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You would think that an island nation would have a tradition of sailing but there is very little here. For a Brit used to the cold waters of the Solent & English Channel though sailing here is magic. On Saturday we crewed on “Tradewind” a 26 foot American built yacht with a lifting centreboard.

Initially the plan was to meet early at the yacht club and sail north between the mainland and the off lying reef to Amwaj where the Bahrain Boatshow was open each evening between 5 and 11pm over the weekend. The first part we all managed. Dom & Lola owners of Tradewind met Kevin and I at the yacht club around 7:30 despite having had a late night there on Friday for a Cruisers Dinner. Listening to the weather forecast and looking at the actual conditions convinced us that something was up. The forecast was for near gale force gusts, the sky we could see looked like dusk, red-yellow with sand, visibility falling all the time and little wind. It felt stormy so the concensus was not to embark on the five or six hour trip but rather to head out into the bay for a “bit of a sail”.

Provisioning was done by having bacon & egg toasted sarnies for breakfast and ordering sandwiches, some chicken satay and a plate of salad to go from the yacht club kitchen. Bottled water and ice to cool the beer were added to our provisions and off we went. The fifth crew member was Eammon who we’d convinced not to sail his own boat and the sixth Jango, Dom & Lola’s dog.

At first we alternated drifting with some slow sailing as the wind blew gently from one direction, stopped and then came back from a different one. The refineries and smelting works slowly disappeared in the dust haze. It wasn’t too hot, just pleasant. The water was milky-white rather than pale blue. Tradewind navigated the reefs off the yacht club with everyone trying to explain to me as the first timer the route out. I think you simply need to follow the red and green posts and then keep the rest of the posts on your port side to avoid the reefs.

After an hour or so we reached Tadpole, a small coral reef and sand bar resembling its name a few miles off Bahrain. The anchor went down in water we could stand up in. Just as I’d always imagined its great having a shallow draught boat! A friend and myself back in the UK always said we’d like a Cornish Shrimper so we could dry out in muddy creeks – this was one step better with warm water and sand underfoot. A shallow dive or a few steps down the ladder and we were swimming in the warm sea. Lola caught up on her sleep in the forepeak as she had recently worked a night shift at Gulf Air and the previous night’s exertions had caught up with her. The breeze was chilly so once we’d tired of swmming Kevin, Eammon and myself lounged in 18 inches or so of water on the sand bar and chatted until Dom had completed scrubbing the bottom of the boat.

Lunch was a little odd as the satay came with, by then, luke warm chips which we dipped in the pots of satay sauce. Just as our feasting was drawing to an end two other boats we’d watched sailing out of the yacht club arrived. Anchors down either side of Tradwind and then rafted together. Jango eyed up George the dog but decided it was too difficult to reach him on his boat to continue doggie relations, I gather they are not best mates.

A few beers later and it was time to leave, the crews returned to their correct boats, the raft pulled apart and anchors hoisted. Now three boats heading in the same direction will always turn into a race so in the by now stiff breeze all three boats piled on sail reaching back at a smart pace to the yacht club. Tradewind, leaving the anchorage last was unable to quite catch the other two. Touch and Go flew her spinnaker for part of the trip back.

After showers back in Juffair the four of us finally caught up with our plan and headed to the boat show. It was mostly large motor boats but none-the-less had drawn the crowds and so we hope the show will improve the locals desire to get on the water. The Pindar team were out in force. One yacht club member had actually managed to sail there – his boat dwarfed between two motor boats on the outer pontoon of the marina! An hour or so later saw us having pre-supper drinks at BYC member Rob’s Floating Island house (a waterside location on  reclaimed islands of Amwaj on the north east coast of Bahrain) and then onto a nearby resturant which will remain nameless for an evening of poor service and ok food…

Me to waitress “we’d like a bottle of this white wine please?” Waitress “ok”, ten minutes later, “sorry we don’t have that one”. Me, selecting the next one on the list of three bottles, “Can we have this one then?” Waitress disappears, ten minutes or more she is collared as she walks past “Excuse me we ordered some white wine too”. Sometime later she informs us that they don’t have that one either but how about the last one in the list, this is more than twice the price at 34 BHD (£60). Me “no way, can we have a bottle of house white please?” A long wait later and it finally arrives, Dom & Kevin didn’t fare much better with their order for red. Paul & Janet (Touch and Go’s owners) who had joined us couldn’t understand it – they had visited the bar here the night before and the service from the bar staff had been fine. It seems it was the waiting staff as the food order was similarly slow and our meals not as impressive as the menu and prices might imply. One to avoid in future which is a shame as the decor was great, slightly funky modern with mostly glass walls giving onto a magical setting by the water at night. However like the low table of almost burnt down candles and wilting flowers in individual glass vases on the way to the loos it’s a great idea but lacks attention to detail.