Post EMYR – Jordan

A small group of 7 of us –a Swedish and a Canadian couple and a Frenchman participated in a carefully planned and orchestrated Cook’s tour through Jordan. The superb Roman ruins at Jerash, not far north of Amman was our first stop. It is probably the largest and best preserved site we have seen, with enormous Hadrian’s arch at the city gate, an unusual oval central piazza, a well-preserved amphitheatre, temple and paved colonnaded streets. The Jordanian bagpiper was a surprise playing in the amphitheatre – a legacy of the British occupation.


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Amman the capital, is a bustling mix of old and new and poor and very affluent. Of course it also has its own impressive Roman ruins – a sharp contrast with the new glitzy city of shining white marble and limestone buildings and the ‘downtown’ area, which was lively, congested and rather grubby. We stood out amongst the locals in their long black decorated robes and dark features. Mike, our guide was fantastic, a low key (ex-accountant). He was knowledgeable, educating us not only about the ancient sites, but of life in Jordan, and the art of making good Arabic coffee.


IMG_7492 IMG_7496 Between Amman and Petra are a number of the important sites. Mt Nebo – where Moses looked over the Promised land to direct the Israelites across Jordan.


Madaba, famous for its mosaics. Both the ancient mosaic map in St Georges church, and the modern mosaics being made in Queen Noor centre by people with disabilities were very impressive.

IMG_7519 IMG_7518 IMG_7517 Our night in a desert camp in Wadi Rum was well worth the long drive south. A 4 wheel drive into the relatively cool desert evening to watch the sunset and spectacular evening desert light was pretty special. The colours and the landscape are spectacular (and the young drivers very handsome!).

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IMG_7560IMG_7578 IMG_7603 After a Bedouin style dinner at the camp we retired to our 4 star tents (complete with ensuite) to ensure we were up early enough to enjoy the colours of the sunrise before our drive to Petra.

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IMG_7651 IMG_7574 IMG_7653 Petra was not to be missed. The first glimpse of the Treasury through the narrow gorge at the end of the long Siq was wonderful. It really is an incredible site, so expansive, and to think it was basically a burial ground! The structure is 50m high and took 25yrs to carve out of solid rock.


IMG_7695 IMG_7709 IMG_7732  Camels, donkeys, horses and children selling postcards are everywhere, adding lots of colour and movement to the site.

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A few of us braved the 1,000 steps to the Monastery in the heat of the afternoon. It definitely was worth the climb. The beer back at the cave bar of our hotel was most welcome at the end of the day, about 8 hours of walking and climbing in the June heat is pretty exhausting. Another day in Petra would have been great as it is such an extensive site.

IMG_7763 IMG_7748IMG_7779 A visit to the Dead Sea and Masada was the last on our itinerary of must – do’s before we left Israel. The Dead Sea is 420m BELOW sea level – and is the lowest point on earth. Although this extremely hot arid region fringing the sea consists mainly of salt pans, there are several oases fed by natural fresh water springs growing groves of date palms – such as Ein Gedi Kibbutz where we stayed overnight.

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The ‘spa’ where we accessed the beach was built on the shore of the Dead Sea 20 years ago. It is now 1.2km away from the waters edge. From the photos one can see the “high tide” mark over 1km above the current waterline – emphasising that this (490m deep) lake is dropping by 5m per year and if unchecked will be dry in 25yrs!

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Masada a 500m high desert plateau surrounded by sheer cliffs was the site of the last stand of 1,000 Jews exiled here after the Romans conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the temple in 70AD. As temperatures were close to 40, we caught the cable car to the top so that we could enjoy the excellent audio tour of this interesting site. The story of the Roman siege, building the colossal sand ramp to attack the walls and the mass suicide within at the eleventh hour were well depicted in the Hollywood version (Peter O’Toole) in the 80’s.

IMG_7855 IMG_7860 IMG_7857 Back in Herlizya, a quick tour and late lunch in Jaffa and Tel Aviv before our sunset departure and long sail back to Turkey.


EMYR – Israel

Finally some good wind – beam reach much of the passage south to Israel and a glorious full moon. We were well prepared for the procedures for sailing into Israel. Discussions over VHF with Israeli navy 20Nm off Haifa to provide details of us and our boat. Surprise visit at dawn by the gunboat to check us with infra-red to ensure no extra bodies on board. Passports are then handed over to another gunboat via a fishing net on a pole before we could finally sail into Haifa harbour.

IMG_7031 The hospitality extended to us by the Carmel sailing club in Haifa was overwhelming. Warm welcome dockside while passports checked (again); scrumptious dinner dockside with formal welcome from the club; organised tour of Haifa and shuttle taxi to local supermarket for provisioning.

IMG_0760 The highlight was home visits arranged through the club. We dined with Amir and Dganit and their delightful family (Amir was one of the club members who helped shoe horn Sea Cloud into a marina berth using the joker boat).

IMG_0770 IMG_0773 The marina is very full with a waiting list, so finding berths for the EMYR yachts each year is a challenge and well managed by the club.

IMG_7044 Akko, just north of Haifa, famous for the remains of the Crusader castle (nearly totally dismantled by the muslims when the Knights finally exited to Rhodes).


The signs (and clocks) in different languages and the Arabic market give an insight into the mixture of cultures in Israel. Although there is a predominantly Israeli Arab population here, there is strong resistance to expansion of Arab ownership of the old town.

IMG_7052 IMG_7055 The tour continued to Nazareth’s church of the Annunciation, and the Jordan River – site that John baptised Jesus and the Sea of Galilee -all familiar names from Sunday school long ago.

IMG_7076 IMG_7081 IMG_7104 Haifa is famous for its Baha’i garden which cascade down the hillside towards the harbour (built on condition they provided extensive bomb shelters beneath).

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Ashkelon, the southernmost marina in Israel was our base for the next few days. One of our group headed a little too far south only to be briskly escorted away by gunboat as they were getting a bit too close to Gaza.


Much anticipated tour to Jerusalem where a 3 day visit just scratched the surface. View from Mount Scopus overlooking Eastern Jerusalem with the wall marking the boundary following occupation of former Jordanian held territory.


Our excellent guide took us to the Mount of Olives with commanding view over Jerusalem’s old city.


Highlights of the city included the Temple of the Mount (Golden Dome of the Rock) – a very holy place for Christians and Muslims and currently a mosque. Below the Mount is the western (wailing) wall – sacred place for Jews.

Western Wall - Version 2 The Christian Church of the Holy Sepulchre – Christian pilgrims touching the rock at the 10th station of the cross (at the end of the Via Dolorosa)

IMG_7207IMG_7199 IMG_7210 IMG_7209 The festival of light runs for 3 days in Jerusalem – a real treat, although very crowded.

IMG_7218 IMG_7230 IMG_7229 As our hotel was a short walk from the old city enabling us to spend more time in the Jerusalem archaeological park and Davidson centre, with its excellent descriptions and displays of the Temple Mount and surrounding areas.

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The citadel, or Tower of David, as well as being an excellent museum provided wonderful views over old Jerusalem and its different quarters.

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Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum and memorials set in 18 hectares on the outskirts of Jerusalem was a moving and important ending to our few days in Jerusalem.

Back in Ashkelon the EMYR group told us of the fireworks during dinner in the marina the night before when a rocket, launched from Gaza less than 30km away, was intercepted and destroyed by an Israeli anti-missile rocket overhead. The restaurant emptied very quickly when the siren went off. We were glad we had taken those extra days in Jerusalem, and not sorry to be heading north the next day.

Our last sail with the EMYR fleet as a group was beautiful. A breeze on our stern quarter saw most yachts flying their cruising chutes – a lovely sight and invigorating sail with Sea Cloud touching 8kts in 10-12kts of breeze. Sailing in a group like this means that you actually get photos of your own boat sailing!

IMG_7318 DSC02927 Sadly the rally finished in Herzilya Marina, which is part of a large complex of hotels, apartments shopping malls and restaurants, just north of Tel Aviv. The local beach is lovely (even by Aussie standards). We had a busy a few days of parties, presentations and the final rally dinner, followed by a lot of sad farewells (to dockside chorus of the Rally Song and traditional buckets of water) as new friends headed north for Turkey, Cyprus and beyond.

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EMYR Turkey – Cyprus

The next EMYR stop was Bozyazi fishing harbour. Although in appearance quite a contrast to the lovely new marinas in which we had been staying, the hospitality from the local fishing cooperative was exceptional. The rather desolate & industrial dock was transformed into a banquet and dance area with lively Turkish and western music for our welcome dinner: quite unexpected, but wonderful. It was a good base to visit the ancient site of Anamurium situated in the most beautiful spot on the coast a few miles to the west.


We tasted the local specialty of tantuni in Anamur town and bought some of the locally famous small Anamur bananas from the roadside. We are also getting to like ayran, the Turkish yogurt drink – delicious and refreshing once you get used to the rather salty taste.

More cocktails and dinners at the brand new marina of Kumkuyu – another good base for visiting more of the many ancient sites dotted along this coastline.

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Kandlivane – a 90m chasm where those who caused the Romans displeasure were said to have been thrown to their deaths.

IMG_6595 IMG_6592 IMG_6586 The caves of Heaven & Hell. The long slippery tour down into a rather cool ‘hell’

IMG_6612 IMG_6617 And the so-called ‘Asthma cave’.


On to Mersin, another new marina where we left Sea Cloud for a 2 day 1200km bus trip (!!) to the spectacular Mt Nemrut. The drive, although long was fascinating. We were very much in the SE Turkey – about 50km from the Syrian Border in places. Obviously a very important and highly fertile agricultural area.

It is hard to imagine how the 50m high man made mountain of stones on tip of this isolated mountainous site were constructed. It is believed that more of the huge human statues lie under the peak but nobody has been able to find them. Built by a megalomaniac king, they depict he and the gods (his family). They are hauntingly beautiful, well worth the long drive and climb up the hill.


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Sanilurfa (known also as Urfa) was our all too short overnight stop. It looked like a fascinating town, deserving a few days rather than the hour or so we had scheduled.

IMG_6737 IMG_6738  It is a pilgrimage town, with a very middle-east feel because of its proximity to Syria. For many of the people here, Turkish is their second language. Dress is traditional and conservative, with women wearing colours of their tribes, and facial tattoos depicting their ‘ownership’ and men wearing arabic –style baggy pants.

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Gobeklitepe, is a relatively newly discovered site (not in our guide book) dating back to 12,000BC (well before the pyramids). It is so hard to imagine how they had the resources to allocate to this religious site in what was essentially the stone age and probably before organised farming in this region.

IMG_6752 IMG_6751 Another great party at Mersin, then we were off on our first overnight EMYR sail to Girne, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Motoring into residual lumpy seas and a little wind on the nose wasn’t the best start. The wind picked up as predicted so we had a great sail for about a third of the journey, increasing as we approached Cyprus. This made for quite exciting docking in the very exposed and crowded Girne commercial harbour. Berthing 32 boats in 25+ knots is always rather a challenge, particularly as the wind was blowing right into Delta Marina.

The cocktail reception at Girne castle was fabulous. After touring the castle and the shipwreck museum, we were treated to music, cocktails and yummy food in the wonderful surroundings of the castle courtyard. Informal conversations with local dignitaries at these events is a wonderful opportunity to hear more about the politics and background of their city.

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The Girne shipwreck (about the same size as Sea Cloud) which sank just off Girne harbour about 2,300 years ago (around 300BC) after travelling from along the Turkish coast from as far north as Samos with a cargo of olive oil and almonds.

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The Bellpais monastery on the hill overlooking Girne is a beautiful spot. Unfortunately we weren’t there for one of the concerts they have regularly in this lovely refectory. The holes in the back wall were reported to be a result of English troops practicing rifle shooting in the 1950’s. The lovely gardens are a popular wedding spot.

IMG_6840 IMG_6836 IMG_6835 IMG_6847 The St Hilarion castle on the peak above the coast is in an impressive site, easy to see why it would have been easy to defend in times gone by.

IMG_6853 IMG_6857 IMG_6863 The green line between Turkish and Greek Cyprus, the border controls in Nicosia and the Turkish troops doing target practice just below the castle is a reminder that this is still an unsettled part of the world. The ex-cathedral now mosque in Nicosia is one of the many seen around Turkey.

The pirate party – one of the highlights of the EMYR calendar – concluded our stay in Girne. There were some fabulous costumes, much better than our bits and pieces cobbled together at the last minute. Parading through the town with our flags was a lot of fun. Locals come our each year to enjoy the parade, while some tourists obviously were a bit perplexed by the antics! Our resident German bagpiper Claus piped us through the town and around the old harbour. Fortunately his bagpipes had been returned after he left them in a taxi following the last cocktail party.

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Dinner overlooking the sea at the Dome Hotel, was of course followed by dancing. A display of belly dancing by the EMYR group of Turkish and German belly dancers was enjoyed by all.


IMG_6924 IMG_6943 DSCF6438 Our last few days in Cyprus were are the new Karpaz Gate marina, a beautiful site with fabulous marina, restaurants, art gallery and a beach club with a pool and lovely sandy beach. We were fortunate to be here for the season opening, cocktails, followed by a party at the beach club.

DSCF6476 Our last tour was to the extensive ruins of Salamis, near Farmagusta, a port on the south east side of Northern Cyprus. Tour finished, we were back at the marina to say our goodbyes to our new friends who were heading back to Turkey. Our remaining group of 26 yachts will leave during the night for the 200Nm sail to Israel.

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