Thursday, 20 May 2010

Old Stuff

Thought I'd dig out some old sailing logs in case anyone out there finds them of interest. I've posted them un-edited as a series of pages, one per log as some of them are quite long. They can be accessed via the page menu on the left (scroll down to find it) . One day I'll get round to adding some indexes to the longer ones but don't hold me to it.



Wednesday, 19 May 2010

A Bit of a Change

Off to Blighty in the early hours of Sunday morning for two and a half weeks. I'm already quite excited though I suspect it will be rather colder than Bahrain. Just started thinking about packing and found I only brought a couple of thin cardies and a lightweight fleece with me to the island. Everything else is still in transit so I'm hoping I left some warmer clothes on Temptress! However we won't be heading for Portsmouth until the Bank Hols when Kevin arrives in the UK so the last week in May better be a warm one.

Plans for my trip so far include retrieving son Will's stuff out from storage now he's back in the UK, a potential cross Channel sail on Temptress over the Bank holiday weekend in company with other boats and a Solent sailing weekend with friends on board. Thats in addition to visiting parents and in-laws (the latter are kindly lending us a car) and catching up with any other friends we can around Kevins work schedule. Oh and I must pay in the roadfund tax refund cheque the DVLC sent me last March.

Before then though there is Friday racing at BYC on our newly cleaned and fixed Shawa'al...

Sunday, 16 May 2010

A Weight Off Shawa'al

Rising Dust
Early last Friday morning as we sat eating breakfast in our 9th floor apartment,  first Sheikh Khalifa Bridge and then the Specialist Hospital disappeared from view as our building was wrapped in dust whipped up by strong winds. No yacht racing then today.

Lifting Out - Attempt One
Arriving at the yacht club the visibility out to sea confirmed our suspicions and we didn't even want to venture out for a quick sail. It seemed a good day to provide Shawa'al with some of the TLC that she urgently needs. Kevin went off to see if the boat could be lifted out. The yard crew agreed, collected a trailer belonging to another similar sized boat from the back of the boatyard and brought it down to the slipway. Karl, Kevin & myself motored round to the shallows at the bottom of the slipway where the men got off leaving me to keep the boat aground by simply sitting on the bows. In came the trailer and on went Shawa'al and her passenger. Her keel wouldn't touch the bed of the trailer though her sides were supported by the cradle arms. Basical the arms were too high. Boat pushed off, the trailer was towed up the slipway a bit so that Kevin and Karl could lower the arms completely using tools like a hammer and a wrench to undo the various nuts and bolts.

Another Attempt
The second attempt wasn't much better, Organized Kaos whose trailer it is has a longer keel and Shawa'al's stubby one simply couldn't reach to take her weight on the trailer. Being GRP she can't be supported by her topsides alone as she'd simply crush. Kevin sweettalked the yard team into using their slings, which they claimed were fully booked but were actually sitting idle at that point. "We only want to be out for a couple of days, back in tomorrow." By now the yard team had had sight of Shawa'al's barnacle covered bottom and were sceptical but all the same they went and fetched it.

Third Time Lucky
Karl paddling had hold of Shawa'al's bow warp like a dinghy painter and heaved her into position. The tractor with its trailer reversed toward the boat.  Kevin took the rope from the rear of the slings and once I'd scrambled back to the cockpit so she was a float again heaved her onto what looks like some medieval tourture device. The slings are a basically a steel framed box without the top cross pieces. On either side are four chain driven block and tackles, the end hooks of which attach to heavy canvas straps that are slung under the boat. Two yardhands pulled the chains and the straps took hold, supporting the boat and preventing her slipping sideways. The tractor slowly moved forward and as the trailer moved higher in the water the keel came to rest on a wooden platform running fore and aft along the trailers base. At last Shawa'al began to be lifted from the water. For her passenger it was a bit unnerving as she began to sway gently from side to side rather like an elephant but the straps held as we turned left at the top of the slipway.

Three or four years growth of marine life clung to evey part of the undersides in amazing shapes and colours, bright orange and dark red patches like litchens, long greyish strands and millions of barnacles. One of the yard staff appeared brandishing a garden hoe to attack the bows of the boat. Kevin and Karl worked on either side starting from the stern with paint scrapers soon there was a growing mound of barnacles on the ground around the boat. It was already getting hot. I kept them supplied with pints of lime and soda from the bar. An hour or so later and the worst was off, ready for a pressure wash all over.

Time to go shopping so armed with directions to a near-by chandlers selling "good" (ie effective and cheap) anti-foul, the three of us headed off in the aircon comfort of the car leaving the pressure washing gang to do their stuff.  Now you don't just need tins of anti-foul to treat a boat - there are rollers, brushes, sand paper, sanding blocks, primer, thinners and paint trays plus we also managed to add to our purchases a reel of thin string and a bottle of wax polish. The latter will be used to spruce up the topsides at some point in the future, whilst the string will help hold our Mk I sun awning, a large beach umbrella in place. Back in the boatyard after the wash the old white anti-foul had appeared. The whole of the hull below the water line was then given a good sand to provide a key for the new paint. We weren't aiming for a racing smooth finish so the circles where the barnacles had been were still apparent but at least Shawa'al no longer had a ton of marine life attached so her performance should dramatically improve.

Preparing for Painting
Shawa'al was then moved to a quiet corner in the back of the yard in the lee of the shed, unfortunately though, no shade. It was amazing to see the precision of the expert driver who reversed the trailer with inches to spare through the maze of parked motor boats. Kevin taped up the waterline - he makes it seem really easy but I know different because I have tried and failed at this in the past. Its really hard to get the masking tape edge lined up perfectly along the rounded shaped of the hull. Then they set too rolling on the primer - only two rollers had been bought so I felt excused and took pictures and ferried liquid refreshments instead. The primer was a delicate shade of sausage pink and very runny but virtually instantly drying in the heat so quite quckly both Karl and Kevin were covered in pink spots! Once complete we all took a break for lunch before returning to start applying the anti-foul paint which should prevent a reoccurance of the barnacles for a year or so.

Painting in 35 degrees
Through the heat of the afternoon two coats or more of antifoul were applied to everywhere except under the single straps now supporting the boat fore and aft. The plus side of applying paint at Middle Eastern temperatures is that it quickly dries so two plus coats were soon completed. They'd even raised the boat off its keel to treat underneath. Nothing more could be done until the morning so after more refreshments and a chat at the bar with other members we headed to Juffair for showers and then out for a well earned meal. Later that evening Karl drove back across the causeway to Saudi vowing to return on Saturday after his packing was complete for a final, final sail on Shawa'al before he moves to the otherside of Saudi. Though we have told him he is welcome at anytime to come and sail his old boat.

Launch Day
Next morning, to avoid as much as possible of the heat we made an early start and were at the yacht club before 8am for the second succesive day. We found the yard foreman and much to his suprise said we'd be ready in half an hour or so.  Then we switched the straps around using the chain pulleys - so easy to do with one on each pulley either side of the boat. Afterwards Kevin completed the painting tasks eking out the remaining anti-foul but still having enough to put a little extra on the keel and leading edge of the rudder which are high wear areas.  To say the yard staff were amazed at our rapid progress was an understatement but once they'd bump started the big tractor by towing it backwards they quickly appeared to manouevre Shawa'al down to the water again. Kevin and I climbed aboard for the trip. A three point turn had to be executed by the tractor and trailer to get us facing the right way, again the driver made it seem easy.

Back in the Water
Once at the top of the slipway two yard hands climbed onto the walkways that run along each side of the cradle about half way up. They would lower the four slings once Shawa'al was afloat.  We backed down the slipway at an alarming angle and as the water came up to meet the hull there was a bit of a lurch backwards as she slipped out of the forward sling. We were afloat again. Kevin lowered and started the outboard, I moved warps and fenders and within minutes we were securely moored back in her berth. Less than 24 hours since we started but floating considerably higher!

Later that day Karl joined us for a quick sail before the dust started to come up again. Shawa'al performed beautifully, whipping through tacks and reaching unheard of speeds in light winds. The log, previously unable to sense any waterflow due to the abundant marine life shielding it, span round registering speeds of 3, 4 and even 6 knots (this last under engine).  She is a joy to sail, light on the helm, pointing well and quick through the water but the test will be to see how she performs in next Friday's race.

Monday, 10 May 2010

More Weird Weather - Al Sarrayat

Saturday afternoon just as we were arriving back in the marina after a pleasant lunch and snorkle at Tadpole, a local sand bar on the reef, the weather changed dramatically. One minute Shawa'al was motoring in flat calm seas between the wave break pontoons at the entrance and the next she was almost over on her ear as the wind hit us from the land.

The westerly or north-westerly wind which was later reported as blowing 48 knots at the airport and closer to 60 knots at sea howled, full of sand from Saudi for the rest of the day. It was accompanied by thunder and lightening and a some dusty rain, like those big drops that herald a summer downpour in England. The boat tied up, we carried on with the jobs we had intended to do as long as we could. The temperature rose significantly as the wind was extremely hot to somewhere around 40 degrees centigrade, we retreated to the aircon comfort of the bar for pints of soft drinks. Inland the visibility was reduced to a few yards making driving hazardous. Everyone said they'd never know weather like it at this time of the year and it certainly wasn't forecast.

Around the Bahrain coast small boats had to anchor at sea until it blew through later that night including a few from the yacht club. Across the border in Saudi at least one airport was closed. A few shanty houses were destroyed, swimmers at Budiyia in the north-west got into difficulties, advertising hoardings broke free endeangering motorists and pedestrians whilst according to the Gulf Daily News the following day two window cleaners needed rescuing from a high rise building in town. Its still making news in today's papers with calls to ensure safer housing and advertising hoardings.

Digging around afterwards I found the phenomenom is called Al Sarrayat and is caused by a low pressure, characterised by the extreme wind, a sudden rise in temperature and thunderstorms. Apparently common in Kuwait (see this dramatic picture taken last month) around this time of the year, its obviously less well known in Bahrain.

Shopping in the Souk

Our new boat Shawa'al sported a kettle with a coat hanger handle so I had decided to treat ourselves to a new one. Looking round the supermarkets only electric ones were on offer and, as the boat has no mains power except when in the marina, these were of no use. So I decided a trip to the souk might be in order. Last Thursday Kevin needed to be in the office by 9am so after dropping him off in the Diplomatic Area, I drove through the Manama Gate and parked uder the Yateem Mall, one of the oldest, if not the oldest shopping centre in Bahrain. Its a greeny glass box on the outside and inside its full of those little shops that seem to sell nothing you'd want to buy, think 1970s Britian. It reminded me of those little covered alleyways or converted larger stores in the towns of west Wales that do duty as indoor malls.

Walking out and down the street I was soon in the Manama souk proper, narrow streets where goods spill out onto the pavement, piled up and hanging down so when walking you have to watch your step and be prepared to duck simultaneously. Pedestrians vie with cars, four by fours, vans and the flat barrows of the vegetable sellers. Like markets the world over the shops are grouped by type so find one shop selling kitchenwares and you'll have a dozen to choose from. The first one was quite spacious inside, tardis-like in fact given its narrow frontage. Me: "I'm looking for a kettle?" Shopkeeper: "Like this?" proffering a nice stainless steel teapot. "umm no not exactly, something to boil water on the gas.."  "Ah you want one of these" thrusting a large tiffin pot at me. "Well no, I was looking for a kettle, you know with a spout and a whistle" "Sorry madam we don't sell". I got the impression he didn't really have a clue what it was I was shopping for.

A few steps further on was a corner stall/store with aluminium cooking vessels, brushes, plastic storage boxes and more piled up outside. Inside another huge interior where the number of staff (six) outweighed the customers (just me) but it was early. Here were shelves stacked with all manner of kitchen equipment as well as goods piled on the floor. I went through my request again being a little more precise in my first request to ensure they understood exactly what it was I needed. The elderly Indian gentleman who'd welcomed me to his store and offered assistance, dispatched two of the staff to different corners of the shop to return brandishing not one but two kettles. Why not group them together?

The first was a shiney yellowy dome shape reminscent of Temptress' outsized kettle purchased many moons ago at a Debenhams sale in Southsea, gosh that's a world away from where I'm shopping now. The second a smaller, more traditional-looking straight sided kettle with a curvey spout and a maroon folding handle set off with a gold stripe. The latter had a little hinged flap on its spout which rattles rather than whistles but will easily alert Shawa'als crew that it's come to the boil as the galley is close to the cockpit. The former was a bit too big for a small boat, had a slight dent and the metal was an odd yellowy colour so was rejected. "How much?" Although I could see the label with 4.500/- on it. "Four dinar madam" - so much for haggling then. I did try to get it for three but in the end we settled on 3.500 dinar.

Traditional Bahraini Baskets
On my way to the "kitchen souk" I had passed a little store selling traditional Bahraini crafts. Since shortly after we arrived in Bahrain I had been looking for baskets. One I had purchased from a van that parked on empty land on the main road into Juffair but the seller had moved on once the Grand Prix was over. That basket acts as a shoe rack by the front door to avoid dust being trapsed in. A larger basket would be useful for dirty laundry, rather than the heap on the bedroom floor. It took me a few minutes to find the craft stall again, everyone I passed trying to sell me pashmina's, overstuffed toy camels or Bahraini t-shirts. If you retort that you live here and don't need tourist items you end up in a lively conversation whilst they try to find something else you might buy - all good clean fun which I quite enjoy. Oddly every shopkeeper has a business card to hand "in case you need something later".

Outside the little craft store was a stack of large baskets and rolled up mats made from woven palm fronds some dyed purple the rest plain to generate pleasingt patterns. The tiny, elderly Bahraini in his white dishdasha and headress started by showing me some large woven platters in various designs - the palm fornds dyed charcoal or green as well as the purple. I shook my head "I am looking for a large basket". "Ah you like a lot of shopping" he smiled picking up exactly the one I had my eye on. Its slightly squishy with short handles on either side that are secuely fastened so could indeed be used as an oversized shopping basket, though I doubt I would be able to lift it once full. We haggled over the price but it was a bit lacklustre on my side as his initial price was far below that paid for the smaller one I already owned. He did moan that it was hard to make a living when we'd closed the deal and promptly signalled a rather chubby young Indian man hovering nearby to put the basket into a carrier bag - I wasn't aware that carrier bags could be made that big!

What happened next still makes me chuckle. The carrier bag was handed over in exchange for four dinars, made up of one and half dinar notes (the Bahraini equivalent of pound coins and 50p's although worth almost twice as much). The young man picked up a tatty, poorly made, metal coffee pot that looked like it had seen life and popped it into the bag. What is this, buy a basket and get a free coffee pot? "Five dinars" he said smiling at me "you need coffee pot", more a statement than a question. "No sorry I don't". "Four dinars?" he tried. "No" I said firmly, making to remove the unwanted object from the bag. "Oh well, you'll regret it madam, everyone needs a coffee pot" And with that he took it out and placed it back on the pile of similarly tatty pots sitting on the pavement outside the shop. All done with good humour and the tiny, elderly Arab guy shook my hand as I left! Shopping in the UK has never been such fun.

Monday, 3 May 2010

A Little Adventure on the Water

Morning on Bird Island
The day began ordinarily enough, waking as the dawn light filtered into the boat at anchor. Calm seas and hardly a breath of air. By 9am most of the crews were awake after the previous nights beach BBQ on Bird Island, a strip of sand some few miles off the west coast of Bahrain. It was boiling hot already. Bacon was cooked, Nynke towed into the shallows for a scrub and the guys set off in two dinghies to recover the daggerboard belonging to Eammons Jaguar which had broken its fixings in the approaches to the island. The water was chest deep but still it took some time to recover the board into the boat and rig up something to fix it in place.


Shortly after noon our little fleet of four boats started to head for home, the wind was still hardly enough to sail as Tradewind with owner Dominic and I on board followed Eammon out from behind the reef. Eammon’s little Jaguar was motoring whilst we hoisted our main and decided that as the wind was rapidly building to put up the smaller of the two genoas. In a matter of minutes the wind was blowing hard enough to require a reef in the main. We put the third reef in as there is a tear in the sail close to the second reefing point, by the time the task was done we were glad of this decision. Tradewind was hard pressed. The Jaguar was struggling with its small engine to make headway north east towards the mark “South Pole”, our turning point some two or three miles away before we headed north to the yacht club. Having overtaken the Jaguar we called the yacht club to ask for some help for him as Eammon was singled handed and then turned back towards the little boat to let him know.

Wind Rising
By now it was blowing hard some 20 or more knots on the nose (no wind instruments on board) which is a lot of wind for a 26 foot boat. The seas were building fast too in the gap between the mainland and the reef that Bird Island is part of. Still it was a warm wind and the sea was a fantastic turquoise colour, part of me was enjoying the sailing whilst the sensible part was informing me of the potential dangers. The wind continued to rise, Tradewind was now over canvassed so the genoa had to come off and Dominic turned on the outboard motor so we could make headway to windward. As we came off a wave the propeller left the water revving hard resulting in the heavy outboard twisting on its bracket – we could no longer use it. A launch from the yacht club came past and informed us that once they had dropped off Andy on the Jaguar to assist Eammon who by now was being swept southwards they would come and offer us a tow. With confidence we would be in the yacht club shortly the pair of us settled back in the cockpit.

Bare Poles
After half an hour or so we began to be worried for both of them, no sign of either boat (in fact we must have been swept of the launch whilst they were transferring crew as they didn’t see us on their return leg). The wind was increasing as was the wave height. Tradewind would not tack (turning the bow of the boat through the wind to change course) without a headsail up so we had to resort to the more dangerous jibe (turning the back of the boat through the wind rather than the bow) to keep us roughly moving east or west on station south of south pole, any northing was impossible. The waves were mostly on our beam and the boat was alarmingly rolled until her toerail was well down in the water on several occasions. Dominic tried the coastguard on his mobile phone but couldn’t get through and then called the yacht club again. They took our position and relayed it to the CG. By 3pm, we’d decided to run bare poles before the wind was a safer option in the increasing seas and took down the main. Already we were being swept south in what was now a gale with the wind whisking the tops off the waves.

An Afternoon At Sea
At least now the waves were either on our quarter or dead behind us. The lower washboard was in to prevent down below being flooded by the seas occasionally finding their way over the stern. Fluorescent orange lifejackets on with Jingo the dog lolling on a bunk below, we were comfortable and definitely not cold heading south at around two to three knots. Dominic ventured below to retrieve leftover samosa’s for lunch but they were unpalatable, we were imbibing enough salt than-you. Apples and water kept us going with occasional phone calls or texts to our contacts on land. The boat was sound and as long as we could stay with it we were secure. My only worry was a drying reef that the GPS chart showed some five or so nautical miles south of us but I refused to mentally calculate how much time we had, being swept southwards by the wind and waves at around one or two knots.

Mistaken Identity
The CG kept saying they could see us on radar in their station on land and were five minutes away. The time passed and we called them again, both mobile phones running low on battery (lesson number one is have a VHF on board). Each time the CG were contacted our position was passed and again we’d hear they were five minutes away, finishing off the call with “be safe”. Later we realised that they had first found Eammon & Andy and although they had our boat name had not checked which boat they were towing into a safe haven at Jau a few miles down the coast from the yacht club marina so thought their task was complete.

Heading South
Meanwhile looking at the GPS I could see that the wind and current were sweeping us between the next reef and the mainland which was a relief, we wouldn’t be shipwrecked as well today. Hopefully it would be calmer there, although there were various submerged rocks and beacons to avoid. I reckoned if we could get into shallower water we might just be able to anchor as I was worried about what would happen after dark and we had no idea how long this wind would blow for. I didn’t share my thoughts with Dominic.

Rescue Before Dusk
By 4pm the sun was getting low in the sky. Kevin called me from Oman, I summarised our situation and he called the YC with our position. Ben who had been co-ordinating things at the YC, realised the problem of mistaken identity and contacted the CG again sending us a text to say they were definitely on their way and some minutes later we saw their launch ploughing over the horizon. Relief! With some minor damage, incurred when a wave brought the two boats too close together so that their substantial bimini post caught our anchor, we managed to get a line from us to them relatively easily despite the rough seas and wind. Their landau style launch had high topsides providing them with a safe deep working area. Two powerful outboards drove them through the water.

The Worst Part - The Tow Home
The tow inshore across the waves and then back up the coast into wind and waves was horrid for both boats with huge snatches on the line from a Samson post on their stern to our anchor cleat. There was a deadly ripping sound at one point and the CG yelled “check your line”. Once more I ventured onto the bucking foredeck with a guardwire that doesn’t reach my knees, the sheath and some of the inner core of the tow line had parted (lesson number two ensure the crew has harness with some means of clipping on). I changed the rope for another, slightly dubious that it was going to be strong enough as the outer casing was very worn but it held all the way to Jau. There we tied up against a large rusting work barge that towered some eight or more feet above the boat. We shouted our thanks to our rescuers who still had to battle against the wind and waves back to their base north of the yacht club.

Dry Land
Vicci, Andy’s partner had driven down to collect us and was helping Andy & Eammon secure the Jaguar. In the dark she patiently listened to my yelled instructions (on deck we were in the lee of the barge but up there the wind was sweeping away everything we shouted up at her) and soon Tradewind was tied up. Dominic meanwhile had bundled the sails away below and worked out how we might get a medium sized dog up onto the barge. Up went Jingo in a life jacket which gave Andy, Eammon & Vicci purchase holds on him. Then it was our bags and finally us (the cool boxes left to moulder until we go back to fetch the boats). A large, still muddy tractor tyre did duty as a ladder. Step one was from the boat to the inner rim, then Vicci held Andy from behind and Andy unceremoniously hauled on our wrists until we were heaved up and over the top. Black from the tyre and rusty from the barge, caked with salt we were thankful to be back on dry land, hugs all round. Because this is Bahrain and not the UK there was no chill, no hypothermia just a group of grubby, salt encrusted yachties with another tale to tell in the bar.


Once back at the yacht club there was a short interview for each of us with Lieutenant T of the CG whose chief goal had been to emphasise that we should have taken more notice of the weather forecast before setting out from Bahrain YC that morning. Once we’d explained that we’d anchored overnight at Bird Island he shrugged his shoulders, understanding as a sailor that we all get caught out once in a while. His attention then turned to us, he needed some answers for his boss... were we injured, cold? No, only our pride. And how was the service his men had provided? We were very grateful for everything they had done. And thank-you too to everyone at BYC who played a part in our rescue.