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The Isokratia Voyage update 12th March 2007 Arriving at Salalah in Oman

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The Isokratia Voyage update   12th March 2007

 Arriving  at Salalah in Oman  

Yes, we made it to Salalah, in Oman at 08.50 on the 12th of March 2007!

It was an experience!.

Because the spare fuel we had on board was from Thailand ( Yacht Heaven Marina) when we tried to use it the engine and the generator refused to operate on it and kept switching off.

That meant we will not have enough fuel to get to Salalah!. The fridge freezer had to maintain or we will have to throw away some of our frozen meat! So we had to start on a mission of cleaning as  much fuel as possible from the contaminated one. Then mix it with some petrol to make it burn.

It was night time and our prayers for wind were answered on the wrong moment and time.

The winds became strong 20 to 24 knots. Good for having sails up. But we could not put the sails up because that would have put immense pressure on the rudders which we had tight down to central position.  The current decided to get stronger as well and this time was against our direction.

The boat was vibrating because we were dragging the rudders . The sea swell kept lifting up with waves reaching three to 4 meters. Concerns about braking the rudders. Our manual steering stainless steel arms 15mm thick  started bending!

Yet we had to clean the fuel. Manually pumping it out of one tank  into  water bottles which are see through. Then waiting for water and dirt to drop to the bottom then pump out the top part which was cleanest, then pour that into the other tank. Hours  & hours hard work swimming in diesel! We did it. Out of 200 litres we salvaged about 80 litres.

We got the generator running immediately to charge the batteries. I left George on watch and went to sleep for an hour. As soon as my head hit the pillow I felt the boat swing one direction. Then it happened. Dad wake up! George shouted.

We got caught in a big surface water fish nets. The fish boat I had on my bows and which I had to change my course to pass him as far as possible was laying his miles of nets. Surface water nets. Luckily if you can call it luck, the nets when we hit them with our front bows they went below the hulls then below the keel and so they were pushed just inches below our propeller . They missed the propeller which if did not it will have been major problem and got stuck on our long rudder.

Emergency we call out both Mark and Jui. George asked what do we do. Is their ethics we have to go by. I replied, “Ethics? We may get to Salalah we may not with the fuel we have. We operate emergency manual steering.  The currents are pushing us back fast. We are all exhausted. We cut the bloody nets and goâ€?.

Mark just came up also confirmed that this is what he will do as well. We felt sorry for the fishing boat. These are miles and miles of expensive nets. But they could have called us on the VHF and warned us. Give us the position of the nets so we  could go around them. They did not. They could have mark their nets with high flags for passing boats to see. They did not. So I had no hesitation. I send Jui in the water with a knife and he cat the nets and we were under way again. It took us another 10 to 15 minutes to steer to our course with the emergency tillers.  The currents were getting very strong 3 to 4 knots if not more, the winds even stronger. With one rudder fixed in center and trying to steer manually with the port rudder it is extremely difficult to get the boat out of the current and wind  effect.

It was by now 03.30 am !

I instructed Chrysta to stay up and help George look for more fishing boats and more nets and I lay down on the settee to be ready on a call out in emergency. I went straight into a deep sleep. But a very short one.  Within 5 to 10 minutes shouting again. We got caught into more nets. This time two rows going on for ever long. We kept cutting and cutting and never been able to get out. We were surrounded by net left , right, front and back. The irony was that the nets were full of fish!!

Jui  had to dive again. More cutting. Then we had to manoeuvre our. Reverse and forward and reverse and right and left. They laid their nets in a double S shape and then a circle and were in the middle. Another 45 minutes before we got out of this trap. We passed the more busy fish boat area in South China s ea. Virtually thousands of fishing boats and we managed to escape not get caught in the nets. Here we went into the biggest fish net trap there could be.

Meanwhile the starboard manual emergency rudder started bending from the pressure on it. The fuel just about to take us or not. Then the agony what do we do when we arrive. Do we anchor outside and go and see the space inside he port? Could we manoeuvre with broken steering?  Would we need a tag boat. They are expensive mamas starting from $4000.00 for the simple tag  in.

Mark felt confident we can go in. We call the harbour authorities and they said there is plenty of space . Only 6 sailing boats in. We made a plan to have George on one rudder and Jui on the other. Mark will be on the helm, Chrysta on the anchor winch and I will coordinate them and fill in where ever needed.

Surprise , surprise, we went in very slowly. No ships in and out. Plenty of space to manoeuvre slowly we were given anchorage position and dropped anchor straight away.

We went through all the procedures, appointing an agent, customs, police, immigration. And went out the night to an Oasis ex pats restaurant recommended by the marine books. What an oasis. A few palm trees. What a special restaurant! An English pub with food. I hate the smell of tobacco, and dampness of pubs. The menu was impressive but all the good meals were not available. But we were also celebrating Mark’s 34th or was it 43 birthday! He claims to be dyslexic when it comes to his age.

Even the bear though alcoholic was not tasteful. Passed 11.00 pm they refused to serve us the apple pie and ice-cream. Just as well. What we h ad was enough poison. Both me and Chrysta had stomach problems and massive migraines from the food we eat.

The day after  we had the engineers come to repair the steering. A bunch of them.  All day long, the big chief come along as well . They tried very hard. But the problem is still not solved. I will give them until tomorrow. If by then the problem is not resolved I will fly in the engineer who fitted the system from Thailand Mr Narong. He is very good man and he will do anything I ask of him.

Hopefully tonight the 13th  it will be better. We are going out to a Lebanese restaurant! The Lebanese restaurant  was OK!! They bring you a Shisha as standard. A shisha is the argyle. The smoking pipe in the Arab countries. No one smoked except our agent Mr Mohammad. Jui was fascinated by the sight of the shisha. George who gave up smoking two weeks ago had a try to see what it is.

15th March and we are still here. The fixed the starboard side steering but not the port side. The hydraulics engineer specialist took our starboard pump and said he repaired it. They are trying to fit it now and see if they can get our steering system going. I called Narong in Thailand and he has no passport to fly out. It will take him at least three days to get the passport. Then he will need a visa! The other alternative in my mind now if the starboard steering pump is not working is to fly in a new one. But it will take time as they are made in Canada!!

Finally between the hydraulics engineer and the other engineers they unblocked the steering and got it going. The rudder was not center though and not aligned between the two. They could not do it. Pone call to Thailand Mr Narong he gave us some instructions and we aligned the rudders all set to go.

We instructed Mohammed Saad , our agent in Salalah port to get clearance from port authorities customs and immigration. Ready to depart tomorrow morning 16th. Mohammed has been excellent, excellent. His charges extremely low. I told him he was a full. He worked hard, did everything for us. Negotiated saving us hundreds of dollars. Drove us around all day and all night for 4 days and the charged us only 40 rials.  About US $ 100.00.

He drove me and George  to town for last minute shopping whilst his assistant drove Chrysta to town.

George was not feeling well all day. By the time we reached town George was really unwell. Mohammed swiftly took us to a clinic cancelling his evening appointments again. Waited for an hour to get blood test results which showed George having salmonella  food poison and mild urine infection. WE were ready to postponed departure until George felt well. But the doctor was good. A nice big injection and George was up and running in full spirit in no time. A bag of other medicine to taker and doctor clears him to travel.

This is my nightmare. Not to get crew seriously sick in sea to the level to require medical attention. We decided enough is enough. We will not eat out to restaurants from now on until we reach Cyprus. Chrysta’s cooking is best and is guarantee not to be poisonous!

16th M\arch 2007 Friday

Mohammad our agent in  Salalah did his miracles again. Despite being Friday which is the main holiday day of the week and prayers day he spend all day with us. More shopping, harbour control paperwork. Immigration requested to physically see each person so Mohammed drove us to customs. We had to wait for an hour for a container boat to clear the channel before we were given the green light to depart.

Finally at 17.39 we departed. I left George drive the boat our of the mooring position. A very tight place to manoeuvre. His first time as well. But despite Chrysta’s concern George drove the boat out smoothly, manure it smoothly  and took us out of the channel and onto our course.

We plan to stop at either Aden or Djibouti although we prefer Djibouti because it offers better survived, facilities, shopping and is not restrictive as Aden.

Next update hopefully will be when we reach Djibouti at which time we will also announce the release of  part 3 of Isokratia the new socio governing system.

Chris Neophytou

Salalah port Oman 
16th  March 2007 

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