International Award Diary

Looking back on the completion of the first Duke of Edinburgh International award trip, I can’t help comparing my first long trip with what this group of teenagers have achieved! Mine was a relatively straight forward trip helping to move a 67 foot, 42 ton steel racing yacht from London’s St Catherine’s to Southampton whereas these 6 teenagers sailed from Doha to Abu Dhabi and back.

Having left the marina in the four seasons mid morning and cleared customs we got started on the journey proper, sailing out of Doha Bay heading Easterly due to a brisk South Easterly wind. This we maintained for the rest of the day and a good chunk of the night, hoping to get East of the Al Wakra Fishing fleet! We turned south, thinking we had achieved this only to find ourselves amongst a small group of boats so we altered course back to the north to clear the area before heading east again!

The following day, while enjoying a lovely sail heading south past the island of Jazirat Das, we had a visit from the local coastguard to check on who we were and where we were going and then a second boat caught up with us while passing North of the island of Jazirat Zarakkun, they followed us, waved, asked if we had enough water and food, then left us to sail on.

After navigating around various exclusion zones through the night we arrived outside Abu Dhabi just in time for breakfast. The process of immigration took longer than expected but once completed we made our way onto the Abu Dhabi Sailing Club pontoon near a fleet of traditional racing Dhows! Lovely looking wooden boats, but by this time the novelty of such nice craft was slightly lost on a tired crew!

Once the team made it to the hotel and washed off with warm showers it was down to planning the return trip, one group washing the food storage boxes out, one group shopping for food and one navigating the return headings.

Early next morning and we depart Abu Dhabi bound for Doha, light winds to start with and then some good sailing during the first night. Then the wind rises causing some sail changes followed by reefing and we’re down to the storm jib and 2 reefs in the main as the wind rises and shift to North West!

There follows 18 hours of powerful, exciting sailing through heavy seas and strong winds! Well done to Lauren and Jo who shared much of the steering in very trying conditions!

The team was glad to see the lights of Doha and to sail into the shelter of land, although getting through offshore anchorages was a challenge but the team found their way to the coastguard barge very well.

I’m not sure the team of young adults realise how well they did, but having completed a number of Ocean passages myself, they acquitted themselves remarkably well compared to crews who were on larger vessels with greater experience! Would, I repeat such a voyage with this group? Yes!! No doubts in my mind, a job well done!