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20.2.10

http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/files/images/sailing-ship.jpgJewel of Muscat – a replica of a ninth century merchant sailing vessel (dhow) – set sail on Tuesday from Sultan Qaboos Port to Singapore.

Amidst the festive atmosphere, wind was the only cause for concern. "The wind was not very good as the boat left," Tom Vosmer, the boat designer and project director, told Gulf News, as the 17-member crew steered the boat away from the Muscat shores.

"They would hopefully pick up wind closer to the Indian shore, until then it would sail slowly without much of wind assistance," reckons the American archaeologist. He agreed that it was difficult for him to bid goodbye to the ship that he nursed right from the start.

Figurehead from the Sailing ship Elissa, built in 1877, and  found at the Texas Maritime Museum at Galveston."It was like handing over my baby," he said, hoping that skipper Saleh Al Jabri and crew would take the boat to Singapore without any hitch. "I believe that it would take about 26 weeks for the boat to reach Singapore but it would all depends on how much wind assistance they get in the Indian Ocean," he added.

Vosmer could not sail with the boat due to some other engagements. "Also, I have hurt my back and not in a position to take such a long voyage," he added.

The sail boat will first touch base at Kochi in south of India, then stop at Sri Lanka and Malaysia before reaching Singapore.

Vosmer and his team of 34 workers build the sailboat at the sleepy fishing hamlet of Qantab on the shores of Muscat. The boat is a gift from Sultan Qaboos to Singapore and built with the help of wood and coconut ropes.

Cutty Sark PapercraftIt is a model of the wreck of a timber-and-coconut rope dhow, salvaged in 2004 in Indonesia's Belitung Straits. The discovery of the wreck excited maritime scholars, who viewed it as solid proof of a maritime silk route from West Asia to China. The salvaged boat had a cargo of 60,000 ceramic plates and pots from the Tang Dynasty, which are currently kept in Singapore.

"The replica dhow with the discoveries of Tang Dynasty would be kept in a museum in Singapore," added archaeologist Vosmer.

The wood for the boat was brought from India, Myanmar, Africa while the coconut ropes were procured from Kerala in India and sails from Zanzibar.

"The mix of different places reflects what it was like in the ancient times when Omanis had helped establish trade routes across different parts of the world," said the American boat designer.

Sayyid Shihab Bin Tariq Al Saeed, who flagged off the boat, said that Jewel of Muscat carried with her the legend of Omani ancestors and the glory of the country.

"Accounts from the ninth and tenth century show Oman on one end of trade network extending all the way from Arabia to the Far East and South along the coast of East Africa," he said in his speech before flagging off the vessel.

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