We were not sorry to leave
Syria. Although the terrain
of the country was quite diversified with regard to mountains, desert and lush
fertile plains, it generally gave the impression of being dirty, dusty and
resembling a building site. Not all of those things, all of the time.
It was very different from what
we had experienced to-date. There were no shops near the marina at all which
made it very difficult to obtain bread. On the way back to the boat on our last
day in Syria, we
stopped at a small town to buy fruit and vegetables and bread. We bought some
tiny apples and some bananas. We could have bought normal size apples but would
have had to buy a tray of them. This would not have been a major problem except
the apples were not all at their best and we either had to take them or leave
them. We did the latter. We didn’t buy bread as the only bread available was the
local flat bread which Dick would not eat. Fortunately I had frozen a few loaves
before we left
Turkey and we
had to raid the freezer. Ironically, the small apples subsequently turned out to
be very sharp and bruised.
Before the rally commenced, we
had been advised that once out of
Turkey, we would
have to pay for all the trips in US dollars. However, following the worldwide
financial crisis, the goalposts changed and euros would now be the order of the
day. This was mildly inconvenient because we had all bought dollars prior to
leaving our country of residence and many people would have to now change the
dollars to euros.We generally
insisted on paying in dollars and this currency was accepted although the costs
for the trips in
Syria were now
equivalent to 1 dollar = 1 euro, thus increasing the costs of the trips quite
substantially. Another downside was that although the cost of taking the boat
into Syria was
quoted as 80 US dollars, it was now 70 euros and the visa costs had somehow
rocketed from 10 US dollars per person to 55 US dollars per person, for English
people. However, US citizens paid only 20 US dollars and other nationalities
paid varying amounts.
The crowning glory was the price
of fuel. A notice was displayed in the marina that the price of fuel to all EMYR
boats was to be a multiple of 3 times the cost of fuel for any other boats. It
was still relatively cheap compared with Turkish prices but left a bad taste.
Many of the boats had no option but to refuel.
We left Lattakia just before
on Saturday evening and motored
out of the harbour. The paddle wasn’t functioning so Dick had to go below, take
out an impeller and clean it, before we could log the distance traveled.
We hadn’t gone very far when we
received a call on the VHF from our twin catamaran. They had caught something
around their port propeller and were having to get in the water to sort the
problem. We stood-by in the event that they might require assistance, until they
called to let us know that all was well.
I was on the midnight to 3am
watch and when I went to the flybridge to take over from Lucy, the milky-way
stretched from north to south, or south to north. It was unlike the view that I
had marveled at, while we journeyed to
year. Instead of arching right over the boat, it ran parallel to the course we
were taking. It was a raggedy kind of milky-way but at least there were lots of
I must have seen the milky way
many times as a child but do not remember it at all. My first recollection was
seeing it last year as we crossed from
Sicily to the Ionion.
At about , Sunday morning, while we were traveling in Lebanese
water, a grey motor boat which belonged to the Lebanese navy, passed our stern
and traveled out southwards, before returning once again to our boat. I waved
from the cockpit as it passed to the port side. One of the guys aboard waved
back. They noted our EMYR number and departed. Shortly after that, Dick
discovered than the VHF handset in the salon wouldn’t transmit. Things are
getting a bit dodgey, the satellite phone stopped working about a week ago. The
loss of the satellite means that our website will no longer be updated
automatically with our location, each day at . You will therefore not be able to see where we are
unless we are able to input the coordinates when we get onto the internet.
We were amazed at how the
Lebanon was so
built up. Overwhelmed! Is the only
word to describe our view of Beirut,
as we approached the breakwater. Tall, attractive, new buildings with an
extremely attractive, architect designed breakwater and sea wall. Was this the
war zone we had read about, the place where John McCarthy, Terry Waite and
others had been held hostage for so long?
We filled the tanks with fuel on
arrival although the rally leader was not amused. A number of boats had already
refueled and he wanted the rest to wait until the day of departure. We would
have concurred but it was something of an unknown quantity, regarding the number
of boats which still needed fuel and could have meant hanging about all day,
with an unacceptable departure time. Unacceptable to the rally leader and
potentially the Lebanese authorities who insist we leave during daylight hours.
As it happened, the wife of the rally leader made the final decision so at least
we were pleased.
While we were at the fuel
pontoon, an official came along and asked for copies of the boat documentation
plus copies of the owner’s passports. This is routine although usually, we have
to take the documentation to them.
We tied up alongside the very
wide pontoon, just opposite the swimming pool. Dick received congratulations,
from the rally leader, for the very skilful way he had brought the boat to its
mooring so I then told the story of the occasion, while on rally
the steering failed and Dick had brought the boat to the mooring, just using the
Within the hour, 2 custom’s
officers came aboard and entering the salon, sat on the sofa. I had been
nominated captain for this exercise as we anticipated it would be easier for me
to deal with them than Dick. The formalities over, I then had to show one of the
officers around the boat, opening this bag, that drawer or cupboard. He kept
asking me to give him something. I told him I had nothing to give. He asked for
money, I said I had none. He asked for whisky, I said I didn’t drink. He took my
EMYR 2008 baseball cap and gave it to his companion. (Fortunately, Lucy managed
to obtain a replacement for me before we left the country.) I signed the
prepared document and they left the boat. Haven’t had that sort of treatment
since we were in
year. However, I understand that following complaints to the marina manager, the
officer was sent to one of the outposts on the Lebanese border.
Our joy at being 25 metres from the
swimming pool was soon subdued when we heard that we could use the pool for 25
US dollars per person, per day. However, if we did wish to use it, we were not
permitted to cross the pontoon and the grass between our boat and the pool, we
had to leave the marina and enter the facilities from the main road access.
Beautiful people promenaded up
and down the pontoon attired in very European style swim-wear. None of the
covering up of the local women as seen on beaches as we traveled along the south
coast of Turkey
or the burka clad women in
Syria. It made a
change for us to be looking at the beautiful people from the boat, usually it
was the other way around, the boats being the main point of interest from
We left the marina after dark and
walked to the Hard Rock café, about half a kilometer from the entrance, where we
ate our evening meal. I could only eat a little so asked for a doggy bag. The
plastic box containing my meal, had been placed inside a brown paper carrier
bag, printed with the legend “Hard Rock café”, and underneath in smaller capital
Monday morning, Lucy and Caroline
took the day trip to Byblos, from
whence was developed syllabic writing, around 1000BC, the precursor of our
alphabet. They also visited Jeita grotto, a subterranean cavern on 2 levels,
with stalactites and stalagmites.
Dick stayed on board trying to
fix things and I traipsed from one side of the marina to the other, to find the
marina office. We needed to obtain the necessary details to enable us to connect
to Wifi and the internet, also to phone home. Finding that this facility was not
available, I then trekked around the
Beirut port area, to find an
Tuesday morning, Lucy and
Caroline went off on an excursion to Baalbeck which is supposedly the most
outstanding example of Roman ruins to be found in the whole region, perhaps more
impressive than Athens or Rome. They also visited Anjar. A major tourist and
archaeological site as it is the remains of an ancient, exclusively Arab
Dick and I walked from the marina
about half a mile, downtown. We passed many hotels and buildings which had
obviously suffered bomb damage but were now being renovated but very
sympathetically such that, if one wasn’t aware of the situation, it would not be
possible to see that the reason for renovation was due to war damage. There are
still a lot of hotels and buildings which remain in ruins, or partially ruined,
due to bomb damage. Every 50 metres and under almost every tree, there seems to
be a security guard, a soldier or a policeman, heavily armed. Many streets and
areas can only be entered into, or exited from, by passing through a security
barrier. Crossing the road is like taking your life in your hands. The driving
is fast and aggressive and I am sure that they get extra points for knocking
down a pedestrian.
The city appears to be very
European. Many of the street names and advertisements are displayed in English.
Most people to whom we have spoken speak Lebanese, French and English.
We hailed a taxi, which took us
to a huge supermarket on the outskirts of the city and where we spent around
210,000 pounds. Thank goodness these were Lebanese pounds and not British pounds
or we would have been in deep trouble, or very hungry. It was great to stock up
with provisions, the like of which, we hadn’t seen since we joined the
The owner of the swimming pool
has now given permission to participants of the EMYR, that we may enter their
club from the pontoons and cross the grass. They have even permitted us to enter
the club area at no charge, though it will cost 10 US dollars per person, should
we wish to swim. That charge covers access to the pool for an entire day.
Tuesday evening, we boarded the
coaches, to take us across Beirut,
to the rally dinner where we ate a sumptuous, western style dinner and were
entertained by a Lebanese
When we had entered Lebanese
water, we were 6 miles off-shore as requested. However, when we left the
country, at 18.45, the Lebanese navy insisted that we followed a course of 270
degrees until we were 12 miles offshore. We were instructed that the last rally
boat reaching the co-ordinates, given to us by the navy, was to call Lebanese
naval control and inform them that we were now all 12 miles out. The wind was
light and we motored through the night. Between and , we
lost contact with the satellite from which the GPS obtains our position. Many of
the other boats in the rally were beginning to panic as they didn’t have a clue
where they were without the GPS.
At 6.15, we entered Israeli
territorial water and called the Israeli navy to advise that we had now entered
their territorial water. This was done at 5 mile intervals, until they
responded. Three times they called us on the VHF, not quite understanding that
Richard Craig was also known as Dick.
As the sea was flat, I took
advantage of the situation and managed to wash and dry a load of washing
en-route. We hadn’t been permitted to hang out laundry while in the marina at
Beirut. I also managed to mop the
filthy decks which, being covered in a heavy dew, helped the operation. Ideally,
we really needed to attack the decks with a power washer but this was going to
have to wait until we reached Ashkelon. Our social
calendar just wouldn’t permit us the time before then.
Haifa and Lucy raised the signal
flags and dressed the boat all-over, while we waited outside the breakwater,
until it was time for us to enter.
We passed the entrance through
the breakwater and made our way down the river, where we rafted up to the
starboard side of an old steel, sailing vessel, tied up alongside the quay. Our
twin catamaran rafted up next to us, on our starboard side.
During the afternoon, after
checking in the passports, booking the excursions and collecting the passports,
which had deliberately not been stamped, for our own convenience, we joined an
afternoon excursion around Haifa,
arriving back with just enough time to prepare to go to the barbecue, which the
local port had provided, in our honour.
Next morning at we climbed aboard the coaches, 3 large for
English speakers, 1 mini coach for German speakers and 1 mini coach for French
speakers. We were now in the Holy land and spent a long
day visiting many tourist attractions, of particular interest to Christians, in
and around Nazareth, the
Galilea and the Golan
Heights. We had lunch in a kibutz which was also a great experience.
Returning back to the marina, the
mountain road was very steep and winding and the coach, despite being driven
very slowly, scraped its underside on the road, on two occasions, as the driver
navigated the bends.
Saturday morning, off we went to
Acco where we were pleasantly surprised by an incredible reception arranged by
the senior advisor to the mayor, in the garden of the ancient
Acre. Entertainment was provided by a Jewish singer and
two Moslem musicians, the best of both cultures. Gifts were proffered and one of
our group received special gifts to be taken back to the marina for specific
rally participants. The entire spectacle was televised.
The site was magnificent and in
amazing condition, with tunnels which ran 700 metres to the sea. Unfortunately,
the visit to Acre was cut short as meetings were planned
to take place at 14.30, back at the marina. These meetings are always held
before we leave each port, to ensure that all participants are aware of what to
expect and how to react to situations which might occur. The state of the
weather and the sea is also an important factor to be considered, before the
fleet sets off. Boats like our catamaran can cope with bigger seas and stronger
winds, than some of the smaller mono-hulls taking part. Sometimes, the latest
weather information is checked from 3 or 4 reliable sources before a decision is
made to leave port. Despite caution, sometimes the wrong decision is taken and
we all have to return to the last port, as in the case of Iskenderum, when the
weather, and or sea, proves to be worse than anticipated.
Haifa, shortly before 18.30 Saturday
evening, to be met with big, uncomfortable seas. Many of the boats delayed their
departure until Sunday morning as
the sea was too big for their boats to handle. They would have to stopover
en-route to Haifa. It is an
important factor here, to leave and arrive in daylight. Some of the boats
participating in the EMYR, are not able to travel at a speed whereby they
wouldbe able to make the entire
trip in daylight.
We have at least 2 boats in the
rally, which have a dog on board. One of these dogs tends to go on all of the
excursions with its owners. The other dog was left on board while its owners
took part in the overnight trip to
Damascus. However, rather than leave
the dog alone overnight, while the rest of us relaxed in the hotel in Damascus,
they took a taxi from the hotel to the marina, returning again to join the
excursion the following morning. The journey would have taken a minimum of a
four hours each way. Dick uses examples like this to discourage me from thinking
that I might like to keep a dog.
Above:- Irene, Sea of Galilea, EMYR dog on Golan Heights, Lucy and Caroline