Saturday, 20 November 2010

Cruising on a Small Boat

One Man and His Boat
It's the Eid holidays here so we are just back from three days on board on Shawa'al, more camping than cruising but fun none the less.

There are two Eid holiday periods, the first one Eid Al Fitr is at the end of Ramadan. This was back in September when we were in Texas and Kevin missed out on the days off so this time he took the whole week as holiday. Eid Al Adha marks the Hajj when Muslims celebrate God intervening to provide Abraham an alternative to sacrificing his son. Abraham's alternative sacrifice was a lamb and driving to the yacht club past the animal pens near the abbatoir we saw crowds of cars earlier in the week; 4x4s and pickups waiting to purchase their "lambs", most of them looked like the usual imported tatty sheep, more mutton than lamb. Traditionally each family eats one third, gives a third to friends, relatives or neighbours and a futher third to the poor and needy. This Eid also provides several days of public holidays mid week so most people add Sunday and Thursday to take the whole week off. It's a bit like Christmas in the UK with everyone in party mode and most businesses and many shops shut.

In preparation for our Eid holiday, on Monday Kevin with help from the two YC sailing instructors took Shawa'al's mast down so we could replace the windex. I washed out a huge amount of desert sand from it and the boom so everything runs so much better now, no struggling to heave up the main or pull down the jib halyard. I love small scale boating when it comes to tasks like this!

On Tuesday we sailed (or rather motored using the outboard and a whole can of fuel) the 30 miles or so south to the Hawar Islands where we tied up to the hotel pontoon. Enroute we'd worked out how to reset the GPS from "car mode" where it was searching for the nearest road back to nautical mode with bearings to waypoints. We also dug out the manual for the instruments and changed the damping on the depth so it wasn't constantly flicking from number to number though we still have to assume it was actually calculating the depth correctly for now. However the log wouldn't adjust to record a speed anywhere near the GPS SOG even allowing for the small amount of tidal stream. One for another day as going along at 2 knots when we patently aren't seems odd. 
Dom The Circumnavigator and Donald

Most of the main island of Hawar is a military base and there is little to see on foot so it's fairly pointless leaving the hotel grounds. A notice at the entrance informs you not to take cameras outside of the hotel grounds too. That evening the five of us from the three boats who had made the trip took advantage of the hotel's Eid BBQ buffet supper. At 15BD a head for a buffet style meal plus v v expensive beers it was not a cheap night out. The event was complete with a DJ and appearances from Micky Mouse, Donald Duck and Tom & Jerry.

On the plus side the hotel staff were very welcoming, sending their watersports manager down to see if we needed anything shortly after we arrived and didn't charge us for using their pontoon or the loos in reception! But they did charge Dom from Tradewind almost £1.80 per carrier bag of ice. It's Golden Tulip Hotel that in the brochures looks like a desert island paradise - not so certain I'd want more than a weekend there though, bit remote and very expensive.

Desert Island Rubbish
Cormorants Feeding on Mashtan Reef
From Hawar, D'Artgnan sailed home to Sitra whilst Shawa'al and Tradewind headed just 12nm or so north to Mashtan a tiny island/sand bar at the bottom of a V shaped reef. It was great to sail after the previous day's calm but disappointing that the island is a complete tip covered in rubbish left by other boaters - plastic bottles, plastic plates even a plastic table cloth plus old carpets, bits of wood and general picnic detritus. Kevin & I picked our way through it to snorkel inside the reef but didn't linger on the shore for long. The snorkling however was good. In water you could sit in, fish were swimming all round us through the eel grass. Later we cooked on board the rafted boats - one gas ring per boat so rice and chicken stew was easy! Dom has a cockpit table so we sat down to dinner on his boat.

Afterwards Dom got in the shallow water, picked up his anchor and dragged Tradewind across the reef  for about 30 metres or so to avoid any mast clashes in the night. You can't do that with the average 40 footer in the Solent! Then, shortly after the sun set (about 5pm!!) all three of us retired to bed as we'd brought nothing to do in the pitch dark! A few hours later a couple of motorboats arrived and played loud music until their generator stopped around 2am - unsocial to say the least. Woken by the sun streaming into the forepeak, at dawn we were up and away for the long beat north against the prevailing winds. Sailing small boats around the reefs in the warm sunshine is no great hardship though! Both boats arrived at the yacht club in time for a late lunch on Thursday afternoon.

After a lazy day, Friday night was latin music at the yacht club in celebration of the holiday weekend. A local band played a mix of latin and arabic tunes on the beach stage whilst club members, friends and relatives had supper, chatted and drank. A lovely evening with friends.

All in all a fun Eid holiday - we are both now totally acclimatised to sailing in shorts and t-shirts and life on the beach!

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