Food & wine

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As part of the cruise we were entitled to a complimentary visit to a specialist restaurant. Not being a great fan of Italian food or fish, I voted for the Crown Grill. In addition, we had a voucher for a bottle of wine not to exceed $70 (AUD). I’d never bought a bottle of anywhere near $70, so this was an experience. I managed to find a Calrendon Hill, syrah for $70, which was one of the cheaper wines . . . .

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Crown Grill Ruby Princess – picture off the internet, mine didn’t come out!

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Black tiger prawns as an appetizer.

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Goats cheese salad followed by

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Black & Blue onion soup, which included Jack Daniels . . .

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For me the pièce de résistance,
an 8 oz filet mignon, medium / rare cooked to perfection.
I used the goats cheese salad to accompany the meat.

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A light pudding, one must watch one’s weight . . .

Overall, we enjoyed the meal, but later on I’ll make a comparison with another specialty restaurant.

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Samples of a few dishes from the main dining room – every evening we had a two page menu, which allowed me to try various items that I might not try from a restaurant close to home. From memory the above is a shellfish terrine with prawns & scallops as a starter.

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An Asian dish – Singapore or Thai noodles with tofu (the white bits), and chicken.

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A prawn main dish – although we had three or four dishes for dinner, the amount of food for each dish was not excessive, so at the end of the meal one didn’t feel over full. Portion control also controlled my weight.

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Grapefruit scallop salad as a starter – nice and tangy.

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​Prosciutto with melon, but I can not remember the sauce.

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Well presented and colourful

The main dining room menu covered ‘Starters’, Soups & Salads, Mains and a separate menu for sweets & puddings.

Later we decided to try Curtis Stone’s – Share- restaurant, which was the second specialty restaurant. The extra cost was $35.00 AUD, ($29 USD) per person. The dinner would be six courses, without wine unless you took your own or bought it from the wine list.

Princess Cruises operate a system that you can board with a bottle of wine for each person in your party (adults) free of surcharges, if the wine is drunk in your cabin. You are permitted to take additional bottles at the time of boarding for a ‘corkage fee’ off $15 AUD per bottle, which is what we did and boarded with two bottles each and I paid $30 corkage. By paying the corkage I could take the bottle to any restaurant and ask them to serve it during the meal. If I didn’t finish the bottle it would be stored for the following evening in the ship’s store ID’d with our cabin number and ship’s card number.

Having experienced the $70 bottle at the Grill I produced my $10 bottle ($25 after paying corkage) for the Curtis Stone evening.

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I only hope Paul Mas was pleased  . . .

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Entrance to the Curtis Stone Sharing – reception was behind the glass case on the right.

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This picture thanks to our friends with whom we were travelling.

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Inside the restaurant – it was a very pleasant ambiance and the lady who served us was excellent, she answered all our questions and explained the choices and the dishes that we picked – don’t forget we had six courses to pick.

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We could have been in any good restaurant in Sydney, plenty of space between the tables.

course one STARTER

Charcuterie
’Nduja is a spicy, spreadable salami that comes from the southernmost Italian region of Calabria.
Cured from prosciutto, with prominent chilies and spices.
Choice of beef bresaola, duck prosciutto, or fennel-infused finocchiona.
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course two SALAD

Tomatoes and Burrata
A variety of local tomatoes paired with oregano oil and dressed fennel leaves
Asparagus and Radish
Lightly roasted asparagus with arugula pesto, red bell pepper relish and
sourdough croutons
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course three PASTA–MADE FRESH DAILY

Pork Ravioli
Green curry filling coated in lemongrass cream, and topped with crunchy chicharrones
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Ricotta Cavatelli
Roasted sunchokes, pickled beets and a Castelmagno espuma
I’m not a fan of pasta, but this dish was quite tasty.

course four:
Sea Lobster Bisque: Quick-seared cold-water lobster tail pieces with Madeira crème fraîche and fennel confit
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Once again, not being a fan of shellfish, but enjoyed this dish. One has to be
adventurous’ on holiday . . .

course five
Strip Loin Steak
Charred and sliced New York steak on top of a pomme purée, with braised mushrooms
and a porcini jus
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Medium rare – beautiful.

course six
Almond Marzipan
Warm cake paired with strawberry coulis, candied almonds and crème fraîche ice cream
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Followed by coffee –
Overall a lovely meal that was different (for me that is, thanks to the pasta & shellfish) and I never felt over full.
Quiet music in the background – good company – nice wine, a perfect evening.
We all enjoyed the Curtis Stone restaurant a little more than the Crown Grill.

The idea of the title ‘Share’ is that we would share part of each dish with family & friends – we didn’t Share but stuck to our own choices! Love & friendship only goes so far . . .

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Picture thanks to our friends.

 

 

 

 

 

What’s inside

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In my last posting I promised photographs of the public areas inside the Ruby Princess. This our cabin, on first impressions we thought it was smaller than similar Princess ships cabins.

On a positive note it had plenty of storage space, a standard bathroom, which included the shower, which was one of the best that I’ve experienced on a ship for water pressure. It was easy to control the hot / cold settings.

The balcony was one of the largest that we experienced, which contained a table, two sun lounger chairs and two foot-stools.

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The view from our balcony on boarding.

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and the view from the balcony rail.

DSC05923rA favourite area for a quiet afternoon at sea.

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Crooners Bar, which was larger than the Crooners Bars on other Princess ships in which we sailed. The bar overlooked the atrium, which was smaller than the Majestic Princess (similar size vessel, but different configuration).

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The atrium (called the Piazza) – note the shops  . . .

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Most late afternoons it was very pleasant to sit in the Crooners Bar & hear the string duet – Anima String Duo

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Other evenings after a show, we would listen to Marius Baetica

Our favourite place for a pre-dinner drink was the Wheelhouse Bar – we passed the model as we entered.

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Food and all that . . . Horizon Restaurant, we used this restaurant for breakfast & lunch, it was a buffet style, so one had to be circumspect when filling one’s plate . . .eat as you would at home and you’ll not add the kilos.

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During our exploring period we came across the Skywalkers Nightclub on deck 18. It was a very quiet area, because the bar didn’t open until 10.00 pm.

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A perfect place to sit and read, with perhaps time to sit and consider where the ship was going. As you see it was not a particular popular place before 10.00 pm :- o)

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The main dining-room that we used – Michelangelo Dining Room – we were anytime dining, but if we wanted to see a show at 7.30 pm we had to be the dining room for around 5.00 pm to eat before the show or after 8.30 pm to eat after the show.

5.00 pm may sound very early, but by the time you were seated, and drinks arranged, and you studied the menu it would be 5.30 pm going on to six PM. It was all very quiet and civilised, and nothing was rushed.

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Another shot of the dining room. The head waiter (Stefan) was the perfect person for the job.
Maureen is a coeliac and all her food must be gluten free. Every evening Stefan would show the following day’s menu to Maureen and she would pick the items that she would like, and the items would be produced gluten free for the following day.

One evening we ate in a specialty restaurant and at the end of the meal Stefan arrived with the following day’s menu and his notebook. The specialty restaurant was on deck 16, and the Michelangelo Dining Room (where Stefan worked) was on deck 5. He was always busy, but he never failed to track Maureen down so that she could choose the following day’s meals.

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Another shot of Michelangelo Dining Room.

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During the meal on the final night of the trip the wait staff would enter carrying models of bake Alaska, and all the passengers would greet them by waving their napkins. I tried to take pictures of the waving napkins, but they came out blared.

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The staff with their baked Alaska, all lit of course.

Maureen & I were given a gift of breakfast on the balcony, with Champagne. We picked the day (they staff required 24 hours’ notice) but the day for the breakfast turned out to be windy and not all that warm.
The waiter arrived and realised that it was too windy outside so he brought the outside table in and laid it for breakfast. Everything was just so  . . .
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DSC05996rThe whole occasion was very well done and we had plenty of food – in the end it was more than we would normally eat for breakfast.   :- o)

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This was the ‘starter’, smoked salmon – followed by cereal, and eggs . . . it was an enjoyable experience, and of course we didn’t have to tidy up or wash-up!

Moving on to something else, overall there were fourteen bars, and we only managed to visit eight in fourteen days – my school teacher used to say that I should try harder . . .

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The above is the ‘The Mix Bar’ near a pool –

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and for my British readers they had Newcastle Brown on tap, as well as Carlsberg on tap, the only problem was that they ran out of Newcastle Brown before the end of the cruise, and The Mix Bar was the only bar that sold Newcastle Brown.
The cost was $12 (AUD or USD $8.12) for just over a British pint.
The average bottle of beer was AUD $8.75 ($5.92 USD), which included an 18% tip!

Overall the cruise was a very relaxing time and the food was better than we have experienced in some other Princess cruises.

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I took a photograph of a sign on a market stall in Fiji, which summed up the cruise.

 

 

 

A painted ship . . .

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Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship

Upon a painted ocean.

The quote is from The Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge,
and the ship is Ruby Princess.

When I took the photograph, Ruby Princess was at anchor off Dravuni Island, Fiji.

Launched in 2008, registered in the Bahamas, 3080 passengers, 1200 crew, 19 decks and her tonnage is 113,561.

We never felt crowded, there was plenty of space for everyone, but the only ‘problem’ was that if we wanted to see a show at 7.30 pm, we had to be seated about half an hour before the show started, because all the shows were popular, and the theatre only held 800 people. Each night they had two shows, 7.30 pm & 9.30 pm.

Ruby Princess arrived in Australian waters on the 23rd October 2019, and this season would be her first season of operating out of Australia.
Maureen & I, and our two friends, boarded on the 8th November for a 14-night cruise to Vanuatu, Fiji & New Caledonia.
As usual boarding went smoothly and we were on board by mid-day, perfect timing for lunch.
Drop hand luggage in the cabins and find our way to the Horizon Restaurant for lunch, our main suitcases would be delivered to our cabin during lunch.
The Horizon restaurant was a self-serve buffet, which could be expanded into a cafe area next door, which was called Cafe Caribe.

The combined area was large enough that we never had to wait for a seat. We used the Horizon Restaurant mainly for breakfast and lunch.

I’ll post photographs later of the various dining areas and the internal area of the ship, in the meantime I’ll post a sample of the passenger areas outside.

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The main swimming pool and outside cinema screen – called Movies Under the Stars, which began every day at 10.0 am and ran until late in the evening.
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The same pool from under the giant screen.
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Quite a lot of the public walk areas on the upper decks had false grass, which helped to be non-slip when wet.
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Part of certain public areas were above the bridge – this picture shows the starboard bridge wing.
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Passengers had access to the area above the bridge.
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Sports areas – this is the basketball area / come whatever you wanted to play. Fortunately I never had the urge to take part in any exercise except walking for about half an hour after breakfast.
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During one walk we managed to get close to the funnel area.
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A lot has changed since I was at sea in the 1960’s  . . .
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A shot of the funnel that we all see.
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At the highest point that a passenger could get there was a walking track – the above shows the put-put golf area.
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The walking track is on the right side of the picture and if you walked around 14 (or was it 16), times you would have walked a mile.
I was happy to believe the noticeboard and not to try and prove them wrong.
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Looking down to the stern and another hot tube and pool. There were a number of hot tubs, but the pools all seemed to be close to a bar . . . . I took my swimming costume, but it never got it wet – well I can’t swim and hold a beer at the same time.
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Play area for children – I don’t think we saw more than about eight or ten children during the cruise, because it was school time in both Australia & New Zealand. We did have passengers from the US, the UK, Canada and of course New Zealand, but the majority were Australian.
Some of the Americans that I spoke to had arrived in Sydney early to ‘do’ Sydney and the surrounding Sydney area, followed by the cruise to the islands.
They would then only transit Sydney at the end of the island cruise and remain on-board for the New Zealand cruise, which was the next cruise destination for Ruby Princess.
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I am assuming that the children’s toy cars are pedal power and not electric powered.

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Plenty of seating for those who wished to watch movies all day. Blankets were provided if you felt chilly.

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The sundeck if you wished to sunbath and watch the movies, or just lie and read.
I took most of the outdoor photographs either on sailing day or the next day and as you see there was haze that I can only put down to the smoke from the large number of fires down the east coast of Australia.
This haze didn’t clear for about three days by which time we were at Lifou, which is a New Caledonia island.

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A painted ship . . . off Dravuni Island, Fiji.

 

 

 

 

Kuwait

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The emblem of Kuwait

Kuwait is about 277 miles north of Dammam, or a short seventeen hour voyage, but far enough away for the weather to have changed for the worse.

We arrived off Kuwait at night during a wild storm with high winds and dashing rain that hammered on the bridge windows. The clear view screen was going flat out.

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The Clear View is a circular area of the bridge window that spins at high speed which doesn’t allow water to ‘grip’ on the glass. As the rest of the bridge windows might be ‘blind’ by sea spray or heavy rain the ‘Clear View’ is always clear for those on the bridge, a limited amount of visibility on this night was in great demand.

Of course, we had to arrive during the midnight to 4.00 am watch, which was my watch, so I had all the fun. We had tugs in attendance, which helped us to ease our way alongside, cargo ship in the 1960’s didn’t have side thrusters to ease a ship into a berth.

People don’t think that it can get cold in the Persian Gulf, but it can, and during my time in the tanker (62- 63) we had ice on the deck after a cold night. Admittedly it didn’t last long once the sun came up, but it was still cold if you were out and about.

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The above is Kuwait in the early 1960’s. I sent this post card home to my parents, so I was surprised that it came to light recently. Obviously, I am a hoarder of the old school.

Kuwait may be on certain people’s bucket list today, but in the mid 60’s it was not a holiday town, and foreigners were there to work, and not holiday.

The smell of oil hung over the whole area and just forty kilometres south of Kuwait was Mina al Ahamadi, which was my first port that I visited on my first ship in 1962, which was the tanker.

Due to its location Kuwait has been a crossroad for trade for thousands of years. Evidence has been found that there was a society living in the area 8,000 years ago. The island of Failaka, which is just of the Kuwait coast, is where the Mesopotamian people settled in 2,000 BC.

In 400 BC the Greeks, under Alexander the Great, colonised the area, and even today the remains of a Greek temple and fort can be seen.

In the fifteen hundred Kuwait was under the control of the Portuguese and they built a defensive settlement.

By the 1700’s Kuwait was part of the trading route from India to Basrah, Baghdad, and on to Constantinople. The British East India Company controlled the sea route from India to Kuwait.

Kuwait became a melting pot of nationalities,and was ethnically diverse & was known for its religious tolerance.

In 1899 Kuwait signed a treaty with the British, granting Great Britain the responsibility of Kuwait’s foreign affairs, and Kuwait became a British protectorate.

In the early 20th century during WW 1 Kuwait supported the Ottoman Empire (the Turks), so Great Britain imposed a trade blockade, which damaged Kuwait’s economy.

As the pearl trade declined a number of prominent families turned to smuggling gold from Kuwait to India, and some became very rich.

In the 1960’s it was not uncommon for sailors to take advantage of the fact that Kuwait was a ‘very’ dry State concerning alcohol.
This created opportunities for some to buy spirits on their ship and to hoard it until they reached Kuwait.
On anchoring to wait for the labour to come out to work cargo, small dhows would arrive at night to buy the liquor, via basket at the end of a rope lowered to the dhow. Of course is was cash in the basket before lowering the alcohol.
The cash was then spent in Kuwait to buy gold jewellery, which the ‘smuggler’ wore, around his neck or as bracelets or rings when he went ashore in Bombay.
He would sell the jewellery & have a good time with the profit, and any cash left over would be exchanged for various currencies, other than Indian rupees, using a foreign passport, and so began the circle once again.

Just to be clear I did not take part in this trade.

After WW1 Saudi Arabia attacked Kuwait, in what is now known as the Kuwait Najd War, which further damaged Kuwait. The Saudi’s wanted to incorporate Kuwait into Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia blockaded Kuwait from 1923 to 1937.

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The above map shows how precarious Kuwait was with Saudi Arabia, Iraq & Iran as potential aggressors. Kuwait is the white area on the map.

Kuwait suffered economically for years until 1938, when they found oil and things changed.
Due to the oil Iraq now claimed Kuwait as part of their territory and offered incentives in support of an uprising in Kuwait, which failed.

The oil revenue helped Kuwait to become the largest exporter of oil in the Gulf at that time, and major public works took place throughout the country.

In 1961 they became independent of Britain when the protectorate ended. Six days after they became independent Iraq resumed its claim that Kuwait belonged to Iraq, which was knocked back by the British, and later also by the Arab League.

The period from 1948 to 1982 is recognised as the Kuwaiti golden age of development.

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A close up of the earlier map – I’ve underlined with green Kuwait – also Abadan, and Basrah, which are both on the Shatt Al-Arab, Abadan is in Iran & Basrah is in Iraq.

After discharging our cargo we sailed for Abadan – we were virtually empty of cargo, our fuel was low and we were still on water rationing, so we had very little weight to allow our propeller to dig in to the water – everything on board shook as the engine struggled to drive us forward because only part of the propeller could be used. Talk about shaking . . .    Shake rattle & roll  it was not just the pots & pans, but the furniture, our bunks, the crockery, everything vibrated, and the vibrations were felt through our bodies, which was not a pleasant feeling because it was constant.

We sailed after lunch and took our time to sail the 120 km (about 70 miles) so as to arrive at the mouth of the Shatt al Arab just after midnight, where we anchored to await the pilot for the river transit.

Being on the midnight to 4.00 am watch I was on anchor watch – the pilot for the river transit was due to board us at 4.00 am.

 

Qatar – Bahrain Island & Dammam.

Everyday Life of Doha in the 1960s (5)

The history of Qatar can be traced back 50,000 years. Throughout history various empires controlled the peninsular on which Doha stands .

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Qatar is the purple bit which is a peninsular, not an island. Manama is the capital of Bahrain and not part of Qatar.

Qatar became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1872, and in 1893 the Ottoman administration imprisoned 16 Qatari leaders. Later a battle took place and the Ottomans lost.
It wasn’t until 1913 that the Ottoman Empire finally renounced sovereignty over Qatar and in 1916 the ruler of Qatar signed a treaty with the British under the Trucial States system. This treaty required the ending of gun running, slavery and piracy by Qatar.

Oil was found in 1938, but due to WW2 it was not exploited until 1949. Qatar suffered from constant unrest for some years and when the British decided to withdraw its military commitment to the area, Qatar became an independent State, it did not join the Trucial States which created the UAE.

We in the Juna arrived in early February 1968 and worked cargo – once again we anchored off and labour came out to us in dhows (see photo at the top of this blog) to unload into cargo dhows, shown below

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Qatar has become the country with the highest per capita income in the world and is regarded as the most advanced Arab state for human development.

They have gone from this –

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to this

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thanks to having the third largest natural gas reserves in the world.

We had one incident while at anchor, one of our engine room oil pumps blew-up and caused a problem for the engine room, which became covered in oil. One of the engineers was injured, but fortunately not seriously.

A short time later we sailed for Bahrain and this time we went alongside, which allowed us to at least walk around on solid ground that didn’t move all the time.

The one thing that sticks in my mind during our visit to Bahrain was that we could buy cold draught beer – called Red Barrel!

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The only place in the Gulf where you could get a cold beer, other than private clubs such as the British Club in Basrah.

Bahrain has belonged to quite a few empires, from the Persian Empire to the Greeks (who used to call the island Tylos), to the Portuguese, the Omani and eventually the British in 1820 when Bahrain signed a treaty of friendship with the British.

Once again it was the advent of oil in 1932 that brought modernisation to Bahrain, and in 1935 the Royal Navy moved its entire Middle Eastern Command for Bushehr in Iran to Bahrain.

Bahrain in 1820 was the first of the Trucial States, but when the Trucial States became independent in 1971, and they created the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain did not join this creation.

Via a referendum, controlled by the UN, Bahrain voted to become an independent country.

After independence the British moved out and the Americans moved in, and they took over the British facilities, which later became the HQ for the US 5th Fleet.

From Bahrain we sailed a short distance to Al-Dammām, in Saudi Arabia, it is also spelt  Damman with an ‘n’, one of my least favourite destinations.
When I tried to find information about Damman, which is what we used to call the port in the 60’s I failed, so I’ll stick with Dammam, which is the capital of the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932, and the area around Dammam lived off pearls and fishing.

In 1936 oil wells were drilled to prove that there were commercial quantities in the Dammam area, and it was well #7 that proved the drillers correct that the area was sitting on a huge ‘lake’ of oil.
More wells were drilled all around Dammam in the 1940’s and 50’s that confirmed that that Dammam was sitting on top of about a quarter of the world’s oil.

A number of times a day one of the officers or a cadet would go on to the quay to check the draught of the Juna.

Each time I went the overpower smell of raw oil would fill my nostrils and take me back to my first, ship which was a tanker.

We carried oil from Mina a Ahmadi in Kuwait to Little Aden in Yemen, sometimes to Europe, and once in mid-winter across the Atlantic to Marcus Hook on the Delaware River near Philadelphia, followed by a back load from Venezuela to Germany.
It took years for me to be free of the taste of crude oil, particularly when I had a bad cough.

At that time the draught was measured in feet and inches – in the illustration below the top left picture shows 27 feet – each figure is six inches high and the gap between each number – 27 to 28 – is 6 inches, so the water level will tell you how much of the ship is underwater at the bow & stern (there were a set of markings at the bow and another set at the stern).

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The above picture shows feet & inches
Since I left the sea the markings are now all metric.

Dammam was ‘dry’, as in the lack of rain & beer, but it was hot, sandy and dry all day and every day, so I doubt that it will ever be on anybody’s ‘bucket list’.

We were only there long enough to unload.

Our next stop would be Kuwait, and their flag is shown below.

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“I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date! (Excuse the pun)

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I’m late I’m late for a very important date.

We still had to call at Doha (Qatar), Dammam (Saudi Arabia), Bahrain Island, Kuwait and finally Basrah (Iraq), which is about 90 miles up the Shatt al-Arab from the Persian Gulf.
The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers meet and become the Shatt-al-Arab and in English this means The River of the Arabs, so if people refer to it at the Shatt-al-Arab river they are actually saying the River of the Arabs River, which is a little odd.
The Shatt-al-Arab marks the border between Iraq and Iran (which used to be called Persia).

I’ve indicated the places mentioned with a coloured line under the name, and I’ve also marked Dubai as a reference point.

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We arrived off Abu Dhabi at 6.00 am and once again we anchored, and the labour came out to us in boats and dhows.

A little about Abu Dhabi in the 1960’s.

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The photograph was taken in 1963 by David Riley, who was working for the British Bank of the Middle East at the time.

Abu Dhabi is a small island a few hundred meters off the coast, and in the early ’60’s the only way to cross was via this causeway at low tide. The two petrol drums mark the beginning of the causeway. It wasn’t until August 1968 (after I’d left the area) that a bridge was opened.

Maqta-75  It was known as the bridge to nowhere, but the proper name is Maqta Bridge. The old causeway was called Al Maqta (which means The Crossing) hence the name of the bridge. It was a symbol that Abu Dhabi was joining the rest of the world.

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I took the above in 2017, and if you wish to read a more detailed post about the 2017 visit to Abu Dhabi please click on this link. The link post is more of the current situation than reminiscences of yesteryear.

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Abu Dhabi airport in 1968, in 1965 the landing strip was hard packed sand.

The cargo work went well and we hoped to make up for lost time until that evening we experienced another shamal, but this one was far stronger than the earlier shamal at Dubai in Dubai.
It whipped up sand and the combination of the wind and the sand would strip paint of parts of the ship. It was similar to sand blasting to remove graffiti in a city, and it you were unfortunate to be outside it was a very painful experience for any exposed skin.
All work had to stop as it was too dangerous to allow the boats carrying the labour to come near the ship because the wind, and the sea would smash the boats against the Juna and more than likely sink them.

For the next six days we worked cargo intermittently due to the shamal stopping and later beginning again. It was not a pleasant time for any of us, and we were still on water rationing.

During our off duty hours, the officers had the opportunity of taking a small boat out to try our luck at shark fishing. It was pleasant in the boat, just sitting and chatting while holding the shark line. The main thing that I caught was sunburn, but we did catch a couple of small sharks, well I helped to drag one into the boat. They were not all that big, perhaps just over a metre, (perhaps four feet).
On returning to the ship we gave the two sharks to the crew who cooked them that evening – the first non-frozen fish that we’d had in months.

For a number of reasons, we were now behind schedule and the captain decided after being anchored off Abu Dhabi for six days, that we would sail at midnight, (the seventh day) even if the cargo work was incomplete. We had to be in Basrah (Iraq) to pick up a thousand tons of dates during harvest time.

The Captain considered that if necessary, we would call at Abu Dhabi on our return.

Oh! the joys of cruising in the Persian Gulf when on water rationing!

Ras al Khaimah – Trucial State

It appears that I have a post out of sequence – after Muscat the post should have been Ras al Khaimah, and then Dubai – please accept my apologies. Too many readers have already read the ‘Dubai’ post to change the sequence.

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Ras al Khaimah from a painting in 1809.

Ras al Khaimah has been inhabited for over 7000 years, one of the few places in the world where this is the case.

The coastal area was also known as the pirate coast. In the 18th century Ras al Khaimah became a major maritime force and had control of areas in Persia and Arabian coast, and frequently came in to contact with British trading vessels.

War broke out between the rulers of Muscat and Ras al Khaimah in the 18th century and in 1763 the ruler of Ras al Khaimah sued for peace.
The peace was later broken in 1775, and the ongoing war brought Ras al Khaimah up against Muscat’s ally, Great Britain.

After a series of attacks by Ras al Khaimah against Sindh (which is in what we now call Pakistan, which did not come about until 1947), the British Authorities in India decided that the raids had to stop.

The British mounted the 1809 campaign, which destroyed much of the Ras al Khaimah fleet, and put a stop to the raids. The British withdrew and it was not until 1815 that a treaty was agreed, but this was broken in 1819.
The British returned and again defeated the ruler of Ras al Khaimah, and the treaty of 1820 put an end to piracy and slavery & removed the ruler of Ras al Khaimah.
This act began the creation of the Trucial States, which has morphed in to the United Arab Emirates that we know today.

The Trucial States name came from the principal sheikhs in the Persian Gulf area that had signed protective treaties with the British – it was known as the ‘truces’ hence the name Trucial States.

Abu Dhabi – 1820 to 1971
Ajman – 1820 to 1971
Dubai – 1835 to 1971
Fujairah – 1952 – 1971
Kalba – 1936 – 1951, when it was re–incorporated into Sharjah in 1952
Ras al Khaimah – 1820 – 1972
Sharjah – 1820 – 1971
Umm Al Quwain – 1820 – 1971

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The above gives you and idea as to how close each of the sheikdoms are to each other.

The first cargo of crude oil left Abu Dhabi in 1962, Dubai commenced exporting oil in 1969, so when I was in this area from 1962 to 1968 it was very different than what you see today.

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The foreshore of Ras al Khaimah during my time.

 

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We anchored off and waited for the dhows to come out, obviously we didn’t require the aide of a tug. I don’t think Ras al Khaimah had any tugs because they didn’t have a port.

Work began as soon as the dhows arrived and within a short time it was night – we were surprised that that work didn’t stop. Being on the mid-night to 4.00 am time seemed to drag as there was little that I could do except watch the labour unloading.

It was about 1.00 am when the wind began to increase.

With a sandy or mud bottom we wouldn’t have had a problem, but the bottom where we had anchored was coral and the flukes of the anchor were unable to dig in to the coral.
I spent the next couple of hours wondering the ship and peering over the side to estimate if we were dragging our anchor.
If we had anchored off a more ‘sophisticated’ coast line I would have taken bearing to confirm or not, if we were dragging.
Off the coast of Ras al Khaimah, the land was a black mass to the west of us, without any lights or navigational points that I could have used.

Fortunately, near the end of my watch, the wind dropped, and I felt easier that I hadn’t woken the captain . . .

I was back on duty the following afternoon, and I think the Captain and first mate were ashore, when I sighted a motor boat approach the ship.
Aboard this boat were a number of well-dressed locals in a mix of European dress and Arabic traditional robes. Our gangway was down to allow the labour to board.

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The picture will give you an idea.

The motorboat hooked on to the gangway and I was asked permission if they could come aboard.
A Lebanese interpreted introduced me to a gentleman is robes as Sheikh Abdullah, (as he was known to the locals), who was the nephew of the then ruler at that time of Ras al Khaimah,  Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammad Al Qassimi. (February 1948 – 27 October 2010).

Sheikh Abdullah was interested in the ship and wanted to practice his English, so I showed His Highness (which was his title, as he was the equivalent of a prince), and his interpreter around the ship, after which I invited him to the bar, which he accepted.
In addition to his royal title he was also the Minister of Education for Ras al Khaimah.

It was an interesting time for me as we spoke of many subjects (excuse the pun), all in English, and occasionally the interpreter jumped in with a quick translation for the Sheikh.

We spoke for a couple of hours and he spoke of the history of his country, and that his family had ruled the area for over 600 years.

He spoke of his ancestors raiding Persia, India and defeating the Portuguese. He also told of his people sending the fleet out against British merchant ships, which caused the British navy to arrive and take over his country.
He assured me that his people no longer attacked British merchant ships, which was nice to know considering I was part of a British merchant ship’s crew.

He didn’t feel any discontent with the British, who had been involved with his country for eighty years, and I think he considered the arrival of the British to be more positive rather than a negative move, because it helped his country to expand their horizons as far as trade, education and modern devices.

As our chat drew to a close he told me that they expected to be drilling for oil within five months, which would change his country once again.

Unfortunately for the Sheikh, we now know that the drilling failed to find any oil. This meant that R.A.K (the abbreviation for Ras al Khaimah) did not become a second Dubai, but it did allow his country to go down a different path, and they have now become popular as a destination for what the area used to be before the glitz of Dubai.

What Ras al Khaimah has also become is a major producer of pearls and ceramics.

R.A.K used to be a major supplier of pearls and had been for a couple of thousand years at least. The Trucial State coastline around 1810 had 3000 pearl boats and by 1900 the number of boats had become 4500.
The pearls didn’t stay in the Gulf area but were exported to Bombay (Mumbai), which was the world centre for trading pearls.
In 1917 the Bank of England considered that a gram of Gulf pearl on the Bombay market was the equivalent of 320 grams of gold or 7.7 kilos of silver.

The inflation of the pearl market was such that Cartier bought a building in New York, for a two-string pearl necklace, valued at that time for about $1.2 million. The same necklace in the 1940’s was sold for $157,000.

All of this started to fail with the discovery of oil, why risk your life diving for a pearls when you can earn good money in the oil industry in other areas of the Trucial States, plus the creation of the Japanese cultured pearls had expanded considerably. The last Gulf pearl fleet sailed in 1949.

If you can’t beat them join them – in 2004 a pearl farm was established in Ras al Khaimah.

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In addition to pearls R.A.K Ceramics is now a global ceramic brand.

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Leave the city behind and go back in time . . .

In 1971, R.A.K joined with other Trucial States to become part of the UAE (United Arab Emirates).

Our next port of call was Dubai, but due to my error I’ve already posted the Dubai blog.