The last twenty four hours of open Indian Ocean threw weather at us that could politely be termed “none too kind”, with winds gusting up to thirty knots and freak waves slapping against the hull at a regular frequency, drenching those downwind in the spray. I’m lucky in that I’m not affected by sea sickness, but even moving around, let alone putting the kettle on for a cuppa, becomes not only a difficult, but also a bit of a dangerous affair.
We were all the more pleased to find the wind dying with the night and were greeted with a tranquil sea and gentle breeze as the sun rose. Even better, we could make out through the dawn dust haze, the cliffs of Ras Al Hadd. What a welcome sight; we’d completed the blue water part of the passage, and now have just a two day jaunt along the Oman coast to Fujairah.
We suddenly feel a lot more ‘plugged in’. Ships to and from the Arabian Gulf converge and diverge at Ras Al Hadd, to a point where they are separated by a Traffic Separation Scheme- a ship highway if you will. The VHF radio crackles constantly with the chatter of super tankers and the like avoiding each other, immature obscenities muttered by bored seamen, and the Iranian coastguard questioning the intention of vessels many miles from their shores in the middle of the Gulf of Oman. Airplanes overhead have also become much more frequent.
I’ve come to realise that the maximum passage length I enjoy is about six days. After that, the monotony gets to me. I also don’t enjoy the almost helpless feeling of dealing with the weather. You’ll never get an accurate forecast for a two week or so passage, so you are resigned that you have to take whatever is thrown at you. Sometimes it’s too much wind... sometimes, not enough. There’s no getting off the ride after it starts.
We passed close to Muscat today. It’s a town we’ve visited many times, and enjoy its tranquil appeal. It feels completely different from the sea though, and one is immediately aware of the defence possibilities of its squeezed-between-the-hills-and-sea location, presumably one of the original reasons for its placement. The old Portuguese fort, many guard towers and the current presidential palace look fantastic from the sea, whilst the old centre of Mutrah, commercial hub of Ruwi, and the suburban sprawl towards Seeb are surprisingly little visible.
Spirits on board are now up, with the end in sight. We should arrive in Fujairah tomorrow afternoon. Helen has promised to meet me there with cold beer in hand. Needless to say, the final bottle of Champagne is also in the cooler...