While I’m still gallivanting around the sub-arctic UK, diving goes on in the warmer temperatures of Sharjah. Mike Anthony reports:
Quick report. Crew was Dearbhla, myself and the same named Andres, father and son. All the rest cried off. So whilst the troops charged tanks I fitted the batteries and checked over the motors. Both started so things looked hopeful. We left for Hamriyah with my truck towing. Launched, port engine a bit reluctant to start and keep running. Technique discovered by Andre senior was to run the boat with the starboard engine. Start the port engine, then put it into gear. (I am here talking about SP125).
Got to the Dara, no problems, ran out on a flat sea at 51kph. Threw in the hook although the echo sounder screen has really had it. It is working but is very difficult to read. As the Andres had not dived the Dara before I went first to find where the anchor was. Took young D down with me. Anchor was in the sand but only about 10m away from the wreck on the starboard side almost at the stern. Laid a line to the wreck. Took D round the stern over the rudder into the cathedral. Viz outside was barely 1m and inside not much more than 3m. Emerged out of the cathedral and encountered two new nets (amazing how the word has not spread amongst the fishermen).
Started cutting. Was a reasonable current and I was a bit worried about D being in the wrong place. Also no knife or scissors. So I gave her my knife. But she still in the wrong place relative to the net. Scissored my way right through a net ascending as I did so. Cut it off. Descended again. Shit! No D. Searched imagining her caught in a net and panicking. Could not find her as viz so bad. Surfaced and saw only the Andres in the boat and it about 100m away. Saw bubbles. Big relief, she is still breathing. Followed the bubbles and found her hanging on a net at 6m. Surfaced in good order but she very shaken. Apparently she had become caught in a net. Panicked, even screamed. Said afterwards she could see me but could not get to me. (I was obviously not seeing her although I could hear her breathing) Anyway she calmed down and cut herself out with my knife - bet she does not leave her knife behind next time! she came up with 50 bar!
The Andres went down. They turned right at the reel attachment point and also became entangled in a net. Son cut father out - he is the one with the commercial ticket. But that they enjoyed it. Apparently the viz in SA is even worse, they said.
Usual fish, but right at the start as I was swimming away from the anchor with the reel in my hand I almost had a collision with a grey coloured cowtail ray about 800mm diameter. It just missed me.
After this decided to hit Cathy's Barge as I knew that was simple, upright and hopefully no nets. 8 kms later we were there and the hook as it turned out, was in the sand 15m away from the stern. But I found the wreck easily and tied off the line. D and I did a 20+ minute dive and a 3minute stop. It is 24m to the bottom. She surfaced with 60 bar so I had timed it about right (I had 120) Barge is upright, 2 decks at rear, open hold and a vestigial mast just forrard of the hold. No engines or props. The Andres dived and said they enjoyed it. Back to the Wanderers for a couple of beers. D none the worse for her experience.
I think the lesson here is Keep Your Eyes On Your Buddy!
Mike was due to be taking a boat to the Dara yesterday as I write but I don’t know what happened there. Instead to go back a week, a small but keen group had a drive through the wadis and arrived for a camp out in the mountains above Wadi Sena. It was a bit fresh up there but we soon got the fire going and a barbecue soon followed washed down by some liquid refreshment. A very good evening – hopefully a few more people next time.
The weekend was not devoid of diving. PJ explains:
While the more robust were braving a winter night in the mountains, I drove Connie and Tim across to the East coast to meet Janette at the Radisson Blu near Dibba, for two open-water training dives off Dibba Rock. Palm Divers have a great facility there, with comfortable change rooms and lockers, and an indoor training pool. The first dive was close to the rock, but a strong current made it difficult to complete Janette’s planned underwater exercises. I followed them, happy not to be filming for a change, and found them an undulated moray, albeit a small one, before Tim was down to 50 bar in adverse conditions, at which point we hit slack. I continued on my own for a further 15 minutes, enjoying the many wrasse and parrotfish, trunk fish and a pair of beautifully striped tobys, among a profusion of life around the corals. Here the camera would have been quite handy!
We returned only briefly to the dive centre before it was time for the second dive, this time recorded on video. This time Janette chose the Artificial Reef, a little north of the Rock, and now attracting dense shoals of fusiliers and reef-fish. It comprises groups of hollow concrete balls, tyres and precast concrete wedges, and a sunken sports boat, each group of objects connected by a rope line, so perfect for training dives, especially when pointed nose rays are to often concealed below them, as we found. The highlight was a large cow-tailed ray, with its own remora, resting close by on the sand, dramatically turning and swimming off in a silty cloud when we approached too close. Great diving for Connie and Tim, full of smiles, the day was rounded off with a very pleasant lunch sitting by the beach at the Radisson.
This time last week the prospect of diving on Friday was looking a bit uncertain to say the least. The size of the breakers crashing into the beach didn’t inspire much confidence in a calm weekend. We shouldn’t have been so pessimistic. Come Friday the sea had come down to such an extent that it was almost mirror smooth. Our exit from the club was again delayed by a couple of flat batteries but this resolved, we headed down to Al Khan and out to sea. The target was the Victoria Star and the mission was to relocate Mike’s new torch which he had mislaid on the wreck two weeks ago.
The journey was a short one on a flat sea and the anchor went into the cargo hold at the first time of asking. It wasn’t long before we had company – a boat from DIMC came shortly afterwards and having checked we were on the wreck, tied on behind us.
Mike and Cathy were the first down the line and having shifted the anchor to the bridge, they then went torch hunting. Murphy must have been having a day off as the torch was quickly discovered, none the worse for two weeks underwater. Result! They spent the rest of the dive net cutting. Peter and I followed behind. With the torch found and consequently nothing to search for we did a tour of the ship. The fish life was a bit sparse compared to what it has been but there was a shoal of barracuda on the port side including a real granddaddy that I came face-to-face with as I emerged from the accommodation deck. We also did some net cutting so the wreck is now reasonably clear, at least until the fisherman pay it another visit.
On the second dive, we gave Connie her first wreck dive. This was necessarily relatively shallow but she enjoyed it all the same. We did a couple of circuits of the accommodation decks and took her twice through the bridge before returning to the boat. After that it was back to the club for some welcome refreshments.
Happy New Year!
BSAC 406 got back in the water on Friday, diving the Victoria Star, although this did seem doubtful for a while as the sea gods seemed to be conspiring against us. To begin with a tyre on the new trailer was flat. Geoff attempted to inflate it but this succeeded only in breaking off the valve so a wheel had to be changed before we could go anywhere. We then discovered the boat batteries had gone flat due to me neglecting to turn them off after bringing the boat back from Joff’s yard a couple of weeks ago. So the second task (for Mike) was a battery swap with SP 125. In the end we were an hour late leaving the club.
The good news is that the new boat trailer tows very nicely (thanks Joff). The bad news was that in all the excitement we had neglected to take the blue folder with us. This contains the boat registration card which is an essential document if the coastguard was to let us go to sea. Mike volunteered to go back and fetch it which he did but in the meantime another half hour disappeared. The sea turned out to be flat calm although the wind has a nip to it at this time of year.
The sea temperature is now about 23 degrees at the surface so wet-suits are now mandatory. Cathy was clearly out of practice, needing several attempts to get into the garment. The first attempt (inside out) was followed by the second attempt (twisted out of recognition) and finally the third attempt (successful).
The viz was extremely average but we didn’t do a lot of exploring on this visit. The anchor had landed at the bow and we finned along the vessel up to the bridge which we found covered in nets. This is nothing if not a challenge and we spent most of the dives hacking them off. We didn’t completely succeed but it’s now a lot clearer was it was before. Geoff and Brian Larkin managed a trip to the engine room and we all did a bit of exploring, but this turned into mainly a working trip.
The sea gods hadn’t finished with us yet. Mike lost his new torch which may necessitate another trip to the Vic Star in the not too far distant future to try and find it. As for me, a fin strap broke as I was carving some nets apart. Efforts to fin one-footed only had me swimming in circles, so I had to haul my way from the bridge to the bow using my hands.
After that it was back to the club a bit later than normal for some refreshments. Despite the hurdles, it was a good start to the new year.
I hope you all had a good Christmas! I had a message from Peter who was in Lübeck and met up with former member, Uwe Oldenburg, no doubt for a glass or two somewhere along the way. A photo is attached – it looks cold out there! I thought of Uwe on the 26th December when me and Cath went for a post Christmas drink at Jim Darbyshire’s place in Satwa. It was Jim who inherited the solid teak bar that used to be at Uwe’s place in Sharjah. Seeing it brought back a few memories. The matching table is now outside the Dive Bar at the club.
As is usual for the last email of the year, there follows a few words on the highlights and lowlights:
I haven’t attempted to compile a set of statistics this time around but we remain active with divers in the water a lot more weekends than not. Much of the activity centred on the old favourite, the Dara, and the new favourite, the Victoria Star. The Vic Star was the most visited by some distance. Not only is it relatively new, with nooks and crannies still to be explored but it (very considerately) went down only a 20 minute ride out of Al Khan. Apart from this, the Neptune, Jumbo, Ajman Glory, Karen’s Dhow and a few others wrecks got some visits as well as a few trips to the east coast including a mountain camp-out in April.
Worth mentioning was a very good trip up to Khasab in June which Geoff organised. The Atana Hotel (formerly Golden Tulip) is a nice place to stay and the diving was well up to standard although the current on the second dive was pretty fierce. I call it character building.
For the Eid trip this year we went to Muscat to dive the Damaniyats. In the spirit of the season we’ll draw a veil over the hotel accommodation and its manifold deficiencies and instead remember the diving which was spectacular. Large morays, stingrays, turtles, cuttlefish and squid, a couple of whale sharks on the surface and best of all a leopard shark which let us approach to within a metre without swimming away. Diving doesn’t get much better.
In June we had a visit from some members of Kuwait Mantas SAC. Our Chairman Mike Dalton is an alumnus so it was good for him to meet some old friends. The dive itself was not particularly memorable – we went to the Victoria Star but neither the sea state nor the visibility co-operated. Still, the Mantas seemed to enjoy it having nothing similar on their doorstep and we had a good chat over a few glasses at the club afterwards. It was a good day.
The committee has changed slightly. Brendan has stepped down due to family commitments and also Derek who has moved to Iraq. Thanks to them both for past efforts. Brian Larkin has taken over as Equipment Officer and Richard James has become Social Secretary, a role that we have expanded slightly to include social media. We now have not one but two Facebook pages, one individual, one a group, both with a respectable number of friends.
Richard organised one of the most memorable Tuesday nights that we’ve had for a while, Trafalgar night on 21st October. This started off with a try-dive for which we got a few takers followed by some “unter Wasser trinken” which is an occasional activity at the club and for which we are indebted to Uwe (qv), the original instructor. After that Richard (an ex-Royal Navy submariner) gave us a short description of the battle and its context. This was followed by some presentations of awards, a short humorous sketch from PJ and Geoff and some toasts in the best Navy tradition. Richard also presented to the club a framed picture of the Souffleur, a French submarine that we have dived in Beirut on the last two Eid trips.
As with every year the club does not run itself and grateful thanks are due to:
Mike Anthony for continued contributions over and above the call of duty on both the boats and the Land Rover. He’s had some assistance this year from Brian Lugg – thanks also.
Joff Cottam who has organised a new trailer for us to replace the old rusting heap and which should keep us going for a good few years.
Janette Elphinstone on whom the brunt of the training falls.
Geoff Patch who has organised a couple of our east coast expeditions including an excellent Musandam trip in June.
Mike Dalton who continues to chair the club with aplomb.
Cathy Terry who keeps us up to date with memberships and who also manages one of the Facebook pages.
Richard James who manages the other one and whose Trafalgar night was so memorable.
Brian Larkin who looks after the equipment so efficiently.
Peter Jackson who looks after our money and keeps us on the financial straight and narrow, and keeps this website up to date (and also for a memorable wedding in August in Lübeck).
To all those who have supported the diving we do and those who join us on a Tuesday night we thank you very much.
Thanks also to the main Club and Committee of Sharjah Wanderers for the help and support they continue to give us.
Sadly, we mourn the passing this year of Forrester De Sa whose eccentric personality greatly enlivened the club until he moved to Australia a couple of years ago. I can’t improve on Geoff’s words:
The club is a collection of eccentrics and Forrester was no exception. Generally late, unprepared and forgetful, a trip out with Forrester was never dull. There are so many tales to tell of his exploits, like the time we went for a road trip to Musandam (a northern enclave of Oman) and he forgot his passport. It was lucky we had Sami, a Lebanese guy, in our group who wrote the customs official a 'sick note' on behalf of Forrester and managed to get him across an international border and back without a passport. Or the time he was driving the dive boat to a dive spot and rather than use the traditional method of dropping anchor drove straight over some fishing pot lines, snagging the props and simply stating 'we're here'! Another classic Forrester moment was when he forgot his wetsuit on a dive trip but rather than miss a dive entered the water in just a pair of Y-fronts! Forrester could be a bit rough around the edges but was a genuine people person.
This should not end on a downbeat note nor would Forrester want that so I should say that the Dive Bar is open for business Tuesday night as normal for those who are around. And not forgetting…
BSAC 406 would like to wish its members, past members and friends a very happy and prosperous 2015.
Safe diving next year!
A picture of our brand new trailer for SP 312. It’s basically a clone of the old one but with the crucial difference that it’s galvanised and painted rather than held together by rust. It should keep us going for a lot of years provided we take care of it. Once again massive thanks to Joff for getting the job done.
It would have been nice to report the first dive with the new trailer on Friday but although one was posted (Ajman Glory), in the end too many people were away / travelling / moving loved ones to airports / ill etc etc and we had to call off. The holiday season will disrupt things as it usually does but we’ll try and get something away over the period.
Some news of former members:
Malcolm Parker, presumably in the throes of moving, uncovered a piece of diving equipment that was popular in the days before running water and electricity (well not quite but before Facebook and Twitter). The photo is attached. Malcolm’s comment: Just look at this - the air line feed is broken, it's only 35 years old they don't make them to last do they.
We also had a message from John Lewis:
Just a quick note to wish you and all of 406 a merry Christmas and to let you know how much I enjoy the newsletters and seeing the photos.
Its a slightly different lifestyle here in Alaska but I have very fond memories of the Club from the mid seventies when it was on the Beach in Ajman and then at the old airport.
I met my wife Vicki there in 1977 and we are still happily married.
All the best to you and the Club.
Many of you will have seen the “Trucial States Sub-Aqua Club” plaque that is hanging in the Dive Bar (see attached for those that haven’t). It was John who retrieved the plaque from the wreckage of the original club in Ajman and was kind enough to send it to us from his home in Alaska. I don’t know how much diving he does these days but I’m guessing that Alaskan waters in December need more than a set of overalls for maximum comfort if such a thing is even possible. Happy Christmas John!
And on that note, BSAC 406 would like to wish all its friends and members (past and present) a very happy Christmas
Last Tuesday night coincided with the UAE National Day and possibly for that reason attendance at the club was a bit sparse. With that and SP312 still out of commission, there was nothing posted for Friday which doesn’t often happen. It may have been a moot point anyway as the winds seemed pretty strong during the day and I suspect sea conditions would have been less than ideal.
Many thanks to those who sent me stories and / or photos regarding Forrester. I’ve passed everything on and will continue to do so. I’ve had an email from his daughter, Holly, which I copy below:
Thank you for your email regarding my dad your stories are very fitting and sound very much like my dad the one from years back.
It is an extremely sad time for all of us here as im sure it has been for other people all over the world he has had the pleasure of meeting and being part of his ever hectic and eccentric lifestyle lol.
He always did love the water and that rubbed off onto me and now onto my little boy so his legacy will always remain which is nice to think.
He was a very good man and its such a shame hes had to leave this world at such a young age however its not been in vain as his stories will live on in many people from all different backgrounds and cultures. I must admit i like the story about the omani's calling him the white warrior or whatever it was he'd of loved that very much always did think of himself as a warrior and he didnt let himself down right even until the very end which was heartbreaking.
I appreciate all of the pics you have managed to send val and forward onto myself we are going to use one of them to put on his coffin as I, no he, would have wanted that.
They always say they leave the best til last and im sure his last adventure is the one he has waited for.
Thank you and please dont forget him and his wild stories. kind regards
Again no boat out at the weekend as a few of us regulars were at DSDC helping them with their champagne problem. There was a great deal less of it at the club by the time we had finished. Unfortunately this meant we missed diving with Chris De Klerk who was in the country for the first time since he left last year. Next time hopefully.
The week wasn’t devoid of underwater activity. Geoff sent this report:
Seven years ago Mr. Hamad Alzaabi of Al Jazeera Diving & Swimming Center embarked on a mission to create his own artificial reef just a few kilometres outside Port Hamra, RAK. The reef consists of numerous hollow pyramid shaped concrete blocks (~1m in height), of Mr. Alzaabi’s own design, which have been deposited progressively to create a structure almost 150m in length.
Approximately 30 of these blocks have been sponsored by Petrofac as part of their environmental commitment and I joined Mr. Alzaabi this week to see some of these blocks being installed, including a dive on the reef itself. Six blocks with buoyancy aids to assist with installation were loaded onto a typical coastal fishing boat and ferried out to the site.
After tipping the blocks into the water near the head of the reef we entered the water ourselves and watched Mr. Alzaabi and his co-worker manouvre the blocks into position. We then took a tour of the reef and although the visibility was poor (2-3m at best) it was evident that the reef was home to numerous varieties of fish and corals including sponge and reed type. I saw several nudibranchs and was lucky enough to see a turtle as well. The reef lies in about 9-10m of water and is easily accessible from Port Hamra.
Al Jazeera Diving & Swimming Center
Tel. 07 244 5331
No boat out at the weekend because SP312’s trailer has come to the end of it’s useful life. We were aware some rust and holes appearing but it turned out that this time welding on patches will not solve the problem. The axles, springs, wheels and the winch are in good order and will be re-cycled but a new frame is being manufactured at minimum cost courtesy of former Chairman, Joff. Cheers!
Rather than cram into SP125, we went over to the east coast to dive the Inchcapes with Al Boom. This meant an early start but at least someone else has to do the hard work. The wrecks are good to do once in a while as the soft corals and the fish life are distinctly different from this side. At 32m, Inchcape 1 is the deeper of the two, restricting bottom times but the wrecks are not large anyway. The promised frogfish were not in evidence but there were a couple of large morays, some lionfish, porcupine fish, puffer fish and much else.
A lot of the fish seem quite tame compared to their west coast counterparts and didn’t seem to mind divers swimming through the shoals at close quarters. Perhaps this is familiarity with divers. The downside of diving these wrecks is that it can be like Piccadilly Circus down there. Still the viz was good and the water wasn’t too cold although the wet suit season has clearly arrived.
Inchcape 2 was more of the same although the viz wasn’t so clear, we got more bottom time at the shallower depth. There were a number of smaller morays and some scorpion fish lurking on the bottom. This was followed by burgers and steak sandwiches of epic dimensions washed down with a little decompression fluid. A good day all round.
Mike took a boat out to the Dara and Nasteran at the weekend while I was busy elsewhere but I am short of a written report so I can’t say much. We did convene at the club later so I can say that the current was pretty strong on the Dara (as you’d expect on a spring tide) and the viz wasn’t spectacular. The current had calmed down by the time they reached the Nasteran so presumably they’d hit slack water. The four flying the flag were Mikes A and D, Richard and Katharina.
Connie and Tim did their first open water dives with Janette and evidently did very well. Mabruk!
Unfortunately I have to report the untimely death of Forrester last night. His partner Valerie had advised us a couple of weeks ago that he was very ill and did not have long, an assessment that has proved sadly accurate. Forrester was an eccentric character who was nevertheless very proud of his dive club and was much missed when he went to Australia. We all assumed he would drop by and see us again at some point – sadly this was not to be.
Ian Hussey and guest writers.