Sunday, June 29, 2008

Rupe's tuna file

OK, this year's total for tuna..... 6

Here are the latest 2, both caught on a red and white diving lure, which we have found works best in the half light morning and evening.

Our best daytime lure was taken!!! with all of the line out of the reel...some thing very big is still swimming in the sea.

Rumpus back in Turkey

Rumpus is back in mainland Turkey after a wonderful week in Cyprus with Rupe’s daughter Kate, her husband Duncan, and friends Philly and Jonno. They had flown from London for some sea and sunshine, and there was plenty of both! Very hot nights meant that people slept in all sorts of places on the boat; Philly preferring being outside.

We sailed 28 hours from Herzliya in Israel to meet them in Larnaca, a marina in the Republic of Cyprus (formerly Greek Cyprus, now a member of the EU in its own right). Then with the full crew, we went around the eastern end of the island to end up in Girne, a marina we had visited on the rally, with a beautiful little old harbour in the middle of the old town.

There were interesting immigration issues: in 1974 Turkey took the northern part of Cyprus and there is still no formal recognition of this by the Republic; we had to emigrate from Cyprus and immigrate to Turkish North Cyprus, and were told by Cyprus police that Rumpus could not now return to the south if it went to the north.

The peninsula in the north east of Cyprus is beautiful and sparsely populated; we anchored in Monastery Bay and visited the old and largely abandoned monastery; lots of swimming to cool off as it really was very very hot.

We anchored off in another little bay on the north of that peninsula, then on to Girne in Turkish North Cyprus where we had a special dinner to celebrate 4 people turning 30.

The next day we said good bye to them and Rupe and I have just completed the last ( I hope) long overnight passage - 190 miles. Only wind we found was "right on the nose" and a westerly swell made things quite uncomfortable, though fortunately very warm and clear. In the evening and again in the morning we were lucky enough to catch another couple of albacore tuna, making the tally 6 for this season on Rumpus.

Now a new phase: Rupe is travelling home in a couple of days, earlier than planned. This means the adventures of Rumpus will continue with Kristin taking her to Marmaris Yacht Marin where she will spend the winter. My crew for this passage will be Lulu, who is an Australian we met on the rally. She speaks fluent Turkish and used to run a yacht charter business so she is the perfect person for this leg of the journey!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Leaving Herzliya and off to Cyprus

WE said good bye to our Eastern Med Yacht Rally friends from Group 4 on our last night in Herzliya, and also to Pippy and Richard who are on to their next adventures, in Slovenia. Here is a picture of the group 4 sailors at our final get together; all the group 4 yachts were a similar size though different speeds....also a picture of us with Pippy and Richard.

The longest passage so far was the 200 nautical miles from Herzliya to Larnaca in Southern Cyprus, to meet up with Rupe's daughter Kate, her husband Duncan, and friends Philly and Jonno. It is so hot here, and it has been a delight to be able to swim in the water at the marina.

On the way here ( took us 28 hours) we caught another tuna!! very exciting.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Leaving the Rally and off to Cyprus!

Mosque and fishing boats, Port Said; Felucca sailing on the Nile; Rupe on a camel at the Pyramids; buying limes in Port Said.

Rumpus has returned to Israel after a visit to Egypt full of dust and antiquity. Last night was the final rally dinner and party - great food and dancing, yet again, and saying good bye to wonderful friends that we have met on this Eastern Med Yacht Rally.

Today we spent a day in Jerusalem seeing the Mount of Olives, Gethsemane, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Via Dolorosa, Temple Mount, the Western Wall - places just reeking with spiritual feeling and beauty. More on this later! Still catching up I'm afraid, we've been too busy sailing.

We saw the pyramids after arriving safely in Egypt with a big albacore tuna caught off the Gaza strip en route.
We left Israel in some of the largest seas Rumpus has been in - 2-3 metres - quite scary at the marina mouth off the surf beach where the swell had Rumpus's depth gauge showing zero beneath the keel between each wave!
We had a wonderful sail in the afternoon and evening - last boat to leave Israel and about the 6th boat in to Egypt , at 1.30am in the morning - after passing an oil rig - and arriving at the Suez Canal entrance.
At 6.30 am the whole rally moved in a procession down the first part of the canal to our marina.

We then went to Cairo and sailed feluccas on the Nile, and the next day visited the pyramids. It was extremely hot as you can imagine. A real highlight was the Cairo Museum with its unsurpassed collection of antiquities, including all the contents of the tomb of King Tutankhamun, which are staggering in their beauty, condition and significance. He died at 16, so they would have been making these things all during his short life, to leave with him for his afterlife. The gold is amazing; the workmanship so fine and showing so much love and respect for the pharaoh. WE also saw, nestled next to the Great Pyramid, the oldest boat in existence, a huge 45 m Nile river barge built for King Cheops, and excavated from a pit beside the pyramid in 1954. It has been reassembled and it is truly grand.

Now we are back in Herzliya near Tel Aviv after a wonderful sail back from Port Said - 160 nautical miles, the longest passage in the rally.

We were the last boat to leave the Suez Canal entrance at about midday, and the whole fleet in front of us was a great sight with a lovely 15 knot northwester pushing boats along on a tight reach - for the first time in the whole rally all the boats were sailing and no diesel was being burned..... for a while anyway. We had an informal race challenge ( well it was going to be a race....) with Zia, the 51 foot catamaran, and had prepared to blitz them with our spinnaker up , but sadly the hoped for Westerly didn't kick in. Rupe had a wonderful day counting the boats we passed....till he got to 25, then started counting the boats in front. By the end of the passage the morning after we left these included Zia, of course ( Rupe said several times: " unfortunately, this is a perfect breeze for Zia.....") and Sansipapp, a lovely Farr 50 footer from Sweden. So the passage was 21 hours with a full moon and lovely breeze for much of the way - sadly no fish; we were going too fast!

But no rest for the wicked - tomorrow morning early we leave for Larnaca in Cyprus to meet Rupe's daughter Kate and her husband Duncan and friends for a week. This will be a very long passage, 28 hours, so a big challenge. We are nonetheless really looking forward to swimming off the boat and being in anchorages and going wherever we want to !!!

Friday, June 13, 2008

A lovely passage from Ashkelon to Egypt

Dawn at Port Said, yacht rally boats in ArsenalBasin, Rumpus in Port Said, Mark from 'Cowrie' in an unusual moment of relaxation; the latest tuna.

For the second time in this rally we left a port (Ashkelon) a day later because of the weather; Rupe and I spent the extra day in Jerusalem. I will have to write about that and all the other times in Israel later... just to catch up, here are the pictures from this morning when we arrived at dawn in Port Said, the northern entrance to the Suez canal, after a 150 nautical mile sail, all day and most of the night. Rumpus just romped along, a wonderful broad reach with a 15 knot breeze helping us to zip past most of the fleet in the night. We anchored at 2.30 am and rose again at 5 to prepare the boat, flags and all decorations, to join with the other boats in our group for a procession into Port Said. As you see there was excitement in the first couple of hours of the journey when we caught another tuna; many others also caught tuna so all the boats with freezers are well stocked and we are again giving it away to our friends and neighbours. different variety from the others, with big eyes and paler flesh...
Tomorrow we leave the boat for a couple of days to tour the Pyramids. What a treat in store.
Tuna for dinner!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Lively Lebanon

After a very smooth sail we arrived in Jounnieh, a port north of Beirut. This is where 'le tout monde' of Beirut spends leisure time. Our young friends Arthur and Brune ( aged 15 and 9) from 'Arcaloune' were delighted to discover that most people spoke French. There was a 50m salt water swimming pool which was absolutely delicious.
We had been apprehensive about Beirut because of the Hisbollah fighting in the centre of the city just a few weeks ago. However a week before we arrived the factions had met in Doha and signed a peace accord. So the first night we were there we went into central Beirut which was clean, rebuilt, and bristling with security - riot police and armoured troop carriers. There was a concert to 'reopen' the city and even celebratory ice creams at Haagen Dazs. Our meal in an open air restaurant near the place de l'Etoile was typically middle eastern fare; yoghurt, chick peas, and so on.
The Lebanese have just elected a new President who by law must be Maronite Christian: General Michel Sleyman - and the other two major leaders, Prime Minister and leader of the House of Parliament, must be from the Shia and Sunni moslem faiths. There is so much hope for this new regime; there are pictures of the new President everywhere.

On 1 June our tour was to the Jeita grotto; an astonishing complex of underground caves discovered by a hunter who heard a strange echo when he shot at a fox. Truly stunning and very impressive. The lower caves you navigate by boat; there's a pathway through the upper caves which are skilfully lit.
We also visited Baalbeck - stunning Roman extravagance and grandeur, impressive in scope and opulence even as a ruin today.

Byblos is a seaside town where the Phoenician alphabet was developed and which saw a succession of cultures using the unique port with a north and south facing harbour.
It was great to explore these places with my Mum Diane and we had a special trip into Beirut to visit the museum - many of the special treasures from the places we visited were preserved there, especially the beautiful ex voto statues from Byblos. Well worth a visit and set aside a couple of hours - it's not big, just everything is so fascinating.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Wonderful Syria

The Assad dynasty; a vege shop

Kristin at Krac des chevaliers; K and Diane at Aleppo; Camel at Palmyra

Map on a goatskin

Arriving in Lattakia a day later than planned, we met my Mum Diane on the waterfront. The sightseeing programme was very full and we covered many miles to see some wonderful places.

First was the crusader fortress Krac des Chevaliers, a spectacular building dominating the landscape, in an impressive state of preservation. It was easy to visualize the crusaders and their horses in the stables and banquet halls of the castle, looking out over Syria in all directions, even to the mountains of Lebanon with their shreds of snow. We also visited the tiny ancient shrine of St Ananais, who had baptized St Paul after the scales had fallen from his eyes on the road to Damascus.

Lunch was in a Bedouin tent with musicians, an array of aubergines, olives, tomatoes, tabbouleh and hummus. We then drove through the desert - Bedouin tents here and there, long rectangles with awnings and all the household and animals about. With remarkable frequency we passed incongruous fairgrounds with ferris wheels and pirate ship rides – all closed. After some hours, we turned a corner and there was the most impressive breathtaking ancient site - pinkish gold columns and avenues of stone reaching over a huge area – Palmyra. This town was built on a oasis in the desert which is still a lovely patch of green. We visited the ancient temple of Bel, the god of the gods, with its beautifully preserved lintels and ceilings. 72 columns of the original 360 were still standing in this enormous space. We walked along the main colonnade imagining the people of ancient times in this street – camels pacing by, statues looking down from the ledges on the columns, water running in channels alongside…Palmyra was truly a place of dreams.

That night we stayed in a Damascus hotel, and went to an extraordinary dinner and show at a venue that was a cross between Las Vegas and Disneyland – in one huge area there was a Spanish galleon, the tower of Pisa and a windmill – a huge stage for the dance spectacular, central fountain, and tables all around with waiters in turbans. However to the alarm of some there was no alcohol!!!

The next day was a visit to the museum in Damascus which has mosaics, statues, and the most wonderful synagogue from Doura Europus – a whole huge room with amazingly preserved frescoes depicting stories from the Talmud, Moses and Abraham featuring in many of the panels. It had been preserved in the sands of Doura Europus, rediscovered in the 1930s and transported to the museum in pieces for reassembly. It is extraordinary; rare to have any Jewish temple so richly decorated.

Wandering through the streets and markets of Damascus after lunch we thought we were in another time; rickety buildings hanging over us, dusty shops, a bustling souq (market) with Shi’ite pilgrims beating their breasts and chanting as they passed through on the way to the Grand Mosque of Omayyad. .

Before entering the mosque we had to don a long hooded robe (for Kristin) and a skirt to cover Rupe’s knobbly knees. What a sight! almost as spectacular as the mosque with its mosaics and geometric beauty. A shrine inside holds (apparently) the head of St John the Baptist, who is a prophet for Moslems as well as Christians.

Too much to tell; the other places we visited were:

The citadel in Aleppo; dominating the skyline of this northern city; huge gates, two mosques, a sultan’s palace, baths, an enormous cistern.

The enormous water wheels in Hamas that lift water from the Orontes river to aqueducts and groan on their ancient axles as the Hamas citizens wander and picnic in the park nearby.

Saladin’s Castle; the enormous fort that first brought Lawrence of Arabia to the Near East as a student of medieval architecture – from a Phoenician settlement in 1100 BC it was reshaped by the Byzantines, the Aleppo Moslems and the Crusaders before falling to Saladin after a siege. Saladin mercifully let the Christians leave with all they could carry.

Ugarit, a huge settlement that had once been the capital of the Phoenician kingdom, with remarkable stonework and an archive room in the royal palace that had yielded at least 11000 tablets of early writing (sadly, only 300 remain in Syria). The Damascus museum has some, including a tablet the size of a large date with the first ever alphabet etched into it. The Phoenician king described Ugarit in a letter to the Pharaoh; covering 1 hectare with more than 90 rooms, it was a truly grand palace. Diplomats visiting the king would meet with their feet in a grand paddling pool in the reception area to keep cool; what a great idea.

Overall Syria was like a step back in time, the tiny winding alleys with dusty shops, women wound into their chadors in the baking heat, lots of well-loved children.