This was our first experience of convoy sailing and we were a group of 4 yachts leaving the Marina.
For us it was rather slow, because for a change we were one of the faster boats! I know many will not believe this but we had to learn a new skill of trying to slow the boat down under sail rather than the usual struggle of getting the boat to go faster.
On 11th march we met with our lead boat “Alondra “off the Omani coast. They had sailed up from Cochin where they had been delayed for gear box repairs. This was a very happy reunion for them and us. All was well until later that night when 2 boats were caught on fishing lines, how we were not I will never know. We did cross one but were going quite fast so we seemed to slip over it. The two skippers had to descend into the inky black water and free their boats which they did successfully. Both agreed it was a very unpleasant experience and one best not repeated and certainly one we were delighted to have avoided at least on this occasion.
The following morning Alondra took over the lead of the convoy which made things run more smoothly; convoy sailing is a lot more difficult than one might imagine. The next evening we narrowly avoided more fishing lines. There was no wind so motoring was the order of the day and night which is actually easier in convoy but rather wearing on us to say nothing of the motor.
The next two days there was some wind so it was a pleasure to be sailing but not always relaxing trying to avoid the other yachts and keep up or drop back depending on conditions and relative positions. Our route took is off shore around Mazeera island as the inland passage was deemed to be too shallow. We then crossed another large bay and went inland of Hallanyia island where we had really good wind and we were allowed free sailing as we were close inshore and it was fairly safe. Of course we still had to wait for the slowest boat and avoid any collisions and as distance is very hard to judge at night one often arrived very close to the stern of another boat a lot more quickly than expected.
At dawn on 15.3.2011 we rounded the last headland before Salalah and in the daylight could see all the yachts clearly and were able to regroup very easily. The dawn was magnificent and the coast dramatic in the dawn light ,so many different colours in the rock and exotically shaped mountains and cliffs. It is very barren not a green leaf to be seen but breathtakingly beautiful.
We arrived in Salalah port at dusk and were led in like duckliings behind our leader to anchor behind the breakwater opposite all the cranes unloading cargo vessels still working late into the night. Our problems then started with our anchor windlass not working again! There was no power going to the motor so there was an unpleasant silence whenever I pressed the down button. It was a nice calm night and we anchored far away from the other boats as John managed to get the anchor down manually. But more trouble was in store because around 4.00 am a very strong wind blew with accompanying sandstorm and we started to drag ever closer to the breakwater-a first for us but we had omitted to use the anchor buddy as we were in a port and it had been so calm when we arrived. We obviously could not raise the anchor against such a very strong wind so we let out a little more chain as much as the snubbers and the breakwater astern would allow and started a vigilant anchor watch. As day dawned other boats started to move around and it transpired that several had dragged as well as us one large oyster hitting one of our group giving him a rude awakening with a loud bang. We were glad we were not in the general melee close to the other yachts after all. John put his electricians hat on, the magic worked and we had a functioning windlass once more just in the nick of time to weigh anchor and move into the inner harbour where a place had been arranged for us by our leader. The whole morning was spent getting moored stern to a wall in rather a tight space between several other boats, but amazingly much needed help appeared from the other boats as the long warps from the stern are very heavy and need to be taken ashore by dinghy.
After laying the anchor for a second time we were finally organized and feeling rather exhausted so had to retire for a long siesta pondering how all these seemingly impossible situations arise despite our best efforts to avoid them.
We are now doing the usual round of jobs and trying to see something of Salalah .We have hired a car a bargain here and fuel is very cheap as well .We have explored the unspoiled coast and sampled the luxury of the Crowne Plaza and Hiltons hotels!
Our onward plan seems to be sailing in a convoy of 9 yachts along the coast to Aden with a possible rest stop in Mukalla which I think will be needed .Departure could be Sunday 20th march.
So watch this blog!
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