After a couple of dead weekends, it was good to resume normal service on Friday. Geoff was unable to make it back from Amsterdam in time but Marc turned up instead so we had a reasonable boat load. Doubts as to whether we’d remember what to do proved not entirely without foundation. To begin with, towing the boat to Al Khan, I sailed straight past the turn off from Al Wahda Road and ended up going round three of the four clover leaves to get back on track. No big deal – just a bit of cornering practice.
The coastguard station and pontoon at the harbour has vanished and the (Lady) “Gha Gha” has re-appeared after a long absence. The system remains the same however, although they now seem much more interested in whether or not the transponder is working: “How many lights?”. “Two green” was the correct response that got us on our way.
We hooked the top of the bridge at the second time of asking and prepared to go diving. Before we even got in the water the day was enlivened by a large pod of dolphins that circled the boat for twenty minutes or so before disappearing. Over the last couple of months the sea temperature has come down to around 21 degrees which is not much in northern European terms but is a bit chilly for around here. Marc in a skin suit and overalls lasted 15 minutes under water before coming back up the line although he came with a prize: a crew list and plan of the vessel which, after six months under water, would need treating with care if they were to yield any information. He also saw a large ray which was clearly alarmed by the sight of a tall Dutchman and promptly vanished.
The fish life on the wreck does now seem to be increasing. Although not up to the standard of the Taha in its prime (that wreck is sadly almost entirely swallowed by the seabed), the concrete blocks in the hold are turning into an attractive reef and there were some monster barracuda circling the stern. There were also some batfish that seem to live near the bridge.
The second dive was a comedy of errors. Anticipating the cool water I had brought my two-piece 5mm wetsuit (which in the time-honoured manner, seems to have shrunk a few cm since last year) and dispensed with the integrated weights in favour of a traditional weight belt. The only problem with this approach is that a weight belt doesn’t automatically attach itself to one’s body. Yes… you guessed. With Derek (using a 12 litre ally tank in place of his usual 15 litre steel) also a bit light, we came up, grabbed some extra lead and went back for another go. This obviously shortened the eventual dive somewhat, but we did manage a trip to the bow before depleted tanks forced us back to the anchor line.
Back at the club, Marc spent a while trying to get the boat plan unfolded and photographed before it disintegrated. This was successful and the result was a series of photos taken in a bath of fresh water. He has stitched these together and the result is below
A good day – thanks to Derek for doing the marshalling.
Marc’s stint in Dubai has ended for now but he’ll be at the club on Tuesday night for a farewell drink – not a final one we hope. Also on Tuesday our Boats Officer, Mike Anthony, will be ringing the bell in honour of him completing another trip around the sun. I trust we’ll try not to make it too cheap for him!
Ian Hussey and guest writers.