Oman (2004 – 2007): Big Fish under a Blazing Sun

The Location

When my project in Brazil came to an end, it was with some trepidation that I accepted a transfer to Oman to work for a joint Shell – Omani Government venture called Petroleum Development Oman. I knew little about the country and the PDO website (which I later found was about a decade out-of-date) suggested an austere, restricted and extremely conservative country, which sounded just about the exact opposite of Brazil ….! When we turned up in Muscat in early January 2004, I was pleasantly surprised to find a friendly, relatively liberal city located between stark mountains and sparsely populated beaches. PDO had its own clubhouse and private beach, so it was easy to settle into the lifestyle.

 

However, the climate was harsh and extreme – very arid and extremely hot, summers are long and temperatures range into the high 40’s (°C) with associated high humidity at coastal locations. After a short, but pleasant winter, the temperature ramped up rapidly through late March – early April with temperatures of 40°C+ virtually everyday from late April through to August. A brief respite was fely in August as the summer monsoon, or Khareef , pushed cold water into the Gulf of Oman from the Indian Ocean to the South, lowering temperatures to the high 30’s (°C), before once again rising through September. Things then started to gradually cool off through October-December, with a brief winter with daytime temperatures in the 20’s (°C) during January-February, before rising again in March as a prelude before the furnace doors were opened once again!

 

As the population is small, and the country is still at a relatively early stage in its development, it is still (relatively) unspoilt – pristine beaches and desert scapes (the landscape is best described as harshly beautiful), abundant sea-life and quiet, traditional villages, where life hasn’t changed much for centuries.. In addition (although the situation is changing rapidly), blacktop roads were still absent from many rural areas, limiting tourist pressure at many locations.

 

After about a month in-country, we went on a long weekend camping trip with the de Vries family to Tiwi Beach (Mike de Vries had also relocated to Muscat from Brazil). This was one of the nice things to do in Oman – pack the 4 wheel drive with food, drink & camping kit and drive off-road down the coast until you found a suitable, uninhabited beach and set camp. Then it was kick back and relax – barbie some food, drink beer and spend the day lounging around in between bouts of swimming or snorkelling. One afternoon, Mike suggested fishing. “You’ve got fishing rods”, I asked …? Mike had brought a full complement of light spinning tackle, including bait. We went out to the headland and set-up the kit. It was like being a boy again – remembering and then tying knots and rigs, baiting up and eagerly anticipating bites. We caught a number of small tiger fish and a moray eel. Although we caught nothing of note, it felt really nice to be fishing. Later that evening, as we cooked fish fillets over the camp fire, Mike suggested getting a fishing boat as joint owners. I’d never thought about owning a boat but it sounded like an interesting idea.

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Ras Al Hamra then ... c.1960's (1) (r)

PDO Camp, c. early 1970’s

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Ras Al Hamra Views now_3.03.08 (r)

Ras Al Hamra – PDO Leisure Club & Beach

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Fahal Island_3.03.08 (r)Fahal Island Dusk_24.05.07 (r)

Fahal Island

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Qurum Coast_3.03.08 (r)Qurum coast

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Bandar Al-Rowdha Marina_26.03.04 (r)Marina Banda Al Rhowda

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Muttrah Corniche_2.03.08 (r) Mosque_Muttrah_1.03.08 (r) Muttrah Dhow_2.03.08 (r) Muttrah Fort_2.03.08 (r)Muttrah

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Bottle Nose Dolphins_April.05 (r) Dolphin_off Muscat (r)

Dolphins off Muscat

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Brydes Whale & Calf, near Muscat

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Sperm Whale_15.02.08 (r)Sperm whale diving

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Dawn in the Desert

-o0o-

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The Boat – Sirocco

Mike was certainly up for getting a boat – he already had some experience of using small boats on the lakes of Michigan. He began checking out adverts and scouring the PDO intranet notice boards. Within a few weeks he found a candidate – a 23’ Gulf Craft Fast Fisherman (manufactured in the UAE) with a 200 horsepower 2-stroke Yamaha outboard, being sold by an expat located down the coast at Sur. Mike arranged to view the boat and the owner agreed to bring it to Bandar Rowdha Marina at Muscat.

 

And so it was, early on a Friday morning (the last day of the weekend in Oman) we ventured down to the marina. It was a very bright, hot, sunny day and we were both nursing hangovers from the previous nights annual “Canadian Stampede” thrash at the PDO Recreation Centre . Still, we persevered and met the owner to view the boat and go out for a test run. The boat was called Sirocco and appeared to be in reasonable condition. The bilges were dry, the hull appeared sound and she handled well at sea. After a brief discussion, we agreed to buy the boat as co-owners and quickly settled on a mutually acceptable price and closed the deal. After waiting a couple of weeks whilst money was transferred, paperwork finalised and the trailer delivered from Sur, we finally received the keys to our boat.

 

So, it was against the backdrop of blazing sun, extreme temperatures, stark landscapes and blue water that the stage was set for 3 ½ years of experiencing, experimenting and mastering the art of game-fishing!!

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Sirocco at Bandar Al-Rowdha Marina_26.03.04 (r) Sirocco at berth_26.03.04 (r)The Boat – Sirocco

Sirocco gets 4 Strokes (1) 24.10.04 (r) Sirocco gets 4 Strokes (2) 24.10.04 (r)Sirocco gets 4 strokes ….

Sirocco post Cyclone Gonu_Marina Banda Rhowda_08.06.07 (r)Sirocco survives Cyclone Gonu

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