National Geographic : 1948 Nov
Bayan's Crew, Rejoicing at the Sight of These Grim Hills, Hoists the Kuwait Flag Nearing home after the long voyage to Africa, the boom stopped at Matrah, on the Gulf of Oman, in hope of selling her cargo. The peak of her jackstaff bears a small airplane, an emblem popularized along the Persian Gulf by British flying boats, which made it a base. From the start I tried to learn all I could about shipboard routine, but for a while I was unable to discover any. The wind blew and the ship sailed, and if Allah were kind she arrived. Allah sent the winds, good and bad. In unfavorable weather the ship anchored until Allah changed his mind. Since Allah controlled all things, the men argued, there was no sense trying to predict the weather. As Allah took care of the future, marine insur ance was unnecessary. Crew members offered up their five prayers daily. They slept. They steered. Sometimes they looked after the sail. This was the sum total of their lives. They were a merry crowd for all that, and life on board was really not bad, despite the rats and obnoxious insects. Nakhoda "Sounds" with a Fishing Line Though our small wanderer was leaky, over loaded, and overcanvased, she sailed along pleasantly between reefs and other hazards. Sheikh Mansur was as primitive a craft as I have seen in deep water. Compared with her, a Tasmanian ketch was as lavishly equipped as the Queen Mary. The Sheikh had no windlass, and no anchor save her rusted, four-pronged grapnel. Her small boat was a risky-looking dugout. There was no deck of any kind above the cargo. The only navigation instrument was the ancient, battered boat compass. Charts, ba rometer, log, and pump were missing. There was no device for telling time. We lacked even a lead line for sounding, though some times the nakhoda used a weighted fishing line. No Arab aboard could write, and only one could read. Sea stores were kept in one small box, from which they soon disappeared. Our larder was replenished by a fishline trailing over the stern. For cooking we carried a small sand box and a native firebox. Camel's-thorn fire wood was salvaged from Red Sea cays and driftwood from the sea. Our food situation, bad enough in any case, became worse during Ramadan, the fasting month, when good Moslems are supposed to starve and thirst from daylight till dark. Sailors do not have to observe the fast while at sea; they are required to fast an equivalent number of days at the voyage's end.