May - June 2005 Eastern Mediterranean Yacht Rally (photos)
The first half of the
summer was a fairly hectic and extraordinarily stimulating time for
us. We saw so much, in fact, that we've broken the descriptions of
our Middle Eastern adventures into several Adventures on this site.
This one describes the Eastern Mediterranean Yacht Rally (EMYR), including
the ports we went to, the sailing (and motoring we did between ports),
the social activites, etc. For our impressions of the cultures, ancient
sights, and modern political problems we encountered, see Turkey,
Syria and Lebanon; Adventures to Israel and Egypt are yet to be
After much thought, because we're not really joiners,
we decided to join the EMYR - the Eastern Mediterranean Yacht Rally
(see their website at http://www.emyr.org). This tour for cruising
sailors attracts people from all over Europe and North America,
and provides a well-established and well-organized introduction
to the countries of the eastern Mediterranean - Turkey, Turkish
Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Egypt - some of which we might
not feel comfortable visiting on our own. So we coughed up the 250
Euros per person fee and joined the rally. The EMYR actually begins
in Istanbul in mid-April, but we planned to join it as it passed
Marmaris, where we had spent the winter, in mid-May.
To our delight, our goddaughter Jessica Burshell
offered to accompany us on the EMYR. Not only did she provide us
good company, but having an extra crew member on board during the
overnight passages that are a major feature of the EMYR would make
the rally much less taxing.
Well, as the old saw goes, the best laid plans
To leave Marmaris, we first had to re-assemble the engine which
had been apart all winter. That was surprisingly easy, but when
reassembled, the engine simply wouldn't start. The long version
of this story is the subject of another travelogue. The short version
is that we got the entire engine rebuilt, by some incredible mechanics
in Marmaris who managed to do the whole job in 10 days.
Jess arrived in the middle of this and accepted the delay with great
good grace, a trait that she continued to exhibit throughout her
month-long stay. We left Marmaris on May 20th and proceeded to catch
up to the EMYR by sailing 480 miles non-stop to their next port
of call, Iskenderun, Turkey. Jess, though an experienced dinghy-
and keel-boat-racer, had never done a long passage or been out of
sight of land. She adapted easily and was fascinated by the ever-changing
and ever-the-same sea and sky. We had super weather, including one
day when we put the spinnaker up at dawn and took it down at sunset
- an almost unheard-of luxury in the summer Mediterranean.
At 5 p.m. on the 22nd, we got a VHF call from our
friends on the catamaran Double Up, a participant in the Rally who
knew our catch-up plans. They told us they were ahead of schedule
on their way to Iskenderun and were planning to anchor that night
across the bay from Iskenderun and sail over in the morning, and
invited us to do the same. Knowing we would arrive before dawn if
we continued straight to Iskenderun, we decided to join them. At
8 p.m., we were able to hear other Rally boats as they checked in
with each other, and we reported our position, thereby officially
joining up! We didn't arrive at the anchorage until after midnight,
but Captain Trish of Double Up got up and guided us in, so we got
a short but good night's sleep at anchor. At 6 a.m., we were up
for the four-hour motor to Iskenderun, enjoying our first sight
of seeing the 76 Rally boats converging on the harbor.
Iskenderun was the EMYR's final port in Turkey. We especially wanted
to join the EMYR there because our favorite version of the ubiquitous
lamb kebab dishes served throughout Turkey is Iskender Kebab, and
we wanted to savor this dish at its source. Alas, the EMYR organizers
and the host cities organized special dinners and cocktail parties
every night to welcome the participants, so we never had the opportunity
to dine out on Iskender kebab.
Iskenderun was the terminus of an oil pipeline from
Iraq, but since that was closed during the Gulf War, the city has
languished. The government is very interested in encouraging tourism,
and has established a course of study in tourism and hotel/restaurant
management at the local college. In fact, some of the college students
were "on duty" at the harbor to help any of us with problems,
purchases, etc. (For example, we discovered that our refrigeration
system needed recharging, and a student got us the technician to
do the job.)
Because tourism in Iskenderun is more a wish than
a reality, the harbor has not been improved with a marina. To accommodate
the 76 Rally boats, the entire commercial fishing fleet was moved
out of their fishing harbor. The fishermen anchored out or rafted
up with apparent good nature, because they all greeted us as we
walked by. The harbor wall really wasn't long enough for all of
us, so the EMYR boats were Med-moored 3 deep. Here's how it worked:
The first layer of boats set bow anchors then backed into the dock
in a standard Med-moor. Next, a second layer was sandwiched in between
these, bows in between the bows of the first boats with anchors
set astern, then a third layer was added, either bow or stern to,
much like sardines in a can. It was quite a sight, especially since,
as in all ports of call, the boats were all "dressed,"
flying strings of signal flags up and down their forestays and mainstays.
Iskenderun has no facilities (no water, electricity, toilets or
heads), on the docks or nearby. At the Rally dinner, the local authorities
said "next year it will be better." Our Rally representative
later said they'd been saying that for about 3 years, and nothing
had changed. Despite the lack of facilities, we enjoyed the warmth
of the welcome from the people of Iskenderun. And, of course, we
were really happy to finally have joined the Rally, including a
half-dozen boats whom we'd known in Marmaris or other ports.
In Iskenderun, we received our EMYR "Bible,"
a comprehensive guide to the rally and its route, tours, costs,
etc. The Bible had, for each passage, a chart, GPS coordinates for
waypoints, timetables, a chartlet of the next port, details about
what documents would be required and what the costs would be. For
each port, there were details of all the social activities (including
dress code) and tours. Each person aboard also got an embroidered
backpack, baseball cap, golf shirt and t-shirt, plus name tags identifying
our boat and group (see below). There was also a sailcloth briefcase
(with boat name tag) for port documents.
This was our first introduction to the overwhelming
Rally organization. By the time we'd completed the docking in Iskenderun,
we'd realized the need for such organization. Though it isn't something
we generally enjoy, we never resented the additional rules as we
feared we might, and came to appreciate it, and often were in awe
A little about the EMYR organization: The fleet
was divided into 6 groups by size/speed: Group 1 consisted of the
smallest and presumably slowest boats; we were in Group 6, the biggest/fastest.
Each group had a color and flew its Rally flag and its group color
flag. We also had side panels attached to our lifelines identifying
us as part of the 2005 EMYR, with an EMYR boat number. (Ours was
847, which tells you how many boats have participated over the 16
years of the EMYR.) Each group had a leader, and there was an overall
leader. The overall leader was named almost a year in advance and
helped with all the organization. It's unclear how the group leaders
were selected; they varied greatly in enthusiasm and abilities.
In addition, there were two professional organizers: Hassan, who
was the founder of the EMYR and remains its guiding force, and Umut,
the Rally "Coordinator." Both of these men have boundless
energy, enthusiasm and good cheer. Hassan knows everybody everywhere.
His name opens doors in the most unexpected places, and he can get
almost impossible things done with ease. He's utterly charming,
attractive, and tireless. In addition to being a good dancer, he's
a pretty good tennis player, as Rob was delighted to discover. Umut,
30, seemed to be everywhere at all times. On passages, he went on
one of the fastest boats to ensure that he would be first at each
new marina, so that he could greet boats and help us with the logistics
of where to berth - not an easy task with some skippers being very
particular about their (boat's) requirements. He was ever-patient
with all of this. Then, as soon as everyone was moored, when tours
began, he seemed to go on every one. Yet when we returned to the
marinas, he was fresh and ready for the cocktail parties/dinners.
After which, he'd join the contingent of twenty- to thirty-year
olds who would often party or simply stay up until the wee hours,
gabbing. But at 8 the next morning, there was Umut at the tour busses,
getting the German-speakers onto theirs, the French to theirs and
the English to ours. Of course, he'd promptly fall asleep on the
bus ride to wherever, only to revive and enjoy the tour. Quite a
Before leaving each port, Hassan met with the overall
leader and the group leaders, to get weather information and plan
the departure order, route, and arrival order. Then each group leader
met with the skippers of his group to pass on the info. The passages
ranged from 75 to 100 miles, and all were planned as overnight sails.
All rally boats monitored the same VHF channel as we left the port,
then each group went to its own group channel for the passage. We
checked in with the group leader at pre-arranged times, and group
leaders reported to the overall leader if any boats failed to check
in. (A few always did - one Frenchman was notorious for never checking
in.) It was pretty impressive.
As you might imagine, the logistics of getting 76
boats into and out of marinas was daunting. The leaders attempted
to coordinate departures and arrivals so that we arrived by groups,
not all at once, but inevitably, with the disparity in boat sizes,
speeds, desire and ability to sail, and wind conditions, "order"
approximated chaos. In Iskenderun, docking took over 4 hours, and
departure nearly the same. But everyone was good-natured about the
After 2 days in Iskenderun, Jess had met all of
the young folks and we had gotten re-acquainted with our friends
from other places and began to meet new friends. To the distress
of one of the Turkish tourism students who had developed quite a
crush on Jess, we set sail for Lattakia Syria, an 85 NM journey.
The day we were to depart, our group met on one
of the boats at the dock at 10 a.m. for wind/weather report, and
set departure times for the afternoon. We were reminded of the Syrian
Navy restriction against sailing within 6 NM of the coast. Headwinds
of 12-15 knots were expected, but we planned to sail, in contrast
to almost every other boat in the Rally. So we did, and soon fell
behind our group, but didn't mind. It was beautiful sailing under
an almost full moon, made more interesting by the fact that there
were always at least 6 boats in sight, often a dozen or more. We
arrived outside the Lattakia marina at around 1 p.m., well behind
our group, but in the midst of all the Rally boats.
The Lattakia marina is still under development,
and is home to the "Syrian Yacht Club." We've found that
in Europe, the expression "Yacht Club" is not reserved
for true clubs. Instead, commercial marinas are sometimes named
that, and this turned out to be the case in Lattakia. The "club"
didn't seem to have any members, for instance. The harbor was a
large basin with docks built around two of its edges. Some of the
larger boats were on one side, while the smaller ones were on the
other. They rafted the catamarans off each other on the large boat
side. Because the landscaping has just begun, it was a bit of a
dusty hike from our large boat side to the offices, head and showers,
tour busses and Yacht Club building, except for a brief but intense
rain shower one morning, just as Andi walked over to get tour tickets.
She returned wet but cool. It was the only rain we were to have
during the Rally.
At Lattakia we enjoyed one of the benefits we'd
anticipated from the EMYR. Upon arrival, we had our passports, crew
lists, ship's papers and the required fees (in US$) ready in our
briefcase, so we simply handed it to the official who came to our
stern as we docked. Within an hour, we were on a tour bus with no
further concern about formalities. What a pleasure! The clearing-in
process normally takes hours, or even days, especially in "difficult"
countries like Syria. (Our passports and ship's documents remained
with the Syrian authorities for the duration of our visit. We never
left the marina except on tours, in the company of our guide(s)
and the tour company. Frankly, we never tried to strike out on our
own, but probably wouldn't have been allowed.) The next day, Jess
took a tour to Aleppo while we took care of some boat maintenance
- the inevitable result of a few long passages.
We were well-rested for the 2-day tour inland to
Crusader castles, the beautiful oasis of Palmyra and Syria's capital,
Damascus. The sights are described in another travelogue. When we
arrived at Damascus, we barely had time to change clothes before
being whisked off by bus to dinner. When we got off the buses, we
were greeted by drums and wailing horns played by men in a double
line through which we passed, grabbing tiny cups of hot, sweet,
muddy strong coffee en route. Dinner was in a courtyard restaurant
(with the usual mezes of hummus, tahini, eggplant, etc.), followed
by entertainment. This included a mesmerizing dervish, who whirled
in place, his long white skirt forming a graceful bell around his
white pants-clad legs, his head (in tall fez) cocked at an angle,
his eyes gazing heaven-ward, for a good 5 minutes to the accompaniment
of the drums and wailing wooden pipes. He stopped abruptly, stood
for a few seconds, then walked calmly off, in complete balance.
Astonishing. He was followed by a belly dancer who would have been
at home at a strip joint. She really needed a pole to make her act
complete. She did encourage several of us to join her, including
both Rob and Jessica, but it was definitely not a traditional performance.
Afterward, a DJ got many of us dancing until nearly midnight before
we returned to the hotel. We understand that the hotel disco did
a brisk business with the younger cruisers until the wee hours.
After our return to the marina, on the 29th, there
was a formal dinner at the Yacht Club. This meant most men wore
jackets and ties. The two Scotsmen wore their kilts; ladies were
in skirts or dressy slacks. But inevitably, someone wore Bermudas.
All of these dinners included various presentations from the EMYR
to our hosts and from our hosts to us. Speeches were made, plaques
were presented, hands were shaken, cheeks were kissed. It wore thin
quickly. But one ceremony that was always a treat was the flag presentation.
A representative from each nationality (and this definition was
stretched to include Scotland and Wales) in the EMYR stood on the
stage behind all of this presentation business with his/her flag.
After all was said and done, Hassan called out the nations, and
each representative stepped forth and said "thank you"
or whatever else came to mind, in his language, to our hosts, often
also repeating it in English. Our 76 boats flew the flags of 18
countries, but we had 26 "nations" among our participants.
It was quite a sight! Rob represented the U.S. at the Syrian presentation
and Hassan nearly skipped him, despite the substantial size of the
flag! It was funny because of the strained relations between our
The dinner was yet another buffet, but each table
was set with "mezes" - hors d'oeuvres. These comprised
plates of several kinds of salads and relishes, plus hummus, tahini
and tsaziki. And wonderful pita bread. These were the same mezes
we'd been served in Iskenderun, and we were to become quite familiar
with them as the Rally proceeded: they were served, with some variations
on the salads and relishes, at every meal we were provided. We got
to be quite the connoisseurs of hummus and tahini. While the dinner
was delicious, many of us on the Rally, including all the Akka gang,
came down with "Saladin's Revenge" over the next few days.
We all wound up blaming this dinner.
In our 4 ½ days in Syria, we saw sights ranging
from Crusaders' castles to the ruins of Palmyra, where we were within
150 km. of the Iraq border, to the Great Mosque of Damascus. More
in another travelogue.
On the 30th of May, it was time to head for Lebanon,
a 105 NM trip. First we took on some diesel fuel at $.49/liter,
easily half of what we'd been paying. Then we went to the booth
where the officials were and retrieved our Rally briefcase with
all our boat documents and passports. It's not clear what they did
with these, because our passports have no stamps from Syria. To
go to Lebanon, almost due south, we first had to go at least 6 miles
offshore, for security/military reasons. Since the wind was almost
due south, after leaving around noon we held a close-hauled course
offshore for awhile before tacking for Lebanon. By 8 p.m. the wind
had lightened and we motored until 6 a.m., then sailed for 2 hours
before getting ready to enter Jounieh harbor.
Jounieh, our port in Lebanon, is a suburb about
20km (12 miles) north of Beirut. Our hosts were the Automobile and
Touring Club of Lebanon (ATCL), which has built a huge recreation
and social complex on the water, including a very large marina,
Olympic swimming pool, 3 restaurants, and 10 tennis courts. After
the poverty and third world settings of left-behind Iskenderun and
downtrodden Syria, this was quite a change! What an automobile touring
club has to do with a marina is beyond us. Why the club, where members
are almost all French speaking, is named in English, is also a mystery.
The ATCL staff was extremely efficient, and docking
was quick for the large boats. Some of the smaller boats were "sardine
canned" in, but even this process was handled speedily. Maybe
it was the lure of the pool
When we arrived, we noted that they were using fixed
moorings. The way this works is that there is a long chain on the
bottom, 25 or so meters from the dock and parallel to it. From the
chain there are heavy mooring lines, which are attached to lightweight
pennants (ropes) that lead to the dock. When a boat comes in, a
marina helper pulls up on the pennant until the boat's crew can
take it, lead it forward, and then pull up the heavier mooring line.
This system works great, but it's a good idea to have a pair of
heavy workgloves handy, as the pennant and mooring lines are generally
covered with slime and barnacles.
Anyway, we started to back into the dock, expecting
to receive a pennant, when the marina helper waved us off, saying
we needed to set an anchor. Knowing that this almost certainly meant
hooking our anchor on the mooring chain, we tried to argue with
him; but he insisted, and in the end we dropped the hook, backed
into the dock, and set our warps.
Here, the Customs and Immigration people came onto
each boat to collect our passports and 3 copies of our crew lists.
To our surprise, they didn't follow universal nautical protocol
and ask permission to board, but they were otherwise very polite.
They asked a few questions and took the passports and lists. Then
Rob had to go to their office (a table under an umbrella on the
dock) to pay the entry and shore pass fees. While he did this, Jess
and Andi washed down the boat, dressed it, and put up awnings. (BTW,
they held onto the passports, after scrutinizing them for any evidence
of an Israeli visa, the presence of which would have precluded us
When Rob returned, we took down our "Q"
flag and headed for the coffee shop beside the pool for café
au lait and croissants. And discovered that the restaurant staff
spoke fluent French. How civilized. Since the rules of the ATCL
forbade discharging any waste, including grey water (i.e., dishwater)
into the harbor, we enjoyed all of our meals out - with a French
flavor -- while there!
Rob and Andi passed up the next day's arranged tour,
but Jess went off to Byblos. We located a café with free
wi-fi internet access and a computer shop with a proprietor who
spoke great English. He repaired our old laptop, which had totally
crashed as we left Marmaris. (Worse than the Blue Screen of Death
- we had a black screen with a cryptic DOS message preventing us
from even seeing the BSOD.) Repair cost $20.
On June 2nd, we took a fabulous day tour into the Bekaa Valley to
Baalbek. While we were in Baalbek, Rashid Khalili, a Lebanese journalist
was car-bombed in Beirut. This didn't stop the kids from going out
on the town for Lebanon's famous nightlife that night. Nor did it
stop the Lebanese, according to Jess's report the following day.
We felt detached from it all.
June 3rd: more pool lounging before the final Rally
dinner at the pool deck. It was quite an affair. A four course dinner,
not a buffet, with filet mignon as the main course. (Yes, hummus
for the hors d'oeuvres.) Following the usual plaque and flag presentations,
we were treated to a belly dancer. Unlike the Syrian dancer, who
would have been at home in s trip joint, this slender girl could
have taught aerobics. Probably did. Her dancing certainly incorporated
belly dancing, but into a modern dance routine. It was quite lovely.
She was followed by a 3-piece combo who kept us dancing and singing
along until midnight.
June 4th: Departure day. Walked to a patisserie
for some amazing éclairs, then to a duty-free store for really
cheap booze and good groceries (BACON!!), then lounged around the
pool until a 5:30 p.m. departure.
When we arrived, we were told to use our anchor
to Med-moor instead of picking up one of the marina mooring lines.
Early in the departure day, when we pointed outday, we went to the
ATCL staff and pointed out that our anchor was probably hooked on
the mooring line chain, theychain. They said "No problem."
This Americanism is widespread and subject to equally wide interpretation.
It can mean that there IS no problem, or that the problem is understood
and has been/is being/will be dealt with, or can be a throwaway
because they have no idea whatsoever what you're talking about or
it can mean it's your problem, not theirs. In this case, it proved
to be the last meaning. So atone of the latter cases. At 5:30, we
released our stern lines, began to pull up the anchor, and itof
course the chain stopped dead when it got up-and-down. The ATCL
staff seemed astonished. How had this happened? Why didn't anyone
know? After considerable English, Gallic and Arabic yelling and
handwaving, a diver materialized. Calling out "no problem,"
he free dove down our anchor chain and released it from the marina
chain. At 6:30 p.m., we were on our way.
Well, kind of. First we had to motor closely past
the end of the fuel dock where the immigration officials handed
our passports back to us. And where were we going? Per all radio
communications, we were going to "the Next Port." Per
all of our formal papers, we were going to Cyprus. In reality, we
were headed for Haifa, Israel. Or as it is formally called in Lebanon,
Occupied Palestine. But we would not have been permitted to leave
Lebanon for there had we admitted this. So, we left for the Next
Port, an 85 NM sail.
We had already begun to hear the Israeli Navy on
the VHF, back in Syria, calling ships by position, asking for identification.
They must have incredibly strong transmitters! Now we were about
to enter Israeli waters, and the identification and tracking would
be more intense. The EMYR had, of course, provided a complete list
of all boats and all their particulars, including our EMYR numbers,
so as each of us entered and called in to the Israeli Navy, we were
asked for our EMYR number, and to confirm all of the details. As
with Syria and Lebanon, we had to stay at least 6 miles off the
coast until it was time to turn and enter the Haifa harbor. We had
mis-heard the lat-long of a waypoint that was changed en-route so
sailed an extra 6 miles before realizing our mistake. No problem,
because upon arrival outside Haifa at around noon, we had to anchor
and wait with the rest of Group 6 because they were having trouble
berthing all the boats at the marina.
Our hosts, the Haifa Carmel Yacht Club, had had
to move several months ago due to environmental concerns at their
previous site. Their new location was much smaller, and it was amazing
how we fit all the boats in. The local boats were Med-moored to
finger piers. Between these, we "sardine canned" another
layer of boats. Then, between these boats, we slipped in a connecting
and connected bridge of boats. Everyone was tied to everyone, but
Akka wound up as the 14th boat out on the raft or bridge. Getting
to shore was a real journey, stepping over lifelines of boats of
very different sizes, shapes, and heights. After one day (and 3-4
trips - literally!) we launched our dinghy for the 30' trip to shore.
Despite their woefully inadequate facilities in
a rather filthy industrial area, the HCYC couldn't have been more
welcoming. Actually, the first person we saw on the docks was Vivi,
the Israeli who works part of each year in Marmaris who had organized
and supervised our mast repair this winter! What a nice surprise
to see a familiar face in a strange place.
For the Israeli check-in procedure, the Security
Police were supposed to come aboard each boat. With the way we were
all rafted, this clearly wasn't going to be possible, so they stationed
themselves at the security gates of the docks. We went to them to
answer their many questions. They primarily concentrated on whether
any Lebanese or Syrians had been aboard (unsupervised) and/or could
have left anything on board. They were very polite and very thorough.
But meanwhile, a ½ day tour of Haifa was preparing to leave.
Rob and Andi decided not to do it, but Umut made them hold the bus
for Jess until she'd finished this process. Israeli Immigration,
by the way, did not stamp a visa into our passports, but gave us
one on a separate piece of paper tucked into the passports, so that
we would be able to enter Syria or Lebanon again.
Vivi drove us from the marina to a nearby shopping
mall where we were able to buy a SIM chip for our phone to get an
Israeli mobile phone. We had hoped that this would also give us
internet access, but it didn't. Having the phone, though, has been
That evening, there was a cocktail party and delicious
BBQ buffet at the clubhouse. Really good hummus. The following night,
we were all invited to the homes of the club members. We ended up
with a group of about 12 EMYR people from different groups at the
home of a retired teacher, co-hosted by 2 other couples. It was
a cool evening and we ate in their garden. Our hostess then asked
if we'd like their daughter to perform a "woman's dance"
for us. "It's what the Egyptians call it; you call it belly
dancing." Sure! So their 30-something daughter danced for us,
in a very intimate setting, and we felt that this was probably the
most authentic belly-dancing we'd seen to date! When it was time
to return to the boats, we piled into their cars for a moonlit and
starlit tour of Haifa. The most beautiful sight was the Bahai gardens,
their manicured green bathed by strings of globe lights.
On June 7th, we took a too-brief tour to Akko, once
known as Acre and Richard the Lionhearted's stronghold during the
Crusades, before departing in late afternoon. We were headed 85
NM down the Israeli coast to Ashkelon, just 12 miles north of the
Gaza strip. It was blowing around 20 knots when we left, from the
west, and we needed to stay 6 NM offshore, so we motor-sailed, slogging
upwind until we could bear off to the south. We had been one of
the last boats into Haifa and no-one could leave until we released
some of our lines, so we were definitely the first one out. In fact,
when we bore off 2 hours later, only 2 other boats had left the
marina. When we bore off, we were making 6-7 knots under mainsail
alone. It was a lovely night, with the Israeli shore clearly visible
to port and numerous ships and, eventually, EMYR boats around. The
wind died around 2 a.m. and we motored the rest of the way. For
this trip, we each served single watches alone. Previously, Rob
and Andi had served 4 on and 4 off watch-on-watch, with Jess doing
the same but coming on ½ way through one of our watches and
going down ½ way through the other. Now, we all agreed she
had enough experience to serve a watch alone, calling one of us
if there were any problems. So we all arrived in Ashkelon at 8:30
a.m. much better rested! And, because we were still in Israel, no
Several boats, not including us, had caught tuna
en route, so there were sushi parties that evening, with tuna dinners
to follow. Jess, in keeping with her avowed intention to experience
as much as was available, tasted and enjoyed her first sushi. And
whenever could she have had fresher sushi?
Ashkelon is a very modern city, reminding us very
much of Florida or southern California. It's got a huge oil pipeline/terminal
to the south; the marina is at the northern edge of town, backed
by very new (some still under construction) high-rise condos and
some hotels, including a bee-hive shaped Holiday Inn.
The Ashkelon Marina is just 10 years old. Our Rally
Party was scheduled to coincide with their 10th anniversary celebration.
The dock party for over 400 featured free-flowing wine and beer
and excellent hors d'oeuvres (no hummus!). The EMYR plaque presentations
and flag ceremony followed their anniversary commemorations, and
were mercifully short. A Brazilian samba band and dancers followed
. After their stage show, they descended into the crowd and led
a rather disorganized parade to a different dance area where they
led and encouraged dancing for several more hours. Electric energy!
You should see a kilted Scot doing the samba!
June 9th saw us up early for a tour to the Dead
Sea and the Masada fortress. It was important to get to Masada early
before the heat of the day. We arrived by 9:30 a.m., and when we
left before noon, it was almost unbearably hot. The tour (and our
guide) was amazing. What a place. We then had a too-big lunch at
the banks of the Dead Sea at 354 below sea level, followed by the
obligatory "swim." Andi found it strangely disconcerting
to be uncertain in water; the high mineral content makes for a different
balance. You must float on your back, and when you do, half of your
body is above water. When floating in a standing position the water
comes to your armpits. If you try to turn onto your face, your body
and rear-end are so buoyant that your face and head are forced down
and you do NOT want this water anywhere near your eyes. It also
feels and looks oily, being supersaturated. It wasn't pleasant,
but not completely unpleasant either, just weird. Only Jess and
Andi did this; Rob decided that his sensitive skin didn't need this
kind of exposure. He was probably right. Although the waters are
supposedly palliative or even curative for psoriasis, tourists are
advised not to shave their legs before entering!
On June 11th, the rest of the EMYR boats departed
for Port Said Egypt but we elected not to accompany them. Their
plan was to sail 125 NM to Port Said from June 11th to 12th. On
the 13th, they were going by bus to Cairo (a 3 hour drive), touring
Cairo, spending the night, then returning to Port Said on the next
afternoon. Then they had a free day and a half in Port Said (where
there is nothing to see or do) before leaving for Herzliya Israel
(135 NM) on the 16th. We felt that the proportions of sailing, touring,
and leisure were all wrong.
The EMYR boats had scheduled their departures for quite early in
the morning, so almost everyone was up and around, preparing their
boats for leaving before 7 a.m. The Immigration/Customs clerk (the
"twit" as Rob called her) then insisted on processing
the boats by group, having the entire group present (every single
person had to appear before her) and not allowing any boat to leave
until the whole group had been cleared. Of course, gathering everyone
wasn't easy, and she wasn't efficient, so the process began around
7:30 a.m and wasn't complete until well after noon. We were glad
not to be part of it.
Instead, we rented a car and spent more time in
Israel with Jess. After visiting Tel Aviv, a kibbutz near Haifa
and Jerusalem, we returned to Ashkelon on June 16th and left early
the next morning to motor north to Herzliya Marina where we would
rejoin the EMYR for the last day and final banquet. We contacted
the Israeli Navy to ask if we could sail along the coast, not going
6 NM off-shore, and they graciously gave us permission, so we were
able to enjoy the coastline sights. Israel's coast is almost entirely
beaches, making it an ideal resort area.
Herzliya Marina is beautiful, modern and efficient.
It's got a high-rise apartment building and 3 story shopping center,
fronted by dock-side restaurants that are thronged every night.
The EMYR fleet pretty much filled the available dock space, and
took over the entire plaza in front of the yacht club for the final
banquet. There was great food, good wine, and dancing for all, along
with teary farewells and promises to meet again, down the road.
Because it was her last night, Jessica spent it with her young friends,
staying more or less awake until her taxi to the airport arrived
at 5:00 AM. We enjoyed having Jess on board, and will miss her willing
participation -- especially when it comes to long night passages!
(See our photos
accompanying this Adventure.)