The Odelia File
There are times in life that opportunities spring out of nowhere that are almost too good to be true. Well, one of those dropped into our lap this winter.
We were doing volunteer work for the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park in Warderick Wells. I was doing a carpentry project and Bonnie was working with someone bending plastic conduit for use at the warden’s house. With the weather the way it was everybody was sticking around and waiting it out. Bonnie ended up spending a fair amount of time with Rick and we gradually got familiar with both Rick and his wife Tsipy.
One night while visiting with a number of other couples on Rick and Tsipy’s yacht Odelia, they mentioned they were having Odelia shipped by ship to Greece and were then going on to Israel where they intend to live. They mentioned that if we were interested in coming to Greece and helping them get to Israel we were invited. Like we would pass that up. After checking that they were really serious we committed ourselves to the trip. Short of taking Millennium Odyssey across the pond ourselves, this is probably the best chance we would ever have to see the Med.
Rick gave us a time frame of 2nd to the 3rd of July as the time Odelia would be arriving in Greece with another couple arriving on the 4th or 5th. We wanted and offered to help recommissioning Odelia after her layup at sea. This we shifted our timetable for a July 1 arrival in Greece. So after a few nights of playing around on the Internet with a few hundred what-ifs in our mind we tried to nail down a plan. We eventually found out that it was a few hundred dollars cheaper for us to travel via Boston to London to Athens and then Tel-Aviv to London to Boston, than it was Boston to Athens, Tel-Aviv to Boston. We also figured out that it was only about $50 difference in cost to add a couple of days layover in London. So for the cost of a couple of nights in a hotel we could have a couple of days in London. This backed up our departure to the 28th of June.
Off we flew.
We were up at 0430 and waiting for the limo service at John’s (my brother) when we were picked up shortly after 0500. We flew out at 0810 for a 7 hour flight to London. Our plane had little LCD TVs built into all of the seats. We had a choice of 8 or so movies and other programming and one real cool TV channel that shows your position as well as flight data like ground speed (1054 kph), wind speed (best I saw was 102 Miles per hour), height (38000 ft), outside temperature -57C, how far from destination, and estimated arrival time. We were arriving ahead of schedule by almost an hour, thanks to the 100 mph tail wind. So our 7 hour flight took 6 hours and we shifted east 5 time zones. Which means we were arriving at our hotel at 9pm and our body clocks were at 4pm. Confused yet? We were.
Our first day we woke up to the news that there was a underground train worker’s strike (a.k.a. “The Tube”) starting at 6:30 p.m. that night going to 6:30 p.m. the next night. 24 hour smack dab to mess up both of our days in London. The first strike they have had in many many years. It actually wasn’t that bad. We took enough of the buses from the hotel to figure out how the transit system worked, as well as getting to see a lot of styles of homes and life on the outskirts of London. We jumped on “The Tube” to get into London proper and our first tourist day was spent doing The Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Tube home before the strike shut it down. We ended up at a pub just down the street from “The Thistle” Heathrow hotel where we were staying called the White Horse.
We invited a couple of women to join us and we had a great chat with them. One was going to Oregon on a botanical trip, the other was off to Barcelona to collect her camper van. We had been to Oregon in our RV so we had an interesting talk with them.
The Tower of London is not “a” tower but a walled block of buildings about the size a small city block. Parts of which dated back to William the Conqueror in 1066. The Tower has a long and central role in English history, including things like the beheading of Anne Boleyn, the disappearance of the two princes in the tower. (The princes actually did reappear several hundred years later in the cornerstone of one the entrances to White Tower. They are now buried in Westminster Abbey).
We did a tour with one of the “Beefeaters” and he loved to tell grisly stories of the Bloody Tower and executions. One of his favorites was about the executioner that was a part time executioner, part time butcher, and full time drunk. “Took 5 whacks with the axe to sever the head and only then after borrowing a butcher’s cleaver from a member of the audience and cutting the last gristle with it”, or the story of the sword that beheaded Anne Boleyn was so sharp and swift that when he lifted the head to show to the crowd “The eyes blinked and looked around at the audience”.
The Tower also includes a few neat things to see like the Crown Jewels, the ravens of the tower, the Traitors Gate, knights armor, as well as spears and firearms dating back hundreds of years.
The Crown Jewels were quite impressive all by themselves, including in their makeup was the largest and second largest diamond in the world, the largest diamond to ever come out of India, the small diamond crown worn by Queen Elizabeth I. Lots of very interesting stuff. The crown jewels are flanked by moving walkways to keep everyone moving. We did one pass down one side and the walked around and did another down the other and it was well worth it. The crowns and scepters are definitely worth looking at from both sides.
We walked over the St Paul’s Cathedral which is undergoing a massive restoration and cleaning. There was scaffolding over most of the front and over parts of the interior as well. While we were there an orchestra was setting up and played a number of pieces with a couple of different tenors and sopranos obviously getting ready for a presentation that was going to be held soon. We listened as we trooped around the building and walked up to the galleries. The Whispering Gallery is 99 feet off the floor(259 steps up) and is actually on the interior of the dome. If you whisper toward the wall a person on the opposite side of the dome with their ear facing the dome can hear you over 100 feet away. The acoustics are incredible. We sat and listened to the music and looked at the magnificent statuary. They were about 1/4 of the way done the cleaning of the dome, side by side were examples of the cleaned and uncleaned marble statues, when they are done it will be well worth another visit. From there we climbed to the 378 step level (to173 feet off the church floor) to the exterior gallery called the Stone Gallery. This gave us incredible views of London. We walked around the spacious area and were so inspired by the scenery that we had to continue up to the 530 step level (280 feet off the floor) to the other exterior gallery called the Golden Gallery, it is a tiny little gallery with way too many people on it. Some places are little signs “Mind your head” and even bonnie bumped her’s, something that quite shocked her. We could hardly move with the number of people and two people have to squeeze to get by each other. The view was amazing. On the way down, we stopped by at the Whispering Gallery to relax and listen to the music (not to mention catch our breath).
We continued down below the floor level to the crypt where there are a number of memorials and tombs to notables such as Admiral Lord Nelson, Florence Nightingale, and Alexander Fleming.
We walked around the back of St. Paul’s to find the way to Tube and there in the back was an equipment bus for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
The second day of our trip with the tube shut down we took the “Hotel Hoppa” shuttle bus service to all of the hotels back to Heathrow and jumped on the National Express bus to downtown. So we really weren’t that badly impacted by the strike until we were on our way back to the hotel, we were hoping to stay in London until the Tube was running again after 6:30 but by 7:30 they still weren’t operating with all of the stations open. So we were a bit later getting back to the hotel than we hoped. It was after midnight and we had to be up to catch the 0516 Hoppa to Heathrow for our flight to Greece.
The National Express bus landed at Victoria Coach Station and Bonnie wanted me to see the Victoria Train station, an impressive structure she remembered from her first trip to London. We walked around a bit and got to see gate 9 3/4 where Harry Potter boards Hogwarts Express. If you haven’t read the Harry Potter series they are actually a very nice read even for adults (especially those of us who are still kids at heart).
From Victoria Station we walked up to Buckingham Palace and watched the changing of the guard. From their we passed the Canada Gate at Saint James’ Palace and down the Mall toward the Marble Arch and Trafalgar Square.
Trafalgar Square was is bordered by a number of embassies and one of which is Canada’s. Bonnie was amazed at the lack of pigeons. There were so many she had to practically kick them out of the way the last time she was here, we counted every pigeon in the square we could see, two. Nelson’s Monument was impressive and we walked around with scores of kids vacation.
From there we walked down to Westminster Abbey, we arrived early just before lunch and the next guided tour was over an hour away so we toured most of the small chapels along the outer walls of the Abbey. We were very glad we did because the guided tour passes by most of the smaller chapels. The guided tour was interesting and took us to a couple of extra places. The history of the Abbey dates back over 1000 years. The Benedictine Monks founded the Abbey in 960AD. There was evidence that the location of the Abbey was in use as a temple for over 400 years before that, although it was not clear to me that it was always a Christian site of worship.
The first king to be buried in the Abbey was Edward the Confessor. The first king that was crowned in the Abbey was William the Conqueror, who was crowned on top of the grave site, in 1066.
The Guinness Brewing Company gave 16 chandeliers to the Abbey on their 1000th anniversary. The chandeliers are 10 feet tall, are 30 feet off the floor and are one third of the way from the floor to the ceiling, they weigh several hundred pounds each and are made of Waterford Crystal. It is said that the price of Guinness raised a pence a bottle to cover the cost.
From the Abbey we walked over to the Parliament, unfortunately the only tour they do is the viewing gallery. We were waiting in line for the viewing gallery and got our first shower of the trip by the time we unwrapped our raincoats from our waist and got them on the heavy mist was over. Bonnie swears that I will be the only person to ever visit England and never to have needed a raincoat. What little we saw of the Parliament building itself, was impressive. While we were in the Gallery there was an opposition member droning on about the adoption of EU regulations on either side there were probably barely enough members to make a quorum. If you looked at the TV screen it looked like the place was packed, all of the backbenchers were there huddled in the appropriate place so that it looked to anyone on TV that there were actually members in attendance.
We found a Pub near the Parliament and had dinner to kill time until the Tube opened again. We were gladdened to feel the puff of air moving up out of the subway when we approached but discovered to our disappointment that the stations were closed. We tried a couple more on the way to the Coach station. Buses are local things, coaches do long hauls, like the 14km to the airport, must remember my english to english translations. The express bus and the Hotel Hoppa got us back after midnight. We had to get the 0516 Hotel Hoppa to Heathrow to get catch the early flight to Athens Greece.
We weren’t able to find a Bank that could give us Euros due to the strike (we only tried a couple) as most of the employees seemed to just take the day off rather than try to deal with the Tube strike. We just figured we could go to the Currency Exchange in the Athens’ airport and get some Euros after we arrived. The first exchange didn’t take our ScotiaBank card (it’s PLUS only). So rather than pay the cash advance rates on a credit card we traded $100 US for Euros (about 74 including a special 2 Euro Olympic coin) then went looking for the buses to the port of Piraeus where we had reservations and Odelia was scheduled to arrive the next day. Around the corner were a few more currency exchanges/ATMs. One of them did have a PLUS symbol on it, so we were shortly stocked up on Euros.
We found our bus and were off on the hour and a half journey to Piraeus. A month before the Olympic Games Greece is a beehive of construction, streets, subway stations, sporting venues, everything you can think of seems to be in the process of being finished. I hope the games go well and the problems will be small and manageable. The underground metro stations are mostly shiny and new. Those that aren’t 100% completed are still very much operational. The lines are running even if the scaffolding is busy in the station. The security guys are practicing and are very subtle but still there. We didn’t notice them as much the first day because we were so busy trying to stay focused on where we were going. The second day going into Athens from Piraeus I noticed a couple of more guards at the stations and one on the train car with us. Then a few more here and there at the stations. The guard waiting on the track got on and then got off at the next station was waiting at the same station directing traffic and got on the track to go back to Piraeus later. It would be hard to get a handle on how many guards were actively moving and monitoring the activity.
Greece is only two hours east of London so we had almost no jet lag. Rick and Tsipy arrived from New York a few hours before us. We met went out to supper and discovered that there were problems with Customs and getting Odelia off the ship would be delayed until Monday the 5th of July.
We found a great restaurant in Piraeus a short walk from the hotel called the 9 Brothers or TA 9 .
I am beginning to have a lot of respect for people who can’t read. I’m not sure I could survive in a literate world and be illiterate. Moving around in Greece is something else. Some of the street signs are in English and Greek, most aren’t and I never rally did know the Greek alphabet all that well even from all my math courses or programming in APL. The “S” sound in Greek looks like “S” in Greek but the lower case “s” looks like “s”. Rick is much better at his Greek letters than I am and so is Bonnie. I am starting to be able to sound out words in Greek which helps when I am looking for a street name or a place name that I can recognize. Our hotel is on Kolokotroni Street and on some street signs it looks like “Kolokotroni” and sometimes it looks like “KOLOKOTRONI”. Being able to sound out words is helpful but doesn’t really equate to reading. I can stammer out ADELFIA and get adelphia which is a long ways from understanding it means “brothers”. Or even harder “Zoo” or “Zoo” means animal in Greek. Very fortunately for me, the people here are incredibly friendly and very quick to help.
We met up with Rick and Tsipy for breakfast before heading to the metro (underground) for our trip to Athens. We finally found our station and got our ticket and were off to find our way to the Acropolis. We surfaced at the Akropolis Station and looked up to see the Parthenon standing above us between the houses. We worked our way over to the gate to get our tickets to enter the area. Your 12 Euro ticket gets you entrance to 5 places over a period of four days. The Acropolis was top on our list, but we did manage to use up almost all of our ticket during a couple of days.
We hiked up to the Acropolis which is really the top of a “mountain”, to get to the temples and buildings. The entrance is via Propylaea erected between 437 and 432 BC. There were hundreds of people all over the Propylaea and the Acropolis, but with the tremendous size of the Acropolis it was really not that crowded. There were a few places like the staircases through the Propylaea that were crowded enough that you had to move with the flow of the crowd.
The first thing you notice is that there is a massive restoration going on. You can’t really get near the Parthenon because of the restoration, probably the closest we got was 30 or 40 feet. On the other hand you can’t see anything from 30 or 40 feet, it is just too huge. We did spend a lot of time looking over the city and around the Parthenon and the museum. We walked back to the Andrian Gate and the Olympic Zeus Columns before crossing the street and going into the National Gardens where the official press center will be for the Olympics. From there, we were on to the Syntagma Metro station and back to the hotel.
The day was hot but dry and other than drinking a lot of water it wasn’t that bad. I did get a lot of strange looks when I would soak my ball cap in the fountain before plopping it back on my head for a primitive form of air conditioning. Not only did the initial water feel cool, but as water turns from liquid to gas by evaporation it has to absorb a lot of solar energy to make the transition, AC that lasts! The fact that it was a dry day made life much easier.
We were back at the hotel by 4:30 and decided to meet back in the lobby by 7 to go to dinner. We ended up back at The 9 Brothers and had something completely different but equally as good.
We had walked Rick and Tsipy pretty hard that day and while we slept very well, they had a bad case of jet lag and hardly slept at all. So the next day we left them having a quiet day at the hotel while we went back into Athens for more exploring.
We hopped on to the Metro and came up at the Thiseio (Thiseio) station, adjacent to the Ancient Agora (market) and wandered around there for an hour or so. It has great examples of Doric, Ionic and Corinthian columns. As well as statuary and a church dating back to around 400 AD with intact mosaics and very well preserved paintings. It is very evident why you shouldn’t touch any art work. The heads of nearly all the saints have been destroyed by the faintest touches of the human hand.
We were off from the Ancient Agora and after a couple of streets we were in the modern agora, sometimes called a bizarre or market. We looked around and discovered you could get everything from the cheapest kitsch to incredible art and handicraft. The Lonely Planet Guide talks about “The Poet Sandal Maker” whose sandals have been purchased by lots of celebrities has a shop in the market and after a couple of tries we found it. I had just written my sandals off a few days before the trip so I was looking for sandals. They were very comfortable and a size 44 sandal was 23 euro. Unfortunately they were leather and would have probably not survived the abuse I deliver to shoes. Soaking in salt water and rolling shoes over the way I do made me decide to pass on the nice leather sandals.
We stopped for a light lunch, watched the crowds, and listened to a busker doing a great job on covers of Dylan, Stones, Joel, and Springstein. We walked around until we found the Roman Agora, (closed for restoration) and did the 45 minute walking tour laid out in the Lonely Planet. We had already covered a lot of the area in our walk already so it really amounted to a loop down to the parliament buildings and then back to the Acropolis. We did pass an Olympic shop which Bonnie figured had about every possible thing in it that had slowed down long enough for them to stamp a logo on. Just down the street from there was a neat little shop that had a cheap ceramic relief of the Parthenon on a little easel. We liked it so we picked it up. The “Made in …” was scratched off the back so we figured it was not Greece.
We continued on the walk which returned to the base of the Acropolis. It was one of the places you could go several times and see more every time. We walked up the hill there were maybe 30-40 people on the whole Acropolis. The weekend sure cleared out the tourists. We had a great chance to stand and watch and take pictures! We really had the time and the space to spend looking around at the city, the Parthenon, the Propylaea, and spent extra time at the Erechtheion. We were back in to the hotel a little after 5:00 and met up with Rick and Tsipy for supper.
We walked up to the top of the hill to a good restaurant at the top of a hill. The roof top eating area had spectacular views from three sides. You could faintly see the islands in the distance, the commercial shipping anchorage, the commercial harbor, and Marina Zeas where we were destined.
The next day was kind of a quiet day for us. We were supposed to have a meeting at the shipping agent at noon. We went looking for an Internet caf? but none were open. We got back and found out the meeting was canceled. We were just heading out to lunch when another crew member walked into the hotel to check in. We introduced ourselves to Charlie Cohn and offered to wait and take him to lunch. He was on a nine hour flight from New York and his body clock was off by another 7 hours. We called Rick to tell them that we were taking Charlie to lunch and they were happy to come along.
THE game was on that night, not any game, THE Euro2004 Football (soccer for the North American folk) Finals, Greece v.s. Portugal. We were awake for the first and only goal and there was a roar of people and horns from the street, we looked outside the hotel and there was one guy who was running his moped down the hill at full tilt, beeping his horn and hollering, a Greek flag streaming. The flag dwarfed both him and his moped. He was celebrating, but there was no one else on the street, the very loud cheering was still just emanating from the city, every bar, restaurant, and apartment was just part a single stereo with tens of thousands of speakers all dialed to a program called CHEER!
We figured we would hear the result of the game, we did, Greece WON! The cheering and parade outside the hotel was loud, happy, and exuberant and went on until the early morning hours.
We were scheduled to be picked up by the shipping agent at 7:00 a.m. Rick and I were there and ready to roll. We’re we really surprised that things were running a little late this morning, no not really. The most frustrating part for me is always the hurry up and wait part. Everything seemed to be taking forever. Paperwork was taking forever.
One good thing was happening, the boat was sinking! Never thought I’d say that. The way they launch the boats from the dry dock is to sink 10 or so feet and let everybody float out. We checked out the boat and Rick tried to do paperwork, first the ship guys, then the customs agent, then the customs itself. The boat takes about two and and a half hours to sink. It was never really clear in the end if you need a captain’s license or not. Rick doesn’t have one, though he has been boating for years. Canada’s reaction to too many people killing themselves on jetski’s and small boats was to force people to get licenses. While technically we didn’t need a license for another year or two, we got ours several years ago. So Bonnie may actually be the captain of record for the Odelia in Greek waters.
She told Rick she was happy to play Captain Kirk, sit in a chair and say “Make it So”. By 4:30 we had clearance to go from the commercial dock to Marina Zea. No clearance papers or permit to travel anywhere else, just to go from the Commercial Harbor to the Marina the final clearance papers would arrive the next day.
We arrived and did our first Med mooring without a hitch. Rick was all smiles. Med mooring accomplished, back to sleeping in his own bed and customs sort of done. While we were having a late dinner his final passenger arrived by taxi, Isaac came from Israel which is on the same time zone as Greece so life was normal for him. We were down for the count early that night.
The next day we were off for provisioning. Rick and I for marine stuff and back to the boat for maintenance duties. Rick had to disappear for, what else, Greek Customs Paperwork, while I rebuilt the Racor filters. Odelia has two 6 cylinder Cummins diesels and a 20Kw Onan generator. I have a different manufacturer’s version of the fuel filter so I spent most of my time rebuilding the first Racor and had the other two done in less time than it took to do the first. After bleeding the systems we started up the fuel polishing system which runs the 1200 gallons of fuel in the three tanks through a large 0.5 micron filter (according to the manufacturer a full roll of Bounty paper toweling).
After many days of light winds we woke to a freshening breeze. Weather forecasts in this area are actually given in Beaufort scale. We checked the weather and it was force 5 (17-21 knots) in the morning and dropping in the afternoon to force 4 (11-16 knots) and lighter later in the week. Great weather! We were off. We did the first 10 mile leg under beautiful conditions and made the corner out of the shelter of land barely an hour later. Looking at the water the winds were 10-15 at most with barely a whitecap to be seen. Looking astern we could see the Parthenon standing high above the city of Athens. It must have been incredible to see the Parthenon 2400 years ago standing out like a beacon, seen easily 10 miles out to sea. Our next leg was 28 miles to a spot just outside the anchorage at Kithnos. About 10 miles out the wind seemed to be channeling between a couple of islands and giving us a full 20 knots with gusts higher. Rick went to the main helm station (we were on the fly bridge) to adjust the roll stabilizers, and things became noticeably better almost immediately. By the time we were in another 10 miles things were definitely force 7(28-33) and building.
Our course was side on to the waves and after one good roll Rick and I decided that it was time to start steering to cut waves rather than autopilot it. I took the helm and started to steer to cut the waves at an angle and reduce our roll. Charlie and Isaac were sick and even Bonnie appeared on deck a little white. Rick started looking for an alternate landing spot. Rick decided on Kavia on the island of Kea. When the new course lined up on the direction we were traveling to cut the waves we took this as an omen of good things and landed safely and anchored with our nose into one of the hills. Not as good wind protection as we like, as we did get strong gusts thundering down the mountain but with less than a 100 yards of fetch we barely got the occasional whitecap.
Rick had to check into and out of every island, so when he called the local police. He tried to explain that he was trying to check in and where did he have to go and if there were taxis etc. The policeman responded “You want the weather forecast, Beaufort 7, Locally 8, tomorrow 7 locally 8.” Rick thanked him for the forecast and asked about checking in “Weather Beaufort 7 Locally 8 tomorrow same!” We didn’t figure our Greek or his English was going to improve for the next question about checking in so we did what we considered a best effort and called it a day.
We riffled through the book, Force 8 is 34-40 knots with higher long waves and foam in streaks. Rick and I figured we were in gale force stuff. We definitely saw the foam in streaks part and three times we had the spray from the bow get the three of the us on the flybridge 23 feet up. Bonnie caught a full face load, Rick and I merely damp. It was not a nice day.
The next day was a quiet day with a little maintenance, while we waited for the wind to subside. We didn’t leave the boat as the meltemis were still blowing. The meltemi winds are katabatic winds set up by the Indian High pressure, much like the Bermuda High controls the flow of wind around the east coast of North American in the summer, the Indian High controls the flow of wind in this area. The wind rotating counter clockwise around the high line up on the Alps and fall aided by gravity all the way to Greece. They can howl.
The Greek Islands are nothing like the islands of the Bahamas. Greek Islands are volcanic in origin, Bahamas are sedimentary. One of the highest points in the Exumas is a hill slightly over 100 feet. The islands in Greece are mountainous. A quarter mile off of one of the large rocks (over 200 feet high) on the chart the depth sounder was off scale, which on Odelia is over 600 feet. If we had 15 in the Bahamas, it was DEEP water.
The charts here are less then ideal. The charting system on Odelia is integrated with the radar and the autohelm. When you enter a waypoint it appears on the radar as a line from you to the waypoint and a circle at the waypoint area. Rick calls them Lollypops. On our electronic chart we set a waypoint to the end of one island the route had us pass close to an island but well clear as the charted depths for our route was over 300 feet deep the whole way. The “stick” of our lollypop passed right through the middle of the island on our radar map.
After waiting a day for the winds to calm down we left Kea with a target in mind and several bailout points in the plan. We were running along the east coast of Serifos with big sea but not as much wind as the first day. Odelia’s normal cruising speed is nine to ten knots and with the seas behind us we were starting to surf with the odd 12 or 14 knot burst. I was hand steering and having a great time, but Charlie and Isaac were still a little queasy but this time up on the fly bridge. The seas were still building and I was spending a little time looking behind us to line our stern up with the waves. One time the ocean started to drop away as we were picked up by a large and fast wave running behind us. It picked us up and we watched the speed accelerate us to a little over 16 knots and carry us for over 15 seconds. We were bailing out on a run to Paros and diverted into Serifos.
We were running in 600+ feet of water and there was an island off the east coast with a shelf of 72 feet between it and the main island. We were planning to stay on the deep water side and then round up to get into our harbour but the seas were better in the small channel then they were in deep water so we cut across that 72 foot shelf and never saw less than 250 feet of water. Did I mention something about the charts before?
We rounded up into the harbour and as we entered the wind was funneling down the mountain and just roaring well over 40 knots. The end of the harbour was full of boats, with the one area that seemed to have some protection from a cliff being plugged with more trying to join. That didn’t seem like a good idea so we went into another cove off a small beach with not great but reasonable protection. The 10th of July was a Saturday which is the Jewish day of rest, the Shabbot. Which means we stayed settled for the day.
Tsipy keeps a cosher boat so she has been helping me cook cosher style. We have been alternating days between me, Tsipy, and a restaurant. More restaurants than Tsipy or I actually. We are finding that food here is about the same price as at home only the prices are Euros rather than Canadian Dollars.
We swam over to the beach and spent the day complete with a picnic lunch. Bonnie was very happy to be able to swim all the way to the beach by herself after so long with not swimming. Our first dip in the Aegean Sea.
I tried out Ricks split flippers and was actually surprised at how much better they are than our full fins. They seemed like more of a marketing ploy to me than anything but after trying them I was very surprised at the comfort and speed of the split fin. If I were buying fins I would seriously consider them.
We took the dinghy back to the boat and had a shower on the swim platform, and got temporarily dry for the trip to the beach restaurant. I was, as usual, soaked just slightly higher than knee level in the surf. After dinner we walked into town to get bread and orange juice. The Meltimis were finally quieting down. For about 99% of the time in July and August the wind is northeast to northwest, our 1% seemed to arrive about 1 a.m. in the morning. After being pinned in one direction with unrelenting wind for two days, the wind promptly died and then shifted to southerly. Rick has been sleeping in the main salon doing anchor watch. The alarm went off and he was uncomfortable with being so very close to the rocks (neither was I) so we pulled up and tried to find a place to settle. After a few attempts we decided that we would run through the night to Ios.
Charlie and Isaac were having the full cruising experience, gale force winds, sea sickness, 1 a.m. anchor drills, night sailing, and boat maintenance done in very nice places.
Bonnie and Tsipy were on bow watch after replacing Isaac and Charlie and I was on the helm with Rick laying down on the fly bridge salon. Well before dawn we could see the sky lighten and the island of Ios loom large. Tsipy seemed a bit nervous about the island and I explained that at that particular point we were 10 miles from our waypoint and Ios was a little over 12 miles away. The reason Ios seemed so large was the 2400+ foot mountain we could see for a LONG way. We pulled in our bow watch and they came to the flybridge to watch the sunrise out of the Aegean Sea, pretty darn cool. We were settled the first time by 7:30, the second by 9:00 and finally resting solidly in another bay by 10.
I tried to get some sleep and did get a little but not much. We had a nice but hot day with the Meltimis letting up and we actually got a sea breeze in the afternoon. Just before I went to bed the average wind speed was 0 and the gust was 0.
From Ios we did a run to Kos and docked along side the city wharf. There was one other cruising boat in the area, and he was on anchor. We liked the idea of the dock which would allow Rick unfettered sleep. Charlie and Isaac decided to start working their way back to Israel and New York as our storm days ate into their time.
We had a great walk around the town and did a little grocery shopping. Kos was packed with visitors and the streets were crowded and busy. We babysat the boat while Charlie and Isaac went off to the travel agent and got a way home.
The early morning brought with it a wonderful day and we were off early trying to make time. We landed at Rhodos the ancient walled city, where the Colossus of Rhodos stood. One of the many opinions say that the Colossus stood over the entrance to Mandraki Harbor and sailing ships passed between his legs to enter the harbor. We would have as well if he was still standing. Unfortunately he fell in a earthquake only 60-70 years after he was built, considering he took 12 years to build (294-282BC). He was sold for scrap and it is said it took 900 camels to take him away in 654AD.
By the time we got settled, fueled (1500 litres), provisioned and to leave it was nearing dark. We walked out of the Marina area and everything was plugged solid with traffic and people. The Olympic Torch run was arriving in about 5 minutes. So we waited and even got a picture.
If you ever get a chance to come to Rhodos NEVER miss the Palace of the Grand Master. It is the only museum we have ever seen where it would be worth the entrance if it was stripped clean of the displays. The mosaics, architecture, and grandeur of the rooms and courtyards are simply incredible. The Grand Master was part of the Church of St. John’s at Jerusalem.
Very few museums are so powerful as to simply overwhelm this was one. Stuff that we would have normally found fascinating and spent hours looking at were just skipped by because we were just overwhelmed.
We did our normal thing, which here is common with everyone, we got lost. We strolled around the old city and eventually came out where we expected but was still amazed at the narrow winding streets. One of the three guides we have going says that there are over 200 streets mostly unnamed. I couldn’t find any of the names of the named streets either so getting lost is standard operating procedure.
We walked back, cleared out of Greece and got ready for our run to Turkey. Turkey was only a five to six hour run to the east north east with eight to ten knot winds from the north west. We had a light quartering sea and a two foot swell. By adjusting our speed by a couple hundred RPM up or down we were able to position ourselves in the waves to give us a nice ride with very little surfing. By noon, we were in our first “real marina”. Greek marinas leave a lot to be desired.
Marina Zeas was not bad it was set up for what are called Mediterranean Moorings or Med Moorings for short. In North America, we are used to docks where you lay along a dock or finger peers where you are basically between two poles at one end and are nose or stern to a dock and control your motion by tying to the poles. The Med Mooring is a system where you anchor out and then back onto the dock and try to stuff yourself into the pile of boats already there. If it is set up properly (Marina Zeas) where you have two mooring lines running from the dock forward you can grab the line and pull it forward and attach it to your bow and then get your stern settled properly on the two bollards at your stern. If it is not set up properly (Madracki Marina in Rhodos) it is utter chaos. The boats try to anchor out and set their anchor on the angle of the present wind so that they blow sort of into their position in the slip. Then you try to randomly squeeze into a spot that might be wide enough for you or not. The bollards are placed occasionally around the dock where they may or may not line up with the boats that are there, as a result people end up tying to rebar, bollards, and large rusty bits of metal sticking out of concrete.
One of the minor problems is caused by a wind shift. When one boat comes in and gets settled it works fine, but if the wind shifts before the next boat slides in beside you, the captain will probably end up laying that boat’s anchor across your anchor, if that anchor doesn’t drag your anchor out while trying to get set, your lucky. But you can get back by leaving earlier than them and pulling out his anchor when you pull yours. Lovely system. We like the anchoring out option, but marinas are nice too. I would have to have a very good reason to consider a marina.
The Ech (pronounced “et-chee”) Marina in Fethiye Turkey is better than most of the marinas I have seen anywhere. They still have the Med moorings but were happy to let Odelia rest side to as there was lots of space in the marina. We walked around town and there were lots of street markets to tour around. Turkey really seems to be thriving as a tourist destination. There were 9 local beach tour/dive boats leaving while we were coming in. We guess we saw about 20 while we were between the entrance of the bay and the Marina. People were everywhere and busy.
The Million Turkish Lire bills are different, 11,000,000 is about 7 euro at the moment. Kind of drop 6 zeros and divide by two. We are living with euros and not planning on spending a lot of money here. We will probably convert our remaining euros to shekels when we get to Israel. We still have enough pounds to deal with London.
We were up before Sunrise for the 84 mile run to Finike Turkey. The sunrise over the mountains was simply amazing. Along the route there were as many as seven or eight sailboats on radar at any given time. Only two or three had any sails actually up, even though it was a lovely day for a sail.
We were visited by two pods of dolphins, one of four, the other at least six. The first played in the bow wave for a few minutes and left the other stayed for 2.5 miles. I took a ton of pictures, good thing digital photos are cheap to develop.
Turkey is full of really nice cruising spots and a great place to visit. The med is an incredible cruising ground.
Rick isn’t overly excited about Greece but I think it would definitely improve without the Meltimis. The marinas leave a lot to be desired but the Islands are great. Greece is trying to do all of the development by themselves and Turkey has invited foreign investors to help. As a result the development is much further ahead in Turkey.
We where just finished tying up when the Moslem call for prayer echoed through the city. It was the first time I had ever heard one. Surrounded by the mountains the call echoed through the hills. It was my first real indication that we were headed closer to the middle east. It was funny that the next sound we heard reminded us of Nova Scotia. A small fishing boat about 15 feet long started his make-and-break engine. The puff-puff-puff of the engine as he slowly moved out of the harbor was reminiscent of old Nova Scotia.
We settled in for the night and rested wonderfully. It was Shabbot and we all need a day of rest. I was awake early and Bonnie was sleeping soundly. A while later Tsipy got up and read while I worked away at my journal and played cards. Rick slept soundly until almost 9. The harbor was very quiet until about 8:30 when a couple of tour boats left followed by a few chartered sailboats.
After a late start we walked over to the local farmer’s market, and what a market it was! We were confronted with a variety of vegetables that we never see at home. Some we had no clue at to what they were or how to cook them. The Turkish people were very friendly and welcoming. We were given a sample of fruits and even some produce we intended to buy. They were happy to have us visit and being from Canada seemed to make them smile. “German people sour, Canada people always happy. Tell more Canada people to come to Turkey” We will Turkey is a wonderful place from what we have seen and will be happy to come back. The market was bright and lively with everything from fabric, to gardening tools, to vegetables, cheeses, nuts, spices, breads, shoes, clothing. A modern shopping mall all as an open air city market. Before we made it to the market I stopped at an ATM and got out 20,000,000 lira (I think about $9US) and I bought a couple loaves of bread, a sesame bun for snacking, a half kilo of local pistachio nuts, a fresh bundle of something like arugula, a fresh bundle of parsley, a kilo of tomatoes, and have about 13,000,000 left.
One of the local kids in the market said “Hi” so I said “Hi, how are you” he said “Hi”, I said “Hi, How are you” he said “Hi” and his sister giggled. I said “Hi” and had both of them giggling, his older sister came over to tell him to stop and he just laughed and said “Hi”, I laughed back and said “Hi” and had all three in a fit of giggles. Rick walked up an snickered “They taught you to say Hi” Yep, amazing what you can teach adults!
From Turkey we leave toward Cypress, it is a little over 188 miles from marina to marina. And that is an overnight run. Bonnie and I as one team and Rick and Tsipy as the other. We ran through the a dark starlit night with no moon. The winds were light and the seas were too. We were able to adjust our speed to match one of the wave trains and it was smoother still. The freighter traffic was light and traveling toward the Suez Canal and a bunch of other ports in Italy, Greece, Turkey and England. The NATO fleet is practicing their Olympic duties and calling ships to identify them. We listened in on a few calls for something to do as we had little to do with nothing on radar for six miles most of the time. We slept well off watch and made landfall within minutes of our intended time. The sunset over Turkey was brilliant as was the sunrise over the high hills of Cypress. We saw a number of Cypriote Naval vessels and even got buzzed by a large inflatable with a bunch of guys in uniform all waving and happy.
We pulled into Cypress and got settled. Rick was very impressed with the efficiency of the bureaucracy here. We were cleared in within minutes and even our check out documents are done (shy of a stamp that will be done when we do actually check out)
We stayed in Limassol for the rest of the day and the next and then left about 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday for a Thursday arrival in Israel.
We talked to a guy from another boat a couple of times on the dock and when we asked him directions to a supermarket, he started to explain and then said “I’ll show you”. He was gathering up his stuff so I picked up a rather oily bilge pump and we walked down toward the marina office. There was a small supermarket at the marina office that had ice cream snacks, pop, chips and marine supplies. We were looking for bread and eggs so that wasn’t a success. We started out when he caught up with us again. He needed bread too “I take you” so we loaded into his work van and went up to a supermarket. We parked on the side of an interchange between two four lane streets and went in(the sidewalks were full). We did get eggs but no bread. “That’s good I know good bakery nearby with fresh bread 2 o’clock”. So off we went. He was right the bakery was wonderful with very fresh bread, baklava, and a couple of other things that looked very good (and were!).
We were listening to the local radio station, which was aimed at the local British audience. (Olympic Air is offering a one way ticket including taxes to a number of airports in England for 60 Cypriot Pounds (about $130 Cdn)) No wonder we heard a lot of brits on the beach, there are also a couple of large British military bases here. The other product that was advertised was a local Orange Liqueur, which we had to try so we were off to the supermarket again in order to find the Orange Liqueur. The advertising spot for it was the weather with a UV index. It was 12 today. I didn’t know it went that high.
Thoro and Helena came over later and we had a lovely evening talking to them. They are both Greek Cypriots who were displaced by the Turks when they invaded. The Turks still live in Helena’s home. They have no problem with the Turkish Cypriots, “We have lived with them no problem, the off island Turks are the problem”. It was interesting to talk with them. We ended up talking with them about a number of things including religion and the fundamentalist problems of the region. Something I kind of avoided talking about earlier. It ended up that Rick and I are think very closely along the same lines about many of the problems in the Middle East.
I wish them all the safety in the world.
We left Limassol Cypress on a course of 148 degrees and a run of 178 miles. From marina entrance to marina entrance as a straight shot. We left about 5:30 pm and arrived at security at 11:30am. We were overflown a number of times by helicopter and had patrol boat look us over. Both Rick and I were expecting them to do a boarding but they didn’t. We were tired but happy to be done the long trip. As soon as the ship was settled in its new berth we were rigging for power and water. Rigging for power means buying a new connector (this was Rick’s fourth since arriving in Greece) and rewiring one of the USA adapters.
Tsipy’s family arrived to wish us welcome and it was very much a reminder of my brothers fourth of July party. Tons of people all talking at once and having a great time. Everyone was talking but not always to the people near them. At one point there were 12 people on the flybridge and six cell phones were in use. The Israelis have a fixation with cell phones. EVERYBODY has at least one if not two.
We left our cell in Mass in the truck. We probably should have had it but it was one more thing we really didn’t need.
Before we got too settled (read asleep after the trip), we booked ourselves into a full day tour of Jerusalem. If we hadn’t have we probably would have settled in for sleeping for the day. Rick and Tsipy are invited to her sisters for Shabbot. They were happy to have us busy for a couple of days while they were committed for family.
The first day we were at the hotel that is part of the marina complex by 7:00 by 7:15 we were a little worried and asked the hotel about calling the tour company and were very rudely told that the marina and the hotel were different enterprises and no public phones were available. If you ever get a chance to come to Herzliya, please repay his kindness by staying somewhere other than the Okenanos Bamarina Hotel.
However if you do get the chance you should stop for a visit at the Columbus Mall or Canyon as malls are called here. It has a funky nautical theme all through and the shops are nice too.
We eventually did get picked up by the tour company and headed off to Jerusalem for the day. We started in the old part of the city and had a walking tour of part of the walled city including the Christian and Jewish quarters.
We meet a group of worshipers doing the stations of the Cross. We followed them toward the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. We did make it inside to see the place where Jesus was nailed to the cross, Cavalry, the stone where the body was washed and actually made it inside the tomb. It is very small and only four people are allowed in at once. Bonnie and I were first followed by a woman from Peru and a guy from the UK. The woman from Peru went into a real serious prayer mode with Bonnie and I kind of stuck inside. After a bunch of noises from outside the Greek Orthodox priest came in very gruffly and pushed Bonnie toward the door. Rude, Very rude. But today seemed to be the day. It was an interesting experience just the same.
From the Church we proceeded through the Jewish quarter and skirted the Arab quarter and came out at the West Wall, better known as the Wailing Wall. Where we were all invited to go down and pray and write a message to God and stick it in the wall. I went down toward the wall and everybody has to where a headdress to enter the area. I started taking off my ball cap and the jewish guy there said it was fine and I put it on and walked toward the wall. There were quite a few people there but it wasn’t crowded by any means. I walked up an touched the wall, it looked rough but was smooth as marble from all of the people. Every little nock and cranny was jammed with little notes for God to read. A person in front of me was trying hard to find a spot I’m not sure he ever did.
We were back on the bus and headed toward the Holocaust Memorial and from there a series of panorama overlooks of Jerusalem. Including a couple where you could see the wall Israel is building around the Palestinians.
We went back to the boat for the night. We were very tired with the full day in the sun and the trip catching up with us. The mall was nearly deserted and the only place open was the Murphy’s Irish Public House, with it’s menu in Hebrew. We did end up with fish and chips before walking Odelia and crashing soundly.
We were up again the next morning and off to the next tour, The Masada and the Dead Sea. I had never heard of the Masada. Bonnie had read the book about it. One that was reprinted after the movie had come out. I hadn’t seen the movie either. Peter O’Tool played one of the leading roles. I will have to go looking for it when we get home.
The Masada was an “alternate” palace/fortress built by King Herrod for use in case of trouble. A fortress that was the top of a mountain in the desert with natural precipices on all sides. This area is a very short distance from the Dead Sea, in the Judea Desert. A very hot, dry and formidable place. It had one snake like path up the mountain. Herrod had made an impressive Oasis at the top of this mountain. With water and food stuffs stored for years if needed. Herrod died before ever being there, but was in use by Jewish people who were rebeling against the Roman empire. The Romans laid siege to Masada for over three years. They finally made an earthen ramp up to a point where their siege tower could break through the defenses of the tower. On the final night before the Romans were able to break through, the inhabitants made a choice of death over slavery and committed mass suicide.
You can still see the remains of Roman encampments and wall built around the mountain. The site had stored enough water and food for something like seven years. The food was easy to understand the water system was incredible. Like many desert areas the dry river beds run at full flood when the winter rains come, the beds were damned so that the rivers were diverted to the 12 cisterns cut inside the mountain. Each cistern was approximately the size of a football field and many meters high. When the rains came the slaves would carry water from the lower cisterns to the upper cisterns and fill them. The upper cistern we went in was maybe half the size of a football field and about 50 or more feet high. The cistern’s were all plastered on the inside to seal any leaks. Just seeing the cisterns with a small opening at the top and a large cavern inside was impressive. The big ones were below.
From there we went to a spa owned by a Kubutz on the Dead Sea. The spa has a natural sulfur spring that is slightly over body temperature. From there we walked down to what was once the shoreline. There were great yellow tubs of black Dead Sea mud which you lathered yourself up with. The guide said to wash after 10 minutes, we have since been told that you wait until it dries. But we did the 10 minute thing before showering it all off. It was different and your skin certainly did feel different afterward. From there we by wagon, pulled by a John Deere tractor (Bonnie was pleased!) down to the Dead Sea for a swim. The Dead Sea is evaporating away and unless something changes, it will eventually disappear. The Dead Sea is officially 416 meters below sea level. The sea is actually many meters below the mark.
The basin that forms the Dead Sea is basically the same as the one at Salt Lake City in Utah. Any water that flows into the basin has one route out, evaporation. All of the salts and minerals from the surrounding mountains and land get diluted by the water which flows into the Dead Sea and then gets left behind as the water evaporates.
The Sea of Galilee known locally as Lake Kinnesset originally drained into the Dead Sea (it is also below sea level by the way), but most of it’s fresh water is being drained away and used for irrigation. The Dead Sea is evaporating away. There is talk of diverting ocean water into the Dead Sea to make sure it doesn’t dry up but I don’t think it is actually in the works yet. It would be a tragedy to have the Dead Sea disappear.
The black mud of the Dead Sea was an interesting experience. As the mud dried your skin tingled with the salt. It was hot with on but as the mud dried the water evaporated and the mud cooled. It was a weird feeling. The fresh water showers were intense. It felt like standing in a car wash turned on “scrub”. The waters of the Dead Sea were originally at the edge of the spa area but were now about a quarter mile away by trolley.
The water of the Dead Sea is incredibly salty. The water is much more buoyant than sea water. We walked down the little ramp into the water and quickly felt the difference in buoyancy. By the time you were knee level you could feel the lift, by nipple level I was floating and there was nothing I could do about it. The suggested method of swimming is to sit down and roll over. There are great warnings about not drinking any of the water, and I would believe them. The water feels like 5 weight motor oil or a little thinner. You could sit and sort of paddle yourself around without any trouble. I just sat around. The water is actually above body temperature so you have to be careful not to overheat. It was an amazing experience.
We showered at the beach and then went back to the Spa for a real soap and shampoo style shower and relaxed for a while just enjoying an ice cream and people watching.
Rick and Tsipy were back at the boat by the time we returned. We played catchup with them while meeting more of their family.
The next day was Sunday a regular work day in Israel, we had a late morning and drove up to Jaffa (a 4000 year old city). Jaffa has a number of biblical references as Joppa including the port where Jonah went to jump on to a ship and ended up in the belly of a whale. The timeline at Jaffa has this somewhere had this 586-332 BCE . We walked around the old city and found a silkscreen shop where Rick and Tsipy had bought a print when they were married 21 years ago. The shop is still active and expanded. They had some very nice stuff and the woman was very happy to have visitors. She was very nice and happy to hear about Rick and Tsipy’s print being in a special place on their boat.
We had lunch at Tsipy’s father’s place and walked around the nearby market where the fruits and vegetables were spectacular. It is an interesting place.
On our last full day in Israel we moved Odelia to a better resting spot in the marina before Rick and Tsipy took us to a Roman city called Caesarea. It was another of Herod’s palace’s whose Prefect was a guy called Pontius Pilatus. The Roman Theatre is still in use and Rick and Tsipy had gone to a ballet there a few years back. With the ocean as the backdrop it would have been an incredible show. The Hippodrome (a place for chariot races) was there with seating for 12,000 some of the boards still had recognizable mosaics and paintings. Makes you wonder if the McDonalds, and the Nike swoosh will last 2000 years, Man I hope not!. Caesarea was amazing with its Theater, Hippodrome, Roman baths, and mosaics were incredible.
We headed back to Tel-Aviv and Tsipy’s home to say good-bye to her sisters that were heading back to the states. We will be leaving shortly after them. Their flight to New York was at 4pm and ours was 4:55 to London, then on to Boston the next day. We took a long walk along the Tel-Aviv beachfront. What a beautiful night it was.
I will watch the Olympics with particular interest this year. Greece is an amazing place, steeped in history and folklore, in religion, sport, philosophy, and the sciences. We were there for Greece winning the Euro2004 Football championship. We saw an ancient carving of a man kicking a ball and could see the history of this sport dating back thousands of years.
Turkey was a place of incredible beauty. Its people are incredibly friendly and welcoming.
Cypress was warm and welcoming and although we saw very little of it, what we did see was very good. The Cypress Orange Liqueur is pretty good too.
Israel is an incredible place home to at least three major religions. A place of turmoil, yes, but spectacular beauty, history, and wonderful people as well.
It is hard for me as a particularly non-religious guy not to want to read some of the bible not as a religious document but as a historical document. Over the next while I figure I will probably try to acquire a Talmud, and Koran as well.
It was an amazing trip and we can hardly thank Rick and Tsipy enough for the unforgettable trip.