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 written.

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 of it.

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 guy!

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 process.

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 countries.

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 from entry.)

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 great.

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 harbor formalities!

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.)