July 27, 2011
We decided to do the 70nm crossing of Antalya bay overnight. It’s been extremely hot and we thought it would be more comfortable. We also wanted to do a night passage all by ourselves just to cement our new-found confidence. The forecast could not have been more benign. However what it didn’t tell us about was the sea-state. There must have been a big wind somewhere during the day because we were bashing into 1-2 metre high waves. It was extremely wearing and slowed us up greatly (we were making not much more than a walking pace) – and it went on for about 7 hours. It made it a tough trip was neither of us could get any rest. Eventually the moon came up and the seas flattened.
We made it into the beautiful bay of Cineviz Limani, dropped the pick and recovered.
Headed onward, across Finike Bay. All familiar waters now. We had arranged to meet Carole and Brian (Endeavour) our Rally friends in Gokkaya. They had been there four days already. “Paradise” was their verdict. It is a heavenly spot – a sort of fjiord with a number of arms and a cold fresh water spring rising in one of the creeks. This gives a delicious effect of warm and chilled ripples at different levels as you swim. Superb when the weather is so hot. I swam right up into the creek and it became almost unbearably cold – worth it though to see the darting kingfishers and dragonflies there.
Spent a very relaxing day in Gokkaya and then went up Kekova Roads, past the castle and into the virtually land-locked bay of Ucagiz. This place has changed so much in the years we’ve been coming here but retains its charm. We dropped Roland and Anna off here many years ago and they had to cadge a lift with the daily bread van up the track to the main road to catch a dolmus. The only other transport at the time was by boat. Now a road had been pushed through and tourist buses disgorge hordes to visit the castle and view the remains of a city sunk by earthquake, from glass-bottomed boats. Mercifully, they’ve gone by evening and the place is left to yachties and walkers on the Lycian way, the footpath along this coast, described by the Sunday Times as one of the world’s best ten long-distance walks.
Motored with Endeavour to the nearby Polemus Bay. Beautiful empty spot where you can go ashore and pick up the Lycian way to the impressive ruins at Aperlai. We have done this section as well as a number of others on the walk. Shared a BBQ on Endeavour. The wind made Brian’s cooking efforts extremely difficult and M had to shield the BBQ (gas, a mistake in windy conditions!) with an umbrella. Eventually the feast was ready and we had a very jolly evening, our last with these good friends we have made on the Rally. They are here until December. We just have a week left and have to press on.
On to Bayinder Limani, a favourite anchorage of ours, opposite Kas. Much busier than when we were last here, with a procession of water taxis ferrying people over from the town to this unspoilt bay. Did a marvellous walk, new to us – again part of the Lycian way – climbed to look at a cave and rock tombs high on the cliff-face and then covered about 4 miles over the headland to a view of the open sea.
We are travelling for 3 or 4 hours in the early mornings as any wind along this coast gets up in the afternoon and is on the nose if you are travelling west. Next stop Yesilkoy Limani, another bay where we can drop the pick, near Kalkan. Chilling, swimming, reading, crosswords, catching up with all the relaxing stuff we normally do on the boat but had no time for on the Rally.
Slightly longer trip to Cold Water Bay, where we dropped the pick and our good friend Ali, who runs the restaurant, took a line ashore for us. We had arranged to meet Justin and Helen (La Belle Helene) our Rally friends to introduce them to this lovely spot. Again the waters are deliciously cold from a fresh water spring that arises in a corner of the bay.
Lovely meal of wild boar casserole. Ali shoots the boar in the forests around the restaurant so it really is wild.
Took J and H on the walk over the mountain to the Greek ghost village. It was abandoned in 1926 when there was a big forcible exchange of Turkish and Greek populations along this coast. Many of the villages were just occupied by the new populations moving in but for some reason this one never was and the shells of hundreds of houses cover the hillside above the Turkish occupied verdant Kaya valley. (This is the village which features in Louis de Bernierre’s “Birds Without Wings”). Back down the mountain to Ali’s where he included breakfast with the price of dinner.
Ali is now the proud father of a little boy with Lec, his Thai lady. Just the latest chapter in the complicated soap opera that is Ali’s life which we have been following for at least 15 years. Said a final farewell to J and H who had friends arriving in Fethiye. Left for Boznuz Buku ( one of our favourites) for our last night before the return to our marina. Made the most of the last opportunity for star-lit skinny-dipping.
Back into Port Gocek our home marina and the big sort out and clean up
Still cleaning and who should turn up on the pontoon but Justin and Helen and their friends. A very welcome beer break.
Final swim at the marina beach before dinner ashore and a flight in the godforsaken hours of the morning (cheap though!)
July 17, 2011
J July 7 Said our farewells and a huge thankyou to David and Kath who have been so kind to us both and made this little interlude ashore ad great pleasure for me. Waved off Brian and Carole on Endeavour who left mid afternoon for an overnight passage directly back to Anlays. We have decided to explore 100 nm of east to the east of there that we haven’t visited before.
Checked out of North Cyprus and left Delta marine but just dropped the anchor in a quiet bay round the corner before an early start back to Turkey tomorrow.
It was an easy 65nm daytime passage. The highlight of the trip was a school of dophins paying along with us. Dropped the pick in the beautiful wooded bay of Aglialimani, where the last slopes of the Taurus mountain range, the spectaular backdrop to so many miles of this coast, drop into the sea.
We decided not to go east beyond here as this is where the land flattens and the only real anchorages are the huge commercial ports of Mersin and Iskenderun, before the Turkish coastline turns south for Syria. It is effectively the armpit of the Mediterranean.
The little town of Tasucu, just across the bay is a Port of Entry so we went there to check in. This process is often tortuous in Turkey but this was a collectors’ item. It being Saturday didn’t help.
Went to Immigration. They said go to the Harbourmaster first
Harbourmaster’s office closed. No indication of opening hours or a phone nimber. An upstairs balco ny door was open so we shouted and a neighbour opposite came out to say we would need to go the the port and get a phone number from a captain
Fishing boat skipper, who knew the number phoned for us and got the message that it would be open at midday
Couple of hours later back to the Harbourmaster. Laborious process with many forms and the computer. 55 Turkish lire for the transit log, 8 for harbour dues and a mysterious, unreceipted 25 lire for him “to take a taxi to the bank”!! He also said we would need to take a taxi to a doctor to get a health certificate. Alarm. We have never been asked to this before.
Back to Immigration who said go to the Port Police
Port police said we needed a visa
Visa office closed.
Customs. Kind woman made calls and found out no need for doctor and visaman “back in ten minutes”
One and a half hour wait before a lad arrived with two 20 dollar visa stamps (We normally get them for £10 each in Sterling) Had no dollars. Offered Euros. More phone calls.
Customs boss turned up in shorts and T-shirt, eating popcorn (Saturday) and after much consulting of exchange sites we paid 25 euros for two.
Back to Port Police. Visa stamped about to leave when
Visaman, who had been at a long lunch, arrived. He was quivering with rage and tried to snatch our passports. Demanded more money. Gave an extra 5 euros. Despite showing numerous old £10 stamps in our passports turned out it was not recognised at this port of entry. (Depressingly for the state of Sterling, no one seemed to have even heard of it.
The whole process took six and a half hours. Would not recomment Tasucu to check in.
It’s an attractive , very Turkish little town but we wanted out of there after all that. So, despite a big wind and sea, we unsshipped and returned to our lovely bay. Finished the day with skinny-dipping by moon-light. This is more like it.
12nm to another lovely bay in which to drop the pick, Ovacik. There is a Turkish holiday village here ut it was all very quiet until about 3pm when an armada of 12 large galleons packed with Turkish trippers and local musicians and belly dancers rounded the headland.
The sea boiled with swimmers and divers, while others danced on the decks for about an hour and a half and then they all left in convoy – to he relief of us and the turtles we kept seeing. Went for a lovely walk ashore. It a very picturesque area with an isthmus to a large bluff with the ruins of a villa with mosaic floors.
22nm to Soguksu, where a rushing river runs into the sea making fresh cool currents in the water. The slopes are covered in greenhouses. Walking, swimming. The boat rolled all night as a swell crept round the headland
On to Bozyazi. 18 mn. This is an attractive Turkish holiday town with a huge empty harbour. It has been built for military purposes, as this is the closest point to Cyprus, and also as a potential ferry port which has never been developed. We came alongside as we had the place to ourselves, apart from the coastguard boat. The only other vessels were a couple of unoccupied fishing boats and three boats that seemed to have been left to rot. They inculded a Benneteau in a very bad state, chained, but not fendered, to the harbour wall. The “harbourmaster”, who was dressed in flowery swimmers, told us it belonged to a smuggler and had been there seven years. It’s Turkish owner, who was picked up coming from Cyprus with cigarettes, alcohol and mobile phones, is still in gaol.
The harbourmaster, who was very under-occupied drove us to the local sites, after much jockeying over the fare. We went to Mamure Castle, which sits with one foot in the Med. It’s next to a turtle nesting beach, and its moat, which is filled by the sea is crowded with baby turtles. The castle is the most impressive maze of crenalated walls and towers. Tthere’s been a fortress on the site since Roman times and the present 13th century structure is in a very good state of repair having been maintained by the Ottoman empire right up to when it ended after the First World War. We were able to walk the walls, at guardsman level, climb up the towers. A UK Health and Safety nightmare.
The Byzantine city of Anamurium is also next to the beach. It’s a huge ghost town with dozens of standing buildings. Its location has saved it from the stone pillaging so many ofthese sites suffered from later settlers. Our driver would have taken us to town to shop or to a restaurant but we went straight back to the pristine harbour where we swam alongside the local turtles.
25 TL harbour dues, inc. water and electricity. Very reasonable. No receipt. Straight into the pocket of the flowery shorts, no doubt.
An early start for the 36 nm to Gazipaca. Empty seas. We have not seen another yacht or non-Turkish tourist since we entered this part of Turkey. And another empty harbour. Unattended. Dropped the pick in the middle and swam. This is another pleasant Turkish resort. However the music, late into the evening, though local and live was LOUD.
25 nm on to Alanya marina. It felt like we had stepped into the known world. Suddenly there were other boats about. It was from here that we left for Cyprus on the Rally. Had a few days enjoying the excellent facilities here – beautiful pool, beach, free laundry, free marina bus to local produce markets twice a week, pub with Happy Hour. There’s an interesting crowd of live-aboards here and we joined them for a DIYBBQ and blow-out brunch at a local restaurant. Makes us feel quite timid talking to American octagenarians planning “one more Atlantic crossing while I’ve still got it in me.”
July 07, 2011
We travelled south for a few days in the wastes of the Negev Desert – spectacular, other-worldly scenery Luckily I had brought some provisions from the boat as there was nothing to be found We quartered the Makhtesh Ramon, an extraordinarily impressive crater, said to be the largest in the world of its type. It was carved out millions of years ago when the ocean, that once covered this area, retreated north.
It was off-season and the desert, not surprisingly was pretty deserted. The “city centre” of Mitzpe Ramon, the biggest town in the area consisted of a bank, where it took two assistants and about 15 minutes to change some money, two kebab stalls and a mini-market. We found a hotel where we had to wait until 8.30pm for Shabbat to be over - “when we could see three stars in the sky” – to have anything more than a sandwich for dinner. The town was totally dead with more ibex than people roaming the streets.
Next day we walked through canyons carved out by flashfloods, passed petrified trees, seeing occasional feral camels. We stayed at a “vineyard”. Their output was fewer bottles per year than M used to make in his elderberry and banana vintage days. I think it was really a cover to attract custom to their four “log-cabins”. It was more of a hut really but nicely done and we were the only guests. Incongruously there was an open-air jacuzzi tub so we were able to relax with a glass of something cooling. Dinner was DIY but luckily we had got some chicken at the mini-mart before leaving the “city”. Getting the fire going and cooking the chicken took most of the evening, while we watched the dying sun turn the desert pink.
The place was lovingly cared-for in a very “green” style. We had a waterless eco-loo which separated liquid and solid waste and was totally smell-free. Waste water from the huts was used to irrigate trees and shrubs they had planted. They were growing fruit as well as making wine.
The farmer’s wife brought a splendid local breakfast of fresh-baked bread, cheeses, olives, tomatoes and a massive omelette to our hut next morning. I asked where they got their water – “From the pipe” she said rather disarmingly. Evidently water is piped into the desert from a massive de-salination plant at Ashkelon.
We visited the ruins of the hill-top Nabatean town of Avdat, next day. This was one of a chain of settlements, including Petra, that gave shelter to the enormous camel carvans, that travelled along the Spice Route from the East to the ships at Gaza.
Got back to the boat in the evening surprisingly quickly. Israel is really very small and the roads are very good so you can travel through completely different regions of the country in a comparatively short time.
Chilling out, swimming from the glorious beach next to the marina and making ready for the big passage tomorrow.
June 21, 22
Wanted to leave at first light but again we were governed by immigration and had to wait until the woman who manned the office could get there by bus. Left about 8.30 for the 209 nm passage (longest yet) in company with Endeavour. We were very pleased indeed to have Brian and Carole looking out for us and kept up the four-hourly radio checks during the 32-hour trip. Hardly any wind for most of the trip so motored all the way. The journey was pleasant until the last couple of hours when we were banging into a nasty sea with 12 knots on the nose.
Our objective was Monastery Bay on the southern-side of the pan-handle of North Cyprus, where we dropped the pick in gin-clear water. Belle Helene had already been here a few days and welcomed us with
a delicious curry and a very jolly evening.
June 23, 24, 25
Sad to wave off Endeavour and Belle Helene at first light. We’ve had a lot of fun with them. We have decided to stay in this heavenly place for a few days. It’s so relaxing to be swinging off the anchor, dropping into the glorious water. Also did a some good walking, including to the cape of the pan-handle around which we had sailed early in the rally. There are lots of wild donkeys roaming in this region. They are the descendants of working donkeys set free when the locals got more mechanised. They certainly look in much better condition than those poor little over-laden creatures we used to see in Greece in the late 60s.
Our peaceful solitude was spoilt at the weekend by a jet-ski so after lunch, we upped anchor and set off on our journey round the pan-handle towards Girne to check in officially to North Cyprus. There are very few anchorages around Cyprus but we were lucky that conditions were good enough for us to drop the pick in a bay near a small fishing port for the night.
Arrived in Delta Marina Girne and were very surprised to see Belle Helene and Endeavour who we had last seen departing to totally different directions several days ago. Evidently they had very difficult weather and huge seas so had run for cover to Girne. It was such a bonus. We had dinner with Justine and Helen. Carole and Brian had gone to stay with friends in the South.
David and Kath, the rally leaders, have kindly invited me to stay with them while M goes back to the UK for a week for a conference. We went up to their lovely home, with sea view and swimming pool. What a treat.
My birthday. Managed contact with all the family which was great. Found out S was in London. He and M met up later for a drink. The day was taken up with a trip to the South to take M to Larnaca airport and do shopping. David and Kath go there regularly as various provisions, like bacon and black pudding, are available that you can’t get in the North, and some things are cheaper.
June 30, July 1,2,3,4,5
Lovely few day: played golf with Kath at the spectaular course where she is a member – mountains to one side, sea the other. Some very challenging holes. We had a buggy, which was fun. I haven’t driven one before. Also go stuck into Wimbledon, which I really enjoyed. Swimming, walking and lots of tourism. David and Kath have been so kind. Went to Bellapais and found Lawrence Durrell’s house, which was interesting having just read Bitter Lemons. There seem to be a number of claimants to be the Tree of Idleness with each cafe putting a sign on the tree near them. Climbed nearly 800 metres up to the stunning St Hilarion Castle, the one Disney modelled the castle in Snow White on. David took me on a beautiful drive along the ridgeroad which traverses the Kyrenian range, complete with a lovingly look after tank which plummeted over the edge during the ‘74 invasion (1974 was the last time M was here. He came in with the invading army from Turkey). Also visited Mavi Kosh the 1950s home of a mafiosa gun-runner. The original furniture is all still there. It’s in a beautiful hidden location with a tunnel down the mountain to the bay where the guns came in.
Life in North Cyprus seems very pleasant indeed.
Went down to the marina to give the boat a good clean ready for the final phase of our trip – the return to Gocek. David and Kath picked me up at lunchtime to go to Larnaca to collect M. His trip went well but he’s very glad to be back. Very jolly dinner at the poolside. Carole and Brian are also at David and Kath’s for a few days and Carole had cooked one of her famous Thai curries. Delicious.
June 17, 2011
June 1, 2011
Instructions for the morning were that we must not pass the co-ordinates marking the “gate” into Israeli waters before 8.30am. Had a couple of dolphins playing round the bow, as we slowly motored there. Soon the Israeli navy were on the radio. We were ready with all our information on a card by the radio – “Sierra, Kilo, Yankee etc etc”. Each yacht was also circled by a gunboat, wanting to know if we had weapons. The helmeted, armed crew gave a cheery wave. Then a smaller boat came alongside and took passports and boatpapers, so we felt thoroughly checked before we had even arrived.
We motored past the commercial harbour and up the Kishon River. We are the guests of the Carmel Yacht Club, but there wasn’t much space available for us, so we are rafted up even tighter than before, hemming in local boats. Some people are having to climb over ten boats to get to the shore.
We decided to hire a car for a couple of days and a friendly local yachtie took us to Avis in town. Nightmare getting back to the marina in the hire car as they couldn’t supply us with a map that had either their office or the marina on it. M did brilliantly following the topography – and his nose.
The Kishon river, which was extremely polluted, is being cleaned and regenerated, and is now host to many birds. Went for a walk along it with a local professor which was interesting, before joining a Red group birthday party on the quay.
June 2, 2011
We just took the car hire for one day as tomorrow is the start of Shabbat and we would have had to have it back by 2pm. Nightmare again getting ourselves onto the map but eventually we were en route east for the Sea of Galilee. It was a bit of a whiplash tour. Gave Nazareth a miss as the guidebook said it was traffic chaos and a church built in 1969 marked the spot were Gabriel came to Mary. (Heard later from people who had been on the bus tour that Joseph’s workshop was wonderful!!)
Hit the Sea (of Galilee) at Tiberias, named after the Roman emperor and the hub of eastern Galilean life, now a popular resort. We turned north to hug the coast. Took in the sites of the loaves and fishes, Sermon on the Mount, Capernium, where there are remains of a Roman temple in the middle of 1st century Jewish houses. Peter was born there and Jesus lived there.
Also visited a museum where a 2000 year old fishing boat (Jesus’ boat?!) is very well displayed. It was discovered in the mud when the Sea was extremely low in 1986 and has been recovered and restored by years of painstaking effort.
At the northern end of the Sea we turned up the valley of the River Jordan. I had anticipated a mighty flow but it was no more than 20 feet wide. I think maybe it’s drained off for irrigation as it was extremely lush in the valley, compared to the barren hillsides around. We climbed through beautiful scenery into the deserted Golan Heights but did not have time to get to Mount Hermon in the north where Israel, Lebanon and Syria meet.
We made it a circular route by heading back down another verdant valley to the coastal town of Akko. The maze of cobbled streets of the Old City, sheltered from modernisation within the ancient walls, is lined with fascinating stalls and cafes. Not much changed in centuries. Sadly we didn’t have time to do it justice but looked around the huge edifice of the Crusader Castle and crouched along the Templars’ Tunnel, which used to snake undergound from the castle to the port, but has only been partially recovered so now lands you up in the Turkish bazaar.!
Many of the local club members came to the evening party, in the park on the banks of the Kishon river, with the lights of the mountainside city of Haifa looming behind. The club commodore was there with his son, who was the naval officer who had supervised all the checks on our arrival. The flags were out as usual and each flag-bearer said a few words of thanks in their own language, apart from Teddy, from Berlin, the female skipper of the smallest boat in the fleet. She spoke of being born in 1952 but feeling a weight of responsibility for the actions of her fathers and grandfathers, which made the warmth of the welcome humbling. All moving stuff.
There was so much food: the buffet table was groaning and the grills smoking for hours. In true EMYR-style, we drank them dry. Everyone joined in the Hava Nagilah type dancing, arms along each others’ shoulders, going round and round ever faster. Another brilliant night.
June 3, 2011
Went to Caesarea, the great city built by King Herod. Much of it is in an amazing condition, all be it with later additions of Crusader castle, Ottoman baths and even accommodation for Bosnian refugees. The hippodrome where the whole 450 metre long track the charioteers raced round seven times, with extremely tight turns at either end, was the most impressive site. Much of the seating, originally for 30,000, remains.
At Zichron Ya’akov we saw quaint cobbled streets of 1880s houses built with Rothchild sponsorship for some of the early Zionist pioneers from Romania and then it was high up onto Mount Carmel to a Druze village where we sat round tables and ate a traditional lunch from shared yard-wide platters. The Druze are a very insular sect who believe strongly in reincarnation. You can only be born into it and anyone who marries out would never be recognised again even by close family. A pragmatic aspect, I thought, was that you could chose to be “a religious” and live a very austere life and go to heaven or to be an unpure and lead a more normal, if restrictive life, with the opportunity to swop later
In the evening anyone who wanted was invited to the home of a yacht club member. We went with another couple to Eran and Sima’s house. He runs a security business, which appears to be very successful. He said the government spent so much on national security there wasn’t much left to fight domestic crime. They had bought an old property in a wonderful mountainside locatation, looking over forested slopes to the beach below, and then turned it into a beautiful ultra-modern home.
They were very welcoming and hospitable. The Festival of Shavuot, which is celebrated with fruits and cheese, is in a couple of days, and they had laid on an appropriate spread. They are a very sporty family, with Sima running a sports therapy clinic. Their younger daughter is the national dinghy-sailing champion and is currently in Weymouth training for Olympic qualifiers and the older one is a mountain climbing trainer..
June 4, 2011
Eran and Sima came down to the marina to prepare their boat for a trip to Herzliyah during the holiday.
and had a look at Skysong.
We are leaving for the south today and were told it wasn’t necessary to go before 5.30pm. However about two hours earlier, when Green group was in a distant corner of the marina rehearsing, we suddenly noticed the fleet was on the move. Three local lads in a dinghy were towing boats out of the tight corners we were pushed into and no-one wanted to miss the opportunity of help to get out.
So the deparature turned into a mad scramble. We had our awning up, sprayhood down, nothing ready for dinner en route, but in no time we were out of there and on our way – 90 nm to Ashkelon, in Southern Isreal, near the Gaza Strip.
The night passage followed the normal pattern of sailing in light wind in the evening, so I was able to knock up some pasta, later followed by motoring overnight when the wind died. Plenty of calls from the Israeli navy, making sure people kept to the required six miles off, to keep us awake.
June 5, 2011
Our arrival was greeted by the local fire boat out in the bay, pumping plumes of water. The marina entry was fairly perilous with sandbanks and people in small boats shouting confusing instructions. The berthing system was new to us and involved manoeuvring backwards between concrete piles. I had to try to thread the bow lines through ringa on top of the piles on the way in. It was like trying to thread a needle six feet away, but eventually with lots of help and encouragement from those already secure, we were in. And what luxury it is after the recent cramped conditions.We have a wide slot with plenty of space between the boats and our own water and electricity supply.
Ashkelon marina is so pleased to see us. There was music playing and beers and good y bags on arrival. A local telly crew were on the pontoon to interview M. “We hear you’ve come to Israel on a Peace Rally…etc” – more of a peace-up rally! andjust a few hours to snatch some sleep before drinks on Louisianna and then the Welcome party. The Green group performance, for which we had been preparing, went down a storm - we came in with Herman, the German from Spica, on the trumpet, with green scarves waving to “ Oh, When the Greens come marching in…..” followed by “Green group sailing, stormy waters etc”, “What shall we do with the Red Group sailor….” and finally a couple of verses of the Rally song, which is set to “Those Were the Days..” easily the best group entertainment yet. We are very lucky to have Herman, who also played guitar and Renata, from the Austrian catarmaran, Tara Devi, our brilliant lead boat, who organised it all.
We were a little upstaged, however, by two amazing belly-dancers who came on after us!
June 6, 2011
The beach is right next to the marina. It was so good to get a swim in the sea. The one downside of the rally is that with all the marina mooring we are not usually near enough to good swimming water, except when there is a pool. I really enjoyed it until on my way back Mashona, who have been here many times, said “Oh we don’t usually swim there because of the hammerhead” (You just never know when they are kidding). We had a Green group pot luck supper in the evening, on the pontoon just by our boat. Heindrich from Starfish brought two scooped-out water melons filled with a lethal, but delicious cocktail. There wes an epic spread and Herman got on the guitar again for rowdy singing.
June 7, 2011
A headache was not a good start for the 7.15am departure to Masada and the Dead Sea. We took a very quiet back route through the extraordinary but beautiful wastes of the Negev desert and approached Herod’s mountaintop fortress, towering 400 metres over the Western shore of the Dead Sea, from the back.
After Herod’s death, during the Jewish revolt against the Romans, the place became a stronghold for about 1,000 Zealots, who held out against 10,000 Roman soliders for 10 months. We ascended by the ramp, that the Romans had built by Jewish slaves, to push their enormous battering ram up to assault the walls. For centturies the place has been considered an emblem of Isreali patriotism at its proudest, because when the Romans were nearly through the Zealots murdered their wives and children and committed suicide. Our guide told us that until recent years passing out ceremonies for Israeli conscripts were held there but it has now stopped because murder and suicide are forbidden in the Judaism. We descended by the cable car to the new visitor centre built since we were last here in 1986.
The big surprise of the day was the retreat of the Dead Sea. There were signs showing the 1985 level so I knew my memory was not deceiving me. You now have to walk (or take a tractor-driven train) about three-quarters of a mile from what was the shore-line, when we last bathed here, to get to the water. The muddy shores are dry and falling into dangerous sink-holes, and instead of the oozy gloop we scooped off the bottom, with which to slather ourselves, the sea-bed is now sharp saline crystals. It was still fun to lie on the waters, like bathing in baby oil.
Our visit was from a spa, which has now been stranded way back from the water. They had a huge pot of the mud and showers of sulphurous water so it was still possible to get the mud-bath experience There were also pools of saline and fresh water.
I was going to have an alcohol-free day (how many times have I made that resolution?) but somehow a party developed on our boat and much was consumed while we tucked into everyone’s pot luck left-overs.
June 8, 2011
Quiet day catching up and chilling before the 124 nm journey to Egypt, departing in the early hours tomorrow. We were glad we gave Jerusalem a miss – been there before – when they got back exhausted, saying it was very crowded and all ABCs (Another Bloody Church).
The group briefing made the next passage sound very hairy – 500 unlit fishing boats who are strangers to the collision regulations, plus many large ships making their way to the Suez Canal. But the worst news was that we could not get our passports until between midnight and 2am so the computer would date our departure on the right day. . We had planned to collect the passports and then have an early night before leaving at first light. Computer said No.
June 9, 2011
Got the radio call that Green group passports were ready about 2am and decided to leave then. It was a tricky departure, in pitch-dark, hearing radio calls for a tow from a boat that had left ahead of us and gone aground on the sandbar at the entrance to the marina. After a beautiful dawn the long day passed amazingly quickly. We had some good sailing, taking it in turn to be on watch, doing crosswords etc.
We had dinner and our plan for the evening was to take it in turns to go to bed and rest so we could both be up during the second night of the passage, when the waters would be so busy as we approached Egypt. I was below washing up. And then ……..dada-daa
There was a shriek from M. He was trying to free a riding turn on the winch holding the genny sheet when he got his little finger trapped somehow. (No gloves, of course). The sail was under full power and he was in agony. (It would be easy to lose a finger that way). In the panic, it took me a couple of seconds to work out which rope to pull to free him. We were both shaking. He had blood an both hands and the finger was looking very crushed and bent. Neither of us could really sleep after this shake up.
June 10, 2011
However there was no danger of dropping off during the approach to Port Said. The night was very black, after the half-moon set, and we were both on full alert watching the many confusing lights and monitoring the radar. We were concerned as we seemed very isolated from other rally boats so we were relieved at 2.30am to arrive at the shallow water just outside the entrance to the Suez Canal, drop anchor alongside those who had already arrived, and get some sleep.
We were woken by shouts as we had forgotten to set the clock and M had rolled onto the portable VHF and changed chanels in the night. Everyone was up, all flags flying, so it was another scrambled start for Skysong. In the event it didn’t matter as there was an hour’s time change that hadn’t been taken into account.(We discovered later that this change has been made since the January revolution).
The plan was for all the boats to form a circle, 25 metres apart, and motor slowly round until we got permission to enter the Canal. We circled and circled for about two hours, but eventually at 8.30 new local time the pilot boats came out to escort us in, in convoy. Quite a moment – taking our boat into the Suez Canal. We were shepherded along for about 3.5 nm, dodging between ro-ro ferries, and other vessels and eventually into the Arsenal Basin, where we are surrounded by Egyptian navy ships. Again we are round a right-angle hanging off a concrete quay so likely to be lots of crossed anchors on departure.
We were both exhausted and our tempers were not improved when M insisted in washing the salt off the boat immediately and forgot to close two windows – over the chart-table, worst possible place, and galley. This led to about two hours’ work, mopping and hauling loads of stuff up into the sun to dry. Hope the instruments have survived. Ironically we were advised not to put local water into the tanks – put it into the saloon instead! Eventualy fell into bed and missed the local dance display laid on to welcome us.
Had a walk round Port Said in the evening. Egypt is filthy we saw rusting cars, a dead cat, and piles and piles of rotting rubbish everywhere. Decided to eat on board.
June 11, 2011
6am departure for Cairo. We were in three buses in convoy with police and army escort vehicles and an armed security man on each bus. This is apparently standard practice for tour buses in Egypt now. We were all shocked by the state of Cairo. Rubbish and filth everywhere and houses that look in a state of near deriliction, obviously still being lived in – satellite dishes all over. We went to the Citadel and the 12th century Salah Al-Din mosque and the 19th century mosque, dedicated to Mohammed Ali, the founder of modern Egypt before arriving at the Cairo museum in Tahir Square. The burnt-out headquarters of the former ruling party, which were torched by the January protesters, are right next to the museum. Our guide, who was present in the square when this happened, said people were very happy about the revolution which was a “new beginning for Egypt”.
I’d been looking forward to the museum, which we first visited 25 years ago, to see how the the treasures are now displayed, quarter of a century on. It was totally unchanged – dusty old display cases, tiny signage in poor English. Apparently they are building a new museum which will be ready in 2015. Tourism has plummeted since the revolution – so we had the place virtually to ourselves and could almost press our noses against the glass case of the exquisite Tutankamun mask for as long as we liked. Not like when it was on display in London.
We finished the day with a lovely breezy felucca ride on the Nile. Two guys in dishdashes handled the boat – the traditional style that has plied the Nile for millenia – brilliantly. Now that’s real sailing.
It was heaven to arrive at the Meridan Pyramids, which has a totally unspoilt view of the Giza plateau, and sink into the pool. They gave us a very warm welcome and the comforts of a 5-star dinner, bed and breakfast went down very well.
June 12, 2011
The welcome at the Giza plateau next day was not so pleasant. They normally get 15,000 visitors a day there at the height of the season but again we had the place virtually to ourselves. The hawkers were desperate in a very counter-productive way. I have never been so horribly hassled. The scrawny camels and ponies, with few takers for rides, were a sorry sight. Still nothing can take away one’s awe of the pyramids and Sphinx, even on a second visit. We went into one of the small ones – did the Great Pyramid of Cheops last time- and also saw the reconstruction of an enormous boat. This was found in a deep pit alongside one of the pyramids, packed in thousands of pieces, Ikea-style, ready for construction and use in the after-life. It was monumental – 50 metres by 6 metres, with a 6 metre draft, stunningly displayed in a building with three levels of viewing platform. Something we missed last time.
The scenery on the way back along the canal was interesting – some parts totally desert, others heavily cultivated, depending on the local irrigation systems. We saw the Japanese-built 7 kilometre long bridge that spans the canal, linking Africa and Asia. At Ismailia we stopped for a drink (pop only, strictly Muslim) at the local yacht club. This was rather sad and neglected but had obviously been a social hub in colonial times. They gave us a warm welcome and were very encouraging for us to go there. I doubt they will get many takers as it is 40 miles from the start of the canal and all passages through require pilotage at quite steep fees. The club sits on a lake just off the canal, which was fomed by this lake and the Great Bitter Lake, further south, being linked.
It was nearly 7pm when we got back, but, ever game, knocked up a rice dish for a pot luck supper on Endeavour,, with Belle Helene and Blue Star also bringing dishes. It was a feast. Les, on Blue Star, had very impressivly already got his photographs and some video into a slide show with music on his Macbook, so we were entertained by the record of the trip. He is so hi-tech.
June 13, 2011
Quiet day, mooching round Port Said, which doesn’t seem so bad now, after Cairo, reprovisioning . We watched the boat get filthy as an off-shore breeze covered us inside and out with a fine coating of desert sand..
The formal dinner in the evening, on the pool-deck of a hotel at the entrance to the Canal, was lovely but a little subdued with many empty seats. Gyppy Tummy has taken its toll. ( I’m convinced too much sun and not enough water has as much to do with it as the food.) M said a few words and handled over thankyou presents on behelf of all the Rallyers to the amazing organisers, Hasan, David and Kath. There was a children’s dance troop and a stunning twirling dancer. He was dressed in multiple colourful skirts and , as he whirled and whirled and whirled, he manoeuvred the spiraling skirts, to make different shapes, and cast them off, one by one to creat different effects, which included revealing small umbrellas, which opened around his waist, fairy lights and a rainbow of changing colour. It was a truly extraordinary spectacle.
June 14, 2011
Preparing for the final and longest passage of the Rally, 136nm back to Israel: There was the usual waiting around for officialdom then we up-anchored in the reverse order of going in. We were the tightest into the angle so picked up two chains from other boats. Werner and Hans, from Tara Devi, our marvellous lead boat, were out in a dinghy and untangled us and and a number of others. We hovered in the Arsenal Basin until everyone was free and the Pilot Boat could escort us out of the Canal in convoy, past the ferries and container ships. Endeavour had engine trouble so Carole heroically tacked her out single-handed under full sail, while Brian changed the impellor below. Glad nothing like that happened to us!
We were on our way by noon sailing for about 5 hours in light airs. The day and beautiful calm night, lit by a full moon, passed surprisingly quickly and without incident – apart from four Israel aircraft flying very fast and low over the fleet, as we passed the Gaza strip.
June 15, 2011
On entering Israeli waters there was the usual circling by a gunboat and questions on the radio by the navy and we were barely tied up before a security man was on board – although his “search” was pretty cursory. So we have arrived at our final port, Herzliya, which is just north of Tel Aviv in central Israeli. It’s effectively a very smart shopping mall with a marina attached. We survived Egypt without ill-effect. Spent the day catching up with people, who didn’t come to Egypt, and sleeping before a rowdy Green Group party on Tara Devi.
June 16, 2011
The last day of the Rally. Cleaned up the boat which was covered in desert dust inside and out. It was posh frocks for the final evening, which started with pre-party drinks on the pontoon and presentation of certificates to say we made it. Then it was on to the party proper with lots of flag-waving, thanks all round and entertainment from Yellow and Blue groups (not a patch on ours, even though we lent them Herman, the German, our musician!). Post-party drinks on Taralee was probably a step too far.
June 17, 2011
So now the party’s over and I am feeling no better than I deserve. Some diehards were up at the crack for a two-day trip to Jordan. We contemplated going independently but we’ve been to Petra, the main attraction, and couldn’t summon the energy to fix it up. Some people are already leaving and there is a real end of term feeling. We have decided to have a few days in Israel and hired a car.
May 31, 2011
May 7, 2011
We joined the East Mediterranean Rally today: our shortest leg of the trip, as we only had to go about half a mile across Gocek bay from our home marina to the new Marin Turk Exclusive where the rally was arriving later in the day. Up to 20 boats were joining here. Marin Turk is a half-empty, new marina, built principally for gin palaces so very roomy and smart, with classical music booming from loudspeakers (this gave a bit of the North Korean feel, we thought). We were the second rally boat to arrive, and watched the others, who had joined at various earlier ports, including two all the way from Istanbul, where the rally started on April 23, come in and tie up.
We were issued with an amazing array of goodies: The Bible (the rally handbook), badged rucksacks, caps, four shirts, scarves, and pennants and dodgers for the boat. Trying on the shirts turned into a good opportunity to get to know people as there were an array of sizes which bore no relation to the labels. I swopped my roomy size S with Helen on Belle Helene, who had much neater size L.
It was all very jolly and friendly and before the end of the day eight of us were on Endeavour wading into Carole and Brian’s booze and snacks stocks. Great hospitality.
May 8, 2011
Many people went on a tour of the nearby ruins at Caunos, Dalyan river and mud baths, and the turtle beach. We’d been there several times before, as we are in home waters, so we went walking round the bay and visited friends in another Gocek marina.
Met more EMYR sailors at the welcome cocktail party in the evening with live music and food.
May 9, 2011
Left at 5.45am for the 45 nm run to Kas. Again a very familiar journey to us, but we never fail to enjoy the coastal scenery, with lots of snow on the mountain backdrop at this time of year. We were heading for another brand-new marina, Setur. We are now divided into five groups, by size of boat. We’re in the second group – green. The mooring process is brilliantly organised; a system that’s been honed over the years. This is the 22nd rally.
We had a wonderful welcome at Kas with lots of gifts – flowers, olive oil, soap, lavender, insulated mugs. Walked into town – it’s a pretty little place we’ve been to many times. We made a circle of it by coming back via the Roman amphitheatre, which looks as if it’s still in use.
May 10, 2011
We decided to go on today’s tour to be sociable, even though we had already been to most of the places. It was a great opportunity to travel on the scenic road, which hugs the coast.. We’ve seen this road pushed through, along the steep coastal strip over the years, from the boat. It’s a marvellous piece of engineering. The ride was spectular and the Lycian ruins at Xanthos well worth a second visit. Went from there to Saklikent Gorge, where the river rushes down through a defile between towering rocky sides. On a previous visit we were able to wade in the icy water far into the narrowing gorge, climbing over boulders, in the deep shade between the over-hanging rocks. However at this time of year the water was too high and rushing too strongly to make it a wise move. We watched from safety as a guide carried two children through the torrent on his shoulders, before helping the parents through, and a group of teenagers nearly got washed down-stream. All good cabaret, but “nobody drownded at all”! Had a good trout lunch at one of the restaurants which have tables out on tethered rafts over the water. We hardly recognised the place from our last visit about ten years ago. Sadly it’s developed a lot and now gets up to 3,000 visitors a day in high summer.
Next stop was Patara beach – 20 kms of glorious golden sands, totally undeveloped. Inland from the beach are the ruins of ancient Patara, the only place we hadn’t been to that day – and it was closed for restoration. Managed to see a bit from the road. Finished the day in Kalkan, another very attractive, formerly Greek town before the ethnic redistribution of 1926, that we know well.
Great party in the evening, with loads of food and drink, and a good band, around the pool at the new marina.
May 11, 2011
6.15am start to make the 35 nm to Finike in time for our mooring slot. Green group is the second biggest so we have an earlier arrival time than the smaller boats, who can’t go so fast. Finike is the capital of the orange-growing area and we were greeted with a net of oranges on arrival. It’s a real Turkish town, not at all touristy. Got the dongle we are now using for internet on the boat, which is great.
Yet another welcome cocktail party, with food, in the evening, which had to be held in a hotel at the marina entrance as it was raining. The weather so far has been less warm than it was when we were here in April.
May 12, 2011
The tour today was scheduled to be to the ruins at Myra and Father Christmas’s birthplace at Demre (ie St Nicolas), both of which we’d been to before so we didn’t go. However there was a change and they went to a very impressive site we hadn’t seen. But we weren’t sorry we didn’t go as it was cold and wet, with shrieking winds most of the day. Hunkered below and got a few jobs done. Brian from Endeavour came to help me set up the dongle. He’s an engineer and was very impressed with all the gizmos we’ve got on Skysong, half of which we can’t work!
The local hamman opened for exclusive use of EMYR sailors in the evening, so we had a good scrub down, and soaping. Went to bed early – glowing.
May 13, 2011
Up before the muezzin for the 45nm run to Kemer. Left in the gathering light. You chose your own departure time, so long as you arrive for your slot, so there were boats in front and behind us. The fleet looked like an armada as the day broke, with everyone raising their sails. However we motor-sailed most of the day, as the wind just couldn’t be relied upon.
Cold again and raining now. Not what we came for. Kemer is the last place on our journey that we have been to before. The marina is well-known among live-aboard yachties for its great over-wintering social life. Another welcome party scheduled for tonight with pre-party drinks on Belle Helene, with Justin and Helen. This is the marina where the rally was conceived. 16 boats left from here on a much shorter route in 1990 and it’s been going every year since.
May 14, 2011
Glorious day so decided to go up the mountain behind the marina on the cable car which opened 3 years ago. It’s the longest and highest in Europe and the second in the world. Swiss-built. Wonderful ride up with magnificent 360 degree views, from the top which was snowy with wonderful vistas of the mountain ranges into the interior, and down to Kemer and the beach. Sadly we hadn’t been there long when the cloud came over with some very fine snow. It remained gloriously sunny at the marina.
Fun – but scary – afternoon when there was an excellent display of all the safety equipment we should all have on board, plus an opportunity to buy for those who hadn’t. They were setting off flares and smoke signals and dressing up people in all sorts of fire-fighting gear (we don’t have that so hope never to need it. We’ve got fire extinguishers, fire blanket etc). They also set off inflatable life jackets and sprang open a life-raft. The life-raft box is something you hope never to see the inside of so this was really interesting. It automatically inflates when you drop it into the water. Masses of kit inside. We all had a taste of the long-life, high-energy rations.
Had a fun couple from another boat round for drinks and then there was an excellent dinner for all with a wide range of mezzes and grilled meat. We met Roland, a Belgian in his 90s who was on the first rally in 1990, and was one of the driving forces behind the whole thing, The rally organisers had flown him here to spend a few days with us. There was a great band and dancing at the party but we didn’t stay late (see next entry).
May 15, 2011
Woke at 3.30am to be away by 4am for our longest passage so far. Beautiful starry night and a perfect wind. The whole armada had sails up in no time so the first half of the trip was wonderful – except for Louisana, a French Canadian boat which hit something on the way out and was damaged. (They were hours late but still managed to arrive before the Welcome cocktail party was over and have now fixed the boat). Had to motor when the wind dropped in the afternoon. It was a 98 nm mile passage to Alanya but we arrived in time for our docking slot at 3.15pm. Most of the marinas have a limited number of joker boats to help you get in, so we are all briefed before leaving about when each group must arrive and we then radio in for our docking number in the order that we get to within half a mile of the marina. The whole operation is overseen by a marvellous couple, David and Kath, on Mashona, who have been very involved with the rally organisation for seven years.
Another rally has also just arrived here: the Vasco da Gama on which 12 boats have taken four months to come from Cochin in Kerala, India. They had to go very far north to avoid pirates on the more direct route. They lost all the winds so ended up motoring about 3,000 miles just off the coast in territorial waters for safety. (Makes our trip seem like a bit of a breeze).
Extraordinary co-incidence: the Danish couple who lost out on buying Airwaves are here in the marina and are joining the rally. They had us round for a drink to see the Westerly they eventually bought a year later, which they seemed pleased with. Also had drinks on Mashona; they are such hospitable people.
May 16, 2011
Lots of people were up early again for a 4am departure to Cappadocia. This is a wonderful region of wind-carved rock formations, known as fairy chimneys – some of them are huge with houses and hotel rooms carved into them. It’s a most curious landscape, very other-worldly. We’ve been there before so didn’t go as it involved about 1,000 kms in a bus there and back over two days.
Very chummy here in the marina with the few who stayed and people who live on boats here all the time. Walked up the mountain behind the marina with a group, through a fruit-growing area and picked Maltese plums for breakfast. People here are much more traditional than in Gocek, with the men in the black baggy trousers, pulled in at the ankle, and the women in scarves and long overcoats in the town and the baggy bloomers in the orchards and market.
Day of chores: there’s a laundry in the marina, so got 3 loads done and cleaned and sorted out the boat ready for our next passage.
May 17, 2011
Took the courtesy marina bus to the local market. Bought masses; it’s all so fresh and such good quality.
Went to the huge fort on the hill overlooking the town in the afternoon. Glorious views over the two beaches. Walked back about six miles down the hill and along the marina. Had David and Kath round for drinks and heard lots of tales of rallies past. Roasted a chicken which was a nice change.
About 9pm the travellers returned, all pretty cream-crackered. They had had a marvellous , if hectic trip, with the balloon ride deep into the valleys between the “chimneys” the highlight.
May 18, 2011
Another early walk on a different route. Marina very busy now with everyone getting ready for tomorrow’s departure. Had a nice day chilling out, swimming in the beautiful marina pool and hearing all about the trip to Cappadocia.
Formal dinner in the evening with M in jacket and tie and me in my Thai silk fisherman’s trousers and top. Very strange needing such clothes on the boat. Drinks on Endeavour before we walked over to the event which was set up around the pool. We were about 300 all together with lots of former EMYR participants, local dignatories tc. The fleet is now complete: 52 boats, 175 crew, 14 nationalities taking part. Much smaller than last year when there were 80 boats (more than 100 for the 20th anniversary rally). I think the size is plenty big enough. We were seated in our groups so it was a chance to get to know some of the others a bit better. We had the crews of Starfish (German) and Tarra Devi (Austrian) with us – all native German-speakers. Needlesstosay we were the only monoglots. They were very kind and talked in English most of the time. The TD skipper, Werner, is our group leader and doing a great job at the briefings and on the radio when we are on passage.
After the dinner a standard-bearer from each nationality waved their large flags on 6-foot poles from the arched footbridge over the pool, while fireworks were set off from the roof. Quite spectatular. Good band so danced and went to bed after 1am, after a nightcap on Belle Helene. Not very sensible in view of long passage tomorrow, but a good night.
Everyone very busy making ready to leave Turkey. After skipper’s briefings, which we both go to, we were given clearance by the port authorities and could go when we felt ready. Saw a few others out – Annie, one of the small German boats left with a bagpiper playing on the bow! Last time I saw that was on the Queen Mary 2.
We left at 3pm and are now on passage and I am writing this below while M helms. It’s 98 nm to Girne in Northern Cyprus. It’s the longest trip we’ve ever done with just the two of us; also over-night – another first a deux. Should take about 19-20 hours and whole of green group has a half hour berthing slot at 10am tomorrow. I will soon run out of dongle as it won’t work once we get too far off-shore, or indeed after that until we return to Turkey. Will have to rely on internet cafes after this.
Dongle wouldn’t work so could not in fact post the above so will carry on and do so when we next get access.
Could not have asked for more benign conditions for the passage: Sailed beautifully in light airs for the first few hours as dusk gathered. We had a late dinner – a curry, I’d cooked earlier in the day, and M went below to rest. I found this the hardest part of the passage: trying to stay awake during the time my body clock seems to be programmed to fall asleep in the armchair. I was very glad to go to bed from 10pm until 1pm while M did a watch. Staying awake between 1am and 4 am was no problem as I’m often reading during those hours. It was a glorious clear night with a full-moon, very little wind, so we were motor-sailing, hardly any shipping, apart from the rest of the EMYR fleet.
May 20, 2011
Back to bed at 4am while M had the daybreak shift. Beautiful sunny day when I got up again. We had lots of clear water around us and plenty of time so both had hot showers on the back of the boat and felt refreshed and ready for our berthing slot. And then it all went horribly wrong ……..
A very strong wind had got up while we waited to be called into the harbour on the radio. We motored in and were called to a place with the wind on the beam beyond where a number of boats were already moored. Several of them had rigged tripping lines making it a fairly hazardous approach. M misjudged the line as we dropped the anchor and as I lifted it to re-lay we realised we were picking up someone else’s as well. It took a couple of fellow rallyers in a joker boat to help us out of that one, but by then we were right in the middle of all the tripping lines. And, of course, we got one round the prop so the engine cut out. M donned his swimmers and mask and, armed with the bread knife was about to go down to try to cut the line when a chap in another joker said “Lend me the shorts, I’m a diver” which was great as the tripping line was ridiculously thick. However also in the joker was the local newspaper photographer, assigned to cover the arrival of the rally. She turned out to be a Brit so the whole debacle turned into front page news on Cyrus Today next day - “Newsman rises to nautical challenge” -and may well be in the tabs at home by now.
The worst bit was that all the radio messages during the mess were heard over the network by the entire fleet, while our agonies in finally trying to come in properly, which took a couple more goes, were witnessed by those crews safely moored up. We both had a stiff drink on arrival.
Walked into Girne, an attractive walled town, in the afternoon and saw a rather Soviet style military parade. Back to the boat as we had people round for drinks before yet another welcome party.
Great event – open-air in the castle with a band and traditional dancers and loads of food and drink. Bed by 10pm as we were pretty tired after the over-night, so not too pleased when the German boat next door started playing the trumpet.
May 21, 2011
Did some tourism to Salamis, the first city of Cyprus in Ancient Greek times. Very impressive. Also St Barnabas Monastery., the walled city of Famagusta and a hypermarket, which we could have done without. How can people be so disorganised that they already need loo rolls? We are provisioned to the gunwhales and have hardly eaten on board at all.
Another marvellous party in the evening at a beach club, hosted very generously by the American University. Beautiful setting and dancing to a great band. Despite the drink flowing all evening we still managed a nightcap on Belle Helene. Will we survive the pace?
May 22, 2011
The marina here in Girne is very small so we are with about 30 of the bigger boats, moored up in the nearby commercial harbour. We are alongside the Passenger Terminal for the ferries. The electricity supply is rather ah hoc. They have just run yards of cable along the quay, connected every now and again by a UK style 4-gang socket set. We have UK style sockets on the boat but no spare plugs so had to take the one off the travel iron to plug in the whole boat! Our shore cable is pretty hefty so I just couldn’t manage to get the top on the plug. Taped it up well, I thought, but M got a shaid he was a trained electrician and was obviously so keen on the job he had tools and spare fuses in his uniform pockets. He did a great job of wiring the plug properly so now everyone has electricity.
We are using the loos in the passenger terminal and one feeble shower that they have next to a cell, which is presumably for any illegals they nab. We have the run of the place, only problem today (Sunday) is that it’s all locked up – no ferries presumably – so the only way in is to crawl along the luggage carousel! There is also Duty Free in there and we have discount cards. Have yet to find it open. It seems to operate for a few minutes when there’s a ferry and we haven’t been around at the appropriate time.
Quiet day saving our energies for the Pirate Party at the Dome Hotel this evening. Green group warmed up with pre-party Pimms on Avocet. There were some amazing costumes and great hilarity all round. Torill and Harald, the Norwegians, had not come across Pimms before. They thought it was a great way to get your “five a day”!
We were bussed into town and dropped us off at the central car park. And then, led by the German on the bagpipes, we processed, with all the flags flying, through the pedestrianised area to the hotel - much to the bemusement of the locals.
The party was held on the huge shoreside terrace of the hotel and they’d laid on a glorious sunset. Fantastic spread, great band, singing of the rally song, dancing of the Gay Gordons, which only the Brits knew so was chaotic, all made for a great evening. I was in the very under-rehearsed belly-dancing troupe, which was totally upstaged by a wonderful professional in a superb emerald costume - and body.
By the end of the party the town had been taken over by flag-waving football fans celebrating a big victory somewhere. It all made for a pretty extraordinary mix as we wove our way back to the buses. So far each party seems to have been bettered by the next, but I think this will probably be the highlight.
May 23, 2011
Took the local dolmus to Lefkosa/Nicosia and walked through no-man’s land and the border crossing into Greek Southern Cyprus. All very simple on an EU passport, with stamps on slips of paper, just the same as in the North, which saves possible problems, elsewhere in Greece. We went to see Mac and Bleu Maclean. Mac did sound and editing for M in South Africa. He’s a Rhodie and had to leave SA when his work permit was withdrawn. He came here, shortly after marrying Bleuette (we were at their wedding) in 1987). They now have three sons, Keiran, 20, Connor, 18 and Liam, 12. They were all there and we had a great time catching up after quarter of a century with Mac doing an authentic SA braai.
It’s been a good move for them. Strategic base when Mac was still doing news for the American nets. He now runs a business doing corporate videos and stuff for the web. They are all Cypriots now and Liam, who has been to local school from the start, is bi-lingual. They sent the older boys to the internationl school because they weren’t sure they would be staying here, and regret it now. However they both have conversational Greek and Greek girlfriends. Bleu has been to classes which has helped enormously in the admin of their lives.. They all seem to enjoy life here although Mac and Bleu anticipate that the boys will all leave. Keiran is doing hospitality at the University of Nicosia and makes a lot of money DJ-ing in clubs. Connor had a run-in with a very rare cancer in the leg a couple of years ago, but had made a good recovery. He’s a very talented musician and singer and is applying to the Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford, which is now part of the University of Surrey.
May 24, 2011
The planned departure from Girne commercial harbour was strictly in reverse order of arrival – last in, first out. We were anchored around a 90 degree corner, so there was great likelihood of crossed lines, especially given the conditions we anchored in (see May 20!). And there were a few. There were also big rocks on the bottom. Belle Helene got their anchor badly caught but Ian from the Aussie boat Fourth Dimension, who was in the water in snorkel and mask, was able to see enough to guide them which way to drive it out. Skysong’s turn: Our chain was right around a huge rock in deeper water, and Ian couldn’t see enough to help. There’s great comarardrie on the rally. When a diver was called for, Jan from the Czech boat, Lavinia, put on the tanks and came to help. He was able to direct us out of the mess, thank goodness. An anchor had to be abandoned in here last year. So it was “Entertainment by Skysong” yet again and a delayed departure for the last few boats.
We had a 50 nm passage east along the N. Cyprus coast to Karpaz Gate a brand-new marina. Our arrival was the excuse for an opening party and the drinks were flowing before we were even moored up alongside – the place is empty so there’s plenty of room. Another wonderful party with a delicious buffet, traditional dancers, great band, release of dozens of balloons. We drank them dry as usual. Oddly they ran low on tonic early on so some very stiff Bombay Sapphires were being consumed, (not by us) to regret later.
We sought out Jan, our saviour of the morning to thank, and discovered that he is on the only boat to start the rally in Istanbul on April 22 (We thought there were two). Hasan, one of the wonderful organisers, who has been involved with the rally from the start, flew from Alanya to Istanbul to give them their rally bags, shirts, caps and the Rally Bible, and wave them off. They were on their own for the first three legs. (The Bible is an amazing production with masses of information about passages, ports, boats, tours, social programme etc)
The Karpaz pensinsula (the pan-handle on the north-eastern corner of Cyprus) is a beautiful, unspoilt wilderness – according to the guide-book. We were supposed to be spending two nights here with a tour of the countryside and beaches tomorrow, after breakfast laid on by the marina. Sadly bureaucracy has got in the way. The rally organisers had arranged for us to be checked out of N Cyprus at Karpaz Gate, so we could go from here direct to Lebanon. But, in what appears to have been tit for tat between ministries that has been vetoed. (All rather self-defeating of the efforts of the Tourism Ministry, who are very keen to promote yachting on these shores). So mid-party when concentration levels were not high ,we were called to an emergency briefing with team leaders, to hear the new arrangements. (Can’t remember if I mentioned the Syria visit, which was supposed to be next, was pulled several weeks ago before the rally started).
May 25, 2011
So instead of the day-off planned, it was another 5am start for a 60nm passage, around the pan-handle and west to Famagusta, which is a Port of Entry, for the exit formalities. Lots of motor-sailing at first, as usual. We only seem to be getting good winds when were don’t want them ie while mooring up or overnight. We hugged the coast. The scenery looks lovely and we definitely plan to come here on our way back We wove our way through the islands to round the cape and were able to sail back south-west into Famagusta.
The Harbourmaster had cleared 400 metres of the harbour wall for us to go alongside but a few boats still needed to raft up. Coincidently we had the only other Malo in the fleet, a German-owned 39 called Nereus II hanging off us. Juergen and Monika, who have had her from new, came over for drinks and told us about the great parties Malo have every year for all owners, not just the originals, on the Swedish island where they are built. Hope to get there sometime. I was glad of the chicken casserole, I’d made en route and had in a very low oven, when we finally got round to eating.
May 26, 2011
Luckily we had seen Famagusta earlier as there was little time before check-out formalities and a detailed skippers’ briefing about the 105 nm overnight passage to Lebanon. All a bit scary: we had to head straight for a waypoint to be sure of not straying into Greek waters off South Cyprus, where we were likely to be apprehended because of a recent acrimionous incident with the the North. We then had to head for another waypoint ten miles off Beirut and be sure not to cross it before new instructions at 9am tomorrow.
The journey in the evening was wonderful: we were under sail in perfect winds for about nine hours, making more than 7 knts at times in little more than 10 knts of wind. I think this is probably the longest continuous sail, without any engine assistance, we have ever done.
We had the rest of last night’s chicken casserole as darkness fell and were really relaxed about the coming night when we lost the chart plotter and I went below to find the aft heads swimming in salt water. We were still hurtling along under sail in what felt like rather a reckless way in the dark, so sheeted in and put the engine on low to be sure to keep up with the boats ahead. Got out the hand-held GPS and had to rely on that and the paper charts until M got the back-up Raymarine GPS going.
During the night , while M was resting, I heard Segue II, the Canadian motor yacht (registered in Edmonton!) being questioned over the radio by a UN warship. Dave, the skipper was very professional and had all the information re registration numbers etc at his fingertips. Made me realise I would not be able to answer such questions quite so readily.
May 27, 2011
We both had a little sleep before nearing the waypoint, with many of the other boats in the yellow and green groups, shortly before 9am. It was a flat calm so we were slowly circling, while hearing over the radio from David, one of the organisers, who was already in, that the port police were insisting we moor up individually at the fuel quay on arrival, for entry formalities. This will to take ages.
We approached the harbour with army motor boats circling us and divers in the water.
Eventually the authorities realised the idiocy of their plan and set up a second passport control table on the pontoon. We were lucky enough to get the fuel quay where we were able to fill up while the formalities, which included a solider coming aboard to search the boat, were done. Very pleasant to be paying about 80p a litre for diesal. We were then rafted up, like sardines in a can, beween two pontoons, with electricity cables and hosepipes, snaking all-over neighbouring boats. We are quite lucky and only have to cross one other boat to get to the quay.
As we set to to sort out our problems of night the gas alarm started sounding insistently. Something else for Brian from Endeavour, who kindly came over to help us, with! Turns out we do not have chart cards for this extreme eastern corner of the Med in the plotter so will have to rely on the auxiliary. Brian was very relaxed that the gas alarm was a faulty connection, after lifting various floorboards and doing checks. I hope he’s right. I decided the sea-water in the heads was from the water crashing over the bow and finding its way down a mystery leak we’ve had before in heavy rain.
We are guests of the very smart yachting and automobile club in Jounieh, which sits under towering mountains about 10 kms north of Beirut. There are lots of facilities here, including huge indoor and outdoor swimming pools.
After sorting out our problems, we only had time for a short swim before heading off for “Beirut by Night”. We drove along the Corniche and then walked around the city centre, which has been regenerated since the war. . It’s been beautifully done ,with mostly Saudi money, all superbly under-lit. They have managed to retain some of the French colonial-style facades and have uncovered ancient remains that had been buried under bombed buildings. Large open spaces, covered in wild hollyhocks remain. We found it a bit soul-less and not a patch on the exciting city M remembers from the 70s before the war: the “souq” is now effectively a mall with vaulted ceilings, full of Bond Street type shops. There is obviously enormous wealth here with every designer brand represented. We wandered round on our own and had a meal but were more than ready for the transport back at 11pm.
May 28, 2011
Woke to heavy rain and hunkered down for a much appreciated lie-in. Decided to draw breath today. The marina is beautifully situated under the towering heights of Mount Lebanon, with its own beach, as well as three pools, clubhouse, gym, and tennis courts with grand-standing. There is a 20-year waiting list to join. However there are army camps on either side and there is always a tank parked at the entrance and heavily armed soliders stopping and searching people.
The skies cleared and we swam. I was going to have an alcohol-free day but somehow pre-dinner drinks on Belle Helene were followed by a nightcap on Avocet (we did manage a quick plate of pasta inbetween). I was feeling a little marina-bound by the end of the day and went out for quite a late walk alone but didn’t feel any sense of menace.
May 29, 2011
We went to Baalbek, arguably the most impressive Roman site in the Middle East. It was a spectacular journey that took us 1500 metres over Mount Lebanon and down into the fertile lushness of the Bekaa Valley, a high plateau between the mountain ranges. It is now a market garden area and it’s hard to imagine the days when it was a battleground during the war. It is still the base for Hezbollah however.
The remains were some of the most impressive I’ve ever seen, amazingly preserved by being buried by centuries of sand being blown in from Syria. It’s all been uncovered and restored by German archaelogists. 19th century graffiti high on the walls is an indicator of how much digging has been done. There are Temples to Venus, Bacchus and Jupiter and a Sacrificial Courtyard.
The approach to the site is decked with Hezbollah flags and people selling Hezbollah T-shirts, but all very friendly.
We had lunch at Aanjar within sight of the Syrian border, high on the ridge above the restaurant. A gushing spring rises in these mountains and had been fed down over a weir that made the place very cool and airy.
Marvellous spread of mezzes, grills and fruits. Lebanese food is quite delicious, like Turkish plus.
It was hard to keep awake on the way back along the Beirut-Damascus highway, especially after we stopped for a tasting at a winery with tunnels burrowed deep into the mountainside, lined with oak barrels.
May 30, 2011
Took a taxi to the Jeita Grotto the biggest cavern of stalagmites and stalagtites I’ve ever been in. It was situated in a beautiful green valley, totally undeveloped. There was a little train up the hill to a turnnel to walk into the cave then ,German expertise again , had provided a walkway through an amazing gallery of natural wonders, which had been subtely lit. In places you could look hundreds of feet down through sink-holes to the turquoise waters below. Later we walked down the hill and back into the mountainside for a boat ride through the lower galleries where the temperature was markedly lower.
Incidently the woman in the marina office, who called the taxi for us, expressed horror that we had been to Baalbeck. Were we alright? She would never go there. “It’s not for Lebanon now,” she said. “It’s Hezbollah.” Sad.
Back to the marina for chilling out before yet another great party. (Drinks before on Endeavour. Thanks once again to Brian and Carole).We had originally heard that, for the first time, we would have to pay for the dinner – 40$ each. We have already had so much by way of mooring facilities and socialising for the 400 euros each it costs to be involved in the Rally, no one thought this unreasonable. However in the afternoon a message went round that not only was there going to be no charge for the dinner but drinks were also included. Much rejoicing. It was a formal night, which was not wihout its difficulties, as we are rafted up - climbing over boats with M in jacket and tie and me in a long skirt and heels.
It was another terrific night with a delicious buffet and great band. The Turkish and Greek ambassadors to Lebanon were both present so there was the usual speech -making and flag-waving.
We also have with us Christopher Rassy of HalbergRassy. He’s travelling on Solvag, the big German 54-foot Halberg. He congratulated us on how well Skysong sails as we had overtaken them on the passage here!
May 31, 2011
Making ready for the overnight passage to Isreal. It is forbidden to go direct from Lebanon to Israel so the fiction is that we are going via Larnaca in South Cyprus. It’s all a game of bluff, it appears, with everyone knowing what is happening but nobody saying.
The departure took ages as we had to leave on a last in first out basis and everyone was supposed to moor up at the fuel quay, refuel if necessary, collect passports and be officially checked out of Lebanon. . We were lucky enough to re-fuel on the way in and M had sauntered round to the office earlier and been given our passports, so we were raring to go. However it took about two hours to extricate ourselves from the rafting, and it was gone 6pm before we were underway.
Our instructions are to go due west of Lebanon for 12 miles to get out Lebanese waters, before turning south towards the next waypoint. A few yachts didn’t seem to realise that we needed to keep 12 miles off Lebanon at all times. The Lebanese coast runs slightly south-west so they were quickly straying back into territorial waters, and as we passed Beirut an agitated UN gunboat kept coming on the radio saying will the yacht at such and such co-ordinates turn due west immediately or risk being arrested and taken to Beirut.
It was all rather threatening, with the gunboat’s searchlights turning as darkness fell .
Again we were able to sail beautifully during the early part of the passage and were glad of the chicken and potatoes I’d put in the oven to roast while we were waiting to leave.