01 Jan - 25 Aug 2006 Ashkelon

Eastern Mediterranean
Jewish State of Israel, the Land Where It All Began
SY "Kamu II" with (i) her stern to the concrete jetty (Mediterranean stern-to mooring aka "mooring the Roman-Catholic way") and (ii) a permanent bow mooring, later (iii) alongside a solid finger pontoon. NIS ("Israeli New Sheqel") 900.- or US$ 202.- per month, based on an extended 10-month winter contract.

Click below for an interactive satellite view of our marina berth:

Wintering in Israel, commuting by means of sherut (the Israeli long-distance taxi: one way NIS 18.- or US$ 4.-) between (a) the modern but somewhat nondescript coastal city of Ashkelon, our second home and one of Israel's oldest cities with a history that goes back more than 5,000 years, and (b) the vibrant Mediterranean metropolis that never stops, Tel Aviv, which was founded north of Jaffa on land purchased from Bedouins, and enjoying tremendously each single day in Tel Aviv, especially (i) the area around and north of Dizengoff Square, the heart of the White City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which comprises the world's largest concentration of Modernist-style buildings (inspired by the Bauhaus school and Le Corbusier), (ii) atmospheric Neve Tzedek, a traditional neighbourhood built by Ashkenazim settlers after their First Aliyah at the end of the 19th century CE, (iii) the hustle and bustle around Carmel Market, (iv) the ancient port of Jaffa (the jump-off point for fellow mariner Jonah from where he had set sail for Tarshish but, unfortunately, was later swallowed by a Mediterranean whale, at least according to the Bible) and, last but not least, (v) Tel Aviv’s wonderfully cosmopolitan and clean beachfront where we listened to the signature thwock-thwock sound of the beach paddleballs aka matkot as the sun was setting in the west, somewhere behind Sicily...

Sharing a rented car from Eldan Car Rental +97235579040 with fellow yotties Jan & Doug from SY “Hanna”, thus: (i) touring the untamed and spectacular Negev desert (a melange of brown rocky and dusty mountains interrupted by deep craters and long wadis, dry riverbeds which bloom only briefly after rainfall, that covers more than half of Israel) all the way down to the Red Sea, (ii) hiking through the breathtaking Makhtesh Ramon erosion crater, Moses' Wilderness of Zin where he wandered in search of the Promised Land, (iii) holidaying in the ritzy resort town of Eilat on the shore of the Gulf of Aqaba/Eilat, checking out the yacht marina with its 250 secure berths, viewing the Red Sea's marine life without getting wet at the Coral World Underwater Observatory +97286364200 south of Eilat, scubadiving and playing with friendly bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) at the horseshoe-shaped Dolphin Reef, (iv) exploring the oldest copper mines in the world and impressive rock art in the Timna Valley Park, and (v) enjoying a safari through the Hai Bar Arava Biblical Wildlife Reserve (where the Asian wild ass aka onager has been successfully reintroduced into the Negev).


Matt: Preparing our steel ketch SY "Kamu II" for the next cruising season, thus (i) repainting deck, superstructure and cockpit of the ship with two coats of white Hempel's Poly Best, a reliable two-component polyurethane topcoat which is durable and resistant to ultraviolet degradation and abrasion, (ii) rebuilding the aluminium frames and the woodwork of two large deck hatches and fitting strong burglar bars, (iii) installing two new Bosch alternators to our rugged and reliable Perkins 4.236M diesel engine, (iv) mounting a rebuilt Hydrovane self-steering device to the transom, and (v) hot-dipping our worn 45-pound CQR bow anchor - many thanks to fellow Israeli sailors and good friends Eli from SY “Chirocco”, Reuven from SY “Alkyon” and Sharon from SY “Moby Dick” for their advice and help. 

Spending many days in the comprehensive Israel Museum +97226708811 in Jerusalem, the guardian of Israel’s national wealth, especially in the Judaica and Jewish Ethnography wing (about Ashkenazim Jews from Germany, Austria, Russia, Rumania, Galicia, Poland, Moravia, from Western Europe, from the Americas and the Commonwealth who speak Yiddish; about Sephardim, Ladino-speaking Spanish and Portuguese Jews who fled to Jerusalem after the introduction of the inquisition and their expulsion from Spain in the reign of Isabella I; about Arabic-speaking Jews; about Maghrebin from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya; about Iraqi Jews who before coming to Jerusalem had lived in Iraq ever since the Babylonian exile, the oldest community outside Israel; about Urfali Jews from southern Turkey and Musta’rabim, descendants of Jewish families who never went into exile and adopted the life but not the creed of their Muslim Arab neighbours; about Yemenite Jews and Baghdadi Jews; about Iranian Jews who speak Persian; about the strictly observant Jews of Cochin who are divided into a white, brown and black caste and who do not marry or even dine with one another; about Syrian and Lebanese Jews; about Georgian and Bokharan Jews; about Kurdish Jews; about Karaite Jews, fundamentalists from Iran and Iraq who believe in a literal reading of the scriptures and reject all rabbinical interpretations; about Dagestani Jews, who once spoke an Iranian dialect known as Tat; about Crimchake Jews from the Crimea who speak Judaeo-Tatar; about Black African Jews from Ethiopia and White African Jews from South-Africa and about so many others) and looking with awe at the Dead Sea Scrolls in the Shrine of the Book. 

Enjoying tremendously, together with a gang of wintering yotties from the USA, from Sweden, France, Germany and from Israel itself, a wonderful pre-Shabbat outing, complete with kosher picnic, in the nearby Ashkelon National Park where Samson, Goliath, Herod, Alexander the Great and Richard the Lion-Hearted may have walked the streets since the site contains archeological remains of many different civilisations that lived in the area, including Canaanites, Philistines, Persians, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, MuslimsCrusaders and Israelis, and keeping a sharp lookout for incoming Qassam rockets from our not-so civilised Gazaen neighbours who wanted to piss on our parade.

Wresting an 8-month extension of our tourist visas for NIS 435.- or US$ 95.- per person from the stubborn lady comrades of Ashkelon's Soviet-style regional population administration office of the Israeli Ministry of the Interior; mazel tov, Hillel, for helping us to cut through a thicket of red tape and for walking more than an extra mile, and many thanx, Paul Theroux, for providing the psychological background information for all that balagan: “...boat owners are independent, stubborn, finicky, and famous for doing exactly as they please; there are few sea-going socialists..." 

Enjoying the week-long visit of our number-one daughter Ulrike (who carries our number-one grandson Raoni Samuel under her heart) and her partner Chris, a hands-on banana with brains from Toronto, hiring a car from Eldan Car Rental +97235579040 and touring together the Negev desert (thus studying the fascinating UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Nabataean ruins at Avdat, once the most important historic city and seasonal camping ground for Nabataean caravans travelling on the Incense Route between Petra and the Gazaen ports, and hiking together to the Makhtesh Gadol crater), passing sea level on dust-dry land and visiting the Dead Sea (thus climbing Masada, symbol of Jewish resistance to Roman rule, floating in the brine of the Dead Sea, and taking the full muddening at the Ein Gedi spa) and, last but not least, strolling through the atmospheric Old City of Jerusalem and exploring her walls, another UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Answering the question “Maa-nishtana ha-leila ha-zeh?” and celebrating Passover aka pesah in memory of the Exodus, the freedom from slavery of the Children of Israel from ancient Egypt that followed the Ten Plagues, together with our Zionist friends Chen (thanks for the matzah, the unleavened bread, for the delicious seder meal, including the less delicious maror, the bitter herbs, and for the traditional four glasses of sweet red wine) and Ohad (thanks for your exact haggadah procedure) in their Judea-and-Samaria aka West Bank settlement of Qarne-Shomeron which exemplifies the Jewish state’s robust political strategy of “facts on the ground”.
"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”
(Mark Twain) 

Matt: Watching together with Christian pilgrims from all over the world the annual Good Friday procession (organised by the Franciscans and protected by M4-carrying magavniks of the Israeli Border Police) along the crowded Via Dolorosa, or Way of Sorrows, the route that Jesus allegedly took as he carried the cross to his crucifixion at Calvary (now a part of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre) in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Matt: Studying the ancient sluice system that periodically flushed Sebastos Harbour to prevent it from silting, built in the 1st century BCE at Caesarea Maritima, erstwhile the city of Herod the Great (King of Judaea, from 37 to 4 BCE), located about halfway between Tel Aviv and Haifa, and comparing this clever design with the clumsy and expensive ongoing dredging of the harbour entrance in our marina at Ashkelon - a problem exacerbated by a strong north-setting current which carries huge quantities of sand from the Sinai.

Finding the time for a short sightseeing trip through the Upper Galilee thus visiting together with our case officers Pnina & Uzy (a) the picturesque Sea of Galilee aka Lake Kinneret aka Sea of Tiberias, where many of Jesus’ miracles are said to have occurred including his walking on water, calming a stiff breeze, and his feeding of 5,000 people in Tabgha, and (b) the strategic Golan Heights with its mix of traditional Druze villages and modern Israeli moshavim and kibbutzim: (i) exploring Israel’s best preserved Roman amphitheatre in ancient Samaria at Beit Shean aka Scythopolis and the ruined 12th-century CE Crusader castle of Belvoir, located high above the Sea of Galilee, (ii) feasting on delicious and genuine St. Peter’s fish aka tilapia and digesting it with the help of Tammy’s spiritual energy at Kadita near Safed, Israel’s major centre for Jewish mysticism, home to the kabbalah movement and the klezmer capital of the world, (iii) touring the Hula Valley Nature Reserve and watching birds there, (iv) hiking up to the 1229 CE Nimrod Fortress, the most impressive of Israel’s medieval Crusader castles, and last but not least, (v) breathing in the very nostalgic air of the Rosh Pinna Pioneer Settlement Site, one of the oldest Zionist settlements in Israel and the perfect landing spot for the Messiah when the world comes to an end; many thanks, Pnina & Uzy, for being such wonderful companions and good friends.
"And Jesus was a sailor
When he walked upon the water
And he spent a long time watching
From his lonely wooden tower
And when he knew for certain
Only drowning men could see him
He said 'All men will be sailors then 
Until the sea shall free them'

But he himself was broken
Long before the sky would open
Forsaken, almost human
He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone..."
(Leonard Cohen) 

Hauling out our 20-ton ship SY "Kamu II" and lifting her safely back in the water (NIS 2,967.- or US$ 645.- for the travel lift, including bottom wash and two weeks on the marina's hardstand) with the help of Eran and Michka, two of the most skilled travel-lift drivers in the Mediterranean, antifouling the hull, the keel and the skeg with red-brown commercial bottom-paint from Tunisia (Astral Super Ionitox for TD 45.- or € 32.- per 5-litre can) and, Matt only, defending our ship on the hard in an ugly all-out fistfight against two meshugge Israeli soldiers on leave, who burgled the boatyard, trespassed and broke into our seemingly uninhabited ship during the small hours.

Laundering our dirty linen in one of the token-operated big industrial washing machines (with drier) in the marina's convenient do-it-yourself laundry for NIS 10.- or US$ 2.20 per 6-kg load and refilling one of our 9-kg LPG cylinders for NIS 130.- or US$ 28.30. 

Meeting the flag-waving sissies of the Eastern Mediterranean Yacht Rally, most of them spoiled and clumsy up-market caricatures of independent yotties, and noticing how international cruising rallies have turned into commercialised and politicised building blocks of unsustainable mass tourism with all its negative side effects such as (i) organised cultural alienation instead of meaningful personal encounters, (ii) customer satisfaction instead of human relationships, (iii) strengthening of state and government instead of ordinary local people, (iv) price increase for boat-related services, and (v) additional regulations and restrictions for the independent cruiser. 

Konni: Jetting to Germany in order to visit my friends, my mother and, before anything else, our daughter Ulrike in Freiburg i.Br., who gave birth on the 5 August 2006 to our first and number-one grandson Raoni Samuel, a healthy 3,910-g heavy and 55-cm tall bouncing baby boy - congratulations, Ulrike & Chris, this is a great and promising beginning! 

Matt: Teaming up with my friends and fellow Israeli sailors Eli, Henry, Ralph, Isaac and Seth for great day-sailing trips off Ashkelon and Ashdod and tremendously enjoying the many stimulating philosophical and technological discussions with my respected good friends Ralph, Reuven and Seth about both the spiritual aspects of life as well as the practical aspects of boating and seamanship - thanx and todah, I will be missing all of you very much.

Matt (whilst Konni was safe and away in Germany): Surviving an incoming terrorist Qassam/Grad missile from the Gaza Strip whose warhead hit the marina's boatyard on 14 August 2006 at 8:05 a.m. and just missed SY “Kamu II” by about 100 m, shit happens, afterwards relaxing with Joseph Heller’s brilliant Catch-22 and reading there: “'They hate Jews.' - 'But I’m not Jewish,' answered Clevinger. - 'It will make no difference,' Yossarian promised, and Yossarian was right. They’re after everybody..."

"If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence. - If the Jews put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel."
Leaving Ashkelon and Israel, the much-loved and much-hated first line of defense of our Western values, after almost one year (many thanks to Chippie & Henry for the most lovely farewell party on board of their SY “Mistral III”), beating into light north-westerlies along the shallow north coast of the Sinai towards Port Said, the northern terminus of the 193-km long Suez Canal, and entertaining on board a guest, a little icterine warbler (Hippolais icterina) who rested on our push pit and was chirping: “… next year in Jerusalem!
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