Thanks to Mike’s efforts, we got the Discovery back on the road in time for Friday’s dive. He was only supposed to be running it up to Tasjeel for its test but he just kept going and by 9.30am Thursday, it had an insurance paper and a registration card. This might have been crucial to avoid disappointment as we initially had nine people signed up for the dive which is one more than the capacity of either boat. In the event we had a drop-out leaving us with eight and only one boat was needed. I was still pleased not to be dipping my own car into salt water.
The first target was the Mariam Express, a wreck that’s now over 12 years old. It was the wreck of choice following its sinking and for a good while afterwards but it descended 10m into the seabed following a big storm, greatly limiting the available exploration inside the ship. It’s still a good dive and the cargo hold is still accessible. Allen, Cara, Denis and myself were first down the line more or less at the same time. Job number one was to secure the anchor which had landed just off the wreck. There was a large number of barracuda lurking just off the ship which we saw on the way down (and up) but were less conspicuous on the wreck itself. We did see a lot of snappers, some batfish, some rabbitfish (is that correct Peter?) and various others. The viz was not as good as last time we were here but it was still reasonable and the current was non-existent. It’s still possible to get away without wet suits but the water temperature is dropping and those days might be numbered. After Peter and Nick, Mike and Polly were last down the line. Mike was eager to do a buddy-check so he could demonstrate his unusual octopus configuration.
After some discussion, we went to the Jumbo for the second dive. This is a cargo ship about which not much is known. Even the name “Jumbo” seems a bit unlikely for a ship but perhaps this is a corruption of a non-English name. Anyway, it’s there with a very handsome prop and is usually teeming with fish. No problem securing the anchor this time – we scored a hole-in-one into one of the cargo holds. Again, the viz wasn’t as good as our previous visit but also again it wasn’t that bad – maybe five or six metres. The vast numbers of snappers were very much in evidence along with angelfish, sweetlips and a few batfish. This time the barracuda were very conspicuous near the stern.
Which brings us to the journey home at which point things took a turn for the more interesting. No problems retrieving the anchor and the ride back was a model of high-speed boat driving on a sea that had actually flattened during the day. The problem came when we were approaching the quay into a tight space between two other boats. Normally, this is done at a snail’s pace so as to squeeze in without damage to anything but our driver had other ideas. Unfortunately, his aim wasn’t quite true and the resulting crunch caused a steel post of the shade structure to disengage from the hull and become severely bent. I wouldn’t, of course, embarrass the boat driver by naming him – would I, Peter?
On normal days, this would be the end of the entertainment, besides sinking a few beverages while the sun went down. Back in the yard however, Mike discovered that he had left his electronic key in his car and the car, acting on some default instruction wired into its computer, had locked itself. Fortunately, Denis conceived a plan based on a partially opened window, a radio aerial and a coat hanger to hook the key out of the car. This worked like a charm, enabling Mike to enjoy his post-dive refreshments more than he might have done otherwise.