As we emerged from Rhodes Harbour we had the first intimation of the tragedy of human despair that we knew was going on all around us. A patrol ship passed us on the way into Rhodes and at first we thought we saw people on its deck but we were mistaken.
Rhodes is only 11 miles from Turkey at its nearest point and we were surprised, but also very relieved, that we did not see any evidence of small vessels in the water. Having said that I for one would not like to have made even that short trip in a dinghy.
But it was time to turn our attention to the final lap of the journey. The guy in Rhodes had advised us to wait until the following morning to set off as he said there were high winds on the route to Cyprus. Alan had assessed that we were following the bad weather south but he reasoned, correctly as it turned out, that we would not catch it up. It seemed that those gods of the wind who had treated us so badly in the northern Adriatic had undergone a change of heart and started to smile down on us. Throughout the first day we had cool breezes and bright sunshine. As the mountains of Turkey started to recede behind us we moved further and further into the empty sea. Throughout the first night as we started to clear Turkish waters we had encountered a couple of ferries ploughing their way northwards to Rhodes and a one tanker which looked as if it was heading for Brindisi in Italy. In the morning, for the first time in the whole passage, we finally lost sight of land. There was nothing between us and Cyprus; we encountered not one single vessel.
Looking around us it was easy to see how ancient sailors would regard this area as the end of the world. The early Crusaders were unable to take this more direct route to the Holy Land because they had no way of navigating in the open sea, they didn’t know where the Holy Land was! They had to follow the coastline, which was much longer and very much more hazardous because it meant they had to fight their way through many hostile countries. When they got to the Middle East they found that the barbarians and primitive heathens that they had come to conquer had already invented the astrolabe which enabled them to navigate with considerable skill using the stars and the position of the sun and moon. These navigation skills had taken the Arabs and the Pheonecians as far as the west coast Ireland long before christianity had visited those shores.
By the time of Richard the Lionheart western mariners had caught up and we read about Richard capturing the island of Cyprus on his was to fight Sala’adin and gifting it to the Knights Templar who had been expelled from their castles around Acre.
The passage to Cyprus was uneventful. We sailed, we ate and we slept, some more than others. I mentioned the sunrises and sunsets in an earlier blog. Words cannot really do it justice so I thought pictures would tell the story.