The water lapped gently against the beach in the fading light as twenty intrepid canoeists prepared their kayaks. Greetings were made between friends and strangers, buoyancy vests were donned and cyalume sticks were attached to boats for visibility. As the kayaks were launched into the water you could feel the excitement of the journey ahead. This was to be the first Ras Al Hamra Boat Club (RAHBC) moonlight paddle. The stage was set as the full moon came up over the horizon and the suns light slowly faded as they left the bay on their journey to Shatti Beach.
The concept of the moonlight paddle came earlier in the year with three friends looking out over the bay. From those initial thoughts, much work went into the planning of the event by Kamal, especially on the safety aspects. David had paddled in a number of overnight marathons and so had experience in the safety aspects and what to expect. Cyalume sticks were attached to the boats to provide visibility in case of boat traffic as well as to keep track of the paddlers. All twenty paddlers wore buoyancy vests, had some experience in kayaking, and a safety boat manned by Stephen Martin was on standby in case of emergency.
As the group left the bay, David led the pack with Paul Sanders as sweeper to make sure no one was left behind. The weather conditions were ideal with a smooth sea surface and gently rolling waves. The air was clear and warm with the moonlight filtering down to light the way. The kayaks gently glided along the surface of the water with the sounds of the waves gently lapping against the limestone cliffs nearby. The first excitement came as the sea came alive with small pike like fish jumping out of the water around the boats.
The paddlers soon formed into groups of kayaks going at similar speeds with many interesting discussions ensuring. One person I was paddling next to informed me that the full moon on that night was the closest it has been to the Earth for many years. Obviously we picked the right night fort the paddle! As we paddled pass the cliffs and beaches on the way to Shatti, the magnificent houses lining the cliff tops were lit up forming a beautiful and peaceful scene.
The group took around half an hour to reach the end point at Shatti Beach where we stopped for a drink and a chat about the fish and turtles we had seen before heading back. Several funny scenes occurred on the journey back to the RAHBC with fish jumping into boats. One person managed to collect six fish in their boat but managed to get them out without capsizing. As the group headed around the last cliff line into the bay, the multitude of cyalume lights reflected of the water. It really was a special scene to behold.
The paddlers were met at the end by the sponsors of the event (Linda Stevenson of Risail Sports & Leisure) who donated a kayak to the RAHBC. A flurry of activity then ensured with boats and gear being hauled up the beach, washed and cleaned. The evening was capped off by some food, drinks and brief speeches. The consensus had by all was that the event was an outstanding success and we should do it all again sometime so keep watch out for Moonlight paddle 2!
Special thanks to Linda Stevenson (sponsor), the RAHBC committee Aly Brandenburg (Commodore) and Feather Mills (Treasurer).