I needn't have worried, however. The German and Austrian tourists demonstrated how comfortable they were with their bodies and related subjects when several casually removed their teeny tiny Speedos or bikinis and changed into new ones in front of God and everybody. You could always tell when it was happening when one of us uptight Americans would suddenly exhibit bug eyes and become very interested in looking in an entirely different direction.
We felt especially bad for our extremely polite teenage nephew, Alex, but he handled it well.
The amazing scenery continued to slide past, and our captain let the kids steer the Dhow
and fish with him off the stern. (Note the incongruously pastel pink towel he has draped around his midsection. Don't worry, he was wearing shorts underneath. I think.) Despite his deeply tanned desperate pirate looks, he was wonderful with the kids.
Also note that even though he had the kids hold the rudder, he was the one actually steering, discretely, with his foot.
We stopped at a second island for more swimming. Even though not that long before the captain, fishing off the back of the dhow, had caught a barracuda a couple of feet long (and then put in on the barbecue after which we made short work of it), we all plunged happily over the side into the warm turquoise waters.
Except for Thomas, who was having none of it. What he actually had was a fever, poor kid. Fortunately he went from being uncomfortable to sleeping peacefully on the pillows for the rest of the day.
After swimming and admiring the underwater sealife we boarded and got underway once more. I was drinking copious amounts of the sweet Arabic tea, knowing a good thing when I found it, and Mike was exchanging stories and laughing with the most attractive woman on the ship. Which I was all for, as that's his sister Cathy.
A shout came up from our guide. Dolphins! Dolphins! (Delfine! Delfine! echoed the Germans as the stampede of underclad Deutschflesh began) Soon we were all hanging off the sides of the boat, many whistling, as that's what we were told would bring the sea mammals to dance along the prow. The giddy Germans and Austrians and the American cousins totally went for it. I didn't buy that one, (my loss, I am sure), instead spending my energies squinting into the sun reflecting off the water, looking for arching gray backs among the waves.
There were several other Dhows speeding along to encourage the dolphins to swim along their prows. We saw more dolphins than dhows so were well satisfied.
The Dhow cruise was drawing to an end, the sun settling lower in the west, and sitting carefree in the bow, the warmth of the Arabian sun against our backs and the sea breezes blowing, was simply one of the most blissful experiences of my life.
We got home quite late, sandy and happy after a full, full day.
There's a postscript to this story, of course. The next morning Cathy said "I found a pair of underwear in our bag that doesn't belong to us. Please tell me they're yours and not one of the Germans'..."
Oh, for Pete's sake...
Travel info: we went with Khasab Tours and thought they did a great job, with the usual Middle Eastern caveats---trouble running our credit cards and the like. (which meant that we drove around for awhile looking for a place to run our cards and finally through some Good Cop Bad Cop managed to make it happen). We've lived here long enough to expect that. Here is a link to their photo gallery and website: http://www.khasabtours.com/photo.asp