beady eyes) were spotted and 3 beautiful leopard rays with distinct black and white markings and extraordinarily long, thin tails who appear to live under and around the bow of the wreck. The barnacles have mostly abandoned the VS to be replaced by a slippery and slimy growth over most railings and flat surfaces. The visibility, surprisingly, was excellent and as good as it has ever been. The water has warmed up considerably and is now around 26 degrees centigrade at the bottom. 3mm wetsuits are just fine.
Mike Dalton and Derek Roberts were finally in the water, after a guided tour around the boat (twice), a venture into the kitchen at the stern, we ended back at the anchor after about 40 minutes. At this point I recalled Mike Anthony suggesting earlier we may want to lift the anchor and make it a one dive day. A philosophical underwater debate ensued, with the help of the dive slate. I can't recall the exact wording but something to the effect of "did Mike A ask you to free the anchor on account of the weather?" Derek wrote back , "No, I am OK for a second dive". In the end we decided to leave it hooked up and both quickly learnt that underwater debates are tricky to get exactly right. The opportunities abound for missed nuances in meaning.
On the surface it was clear the weather had worsened and the anchor had to be freed. Mike Dalton started off down the line (having checked and verified plenty of air - so he thought). After a few minutes and 10 metres down the line a hard look at the gauge showed 55 bar, clearly a massive leak had taken place in the previous 3 minutes that had gone totally undetected, or somebody was misreading a gauge. The black needle near the red numerals means you have at least 100 bar right? Wrong! Anyhow Derek was duly dispatched down the line and recovered the anchor.
Back in the harbour the Chairman was rescued by Gavin Walker's superior boat handling skills in getting the boat on to the trailer - although even he would admit it was tricky with a strong cross wind. The technique is to travel in to the wind, keep up the speed and adjust the boat orientation using both engines (forward & astern) at the last moment, once the bows are through the guide poles. Trust me, this is a lot easier to explain than to achieve.
A great day out. The weather did not get the better of us!
On dry land I couldn’t help noticing the wind getting up considerably during the afternoon so the decision to call it a day after one dive was clearly correct. At the finish the divers (plus me) convened at the dive table for a few glasses of decompression fluid by the pool.