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Date: 24 Oct 2007 14:33:06
Title: A week in Cyprus

34:55.11N 33:38.44E

We were the last of the rally yachts to leave Mersin. We waited until last Tuesday evening and were rewarded with a good sailing wind all the way to Cyprus. The other yachts had to motor most of the day. We reached Larnaca in record time covering 140 miles in just under 24 hours. The winds were from the NE so we were reaching and running in F4-6. There was quite a bit of swell so it wasn't particularly comfortable, but you don't mind when making 6-7 knots. On the way we used the SSB/HF radio to join in a net organised for rally yachts with long-range radios. It is good to know that we'll be able to keep in touch with others when we are out of VHF range.

The marina at Larnaca is apparently the biggest in Cyprus but actually quite small and busy so they had trouble fitting all the rally yachts in when the main bunch arrived. By the time we arrived they had sorted themselves out and we were able to go straight in to a berth. Over the following days quite a few yachts have had to move around for various reasons and some of us are now in the outer harbour because of dredging works.

This is our first visit to Cyprus so we were not sure what to expect. Tourism is a major industry so inevitably the coastline is covered in hotels and the restaurants and bars sell what the British and European visitors expect. Paul and others were able to watch the Rugby World Cup in one of the bars. The influence of British rule is pervasive. It is strange to see cars being driven on the left hand side of the road on a Mediterranean island. The local people are proud of their Greek background but seem very different from the Greeks. They are much more relaxed and more efficient. Their food is much more interesting and the local wines are delicious and cheap.
The local tourist organisation and the marina have been very welcoming and have organised a lot of events for our stay here. One morning we had a coach tour to see various sights including a fascinating neolithic settlement that is well preserved. We went inland towards the Troodos mountains, which are very scenic. On Saturday the local yacht club organised a regatta and about 6 of the rally yachts joined in. It was not much of a contest because our yachts are all weighed down with stores and equipment for the Red Sea and beyond. They were thrashed by the local yachts but everyone had a good time on the water. The winds were light so we were glad we opted out.

While in Cyprus we've been learning (or re-learning in Paul's case) to scuba dive. David, who crews for Lo the rally organiser, is a qualified instructor and we've been having to spend quite a bit of time studying the theory as well as doing the basic training here in Cyprus. So far we've learnt to put on the gear and do various underwater feats, like breathing, in a swimming pool. Once we get to the Red Sea we'll finish the training in the sea, going down to 9 metres. Quite a few of the rally participants are qualified divers and have been enjoying diving at the wreck of the Xenobia, a cargo ship that sank a few years ago off Larnaca. It's about 20 metres down and apparently a fascinating dive site. We've yet to decide whether or not we'll do much diving once qualified. Our main reason for learning is so that we can dive under the boat to free the propellor or anchor if caught on something.
On Saturday night we were all treated to a drinks reception for the presentation of the Regatta prizes. Everyone on the rally got a prize, even if they had not participated! On Sunday night we were invited to a cultural evening at the local fortress. Various arts and crafts were on show plus music and dancing. The local wines and grappa-like spirit were free flowing so everyone had a merry time. Last night we were treated to a farewell supper at a local restaurant serving mezes. It's not unusual to get 20 to 30 different small dishes served as a meal, including a wide selection of salads, vegetable, fish and meat dishes.

In between entertainment and sight-seeing we've all been busy stocking up with provisions, diesel and gaz. The supermarkets here have lots of English brands such as cup-a-soups, ambrosia cream rice, marmite, which you can't get elsewhere in Europe. We're really running out of places to stow stuff, especially now we've taken advantage of the delicious and cheap wines they sell in cardboard cartons. We're thinking of closing the fo'c'sle door and filling it up via the forehatch!

The weather has been lovely here, at around 28 degrees C. Apparently it's one of the best times of year to visit Cyprus, though we did have some cloud and a bit of rain yesterday.

Tomorrow, 25th October, the rally is due to leave Larnaca for Port Said. It will be a 220 nautical mile trip and the forecast is for light winds. We will probably leave in the evening, after a day's rest, and expect to arrive in Port Said on Sunday morning.




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