The idea was that we would go and look for some new wrecks around the southern end of the Gulf of Suez. We’ve never done anything like it before and I’d heard of wrecks that were undived and I’d previously tried having a good scooter around but to no avail as you don’t cover enough ground.
What was needed was a sonar to give us an idea of what was down there. A used one had come for sale and Tony bought it. I acquired another scooter and that was it. It was Tony and Simon’s wreck hunt. While I was away Tony had managed to get the boat that we wanted to try out. A new livaboard out of Hurghada. It was designed nothing like any other dive boat and it takes 8 divers so as there was only two of us we felt that we wouldn’t be pushed for space.
I managed to get down to look at the boat whilst Brian was with me and he decided that he would join us. He had a passion for adventure and a Scooter so the three of us would be fine. We were getting exited as it got nearer, I did some reading and some research and was talking to Paul at rEvo and telling him what we were up to. He decided to come along and when his daughter Louise saw the pics of the boat she wanted to come for some sun and bimbling. As it transpired, Brian wasn’t able to make it and as it was Lee’s Birthday I though that it would be nice to have him along to get some diving in and I’d also know that I had someone up top who understands what’s going on when we are deep. Lee has done this more times than I can count and it’s comforting, especially when you’re on a boat that doesn’t know about how we dive.
Monday was to be Paul, Giulio (the boat owner) and myself out for a quick check out dive but it didn’t go to plan. Tony and Lee arrived later as planned but we hadn’t gone out as we didn’t have any coast guard permissions. This was a big delay and it saw us on the boat in the Marina for far too long. It seemed that they didn’t like Giulio’s Instructor card and we had to get a divemaster (DM) from a local centre.
Eventually we got out Tuesday morning and headed for Suyul as Sughra. There is supposed to be a wreck here but I’ve dived it twice looking and this time we swept it with the sonar. The Sonar was new to us and there isn’t any book that you can read on how to do it so it’s a bit of a learning curve but that’s why are here, to learn. We spent most of the day trolling up and down. The Captain didn’t seem to be able to go in a straight line and it was very frustrating trying to argue with him and get him to do what we asked. Eventually there was something on the screen. We didn’t quite know what it was but it was not deep so I kitted up and so did the DM. The DM just wanted to dive down and find the wreck but hadn’t really grasped the idea that the boat has to be in the same location so we had to sweep around a little to find it again on the sonar.
Splash! In I went with a scooter and dropped to around 40 meters and there was nothing. The DM arrived and the we headed towards a shadow. As I got closer I could see the defined line of a structure about 10 meters above and quite big. As I got to it, it was obvious that it was reef. I scootered around with the DM in tow and saw what we had found was a big depression in the sea bed. Bag off and ascend. The DM didn’t want to come up and I had to keep telling him to ascend. Bit of a dick I thought.
Well the day was going and we realised that we didn’t know what a wreck would look like if we’d been fooled by a depression so we had better take a look at a wreck. Sha’b Abu Nuhas was close by so if we had a run over there and did a scan of the four wrecks so we can test it out. This we did and decided that we could spend the night in the lagoon which meant that we could just squeeze a dive in.
Splash! In we all go on the Kimon M, the wreck furthest away. I stay with Tony and Giulio and we have a good look around and see Paul, Louise, Lee and the DM going off towards the Crisoula K so we join them. Soon enough we see the wreck and in we go just above the props. As we make our way up the cargo of tiles Tony is behind me and Giulio behind him. We go into the machine room and then I drop through into the engine room. Only Tony is behind me and we have a good look around and then finish looking at the wreck where we find Paul and Giulio. Three fingers was the signal meaning ”do you want to go to the third wreck?” Threes were returned so we set off.
It’s quite a way between the Chrisoula K and the Carnatic. When we eventually get there I can feel a bit of rubbing from my boot and I remember that I didn’t put my socks on. Ohh well I have liquid skin on the boat. The time now is against us and it’s starting to get darker. I ask Giulio what he wants to do as he’s diving Open Circuit and gas dependent and he thumbs it. Tony also gives me the thumb. I look at Paul and offer him four fingers. I can see the smile behind the loop so off we set for the Giannis D, the fourth and final wreck on Sha’b Abu Nuhas. We approach the Giannis D and although my foot is getting a little tender, I’m not giving up until I’ve seen all of it. We bag off from the funnel and the RHIB arrives and we get in. The sun is down and it’s just about time for Iftar (breakfast after the fast during the day for Ramadam) I know the crew will be happy.
During the night I experience my own version of over pressure so in the morning I have a lie in. Nice to be in bed rather than sat on the loo. Lee and Louise do a dive on the Giannis D and Carnatic with the DM and when I surface when they’re back on the boat.
The plan now is to have a dive on the Al Qumar El Saudi El Masri. Nice and easy as we’ve put lines on it in the past and when we finish we can have a go with the sonar again. Well “the bast laid plans of Mice and Men…. ” – No buoy so no mooring line and no wreck. Previously I’ve had to find this wreck several times without even a fish finder and I’ve got everything we need in the way of shot lines etc. However the Captain wants to show us that it’s not possible to find the wreck. He seems to think that guys in a zodiac will have a chance driving around popping their head under water. He doesn’t want to drive the big boat with the fish finder and the sonar and we spend what seems like hours not using anyof the wreck finding kit but the Captain is just shouting to the zodiac. It was difficult but eventually we managed to get the captain to shut the fuck up.
Just when you thought that the captain was on board with your idea, the DM decides that he can find the wreck so off he goes in the zodiac, jumping in at least a kilometre away and shouting that he needs a scooter and that he will find it. He clearly has no idea about scooters as he’s in his shorts with a snorkel and mask and has nowhere to clip it. After a lot of shouting I get him back in the zodaic and we find the wreck on the fish finder. I want the captain to sweep the wreck and then we can drop a shotline but his inability to go in a straight line or return to the same place is a hindrance so the plan is that we get a shot line ready and I sit behind the captain and Paul will drop the shot. We missed it first time, as when I went to the rear to drop the shot the captain changed direction and we dragged it along the seabed. Second attempt was success. Now we have it and we have a buoy on it but the captain wants to tie on it and I tell him that he can’t it’s an 8 millimetre thick rope. The DM say that he can swim down with the mooring rope and tie on but here we’re pretty insistent that he goes nowhere near the water whilst we are in. The highest point is 63 metres he clearly is a dick.
Eventually the trapeze is together and we’re in. Tony and I jump and put the lazy shot with the trapeze and tie it at 30 metres on the shot line. We descend and tie the shot line in. It’s resting on one of the Davits at about 70 meters. Now we wait, and wait and wait. Paul and Giulio were supposed be three or four minutes behind us but we’ve been there fifteen minutes so I signal to Tony that we set off, just as we do we see them coming down and we get over to the props and then inside the car deck. We go along for a good while trying to imagine what the car deck is like. I notice the top deck so there is a higher car deck but it’s nowhere near as open and I decide to leave that for another dive when I have more time. The original plan was to ascend with 90 minutes deco but I had 111 minutes and I was still well inside the wreck so I signal to Paul that I need to go. I exit the bow doors and get around to the rear deck and over the swimming pool back to the shot. It wasn’t there, I mutter some obscenity and get my bag out and signal to the others that the shot line has snapped on the waster. As we start up Paul says that he’s going to have a look around, we go up. He knows what he’s doing so I don’t question him. After all he’s not got the same deco as we have. Within a few minutes Paul is below us and ascending. Giulio doesn’t have a bag up and I signal to him. He’s left it on the boat so I hand him mine and send another one. Paul sends his bag and then reels it back in, it’s got a hole in the top, I can’t help but laugh.
As we drift along Tony spotted the shot line with the trapeze attached, it had become snagged on the bottom so Paul pulled the lazy release and we were away as we should have been. Deco was deco and Paul and Giulio finished and went up. For Tony and myself it would be a while yet. Eventually we surface just under three hours and after a quite a swim we get to the boat. It turns out that the Captain hadn’t wanted to follow us he wanted to tie up and go to sleep instead. Lee and Kylie had had an argument with him and he was not for moving even though the boat owner was with us. I really don’t rate this captain. I think that he’s taking the piss out of Giulio. He doesn’t want to do anything and half the time he was letting the mechanic drive.
We got over to Suyul as Sughra for the overnight stay and Paul went in for a night dive with Louise. I filled cylinders and quenched a thirst.
Morning broke and I was up and awake early so I started filling the cylinders from the night dive. The rest awoke and Louise did a dive with the DM and Tony tried out a scooter. Today we were going to scan Jubal Island (most call it Gubal) and the check out a mark on the other side of the Straights of Jubal which is right on the edge of the shipping lane. Nothing again came up and the main battle was trying to get the captain to go where you asked. Paul went upstairs to direct the captain and even Paul wasn’t going in the right direction. What Paul did notice was that the captain’s compass was just giving readings that had nothing to do with direction. A hand held compass worked fine until you put it near the wheel then it was all over the place. Something on his console was giving out a magnetic field. It didn’t seem to matter when Paul asked him to bear X degrees he asked “was it this way or that way”.
We did find something on the Eastern side of the Straights of Jubal and asked the captain to ping it on the GPS. He didn’t, it seemed like he was doing his best not to co operate. When he was meant to be going in a straight line the sun was sweeping from the back of my head to my face. We made a joke about him tacking and Giulio went to get him to go straight but he gave him some bullshit about avoiding the waves. I have never seen the sea as flat even on the straights there was very little.
The sun was setting over the flattest sea ever and we were going south to be ready to dive the three wrecks Sha’b Saghir tal Umm Qumar (Shab Rurr Umm Gamar). Tony wasn’t diving as he had to fly home so it was to be me and Paul with the two scooters. We made it to Shi’b al Irj (Shab El Erg) for overnight which meant 30 minutes in the morning and we were there.
I was awake and having a shower when I heard the engines. I made my way on deck as they were pulling in the mooring lines and I gave the captain a briefing on how I wanted it to go. I then drew him a little picture of where I wanted dropping and where I wanted him tieing up. I won’t go into detail but he messed up a lot and we were stood around in the sun with three stages and a scooter before we jumped at the right spot. He was again giving Giulio more bullshit.
We got settled down and after a check we descended to just below 100 meters to the wreck of the Gulf fleet 31 then we continued to the Colona IV. After having a look around this we scootered along to the old police boat and then it was deco time. Giulio was diving with Lee and Louise and we saw them enter and followed them on their dive, it passed the long deco. Back on the boat for brunch and then back to Hurghada to get Tony to his flight.
All in all we learned a lot, we have a much better idea of what we’re doing and we are going to give it another go later in the year for a little longer with a better captain.