Thursday, May 5, 2011

Salalah Port News

Fun days in French Polynesia!

S/Y Aspen – May 6, 2011 – Log #73
Position: 16 degrees 56’ N 054 degrees 00’ E (UTC +4 Hours)
Salalah, Oman

Living in a working port like Salalah, Oman is packed with fun-filled days and nights, yea right.

Ocean going cargo ships come alongside the massive docks unloading cargo from all over the world. They then load waiting containers and within less than 30 hours are on their way out onto the oceans of the world.

We watch these massive ships maneuver near us with their wakes tossing little Aspen around like a cork. That tends to wake us up at night before we realize we are not at sea but at anchor!

Ships also load gravel here and the constant roar of gravel trucks near our stern, along with the dust that coats every square inch of our boat remind us how we miss the open sea. Water is scarce so washing Aspen is rarely possible, especially to get the bird droppings off her decks as well as he dirt.

The hum of generators from the Omani military ships creates a cacophony that is not appreciated by anyone. Those sailors should be out fighting the pirates and not relaxing here we believe.

Speaking of military, we have military ships from many countries arrive next to us for re-supply and some R&R. UK, India, Korea, Finland, Japan, Turkey, Germany, Italy and of course the USA are frequent visitors. It is difficult to describe our excitement when we see a US military ship come in.

There is one bar/restaurant in the port and that is a gathering place for all of the military people. When a persons opens the door we know immediately if they are from the USA. The USA has the fittest, strongest and most literate of any of the military people we have ever seen. The sailors from the other ships who arrive simply do not have the physical presence, intelligence or focused attitude that the US military people have.

The US Navy Seals are extraordinary when they arrive. These are hardened men with a no-nonsense attitude. They are also extremely secretive. Maria always talks to anyone from the US because we have essentially no one to talk to other than the Brits, who speak a different language. When Maria greets a Navy Seal there is instant politeness toward her and a warm conversation always follows. But when Maria asks where they are from, where are they going, what did they have for lunch the Navy seals are evasive. They give no specifics and are always focused on their mission - something they will never talk about.

We also met a ship full of US Marines in March who were on the USS Boxer headed to ???. They would not tell us of course. The Navy seals we met were with them as well. The recent successful operation in Pakistan by the US Navy seals made us think. Maybe, just maybe we met these heroic people here in Salalah.

We also made quick friends with a pilot in the Omani air force this earlier week. Mark attended and graduated from the US Air Force Academy in Colorado so we had a lot to talk about. Mark flies F-16's for the Omani's and tries to train them. I asked him about what he thought about the success in Pakistan and he described his missions in Afghanistan and Pakistan where many of his friends did not return home. He was happy that Osama was killed but extremely elated that the computers and databases had been taken from the compound intact. That was the ultimate satisfaction for him because governments and sympathizers will be taken down with that information.

Nearly every day now Mark comes over in his F-16 and violates Omani airspace by flying at tree top level (if there were any trees) near the speed of mach 1 as he skims Aspen's mast in the port. The roar from that plane is deafening to say the least as he banks hard left and heads out over the endless sea.

Will we ever get out of here? We wish we knew too. Our ship is slowly making way towards us so we hope to see Turkey at the end of this month. Keep your fingers crossed. 3 months in Oman is a long time to suffer.

Sail on, sail on and sail safe Aspen…

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