Monday, November 28, 2011

What About Sailing, Two

Like Home, but Tropical

Majestic dhows racing for cash prizes
Last week we looked at the Melges 24 for sale. It was in pretty good condition cosmetically, but it’s an old boat; built in 1996. Mark looked at everything, including crawling inside. On the way home, he told me that although a lot of work has been done to the boat, it’s got some structural and rig problems that all of the Melges 24’s of that era have. I have to say, Mark does his research and when it comes to boats he knows what he’s looking at. We agreed that if we bought the boat, we couldn’t expect to either sell it here or ship it home when we leave. We would probably just have to get rid of it somehow, so it’s probably not worth buying at any price. Paul, the owner, is a pilot and usually flies on the weekends; he doesn’t have time to race. His partner David just bought a Mumm 30. Paul told us his motivation for selling the boat is that it should be out racing. So perhaps he might let us charter it?

We decided to take another look at The Club in Abu Dhabi, to see if we could sail the Melges there.

When choosing a sailing club, there’s a lot to consider. Driving distance is important, but so are the type of sailing events the club hosts, the sailing conditions nearby, docks and boat slips, dry storage and launching facilities, clubhouse facilities such as bar and restaurant, club activities, membership fees, and the overall ambiance. The only way to gather such complex data is to visit clubs and talk to members.

As I have previously written, it hasn’t been easy to gain access. Tom took us to the Club on Friday when they were racing, and after some shenanigans at the gate we were able to get inside and talk with the member who organizes the sailing. We learned a bit more about the program. It’s based on a complex point system, where you earn the right to sail a certain boat based on your level of involvement and your racing record. There are cash prizes for clubs team racing at the international events, and that money goes into improving the program. The bar is shared with the dive club.
The Club has something for everyone, not just sailors.

We were told that there isn’t much storage for boats on trailers there. Furthermore, it would be hard to launch and sail the Melges. There is no hoist; we would be using the ramp, and the water is not very deep, especially at low tide. Plus, that area is older and very industrial, being near the old shipping docks. Everything around is being redeveloped. Where would we pleasure sail?

 Mark talked like it would be fun for us to race an RS400, but I had my doubts. Us, on a two person boat that small? Who would pass up beers? Which one of us would drive and bark orders which one would do all the work? Get real, we aren’t dinghy sailors. How wet would we get? How often would we capsize? How much would we argue, with no crew around listening? The two of us alone on a dinghy … in a foreign country … without a motor …

The next day we went to Dubai with the intention of going to the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club. First, though, we made a dry run trip to the airport. In a couple of weeks, we’re picking up Peter Cameron, our Wildcard tactician, so he can spend a few days with us on his way to Australia to visit family for the holidays, as he does each year. Mark and I both arrived on our flights from San Francisco when it was dark so it was interesting to see that part of the city and the airport during the day. We navigated our way there using a handheld GPS. I recognized the lobby area where you come out of customs, and the door of the Business Class lounge in front of the black transport cars waiting for passengers. That’s where we’ll pick up friends when they visit.

We had told Paul the Melges owner that we are interested in the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club but we couldn’t get in when we tried to visit. No problem, he said, he’s a member and David is a past commodore there. Just call or text and we’ll arrange for you to get in. Yet when we got around to calling, we couldn’t get hold of him. Remember that the website said you can visit if you are a member of another yacht club? On the way out of the airport Mark asked me, “Do you have your RYC membership card?”  I must have left it at home in Nevada. Why did I do that? Mark didn’t think he had his either.

Nevertheless, we drove to the yacht club and parked outside, knowing better than to drive up to the gate. We tried calling Paul again; nothing. I called the club manager’s office and talked to a very nice woman who told me that a member would have to sign us in, and there was a small fee. Can you find someone? Very sorry, but she didn’t think so. We got out of the car and Mark started walking toward the club with that dogged determination that always gives me a little headache. We walked up to the gatehouse where there were three attendants. Mark explained that we wanted to visit the club, we are considering joining, members at RYC in the US, doesn’t have his card … and as he is halfheartedly fishing in his wallet he pulls out his US Sailing card.

“But I have this! US Sailing!”

The head shed nodded and said “It’s OK. Ten dirhams each.” Ten dirhams! What a deal! The Club in Abu Dhabi wants 140 dirhams each to be a guest. I gotta say, it was a great feeling to walk through that entrance.

Our new best friend
As we walked through the dry storage lot, we came upon a guy rigging his bright green Weta trimaran, so we stopped to chat with him. We quickly found out that he sailed in a regatta at Richmond Yacht Club. “You must know Jason Deal, then,” he said in his Irish brogue, “he was second to finish the Delta Ditch Run!” I’m not sure if he already had noticed, but as we told him we were first to finish the same race, I realized that I happened to be wearing my DDR t-shirt. If you want to join DOSC, he told us, you should get an application today. Mark, who always comes prepared, pulled an application out of the sailcloth folder he was carrying. “I’ll sign it for you.” And just like that, less than ten minutes after we walked in through the gate, we had a primary sponsor.

Yet we still hadn’t seen the rest of the club. As we were walking away, he said, “The Richmond Yacht Club has a DOSC burgee hanging inside the clubhouse.” Is there an RYC burgee here? No? Well, there will probably be one soon.

There were a lot of juniors, coaches and parents on the boat ramp, rigging Lasers; it was a busy scene. We found the door to the clubhouse, went inside, and . . .
We knew we were home.
Clubhouse and deck, view from breakwall and harbor
The clubhouse is charming inside and out. Inside is a bar and dining room that looks out onto the large marina and outdoor bar and dining area. On the other side of a rock breakwater are a private beach and smaller outdoor dining area. We checked out the menu: great, and good prices.
We investigated the harbor, where we spotted the Mumm 30 and chatted with one of the new owners, a guy a bit younger than us. He said that keelboats come up for sale pretty regularly, with the way people move into and out of the UAE.
The Burj Al Arab can be seen to the west across the harbor.
That speck in front of it is a distant kiteboarder.

We were reminded of C-dock at RYC, aka "Beneteau Row."
Saw some interesting old race boats.

As we sat outside at one of the teak tables, drank a couple of Stella Artois drafts and tried the melon and ham appetizer, there was a steady onshore breeze of about 10-15 knots which had been clocking to the east all afternoon. The sailors were coming in for the evening, the kite boarders were out in force. The junior program was setting up an awards ceremony.
It’s our kind of place, all right.

The Burj Khalifa can be seen to the east.
This boat might be for sale soon?
Nice setup for junior awards

You must be an Emirati to race on an dhow.
Mark counted over 40 of these huge boats racing.
They roll crazily, and the crews take the rig down while they're still out on the water.

1 comment:

Lucie said...

Like I said Dubai would be home.

Maybe it was that my Wide Load crew drove from Santa Cruz to Berkeley, and I drove to Wet Wednesdays.

Looks good!

BTW we travel with our cards...and also letters from the Commodore.