Sunday, 29 July 2012



Tuesday 12 June finally saw us on our way to Haifa in Israel which was a trip of around 28 hours or so.  We departed Famagusta at 0730 hours and had to head 12 nautical miles east to the waypoint before changing course for Haifa.  Had some light wind so tried with the Gennaker, but after persevering for an hour gave up and started motor sailing.  Not much happening and had lunch around 1400 hours with around 103 nautical miles to go.  The wind came up a bit so we managed to sail for the next part of the journey until it died out again around 0400 hours the next morning.  Had a great sail until then and nothing of note except the nice beef stew we had for dinner.  Sounds like we do nothing but eat and drink .......well !!!!!
At 800 hours as scheduled we all arrived at the coordinates where we had to wait before crossing “the line” into Israeli waters.  As we had been advised we were met by Israeli gunships which came alongside and asked questions as to where the yacht was registered, number of crew, ships details etc. 

Although they had personnel manning the guns they were very friendly and wished us a pleasant stay in Israel.  We were then allowed to proceed to the entrance to the port where we were met by the Immigration boat, also with armed personnel, while our passports were checked and verified before we were allowed to enter the port.
The marina was adjacent to the commercial port, and unfortunately was quite basic and a distance from anywhere.  However the yacht club members made us very welcome and arranged for a walk along the river followed by drinks and a snack on the quay side in the evening.  Prior to this we had a few cocktails on Awatea for Pug and his crew off ‘Maxi Cosi’, Dave from ‘Mashona’, and Shaun & Jane off ‘Happy Hour’.  In the afternoon Mike & Annie from ‘Kandeed’ had given us some lovely tuna steaks from the catch they made on the overnight sailing.  The tuna was beautiful and fresh so were on the menu for dinner that night – joined by Shaun & Jane.
The next day was really hot and nothing much planned apart from having the AIS fitted, with John, Robert and Derek running all the cables for the technician to complete the install.  Fortunately it all went well and was up and running in the afternoon in time for us to get ready for the cocktails and dinner (yes – more food and wine) which the yacht club was hosting on the river bank behind the marina.  It was a really great night with fabulous food and a really good DJ.  Needless to say everyone had an enjoyable time dancing the night away until the early hours.

Another hot day and we had arranged to do a tour to Akko - a city in the Western Galilee region of northern Israel at the northern extremity of Haifa Bay. Akko or Acre as it is also known is one of the oldest continuously inhabited sites in the country.

Acre was one of this region’s important cities in ancient times. Various cultures made their home here, the Crusaders captured it and the Ottomans lived here for many centuries. Even Napoleon Bonaparte tried to lay his hands on Acre and conquer it, but after two months of siege and failed attempts to storm the city’s walls, he retreated in humiliation.

The fascinating history that has passed through the streets of Acre, the legacy left behind by its conquerors, the buildings that adorn the city and the places of worship built there are just part of the experience this city offers. Among the high-walled alleys and underground passages there is a huge mosque and a Christian monastery, an inn and Turkish baths, halls built by the Knights Templar, with an extraordinary Templar tunnel and fascinating archeological findings. 

These are joined by intriguing museums and many churches, a row of hotels near the inviting beaches, a marina, restaurants and a picaresque fishing port.  After exploring we had lunch at a local cafe, and as the old city is only inhabited by Arab Muslims, were pleased when we were able to get a nice cold beer.  

On the way back we stopped at a supermarket to get some supplies as nothing was available near the marina itself.  In the evening the EMYR sailors were all being hosted by local Israeli families at their homes, which apparently is and EMYR tradition.  Prior to our home visit we stopped by ‘Agapanthe II’ as it was Christian’s Birthday, and we had sailed with them from the very start at Istanbul.  We were then picked up by our hosts for the evening and were fortunate in being invited to the home of the Commodore of the Yacht Club and his wife.  We were joined by Zekai & Ayse, our Turkish friends from ‘Karaduman’, and also our French friends from ‘Ael-Mat’, and we all had a fantastic evening.  It was so nice to meet the family with 3 generations present, and the food they prepared was superb.  A truly enjoyable night!!!
We had a night sailing to the next port of Ashkelon, a run of about 90 nautical miles.  
We used the day to get the yacht ready, take on water etc.  Robert did a morning tour of Haifa, but being the Sabbath it was a bit of a disappointment as very little was open.  We finally departed around 1930 hours, out into a sea like glass and virtually dead calm.  Arrived at Ashkelon marina around 1200 hours and after berthing went along to the welcome tent for cold beer on tap and were given some mementos by the marina staff.  

A really nice idea – will have to suggest it as a norm for every arrival!!!  For lunch we walked along to a restaurant in the marina called Scubar with Pug and a few others, and although we ordered salads thinking it would be a nice light lunch, they proved to be huge meals.  That evening it was a pot luck dinner on the pontoon which was fun and the food everyone brought along was really good.

The next day Robert left us for a 4 day tour of Jordan.  John & Derek walked up to the local market for some supplies, and were hoping to get chicken livers as Kath from ‘Mashona’ said she would make some of her special pate for us. Unfortunately it was not to be – not a chicken liver in sight!  We came back to Awatea and cooked hamburgers for lunch.  We had invited Jane & Russell from ‘Ta Be’ and Dave & Kath from ‘Mashona’ for dinner and had a fabulous roast lamb meal.  Kath arrived with a large bowl of pate – somehow she had managed to get the chicken livers, and it was a really delicious treat.  The drinks flowed and it was a very late night, but extremely enjoyable.
John had to go to the Australian Embassy in Tel Aviv to get some documents signed, so in the morning we headed off by bus to the station and boarded the train for Tel Aviv.  Unfortunately we missed the stop we needed and ended up in Herzliya, so by the time we got back into Tel Aviv decided to get a taxi to the Embassy.  They recommended an Asian restaurant just around the corner called ‘River Restaurant’, and the food was superb.  After lunch we walked to the old port/town of Jaffa which is believed to be one of the oldest in the world.   Jaffa is also famous for its association with the biblical story of the prophet Jonah.  It was then back to the marina and we noticed a lot of young guys and girls in uniform travelling on the buses and trains with machine guns slung over their shoulders and resting on their laps – quite strange to us!  The marina hosted us for dinner in the evening at one of the marina restaurants which was very enjoyable with lots of wine & beer and a very good buffet meal.  Had another of the flag ceremonies and the usual speeches and presentations. 

During the night several rockets were fired towards Ashkelon from the Gaza, and some were seen exploding in the sky after being hit by the Israeli missiles.  All very exciting!

Next morning and we did a few chores in preparation for our trip down to Egypt, and time to stock up on a few essentials.  Unfortunately during the day the Committee had word that Egypt had closed Port Said because of the impending results of the election, and said they could not guarantee our safety there or in Cairo, as large demonstrations were being held.  Another disappointment for everyone!  A decision was made that we would proceed directly to Herzliya and the rally would finish a week earlier, with the final rally dinner to be held on Sunday 24 July.  Although it was another blow after not being able to go to Lebanon, it means that we can bring forward our plans to go to Jordan after the end of the rally, and then head back to Cyprus.  It was Jean Paul’s birthday as well as his boat “Vanille’s” 25th Birthday, so a big party was planned on the wharf which proved to be a lot of fun and during this Robert arrived back.  

“Maxi Cosi’ and ‘Happy Hour’ decided they were staying in Ashkelon and not go to Herzliya, so we had a farewell dinner at one of the marina restaurants.  During the meal air raid sirens sounded and everyone got up and started making their way out the back of the restaurant to what we discovered was a small air raid shelter.  Obviously the Israeli defense missiles did their usual and everyone returned to their seats and carried on as if nothing had happened. Quite bizarre, but guess they are used to it. There were more ‘fireworks’ during the night and a few of the group were starting to feel a bit uncomfortable, and looked forward to leaving the following morning.
Departed from Ashkelon at 0600 hours and had a very uncomfortable trip as there was a nasty swell.  Arrived in Herzliya Marina around 1130 hours and it was a great marina with a huge shopping mall and numerous restaurants – and no rockets!  
They even had a huge ice machine for the yachties which proved to be very popular.  Early afternoon we had intentions to head into Tel Aviv and take Robert to Jaffa, but only made it as far as a fusion restaurant in the marina which had a great menu (as was the food), and after a few beers and a nice meal decided to have a lazy afternoon, well what was left of it anyway.

Next day was a bit of a mixed bag as most places close early in preparation for the Sabbath.  So not much planned, however John started organising our trip to Jordan.  Word got out and six others wanted to join us, so it was bus tickets from Herzliya to the border at Eliat, two rental cars and accommodation in Petra and Amman. If he wasn’t a yacht skipper he could always get a job as a travel agent!  In the evening it was cocktails on Awatea for ‘Kookaburra’, ‘Vanille’ and ‘Amazing’ , and as usual it was a very enjoyable session.

Saturday 23 June and being the Sabbath everything was closed.  Thought of going into Jaffa, but couldn’t confirm if the buses were running or not, so decided it was a rest day at the marina.
Final day of the rally, and it is starting to feel strange.  The big final dinner is this evening and then it’s goodbye to all our wonderful friends we have made on the rally. 

Fortunately we know that we will bump into quite a few over the next few months, as a lot are heading back to sail around Turkey.  Robert has managed to bring his flights home to Brisbane forward and is flying out tomorrow via Istanbul and Singapore.  He will be sadly missed, but know he is looking forward to getting home to see the family and in particular the grand children.  In the afternoon John and Robert headed into Jaffa for a few hours and then back to get ready for the formal dinner.  It was the last of the flag ceremonies which after moaning about having to do them a few times, was quite an emotional occasion.  Had a nice meal, good wine and the usual speeches and presentations, with gifts also for Hassan, Dave & Kath being the EMYR Rally Committee. 

The music and dancing was a bit of a fizzer, which is probably just as well as we had an early start the next morning on our “post rally” trip to Jordan.

All in all it has been the most fantastic experience, and we have made some wonderful friends.  We have travelled a distance of 1,495 nautical miles since the start of the rally way back on 23 April, and have survived to tell the tale.  Whether our livers have, remains to be seen!!

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