South Western Cyclades

Sea Cloud 2015 travels so far – for those who want to know where we’ve been!

2015 Sea Cloud map

More detailed map of our trip through the Cyclades

Sea Cloud's route through the Cyclades 2015

Sea Cloud’s route through the Cyclades 2015

The anchorage of Vathy on Sifnos, with its all round shelter, lovely swimming , good tavernas and proximity to the local bus was an great place to anchor Sea Cloud while we set off to explore Sifnos. The well marked walking trails and lush green hillsides make Sifnos an ideal place for hiking.

IMG_1858 The walk from the Chora to Vathy has spectacular views.IMG_1881

Vathy anchorage - Milos and Kimolos in the distance

Vathy anchorage – Milos and Kimolos in the distance

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In Sifnos we witnessed the annual celebration of ‘the lighting of the towers’. In earlier times fires were lit in these towers (the ruins of which can be seen throughout the island) to warn islanders of the approach of pirates.

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With only moderate complaints from Ian, we hiked from the Chora to the monastery of Profitas Ilias, the highest point of the island.

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IMG_1922and then to the Kastro on the other side of the island – a wonderful defensive spot.

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The islands in this group are so close, especially when you are going downwind. We had a  brisk sail to Kimolos, then the following day to Milos, another volcanic island, with a huge safe anchorage. After negotiating the horrible sea to the north of the island (for which Milos is famous) we settled Sea Cloud on the pontoon in Adamas for a few days of touring, socialising with some Kiwis on another Hallberg Rassy and waiting out some big winds. Milos, another spectacular island, is a favourite of the younger set (how old do I feel when saying this) and Italians, who apparently love the many good beaches, such as XXX on the south of the island.

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The island’s capital, Plaka and Kastro at the top of the island provided great views of the rugged coastline being hammered by the strong northerly winds.

IMG_1950 Milos also has some some very quirky places, such as the brightly coloured fishing sheds at Klima

IMG_2026 IMG_2039and the tiny harbour of Mantrakia.

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Sarikiniko, on the northern coastline has some wonderful rock formations.

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Folegandros, an island further east has an anchorage that is not tenable in big winds. We were lucky enough to have a good sail across and back, and a few calm days to anchor and explore this beautiful island. At first glance, Folegandros is rather barren and inhospitable, but the green leafy (and very classy) chora perched on the top of the cliffs has the most incredible views down to the seas below.

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We found a small hotel, great for our usual freddo cappuccino in the morning and Ian’s favourite, a really good mojito in the evening.

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IMG_2078 - Version 2Although not as extensive as Sifnos, Folegandros also has some excellent walking trails, and beautiful beaches.

IMG_2094 The walk from the Chora to the other side of the island was rewarded by a swim and then lunch overlooking the most divine beach.

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On the way we found a great spot to stay, adjacent to its own almost private beach.

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The port of Karavostassis,  well connected to the Chora by bus, was a lovely anchorage – as long as you found a patch of good sand on the rather rocky bottom.

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Our last island before heading back to Milos and then the Peloponnese was Sikinos, a small island next to Ios. Uncrowded, with wonderful views and good walking trails, it would be a good place to spend a few days.

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Sea Cloud's route through the Cyclades 2015

Sea Cloud’s route through the Cyclades 2015

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Cyclades

We thought we had picked a good  weather window for the sail to Mykonos. We set off from the north of Patmos at 4am and had a great sail across to Mykonos with Sea Cloud flying along.

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All went well until we turned north into the channel between Mykonos and Delos to find we were in Bondi –like surf and had 37knots on the nose. Not fun.

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Sea Cloud behaved well and after a pretty scary hour we tied up on a lazy line in Mykonos Harbour. Phew!! Should have taken more notice of the sea state off the island – you don’t want to be anywhere there is red or yellow…

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It was great to catch up with Sue and Ian Rewell, who unfortunately were leaving the next day for Paros.

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It was very tempting to head south with them, but we wanted to take advantage of the winds and head to Tinos and Andros, two islands we had been hoping to visit for a few seasons.

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They don’t call Mykonos the windy island for nothing.

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The old days (taken from a restaurant menu)

The old days (taken from a restaurant menu)

Unfortunately Mykonos  is a cruise ship destination – 4 ships in port =11,000 people in town. It was so peaceful when they all left. You could tell that this punter was a charterer, why would you anchor so close to the rocks in a 30knot breeze? Close to the restaurant I guess.IMG_1581

You can see the attraction of Mykonos, it has beautiful beaches on the south side of the island.

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The wind, which had been blowing furiously for a week finally stopped giving us the opportunity to visit the ruins of Delos, the commercial and religious centre of ancient Greece.
P1030932IMG_1612P1030934P1030962P1030974Mykonos looked so different in the calm.

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Lunch in Mykonos overlooking the windmills with the beautiful people.

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The resident pelican, seen pottering through the small streets of Mykonos.

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On to Tinos, a modern day religious centre of Greece. It is famous for the pilgrims who crawl from the port up the street (carpeted) and up the stairs of the Church of Panagia Evangelista on the hill.

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There were many shops selling goodies for the pilgrims, seemed that the more religious you were, the bigger the candle purchased.

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The island is also incredibly lush and beautiful, with lovely small white towns scattered throughout the hillsides. It is also known for the large number of dovecotes, some dating back to Venetian times. A more recent addition to Tinos is a great museum of marble located in Pirgos.

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Visiting these towns at this time of year is great, no problem getting a berth – there was only one other boat (another Hallberg Rassy) in Tinos.

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From Tinos, to Andros, another windy island, the closest one to the Greek mainland. The harbour of Batsi where we moored was a pretty place. Andros town, the capital of the island has a big harbour, but on the windy side of the island. It was calm the day we visited, but would be a terrible spot to be with the meltemi blowing.

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Kavea Bay on Kea was our next anchorage. We’d spent 4 days in this bay in a big blow on our first foray into the Aegean. It was lovely to see it in the calm and to be able to go ashore and wander around. Kea, with its small crystal clear bays and sympathetic cycladic architecture is on our short list of ideal Greek islands.

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Anchored in the bay at Finikas, Syros, we caught the local bus to the island’s capital, Ermopoulous. It is the capital of the Cyclades and was also briefly considered as a potential capital of Greece.

IMG_1773It has a very grand main square and Town Hall and some charming small streets. Ermopoulis harbour is a large working port, busy with ferries and yachts. Ian managed to have a stainless fitting fabricated, the only problem was that by the time they finished it, we were in Paros, so had to sail 25 miles each way to pick it up!

P1040031IMG_1786A planned 2 day stay in Paros turned into five, such a lovely spot. The wonderful large bay at Naoussa is a perfect all weather anchorage.

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There is also a busy small marina, which was full most nights. The town is charming, with small winding streets, a pretty small harbour and restaurants with great grilled octopus.

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Spring 2015

Turkey

After a busy few months in Sydney we arrived back in Gocek to find Sea Cloud looking beautiful , shiny and ready for launch.

Sea Cloud gocekAfter three seasons wintering in Gocek, the plan is to head west through Greece, to leave Sea Cloud in Brindisi. After  a  wonderful sail we docked at Netsel Marina in Marmaris, ready for a few days of tradespeople crawling over the boat, doing the many ‘jobs’ Ian had lined up with Erdan from Marlin Marine, Ali from Elvstrom sails and Rashid from Anil canvaswork.

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Sea Cloud now has solar panels (sort of – still not working properly), a new genoa, a furling staysail and a great new bimini, that actually shades us when at the helm. Our guests will be pleased to hear we also have a new electric toilet. Ian made sure he took all the working bits from the old one before disposal!

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The more time we spent in Marmaris, the more we enjoyed it. Out of season, Marmaris is rather charming, a busy, ‘normal’ Turkish town, with some great restaurants, and to Ian’s delight, a terrific range of chandleries.

Pineapple - Netsel

Pineapple – Netsel

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Apart from the bi weekly cruises ships, the usually busy Marmaris Bay was quite empty.

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A sail to Selimiye and Bozburun were great opportunities to try out the new sails.

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Being late April, most of Selimiye was in preparation mode, with many restaurants closed. Luckily, Sardunya with its great restaurant and lovely dock were open.

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Selimiye 002After visits to our favourite anchorage Kiseli Adasi and nearby Bozburun we returned to Marmaris for some more rig tuning and to check out of Turkey. Always feel sorry for the sheep in the boats!

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Entering Greek waters

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Nicolas at Navigo yachting helped again in  finding a berth for us in Mandraki Harbour in Rhodes. The new Rhodes marina which they hoped to be completed for this season is still being built – maybe opening in June 2015. Ian’s birthday was celebrated with an amazing seafood dinner at a local restaurant recommended by Nico.

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Local ‘oysters’

Birthday feast Birthday boy

Symi harbor as usual was lovely, but a challenge. Fortunately it was a calm night –the charterers on the other side of the harbour had out enough anchor chain to barely touch the bottom of this deep inlet.

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We moved quickly north, trying to catch up with our EMYR rally friends on Skysong, Michael and Christine who were in Lipsi harbor. We spent a memorable few days with them in Lipsi and then Leros. They are great company and we enjoyed stimulating conversation, lovely food, wine and of course, pink gins!

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Skysong – Lipsi

Chris and MichaelAy Marina

First swim of the season - Pandeli

First swim of the season – Pandeli

Michael and Christine left us here in Xerokambos, at the bottom of Leros where we are anchored, trying to work out how to get across to Mykonos or Paros to meet friends Sue and Ian Rewell – not easy with a winds and big seas separating us! It has been very windy this season, with more strong northerlies this early than in previous seasons.

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Pandeli

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Autumn – Turkey and the Dodecanese

August  was a good month to be in Sydney – it had been 45degrees in Gocek. September is lovely in Turkey, the weather had cooled slightly, the water is warm and wonderful for swimming. David and David arrived in Gocek to sail with us for a week in Fethiye Gulf. We enjoyed days relaxing in our favourite bays – Deep and Seagull, walking and enjoying meals of fresh local Turkish produce prepared by David LJ.

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David and David headed for Istanbul and we to Greece – we only had a few weeks left on our Turkish visa. The plan was to visit our favourite bays in the Dodecanese and maybe get to Mykonos and Delos, which have been trying to do for a few seasons. Pandeli (of course), a walk to the castle and lunch at the wonderful Mill restaurant were high on the agenda.

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A few days in Pithagorian in Samos, then to Marathokambos, a very pleasant little harbour town on the western corner of Samos. We were surprised to find a newly built ‘marina’ there, due to be opened in the next month or so. A great facility, although unfortunately not many spots to fit a boat the size of Sea Cloud as most mooring blocks seemed to be set for 12m maximum. We anchored in the bay. Unfortunately Ian still had lots of work to do, so this was an all too common site.

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We had hoped for some Aegean lobster in Fourni, a trip to Ikaria and then Mykonos, but unfortunately strong winds were predicted, so we headed for Patmos.

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Fourni

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We anchored for a few windy days on Ay Yerios, a gorgeous, bay with a fabulous fish restaurant ashore.

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Patmos harbour  caused a few headaches, a dragging anchor at midnight, re-anchoring then having our anchor uprooted while we were stern to the town wall (by a catamaran with a ‘professional’ skipper), all within 24 hours! Lunch at Jimmy’s at the Chora, then a delightful walk down to the harbour via the ancient pathway made the hassles at the harbour worthwhile – what views!

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Lipsi, which we hadn’t really enjoyed on a previous visit, was a pleasant surprise. After a few days of calm weather anchoring in the beautiful bay on the south of the island,

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we moved to Lipsi harbour for the next predicted windy patch. Luckily we arrived early enough to get a good spot on the pontoon – 57 boats were in the harbour by the end of the evening! There was a bit of carnage on the other side of the dock as the wind changed direction (from southerly to Northerly – as predicted) in the middle of the night.

Lipsi has some great walks, wonderful restaurants and the best coffee shop/bakery we have found in Dodecanese.

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Strong winds were certainly a feature our 3 weeks in Greece, with 3 gales during that time. Our itinerary, adapted to ensure safe anchorages, meant that we moved south quickly through Leros (Pandeli again!),

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to Kalymnos and Nisyros heading back to Panorimitis on Symi – a great spot to sit out the next gale. The waves and 30+ knots in this very calm anchorage made us wonder about the conditions elsewhere.

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We found this sad sight on arrival in Rhodes, an unattended yacht (the owner had been taken to hospital) ended up on the rocks during the gale.

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A few calm days predicted we had a wonderful sail back to Tilos, were we enjoyed a few days of spectacular walks while Sea Cloud was safely tied up in the harbour. Tilos looked quite different on arrival, with lots of Syrian refugees around the harbour, waiting for the bi-weekly ferry to Athens. The most recent arrival was a this small yacht (now impounded) which ferried 44 people across from Turkey in pretty horrendous conditions. Apparently the boat was half full of water on arrival, with many people very unwell. The refugees – who arrive almost weekly, are taken to one of the local monasteries where they are cared for by the local community while they are processed before leaving for Athens.

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The walk from Livadhi to the ruins of the ‘summer capital’.

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Walk from the Chora to the monastery – much longer than advertised on the Tilos walking map!

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Fortunately, spring water was available at the Monastery, necessary before the long (fast), hot, and at times precarious walk back to catch the last bus back to the harbour.

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Our neighbours on either side in the town harbour, a Spanish sole sailor and 3 Israelis were lots of fun. Roy, from Tel Aviv, made us all the best shaksuka for breakfast, while Luis, a professional skipper was a fountain of information about sailing in the Mediterranean and beyond.

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Checkout completed in Rhodes, we headed back to Fethiye bay to meet up with Lissa, and Anne and Michael in Gocek. After the weeks of gales, we (they) were so lucky – calm winds – but enough to sail, warm days for swimming and cool evenings.

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We had a wonderful week, pottering around the bays with a visit to the Imam above Seagull Bay and a dinner at Amigos being highlights.

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We celebrated Anne’s birthday in Eckincik,

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then (motor) sailed to Gerbeske.

IMG_8318They were treated to a bit of excitement when a thunderstorm hit us at anchor– 0 to 32knots in minutes straight in to the bay, pulling our stern line off the rocks. Anne cooked up a storm in the galley while we planned our way out of the bay to Marmaris in the dark (just in case) and watched the storms on the radar. Luckily the wind settled so their last morning could be spent in this beautiful spot before leaving us in Marmaris for their travels around Turkey.

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IMG_8333 IMG_8342Back in Netsel, we spent a few frantic days achieving lots – a new bimini frame and quotes for the solar panels and hydrogenerator which will be installed in the spring.Many thanks to Alex and Diana on Enki for their tips on these wonderful tradespeople in Marmaris.

 

We also caught up with some of our EMYR friends –  great to see them again.

Sea Cloud is now back on the hardstand for her last winter in Turkey, and we are on our way to Sydney for yet another summer. Our plans for next year are still a bit vague, but we are definitely heading west maybe to Croatia, Italy who knows…

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Post EMYR – Jordan

A small group of 7 of us –a Swedish and a Canadian couple and a Frenchman participated in a carefully planned and orchestrated Cook’s tour through Jordan. The superb Roman ruins at Jerash, not far north of Amman was our first stop. It is probably the largest and best preserved site we have seen, with enormous Hadrian’s arch at the city gate, an unusual oval central piazza, a well-preserved amphitheatre, temple and paved colonnaded streets. The Jordanian bagpiper was a surprise playing in the amphitheatre – a legacy of the British occupation.

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Amman the capital, is a bustling mix of old and new and poor and very affluent. Of course it also has its own impressive Roman ruins – a sharp contrast with the new glitzy city of shining white marble and limestone buildings and the ‘downtown’ area, which was lively, congested and rather grubby. We stood out amongst the locals in their long black decorated robes and dark features. Mike, our guide was fantastic, a low key (ex-accountant). He was knowledgeable, educating us not only about the ancient sites, but of life in Jordan, and the art of making good Arabic coffee.

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IMG_7492 IMG_7496 Between Amman and Petra are a number of the important sites. Mt Nebo – where Moses looked over the Promised land to direct the Israelites across Jordan.

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Madaba, famous for its mosaics. Both the ancient mosaic map in St Georges church, and the modern mosaics being made in Queen Noor centre by people with disabilities were very impressive.

IMG_7519 IMG_7518 IMG_7517 Our night in a desert camp in Wadi Rum was well worth the long drive south. A 4 wheel drive into the relatively cool desert evening to watch the sunset and spectacular evening desert light was pretty special. The colours and the landscape are spectacular (and the young drivers very handsome!).

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IMG_7560IMG_7578 IMG_7603 After a Bedouin style dinner at the camp we retired to our 4 star tents (complete with ensuite) to ensure we were up early enough to enjoy the colours of the sunrise before our drive to Petra.

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IMG_7651 IMG_7574 IMG_7653 Petra was not to be missed. The first glimpse of the Treasury through the narrow gorge at the end of the long Siq was wonderful. It really is an incredible site, so expansive, and to think it was basically a burial ground! The structure is 50m high and took 25yrs to carve out of solid rock.

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IMG_7695 IMG_7709 IMG_7732  Camels, donkeys, horses and children selling postcards are everywhere, adding lots of colour and movement to the site.

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A few of us braved the 1,000 steps to the Monastery in the heat of the afternoon. It definitely was worth the climb. The beer back at the cave bar of our hotel was most welcome at the end of the day, about 8 hours of walking and climbing in the June heat is pretty exhausting. Another day in Petra would have been great as it is such an extensive site.

IMG_7763 IMG_7748IMG_7779 A visit to the Dead Sea and Masada was the last on our itinerary of must – do’s before we left Israel. The Dead Sea is 420m BELOW sea level – and is the lowest point on earth. Although this extremely hot arid region fringing the sea consists mainly of salt pans, there are several oases fed by natural fresh water springs growing groves of date palms – such as Ein Gedi Kibbutz where we stayed overnight.

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The ‘spa’ where we accessed the beach was built on the shore of the Dead Sea 20 years ago. It is now 1.2km away from the waters edge. From the photos one can see the “high tide” mark over 1km above the current waterline – emphasising that this (490m deep) lake is dropping by 5m per year and if unchecked will be dry in 25yrs!

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Masada a 500m high desert plateau surrounded by sheer cliffs was the site of the last stand of 1,000 Jews exiled here after the Romans conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the temple in 70AD. As temperatures were close to 40, we caught the cable car to the top so that we could enjoy the excellent audio tour of this interesting site. The story of the Roman siege, building the colossal sand ramp to attack the walls and the mass suicide within at the eleventh hour were well depicted in the Hollywood version (Peter O’Toole) in the 80’s.

IMG_7855 IMG_7860 IMG_7857 Back in Herlizya, a quick tour and late lunch in Jaffa and Tel Aviv before our sunset departure and long sail back to Turkey.

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EMYR – Israel

Finally some good wind – beam reach much of the passage south to Israel and a glorious full moon. We were well prepared for the procedures for sailing into Israel. Discussions over VHF with Israeli navy 20Nm off Haifa to provide details of us and our boat. Surprise visit at dawn by the gunboat to check us with infra-red to ensure no extra bodies on board. Passports are then handed over to another gunboat via a fishing net on a pole before we could finally sail into Haifa harbour.

IMG_7031 The hospitality extended to us by the Carmel sailing club in Haifa was overwhelming. Warm welcome dockside while passports checked (again); scrumptious dinner dockside with formal welcome from the club; organised tour of Haifa and shuttle taxi to local supermarket for provisioning.

IMG_0760 The highlight was home visits arranged through the club. We dined with Amir and Dganit and their delightful family (Amir was one of the club members who helped shoe horn Sea Cloud into a marina berth using the joker boat).

IMG_0770 IMG_0773 The marina is very full with a waiting list, so finding berths for the EMYR yachts each year is a challenge and well managed by the club.

IMG_7044 Akko, just north of Haifa, famous for the remains of the Crusader castle (nearly totally dismantled by the muslims when the Knights finally exited to Rhodes).

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The signs (and clocks) in different languages and the Arabic market give an insight into the mixture of cultures in Israel. Although there is a predominantly Israeli Arab population here, there is strong resistance to expansion of Arab ownership of the old town.

IMG_7052 IMG_7055 The tour continued to Nazareth’s church of the Annunciation, and the Jordan River – site that John baptised Jesus and the Sea of Galilee -all familiar names from Sunday school long ago.

IMG_7076 IMG_7081 IMG_7104 Haifa is famous for its Baha’i garden which cascade down the hillside towards the harbour (built on condition they provided extensive bomb shelters beneath).

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Ashkelon, the southernmost marina in Israel was our base for the next few days. One of our group headed a little too far south only to be briskly escorted away by gunboat as they were getting a bit too close to Gaza.

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Much anticipated tour to Jerusalem where a 3 day visit just scratched the surface. View from Mount Scopus overlooking Eastern Jerusalem with the wall marking the boundary following occupation of former Jordanian held territory.

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Our excellent guide took us to the Mount of Olives with commanding view over Jerusalem’s old city.

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Highlights of the city included the Temple of the Mount (Golden Dome of the Rock) – a very holy place for Christians and Muslims and currently a mosque. Below the Mount is the western (wailing) wall – sacred place for Jews.

Western Wall - Version 2 The Christian Church of the Holy Sepulchre – Christian pilgrims touching the rock at the 10th station of the cross (at the end of the Via Dolorosa)

IMG_7207IMG_7199 IMG_7210 IMG_7209 The festival of light runs for 3 days in Jerusalem – a real treat, although very crowded.

IMG_7218 IMG_7230 IMG_7229 As our hotel was a short walk from the old city enabling us to spend more time in the Jerusalem archaeological park and Davidson centre, with its excellent descriptions and displays of the Temple Mount and surrounding areas.

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The citadel, or Tower of David, as well as being an excellent museum provided wonderful views over old Jerusalem and its different quarters.

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Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum and memorials set in 18 hectares on the outskirts of Jerusalem was a moving and important ending to our few days in Jerusalem.

Back in Ashkelon the EMYR group told us of the fireworks during dinner in the marina the night before when a rocket, launched from Gaza less than 30km away, was intercepted and destroyed by an Israeli anti-missile rocket overhead. The restaurant emptied very quickly when the siren went off. We were glad we had taken those extra days in Jerusalem, and not sorry to be heading north the next day.

Our last sail with the EMYR fleet as a group was beautiful. A breeze on our stern quarter saw most yachts flying their cruising chutes – a lovely sight and invigorating sail with Sea Cloud touching 8kts in 10-12kts of breeze. Sailing in a group like this means that you actually get photos of your own boat sailing!

IMG_7318 DSC02927 Sadly the rally finished in Herzilya Marina, which is part of a large complex of hotels, apartments shopping malls and restaurants, just north of Tel Aviv. The local beach is lovely (even by Aussie standards). We had a busy a few days of parties, presentations and the final rally dinner, followed by a lot of sad farewells (to dockside chorus of the Rally Song and traditional buckets of water) as new friends headed north for Turkey, Cyprus and beyond.

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EMYR Turkey – Cyprus

The next EMYR stop was Bozyazi fishing harbour. Although in appearance quite a contrast to the lovely new marinas in which we had been staying, the hospitality from the local fishing cooperative was exceptional. The rather desolate & industrial dock was transformed into a banquet and dance area with lively Turkish and western music for our welcome dinner: quite unexpected, but wonderful. It was a good base to visit the ancient site of Anamurium situated in the most beautiful spot on the coast a few miles to the west.

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We tasted the local specialty of tantuni in Anamur town and bought some of the locally famous small Anamur bananas from the roadside. We are also getting to like ayran, the Turkish yogurt drink – delicious and refreshing once you get used to the rather salty taste.

More cocktails and dinners at the brand new marina of Kumkuyu – another good base for visiting more of the many ancient sites dotted along this coastline.

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Kandlivane – a 90m chasm where those who caused the Romans displeasure were said to have been thrown to their deaths.

IMG_6595 IMG_6592 IMG_6586 The caves of Heaven & Hell. The long slippery tour down into a rather cool ‘hell’

IMG_6612 IMG_6617 And the so-called ‘Asthma cave’.

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On to Mersin, another new marina where we left Sea Cloud for a 2 day 1200km bus trip (!!) to the spectacular Mt Nemrut. The drive, although long was fascinating. We were very much in the SE Turkey – about 50km from the Syrian Border in places. Obviously a very important and highly fertile agricultural area.

It is hard to imagine how the 50m high man made mountain of stones on tip of this isolated mountainous site were constructed. It is believed that more of the huge human statues lie under the peak but nobody has been able to find them. Built by a megalomaniac king, they depict he and the gods (his family). They are hauntingly beautiful, well worth the long drive and climb up the hill.

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Sanilurfa (known also as Urfa) was our all too short overnight stop. It looked like a fascinating town, deserving a few days rather than the hour or so we had scheduled.

IMG_6737 IMG_6738  It is a pilgrimage town, with a very middle-east feel because of its proximity to Syria. For many of the people here, Turkish is their second language. Dress is traditional and conservative, with women wearing colours of their tribes, and facial tattoos depicting their ‘ownership’ and men wearing arabic –style baggy pants.

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Gobeklitepe, is a relatively newly discovered site (not in our guide book) dating back to 12,000BC (well before the pyramids). It is so hard to imagine how they had the resources to allocate to this religious site in what was essentially the stone age and probably before organised farming in this region.

IMG_6752 IMG_6751 Another great party at Mersin, then we were off on our first overnight EMYR sail to Girne, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Motoring into residual lumpy seas and a little wind on the nose wasn’t the best start. The wind picked up as predicted so we had a great sail for about a third of the journey, increasing as we approached Cyprus. This made for quite exciting docking in the very exposed and crowded Girne commercial harbour. Berthing 32 boats in 25+ knots is always rather a challenge, particularly as the wind was blowing right into Delta Marina.

The cocktail reception at Girne castle was fabulous. After touring the castle and the shipwreck museum, we were treated to music, cocktails and yummy food in the wonderful surroundings of the castle courtyard. Informal conversations with local dignitaries at these events is a wonderful opportunity to hear more about the politics and background of their city.

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The Girne shipwreck (about the same size as Sea Cloud) which sank just off Girne harbour about 2,300 years ago (around 300BC) after travelling from along the Turkish coast from as far north as Samos with a cargo of olive oil and almonds.

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The Bellpais monastery on the hill overlooking Girne is a beautiful spot. Unfortunately we weren’t there for one of the concerts they have regularly in this lovely refectory. The holes in the back wall were reported to be a result of English troops practicing rifle shooting in the 1950’s. The lovely gardens are a popular wedding spot.

IMG_6840 IMG_6836 IMG_6835 IMG_6847 The St Hilarion castle on the peak above the coast is in an impressive site, easy to see why it would have been easy to defend in times gone by.

IMG_6853 IMG_6857 IMG_6863 The green line between Turkish and Greek Cyprus, the border controls in Nicosia and the Turkish troops doing target practice just below the castle is a reminder that this is still an unsettled part of the world. The ex-cathedral now mosque in Nicosia is one of the many seen around Turkey.

The pirate party – one of the highlights of the EMYR calendar – concluded our stay in Girne. There were some fabulous costumes, much better than our bits and pieces cobbled together at the last minute. Parading through the town with our flags was a lot of fun. Locals come our each year to enjoy the parade, while some tourists obviously were a bit perplexed by the antics! Our resident German bagpiper Claus piped us through the town and around the old harbour. Fortunately his bagpipes had been returned after he left them in a taxi following the last cocktail party.

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Dinner overlooking the sea at the Dome Hotel, was of course followed by dancing. A display of belly dancing by the EMYR group of Turkish and German belly dancers was enjoyed by all.

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IMG_6924 IMG_6943 DSCF6438 Our last few days in Cyprus were are the new Karpaz Gate marina, a beautiful site with fabulous marina, restaurants, art gallery and a beach club with a pool and lovely sandy beach. We were fortunate to be here for the season opening, cocktails, followed by a party at the beach club.

DSCF6476 Our last tour was to the extensive ruins of Salamis, near Farmagusta, a port on the south east side of Northern Cyprus. Tour finished, we were back at the marina to say our goodbyes to our new friends who were heading back to Turkey. Our remaining group of 26 yachts will leave during the night for the 200Nm sail to Israel.

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