The passage through the Straights of Hormuz and into the Persian Gulf during the night was relatively uneventful but did provide an opportunity to see some bioluminescence in the agitated waters around the ship. Bioluminescence occurs as the result of certain types of microorganisms emitting a glow or short burst of light as a result of experiencing vibration or agitation.
On this occasion the wash and wake were glowing green as a result of the vessels passing. Engine vibration is attributed to be key in experiencing this phenomenon, as no recorded account of bioluminescence is known to have been made during the days of sail.
The harbour, where the passenger vessels berth in Dubai is a man made structure of modern design with a rather un-necessary chicane at its entrance. With the pilot on board for our lunch time arrival and having ordered a tug for the vessel’s, and my first working visit to the port, the Saga Ruby made a lazy turn to port once past the chicane, in order to swing back to starboard and berth port side alongside.
With the weather calm and wind speed at 6 knots I was beginning to question why I ordered the tug in the first place, but by the time the vessel had turned ready to berth alongside the wind had increased to 25 knots so my cautious decision paid off.
In fact within 30 minutes of the Saga Ruby being alongside a large squall like storm had enveloped Dubai with 65 knots of wind registering on the anemometer. I later found out that this sort of weather happens out of the blue once every 3-4 years.
Dubai itself came to a stand still with palm trees snapping in two and being uprooted, blocking roads with other large size pieces of debris also presenting a hazard. The sand being carried by the wind was painful for those caught out in the open and enshrouded the area in an almost fog like haze. The port did not escape without drama as the QE2, which was berthed opposite us, parted all of its aft mooring lines and started to drift out across the basin that is now its home. Four tugs were quickly called and took several hours wrestling her back alongside while some new ropes could be sourced.
It is a bit of a shame to see the once majestic icon sat in limbo, with the economic crisis preventing her transformation into a hotel and the clause in her contract of sale preventing her from carrying passengers anymore. She is still technically a working ship, flagged now in Vanuatu; her machinery being maintained by the skeleton crew that man her. But a passenger ship that cannot carry passengers is about as useful as the proverbial chocolate teapot! Still, I’m sure that the barnacles are grateful?
The winds dropped from 65 knots to 25 knots as quickly as they had come, but it took a couple of hours for the wind to subside back to the gentle breeze that it had been before hand. I couldn’t help but think of our good luck, had we arrived 30 minutes later we would have had great difficulty entering the port.
There were a number of tours for the evening with Dune Dinner Safari’s and Evening Dhow Cruise and trips to the Burg Khalifa on offer. The tours on the second day permitted passengers to further explore Dubai or take a trip to neighbouring Emirate, Sharjah.
The Burg Khalifa, at over 828 m tall (2716.5 feet) is the tallest building in the world. Being able to boast various world records, such as the highest observation deck, elevator with the longest travel and the fastest elevator (124 flours in 1 minute) amongst them, I couldn’t resist having a look for myself.
Views from the observation deck were astonishing, looking down at buildings that would be considered tall skyscrapers in any other city, and views that stretched out to sea for miles. I couldn’t help thinking, how it would be a nightmare to have to clean the windows! At the foot of the Burg Khalifa is a large shopping mall, the Dubai Mall, and as you could probably guess it is in fact the world’s largest too.
Although I’d never taken a ship into Dubai before I had visited and passed through it numerous times when joining or leaving some of the oil and gas tankers I’d worked on. In the 10 years or so that had passed since my previous visit the city had certainly grown, outwards and upwards.
Even the famous gold souk in an older part of the city had seen a noticeable expansion, along with the price of gold which was about 500% up on when I’d previously looked around it. Still, its well worth a quick visit even if like me, you have no intention of buying anything.
The several streets worth of continuous gold shops somehow manage to make gold look a little tacky by the vast quantities on display, and with the amount of competition its hard to see how each shop can prosper. Its just as well Dubai doesn’t have a problem with ram raiders!
Departing Dubai was a little delayed due to the late arrival of a bunker barge that was to refuel the ship, and it was about 2:30am on the 30th before we managed to slip away uneventfully into the night.