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The Vic Star was again our destination for last weekend - a decision I wasn’t party to having missed last Tuesday at the club. When we got there we were not alone. The vessel we saw last week was still there – the MV Baghdad from Aqaba – presumably still oblivious to the fact that they’re anchored only 100m from a major hazard to shipping. There was also a small inflatable with no-one on board but there were a couple of heads bobbing in the water 50m away. The man and his wife were not it turned out in need of assistance and they weren’t very pleased to see us. He muttered a few words about his wife’s privacy and they finned over to their boat where she climbed out in full abaya and swiftly wrapped a scarf around her head. The whole thing was slightly farcical and it was hard to avoid thinking that if privacy is this lady’s ultimate concern then she’s surely picked the wrong pastime.
And on with the diving. Compared to a couple of weeks ago, the number of barracuda seems to have reduced but they’re still there mainly around the stern, as are the jacks and the batfish. There was a solitary leopard ray on the sand near the prop and Mike spotted an eagle ray as he was swimming around the bridge. The sea was a bit choppy but not that bad and the current was minimal. It was also the opening of the “boiler suit season”. In other words it’s time to put my wet suit away until December for diving on this coast at least. That said it was still a bit chilly at 22m and not everyone will be consigning the neoprene to the back of the cupboard just yet. The wreck yielded a depth-sounding weight and attached rope which will make an excellent shot-line.
It was a turn-out (and consequential income) to gladden the heart of our treasurer – nine divers in total boosted by the welcome return of Sami and John Kyriakos.
Back to one boat for last weekend but we were a bit lucky to go anywhere at all. The weather Friday was very rough but we had foreseen this and planned to go Saturday when the sea was supposed to have come down. In fact the forecast was pretty accurate and although it was a bumpy ride, we’ve been out in worse. The trip out was enlivened with an encounter with several thousand migrating cormorants. They were flying almost at sea level and we seriously disturbed the formation driving through but if we’d waited for a gap, we’d still be there now.
Getting there we found we had company. A cargo vessel had anchored no more than 100m from the wreck – presumably they don’t keep their charts very up-to-date.
Compared to last week, the viz had deteriorated (hardly surprising given the strong winds since then) and the fish life was a bit sparser but there were still plenty of barracuda, a few batfish and some eagle rays seen by a few lucky divers (from which you’ll gather I wasn’t one of them). In truth this was more of a wreck dive than a natural history expedition. We had a brief look into the engine room but Brian Lugg, first down the line, discovered that the ship’s sewage system still held a few unpleasant surprises and we beat a hasty retreat. We did find a couple a fire extinguishers and – purely in the interests of science of course – we managed to establish that they still work.
Chris head and his friend Richard took the time out from DSDC to come diving with us. You may recall his memorable demonstration of re-breather diving without all the hoses connected a few weeks ago, so we were keenly anticipating a similar educational experience. In that we were disappointed, but that’s not to say that everything went to plan. Our very own Mike Anthony executed an almost faultless backward entry, the only tiny flaw being that his fins were still in the boat. Ten dirhams sir!
It might have been more but for Mike’s hard work on the boat resulting in steering that now works properly and two engines that didn’t miss a beat. After that it was back to the club for a few glasses of decompression fluid. A good day all round.
Our treasurer volunteered to marshal the dive last Friday and no-one was about to talk him out of it. Peter elected to make a trip to the Victoria Star and with Janette bringing some of her students along, we had two full boats which was good to see. Mike A towed SP125 with his brand new tow-hook and I took SP312. We fuelled up the boats on the way at which point I could have fuelled up the Discovery as well if I’d thought about it or noticed the needle was getting low. But I didn’t do either which was to have predictable consequences later. For now though, all was serene as we launched the boats and headed out to sea.
The Vic Star is only about 12km off-shore meaning at on a flat sea, you reach it in 15 minutes or so. The weather forecast was telling us to expect 2cm waves which seemed a bit unlikely but it wasn’t much more – to start with at least – and the current was minimal. Ideal conditions in other words. Since it went down last July, the wreck has been slowly gaining more fish life and on Friday we found something resembling an aquarium.
The first thing we noticed was that it was barracuda city, particularly on the bow (where we’d anchored), and at the stern. There were also shoals of jacks and numerous batfish, one of which was very friendly and took a liking to Brian’s fin. On the seabed were three or four leopard rays mostly minding their own business although one gave Peter a fright when he got a bit closer than the ray was comfortable with. We did the second dive on the same site – there didn’t seem much point in moving – and although the sea had picked up a bit and the viz had deteriorated slightly it was still an excellent dive. Peter has put together a video of the day, a low-res edited version of which can be seen above.
Did I mention fuel? The Disco must have been running on fumes by the time we set off for home and this proved insufficient to get back to the club. However a quick taxi ride to the nearest Adnoc sorted out the problem and it did at least give the Dive Marshal / Treasurer an excuse to impose a fine. As if he needed one!
The dive last weekend was one of our regular trips to the old favourite, the Dara. There was a practical reason as well: the echo sounder was damaged on the east coast two weeks earlier and although Mike had bought a new transponder, there were no absolute guarantees that it would work properly. The Dara we are confident we can find without one. (Several years ago we found the Dara without either an echo sounder or a GPS, both being forgotten or broken. That day was notable for missing BCD’s, boat keys as well as some other crimes and misdemeanours resulting a few “voluntary donations” to club funds.
The precaution with the echo sounder seemed well founded at first – it insisted the sea was bottomless with a temperature of -8 deg, both of which we regarded with some suspicion. It later turned out that Mike had put back the old plug into the echo sounder instead of the new one. This rectified, the machine sprang to life but by then we were already anchored.
And good dives they were. There was a bit of a current but the water is getting noticeably warmer. The viz was excellent which was a good thing as the wreck is still covered in a lot of nets, although a few less after Mike’s sterling efforts during the day. The dives also featured barracuda, rays, some pairs of cuttlefish, an octopus and a shoal of batfish inside the cathedral. We also cut free some fish caught in the nets and opened up some pots that were too badly snagged to be retrievable (and had clearly been there a long time). One puffer fish, having been freed by Brian Larkin, then followed him round for the remainder of the dive.
Getting back was a little tricky – the O-rings on the steering had perished causing the hydraulic oil to leak out and we had to steer back using the engines. However, we’ve overcome similar hurdles without too many problems in the past and we were soon back at the club for some refreshments.
It was good to see Sami and John Kyriakos on the boat. Sami should be around at the club tomorrow before heading back to Beirut.
Ian Hussey and Dive Member Contributions.