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Ras Al Khaimah Dhow

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by Brien Holmes
Photographs by Phil Iddison and Brien Holmes

It takes about a year to construct and is floated out into the shallow waters by hand at high tide. It is constructed almost entirely by hand -- skilled carpenters shaping, chiseling, drilling, nailing, finishing the huge timbers that come together as an ocean-going ship.

Yes, there are concessions to the equipment and resources available today. Planks and ribs are shaped on an old band saw. Electric drills pierce the planks to make way for the bolts and nails that hold the pieces in place. Hydraulic cranes lift the heavy planks into place.

But the hours invested in finishing each rib have not changed over the millennia. The workmen continue to work without detailed plans . . . pieces are shaped and finished in an organic fashion compared to the modern shipbuilding techniques employed in shipyards around the world.

A diesel engine will provide the power to carry the vessel and its cargoes, replacing the sails that once captured the winds of the Arabian Gulf, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean, and beyond.

Arab navigators sailed these huge dhows -- booms -- up and down the east coast of Africa and to the traders along the west coast of India for thousands of years. They helped the early European explorers to find their way to Indonesia and China.

Today, booms and dhows -- as evidenced with the hundreds of dhows that load and unload cargo in the Dubai Creek each year -- continue to sail around the Gulf, moving cargo to remote coastal communities and providing an alternative to more modern shipping alternatives.

Phil Iddison documented the construction of a boom in 2002. Will Moore followed another in 2006.  We also document the construction of a boom from March 2008 to its launch in 2009.

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Completed Boom

Photographs by Phil Iddison

In 2002, Phil made a number of trips to Ras al Khaimah to document the construction of a boom. The photographs below are from his final visit in December, a few weeks before the boom was launched.

  • View of the stern from the parking lot
  • Stern with propeller and cabin in place
  • Detail of the completed hull
  • Counter-sunk bolts, lower one filled with putty
  • Finishing of the hull exterior
  • Exterior temporary braces all removed
  • Interior showing planks added to interior ribs
  • General view of completed boom
  • Low tide
  • Work almost completed
  • Bow scaffolding
  • Detail of bow scaffolding
  • Old fishing dhow
  • Starboard view
  • Detail of putty-filled holes
  • Stranded old fishing dhows
  • Plank supporting starboard scaffolding
  • Cabin
  • Rudder hardware
  • Workmen installing packing & puttying bolt holes
  • Propeller
  • Diesel engine
  • Detail of interior

Patron: H.E. Sheikh Nahayan bin Mubarak Al Nahayan