Saturday, February 11, 2012

Back to our real home -- aboard S/V BeBe

The trip back to Cyprus was totally uneventful.  Houston to Heathrow via Continental/United and Heathrow to Larnaka via Aegean Airlines.  We had a row of 3 seats to ourselves on both flights and could stretch out for comfort.  Due to strong headwinds across Europe we arrived a half-hour or so late.  There was plenty of snow in England and LOTS of snow all across Europe visible from the plane.  While America has enjoyed an abnormally warm winter, Europe has suffered under heavy snow and abnormally cold temps.  Fellow yachties Jim and Elaine kindly met us at the Larnaka airport and transported us and our 240 lbs of luggage to the marina.  Jim and Elaine have a home in Southern Cyprus and berth their catamaran in Karpaz Gate Marina.  We are very grateful to them for going out of their way to transport us back to the marina.  It made for a late night for them and they were very gracious to help us with this transportation.

The next evening a group of 7 of us enjoyed dinner at the marina restaurant.  As always, the food was superb and beautifully presented.  Then we all gathered on M/V Dora Mac for apple pie dessert.  Randal has perfected baking apple pies.  BTW, thanks very much to Randal for looking after BeBe during our absence.  His sharp eye and attendance to our chafing dock lines kept BeBe safe during the high winds that have inundated Cyprus during the past 2 months.  

The following evening we joined Ruth and Randal aboard M/V Dora Mac for a delicious dinner of bon fillet.  This was the best meat we have eaten since arriving in the Med!  Bill and I had never heard of a bon fillet.  It is what we know as a beef tenderloin.  Randal had sliced the bon fillet into steaks and he cooked those steaks to perfection.  Now we know what to ask for at the local butcher shop in the village.  This is not a cut of meat that will be found in the supermarkets.

On Friday evening we again joined Ruth and Randal for the regular weekly Fish & Chips at the local Dek's restaurant.  Dek's is owned and operated by some British folks and they do know how to prepare 'proper' fish and chips.  I always opt for the fish accompanied by salad and garden peas rather than the chips (french fries).  I think my dinner pictured on the right looks more appetizing than Ruth's.  
Fish and mushy pease

Ruth opted for the fish and 'mushy pease' that are usually served with traditional British fish and chips.  Yeah, I know it should be 'mashed peas' but for some reason the Brits call this mushy pease.  The taste is not objectionable, only the appearance.  It tastes like solidified split pea soup.  

Ruth has been taking Turkish lessons which are offered at Dek's one morning each week.  We should also try learning a few words of Turkish but that is not likely to happen.  I am too old to clutter my mind with a language that I will never use once we leave the western Med area.  Better to save my limited brain cells for Spanish......a language that would better serve me to know more about once we are back in the Caribbean or in Texas.  The folks at Dek's also do guided walks one morning each week.  Ruth and Randal have participated in several of these walks and recommend the activity highly.  Maybe........maybe......when we don't feel so lazy.

The mini-market here at the marina is supposed to open next week.  The on-site gym also recently opened.  And the Customs and Immigration offices are ready to begin operation as soon as the authorities arrive to staff the offices.  That means boats will be able to clear in and out here at the marina rather than having to go to Girne when arriving or departing.  It will be great to be able to clear out directly from this marina when it is time to sail to Turkey later this spring.

Turkey changed visa regulations effective 1 February.  No longer can visitors stay 90-days in Turkey; ferry over to one of the Greek islands for a day; then return to Turkey and start another 90-day tourist visa period.  Turkey has changed laws to emulate the EU states.  (I now refuse to consider Italy, Spain, France, Greece, etc. to be separate countries.  These are now simply states.  That is how the EU refers to these previously individual countries:  states.)  Like in the EU that Turkey wants to join, visitors can now stay only 90 days within Turkey; then must leave for 90 days.  This is very sad news to yachties who have enjoyed Turkey for years and to those of us who had planned to winter in Turkey next year.  In order to avoid the 90-in/90-out new ruling, one must obtain a residency visa in Turkey.  

There are a number of requirements for a residency visa; the most important of which is that one must have a contract for one year with a marina.  We are not thrilled to committing to a single marina location for a whole year because we want to cruise the coast of Turkey and see the country, not sit in a marina the entire time.  We would be paying for a marina we most likely would not use even half the time.  I have been shopping marinas via emails.  We do not need to make a decision just yet but it is best to gain as much information as possible.  Karpaz Gate also is offering a limited time 50% discount on berths for next winter, so returning here is also an attractive possibility.  And returning to Northern Cyprus would get us out of the new Turkish 90-in/90-out rule for next winter....assuming that TRNC does not also effect this new visa rule.  Right now we can re-set our TRNC visa by simply driving to Southern Cyprus for the day and returning across the Green Line and obtaining a new 90-day visa in Northern Cyprus.  If TRNC changes their visa rules to the same as Turkey, that will create horrendous problems for yachties berthing in Northern Cyprus.  Others are considering wintering next year in Israel, but that is not an option for us as we have no intention of going to Israel.  And we are not yet ready to move father west to Tunisia.  We contemplated renting a beach cabin in Crystal Beach and returning to Texas for next winter, but after checking out rental rates we have scratched out that possibility as too expensive.  For now, our choices are either commit to a marina in Turkey for one year and obtain a residency visa OR return to Karpaz Gate Marina in Northern Cyprus next winter. 

For the past 6 years whenever someone asks us what our biggest challenge or difficulty is while cruising round the world, we always answer "adhering to immigration and customs regulations."  Here in the Med, that is proving to be most definitely the case.  The restrictive tourist visa rules are ruining what should be a great place to cruise.  And the situation only gets more difficult as we sail farther westward in the Med.

 One of the things we bought while in Houston is a Western Digital Live Hub.  Bill has been ripping our DVDs into avi files and copying onto the WD terrabyte hub drive.  I think we are going to like this very much.  It will be nice not to have to keep all the hundreds of DVDs taking up storage space on the boat.  Bob Bradford also gave us 80 gigs of music that we have also loaded on the WD drive.  We are enjoying that a lot!  Last year we had bought small Bose speakers and the music sounds pretty darn good.  This year we also brought back a set of Altec-Lansing speakers which I dearly love.  The Altec-Lansing speakers are very tiny and sound far better than the small Bose speakers.  Unfortunately, the Altec-Lansing speakers will not work correctly with our DVD player.  Work great with the TV or the computer, but sound like crap when played with the DVD.  Bill wanted to throw them away or give them away, but I am holding firm on keeping these speakers.  Sure as sh*t, if we get rid of these speakers then the DVD player will fail and the replacement DVD player would work with the speakers.  Besides, if he rips all our DVDs and copies them to the WD drive, then we can use the Altec-Lansing speakers and have killer sound both with movies and music.  We are going to really, really like this WD hub drive. 

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