Monday, 28 November 2011

Forty Years Old And Loving It

It's strange to be living in a country which is younger than you. Later this week the UAE celebrates its fourtieth birthday, in fact to be accurate it has been celebrating for the past few weeks but the climax is on Dec 2nd National Day. Everywhere and everyone seems to be in on the act. In one supermarket flags, bunting and patriotic stetsons (yes really, large felt ones in green white and black stripes with a bit of red tinsel round the brim) and coloured lights were piled high.

In a mall car park we spotted a black Honda sports car whose bonnet sported diagonal stripes of electrical tape in green and white, trimmed with red to represent the national flag. I expect that will take some removing afterwards. Houses, car showrooms and government offices alike sport blocks of coloured illuminations and the number forty appears in lights everywhere as does the UAE flag. We even saw a museum lawn in Al Ain being spray painted with a flag ahead of the big day

The imagination of marketing teams across Dubai knows no bounds; at the Egyptian themed shopping & restaurant complex WAFI they are offering free henna and Arabic coffee in a majlis tent as well as stilt walkers. Google are planning a special doodle drawn by Emirati schoolchildren. Even Costa Coffee locally has joined in as you can see from the photo I took yesterday (Costa are in fact a UK brand but their first non-UK shop was opened in Dubai some 12 years ago).

However the best tribute yet has to be the following one as featured in yesterdays Gulf News:

I'll post some more pictures of the weird and wacky ways this nation is celebrating as I find them! Perhap we Brits could learn a lesson or two in patriotism! Meanwhile for those of you who love trivia the Gulf News has been busy digging up the nations past.  In their picture gallery you'll also find some great photo's showing how oil wealth has transformed the Emiratis from tent dwellers to lovers of anything with a superlative or a sense of adventure (cf the bungee jumping shopper complete with carrier bags), there is even a shot of real snow in the UAE that fell on the mountains not on the MoE ski slope!

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Delightful Weather

Acres of New Sailcloth
"Sailing in the UK? In November?" most people who asked our plans for the recent Eid holiday thought we were mad and there were moments before we left Dubai when we wondered if it was the right thing to do. We had originally planned to drive to Salalah in Oman during Kevin's week off but Temptress' new sails were ready and needed a final fitting before we settled the sailmakers invoice.

As it turns out the forecast was for easterlies going round to the south. It rained on and off during friday but the banks of grey clouds meant that the above average temperatures didn't fall far at night. After a day manhandling acres of sail cloth our crew arrived and on Saturday morning Glyn & Sheila had their first taste of the Solent. We headed for the boatlift in Gosport for a quick scrub to remove several months of growth, actually much less than we had expected, just a generous coating of green slime). Then on to Cowes and a convenient supermarket for the week's provisions. From there it was down the Needles Channel with the tide for Poole and Weymouth.

The secret of keeping warm is layers and none of us got too cold, the eberspacher heater was usually fired up an hour or so before we tied up and then turned down to low all evening. There were delightful walks along fringes of Poole Harbour and the Isle of Wight footpaths south of Yarmouth, the latter with blues skies and winter sun whilst the former offered a spectacular sunset over the Purbeck Hills. Oilies, fleeces, thermal vests, fluffy salopets, socks and boots ensured each crew member was snug on deck, t-shirts and jeans all that was required below in the evening, Glyn was even spotted wearing shorts!

View from Poole Town Quay
In Poole Temptress demonstrated that if it can go wrong it will go wrong even in the most benign conditions. We tried to achor off Brownsea but our hefty CQR wouldn't hold in the hard sand so we picked up a nearby mooring whilst we ate lunch. Close by was a small pink buoy, marking a fish pot maybe? The tide turned and the wind dropped off a bit, suddenly the buoy became a mortal enemy, yards of rope catching on our rudder. Kevin and Glyn pulled up several lengths of rope tied together at intervals and attached to not one but three fishermans anchors! It took a while to disentangle the rudder. The Brownsea Island ferryman promised to pick up what proved to be someone's mooring tackle which had been washed down from further up the harbour, if we chucked over when we left. It may still be there for all we know!

Boatlift, Gosport

Happy To Be Out Sailing
We were pragmatic in our passage making a day or so later. The wind failed to free off as forecast on the beat back from Weymouth, then south of St Albans Head an unfavourable west going tide resulted in us tacking and covering much the same ground as we had just sailed  The confused sea had by then despatched one of the crew to sleep in the saloon with a bucket and a blanket. So we furled up the genoa and motorsailed through the drizzle to the Needles. Reaching Yarmouth was a relief and the four of us were soon seated comfortably in the Bugle for pre-supper drinks.

From there we offered our crew a choice of destination. The tide would be favourable mid afternoon so a night sail to Newton Creek with its tricky entrance or the Hamble and a chance to experience busy shipping lanes at the entrance to Southampton Waters? They selected the latter and eagerly planned the navigation. All went well, we saw lots of ships and ferries including a liner leaving on the evening tide from Southampton, they marvelled at the numbers of boats moored in the river as Glyn at the helm picked his way through the reds and greens. Then at the top of the Hamble there was a moment of minor panic. The Skipper took the helm, his local knowledge preventing Temptress from becoming a large garden ornament on someone's front lawn as he made the sharp left hand turn. In the mornng we realised that a vital mark indicating the dogleg just prior to Swanwick was unlit.
Southsea Marina on a Grey Day

On our last day we anchored off Stokes Bay for lunch, tried and failed to get up Southsea's narrow channel an hour after low water, picked up a harbour mooring and waited. The next morning was a flurry of removing sails, cleaning Temptress inside and out and emptying water tanks. We felt extremely privileged to have had a relatively warm week's sailing in great conditions so late in the year.