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Ashkelon Marina, Israel by David Gerrard

Captains Log
Star Date 6 June 2011
31.40 N 34. 33E

Ashkelon Marina, Israel

Here we are in Israel, less than 8 miles from the Gaza strip on a beautiful sunny morning, temperature now at 7.30am  is 24 degrees. Ashkelon is a garden city and one of Israel’s newest and most progressive conurbations. I am jumping ahead, there have been many miles under Mashona’s keel since I last submitted a missive.

As I said before, our journey from Kibris to the Lebanon was one of the best sails we have had. The fact that we started from Famagusta and the wind was from predominately south west meant that we had a better angle and were able to sail a better course.

Our base for our stay in Lebanon was the to be in Jounieh, courtesy of the Automobile Touring Club of Lebanon’s marina (ATCL); a private club that hosts not only the RAC rally of Lebanon and is a venue on the women’s world tennis circuit, but also has a thriving maritime section. We are very grateful to the club officials and club members who move their boats and allow 140+ visiting sailors to use their facilities; and facilities second to none. Amongst them are an Olympic size swimming pool, a very comfortable club and free wireless internet.

We were only a bus ride away from the bustling city of Beirut, now under reconstruction following the disastrous war of ‘74 and subsequent skirmishes with the neighbours. I was first here in the early seventies when Beirut was described as the Paris of the East and it is quickly regaining that justifiable title. Walking around the center at night, the coffee bars buzzing, the restaurants full the smell of the Nagile (Hubel bubble pipe), it was hard to imagine the bitter conflict that had raged here for many years; let us hope that despite the present unrest in the area Lebanon remains at peace.

It wasn’t the only the reason to come here, despite the availability of all the western goodies and very affordable and unique wine and filet steak at less than 6 Euros a kilo. Lebanon has many varied attractions to tempt the visitor. The main conurbation is on the narrow strip of land bordering the sea with a background of the Chouf Mountains, and behind a large agricultural area, ‘The Beka Valley’, the ancient city of Baalbek was high on visitors’ tick lists along with the world famous Jetta grotto and the peaceful palace of Betadiene. The cuisine here, although predominantly Levant, has French and Arminian influences; it certainly is something special.

The ancient town of Byblos should not go without a mention. Sitting in a restaurant overlooking the harbour, eating excellent fish with good friends will certainly be a highlight of this year’s trip.

Unfortunately we had to say goodbye to Ian and Katherine. They were finishing here as they had done Israel and Egypt with us two years ago, we pitied them a little as they headed back to the West Coast of Scotland weather.

It is hard to single out people who made our stay comfortable. John Philip Michinoff and Namaan, who are our friends, thank you again.

All too soon it was time for us to pull the anchor and head south for another country. The weather forecast was for light winds from the North, it looked like another diesel day but again we were pleasantly surprised and had some reasonable wind and we managed to sail long into the night.

Morning light saw us off Rosh Ha Niqra with the obligatory visit from a gunboat; the questions answered we were cleared for passage to Hiafa. The Carmel yacht club have their base in the Kishorn River, it isn’t really a marina but rather a fishing port. Space is very limited but we managed to fit all the boats in-between the local boats. Nev on Taralee did a sterling job tying them all up and my knees were aching somewhat; I forget how many boats I climbed over that day. Our entry was this year certainly easier than others. Ronnie, my friend for many years, was the liaison from the club. We work very well together and it helped.

The only problem in Kishorn is it’s miles from anywhere. It needs a taxi ride into town just for the basics. We managed OK, despite a questionable route by one yellow cab. Most of the rally participants went on tours to Galilee Cesera and the Nazareth. We had been lots of time ashore so we went off to visit the local Museum of Immigration. Having watched a recent TV series ‘The Promise’ it was nice to put some factual history against the story.

One really nice thing that happens is that the local yacht club members invite the rally members to their homes for a visit. I think everybody who went learnt something different about the history and culture.

Our next port of call was Ashkelon. Studying the weather we decided that Mashona would opt for an early start, especially as we had a stern to berth and were not trapped in as many of the boats were. The Grib files looked good; 10 to 15 knts from the North West and no sea to talk about. Off we set motoring into a brisk North Westerly and, as there are many restricted areas in Haifa approaches, it meant that we were some eight miles out before we could turn South, then as we did so the wind dropped. It was another motor sailing night but at least it was calm. The fishing this year has been pretty thin: two bites and no large fish. Again I could see Tuna jumping but one tentative run on the lure and that was it. A plastic bag was all we caught that trip; again the cat goes hungry.

We are here for a few days and then off to Port Said but you will have to wait for that episode.

Dave, Kath and of course the faithful moggy Tilly.

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