Colonel Simms: Yachts Pots and Tanks 1974

Colonel Simms Calls.....

Colonel Lionel Simms of Dubai Defence Force and I had similar jobs. Lionel looked after Dubai Defence Force's plant and equipment. I did the same for Port Rashid. But Lionel had additional responsibilities. He also looked after his Commanding Officer's personal equipment - in particular his Motor Yacht "Rheem". Lionel called me early one morning. He was taking the "Rheem" out for its monthly test run. Did I want to come? Of course I did. "I'll be there in a few minutes Lionel"

How to Design a Motor Yacht

Traffic was almost non existent on Jumeirah Beach Road in 1974 so the drive from Port Rashid to Umm Sequiem took minutes only. Lionel met me and took me to the "Rheem" He explained the Yacht was new. They'd only recently taken delivery from the builders, Camper Nicholsons in UK. Apparently his CO's requirements were simple. He wanted to leave Umm Sequiem Harbour after Friday Lunch accompanied by five friends, sail to his favourite fishing ground, spend three hours fishing then return to Umm Sequiem Harbour in time for Dinner. When Camper and Nicholson's Naval Architect was told where the CO's favourite fishing ground was, he quickly came to a simple conclusion - the yacht would have to be fast, very fast in fact! More than 40 knots top speed to cover the distance in the time available. That meant power - lots of it.

Power Aplenty!

Later an engine room tour showed just how much power was needed. Engine room occupied about half of the 60 foot hull's space and was filled with two 16 cylinder MAN diesel engines - the kind Navies use in their high speed patrol boats. Over half the remaining hull space was devoted to the Owner's Suite with over half of what was left providing two cabins for five friends. One cabin had two bunkbeds - the other had two bunkbeds plus another suspended over a lower bunk by four wires attached to the deckhead. Lionel said there'd been a problem with that bunk. On the first trip the wires had broken depositing the occupant of the top bunk onto the the friend in the lower bunk but they were too seasick to complain. Whatever hull space was left over became the crew's quarters. The Yacht looked fast even when moored alongside. Its superstructure resembled a jet airplane - totally smooth and streamlined with no opening windows anywhere. Lionel said it had been developed in a wind tunnel. An elaborate sunshade sheltered the Yacht's "open air" Control Station on top of the main cabin. Lionel said this was an add on. The Nakodar complained he was not protected from the sun when he was driving. Camper and Nicholson designed a sunshade then tested it in a wind tunnel to make it could withstand the wind loadings generated by the Yacht's high speed.

Taking the Test

The Nakodar and his crew came to greet us with handshakes all round. No one wore a uniform. I thought they looked as if they came from a Dhow, not a multi million Dirham Yacht. Lionel said the Yacht's crew WAS the crew from his CO's Fishing Dhow! On board we entered the main cabin through a door that would not have been out of place on the Space Shuttle. It led into the Yacht's Galley. Lionel explained the original modern European stainless steel cooker couldn't handle Rice Pots. The crew had removed the original kitchen equipment and replaced it with a two ring gas cooker and gas bottle from Dubai Soukh. Now they could cook in their Rice Pots! Crew made ready by tying down everything that was loose. The Nakodar hitched up his dishdasha, climbed the narrow ladder to the control station, settled into his futuristic driving seat, reached across to the equally futuristic control panel and started the engines. The crew closed and locked the main cabin door then, after a final check, the Nakodar was signaled we were ready to go. I was told to sit down. The Yacht edged slowly out of Umm Sequiem Harbour with its engines rumbling. The Nakodar lined the Yacht up into the onshore wind and sea then pushed the two throttle levers forward to their maximum. The Yacht reared up. Engine noise increased from rumbling to deafening and we catapulted forward at ever increasing speed. Outside the waves were about one and a half meters high but, no matter, the "Rheem" only bounced from one wave top to the next at an indicated speed of 37 knots. It was impossible to stand up and equally impossible to sit down. Even a firm grip on the seat back didn't guarantee staying in one place! With each bounce, Crew and passengers were lifted out of their seats then thrust back down again as the Yacht hit the next wave. The noise made conversation impossible. The Nakodar isolated above in his control station was oblivious to his Crew and Passengers' discomfort. He sat securely in his Formula 1 Racing Car Style seat just tweaking his little steering wheel to keep the Yacht on course while his crew and passengers hung on with both hands.

High Speed Torture

After thirty minutes of this high speed torture, the Nakodar decided to head for home. Without any attempt at slowing down, he turned his steering wheel to "hard over". "Rheem" leaned alarmingly then skidded and bounced sideways across the waves until it was pointing towards Umm Sequiem Harbour. We continued at undiminished speed until just before Umm Sequiem harbour entrance. Then Nakodar pulled the throttles back to "Slow". "Rheem" slowed as quickly as it had previously accelerated, its passengers grabbing at anything to prevent being thrown onto the deck. Alongside there was a sudden silence as the Nakodar shut down the engines. The main door was opened and we quickly disembarked. I shook hands with a smiling Nakodar and his Crew.

They asked how I had enjoyed the trip. I said it was an experience I would never forget - and I haven't!

Len Chapman remembers

Take a Tank to Deira

I worked for McDermotts in 1970s when McDermotts Yard was in Dubai Creek near Al Maktoum Bridge. I knew Colonel Simms. He called me one morning to say he had a problem with one of Dubai Defence Force's Tanks. It needed a specialist welder and could I help? I told Lionel I would be happy to help. Lionel said he would come straight away. Lionel arrived shortly afterwards - in his Tank! Lionel had driven this Tank from the Defence Roundabout on the Abu Dhabi Road along Dubai's Streets, over Al Maktoum Bridge to our yard on Dubai Creek. I arranged for his Tank to be repaired immediately. Lionel then drove his Tank back to Dubai Defence Force Barracks near the Defence Roundabout.
Lionel had a great sense of humour! He was one of old Dubai's Characters!!

Paul Cunningham remembers