Monday, 9 July 2012


As mentioned, the political situation in the Middle East is starting to impact on the rally.  We were due to sail to Mersin in Turkey and then head down to Northern Cyprus and across to Lebanon.  In Tasucu we were advised that the Lebanese authorities would not permit us to enter from Northern Cyprus (we believe they have had pressure put on them by Syria), so our itinerary now is to go firstly to Northern Cyprus and then back to the last port in Turkey at Mersin, and sail into Lebanon from there.
So on Sunday 27 MAY we left Tasucu at 0520hours just as the sun was rising, and motored out into a flat calm sea.  It was very still for the rest of the morning until around 1130hours when we hoisted the sails, and headed hard on into the wind, but managed to maintain a speed around 5.5 to 6.0 knots. 

We arrived into Girne around 1600hours, completed landing formalities – our first ‘foreign’ port on the rally, freshened up and were picked up by coaches to be taken to the old crusader castle by the old port for a Presidential reception.  The Kyrenia castle was magnificent and stands at the entrance to the harbour at Kyrenia, guarding this important and strategic North Cyprus port since the 1500s. 

There has been a settlement at Kyrenia since the 10th century BC, but the first major castle at Kyrenia was constructed by the Romans, and subsequently fortified by the Byzantines. 

The Byzantine structure of four towers linked by walls was later strengthened and enlarged by the Lusignan family. The current appearance of Kyrenia Castle dates from when the Venetians were "given" the island of Cyprus in 1489.  We were entertained in the main part of the castle, originally the old parade grounds, with fabulous food and beverages, and a local group performing traditional dancing. It was a memorable night, but unfortunately the President was unable to attend, so we were hosted by his deputy.  After the reception some of the group headed down to the old town/harbour area which was stunning.  We never cease to be amazed at the places we visit.

The next day was fine and sunny, and we had a well deserved lie in before heading to the little cafe in the marina for breakfast and to get emails.  Girne is ‘duty free’ so Robert and Derek headed into town to check out the prices on alcohol, wine & beer.......and food of course!!!  In the evening we caught up with Pug & John from ‘Maxi Cosi’ for drinks at the cafe before heading into town for a meal which was really nice.  After dinner we ended up back at the old harbour (still blown away by how beautiful it is) for cocktails – including the local brandy which is not too bad, especially for the price, coffee and ice cream.  All in all a truly enjoyable day.

It was breakfast on Awatea the following morning with Lee & Zehra from ‘Leezee’, before heading out on a tour by taxi that John had arranged the previous evening.  Shaun from ‘Happy Hour’ joined us and we started the tour with a visit to the Bellapais Abbey or "The Abbey of Peace (from French: Abbaye de la Belle Paix). Built by monks of the Premonstratensian order in the 13th century, it is a most imposing ruin in a wonderful position commanding a long view down to Kyrenia and the Mediterranean Sea. The road to the abbey passed through some really nice suburbs with some magnificent homes.  We then set out to the Hilarion Castle, one of three Crusader castles along the Northern Cyprus coastline, and together with the castles at Buffavento and Kantara, defended the island. Amet our taxi driver proved to be Stirling Moss with one speed – flat out, however we survived the drive and it was well worth it.  

The castle was amazing, built around this huge mountain with the most magnificent views of the surrounding countryside and the sea. We made the trek to the highest point of the castle (just as well Robert had his new hip) before heading down to a nice cold beer at the cafe in the car park. 

We stopped for lunch at a roadside cafe en route to Mavi Kosk, or Blue House. This was built in 1973 by Byron Pavlides, a Greek Cypriot entrepreneur and friend of Archbishop Makarios.  

What is rumoured (but without any proof), is that he was an EOKA gun runner who built his house where he did in order to keep an eye out to sea for the arrival of his gun-running ships. There are also rumoured to be secret underground passages and chambers built to hide contraband and smuggled arms.  Whatever the truth, Pavlides was no doubt an eccentric, flamboyant man who tended to build his houses in remote areas to ensure his privacy.  We arrived back at Awatea early evening and it was time for a shower and change before heading to ‘Happy Hour’ for a very pleasant evening of cocktails and a big Jambalaya that Jane had cooked up during the day.  What a treat.

Woke to a fine day but the wind had come up.  John stayed on the yacht on ‘wind watch’, while Robert and Derek headed to a supermarket that Kath from ‘Mashona’ knew and had a great time shopping.  Ended up with a total 6 cases of Carlsberg, 1 case of Sol beer, 2 cartons of Gin (bargain at TL7.50 per bottle), and four cases of Chilean wine – and some food necessities like pork sausages etc.  In the afternoon Robert and John headed into Nicosia and crossed over the ‘No Man’s Land’ border into Southern Cyprus, and found it to be really nice.  In the evening it was time for another EMYR tradition – “Pirates Night”.  

Everyone entered into the spirit and we all dressed up as pirates and were taken by bus to the top of the old town and then paraded through it much to the amusement of the locals, down to the Dome hotel for a fun night.  The food was great, the wine & beer flowed and the dance floor was packed.  The EMYR yachts people sure know how to party!!

We were preparing to set sail for Karpas Gate and discovered our anchor was wedged in between two boulders.  Fortunately Steve from ‘Sweet Baby Jane’ who was berthed next to us, had dropped his spectacles into the water and was diving in to retrieve them, so he offered to dive down and free the anchor.  So all was well and we headed out into a reasonable wind so managed to use the gennaker for several hours before the wind died away as did our speed, so it was time to start the donkey once again.
We arrived at the Karpas Gate Marina around 1815hours and were berthed at the end of a pontoon on the hammer head. 

It is a beautiful marina – very modern, nice facilities and well kept, but in the middle of nowhere! The nearest ATM was 25kms away and there was no bus service or taxis, and trying to get a rental car was impossible.  They did however put on an excellent cocktail party after which a group of us dined in the marina restaurant, which was a pleasant surprise.  A great menu, including Peking Duck, and the food was excellent and beautifully presented.

Next day was really nice and apart from cleaning the hull as we had picked up an oil slick, it was a nice relaxing day.  We were chatting with an English couple that were living on their yacht in the marina, and they told us about this little restaurant called ‘Deks’, which was a short ride from the marina and if we called they would pick us up and bring us back.  AT 1920hours the car arrived and we drove about 2 kms and ended up in the equivalent of an “English Pub”.  Obviously popular with the local expat community they held bingo nights, karaoke, quiz nights and provided meals that would make an English landlord proud.  We all had fish & chips and mushy peas and it was delicious.  The fish was North Atlantic Cod and was sensational.  YUM YUM!!!!!  We ended up back at the marina on ‘Leezee’ for a night cap before staggering the short distance home to Awatea.

Saturday 02 June and we had nothing planned for the day until Ian from ‘Jackson Smith’ arranged for a 22 seat bus for a trip into Famagusta on the Southern side of the island. It was a pleasant drive and Famagusta proved to be interesting with the old town surrounded by a huge wall from the Crusader period with numerous old churches is various stages of restoration. 

The largest cathedral has been converted into a Mosque which seems a bit of a shame, however it is still being used which is probably good.  We explored the old town for several hours and had lunch at a small cafe sitting under an umbrella of large trees in what was the garden of the old cathedral.  

On the way back to the marina we stopped at an old Roman City site called Salamis Harabeleri,   which was a good site with the earliest archaeological finds going back to the eleventh century BC (Late Bronze Age III).  Today amongst other sites there are the ruins of a great theatre, roman baths, gymnasium, villas and a long colonnaded road which would of had shops along the way.  Another social evening back at the marina, with cocktails on Awatea for ‘Jackson Smith’, ‘Leezee’, ‘Happy Hour’, ‘Excellence’, ‘Tyna Two’, to name a few, and then onto ‘Kintukani’ for a dinner with Guy and Anna Marie.  As always they were the perfect hosts and a fun night was had by all.

As per the changed itinerary we were now heading back to Mersin, our last port of call in Turkey.  We did the customs and border control clearance around midnight and set off around 0520hours.  

We motor sailed most of the way until around the last 3 hours when we were able to put up the gennaker and had a good run into Mersin.  Being so far east we had no idea what to expect, but when we arrived around 1645hours Mersin proved to be a huge city and the marina was fabulous in itself.  The marina complex had a gigantic shopping mall with all kinds of stores, and much to the relief of everyone a large supermarket.  Unfortunately ‘Maxi Cosi’ had experienced engine problems en route and had to be towed most of the way into Mersin.

Monday 04 June, and it was another sunny day.  Time to catch up on a few domestic chores in the morning and then took the Dolmus into the city.  Had a shave at a little barber shop in one of the back street and the word got out that there were some Kiwi’s in town, as a local with New Zealand connections arrived at the shop for a chat.  Then it was lunch across the road before exploring the local markets which were very interesting.  It is a lovely modern city with a great waterfront and very clean and tidy.  

In the evening we were hosted by the Mayor at the local council chambers for cocktails and dinner.  

The setting was stunning built out over the water and the food great.  The cocktails consisted of Raki or wine much to the disappointment of the beer soaks amongst us.  The entertainment made up for it as the council had a troupe of young folk performing local dances, a brass band and a jazz band.  

Another enjoyable night (how do we cope???), and at the end we were all bussed back to the marina.
Next day it was breakfast with ‘Maxi Cosi’ at one of the many cafes in the complex, and then preparation of Awatea for the trip down to Lebanon.  Took on a small amount of diesel fuel, as it is very cheap in Lebanon so wanted to fill up there.  Lunch was back at the cafe in the marina and a lazy afternoon. 

During the afternoon we learned that a huge spanner had been thrown in the works.  Lebanon was not going to allow entry, even directly from Turkey!!!!  So after all the change of itinerary, and our anticipation of visiting Lebanon, it was not to be.  BUMMER!!!  Not much any of us could do about it, so it was just a matter of waiting until the committee sorted something out.  It was a formal dinner that night and we started off with drinks on ‘Watershed’, then ‘Excellence’ before heading up to the restaurant.  What a fabulous setting with a great band, wonderful food, lots of dancing and the usual flag ceremony held on these occasions. 

John was the Australian flag bearer and gave a ‘traditional’ (if there is such a thing) Aussie speech, greeting all the ‘Blokes and Sheilas’.  Another wonderful night finished off with a night cap on Awatea with Andrea from ‘Tyna Two’.

This morning meetings were held to discuss the options for the rally as the Lebanese authorities were definitely not going to permit us to enter.  The committee have proposed we head back to Karpas Gate Marina in Northern Cyprus on this coming Friday 08 June for a few days,  and then on to Famagusta on the other side of the island, and sail direct to Israel from there.  It was either that or we left the rally here in Mersin, which to us boys on Awatea was not an option.  We still had Israel and Egypt to get to, and after starting the rally at the start in Istanbul we were keen to see it through to the finish.  Robert hired a car and we decided to go east to a town called Tarsus where St Paul was born.  

On the way we stopped at a local restaurant and had a very enjoyable lunch and all for the reasonable price of TL19.00 for the three of us.  

In the town we found the site of St Paul’s house in a beautiful old part of town where the ruins were under a protective glass, and nearby was the well used for water.  There were narrow streets and quaint buildings, and all the people were saying hello and being very friendly.  

We found a lovely bar in the courtyard of one of the old buildings and had a drink, and once again were befriended by some young Turks and ended up having a great conversation.  It was then back to the marina as we had been invited to Leezee for dinner.  Dinner proved to be good old American hamburgers, which Zehra had handmade and Lee being the American of the group cooked on the BBQ.  They turned out to be scrumptious and had everyone licking their fingers.  A great night was had by everyone, and ended with night caps of the local brandy (which we have got the taste for!)
At 0930 the next morning we were joined by John form ‘Maxi Cosi’ and we set off in the rental car and visited the site of the ancient city of Kanytelis known today as Kanlıdivane, which literally means blood stained place of madness

At the centre of the site is an enormous 60 m deep canyon with red-coloured walls that gave rise to the local legend that says that criminals were once thrown to their deaths into the huge chasm. The 90 m long by 70 m wide and 60 m deep chasm formed the core of the ancient city of Kanytellis. Kanytellis originally was part of the ancient kingdom of Olbia and the sinkhole was regarded as a sacred place reserved to the cult of Zeus Olbios. The first settlement began in the holy chasm for many hundred years before Christ and then gradually extended in all directions during the following centuries. Kanytellis thrived through Byzantine times as is indicated by the presence of several Byzantine churches and inscriptions. The extensive necropolis has many Roman tombs built in the form of miniature temples.  We then made our way back to the coast and went to see The Maiden’s Castle, which sits on an island about 100 metres from shore and appears to float on water. 

The castle has many legends associated with it, including the popular one involving a cursed princess doomed to be killed by a snake, whose father sequesters her in an isolated tower. She buys a basket of fruit from a passing ship, where a snake has hidden, and the prophecy comes true anyway.  After that it was a stop at the caves of Heaven and Hell, but as it involved a long walk down into the deep canyon decided we didn’t have the time to explore them properly. 

It was then in the direction of the valleys of the Toros Mountains to Uzuncaburç which is situated next to ruins of the ancient city Olba and the name of the town Uzuncaburç (after 1973) means Tall bastion referring to the ruins. On the way we stopped at a restaurant set in the forest for lunch which proved to be a real treat.  There was no menu or choice of what to eat, however they were cooking some chicken on the BBQ which looked and smelled great.  The four of us ordered cold beers which were duly brought, and then much to our surprise the guy running the restaurant took off on his little scooter and disappeared down the road. 

Fortunately it was only to get more supplies of beer and he returned with a case under his arm.  Then the feast started – plates of mezes, fresh salads (so fresh we had seen him picking herbs from the garden to put in), bread and heaps of beautifully BBQ’d chicken.  A few more beers to finish off and all for the cost of TL25.00 each.  

We visited the old city which was a religious site built for Zeus, and it was very impressive with many ruins, and the old city gates and columns at the entrances.  

We were surprised to find locals were living amongst the ruins, growing fruit and other crops.  After a magnificent day exploring it was back to Mersin for cocktails with Jean Paul and his wife on ‘Vanille’, and then a chicken curry on Awatea.

It was finally farewell to Turkey for a while as we left Mersin around 0530 hours.  After about 4 hours it was still calm with a light breeze from the south, so it was motoring all the way.   

We arrived back at Karpas Gate around 1645hours and went straight to the fuel dock to fill up in preparation for the trip down to Israel, as no fuel would be available at Famagusta.  A nice quiet evening with a few cocktails on Awatea with ‘Kintukani’, ‘Happy Hour’ and ‘Excellence’ before heading up to the marina restaurant for a meal.

Next day it was time to do a few chores, fill the tanks with water and wash the yacht.  Then it was off to the bar for a session of rugby – Northern Ireland V New Zealand, Wales V Australia and finally South Africa V England, all with several rounds of beer.  None of us felt like cooking so we arranged with Dek’s (the English Pub style restaurant) to pick us up and have a meal there.  Another yummie English meal, with Sausages and mash for John, pork chops for Derek and beef for Robert.  It was a lot quieter there this time with only a few others eating, so had a good chat with the English couple that own it with their Turkish Partner and his English wife.

Another early start at 0600 hours, and it was yet again light winds but accompanied with an uncomfortable beam swell which made for an uncomfortable journey.  We rounded the cape and headed down the coast towards Famagusta, and just a bit south of Monastery Bay there was a beautiful long sandy beach, so we called in to anchor, make brunch and have a swim.  It was the first swim of the rally and was soooo good!! 

Finally arrived into Famagusta around 1800hours and we anchored with the others in the commercial harbour.  We decided to eat onboard so it was some nice steaks (still from Robert’s supplies) with salad and boiled potatoes, and a reasonably early night.

The following morning we went ashore in the in the tender organised by the rally committee and went into the old town to have lunch and catch up on emails. John & Robert went for a shave while Derek went off on a trek trying to send a facsimile to his bank in Australia.  In the afternoon Neville from ‘Taralee’ came onboard to fix a problem with the alarm for the wind direction continually sounding, which was successful much to John’s relief.  Derek took up the offer of a swim at one of the local hotels right on the beach, and was accompanied by Anna Marie from ‘Kintukane’.  In the evening we were planning to go into town to have a meal with a few others at one of the local restaurants, but this was dashed when immigration required us to “exit” Northern Cyprus at 1900 hours, which meant we all had to head back to the yachts and were not permitted to go ashore.  So it was an impromptu meal of sausage, eggs and beans and a few beers onboard.  Next stop Israel which we are all looking forward to!

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