EMYR Part 2
13 July 2012 | Girne Cyprus
jane hot and sunny
So now onto the second half of the EMYR rally; which proved to be very hard work for the organisers so we really appreciated the way they looked after us. We were originaly going to go to Lebanon from Karpas Gate in Northern Cyprus, but our itinerary had to be changed as Lebanon wanted us to enter from Turkey instead (only an extra 140 nm or so …). So off we went to Mersin, the furtherst East we got in Turkey. Yet again we were treated like VIPs and they put on the most spectacular evening for us including some local dancers who were fantastic.
Then, the day before we were due to sail to Jounieh in Lebanon, we were advised that the authorities could no longer welcome us because of the unrest in Syria. It was a real blow, especially as the rally for the second year in a row was missing out Syria and we had also travelled all the way back to Turkey. Two wonderful countries we sadly were not going to see. So it was with heavy hearts that we instead returned to Karpas Gate who kindly put us up again. The plan now was to leave Famagusta, on the south coast of Northern Cyprus, to go to Israel. A few of us decided to go to Monastry Bay for a few days instead of staying at Karpas Gate Marina. We ended up being six boats at anchor, a beautiful spot, and enjoyed a couple of great pot luck evenings together.
The sail from Famagosta to Haifa was 160 km and not having a lot of wind we motor sailed most of the way. It was strange to see so many other boats around us at night, and we hung back to keep out of everyone’s way! It was interesting as we had to follow certain waypoints to keep the Israeli Navy happy, they asked us to check in once we were about 20 miles out and came alongside each boat for all our documents before we entered the harbour. The Carmel Yacht Club hosted our visit and somehow managed to fit all of us into their marina even though they only had five berths available!!
We were hosted to a cocktail party and walk along the reclaimed Kishon River by the club, on our first evening which was fascinating – it showed how we can, turn back the clocks, environmentally. The next day we were taken to Nazareth and Galilee, among other sites. The church in Nazareth was like a gallery with all different types of murals from various countries, Canada’s was very original and done in wood, I could have spent a day there. Galilee was interesting with people being baptised in the River Jordan; which has water rats and huge mean looking catfish, I wouldn’t have gone near the water, however holy the place is!!
That evening we were treated to a magical party at the Kishon River Park with a backdrop of Haifa’s twinkling lights. We are the only Canadian boat on the rally this year out of 33 boats, and I was proud for the first time to hold the flag and make a speech - even though I was a tad nervous in front of all the local dignatories.
The next day we went to Akko, an ancient harbour city which had a stunning synagogue just outside of the old city with the most amazing mosaics recounting the history of the Jewish People. We loved Akko with its ancient crusader city being unearthed under the newer city, with its tunnels, vaulted ceilings and outside its cobbled streets and bazaars. That evening we were hosted by yacht club members to an evening in their homes, we had a delightful evening with Tamara and Giora Reder and their family. Then the following day we were shown around Haifa before our evening departure south for Ashkelon.
From Ashkelon we took a trip through the Judean Desert and Mountains to The Dead Sea; which being 400 meters below sea level is the lowest point on earth. It was quite the experience to float unsinkably on the highly saline water. We also visited Masada, Herod’s mountaintop palace – quite the climb up, but luckily we got the cable car down. The morning before we were due to leave for Egypt I awoke to the distant sound of rumberling, but thought nothing of it until later. We had invited some Australians who were hitching a ride on another boat to join us for the leg down to Port Said, however by the afternoon our agenda was changing again as Egypt could no longer safely welcome us into Port Said, due to the unrest from the elections there, and it was decided that we would leave the following day for Herzilya instead. Sarah and Doug ended up staying on board with us until the end of the rally about a week later in Herzilya.
The locals in Ashkelon are used to living so close to Gaza (20 k away) and have recently got anti missles that are 95% accurate so we were told not to worry about the rumbling that I occasionally kept hearing. However, that evening we went out for dinner with some of our friends, and just as dinner was being served the sirens went off. I have never seen people jump up and move so quickly, it took us a second or two to cotton on, as about 50 people rushed to the back of the restaurant for the shelter that could probably only hold 10. Thankfully by the time we got there the sirens stopped and people were calmly going back to their tables. A couple of times we saw lights in the sky and once during the night the siren went again (not sure what we were supposed to do on our boat) Russ happily snored beside me and luckily it only went for about a minute. However, we were very happy to leave for Herzilya early the next morning – there’s exciting, but that was a tad too much.
Herzilaya Marina was lovely, although on entering we got some garbage/rubbish around our starboard prop that Russ had to dive to sort out, and I had three spotters!! Sadly there is a lot of debris in the sea in the Eastern Med and we were the fourth boat in the rally to have had a problem. We were right beside a terrific beach where we did yoga and played rugby in the mornings with a huge mall with outside bars and restaurants to enjoy. Our last few days with the rally were a lot of fun, we had partied every night since the beginning and did not stop until the end when the marina put on our last formal dinner and dance – I think we got to bed at 4 am not wanting the party to end. We became a very close community and made some great friends. What a wonderful experience we had, we would recommend the EMYR to all our fellow cruisers, hopefully the countries we missed will open up soon and the number of participants will grow again, although sadly we do not think we will be visiting them in Ta-b as next year we plan to head west.