Last night when I asked David Ross, a single-hander, in the Oasis Club in Oman, how his trip round the world was going, his reply went instantly to the question of pirates.
Shouting over the noise of the carousing yachties and locals eating and drinking in the background, David explained. ‘Well, we think we have things much more under control this year. All the boats are going in convoys. I came to Salalah here in Oman just to join a convoy.
‘Last year there was some trouble with those two American boats. Everyone knows about that - but there’s a feeling that nothing is worse this year. Every two to four hours we hear the Coalition Warships challenging ships, and if we can hear them then they would hear us if we called.
‘The convoys are VERY well organised. Secret waypoints, strict rules about radio talk on the VHF and HF. EVERY boat that’s leaving is in convoy about six boats left on Thursday. And if there’s a pirate attack, each boat has a different role to play; they’re very well organised.
'Co-operation is great too - we have every nationality here - more Americans than anything, but there are Canadians and English, Australians and New Zealander, lotta boats from Europe...'
David is a Canadian, but set out from the United Kingdom three years ago for his solo circumnavigation. The reformed insurance broker had always had sailing as his 'Plan B' since he started in the sport at 16, being a casual crew on friends' boats. Based later in the UK, he had also sailed around the Mediterranean before taking the big leap to do a circumnavigation He took a crew only for the first leg, and has been happily sailing solo since then.
He’s sailing a 35foot Halberg Rassi called Neeltje(Pictured). When you ask him how long he will keep sailing, his answer is fairly typical: 'Until I reach the next port.' However, he also says he now can't imagine living any other way. Super-friendly like most Canadians, David is having a great experience, and likes Oman. ‘This is my first experience of Arabia, and the people here are really friendly; all our yachts headed for the Red Sea arrive within a few weeks of each other, and the Port of Salalah has been great the way they have looked after us.'
Well, it’s good that David is enjoying a little hospitality. The Oasis Club is very well named. In a country where drinking alcohol is forbidden, and the food is strange to the western palate, this club has been put there as part of the Port facilities, a haven of western food and familiar drinks from the bar. Between here and Abu Tig in Egypt, both poverty and the Muslim rules against drinking will mean there are no such familiar ‘oases'.
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