OMAN TO THE RED SEA
MONDAY, 31 MARCH 2008
Unfortunately, our flight from Dubai is delayed so we are unable to spend a planned few hours in Muscat. Landing at Muscat is like looking down at rows and rows of white, toy, leggo-type houses without a curve in sight.
We arrive back in Salalah with just enough daylight hours to drive up to a nearby wadi. In the dry season these valleys are dried river beds of boulders, but apparently once the rainy season comes they fill with flowing waters and everything turns green and lush overnight.
We sit next to very interesting people on each plane trip and learn a great deal about the culture and way of life here. For example, I am requested to change seats with Ross so Noor, a 23 year old, isn't sitting next to a man she doesn't know. She is wearing full robes and head gear and says she enjoys the anonymity of it.
Back at the port we find there is top security as the President of Dubai's motor launch is tied up opposite us. We feel very safe here.
TUESDAY, 1 APRIL 2008
Fuel is booked to be delivered at 9am today. Robbie and I leave early in the car to provision before the heat of the day.
This turns into a frustrating day. Our agent is still chasing the fuel carrier at 5pm (this is why we have an agent or we would never have got fuel today). This means someone has to be on the boat all this time so we are ready when he does come. The fuel truck finally arrives at 6pm.
Ross is also waiting for the Ray Marine (auto-pilot) technician. This is a farce. Because of visa complications he has to take a nine hour bus trip, rather than take a plane from Muscat, and he finally arrives at 8.30pm. We have to leave the following morning if we want to join the flotilla. This man was given no diagnosis and has brought no spare parts. We will have to go up the Red Sea relying on the older, spare auto-pilot. So we are not happy either, as it is not good at holding in a following sea.
Ross has also been waiting all day for the fridge expert to gas the 12V fridge. He is exhausted by the time we fall into bed. Being on time isn't a strong point of society here.
WEDNESDAY, 2 APRIL 2008
We leave Salalah Port early on a beautiful morning in the flotilla with Free Spirit, Impulsive, Greetings (with Greg and Terry from the U.S.A.) and La Novia ( with Mike and his one crew member, from U.K. but now living in Cyprus).
We all have agreed to travel at an average of 7kts. We have agreed waypoints so if we get out of sight we can give over the radio our distance and bearing from that waypoint, without giving our present position to any other boats.
Today we are bashing into a head wind so are motoring with the headsail up to steady the boat.
THURSDAY, 3 APRIL 2008
By evening I should know better than to think nothing else can go wrong. Just as Ross is going down to bed and I begin night watch, we both hear a loud, screeching noise followed by a slapping sound.
Ross discovers it is a very loose fan belt. We have to turn off the engine but, fortunately, we have good sailing conditions and can maintain an average of 6 kts. The other boats generously wait back with us while Ross tightens the belt. Unfortunately, it breaks shortly afterwards, so he will have to replace it.
I am so proud of my skipper. He has never done this before and it is very difficult, mainly getting into such an inaccessible area. Ross is very grateful to have watched Phil tighten and check fan belts before, and Phil is able to give helpful advice now over the radio. Mike also helps over the radio as he has an identical engine on his boat. After 2 hours we are underway again. Ross is extremely stiff after putting his body through the different contortions to get to the required parts. Fortunately because we could keep sailing , averaging about 6 kts, we haven't inconvenienced the other boats too much.