May , 1997-Almeria, Spain
May has rolled around again and it’s time to leave the boat for a month. This time last year we were in Tahiti, since then we have sailed about 18,500 nautical miles. We sailed 5,000 miles of that since I wrote the last newsletter in Aden, the weather could not have been different – we swapped the Pacific and Indian Ocean Trade Winds for the head winds of the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. But mostly this letter is concerned with what we did on shore in the Old World, not our time at sea. After we left Aden we sailed directly to Port Suez, at the south end of the Canal. This took sixteen days. The Trades stayed with us for the first few hundred miles but after that we had persistent NW’ly winds – dead on the nose – with a typical velocity of 25 kts. After a couple of days of beating to windward the old Genoa jib blew to smithereens. I was attached to that sail; we rounded Cape Horn with it set in 1992 and it had sailed many tens of thousands of miles. It took a couple of days before the weather moderated and we could safely lower it and set the Yankee jib. When we got to Port Suez the log showed we had sailed 2,200 miles to make good a direct passage of 1,300 miles. In Port Suez I got in touch with Jim Meehan of Shore Sails, who built the old jib, and asked him to air freight a new one to Israel, which he did in about a week. Our agent in Egypt was the Prince of the Red Sea, a charming old man and his son. He arranged our Canal transit and tour of the Cairo Museum and the Pyramids at Giza. The museum with its priceless collection of antiquities was fabulous. The Pyramids were simply impressive – all that labor for the glorification of one man (per pyramid). The touts selling guided tours, camel rides, trinkets, etc. were an unremitting nuisance. Robert, who had joined us in Thailand, decided to tour the Med by bus after we arrived in Port Suez ( the Red Sea does that to you). Fortunately we met a Dutch yacht which we had first encountered in Sri Lanka, the captain was planning to refit in Cyprus and so one of his crew took Robert’s place. Our new crew member is young English woman called Celia who has been bumming round the world for the last three years. Celia joined us in Port Said after we made the two-day trip through the Suez Canal. We had to pay baksheesh to the pilots and tender operators – we had laid in a stock of Marlboro cigarettes just for this purpose.
We were greeted off the Israeli coast by a small gunboat as the sun rose. After some questions on the radio they waved us on to Ashkelon. The marina is home to more than a dozen liveaboards, we arrived just in time for the weekly barbeque. After a couple of days we got the message that the new jib had arrived at Ben Gurion Airport, I rented a car and Celia and I drove off to get it. We arrived at the airport in a torrential rain storm, dealing with the bureaucracy took all day, but we finally left with the sail. I had to pay 25% of its value as a deposit on custom duties, which I was told would be refunded when it was inspected on the boat. It was duly inspected but getting the money back was difficult. I finally wound up with a check, written in Hebrew, which was cashable only at a certain bank in Tel Aviv. To make a long story short, my name was incorrectly written in Hebrew and when the teller looked at my passport the bank would not cash the check. Finally, with the help of a local businessman, I signed the check with the name on it (Eric Patrick in English!) And I wound up with 3000 shekels in cash. The next day we all drove to Jerusalem where the money changers outside the Temple gave me greenbacks for the shekels. We had a wonderful day in Jerusalem because the tourists had been scared off by the threats of violence associated with the Jewish plan to build new houses in east Jerusalem. The sites and restaurants were relatively empty and we had a great day. We even visited the two tombs of Jesus, one inside the walls and one outside – there is a great deal of uncertainty about where things actually happened 2000 years ago. The next day we drove to the Dead Sea and Masada. The latter is very interesting, particularly as we made our ascent by the ramp erected by the Romans to storm the place, not by the cable car used by most tourists. The region is stark, to say the least, and it is staggering to think of the effort needed to erect the ramp in about three months, it rises several hundred feet from the desert floor and is still usuable after 2000 years. On the way back to the marina I got caught speeding by the cops, but when they discovered I was a visitor I was let off with a warning. The next day we left in fairly grungy weather for the short hop to Cyprus. We tied up in Larnaka, on the Greek side, Cyprus being an island divided between peoples of Turkish and Greek ethnic origin. It was a public holiday when we arrived, it celebrated Greek Independence Day. This may help explain the enmity on the island; how many countries have a holiday celebrating an event in another country (when the Greeks overcame the Turks)? We stayed three days, I got lots of Xerox copies of charts for the trip west, in Cyprus “Copyright” means it’s alright to copy! From Cyprus we sailed to Antalya, on the Anatolian coast of Turkey. Another hop of three days but with its share of heavy weather – we sheltered for the night in Limassol Harbor before we could weather the western end of Cyprus. The marina at Antalya is about five miles from the old town. A cosmopolitan collection of cruising boats wintered there and we arrived in time for the wind-up party of the social club. When a couple from New England discovered Walter and I lived on Long Island the wife confessed to having attended Patchogue High School – small world! A few days later we went to a dinner party at the jazzy restaurant on the marina site and I wore a tie and blazer for the first time since the circumnavigation began. The archeological sites in the vicinity of Antalya are fantastic, most of the ruins are of Roman origin. We rented a car for a day and visited three sites. Perges covers an extensive area, much of the public baths with its complicated heating system remain. Fragments of statues, columns and mosaics literally lie under your feet as you walk among the ruins. At Aspendos the amphitheatre looks much as it did in Roman times – they could put on a play tomorrow with seating for about ten thousand people. Side is a seaside resort full of restaurants and souvenir shops but the remains of an old temple are next to the shore on a beautiful cape. The place was swarming with tourists, mostly German, and I imagine it is pandemonium at the height of the season.