Another ship delivery journey: this time to transport two STU 2208 tug boats (the two Arabians) from Gorinchem to Abu Dhabi via the Suez Canal.
On Monday 19 May, we boarded in Gorinchem. The Arabian Tahr crew was provided by TOS, the Arabian Oryx crew was provided by a different employment agency. After a round of introductions we set to work, taking off the tyres, preparing for the journey, installing sat-coms, bringing stores on board, etc. By offering each other a helping hand where needed, everything was pretty much in place by Tuesday afternoon and there was time left over for a farewell barbeque with both crews, Michael and his wife and Johan, the customer. The evening was a success andit was a great start to the drop-off journey.
On Wednesday 21 May, the last things were brought on board, the mast was raised and at 11 am we set sail for the open sea viaRotterdam.
After a calm first 24 hours, things became less comfortable in theEnglish Channel. While the bad weather was not extreme, in a small boat of 22 metres, we had soon had quite enough, but the bad weather persisted all the way through the Bay of Biscay anditonly calmed down once we had passedLisbon. Thenitwas time for our first barbecue at sea. Two boats sailing alongside one another not only provides great company,itmakes a pretty picture too.
The leg from Lisbon to Malta was calm, with good weather and lots of dolphins – just like the holiday brochures! After 14 days at sea we set sail for Valletta for our first bunker stop. We had another fun evening with the Oryx crew and after a good night’s sleep we set sail early in the morning for the Suez Canal (also known as the Marlboro Canal).
After a smooth crossing, we dropped anchor for the night and entered Port Said for the Suez measurement. At the pilot station the pilots were taken on board and after a friendly ‘Welcome to Port Said’, we were in for at least half an hour of complaining about the presents and Marlboro cartons. Whatever you give them, it is never enough. If you give them two cartons, they want four. Give them four and they want eight. And if you knew how much they had done for you, you would give them much more. So what does a pilot do? What they do is loud and clear, that is bark so loudly into the radio that you wonder whether the radio is actually necessary. Not only that, they get hungry and thirsty an awful lot.
After an hour anchored on the Bitter Lakes, the last pilots finally went ashore at the end of the afternoon. Then we still had to bunker and that did not go without incident either, what with couplings that did not fit, water in the fuel and more begging for presents. But we survived this too and continued on our journey with full tanks. Fortunately the weather was calm, so we had a chance to recover from our adventures on the Suez.
The weather gods were on our side for the entire stretch through theRed Sea, providing another good opportunity to have a barbeque with Jan’s famous T‑bone steaks. We enjoyed the barbecue while we still could, before entering theGulf of Aden, which is a high-risk area for piracy. It was on everyone’s mind. For this stretch, the watch was doubled, the Oryx sailed as close to us as possible andit was full steam ahead. We hoped to reach the other side of this nasty area safely and as soon as possible.
Fortunately, after a couple of tense days we left the area without incident and set sail for Port Salalah, our last bunker stop. It did not take long for us to bunker there and we soon left, headed for Abu Dhabi. The weather was on our side for the last leg of the journey too, and without the fear of pirates we were able to enjoy it once again.
Once we arrived, we hung the tyres back up and handed over the ships to the new crews. We marked the end of the journey with one last barbecue on the final evening. The next day we flew home after 28 days at sea, exhausted but happy. Time for a holiday!