Saturday, February 25, 2006

One of those days

Last Monday 20th Feb I was asked to run a dive trip off the east coast of the Emirates. I agreed, and as the dive club has a 30-foot hard boat in Fujairah I wouldn't have to tow it 120km up and down 10% grades across the Hajjar mountains. Five people signed up on Monday night, including me.

By Tuesday morning the weather changed. Rain. It also rained on Thursday and was still showery on Friday. Not to worry; with little wind and dive sites close to the shore who cares? It's not as if we rufty-tufty divers don't want to get wet, is it?

But by this time two of the original sign-ups had phoned me to cancel. They had to work on Friday. Something about a meeting scheduled by someone who thinks our weekend is the same as his. Meanwhile two other club members had phoned me to get on the list, so we still had five. Three of us met at the dive club on Thursday morning (11.59am) to fill cylinders and pick up the boat safety equipment.

The trouble with a 9 am start on the east coast is an alarm clock set at the ungodly 05.30am. It was raining and still dark when I set off. When Friday dawned an hour or so later, I got a phone call from one of my divers: "I'm stuck in traffic. Route 44 is like a car park." An hour later still, he called me again. "I might as well be set in concrete. Haven't moved an inch." At this point, he decided to call it quits and go home once the traffic jam cleared. Ten minutes after that, I got yet another phone call. By now the police had decided to unbolt the Armco and let the traffic queue past the accident on the parallel service road. Yes, it took them over an hour before they did something about four lanes ( and probably about two miles) of traffic jam. The accident itself, I was advised, involved at least two heavy trucks, one of which had been cut in half by the other after losing control on the wet road.

With a sense of doom and foreboding I called the other divers. Yes, they were still on their way. The plan was to tow the boat from Fujairah to the petrol station to gas it up at enormous expense (Petrol is a pound a gallon, bah, humbug) and then to Khor Fakkan to launch it near the proposed dive sites. Upon arrival, it turned out that Khor Fakkan was hosting Formula 2000 powerboat racing, and the slipway and entire fishing harbour were covered with cranes, generators and also small and extremely irresponsible powerboats.

Officialdom decreed that we were permitted to launch, but there was nowhere to put the car and trailer, and we'd not be allowed to recover the boat until the racing had finished some nine hours later. By this time a return to Fujairah to launch the boat was also looking unlikely. Time was pressing on and the best guess was that no divers would be in the water before noon.

I can take a whole series of hints. Thwarted at just about every turn, I returned the boat unused to Fujairah and we all trooped back to Dubai, which was by now bathed in afternoon sunshine.

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