Sherborne Qatar’s Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award trip to Al Khor

Departing Thursday 30th Nov, we got away from the marina about 9.00 am and managed to pass the Coastguard quite quickly. Wind was an inconvenient West of North so no chance to use the Spinnaker. We were sailing fast but out toward the North East, due to the large tacking angle of the Catamaran. Much of the morning was spent in finalising planning the food for the trip, getting a few orders into the shops and sampling the food brought on board.

The leg to Al Khor was largely getting the crew into monitoring the course and our progress North, dodging a couple of small sandbanks and then a final spot of motor sailing so that we arrived before it got too dark! The gloom made the long trip under power along the narrow channel into Al Khor interesting, especially the 90 degree turn to port followed immediately by dodging a small island right on the edge of the channel! A Starboard hand channel mark, hard aground on the beach, do not approach closely!!!! Lots of opportunities for young eyes to spot channel markers and the vagaries of the channel edge, all the time while one of their own is steering trying to stay in the deep water, well done Alejandra.

Docking in Al Khor has its own challenges, first finding a space big enough for the boat, then negotiating the very narrow approach channel, you have to line up with the boat hoist out in the main fairway before driving into the channel, always knowing that no more than a boat length away is the edge of the channel, and the bottom is very, very hard! Then there is the well meaning fishermen waiting to take your lines, not realising that the students are there to learn and use skills recently learned! However, all was managed with much negotiating good manners and some humour! Then it was finished with engines, a quick chat with the coastguards who are always welcoming in Al Khor and off to the Hotel.

We had a lovely meal and gave the crew a chance to recover from the days sailing, the longest the crew had spent on the boat to date. Tasks were set, navigational planning, final tweaks to the shopping list, all in all a pleasant evening spent in the marvellous Al Sultan Beach resort.

Friday morning dawned bright and windy so a review of the weather to be expected, then the shopping team got together while the rest completed their planning based on the weather forecast, and got started on the packing!

‘Pot Noodles’ re-appeared on the menu with the line, ‘Everybody loves Pot Noodles’! There was a certain amount of surprise when Mr Grover fell about laughing followed by an explanation that not everyone loves pot noodles, especially sailors of a certain age!

We undocked in al Khor and motored back down the harbour while the guys were packing stuff away, preparing to hoist sails and making decisions about how much sail to hoist. A few reminders how to do things, then up with the sails, engines off and we’re on our way, heading east towards Halul island. Speed was great, 6 knots was average on previous trips, but we’re doing excess of 6 knots, 7 and 8 knots regularly seen on the chart plotter. The result being that we arrived at the island about 6.30 pm, 3 hours ahead of previous trips!

Rounding the island was interesting, roused by the crew who were concerned by some odd calls on the VHF to turn ‘Now’ and a dark area, which looked very boat like! Caught between the boat and the island, which we didn’t want to approach too closely in case some security people got a bit concerned, we negotiated the gap well, again thanks to young eyes and some good careful manoeuvring. Then we were off again, heading South West to avoid an exclusion area around some oil installations then onward toward the South at great speed now we had the wind behind us, but still with reduced sails given the strong winds.

The strong winds and the direction meant that an amendment to the original plan had to be considered if we were to get to Banana Island at a reasonable hour. So a lesson in improvising followed with the all important lesson when at sea, consider other options when the situation changes. So we altered course to pass South of Rubble Tower and head in toward Messaieed. This would bring us closer to the shore sooner and hopefully give us better angles for getting back North. The initial bit didn’t work out too well, but as we the day wore on better decisions were made as to when to tack and what direction we should take and we slowly made our way toward Banana Island, but a long day of tacking left everyone very tired and wet. Even big Catamarans take water over the cabin and into the cockpit!

We made it into Banana Island and motored into the marina as the sun was setting. As always, the team there were ready to greet us and looked after us with much thought and attention.

Once tied up, it was off to the showers, much discussion of why everyone was wobbling when back on dry land and why I didn’t and they did! Followed by inner ear explanations! Then it was dinner at the restaurant, the food was wonderful and great service from the staff. Then back to the boat to get some sleep ready for the early start.

Final day started early, certain members of the crew needing a bit more of a push than others. Then it was up and out of the marina, sails up, done carefully and again with reduced sails due to the strong winds. Once again the weather had forced a change of plans, so another trip to Rubble Tower was substituted by a short trip South, followed by the long beat against the wind back to Doha. Again much plotting and planning ensued, with others of the crew getting involved and successfully bringing us into the bay and back to the Coastguard station.

My congratulations to the crew on getting me round in one piece as well as feeding me at various points on the journey. I trust they have all stopped rocking and rolling while on dry land!!!