We left Malta and travelled overnight to Scracusa again. I say travelled because once again we motored all the way. Sailing in the Med is hard - there is usually too much or too little wind and when the right amount of wind is there it changes direction just when you start to enjoy the sailing and the sea will whip up making it uncomfortable. Oh for the ocean passages when the wind comes from one direction for days on end and you have a long comfortable swell!
We stayed a few days doing a little exploring of the streets and enjoying the wonderful Sicilian foods then headed north up the east coast of Sicily The scenery was stunning. As we passed Mount Etna we could see smoke coming out of the top and kept our fingers crossed she would not decide to erupt before we got by.
The plan was to go between Sicily and Italy through the Straits of Messina. This strait has a fierce reputation so we stopped at Taormina for the night so we could get our timing right the next day for the tide. In ancient time it was said if Scilla, the monster with 6 heads on Sicily didn't get you Charybolis, the giant whirlpool, on Italy would. We were lucky and didn't see any monsters or whirlpool but could see that with the tide rips, in the wrong weather, it could get very nasty. Once through we headed west for Vulcano,one of several small islands found on the north coast of Sicily. Vulcano surprised us. It was full of tourists who come there to 'enjoy' the sulphur mud baths. The volcano is not active but does produce lots of smelly sulphur and heat up the mud pools. People would rub the mud all over them, sit in the sun to dry it and then go in the sea to wash it off. And they paid for the privilege to do it. Must be mad!
After 4 days we had had enough of the smell and the effect the sulphur was having on the steel work on the boat and headed for Sardinia. We finally saw our first Swordfish boat. These have evolved over the years so the captain can see the swordfish sleeping on the surface. They have a tower mast about 10 metres high where the captain sits and steers from and a bowsprit that is longer than the boat. The one we saw must have had a bowsprit of 15 metres (see the photo). They creep up on the swordfish and harpoon them from the bowsprit. The weirdest boat I have ever seen.
The trip to Sardinia took 2 days and once again the Med threw everything at us. We had winds from 0 to 35 knots, going from Northeast to Northwest via the south and seas that was like a lake to so confused we really had to hang on. We were glad to get there.
We stayed a week and what we saw, we really enjoyed and would have loved to stay longer but it was starting to get hot and it was the end of June and we had a flight booked for 25th July to go home for my niece's wedding. This is where we had more diesel problems. We broke a cardinal rule and went to a marina fuel dock as it was convenient. After filling our jerry cans Clive tried to filter 40 litres into the tank. The filter was slow so after looking at the fuel in the cans (it looked clean) took the filter away and put it straight into the tank. 7 hours later the engine stopped and when we took the filters off they were full of diesel bug. This was a different problem as mentioned in the previous blog. This was a real problem as the fuel, in the cans, were like soup. We spent all day trying to filter out the bug in the 60 litres in the cans. Not a pleasant job. The bug grows in contaminated fuel which is why we always use a biocide and filter our fuel before it goes into the tank except at the last fill!. We have been to so many 3rd world countries and have had no problems with fuel. We come into Med and now we have had 3 problems in 3 years. Luckily we had bought more filters in Malta and Cagliari
so we hoped we would have enough to get us to Valencia. But first we wanted to call at Menorca and Mallorca. Once again the Med gave us all kinds of wind but we were able to sail well over half way just as well as the engine stopped twice and we had to change the filters. Once in Mahon we had to filter all the fuel as it had turned to soup once again.. This was becoming a real pain. One happy note was 'Orca Joss' our Kiwi friends that we had said our final farewell 3 time already was anchored. We had a great reunion party. A few days of sorting out a Spanish phone and internet and we said our final farewell again to OJ and moved north to Fornells where we met up with a boat called Rampage who we knew from our winter in Messalonghi. And guess who turned up a few days later - OJ. I think they just like saying goodbye to us so we can have a reunion party. We also said our final farewell as they were off across the Atlantic (or so we thought) and we were going back to the UK for 2 months. What we saw of Menorca we liked, it was not as busy as we expected and the anchorages were good. Mallorca was different. That was commercialised and the anchorages were all rolly. We were pleased to leave there and get to Valencia (engine only stopped once on the way).
The marina Real Juan Carlos 1 is the one where the Grand Prix drives through and where the America's Cup was held in 2007. The price was right at €15 /night with 20% discount for 2 months. They only have a 3 week high season and that is when the Grand Prix is on and that costs an arm and a leg to stay there then. In other marinas in the Med for July and August it is anything between €40 and €100 a night for us and we are a small boat. Valencia is a fabulous city. Getting around is easy on the metro and they have cycle tracks everywhere, which we made great use of. The metro also took us into the airport making it one of the easiest airports to get to that we have used (and we have used a few over the last 14 years).
To finish the saga of the fuel, we filtered what we had left, topping up with clean new diesel and added fresh biocide and also some petrol. Our worry was leaving the boat for 2 months if we failed to kill the bug. I am glad to say it worked as since we came back we have had no more problems.
I'll stop here and bring you up to date shortly
Messalonghi marina was a place the cruisers either loved or hated. We were lucky - we loved it. It had everything that we needed for a winter berth, a safe, secure berth, electricity, water, good showers, free wifi that worked and a good town. It also had the advantage that the surrounding area was flat which made it great cycling country. Transport to and from Athens airport was easy, albeit 3 hours away.
We came back to Jane-G the beginning of January and worked hard to catch up on all our winter jobs bring her back up to scratch and looking pretty again. On the social side we were catching up with old friends on 'Scotia' and 'Moon Rebel' and making new friends. Tuesday night was music night in the small bar within the marina complex. This was mainly Clive and Tom off 'Monsun' entertaining a group of about 8 to guitar and songs. There was also a number of sing-along songs that we had the words put up onto the TV to follow. I'm not quite sure what the locals who came for a quiet drink made of us. We also managed to stream some of the Six Nations Rugby matches, which was great fun as we had Welsh, English, Scottish and even a French cruiser. Naturally I was very pleased with the outcome (we won the Grand Slam yet again!)
February 20th was Clive's 60th birthday and so I whisked him off to Rome for 5 days. We had a wonderful time and even saw the Pope celebrating Mass on the big screen in St Peter's Square and come out to address the crowds afterwards. It was actually quite a moving experience hearing the service over the speakers as we entered the square. We did all the touristy bits and more. It was a place Clive had promised to take me one day for the last 30 years and I ended up taking him!
Messalongi will have some bad memories for me as after losing my mother when we arrived, my sister Pauline died on 1st March from ovarian cancer. I already had a flight booked for the 6th March to spend a week with Dad. We were lucky to get Clive booked on the same flight and we both went home for the funeral.
April came and the weather was improving, it was time to go cruising again. We weren't absolutely sure what our plans were for this year as my niece was getting married in August and we needed a safe place that was affordable to leave Jane-G, so we played it by ear. I wanted to see a little of the Ionian islands before we left Greece so made our way up to Lefkas. The best anchorage is at Vlikho as it is a large inlet with a narrow entrance and we had some high winds coming. It was an excellent anchorage, even in the strong winds the sea was almost flat. It also had a very good club house with good food and over the next 5 days 5 boats that were in Messalonghi came in so it was party time again.
Once the weather settled, again we said goodbye to our friends and slowly moved up to Corfu. On our 3rd day there we had a problem. Clive cut the top off his finger on the cockpit table. Don't ask me how because I can't work out how. I put it down to user error. Luckily the hospital was close and he had it sewed back on. The service we had from the hospital was excellent and most of his finger has survived except that it has a slight angle on one side. He was lucky it was the middle finger on his right hand and he could still play his guitar. While at the hospital I had a phone call from our friends Mark and Jacquie asking where we were. When I said in a hospital in Corfu it was not what they expected. But they did like the Corfu bit and booked flights for the following Saturday for 1 week. We had a great week, the weather was perfect and as we had to stay around for Clive's finger to be checked, it helped us focus on something other than his finger. It was almost 3 weeks before the stitches were taken out ( and 3 months before he could do the washing up) and the consultant was happy with the way it had healed and we could leave Corfu.
It was a 2 day passage to Sicily and it was a horrible. The seas were confused without much wind so we ended up motor sailing most of the way and were glad to arrive at Siracusa on the east coast of Sicily on the 22nd of May. Siracusa is a lovely old town with narrow streets that are easy to get lost in. They also have a daily fresh produce market where the vendors had out free samples of cheese and cured meats. Friends had told us of a wine warehouse where you could taste the wine before you bought. We walked out with 20 litres at €1.30/L and it was/is good wine.
'Orca Joss' our Kiwi friends we had said our final farewell to in Turkey were still in Ragusa on the south coast of Sicily so we bit the bullet and paid €56/night to go into the marina to see them again. As we were leaving the anchorage at 0430 the engine stopped suddenly. Tried to restart and again it stopped. Clive took off the fuel filters to find they were clogged with a thick jelly like substance. We remembered the same problem last year and put it down to biofuel left in the tank over the cold winter and separating out. By 0530 with new filters we were on our way again. This proved to be just the start of our fuel problems for this year.
We spent 4 days in the marina and had a great time with 'Orca Joss' and once again said our final farewell. They planned to cross the Atlantic this year and we would not see them again (or so we thought). We were off to Malta and motored all the way. We really wanted to go to Malta but we knew it would be expensive in the marinas and there are few places to anchor. Once again we were lucky that our friends on 'Quilcene' Kit and Belinda were there and had 'local' knowledge of a 70 foot steel yacht on a mooring that you can tie along side for free. They were one side and we were the other and stayed for 11 days and it didn't cost us a penny. Malta is fabulous and anyone who hasn't been should go. The people are all so friendly, they all speak English and it is relatively cheap eat and drink out. They also have the most amazing fireworks I have ever seen. They have 35 firework factories on the island so you can see they are into it in a big way. Every village has a saints feast day and on the Saturday before they have mechanical fireworks. It is also a competition between the villages as to who presents the best fireworks. The one we saw must be the best - I can't see anyone getting better than that. There are BIG structures that the fireworks are attached to and when lit set up a mechanical movement with cogs and pulleys,that were moved by the fireworks only, that create the most amazing light display. All this is done with hundreds of people standing around. The 'elf and safety morons in the UK would have a fit. We were very lucky to see them as we had planned to go to the village by bus with the last one back at 2230. Our friends Christina (who is from Malta) and Bjorn (who is from Sweden) off 'Mischief' were now living in Malta and said that they would meet us there and drive us home after. Just as well as the fireworks didn't start until 2330 and we arrived home at 0200 in the morning. They told us much about Malta and also took us around the island one day pointing out all the interesting landmarks. Malta played a big part in WW11 and Valletta was almost flattened with the bombing. They are now rebuilding all the old fortifications and it a really interesting city to walk around.
Before leaving Malta Clive checked the fuel filters again to find they still had some jelly in them so replaced them and also bought several new ones as spares. Because Malta has such a British influence many of the supermarkets stock British foods stuffs and by time we left most of them were in my food lockers.
Clive has been nagging and nagging me to do this update. I am sorry it is almost 18 months since the last one. Yet again I have no excuse except laziness.
We left Finike on the 7th April 2011 ( yes that long ago) and made our way to Fethiye via Kekova and Kas. We hoped to catch up with our friends, Keith and Carole on 'Kirsten Jayne'. We hadn't seen them since Asia and were so pleased to see them again. We spent a week with them admiring the new paint job on 'Kirsten Jayne'
Our plans for that season was to go up the Turkish coast and cross to the Greek islands, spend a little while there and then go through the Corinth Canal to leave the boat in Messalonghi mid July to late August while we flew back to the UK to escape the heat. But our plans whent to custard when we decided to be good cruisers and check in with the Port Police in Samos. To cut a long story short - Jane-G is a Guernsey registered boat. It is still a British registered but unknown to us and the majority of Greek officials, except the one in Samos. Because our address is within the EU and the boat is registered in Guernsey we could only stay for 1 month. Eventually he did say after checking our passport that we could stay for 3 months. But this gave us a problem because he said it was OK but what if another official said it wasn't. So change of plan. We made our way to Lesvos and within the month went to Ayvalik, Turkey. We checked out the marina and booked to leave Jane-G there when we fly home. We now had 5 weeks before flying home to go cruising and decided to go north to the Khalkadiki region. This is the '3 fingers' in the north Aegean Sea. I should go back to the Port Police in Samos and thank them because it was a much better sailing plan that we were forced into. It was so beautiful and quiet and the weather was much cooler and with no Meltemi (that is the strong wind that blows from the north through the Aegean). The registration problem we sorted by changing it back to Small Ships Registration when we went home.
The Atki peninsular is the furthest east and special permission is needed for men to visit and women are not allowed at all. In fact we were supposed to sail at least 1 mile off shore because I was on board. At some time in the past it is said that even female animals were not allowed to live there. This is because it is a religious area that is dedicate to the Virgin Mary and for centuries was divorced from the outside world. There are stunning monasteries all the way up the coast, some clinging to the rock face, some small and some monstrous. We pottered around the area finding some beautiful anchorages and the peace that we enjoy so much. There was a little problem in Port Kofus where a charter boat came into the anchorage at 1.30 in the morning partying and ran into the side of us and just carried on with the party. The next morning we saw them and after a lot of hassle of them refusing to show us the charter papers Clive settled on €50 for paint. They were very lucky we are a soft touch!
It was time to start heading back down the Aegean to Limnos, which is one of our favourite islands. And then to Lesvos. We did have a disaster in Skala Loutra when we went for a lovely walk through the olive groves to the town. It started to rain and by time we got back to the boat it was REALLY raining. Unfortunately the hatches were open and my computer was underneath one. We took the battery out straight away, tipped the water out and then we took it apart. If there was a screw, it came out, if there was a plug it came off and then we put a fan on it to dry it out. After a few hours we put it back together and guess what - nothing, bummer! So what do you do - go ashore and have a couple of Ouzos! When we came back I decided to try again and discovered we had put a cable on the wrong way - bingo we had life. Unfortunately shortly after we went back to the UK for 6 weeks and when we came back it only worked for a little while.
On our return from the UK we were ready to make our way to Messalonghi . First we crossed to the Northern Sporades to the islands of Skopelos and Skiathos. As beautiful as they are we could not take the disco music that started at midnight and went on to 4 in the morning. We went down the Evia Channel which is sheltered waters between the main land and the Island of Evia. This is about 100 miles of flat water and we actually had some good sailing. The weather was starting to change with more wind stopping us for a few days in places so we now had to move when the weather allowed us not when we wanted to. With the higher winds we also had some 'exciting' sailing on our way to the Corinth Canal.
In 1978 we went to Athens for a holiday and took a trip out to see the canal. Clive said then he would love to take a boat through the canal. This was before we even owned a boat. Here we were 34 years later doing just that. The Corinith Canal is the most expensive canals in the world if you take it as £/mile but it is worth it for the sheer thrill of seeing the work that went into it and the 'hand holes' that the workmen would use to climb out of the cut. The Gulf of Corinith was spectacular with the mountain ranges in the distance. When we saw snow appear on the tops we knew it was time to stop for the winter.
We arrived in Messalonghi on the 18th October and sadly my mother died the same day. We booked flights for the 21st. We had already booked flights for December to go home for Christmas which of course we lost when we decided it was not worth going back to Jane-G before Christmas and also it would keep my Dad company for a while longer.
I will end here and tell you about Messalonghi in the next update which should follow very shortly.
I am a little late with this update sorry but time just seems to fly by and I don't seem to have time to do it. Much too busy enjoying myself.
We left Varna after stocking up with plenty of wine, beer and all the lovely foods that we missed in Turkey. We had planned to leave at 0600 on a Monday for Sozopol Bay where we would anchor for 1 night before heading to Tzarevo to check out of Bulgaria. On the Sunday I went to the ATM to get money to pay for our berth. The ATM gave me my money and receipt but NOT my card back. PANIC, my worst nightmare. I stopped a passer-by to use their phone to call Clive to come with our phone to call the bank. While I was waiting a Bulgarian lady came to use the ATM. I tried to tell her the problem but she tried anyway. The same - money, receipt but no card returned. I felt a little happier as her card was on top of mine! She hammered on the door of the bank and got the security guard. I got the gist of the conversation and it seemed I would have to go to the bank Monday morning at 0830. But I wanted to leave at 0600. Hard luck I had to go back at 0830 if I wanted my card back. All day I worried about my card. I didn't want to cancel it because that would cause us real problems. I kept checking my internet banking and nothing was going out. The next morning at 0830 I was in the bank, the security guard took me to the teller and she had more than a dozen cards she had to sort out. I signed for mine and was very happy to be on our way.
Our next exciting event was as we motored down the Bosphorus towards Istanbul. As I explained when we came up this is a very busy stretch of water being the major route to the Black Sea countries. You cannot sail and have to motor. We kept just outside the shipping lanes and were flying along with the current in our favour. As we were approaching a bend in the river and a very large ship coming our way the engine just stopped. PANIC (again). Clive started the engine, put in into gear and bang, it stopped again. Start again, into reverse and bang, it stopped again. At this point it looked as if the ship coming up was heading straight for us, we had to get out of its way NOW. We didn't want to call for help as it would cost a fortune in tug fees, so, on board we have two 8 foot oars that we have carried about on Jane-G for about 16 years and never used them. Out they came and with Clive on one side and me on the other we paddled Jane-G out of the way. I would loved to have seen the captains face of the approaching ship looking at this 35 foot yacht being paddled. Once clear Clive jumped in the water and found a tug rope with a big knot stopping the propeller going round. He cut it off and we were on our way again.
As we had decided not to check back into Turkey but go straight to Limnos,we anchored overnight at the Princes Islands and in the Mamara Islands but did not go ashore. We did plan to stop at the bay at the bottom of the Dardenells where the War Memorials for the Battle of Gallipolli were and have a look around. We arrived there at 1400 but received a weather forecast saying that high winds were expected in a few days. As we had a good forecast for that night we had a swim, had some dinner and decided to sail overnight. It was one of those sails we dream of. We had flat seas, 12 knots of wind just aft of the beam and doing between 6 and 3 knots as the wind rose and dropped. As we had motored all the way to and back from Romania it was wonderful.
In Limnos we caught up with a few friend - Orca Joss, Silver Heels 2 and Matador and as we were stuck with high winds it was a sociable time for all. The next few weeks were spent moving slowly south stopping at a few of the Greek Islands. One island, Oinoussa, we will remember fondly. It is only a small island but apparently 1/3 of Greece's shipping Barons came from here. While we were there an 85 foot motor yacht came in. It belonged to the mayor of the island and himself a ship owner (I told him we had that in common). Val (off Silver Heels 2) and Clive were talking to the him and he then invited us all for lunch. We had a wonderful time and lunch was outstanding. Sadly Val is no longer with us. She had a brain haemorrhage before Christmas and passed away. It will always be a very happy memory of our short time sailing with her and Graham.
From here we stopped at the islands of Khios, Samos, Patmos, Leros, Kalimnos, Kos and finally Simi where we checked out of Greece. We were very lucky with the weather and in the only high wind we had we anchored on the south coast of Kos in a lovely safe bay. All the islands were beautiful and we explored them by local transport or on foot. All worth returning to some day.
From Simi we went back into Turkish waters and checked in at Fethiye. Our friends Mark and Jacquie were joining us once again. It was now the middle of October and it was cooling down somewhat. We all had a good time. We first stopped in the Gocek area with all its fine islands and then made our way back to Finike. It was like coming home.
One reason for coming back to Finike was to work on the boat out of the water. Clive planned to re-spray the hull. Once lifted out we found we had a lot more work to do. We had a problem with the paint under the waterline and all that had to be scrapped off. It was very hard work but we did it. We were very lucky as many of our friends invited us for dinner which meant I didn't have to cook much for about 3 weeks. Clive did a very good job of the re-spray and Jane-G is looking sooooo pretty now.
We went to the UK for Christmas and were very lucky to get there in between the airports being closed because of the snow. We did enjoy ourselves but it was cold and we weren't able to get about as much as we would have liked.
So that brings you up to date before we start a new season cruising.
Take care and keep smiling.
Jane and Clive
We left you in Varna, Bulgaria and we are now back in Varna, after a month in Romania.
Varna is much a larger city than Bourgas and more touristy. We stayed at the Yacht Club which is more expensive than Bourgas but is more protected and has a good club house with air con (which I am taking advantage of at the moment - it's 34 degrees outside!). They also have a good local bus service that we have become very proficient at using - so not so much exercise here. One thing that has caught us out in Bulgaria is that they nod for yes and shake their head for no. So when we need something and get excited that they have it because they nod, we then get disappointed because we realise they say He (pronounced Ne) meaning No. Our biggest problem is that they use the Cyrillic alphabet and every thing looks so strange. Take the city Varna, they pronounce it Varna but spell it Bapha and Ruse is pronounced Ruse but spelt Pyce. Many of the town and street names are also written in 'normal' letters which help but in the supermarket it can be pot luck as to what I am buying.
We wanted to do a little more land travel and after reading the Lonely Planet decided on Ruse to the north and on the side of the Danube. We decided on the train and paid an extra £1 to go 1st class. We were the only people in 1st class (not quite what I expected) but it was comfortable and we could get up and walk around. One of the exciting things we saw, for me, was the fields of Sunflowers. Not that many were in full flower but it was still spectacular. Ruse is known as 'Little Vienna' because of its architecture. When the city was razed in the 1870's during the war for liberation Viennese architects came down the Danube to help rebuild it. They did a beautiful job and most of our time was spent walking the streets in admiration of their work. We travelled back to Varna by bus which was actually better than train as you got to see more of the country side and the mile after mile of Sunflower fields.
We also got to see some of the world cup with a German friend we had made. He enjoyed the England vs Germany match so much with us there!!
Once we arrived back in Varna and had stocked the boat with all the lovely food, wine and beer we were off to Romania.
It was about 60 miles to Mangalia just inside the Romanian boarder. Here we went in to a new marina which had pontoons, something that is rare in the Med. You normally 'Med moor' which means you tie a rope from the bow to a wall and a rope from the stern to a buoy. You then have to climb off the bow via a ladder. To be able to step off the side onto a pontoon was a real pleasure. Again we were greeted by the marina manger and customs to check in and welcome us to their country. I am sad to say that this is the first country we have been to where we are not impressed with the people but after learning a little about their recent history our views have soften . They are very sullen and we had bad experiences with short change, over charging and also a scam in the street where a guy asked the time and started chatting then another came along saying he was a policeman and that the other guy was a bad man. The 'policeman' then wanted to see our identification but when I asked to see his again he would not hold it still. With that we walked away but we missed the third man who had opened Clive's backpack. The backpack was empty as we were on our way to the shops and also Clive is like the Queen and never carries money so they got nothing from us. Mangalia is only a small town so we moved on to Constanta. Here the marina was back to med moor but it was very calm and safe. It also had an excellent restaurant overlooking the marina where we celebrated Jane-G's birthday and 12 years since we left the UK (4th July). Walking around the old part of Constanta they had such beautiful buildings especially the Casino on the esplanade.
Again we wanted to land travel so we took the bus to Bucharest, the capital of Romania. We also met up with friends on 'Sarenity' Trevor and Vicky who had been trying so hard to catch up with us from Turkey but we just kept ahead of them. Their boat was in Mangalia and travelled by train to Bucharest. By going to the capital we started to realise what a tough time the Romanians had under Ceausescu. While the western world thought all was hunky dory with Ceausescu and Romania the people lived in poverty and Ceausescu was a squandering a fortune on megalomaniacal, grandiose projects. In the 1980's he exported Romanian food to look good to the world but his people staved. He bulldozed 1/6th of Bucharest to build his Palace of the People, which became Palace of Parliament, the second largest civil building in the world after the Pentagon. He also totally destroyed 8000 villages(mainly in Transylvania) and one of the side effects is the stray dogs which occurred because of the resettlement of the people and the inability to take the family pet with them. It is estimated somewhere between 200,000 and 2 million stray dogs are nationwide, ancestors of the original displaced dogs. There certainly were an awful lot of dogs about but they were not a problem and seemed happy sitting in the sun and watching the world go by.
We took a guided tour of the Palace of Parliament and what a place. The opulence and sheer size of the small part that we saw was mind blowing. Many people suffered for this big tourist attraction.
After 3 days we were ready to move on to Brasov, Transylvania. This is Dracula country and we had to visit Bran Castle, Dracula's 'home'. It could have been a good day out if it was not for the tourists! We had hired a car and arrived at 1030 with all the bus loads of tourists. It was packed and all the corridors were very narrow making it much worse. But we did it and got the Tee shirt. Actually we were surprised that they didn't push the Dracula story more. We stopped at 3 towns in Transylvania, Brasov, Sighisoara (Dracula's birthplace) and Sibiu, with the car and it was the architecture that was so impressive. The difference with here and Turkey is that basically Turkey has such old history that what is left is 'a pile of old stones'. Now we are seeing beautiful whole buildings with such detail in the finish but are much younger.
After returning the car we went by bus back to Bucharest and quickly to the underground and on to the train station. Here we met a Romanian lady who when she found we were going to Constanta said her uncle was an inspector on the railway and she would get us cheap tickets. It turned out that we got on without tickets and slipped the guard half the cost of the ticket. We felt so guilty but Dana kept us entertained on the journey. We did get to see her twice before we left Constanta and she was very sorry to see us go. We also went to a Romanian family home with a guy we met at the marina. He heard Clive playing his guitar and joined him. He then invited us to his home to play. We had a wonderful afternoon with his wife giving us lunch and homemade cherry brandy!!!!
After a lot of serious thought we abandoned our original plan to go to the Ukraine. The main reason was that we would not have much time there and could not do it justice. A big problem also arose with Turkey visas. The old visa allowed us to be in Turkey for 90 days we could do a day trip to a Greek Island and come back then have 90 days again. The new visa only allowed us 90 days in 180. this gave us a big problem because we could not live on the boat for the winter. Clive came up with a cunning plan. If we caught a bus to Istanbul from Bulgaria and come straight back it would start our visa so that when we checked into Turkey in September it would work out for us
So it was back to Mangalia meet up with 'Sarenity', check out and sail to Varna with them. Once checked in, off to the bus station and book return tickets travelling over night both ways. Plan in action, great! Back to the marina and a cold beer with 'Sarenity'. As we arrived back the sky was looking VERY black. Just as we finished our beer the wind suddenly picked up so back to Jane-G quickly we just got on board put extra mooring lines on and fastened any loose bit when it started to rain. And then the wind came. One boat recorded a max of 70 knots, mostly it was around 40 -50 knots but we had a BIG problem. The boat next to us snapped his stern line and the boat was slamming into Jane-G. We spent the next hour trying to fend it off and get more fenders between the boats. This was very difficult with such high wind gusts, rain and the waves that were coming into the marina. We did our best and eventually someone came and managed to get lines on the other boat and pull it away from Jane-G. Jane-G had scars along the hull and several chunks knocked out of the gel coat. She looked a sorry sight. Needless to say the other boat was not insured and in fact all the guy said was 'sorry' when we eventually saw him 1 week later. When we arrived Clive had looked at his stern line and thought it was a little thin. Maybe we should have said something to the marina manager then. Clive has repaired the side and she looks good again and we had planned to repaint in the winter so she will look perfect again by December.
The next day we were due to go to Istanbul for the visa run. The bus was to leave at 2100 so we had plenty of time. Midday I checked emails to find one that said the visa problem had been sorted and it was back to the old 90 visa - great! No need to go to Istanbul but bum - £75 wasted for nothing.
On that good note will leave you as I have waffled on a little and I expect you are fed up.
Bye for now,
Jane and Clive
Well, I really must apologise for leaving it so long since we last talked. I have just been busy and lazy and enjoying my self too much.
Finike in Turkey proved to be an excellent choice to stay. Many of our friends from the Malaysia and some we made on the way had also planned to stay for the winter.
July and August we flew back to the UK for our usual visit and thought for the first time that maybe you are all right, the weather in the UK stinks! Apart from the first couple of days, it rained and was cold. We were very glad to get back to Turkey. September and October we did a little cruising to Kekova Roads about 15 miles away that had excellent anchorages in beautiful surroundings and being towards the end of the season not many Gulets (the Turkish party boats) there to disturb the silence.
There was quite a large live aboard community in Finike and so plenty of activities organised. During the winter months when everybody stops cruising there were exercise classes every day, walks organised, art classes, quiz night, topic nights, bus trips out to see the sites (mainly piles of old stones!), Clive ran a guitar session every Thursday, bus trips to Antalya for shopping dinner then either the Opera, Ballet or Orchestra. I think my favourite was in June of last year. It was to the 2000 year old Roman Amphitheatre at Aspendos to see Carmina Burana, a choral ballet. The performance and acoustics were amazing in this 12,000 capacity amphitheatre, which is one of the best preserved outside of Italy. Another fun one was to watch camel wrestling. This is apparently quite a sport in Jan/Feb when the female camel is on heat and the males 'wrestle' to see who gets her! Our group were the only tourists watching so you know it is normally just for locals. This is a description from www.allabout turkey.com
In the arena two bulls are led out and then a young cow is paraded around to get them excited. It's very easy to know when a bull is excited as streams of viscous milky saliva issue from his mouth and nostrils. Mostly the two bulls will half-heartedly butt each other and lean on the other until one of them gives in and runs away. This is the really exciting bit as the bull will often charge off towards the crowd, with the conquering bull in pursuit, and the spectators must scramble hurriedly out of the way. The antics of spectators trying to avoid a thousand kilograms (nearly a ton) of camel running towards them can lead to pure comedy and is the best part of camel wrestling. Miraculously there are few accidents. Occasionally two bulls will get down to it and actually try to wrestle one another, feinting in here and there, eventually locking a fore-leg inside the leg of the opposition and leaning on him to topple him over in a dromedary's version of a wrestling fall and pin.
The bit about charging the crowd is right and very exciting as we seem to be in the right (?wrong) place and had several come our way. Nobody got hurt while we were there although a young camel handler got run over by a charging camel but he just got up and walked away.
We also organised a couple of trips ourselves. One was to Cappadocia in central Anatolia for 3 nights. This is the land of fairy chimneys and underground cities. We arrived at 6 in the morning after an overnight bus trip from Antalya. There was about 4 inches of snow and the place was magical. It is difficult to describe so I have included a few photos. You will see why they are called fairy chimneys. Some of them have been dwellings in the past and around the area there are many churches and monasteries carved into the rock. We also visited an underground city at Derikuyu that had 8 levels and where some 10,000 Christians used to hide during the 6th and 7th century from the Persian and Arabic armies. Clive was disappointed not to find Tesco there but then pleased because it meant I wouldn't be spending money. The highlight of the trip was a hot air balloon ride over the fairy chimneys at dawn. Clive had a balloon ride about 25 years ago and has always said I should but we never got round to it. What an amazing place to fly over at dawn for my first ride. It was spectacular.
Our other trip was to Istanbul for 4 days on our way back to the UK in December for my Dad's 90th birthday. Istanbul is a wonderful city to visit and anyone looking for a short city break this is the place. We stayed in the heart of Old Istanbul, Sultanahmet at the Nena Hotel, again highly recommended. There is so much to see. Topkapi Palace with the Harem and Treasury, the Blue Mosque, the Cistern, the Haghia Sophia that was built as a church and is now a mosque and of course the Grand Bazaar. We had a great time in the Grand Bazaar trying to barter and tell the carpet men we really didn't want a carpet even thought it was beautiful. The Turkish have a great sense of humour and we enjoy taking part in the joking and fooling around.
Our trip back to the UK was wonderful with my Dad's birthday and Christmas and all the family getting together. We were also lucky when we returned because we were back 2 days when the heavy snow arrived in England and shut down the airports. We weren't so lucky when we 'popped' home for Easter. We got delayed by 1 week because of the volcanic ash from Iceland. It is nice being in the Med with the cheap flights back to the UK so we can go home more often.
So where are we now? This year's cruising plan was the Black Sea. We left Finike 1 week after we got back from the UK and wanted to get up through the Bosphous and Istanbul as quickly as possible to beat the summer northerly winds. There were places we would have liked to have stayed longer but the weather was good to move. I say good to move in that there was no winds. We motored or motored sailed for all bar 3 hours from Finike to Istanbul and at £1.25 a litre not a cheap trip. We left Istanbul at 03.30 so that we would be passed all the ferry terminals before they started. This was an excellent plan that worked. At 0930 we were in the Black Sea which is very blue. Our checking port was to be Bourgas in Bulgaria and ETA 0900 the next day. The Black Sea has a bit of a reputation for uncomfortable seas but we were very lucky and had fairly calm seas and we also had a fabulous sail for 6 hours and 45 minutes (no engine). When we arrived we were directed by traffic control where to tie up, there was a man there to take our lines and a very nice lady from customs to take us to the office. Check in was quick, easy and free because Bulgaria has been part of the EU since 2007. We then took the boat to the Bourgas Yacht Club where we again greeted with someone to take our lines and welcome us to Bulgaria and at a cost of 30 Euro for 10 days very affordable. Our first impression of Bulgaria - we like it, our second impression - we love it. The people are very welcoming and helpful, for us the cost of living is about half of Turkey, their wines are excellent and their beer cheap. They have beautiful beaches and the good transport system allowed us to travel a little on land. Sozopol to the south of Bourgas and Nessabar to the north are both old beautiful towns only 1 hour away by bus. These made good day trips and there is a marked difference in architecture to what we have been used to for the last 2 years - no mosques and so many beautiful churches. Veliko Tarnnove was the former capital (1183 - 1393) and 225km from Bourgas. It took 4 hours by bus through beautiful countryside and vineyards and then up through valleys of the Balkan Range. We stayed at the Yantra Grand Hotel, first time we have had towelling robes in a hotel! The view was stunning overlooking the gorge and the Tsarevets Fortress. The fortress was built between the 5th and 12th century and even through only the outer wall and a few other remains are left it was still a nice walk through with wonderful views. We were a little disappointed as they have a light and sound show but not the night we were there. From our hotel window we would have had the 'best seats in town'.
Since in Bulgaria we have walk so much it is doing us good to get some exercise again. Clive is very impressed with the 'local scenery' and I must admit the women here are the smartest I have seen.
We have just arrived in Varna about 60 miles up the coast and promise I will let you know soon what it is like.
Bye for Now,
Jane and Clive
Update 61 July 2009
We did get to leave Hurgharda on the Friday. It was a little lumpy until we were behind the reef, close to shore. Then the sea flattened out and we had a good motor sail with wind not too strong and not quite on the nose. We anchored for the night off a small island protected from the wind. At dawn the next day we were on our way to the Suez Canal, 150 miles away. It took almost 30 hours and we were lucky with our timing as we passed the huge oil fields just before dusk. It was fascinating to see all their 'fairy lights' come on as we passed them. But as the sun set you could also see the pollution on the horizon.
We could have gone straight to Port Suez but decided to anchor in a small bay about 12 miles south for our last Red Sea Party with our friends on 'Orca Joss'. It was an excellent party with plenty of Egyptian wine and beer. The sea was flat calm and a gentle breeze to keep us cool. But about 2100hrs the wind came round to the northwest and picked up rather a lot. We spent about 2 hours as if we were on a roller coaster ride - the Red Sea was not going to let us forget her! Fortunately it calmed back down and we had a very calm night. As you can imagine the Suez Canal is a very busy shipping route and is very well controlled. The times of the north and southbound ships are controlled with small gaps of no ship movement. This was when we made our move to the Yacht Club at Port Suez and is where our canal transit would be arranged. A yacht is treated the same as a ship in that it has to be measured for its cargo carrying tonnage and has to have a pilot to take you through the canal.
The measurer arrived about 1 hour after we arrived. There were 5 yachts to be measured. After taking the necessary measurements and as he left the boat he said quietly, "Make sure we see the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) invoice before we pay any money to the agent that arranges everything". He said this to all of the yachts. The fee for the canal is charge at 8USD /ton so obliviously the tonnage is critical. The agent turned up at 2200hrs with all our bills and to say that the pilots had been arranged for 0500 the next day. When we saw the tonnage all 5 boats complained and asked to se the SCA invoice. The agent said that they did not get one- so lots more protest. He went off to phone someone and came back with reduced rates. Being one of the smallest yachts ours was not too bad but the others were all over the top. So a decision was made not to go the next day. The agent was not happy as he had to cancel all the pilots. The next morning one of the skippers went to represent us all at the SCA and made the decision for us all to be re-measured and for us to see the invoices. Because of this we saved 30USD and our friends on Orca Joss saved 120USD the other boats saved varying amounts in-between. We were all happy but the agent was not. Because we all stuck together we obviously reduced his profit margin that day. Also passed the messages down the Red Sea so that other would yachts ask to see the SCA invoice. So for this year the transit fees are much better.
The canal is approx 90 miles long and yachts do it in 2 days stopping at Ismailia about half way. Our pilot arrived at 0530 and we were on our way shortly after. There are a lot of stories about bad pilots in the Suez Canal. Ours was a sweetie. He arrived on time with a bag of Egyptian breakfast roll for us. He steered the boat very carefully and when he had a break, it was to pray. He spoke reasonable English and showed us photos of his family. Every pilot expects a 'present' from the skipper and there are stories of pilots refusing to get off the boat because they say it is not enough. We put our 'present' in an envelope and he didn't even open it. We also gave him a photo of him with Clive while at the steering wheel. He was very pleased with that.
Ismailia is a good place to visit Cairo as it is only 2 hours and a 1GBP bus ride away. We went with 3 other cruisers and had a brilliant time. Cairo is a very easy city to get round. The metro underground system works very well and is very clean, taxis are everywhere although you have to haggle about the price and walk away if you think they are overcharging. I think only once we were not called back to pay our price. We did old Cairo, Cairo bazaar, the museum and of course the Pyramids. We arrived at the Sphinx entrance to the Pyramids before the site was open. To pass the time we saw a coffee shop that had a rooftop terrace. This gave us the best view of the Sphinx and Pyramids that we could possibly have. Almost thought about not going in! We did go in obviously and it is an amazing archaeological site. I did have fun with the guys on the camels. I didn't want a ride but they kept on about photos but I told them they would want to charge me. One said it was my camera so should pay. The next one I agreed to and he was off and grabbed Clive and so I took lots of photos. He then wanted to use my camera to take photos of me but no way was I going to fall for that so I thanked him and just walked away. He looked amazed and asked for baksheesh and I said no, he told me it was no charge. Even a police man on a camel said to take a photo then asked for baksheesh. I just turned the camera round and deleted the frame in front of him. He didn't know I had already taken several when he wasn't looking.
Back in Ismalia we spent several days cleaning all the dust and sand off the boat. You wouldn't believe how much there was. We eventually booked our next pilot to leave at 0600 on the 1st of June to transit the rest of the canal. Again we were very lucky with our pilot. He arrived on time and brought 12 bread rolls with him. He didn't speak much English but was very pleasant. He started to have 40 fits when we caught a plastic bag on the propeller and Clive wanted to stop. He had a look of horror on his face and kept saying "No, No No very expensive". Eventually Clive just cut the throttle and eased into reverse. Luckily the bag came off and once the pilot saw it, realised why Clive wanted to stop and was happy
At Port Said a boat came to take our pilot off, who was also very happy with his 'present' and photo, and we were now in the Mediterranean again after almost 10 years.
We had decided to go to Cyprus and the easiest stop was in Greek Cyprus at Paphos. This is a small fishing harbour with millions of tourists! Our friends on 'Kirsten Jayne' were already there and the only spot for us was to drop anchor in the middle of the harbour and, with Keith's help in the dinghy, pull ourselves back and tie a line to his boat. It was a very comfortable anchorage and, where we were fairly quiet, but on the other side of the harbour we were in Tourist Ville. Millions (I do tend to exaggerate) of red or white tourists around depending on how long they had been there. But I will say the supermarkets were heaven. You are probably thinking 'poor girl to think a supermarket is heaven' but I have not seen a decent one since Australia. Also these had bacon and pork that we have been deprived of for sooooo long. They even had Strongbow!!!!!! Now you know why I was in heaven. We stayed a week and hired a car for 3 days with 'Kirsten Jayne' and travelled most of Southern Cyprus. We were not allowed to take the car into Northern 'Turkish' Cyprus because of their ongoing troubles, of which we stay very neutral.
We are now in Finike in southern Turkey where we will spend the winter. After arriving, we spent 3 weeks preparing the boat and we went back to the UK for July and August as the temperatures get up into the 40's . We had travelled enough for one year, about 5500 miles and needed a rest. Finike is a small Turkish town with very little tourism. Little English is spoken so I must get on and learn some Turkish. The Saturday market is the most fantastic market we have seen in all our travels. We have had so much fresh fruit and vegetables since we arrived; our body is not sure what's happened.
I will tell you more about Turkey next month.
I'll say bye for now and if any of you are on holiday around the Mediterranean don't forget to look out for Jane-G. You might get a cold beer.
Jane and Clive
PS. I am not sure what will happen with future updates. Will it still be interesting? Where we sail to now, most of you probably know it better than we ever will. I hope you have enjoyed our travels over the last 11 years. I must say that we have been so lucky to do and see what we have and it has certainly broadened our horizons.
8/May/2009, Yeman to Egypt
We did manage to leave on time from Aden. Our plan was to arrive at the Straits of Bab el Mandeb at dawn, which is supposed to be the quietest time to pass into the Red Sea. In Arabic it means Gate of Tears and believe me a lot of people have been in tears passing through. We were lucky and had a fairly quite time. The wind and tide were with us and so shot through like a bullet. Our luck did not hold for long as later that day the wind started to pick up and at one time reached 35 knots. The only saving grace was that it was from behind. Nevertheless it did whip up large uncomfortable seas that carried on through the night. We were in company with 'Orca Joss' and at 2 in the morning they had had enough and reached off to an anchorage called Mersa Dudo. Although this gave them shelter from the waves it was an acceleration zone and they had 40 knots for 2 days. We carried on through the night and the wind finally subsided and we found a little island to hide behind for the following night. Because the winds were forecast to stay from the south we carried on the next day to Adjuz Island again just for the night then on to Port Symth.
Up to now the clarity of the water was a bit disappointing but on entering Port Smyth we were impressed. This anchorage is a narrow entrance between the reefs with a low-lying island to the East to give almost all round protection. The wind was predicted to go to the north for a few days so it gave us a perfect excuse to rest for a while. The island itself was uninhabited but fishermen use it for resting. It was once military owned with derelict buildings and an old lighthouse with out a bulb (I know because I climbed to the top). We walked a large part of the island, which was mainly scrub grass and sand, but it was good to get off the boat. While snorkelling at the pass through the reef we found the coral and fish to be the best we have seen anywhere. We also noticed that the water temperature was not quite as warm as we had become use to! The island belonged to Eritrea and some officials in a motorboat visited us. All the yachts said we would be going to Massawa on the main land to check-in in a few days. In fact only 2 of 9 yachts did. Several reasons, the main one being that they will not allow you to anchor in the harbour, as in the past, but make you tie up to a wall and charge you 15USD a night. With info from previous cruisers that have called there, many boats have been damaged so now most don't go there. The officials seem to think that by charging us to stay they get more money, forgetting how much we spent in the towns on food and fuel. So now instead of 100 boats stopping there over the season they get 10.
'Orca Joss' caught up with us up at Port Smyth and we left together for a small island 30 miles further on. This was to be just an overnight stop but on leaving the next morning at daybreak and after 5 miles the wind was from the north and we were not making good progress so turned back. Now the previous night Clive had noticed a fishing boat that seamed to be stalking us and anchored about 1 mile from us. Orca Joss said that when we left the fishermen were waving a shirt but Orca Joss just waved back. As soon as we dropped anchor again the boat came along side and asked for medicine. One of the crew had cut his foot badly and wanted painkillers. Asking him to show us the cut it was obvious he needed more than painkillers, it was about 2 inches long, 1 inch deep and gaping badly. I collected all I thought I needed and with the fishing boat coming up behind climbed over the stern and into their boat. I cleaned it, poured Benadine over it and closed it using steristrips. Then covered and bandaged it. It must have been so painful for him but he said nothing. I left them with more steristrips, bandage and painkillers. As I went to leave they opened the hold and brought out a 3 foot long Wahoo that was stored in ice. After talking to Orca Joss, they went over to the fishing boat and gave antibiotics. I will never know if my first aid helped him but I like to think that between us we stopped any infection.
The next day we had a good sail to Khor Narawat , a collection of small island just of the Sudan coast. The island that we anchored of had thousands of shells along it beaches. By time we had walked around the island I had picked up so many that Clive made me choose only 4 to keep. It was so difficult as they were all so nice.
The weather was right to move on to Suakin which was an over night trip. We arrived just as the sun rose and it was a spectacular sight as we motored pass Old Suakin Town. You would have thought that war and bombs had destroyed it, but you would be wrong. The buildings were made of coral and have just crumbled over the years. This was the major port but when Port Sudan opened and everything was transferred there, the people went and the buildings were left to crumble. This was the last slave-trading port in the world and only stopped trading at the end of the Second World War.
The people here are extremely poor but very friendly and everywhere we were greeted with shouts of "Welcome" and "How are you". One guy in the market told us to tell the world that the Sudanese are very nice people. It is the government that are the problem. He was right but that is the case in most countries of the world. Donkeys are used for transporting many things but also huge trailer trucks that if I hadn't seen it myself would not believe they could deliver to the market. Here we stocked up with diesel, gas and fresh fruit and vegetables, the first since Aden.
After a week the forecast was good again and so north we went. It was a mixture of dayhops and longer overnight sails until we got to Dolphin Reef. This was one reef I was not going to miss because you get to swim with the dolphins. It was an amazing experience. The pod that we swam with was only 7 strong but even then it was magic. Some people before and after we left swam with as many as 80+. If ever we come back this way it is definitely on the list of must go to.
Our insurance company only gave us 6 weeks to do the Red Sea? Well when we got to Dolphin Reef we had taken 4 ½ weeks so it was looking pretty grim. We had moved when we could but the winds here are a pain for going north - always against you. So Clive emailed the company and asked for an extension. They came back saying that they would remove the clause altogether. It took so much pressure off us and we had missed so much further south but now we could take our time. The next hurdle was only 1 month visa and cruising permit in Egypt. This was overcome in Port Ghalib when 14 of us hired a minibus and driver to go to Hurghada to extend our visa for 3 months and then in Port Ghalib they could then issue a 4 month cruising permit. Port Ghalib is one of the new resort towns shooting up in Egypt on the Red Sea mainly for diving. The best part was a marina with running water and Clive climbed the mast and washed the boat down from the top. There was so much sand stuck to everything we had a mud river on the decks. When our friends Mark and Jacquie knew we did not have to rush through Egypt they booked a holiday and came to Hugharda. It was good to see them especially as they had to cancel Lankawi because Mark was ill last year. They stayed in a hotel which was about 50 minutes walk or a 10 minute taxi ride away. We had some good times together especially a 4 day cruise down the Nile from Aswan to Luxor. The ship was a 5 star floating hotel and we had a guide to take us to the places of interest and explain everything. We were templed and tombed out by the end but thoroughly enjoyed it. Unfortunately M & J pick up a stomach bug on the last day of the cruise, which dampened their last week.
So here we are in Hugharda waiting for the weather once again. Because it is late in the season there are no southerly winds so it just waiting until the northerly's are not so strong. We hope that will be leaving Friday but who knows. Predicting weather here is worse than in the UK.
We should be transiting the Suez Canal in the next 2 weeks and the on to Cyprus and Turkey before flying back to the UK for 2 months in July.
Bye for now,
Jane and Clive
10/March/2009, India to Yeman
We left Cochin on 31st January and had to motor for almost 3 days to get some wind. After that we had probably the best sailing we have had in the 10 years we've been away but as usual still no fish. Our arrival at Salalah was not as planned, as it was 0200 but being a very large container terminal was well lit. There are many yachts at anchor and it took until 0330 to find an anchor position that we are happy with. Unfortunately the port harbour master thinks we were a little out in the fairway and we had to move 2 days later. Oman is strikingly different to the lush tropical greenery we had got use to in SE Asia. We were surrounded by bare hills with no trees or vegetation. The buildings were of drab sandstone and the air was full of dust. Within days the boat was filthy. But Oman itself was very clean, we saw very little rubbish around and even on the main highways men were going along picking up any paper or plastic they found.
An Omani named Mohammed does a roaring trade in car rental at a reasonable price (which went up as the Blue Water Rally was in). As in Lankawi no paper work exchanged hands and when we finished with it we just put the money in the glove compartment. We needed the car mainly to get diesel. To try to arrange it in the dock area is difficult and over priced so we all drove to the petrol station, filled up jerry cans and drove back. The down side were the guards on the gate. We were lucky as we smiled sweetly and waved at them and they let us in with no problems. Some people had problems and had to call Mohammed to sort it out.
This was the first strict Muslim country we have been to. There are very few women in the streets and strangely, very few children. The few women we saw were clad all in black with just the eyes showing. Men are everywhere many of them in their white 'nighties' which never seem to get dirty. We take off for a day trip around Salalah with some friends. Clive is driving and does very well on the 'wrong' side of the road especially when we have to stop to let the camels cross. The roads are superb with duel carriages most of the way. We found Dahbate Wadi, which even through it is the dry season still has water running through. Here we walked amongst the camels, sheep and cattle admiring the greenery around the water. After that we went to Sumhuram Archaeological Site. This city was a major trading post from 400BC till 400AD. While we walked around there were Archaeologists working and were pleased to show us a set of steps they had just uncovered.
We celebrated Clive's birthday, with a group of friends, the night before we left Salalah at the Oasis Club, which is about 10 minutes walk from the anchorage. The steaks were out of this world and even better they had Strongbow cider on draught. The cost was a lot more than we were used to paying in Asia but it was Clive's birthday
The next part of our journey to Aden is known as 'pirate ally'. This is where in the past yachts have been attacked and robbed at gun point. These days the Somali pirates go for bigger fish and have successfully hijacked and held for ransom several cargo ships. Because of this there is now a 'safe corridor' for the ships to transit which is patrolled by coalition warships with helicopter and plane flyovers. Our plan was to travel 1 mile outside of the corridor and in radio coverage of the warships. We had a few flyovers of helicopters and other yachts around were called by the warships saying if there was any problem to contact them. All very comforting. We made up a convoy of 3 yachts the same size thinking we would all keep the same speed- wrong! One of the boats would only do 4.5 knots motoring on a flat sea with no wind. It was very hard to go so slow but we stuck with it. The last night when we needed to slow down for a dawn arrival, he shot ahead. No way would we speed up for him so the other boat alongside us called him on the VHF and asked him to slow down. We arrived in Aden just as the sun came up - perfect.
Yemen is so different to Oman. There are black clad women everywhere and children around all the time. And they are so friendly, so many people in the streets say "Welcome to Yemen" and ask where we are from. I confuse them by saying "Wales" and nobody has a clue where that is. I have even had to say I am from "England" which really hurts! On arrival we are given 3 days free after that we either have to leave or buy a visa for 60USD which lasts a month. We went for the visa, one because we wanted to wait for the weather to be right before leaving and secondly we wanted to go to Sana'a. Sana'a is the capital of Yemen and a World Heritage site. We had our visa but we also needed a travel permit to give to the many armed check points. We go by bus with Janine of 'Orca Joss' while John stays to look after the boats (nice man John) it takes 7 hours but the scenery is so fascinating. It is desolate landscape with so much plastic rubbish you wonder where it all came from. There are many river beds but not a drop of water in them. Once over the mountains there are many 'fields' but they were barren. Probably in the wet season it is a mass of green. The ancient towns seem to be carved out of the mountain side or precariously perched on the top of rock.
We entered the old town of Sana'a through the south gate "Bab el Yemen" and was flabbergasted by the splendour, tier upon tier of towering mud-brick houses all decorated with impossibly beautiful white filigree pattern. The streets were narrow but still cars used them blowing horns as they went. Our hotel was Dawood Hotel in the centre. It was a narrow 7 storey building with no lift and old spiral stone staircase. We were on the second floor and that wore me out. We did go to the roof top terrace to watch the sun set and it took me an hour to recover! The room itself was delightful; we had a large sleeping area, a sitting room and a bathroom. All around the walls were ancient artefacts making it the most unusual room we have ever slept in.
We wandered around the old town in the narrow streets admiring the architecture and then into the Souk. Every other shop sells daggers, the Yemeni Jambiya which every Yemeni male seems to be wearing. Clive eventually buys a second-hand one from an old man who is very pleased with the price, so is Clive, he paid an eighth of what they wanted in the Souk. In the afternoon the majority of the men chew on Gat. This is a green leaf which is reputed to give you a high. By the end of the day they have a very large cheek bulging with a green wad and are spaced out. Some of the cheeks look as if they have a tennis ball stuffed in there. Clive did try a leaf and said it tasted like privet and declined any more.
There was a big debate on whether to return by bus or plane. The bus won but a big mistake it was 1½ hours late starting, making it a very long day. John was glad to see us as while we were away many boats came in causing anchoring problems and the wind was high. So while we were having a wonderful time he was stressed out.
We will leave for the Red Sea on Tuesday if the weather looks good so have spent the last couple of days once again filling up with diesel, water and food. Apparently there is not much provisioning between here and Egypt.
That's all for now so take care and we will talk again soon,
Jane and Clive
24/January/2009, Langkawi to India
Well you don't hear from us for months and months and now here we are again in so soon.
We had a very nice Christmas starting with champagne breakfast with friends and ending with a Christmas Buffet Dinner at the resort complete with the resident duo (who are best in house entertainment you can get) and dancing to the early hours. But I don't think I will ever get used to a hot Christmas, it is just not natural. Even in Malaysia they have Christmas cards with snow on and Santa at the North Pole with snow.
The next event was a Ceilidh (pronounced kylee) organised by a Scottish couple. This is a folk music and storytelling party and it amazing how much talent is hidden until we all get together. Clive was very nervous as he promised he would sing and play the guitar for one number. It was such a success that Clive did 4 numbers and even I got up and said a funny poem. There were 5 singer/guitarist, a trumpeter, a accordion player and 3 (plus me) reciting very funny poems. And it just went round and round until the artists ran out of material. Nobody was quite sure as to how the evening would go but everybody agreed it was a roaring success.
New Years Eve was another success with the cruisers asking the resort if we could have our own buffet at the 'Hard Dock Café' (a place where the cruisers could meet and the only café/restaurant where we can take our own drinks so not paying resort prices). This was agreed and for £7 a head we had a splendid buffet and took our own wine and beer. One of the cruisers became a DJ for the night and again we danced in to the early hours of 2009. A little disappointment was the champagne we bought for midnight was flat and gone off. Not a good start to 2009!
It was now time to leave. We went shopping for the last minute fresh fruit and vegetables and sorted the boat ready for the 1600 passage across the Indian Ocean. We had 3 choices of where to stop - India, Sri Lanka or the Maldives. We chose Cochin in India because someone told us that the Maldives is very nice but just another reef. We have seen so many reefs and will see more in the Red Sea so we thought they are right. We missed Sri Lanka as there has been a little problem with the Tamil Tigers even though the trouble is much further north than we would have stopped. It would also have cost 200USD just to check in. Friends that stopped there have enjoyed it but, it was India for us.
We left on 3rd January with our very good friends Terry and Noel following us out on 'Surfer Girl' It was a very sad moment when they turned back as we have had so much fun with them over the year we were in Rebak. I have said before the only down side to this life is the friends we leave behind and may never see again. Although Terry and Noel say they will fly to Turkey to see us.
Our journey started slow with little wind so we motored but after about 6 hours the wind came up and we were sailing comfortably at 5-6 knots. The next 2 days were a mixture of sailing and motoring as the wind rose and fell. We had to pass between the Nicobar Islands and Sumatera which is the main shipping route for all the ships going to and from Singapore. Do you remember what I said about the number of ships in Singapore, well now we had to avoid them at night!! Fortunately just before we left Rebak we ordered a little AIS radar unit from the UK. All commercial shipping emits an Automatic Identification Signal and the unit we bought picks it up on a small radar screen. It was magic. We knew where the ships were before we could see them also knew their name, speed and course they were travelling. This meant we knew which ships to watch for collision courses and if we were worried could call them by name. They then felt obliged to answer and on 1 occasion altered course for us. Of course we still had to keep a good look out for fishing vessels but watches were much easier.
Everything was going fine. We had a few rain squalls but not a lot of wind with it and we were very happy to be sailing again, until we passed Sri Lanka where it seems that the wind funnels down between the 2 land masses. For 2 days we had 25-30 knot winds forward of the beam with seas of 3-4 metres. The waves kept crashing over deck and would even manage to get inside occasionally. This was probably the worst 2 days in 10 years. We only had a very small jib up and still managed 6-8 knots. We were so glad to get in the lee of India as the sea and winds die down. We then had a very pleasant 2 day sail to Cochin. We stayed 30 miles off the coast hoping to avoid all the fishing boats there were still plenty around but not as many as our friends saw only 3 miles off.
Our timing for arrival was perfect. We dropped anchor at the customs anchorage at 1200 on the 15th January - 12 days 2 hours and 38 minutes after leaving Rebak. The Port Authority came out with a form to fill in, the police came by to check our passports and visa and eventually customs came onboard. We had 6 forms to fill in all in quadruple. We then had to go ashore to the Port Authority for more form filling, to customs for more form filling and to leave our boat papers, to the Internal Security Service (like MI5) for permission to move the boat to another anchorage and finally to Immigration for more form filling. The whole process took 4 hours which is apparently very fast by Indian standards. If we had arrived on the weekend we would not have been able to move until the Monday.
We were now in India. First we had a good meal a few beers and a good nights rest. The next day was spent sorting out the boat with a few minor problems from the trip. I think the fact that we didn't leave the boat that day shows how comfortable we are on Jane-G. After 12 days at sea and we were not champing at the bit to get off her.
From our new anchorage I was fascinated by the number of different types of boats that passed us. We saw a 'duck' tourist boat, tradition houseboats and so many different style and size of canoes. I must have photographed 20 different styles of water craft in the first 2 days.
The next day we were off exploring the streets of Cochin. It is a noisy colourful city with so much traffic - buses, motor rickshaws, lorries and cars, all blowing their horns. The back streets are small, full of hundreds of small shops selling almost everything. The best are the spice shops with their huge drums of so many different smells. Fort Kochi, an island opposite is more of a tourist area with motor rickshaws all plying for business. We went there to have a closer look at the Chinese fishing nets we saw on the way in. these are huge nets that are dropped into the water using an elaborate pulley system then after a while hauled back hopefully with fish in them. From what we saw they don't get many fish for the size of the net.
As we were only staying a relatively short time we decided to do a little travelling by car. No way were we going to drive with this traffic so we hired a car and driver for 3 days. Our first day was down the coast about 70km to Alleppey and hired a houseboat for a day and night. These houseboats are traditional style boats that have been converted to little bungalows. They vary in size, the one we had was a one bedroom boat but they go up to a 4 double bedroom boat, which are huge. We first crossed Lake Vembanad to enter the backwaters. These backwaters are like small canal with banks about 6-8 metres wide separating them from the rice fields. But these rice fields are about 2 metres below the water level and on the banks are small houses with families. in some parts whole villages that are 1 street wide with just a foot path to move about. The canals are their life line and almost every house has a canoe or they use the ferry to get around. Also all the laundry and dish washing is done on a set of steps which run down into the water. It was such an interesting day and a comfortable night aboard. We had a crew of 3 to look after us and the food was delicious.
The next day our driver picked us up and we travelled about 120km to the Periyar Tiger Reserve. We stayed in a small hotel just outside the reserve and 0700 the next morning were in ready for an early morning 7km walk in the forest. It was a little disappointing as we only saw a few deer a wild boar and the tail of a bison. There was plenty elephant dung about but no elephants to be seen. We also saw a tiger foot print but no tiger.
Other things we did on the way were stop at a coir processing factory where they take the coconut husk and turn it into ropes and then mats. The looms were all mechanical and hand made from wood. We stopped at a spice garden and learned so much about all the spices and how they are used not only in food but in medicines. And we also saw a traditional 'story-play' a Kathakali. There are no words as the story is told by hand and facial expressions. It has very elaborate makeup, bright costumes and very loud drums and cymbal plays throughout.
As you can see we fitted a lot into our 3 days and driving through the Kerala state from the flat coastal waterways through the mountains with the tea and rubber plantations and back to Cochin was all very enjoyable.
One thing I would not let Clive do was to hire a Royal Enfield motorbike. Apparently these are old British motorbikes that are now only made in India. Every time we walk past one Clive drools, but no way will I let him loose with the Indian drivers.
We will be moving on this weekend towards Salalah in Oman. It will be a little crowded as all the boats from Sri Lanka, the Maldives and India all make their way there but we are only little so will find a spot to drop our anchor.
Next time we talk will probably be in Egypt so until then I'll say bye for now,
Jane and Clive
PS No Delhi belly yet, in fact Clive is probably one of the very few who has had to take a laxative in India!!