We had planned for some time to take a longer trip over the children's half-term holiday, a four day long weekend, and we decided we would go down to Muscat, Oman. The boys were both born in Muscat when we lived there previously so going there is always like going home. Following the same procedure for a Musandam permit, I obtained a permit for sailing in Oman with ease from the Omani Embassy. The guy in the Embassy recognised me this time and asked how our previous trip had been so we were off to a good start.
Friday 9th October.
We were up and driving out of the yard by 0620, having set everything up the night before. The only thing we had to do before setting off was pack the coolbox and the breakfast bag and predictably we had not gone more than 5km before the boys were tucked into the croissants. Five and a quarter hours later we rolled into Muscat, having sat at 100kph on the cruise control virtually the whole way and taking just 30mins to clear the border out of the UAE and into Oman. Given that I would reckon on 4½ hours on a good day without the boat on the back this was pretty good going. The temperature registered by the car thermometer was 40°C and it was 11:35 when we arrived so we decided that lunch was in order before going off to launch. I phoned Kirsten, a friend of old who lives in Muscat, and she had just finished her shopping and would love to join us for lunch.By the time we finished a long, lazy lunch it was nearly 2pm and the temperature had dropped to 37°C - the heat of the day was past. We drove down to the public slip in Kalbuh, at the eastern end of the Muttrah corniche, but although I remembered it from a few years ago and could still see it on Google Earth, the slip was in a poor state of repair, probably ripped up by Cyclone Gonu a couple of years ago. The commercial marina at Bandar Rowdar wanted OMR25 (US$65) to launch a boat and the same again to retrieve it so we decided to chance our luck at the Capital Area Yacht Club. The security guard took me to see his manager and we agreed OMR10 to launch, I wasn't sure whether this included retrieval but it was a price I was prepared to pay. We ended up paying OMR14 for the launch, retrieval and a nominal guest entry fee - very good value. Within 45mins we had the mast up, car parked and trailer hitched to the launch tractor and off we went. We stopped in to Bandar Rowdar to fill the second tank with petrol, the water tank with water and to smarten Morwenna up by hosing off the grime from the road journey. We departed Bandar Rowdar at 1545 and set sail with spinnaker and main, but alas the wind was pitiful. 35 minutes later and a mere 1.1NM later I decided that we had better get going under motor if we were to get to the anchorage in daylight.
Arriving in Bandar Khyran, or BK as we know it, we checked out a couple of potential anchorages before settling on a narrow bay with a small beach. We flopped into the sea for a swim and then cooked up a simple pasta supper and fell into bed very early. I elected to sleep in the cockpit and Rach decided to sleep below until midnight when she escaped the warmth below and came up too.
Distance run 10.1NM
Saturday 10th October.
We awoke at 6am as it was getting light and by 0620 the sun was up, bathing the bay in a soft golden light. Shoals of fish were slowly circuiting the inlet and there was just the shush of the small waves on the sandy beach to break the silence. A cup of coffee helped the eyelids open and then we had a snorkel round the bay. Cyclone Gonu had done a lot of damage about 2 years ago but it was good to see both the soft and hard corals taking advantage of the clean field and growing back strongly and the fish life was a vibrant as ever.
After a breakfast of scrambled eggs with smoked salmon (who says camping is roughing it?) we cleared up and then hauled anchor and set off with the intent to sail down the coast and try to catch some fish. This morning the wind was a little fresher, NNW F2-3, and we were soon splashing along at 3-4knots heading for the tropics. The Tropic of Cancer runs across Oman so I had the thought of at least going down the coast far enough to officially enter the tropics. At 1047 we passed 23.5°N and shortly thereafter we took in the spinnaker, set the genoa and hardened up onto port tack, heading out to sea to try slightly deeper water for the fishing lures. On return home several days later I looked up the exact definition of the Tropic of Cancer and found that it is 23° 26' 22" N so we had actually been short of the tropics by a little under 3NM when we turned around - a good reason to go back! We tacked again and headed back towards the sandy beaches just south of BK thinking of a lunch stop. All of a sudden Rach shouted that she had seen a fish jump aft of the boat where our lures would be, there was a momentary bowing of one of the rods and then I could see the fluorescent orange lure bobbing on the waves. A fish had clearly taken the lure, snapped the line and then let go, all in a split second. Not wanting to leave the lure behind I tacked Morwenna and held her hove-to. We drifted down towards the lure and Rachel dived in to retrieve it. It took us a little while to untangle the lines from around the daggerboard and rudders but once we were on our way again we could examine the trace. The wire trace had the merest suggestion of rust on it at the point that it had snapped and I knew that this was a very old trace so I guess it had weakened enough to be snapped by the mystery fish. Another thing to be repaired! We took in sail as we approached Paul's Point, the southern edge of BK and motored slowly into the beach for lunch. Being open to the ocean we also hoped to find some driftwood to fuel the cooking fire later on and we were rewarded by finding an old pallet washed up on the shore. After 1 ½ hr lunch stop we slowly motored back to our previous anchorage, trolling all the way but with no further luck.
We decided that since we wanted to barbeque the evening meal, and since it was rather warm to sleep below, we would shift the cushions to the beach and sleep there under the stars. Whilst I was ferrying the kit ashore, the kids set up fishing rods on the cliffs and actually managed to catch a moray eel although it refused to come out from its crevice and left us with another broken (nylon) trace. Sleeping on the beach was cooler than below on board and less cramped than the cockpit so everybody got a better night's sleep, although it was still fairly warm. Another few weeks and the temperature will be perfect!
Distance run 14.3NM
Sunday 11th October.
We had a very lazy morning although it started early again. We swam and snorkelled, packed the camp back onto the boat, swam again until by just after noon we were ready to leave. BK was flat calm as usual but I could see that the afternoon breeze had already picked up to a good NW F4 with lumpy waves and many whitecaps so I set sail with a single reef and maybe just over half of the genoa unfurled. As we left the shelter of the bay we healed over dramatically and uncomfortably. After a few minutes it was clear nobody was enjoying the spray dashing over the bow and the rate of progress was a mere couple of knots so I took in the second reef, furled the genoa completely and we motor-sailed back to CAYC in two hours. We recovered Morwenna onto her trailer and stowed the mast as we had a snack lunch and finally drove over to our friends' house. Kirsten and Dave had responded kindly to our plea for an air-conditioned place to sleep and we shared a very pleasant evening over a bottle of wine and a Chinese take-away - thanks guys!
Distance run 10.9NM, total this trip 35.3NM, total in Morwenna 234.7NM
Monday 12th October.
Since our hosts had to be up early for work and we had a long way to go too, we decided to get up and get going in the morning. There was also the revelation that Robert did actually have homework to finish that he hadn't told us about, so we thought it better to get back home sooner rather than later. We set off at 0930 and arrive home at 1445, so 5½ hrs to cover 422km (262miles) including the border crossing which took ½ hour - not bad really.
The trip was enjoyable in that it was great to get out of Dubai and to get into the beautiful backwaters of Oman. I am having to face up to the fact that the rest of the family don't really enjoy the sailing part that much. What saddens me even more is that as our time here in Dubai is coming to an end in the coming months I will almost certainly have to look for a new owner to look after Morwenna. We'll make the most of the intervening months but it looks like this little experiment is drawing to a close.