Log # 25f The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus

July 7, 2002 in Log Series 20 - 29, Logs by Series, Series 25 EMYR, The Logs

Kemer, Turkey
July 7, 2002

Hi Folks,

We’re back in Kemer, Turkey for a few days to get some work done on replacing our engine mounts and aligning the engine with the prop shaft. There is a possibility we may need a new prop shaft. We have also been helping Hasan and Umut with some of the clean up work related to the EMYR. Judy spent all day yesterday typing up thank you notes to all the ports, marinas, representatives and officials who were involved with the EMYR. I was working with Umut to screen through the several thousand digital pictures taken by a couple of people on the rally so we can condense them down to one or two discs which we will then send out to all the participants.

The weather here is hot and sunny with the day time temperature up to 40 C. We had a good three day sail (325 nautical miles in 68 hours) here from Haifa, actually sailing about half the distance, motor sailing a quarter and straight motoring for the other quarter of the distance. We enjoyed Israel and met several friends and enjoyed their hospitality.

In this log #25f about the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, I touch on some of the political aspects of the area. I have tried to be circumspect in my descriptions, and tried not to let too many of my personal attitudes and biases creep in. I am thinking of writing up more opinionated, not politically correct reactions to some of the situations as I see them over in this part of the world. If any of you would like to receive such articles, not for general publication, please send me an E-mail indicating your interest, and subsequently your reactions to my interpretations, and I will send out more blunt accounts to you, supplemental to my regular logs.

As I get the digital pictures of the rally organized and onto a disc, I will send out shots to those of you who asked to get digital photos of our trip. I sent a disc of digital pictures to Tony Cook, the webmaster of www.searoom.com where my logs are available on the first two years of our trip up to our entrance into the Mediterranean. He probably does not have them organized yet, as I have only sent him the disc of pictures, but not titles or explanations of what the pictures are all about. I hope to get on this task this week, Tony.

Enjoy the log.


Log # 25f The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus

Kemer, Turkey
July 7, 2002

The old inner harbour at Girne was congested with all the EMYR yachts and the few fishing boats left there. In several of the harbours many of the local boats were removed to other locations to make room for our yachts. Their willingness to do so was greatly appreciated by the rally. Thank you, fishermen, for making space in your harbours for our boats.

However, there was still not enough room and a couple of yachts had to anchor off some of the remaining fishing boats, and could not easily get ashore without the use of their dinghies. Even that proved difficult as there was no location for a dinghy to come alongside, as all the dock space was taken up by the yachts. As we were the last boat in (after having our engine water intake cleared up at the commercial harbour), we were unable to moor inside the old harbour proper, and were rafted off Laroca and a couple of charter gulet boats, immediately under the battlements of the castle in the harbour channel. It was a nice picturesque location, but having to scramble across three other boats, and face a long walk around the harbour to the marina offces was a bit of a pain. However, “if you can’t take a joke, you shouldn’t be cruising!”

We had to hurry to get ready for the President’s reception inside the castle. This was another “formal” affair where the women dressed up in good skirts and dresses, and the men were to wear shirt, tie, and jacket. Keeping a set of good clothes in a small boat is a challenge. However, we can live with a few wrinkles. It still feels good to get dressed up every once in a while, as the cruising life is very informal and casual (at least at our level of sailing).

We were on time (before the arrival of President Dentkas), and enjoyed cocktails and hors d’oeuvres in the large castle courtyard. We had a chance to meet the manager of the Delta Marina and thank him again for his assistance in arranging for the repair of our engine problem. Hasan was busy introducing the group leaders to local dignitaries, and especially to the President. We were introduced in our dual role as Group 1 leaders, but also as committee members, as we are on the organizing Rally Committee. The president was quite approachable, happy to meet people and shake hands for photo ops. His security detail was not intrusive. We had the opportunity to talk to him two or three times during the evening. His English was quite understandable, whereas our Turkish is limited to a few polite phrases.

It was enjoyable to talk with the other rally boaters to exchange accounts of our 160 mile trip across from Kemer. We learned that the emergency appendicitis operation went well, and met some of the Turkish Coast Guard officers from the two patrol boats escorting the rally. We were entertained with folk dancing by a troupe of men and women in local costume doing a range of East European and Mid Eastern dances. One of the routines was a balancing dance with objects and glasses of water balanced on their heads as they danced, swerved, undulated and crawled in intricate patterns under the arms and legs of the performers. It reminded me of Russian dancers doing their intricate steps and kicks while balancing a vodka glass on their heads. Another dramatic display was a sword dance that reminded us of the Moresco which we saw in Korcula, Croatia last summer. This was even more dramatic as the heavy steel swords sang, clanged, crashed and thundered with blows of sword on sword or against the leather/wooden shields flourished about in frenzied gyrations. The spiraling circular formation had each dancer exchanging blows alternating with sword and shield with the man to his front or behind, to his left or his right, a dangerous choreographed routine. It was not like the Moresco which symbolized one side against another, but was an energetic display of martial bravery and skill. Well done Turkish Cypriot dancers!

After the dancing, there was the official thank-you, at which the Rally gave mementos to marina representatives, the mayor, other officials, and the president, and gifts were given to the Group Leaders, Hasan and the Rally Organizing Committee, us. One of the gifts to us as Rally Organizers was a 12 inch ceramic plate of Girne harbour with a painted inscription to the EMYR. It was nice, but too big for us on our relatively small 10 metre Veleda. We don’t have enough bulkhead (wall) space to display it. Neither of the Group 2 or 3 leaders had enough space either, and so we bequeathed it to Malaika II, the second largest boat in the rally, and Group Leader of Group 4. Well, Charles got back at us later in the Rally when they had to leave early in Haifa on June 4. At that time we were saying goodbye to a couple of boats that were leaving the rally there. Charles gave a very thoughtful speech of appreciation and after having received his rally plaque made a presentation to the other three Group Leaders of identical ceramic dishes, inscribed to each of our boats from Malaika II, as he felt we should share in such gifts given to the rally! So now each Group Leader has a large ceramic plate of Girne. Thank you (?) Charles and Ruth!

After the reception we went to a lovely shoreside restaurant for an enjoyable meal in the picturesque setting of Girne’s ancient harbour, overlooked by Kyrenia Castle. It was a lovely end to a hectic but interesting day, after a 30 hour 160 mile sail from Turkey, tacking into a force 7 near gale, unable to use the engine because of water problems, anchoring under sail in a first time entry to this foreign harbour, rafting off three boats in a harbour channel, rushing to complete entry formalities before getting ready for a reception to meet the President of Northern Cyprus. Just another day in the cruising life on the EMYR!

Next day was an interesting bus tour to Magosa (cost $35.00 US per person) which included entry to several sites in the ancient Venetian Walled town, a guide, and an excellent lunch. Magosa, is also known as Famagusta (Greek) or Gazimagusta (Turkish-Northern Cyprus). In touring the battlements of the walled town we visited Othello’s Castle, where Christophore Moro, the Venetian Governor of Cyprus from 1506 to 1508, killed his wife Desdemona in a fit of jealous rage. This is the tale on which Shakespeare based his tragedy of “Othello”, and one interpretation is that he (Shakespeare) confused Moro’s surname with his race, and thus made Othello a Moor. The battlements of the town are still solid and were used as refuge in the conflict in the 1960’s and 70’s to shelter the Turkish inhabitants against the Greek Cypriots.

This conflict still exists. Cyprus was one of the longest Canadian UN peacekeeping missions for our forces (over 20 years). The island is still divided and has armed sentry check points in several places. The northern third is now the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, not recognized by the Greek Cypriots or the UN or any other country other than Turkey and Bangladesh, although our 2001 Lonely Planet guide to “Mediterranean Europe” indicates that Australia, Turkey, the USA, and the UK have diplomatic representation in Northern Cyprus.. Southern Cyprus is quite hostile still to the north. We heard reports that boats that have been to Northern Cyprus have been given a hard time if going into the south. In fact our friend David, who was with us, had an unpleasant telephone exchange with the Cyprus consulate in Toronto before coming over. He innocently enquired of them if it would be possible to go from Girne to Nicosia and on to Athens. He had a very hostile exchange where they threatened his intentions to land in Northern Cyprus to the extent he might be arrested if he tried to enter Nicosia from Northern Cyprus. There was no attempt to explain the complicated situation to him and he was concerned lest he inadvertently compromised the rally’s intentions of going to Girne.

I had not carefully read the Cyprus section of Rod Heikell’s “Turkish Waters & Cyprus Pilot” last year before talking to David while in Toronto about joining us for part of the EMYR this year. Had I done so, I would have told him not to contact the Cyprus consulate. The government of (South) Cyprus is very hostile towards Northern Cyprus, which it considers to be either in rebellion, or occupied territory, (or both at once). Rod Heikell in his pilot has attempted to give good navigational information and entry procedures for both southern and northern Cyprus, without political comment. However, he quotes in his pilot from two pieces of correspondence he has had with the Cyprus High Commission for the information of cruisers. In a 1990 communication from the Cyprus High Commission he was informed,

“… the ports of Famagusta (Magosa or Gazi Magusa), Kyrenia (Girne) …are at present closed to all international shipping since October 1974 because they are situated in the areas of the Republic of Cyprus still illegally occupied by Turkey. Any ship calling at the aforementioned ports is contravening International Conventions of Safety and Laws of the Republic of Cyprus and consequently the master/crews or owner render themselves liable to prosecution under Cyprus laws.”

Subsequently in a correspondence from the High Commission in 1992, Rod was criticized for presenting both the Greek and Turkish names for places. The communication stated,

“… Any arbitrary change of these names is consequently, illegal and against widely accepted principles of international law.”


“…By presenting Cyprus in this manner, therefore, your publication appears to be condoning and supporting illegalities which are taking place in the occupied part of the island …”

Rod, rightly so, denies the accusation and states in his pilot,

“ … I emphatically do not want to introduce politics into this book. The information in this section is included solely as information essential to safety at sea.”

Meanwhile, back on tour, we saw the St. Nicholas Cathedral, one of the finest examples of Cypriot Gothic architecture, built before the Ottoman Period. Subsequently it has been turned into the Mustafa Pasha Mosque. All the Christian iconographics have been converted into Islamic non-representative symbols, and a minaret is perched on top of one of the two frontal towers. There were several other churches, in ruins or converted, in the town centre.

The outdoor restaurant under vine covered trellises provided a most enjoyable meal, for the food itself and the fact that we had sitting across from us our Northern Cypriot guide with whom we discussed the political situation of Northern Cyprus. We enjoyed the Mideastern meals greatly in all the countries we visited. The meal tables laid out had an assortment of different mezes, (a variety of hors d’oeuvres or appetizers) usually including several types of humus (spicy chick pea paste), ezme (crushed tomato salad), fasulye piyazi (white bean salad), cacik (yoghurt with cucumber), kisir (bulgar wheat salad), coban salatasi (a shepherd’s salad of tomatoes, cucumber, and sweet peppers, seasoned with fresh parsley, olive oil, and lemon),  pickles (dill, hot peppers), a variety of olives, and pita bread. Some vegetable dishes such as imam bayildi (egg plants in olive oil, the Imam’s delight), zetinyagli yaprak dolmasi (grape leaves stuffed with rice), zetinyagli biber dolmasi (bell peppers stuffed with rice), and other dolmasi (stuffed vegetables), would be served. Then would come the main course of kebab (chicken, beef, and lamb), or other meat dishes as izgara kofte (spicy broiled minced mutton and or minced beef), or kimyonlu sahan koftesi (minced beef or lamb with cumin, tomatoes, garlic and olive oil), followed by fresh fruit dishes of watermelon, peaches, strawberries, loquats, apricots and cherries. The meals we enjoyed on the rally almost all followed this format of several mezes, followed by a main course of meats or fish, then pastries or fruit and coffee or tea. I especially like the mezes, a real gastronomic delight. We have a good cookbook on Turkish cooking and are enjoying the recipes greatly.

In all cases the meals were part of the tour but we often had to pay individually for water, soft drinks, coffee, tea, beer, wine and liquor.  This separate payment often proved time consuming as we wanted to resume the touring, not waste time waiting for individual bills for beer or wine. Also we frequently did not know what was included and what had to be paid for, and how much. In some places everything was included including beer and wine. In other places we had to pay even for water or coffee. This applied to all locations on the rally. The meals were wonderful. The only times we cooked during the rally were for breakfasts, and when on passage. For us, this wonderful smorgasbord of meals lasted from May the 6th to June 16th. We love Mid East cuisine. Mmmmm!
I haven’t finished our Magosa tour yet, but will close out this log at this point and will finish our time in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in my next log and get us off to Mersin, back in Turkey.