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Wednesday, June 25, 2008
We are scudding along with a gentle breeze blowing us a little off course for Herzylia, Israel, as we pass Pharos on the southwestern end of Cyprus. This is our second night out from Finike, Turkey on the Turkish Mediterranean Coast, just west of Antalya. It is a straight shot from Finike, 338 miles southeast, to Israel. Then we will have reached the end of the Med and can go no further east (Syria and Lebanon are out for us just now).

Jupiter is high in the sky, standing out from the other stars and planets like an oversized diamond ring. The moon showed itself in a blaze of orange that I first mistook for a fire on the horizon. The winds have been light and we have done a lot of motoring, so we are especially grateful for this glorious evening of soft winds and rhythmically gurgling waters. There was quite a bit of traffic the first night, including 4 ships and 4 sailboats, but since yesterday afternoon, we have seen nothing and no one, which is the way we like it.

We are enjoying being at sea again, if only for three nights. Once again, we are alone on the high seas, totally responsive to our little world, with no one else to interfere. We are in control of our responses, but in the control of the weather and the boat systems. We are the only ones who can and must respond to whatever the wind and sea and boat throw at us. There is an order about this situation which is very satisfying. Life aboard and at sea is immediate. And right now, quite lovely. But we do know things can change instantly. No matter how we try to anticipate problems, we do not know what exactly to expect or what immediate response will be required of us. The challenge is part of the joy, just as is the ever changing seas and skies, smells, sights, sounds and feel of it all.

We have been back on DOVKA since mid May. We spent less than two weeks at the marina in Marmaris, getting her launched and ready for the season. She is looking spiffy with her new teak decks and our hard work varnishing the caprail and hand rails. We re-met old friends, made some new ones and enjoyed the comraderie and comfort of the marina, until we were ready to move on to our own little self contained world on DOVKA.

Marina living can be addictive and it can become difficult to untie the lines. Our next door neighbor was a Turkish-American casino manager who raced catamarans in t he 1958 LA Olympics. He has retired to his boat in the marina and was very kind to us. A Dutch-Israeli couple noticed our name as they walked by and we began talking. They have sailed many, many times to and from Israel and Turkey and befriended us and gave us a lot of advice. We spent some time with a lovely Dutch couple who brought their 50 foot steel motor yacht through the canals of France into the Danube to its end in the Black Sea.

In Finike, just before we took off on this passage to Israel, we met a professor from Virginia who took a sabbatical, bought a sailboat in Greece and, with his wife, had followed the path of St Paul for over a year and then wrote a book called "Sailing Acts" about his experiences. The ease with which one connects to so many different kinds of people as we share our common interests is one of the best aspects of this sailing life. But we knew when it was "time to blow this pop-stand" - our expression for when we are ready to move on - and we celebrated our freedom from the dock, at anchor, with a split of awful champagne that one of the Croatian marinas had given us back in 2006. We worked our way east, stopping for two weeks to explore the Gocek Bay area, a nature preserve with 12 islands and scores of green, unspoilt anchorages, and for one of those weeks shared it with dear sailing friends, now living in Sante Fe, that we had met when we both were cruising in Croatia in 2004.

We shared a little bit of Turkey with them as we sailed a little, swam, ate delicious mezas, drank Efes beer and hiked up to ancient Lycian tombs carved into the rocky hills. We also shared the area with too many charter boats and large traditional Turkish tourist schooners called gulets. When our friends left us, we were, once again, ready to move on to our next adventure, which is this one of sailing to Eretz Yisrael and spending most of July visiting family and friends there.

Lest this all sound too idyllic, I will skip over the constant cleaning and maintenance necessary to keep things going and just mention in passing the refrigeration and marine head (toilet) both of which stopped working at the same time several days out of Marmaris. We were at anchor in an isolated, fjordlike cove, tied to a tree because it was so deep. Sid, the miracle man, spent the morning crumpled up in the cockpit locker exploring the refrigeration electronics and discovering many bad connections. He held out little hope, but after hours of work, the refrigeration began again and is still going. The head's pumps and pipes got a needed overhaul and cleaning with only one pump part dropped over the side into 25 feet of water. Fortunately, the water was clear and we were tied stern to a tree and in a stable position so were able to retrieve it from the seafloor. That was a long day though.

We are savoring this season, even days like the above, as it is our last one in the Mediterranean. We have made a big and difficult decision to ship (NOT sail - how that is done will be a story in itself) DOVKA back to the States in August. We are glad to be here this fifteenth year of cruising and living on DOVKA 6-9 months a year and this our ninth year in Europe in the Mediterranean. As Hans, our Dutch friend on the trawler, said: "After so many wonderful people and experiences, we have to start for home. My hard drive is full." It is time for us to move on, "to blow this pop-stand' and return to the other side of the Pond.


Saturday, July 26, 2008
It is late afternoon. The water is sparkling and gurgling as it rushes by our tilting hull. The wind is on the nose at about 15 knots and we are doing about 5 knots. We are hard on the wind, sailing up the west coast of Cyprus after a wonderful 3 ½ weeks in Israel. We left Herzliya Marina on Tuesday morning with a lovely wind, but by evening it was 20 knots on the nose with big, lumpy seas. We bashed our way north for two nights and then decided to rest before we clawed our way up the west coast of Cyprus.

Unfortunately, Cyprus is full - meaning the three ports on the south coast have little or no room for transiting yachts - so we found an idyllic anchorage, in Pissouri Bay, all to ourselves off a quiet resort town, over clean white sand and by stunning sandy cliffs. We rested, read and swam for 48 hours while the wind howled outside.. Never got off the boat or cleared into Cyprus. This morning as the wind abated, we upped anchor to continue our return to Turkey, after our wonderful soujourn in Eretz Yisrael.

The 3 1/2 weeks in Israel were the icing on the cake of our 9 seasons sailing in the Med. We had people (wonderful, warm and hospitable cousins) connections and then met more people once there, which made all the difference (more small world: at a fourth of July party in Jerusalem with a friend whom we knew from D.C., I mentioned my son was coming for a Journalism School friend's wedding in Aug. The woman to whom I was speaking said "Oh, Aaron's wedding. I have known him since his parents and we were at Harvard together and he was a baby!).

Our base was just outside of Tel Aviv, but we spent 5 days in Jerusalem and flew south to travel one day to Petra in Jordan. Then, from Herzliya, we rented a car (first time since accident)and drove up north to the Golan - really beautiful and green and mountainous. It is a very complicated and contradictory country, as is the USA. But whatever it's flaws, it must continue to exist. And it is such a western European oasis in the middle of the Middle-Eastern intellectual, cultural, democratic and social vacuum.

We found the Israelis to be rude, as a group, but absolutely charming and kind as individuals. And so many of the people we met were so interesting as they originally came from Ireland, Holland, Italy etc. Very cosmopolitan. In one week we went to three concerts: a clarinet chamber Klezmer concert, in Jerusalem, a spectacular production of La Traviata in the park in Tel Aviv with 70,000 in the audience, and a wonderful sing along with about 600 in our cousins' town center near Herzylia. And it really is true that if you have two Jews you have three opinions. It was very comfortable to be here. It was very special to arrive by sail, rather than air. Leaving also was more dramatic as we gently sailed away in the sparkling sunshine with the coastline of Eretz Yisrael slowly fading away behind us. We were surprised at how meaningful and moving this visit was for us. We were last here 39 years ago for a week while on our honeymoon!

We are very content to be at sea again, as usual. I am about to make a chicken curry for dinner, so Sid will have leftovers for midwatch rations and we can have it for dinner again tomorrow. I am trying to lose the weight I gained with all the wonderful food: the best hummus we have ever had; all kinds of eggplant mixtures, and fabulous breads and pastries, as well as the usual Med mixtures of fresh fruit and vegetables. We are literally sailing into the sunset as I write this.

Sunday, July 27, 2008
Landfall in Turkey

We are anchored in a calm, very protected cove on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey after a 80 hour passage from The Promised Land: 46 hours to an unplanned 50 hour stopover at an idyllic anchorage on the south coast of Cyprus to get away from strong headwinds; and then a 34 hour trip, arriving here and anchoring with the absolutely last light of day. Last night was one of those "It does not get much better than this" nights of off shore sailing. Today we had some of the "Why are we doing this?" discomfort days of punching into seas and strong headwinds. All in all it was what one expects when 'going to sea.' And overall, we really like 'going to sea.' And really like getting in and taking our showers, having our dinner in the cockpit with the Bach cello suites playing and the stars bursting out all over above us, and now going to sleep!


Monday, August 4, 2008
Along the Mediterranean coast of Turkey
We are underway, worried about all kinds of things going wrong and screwing up these last days. It is now 1000 and we are about two hours from today's destination. In order to avoid the strong northwesterlies which will come up this afternoon, we were up by 0630 and underway by 0700 with outboard mounted on stern pulpit, dinghy tightly tied down on deck and shoes below, all the accoutrements of shore-side safely stowed. We felt deep appreciation as we said farewell to the safe, shallow, mud bottomed protected harbor of Gocek Town (one of the handfuls of such we have encountered in the Med), from which we could, comfortably leave the boat at anchor to go ashore, shop, get a haircut, and have dinner at a lovely restaurant.

In the early morning mist, we soaked in the pine forested smoky layers of mounds of hills rising into mountain peaks which surrounded us as we motored, on windless seas, past the bays and islands of Gocek Bay. The large motor yachts and gulets were parked in rows along the green shores, anchored in deep water with lines tied to shore. All was quiet. No dinghies or jet skis racing around, no swimming kids as we motored by. We and the fishermen were the only ones moving, but within hours the parade will begin as the breeze gets up and the boats get underway and move here and there to new bays and coves for another day and night of pleasure. Obviously, we are feeling nostalgic and savoring these last views and days. Meanwhile we expect to be in Marmaris tomorrow, ending our Mediterranean sojourn and beginning the wait for the Dockwise ship! And, we are ready. Keeping our fingers crossed to get there safely, get a place at the dock (we have been told the marina is FULL)and then prepare for transport AND find a way to get to London for our flight home Sept 2nd.

Sunday August 24, 2008
Marmaris Harbor
We loaded DOVKA on the Dockwise ship, M/V Explorer, at 2 p.m. this afternoon. For the past three weeks we were docked at Marmaris Yacht Marina - slowly doing our chores in the morning and hiding from the oppressive heat of the afternoon, either under our awning or at the marina swimming pool. We whiled away the time visiting with Ocean Cruising Club friends and an assorted array of other interesting folk, including the very hospitable Turkish parents of the young man from whom we bought our car back home, this past spring. We were antsy and anxious, but also enjoyed these last days of life in this special environment in a place to which we have become very familiar and comfortable. Last night, we cleaned and folded up the bikes and put them away down below, symbolizing the reality of the end of our stay here.

The loading, after all the anticipation, was anti-climactic. Which is the way one wants it to be. We were very impressed with the professionalism of the Dockwise crew. Eight yachts (two small sailboats, one large sailboat and an assortment of large motoryachts) hovered around the orange ship anchored in the middle of the large harbor. Our OCC friends had come off anchor to wait with us and take pictures. We took turns cooling off by swimming off the stern. Our Israeli sailmaker and his family sailed by as they left the marina to begin a cruising holiday and tossed a bag filled with Israeli sweets, as a final farewell.

We were all in radio contact with the ship and were given instructions on loading order and procedure. We were the last to load, motoring DOVKA into the flooded hold of the ship, which looked like a pick-up truck with a flooded bed, and tying next to the other small sailboat which was against the side wall of the ship. It was just like rafting up alongside another boat. Divers swam around putting jackstands under all the boats. The back of the ship was closed as the water began to be pumped out. We scrambled over other boats, up long ladders and then down the side of the ship into a waiting launch before DOVKA was high and dry. We returned to the marina to get our suitcases. It seemed so strange that DOVKA was not there. We are in a hotel in Marmaris for the night. From our window we can see, still at anchor, the orange ship on which our sailing home is now ensconsced. Tomorrow we wend our way to London and home.


Sunday, November 7, 2008
Falls Church, Virginia

DOVKA arrived home safely, as did we. Something we no longer take for granted. We have been back in the States for 10 weeks, but hardly home as we drove here and there celebrating 50th wedding anniversaries, 50th college reunions etc. Several of those weeks were taken up with boat duties. We drove to Fort Lauderdale to await DOVKA's arrival. We had three days to wait, rather than 3 weeks. Since there was a $20,000 per day charge if we did not take her off the ship when scheduled, we were again anxious that we not miss the date. We inspected her, high and dry aboard the EXPLORER, on Monday, Sept 29th. We found clear signs that US Customs had been aboard to check for contraband but nothing was disturbed. The following morning, at 6:30 a.m., we were back to offload. It was, as in Marmaris, anti-climactic and extremely easy. DOVKA was floating again and we just maneuvered to turn her her around inside the ship and motored out into a grey and drizzly morning.

A month before we were on DOVKA in the Mediterranean and now, poof, 0900 and we were back in U.S. waters, motoring up the Intracoastal Waterway in Fort Lauderdale. Wednesday morning we motored into the Atlantic Ocean and made our way 100 miles north to the marina we had chosen, in Fort Pierce, Florida. DOVKA is now ashore, tied down with hurricane straps and hopefully able to withstand the weather until we return to her, in late February, to sail to the Bahamas for our last taste of the tropics before we return her home to the Chesapeake Bay in June.

We are happy to be ashore. Happy to be home for the holidays; to spend some time working for the Obama campaign; to be home to work at the polls; to have an election night party and to toast the end of an unpleasant and unprecedented era in American history; and to wish the best to an extraordinary man who has now to deal with extraordinary difficulties. But the sense of relief is as palpable as the sense of victory and we are moved by the good wishes and congratulations we have received from friends around the world: travelers in Burma, and those living in Germany, England and Australia. We are 'nesting' now, enjoying our children and friends and family. But we have a box in the bedroom already half filled with items to go back to the boat with us. We are accumulating new charts and dreaming of new cruising grounds. So, stay tuned.