Friday, August 26, 2011

Passage Crete to Cyprus; now docked in our home for the winter

We cleared out of Greece 8 days before our 90-day Schengen Treaty allotment expired.  The weather forecast looked good for the approximate 425 mile passage to the marina where we would be spending next winter.  Why tempt fate by staying another week in Crete and then face the possibility of another meltimi.  Besides, both Bill and I were tired and ready to get somewhere "permanent."  

Clearing out of Crete is simple and convenient at Ayios Nikolaos.  Both Customs and Port Police are located right on the tiny old town harbor, just a 15-minute walk from the marina.  However, clearing out of Greece is a tad more difficult than simply clearing out of Crete.  To clear out of the country we were required to visit the real Police station, and that was about an hour's walk away.  Eventually we found the Police station -- after stopping to ask directions 3 times.  Each time we were told to continue on to the "corner" and turn left up the hill.  The "corner" was about 3 miles down the street from the old harbor.  And the hill felt more like a mountain as we hiked up the steep incline.  But find the Police we did.  However, getting our passports stamped was a major accomplishment and a testament to persistence.

The first 2 police officers had no idea what to do with us.  I guess not a lot of boats clear out of the country here.  Most boats go on to Rhodes to clear out, but that made no sense because we would be sailing northeast to then turn directly south.  We much preferred to simply sail east directly to our destination.  Why sail 2 sides of a triangle when sailing 1 side of that triangle gets you where you want to go.  One of the first 2 guys called a women on the phone and yammered away in Greek; then handed the phone to me.  The gist of the conversation was that when we wanted to leave the country then we were supposed to come to the Police Station 2 days prior to when we wanted to leave.  I explained to her that could not possibly be correct.  No country requires tourists to report to Immigration and notify of impending departure 2 days prior to actually leaving the country.  We went back and forth a few times but I wasn't giving in.  We had already cleared out with Port Police and Customs and we did not want to hang around another 2 days waiting for our passports to get stamped out of Greece.

Next, the nice officer led us upstairs to talk to his supervisor.  We continued to insist that we must have our passports stamped that we were departing Greece.  This man called someone else on the phone.  A lot of yelling and stern voices ensued, the end result being that we were to go wait downstairs.  We found a place to sit.  About 20 minutes later another man arrived; took our passports; and soon returned them to us -- all stamped out of Greece.   The reason we were so insistent about having the passports stamped OUT of Greece is that earlier this summer we met another American couple who did not have their passports stamped when they departed Greece last year.  When they cleared out the official told them that it was not necessary to stamp their exit in their passports.  So they left; went to Turkey for 6 months; and then returned to Greece.  When they attempted to enter Greece this year (at a different clearance port), they were fined 500 Euro each for not having cleared out properly and recorded in their passports.  As far as Greece was concerned, they had never left the country.  They also ended up having to hire an attorney and it cost them dearly in both time and stress (as well as money) to have this issued resolved.  We did not want to take a chance on something like that happening to us when we again return to Greece next year or the year after.  We wanted our passports in proper order officially indicating that we had departed Greece prior to the Schengen Treaty 90-day limitation.

Winds were about 18 knots when we left the marina at 06:45 Sunday morning.  This was a fantastic day of sailing!  The best this year.  Winds built to solid 25 knots from 155-160 degrees on our port side.  Following 2-meter seas.  Bill adjusted the autopilot response to a higher setting to allow for faster response time due to the large following seas.  We poled out the jib to starboard.  With jib and mizzen alone, we were sailing at 8 - 9 knots all day.  Perfectly flat downwind sailing.  Just lovely.  

Fishing for birds?
Just before we put the spinnaker pole in place our fishing reel spun out loudly.  A solid hit!  Maybe we would catch a fish in the Med after all.  We have trailed a fishing lure almost every time we have motored or sailed this summer, but the only thing caught thus far were 2 plastic bags.  This time it sounded like a real hit, not a flimsy plastic bag.  Bill started reeling it in as I adjusted course to slow the boat down as much as possible to make it easier for him to reel.  Then he said it wasn't a fish after all.  We had caught a bird.  And, man, did we catch this bird.  The fishing line was wrapped completely around its neck.  One dead bird now.  Bill reeled it up onto deck and then pitched it overboard.  YUCK!!!!  I could never bring myself to touch a bird -- live or dead.  They are such nasty creatures.  

He won't mess with any more fishing lines
We trailed a line for the entire trip to Cyprus, but this was our only strike.  And it was a darn bird.

At 14:30 we dropped anchor in a tiny bay on the southern tip of the island of Kasos, just west of Karpathos, latitude 35.20.73N longitude 036.52.29E.  Today's sail was 58.5 NM, average speed 8.66 knots.  Nice!  This tiny bay is extremely windy all the time.  There are high mountains and the wind funnels through constantly.  Normally I have the engine in neutral when we drop the anchor, but the wind was so strong that the engine was at 2500 rpm when the anchor was dropped this time.  It took that high revs just to hold the boat in place against the strong wind.  However, once the anchor was set it was perfectly comfortable anchored in the strong wind.  We enjoyed a very pleasant night with quite cool temperature.  It was so cool that I pulled out long-sleeve gear, thinking we would need it during the nights on the passage to Cyprus.  Wow, was I ever wrong.

We departed Kasos at 07:45 the following morning.  I was just freezing and wrapped up in a blanket for the first 3 hours out.  Winds were strong and we saw top boat speed of 10.01 knots.  By the time we cleared beneath the island of Karpathos, the wind was gone.  Just gone entirely. The rest of the passage to Cyprus was spent motor-sailing or motoring.  There was to be no more sailing on this trip.  And when the wind died, the coolness immediately disappeared.  Soon it was swelteringly hot.  And it has remained hot since then.

At approximately latitude 35.22.2N longitude 027.51.3E we began to hear Israeli Navy monitor marine traffic off the coast of Israel.  That was 410 NM away!  This was an anomaly because VHF radios normally work strictly on line-of-sight, with a distance limit of approximately 25 miles.  We also heard Haifa Port Control.  Later we also heard Turkish Coast Guard and Alexandria Port Control.  We were also picking up AIS targets (commercial ships) for hundreds of miles in all directions.  This is the second time we have experienced such an anomaly.  The other time was halfway between Ashmore Reef and Bali, where we picked up VHF conversations and AIS targets up to 768 NM away in the southern Indian Ocean off the NW coast of Australia.  It feels very odd to be listening to radio conversations hundreds of miles away.

We spent 2 nights at sea.  I love nights at sea.  The stars and the Milky Way are awesome.  The first night there were a couple of shooting stars -- one of which was the lowest and brightest that I have ever seen.  It looked like a fireworks display.  There was a waning tiniest sliver of moon that rose very late during my watch each night -- almost yellow orange.  Very pretty.   We arrived at Delta Marine in Girne at 09:00 Wednesday morning.  From Kasos, we had sailed (motored) 317.6 NM in 49.25 hours; average speed 6.45 knots and a lot of diesel burned.  Clearance into the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus took only minutes.  They were most concerned about whether we had visited Southern Cyprus -- the Greek side of the island.  Nope.  We came straight from Crete.  The clearance official acted as if he had never cleared anyone into TRNC direct from Crete.  Guess we took the route less traveled.

Girne is the Turkish name for this city.  Kyrenia is the Greek name.  Kyrenia has been under Turkish control since the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974.  Those Turks and Greeks just cannot get along very long.  All the islands and many of the cities on the 2 mainlands have changed names repeatedly as control switched back and forth between Turks and Greeks.  The island today is divided into Southern Cyprus (Greek side) and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.  We are staying in the TRNC.  This removes us from EU countries and gives us respite from the Schengen Treaty 90-day limitation.  No other country recognizes Northern Cyprus except Turkey.   This means we cannot leave here and go back to Greece.  We must first go to Turkey.  Passports are not stamped in Northern Cyprus.  So once one clears out of Turkey, there should be no problem entering Greece because there is no record of one every having been in Northern Cyprus -- that illegal unrecognized country where we have chosen to winter.

Kyrenia Castle (a/k/a Girne Castle)
Kyrenia dates to the time of the end of the Trojan War.  It was founded by the Achaeans, ancient Greek colonists from the Peloponnese.  Neolithic  artifacts in the area date back to 5800 - 3000 B.C.  Mycenaean tombs in Kyrenia date to 1300 - 500 B.C.  The earliest written reference made to the town of Kyrenia is found in Egyptian scripts dating from the period of Ramses III, 1125 - 1100s B.C.  Along the coastline there stands a large castle.  Kyrenia Castle is one of the most impressive castles to have survived since the Middle Ages.  Supposedly, it was built to protect the city from pirates in the 7th century A.D.   However, remnants left from the Roman Age show that the history of this castle dates back to older times  -- probably around 37 A.D.  King Richard III of England had captured the island during the Crusades in 1191 A.D. and the Knights Templar used the castle.  The castle was heavily demolished by the attack of Genovese in 1373.  The Venetians rebuilt the castle in order to gain protection from the Ottoman fires.  New city walls and round towers were added.  When the castle was finished, the church of Saint George, used by the Knights Templar and supposedly built in 1100, was within the city walls.  We had a good view of this castle but did not take a tour. It was too hot.  Maybe we will return when the weather is cooler.

Cyprus is interesting in the simple fact that the island has retained the same name all the way back to when it was owned by ancient Egypt.  Very few islands in the Med can make that claim.

The marina office manager offered us a ride into town, which we gratefully accepted.  It was really hot and neither of us relished a long walk into town.  We found a place to purchase a new TurkCell simm card for our phone.  The TurkCell simm card from Turkey will not work here.  I inquired about a 3G simm card for internet access, but the shopkeeper seemed to not know what I was talking about.  Guess they do not have 3G here yet.  We walked around a bit; found an ATM to replenish our supply of Turkish Lira; and enjoyed an early kebab wrap lunch.  No more of those pita gyros; we are now back in the Turkish land of kebab wraps.  Both are delicious, but I will miss that yogurt sauce on the gyros.

Early the next morning we moved to the 24-hour fuel dock at the tiny marina and filled up with diesel.  Bill also filled 2 jerry-jugs with diesel so he can top-up the tank after motoring the additional distance to Karpaz Gate Marina.  We want the fuel tank filled to the brim for the winter in order to avoid condensation inside the fuel tank.  Water and diesel don't play well together.

At 08:00 we departed the harbor at Girne and motored eastward.  Still no hits on the fishing line although we did see one 4-ft fish.  So now we know there really are a few fish in the Med; they are just very few and very far between.  At 15:00 we docked at Karpaz Gate Marina, which will be our home for the winter.  Today's trip was 46.5 NM, with average speed of 6.64 knots -- all motoring in windless heat on flat seas.

After tying up we were informed that there currently is no electricity available.  Awhh, shucks!  We were so looking forward to sleeping in air-conditioning tonight.  It was 94.8F inside the boat when we docked.  Later, we learned that a marina worker had died the previous day due to an electrical problem.  All electricity to all the docks has been turned off pending completion of the police investigation.  Rumor has it that the metal pieces along the edges of the docks are conducting live electricity.  The worker was standing on one of these metal pieces when he leaned over and touched a steel boat, sending electricity through his body.  He fell into the water and the other workers retrieved his body, but he was already dead before he hit the water.  How sad!  This marina is being built by a company in Israel and they brought in a lot of workers from Israel.  I do not know if this man was a local or if he was one of the imported workers.  Sad, either way.

We think it will be several days (or weeks, IMHO) before electricity is restored to the docks.  There are 32 yachts in this new marina now.  Over the next 3 weeks they are expecting another 20 yachts to arrive from Marmaris, all of whom will be wintering here.  Hopefully, the power will be restored before they arrive.  Otherwise, it will get really noisy with everyone running their generators to keep boat batteries charged.  The other bad thing is that the water is controlled by an electrical panel in the marina office.  No electricity to the docks means no water to the docks either.  None of us wants to run our watermakers inside a marina.  But, at least the water here is exceptionally clean if that becomes necessary.  It is very hot here.  August is the hottest month, so hopefully it will start to cool off very soon.  Last night we slept beneath 4 fans; and it was still too hot all night long to sleep well.  By 05:00 I gave up and moved to the cockpit.  If I was going to enjoy a cup of hot coffee, it would have to be well before the sun rose to heat things up even more.  It was 85F inside the boat at 05:00 this morning.  It is 15:30 as I type this, and temperature here by the nav station is again nearly 95F.  I will longingly look back on these days when we are freezing our tushes off this winter.

Tonight we are going to Fish & Chips night at a local restaurant operated by a British couple.  (There are a lot of Brits in Northern Cyprus for some reason.)   It is a regular Friday night event.  They even send a car to the marina to pick us up for dinner.  Nice.  Especially since there is absolutely nothing to do around here.  This week we will try their Friday night Fish & Chips.  Next week we will try their Saturday Barbeque.  Although we know from repeated experience all around the world that what will be served will not remotely resemble barbeque as defined by Texans.

Will add a photo or 2 later.

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