Log #25m Israel, Haifa and Ashkelon

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

Aug. 29, 2002
Nisos Kinaros, Greece
36ْ 58.6’N, 026ْ 17.2’E

Hi Folks,

We are here on Nisos Kinaros, a small island on the eastern edge of the Cyclades in the middle of the Aegean Sea, with a population of … one family. We have been here for two days now waiting and hoping the Meltemi will ease up. The Meltemi has been blowing for over two weeks now. It blows hard (force 5 to 7) from the northwest, and of course we have to go northwest to get into the islands of the Aegean from southern Turkey! We have been fighting it since we left Bodrum for Kos on Aug, 14.  Here on Kinaros there are two motor yachts that have been waiting for over 13 days to get out of here, heading west. We tried to leave (going west) this morning but turned back after we were heading into 30 knot winds and two metre seas. Fortunately we are not under time pressure and can wait rather than heading into such heavy seas.

I don’t know when I will be able to send this, but am putting it together on floppy disc to send at the first opportunity when we reach civilization.  Since we have had to wait, I have completed not only this, Log #25m, but also Logs #25 n and o, completing the EMYR. I will send them one at a time, but hopefully and probably in short order. I will then start my next sequence Logs #26 the second group of logs on Turkey, and then Logs #27 on the Greek Aegean. If we are stuck here for long, I may actually get up to date in my logs.

Please keep using my AOL address until we get back to Turkey in October, as I cannot access my Super On Line account until back there. I enjoy writing the logs and may or may not see about having some of them published. However, I do enjoy feedback of those of you who read them, reacting to our experiences, my observations, and interpretations, and your agreements or disagreements, corrections, criticisms or comments. That way at least I know my logs are being read.

I’ll paste this to my floppy disc now and send it whenever I can.

All the best,

Log #25m Israel, Haifa and Ashkelon

Aug. 25, 2002

Pothia, Kalimnos, Greece

Because of the turmoil in Israel, we, the EMYR committee, had considered alternatives, but felt the security of the marinas was quite acceptable, and the areas we would be visiting were not noted for terrorist activity, and that we did not want to cave in to the threats of terrorism, for then they would be winning. So we followed the original schedule to stop at Haifa, Ashkelon, and on our return from Egypt at Herzliya. As described in the last log, the navy checked us out at sea, and security checked us out before we were given shore passes. We had also requested when we handed in our passports not to have them stamped, as such would limit our access to other Arab countries. There was no problem with this request. In addition we were presented with gifts of bread, an herb and vegetable spread (courtesy of Iris’ [from Lady Helena] son’s restaurant), and a Haifa Port Authority ball cap. The Carmel Yacht Club is now in the marina on the Quishon River (mentioned in the Bible), as their club house had a fire, and their docks in the harbour were more exposed to wakes from passing ships and pilot boats than the marina setting. It is a new developing marina that seems to have good potential, especially if the authorities can keep the prices reasonable for the Carmel Yacht Club (to entice them to stay there) and for visiting yachts. We were very pleased with the chandlery, and there was a small store from which food supplies, fresh bread and fresh produce could be purchased. However, the marina is very far from the city and from the nearest bus stop. The marina kindly offered a period of free mooring after the rally, an offer of which we took advantage later.

The afternoon of the day we arrived (June 4) we went on a free bus tour of Haifa, seeing much of what I described in our rally bible as I included in my last log. We were particularly impressed with the Bahai Gardens, and the story behind the Bahai faith, and its presence in Haifa. It appears to be a very tolerant, all-inclusive belief system. The symbolism, symmetry, and beauty of the tiered gardens would aid the pilgrims from any faith to meditate on their concepts of God or Allah. The tour provided us with a good survey of the city, and some insight into its past and present development.

In the evening we had a brief presentation ceremony off the stern of Malaika II for the two boats leaving the rally in Haifa, Songster and Malaika II. However, in addition to the rally plaques given these two boats, Charles from Malaika II made another presentation to the three other group leaders, Songster, Onset, and Veleda IV, of replica plates of Girne. In Girne, we, Judy and I as representatives of the committee, had been given a nice 12 inch diameter ceramic plate with a painted scene of Girne harbour and castle. We did not have room for it on Veleda, and Onset and Songster were reluctant to accept it for the same reason, and so it was given to Malaika II as the largest boat of the group leaders. Charles (getting back at us) ordered three more similar plaques, and had our boats’ names inscribed on them, and used this occasion to present them to us. Thanks Charles? (As attractive as those plates are, we still do not have room for it, and donated ours to The Navigator, the restaurant/bar at Kemer.)

Then Charles and Ruth (as they were most instrumental in securing these gifts), and with input from the other group leaders, presented to Umut a wallet with cash and to Hasan a digital camera. These gifts could not fully convey the appreciation and debt we felt to these two, who were so instrumental in organizing and escorting with such conviviality the EMYR. Many thanks Umut and Hasan!

We would have liked even more time to thank them and to exchange good-hearted banter with them, but the Carmel Yacht Club had a reception and welcome ceremony ready for us over at the marina offices. There we had some light finger food and other refreshments before the ceremony of appreciation, us for their hospitality, and the Carmel Yacht Club and other officials who generously thanked us for coming to Israel in this troubled time. A final but enjoyable ending to this evening was the introduction of individual yachts to individual club members and their families, who in turn took the boaters to their homes for a meal, and in many cases an opportunity for showers, laundry, and in some cases for an overnight bed on land. It was a most gracious gesture by the Carmel Yacht Club and made our visit to Haifa a very personal one with individual friendships established. Thanks Carmel Yacht Club!

Judy and I were originally going to be hosted by Israel and Iris from Lady Helena, but we had already made arrangements to visit Geoff and Estee Collins, friends of Judy’s family. Not only did we have a lovely meal, do laundry, have a shower, and enjoy a bed overnight, but we were able to send E-mail from a land line telephone and it worked! This was the first time AOL has come through without complications for months! Happiness is — easy access to E-mail and the internet!

On our return to Veleda next day we were soon off for a tour of Acco, across the bay from Haifa, an ancient port city, over 5000 years old, possibly older than Jerusalem. We went first into the walled city to see the archeological digs which have recently uncovered the Crusader fortress in an extremely good state of repair. This was possible because when the Ottomans took over from the Crusaders, rather than destroying the Crusader fortifications they just filled them in with sand and used them as foundations for their new structures. Thus the walls, tunnels, courtyards, etc. were in reasonably well preserved states. It was fascinating as we went through the lower regions, tunnels and halls of the Crusader era to look up and see the several layers of civilization since then, including the current levels still in use. Many areas of the digs had to be reinforced to support the current surface dwellings above them. The digging and reinforcements are ongoing projects.

An interesting sight we had as we entered the pleasant park at the entrance was a young woman in her late teens or early twenties, in casual slacks, blouse, and with a small backpack, sitting on a bench with a riffle cradled across her legs! We saw her a few minutes later around a group of elementary school children, as we were getting our tickets to enter the old Crusader castle. She was not dressed in military fatigues, and it was not the modern weapon we have seen off-duty soldiers casually carrying as they go to or from their duty stations, often stopping at a local fast food outlet with their girl friends or boy friends. Our guide told us she is an ex-soldier, licensed to carry a weapon and provide security for school groups. It is a requirement that any school outing must have an armed guard accompany it. Even our bus tour had an armed guard with us. He was in a security guard uniform of white shirt and dark blue pants, with a pistol strapped to his belt and carrying a satchel with possibly more firepower. That is life in Israel! Actually and unfortunately it has not changed since I was here 25 years ago.

We wandered the old walls and saw a marina at the old fishing port. Aha! We would like to return and spend a night or so in this marina under the ancient walls of Akko after the rally. Unfortunately when we got back to our marina we heard the news of a terrorist bombing of a bus, killing several soldiers, in a community less than 25 kilometres from Haifa. We were not threatened, but could feel the anxiety that Israeli families live with.

We left later that afternoon, not having to do any clearances as we were off to Ashkelon 88 nautical miles down the coast. We were actually able to sail over half the distance, the other half was motor sailing as the westerly winds were too light. Now that we were going southerly down the eastern end of the Mediterranean, the westerly winds were with us.

We arrived in Ashkelon at 0945 June 6, after an overnight passage. Ashkelon has a nice modern marina, at which we were privileged to be assigned a berth where we were able to go alongside rather than the usual bows on. Again we received gifts, a thermal mug and golf shirt for each crew member, and a pennant for each boat. They were very pleased that we were in Israel at this time. We were to have taken a one day tour to either Masada or Jerusalem from here, but we received word that the Israeli government was so pleased at the fact our rally came to Israel at this trying time that a free two day tour to both Jerusalem and the Masada/Dead Sea area courtesy of the Ministry of Tourism was offered on our return to Israel after Egypt. Who could say “No” to a free tour that would normally cost at least $180 per person? So, instead of touring from Ashkelon, we had a free day to go shopping in town and to putter around the boats.

The first night there we had the rally dinner, an enjoyable feast at the diving club of the marina. There were some beautiful beaches beside the marina, but we didn’t take time to enjoy them. The second night we arranged a “pot luck” supper in front of the main office, partially sheltered from the strong west winds. Hasan arranged to purchase several kilos of chicken pieces which Bill and Bunny of Onset did a good job of barbecuing. One of the local charter boats provided music from his nearby berth. It was a pleasant evening prior to our 0530 departure for Port Said (130 nautical miles) in Egypt next day.

Another thing Judy and I noticed was that there was no cultural adjustment to Israeli cities (other than the weapons carried by young soldiers, and the pistols on pot bellied security guards at restaurants and other public places). It felt like some Florida or California setting with clean streets, shopping malls, road traffic, well kept homes and office buildings, parks with palm trees and semi-tropical vegetation, and the normal hustle and bustle of modern North American or European cities. Of course the Israelis live in a totally different world and century than do the Palestinians. More about this disparity when we return to Israel after Egypt.