After our second Suez Canal pilot Alec, was picked up by a pilot boat at 6pm on Monday the 23rd April, we set sail from Port Said for Cyprus, 225 nm to the north-east. The conditions were as good as was predicted, with a light 10-15knot wind allowing us to close reach on a rhumb line course to Cyprus. By 2am on Wednesday the 25th we spotted the loom of the lights of Limassol on the south coast of the island.
At 9am we made contact with the marina in Larnaca, where we had booked a berth and after a 40-hour transit, we were tied up to a berth at 10am. Soul arrived shortly afterwards and was allocated a berth, directly opposite us on the B-finger. We checked in with the friendly marina staff, then customs and finally the marina police, who handled the immigration formalities. All friendly and efficient and very European. We then went to buy SIM cards for our mobiles with sufficient data for our internet and email use.
The afternoon was spent catching up with sleep, before we hit the town with Mike and Sarah for a fantastic dinner of Cypriot food and wine. The following day was spent cleaning our respective boats inside and out of the layers of desert dust. Next thing, the bikes were taken out and we set off first up, to the tourist information office where a friendly lady supplied us with maps and information about the Republic of Cyprus.
Cyprus is the third largest and third most populous island in the Mediterranean and a member of the European Union. It is located south of Turkey, west of Syria and Lebanon, north of Egypt and east of Greece. It is roughly 213 km east to west and 126 km north to south. The Republic of Cyprus is partitioned into two main parts; the area to the south, comprising about 60% of the island’s area, under control of the Republic, and the north, administered by the self-declared Turkish Republic of Cyprus, after the occupation by Turkish forces in 1974. The occupation is viewed as illegal under international law and is recognised only by Turkey.
For us wine lovers, it was good news to find out that the wine history of Cyprus has been alive and ongoing for something like 6,000 years. There are 41 modern wineries presently on the island which produce not only the well-known French white wine varieties like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and red varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz, but also indigenous Cyprus varieties like Xynisteri, Mavro, Spourtiko and Ofthalmo.
Best of all, these Cypriot wines sell from AUD5.50 to around AUD10.50 for good quality blends in the supermarkets and you aren’t made to feel like a criminal buying wine and beer, as you did in India and the North African countries we passed through. Supermarkets are well stocked, prices are reasonable and the people are friendly and fashionably dressed. There are also a number of yacht chandleries where we could buy the required Navionics SD cards for the Med, cruising guides and all manner of yacht fittings.
We decided Cyprus was definitely worth a 3-4-week visit, inland and cruising along the coast. The 28th April came around, as did my 71st birthday. Annie treated me to a new pair of Ecco shoes and we celebrated suitably with a BBQ on board Esprit with Mike and Sarah. Annie had bought some Cypriot meat dishes with baked potatoes and salads and desserts. Over dinner with bottles of wine, we all agreed that our present lifestyle should continue for as long as our health continues. We do indeed feel fortunate about the present.
A rental car for three days, shared with Mike and Sarah, allowed us to explore the mountains and wine regions. The first day we headed west along the coast to Zygi and then inland between Larnaca and Limassol to the mountain village of Lefkara, famous for its lace and silver smithing. We explored the narrow streets and shops and had lunch at a taverna, before driving back to Larnaca. The second day we went east to Agio Napa and Cape Gkreko, an area on the east coast popular with Russian and British tourists, packed with hotels and holiday apartments. You could be in any generic tourist destination in the world – not for us.
The third day we headed west to Limassol where we had to pick up pilot books at a chandlery and some other yacht spares. Then we headed north into the mountains and wine producing areas, tasting wines at the cellar door and buying some indigenous varieties. We had lunch in Omodos, a beautiful mountain village where we explored the narrow streets and visited the monastery. We turned back after visiting Mount Olympos, the highest mountain in Cyprus and popular for snow skiing, before driving back to Larnaca.
Whilst we had the car, we did a major shop at the local hypermarket, stocking up with local and imported products, wine and beer. The local retsina wines which Annie and I enjoy, sells for about AUD 1.80 per 500ml, so we stocked up! I took the opportunity to borrow Mike’s oil sucking vacuum device, to drain the oil from Esprit’s 54 hp Yanmar, replace the oil and fuel filters and fill up with 5.5 l of fresh oil. While on a roll, I drained and replaced the oil on the 5 hp Mercury outboard and replaced the worn sacrificial anode.
Tomorrow we set sail for Limassol. We plan to spend a week to 10 days exploring the south and west coast of Cyprus, before checking out at Pafos and sailing to Turkey.
We will tell you all about the coast in our next post. Cheers for now.