When we started this sailing journey in April 2019, we dreamed of remote anchorages, untouched beaches, and crystal clear waters. And for the first 8 months, everything turned out perfectly. We sailed from Italy to Turkey and only used marinas to refuel and hide from big storms. We loved life at anchor, being able to jump in the water first thing in the morning, sometimes being the only humans in a place for days. But in October we realized that the number of storms increased drastically and we found ourselves seeking refuge in marinas more often than before. Moreover, with the changing temperatures, life at anchor was slowly getting more tricky. Getting wet during a dinghy ride is fun in summer but can be annoying (and unhealthy) to experience with decreasing temperatures.
Slowly we realized, that life at anchor won’t be fun (or suitable) during the winter. No matter how much we desired to stay at anchor and go on sailing daily, we were going to have to find a marina at least for the winter months December and January. At that moment we were in Finike, Turkey and experienced colder temperatures than expected. Staying in a cold place, was definitely not an option, so we opened the map and looked at the possibilities we had. Two main options arose: Cyprus and Israel. Both still in reach by sailing and both warm enough in winter to live on a sailboat. After calling and emailing the marinas in Cyprus and Israel and after comparing prices and amenities, we decided to head to Herzliya marina in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Arriving at Tel Aviv, Israel
Israel had been on our travel list for quite some time, but we have always been scared due to the political situation. Being so close we decided that it finally was time to explore the country and we are more then delighted to have done so. Entering Israel by sailboat was actually an exciting experience by itself. Until now we had only been in Europe and Turkey, where customs and border control are pretty “easy” to handle. Israel, on the other hand, is a totally different story. We had to prepare and sent a lot of documents before even leaving the harbor in Cyrpus and head to Herzliya. Luckily the employees of Herzliya marina have been super helpful with it and with everything we needed during our stay. Israeli bureaucracy can be pretty tricky.
Once we managed all the documents and announced our arrival at least a week before to the Israeli coast guard it was time to leave Larnaca, Cyprus. The sail to Tel Aviv, Israel, was very chilled and we even managed to catch a tuna. Once we got closer to the Israeli coats, we were greeted by an Israeli military boat about 25 miles before the Israeli coast. A speed boat fully loaded with big guns (sorry my gun knowledge is pretty small) stopped us and over radio asked us multiple questions. This happened all in a very calm matter and the navy officers have been very patient with our inability to spell our names due to knowledge lack of the phonetic alphabet. However we have to admit, the speed boat and the guy with the big gun, made a pretty scary impression, so we were more than relieved to get their blessing and be able to enter the country.
The marina had already been informed about our arrival and so had border control and customs. Once docked to our pre-assigned berth, we were questioned singularly by the border control concerning different stamps in our passports and our reasons to visit the country, while customs literally searched our whole boat for weapons or drugs. Again the officials were very polite, but I remember being very grateful for the European Union at this moment, which allows us to travel without all these controls.
Living in Tel Aviv, Israel
Our first impression of Israel? Everyone is super helpful. No matter who we met, if the sailor next “door”, the bus driver or the Herzliya marina crew members, everyone offered their help and responded to our questions as wells as possible. The bus driver story is probably the one we won’t forget easily. It was the first time we took the bus in Israel. Which can seem ridiculously simple, but taking a bus where you are not able to read the timetable or the destination can be somehow tricky. especially if you’re not really sure where you want to go. We just wanted to head into the city. Little did we know that Tel Aviv had multiple “centers” depending on the quarter you want to explore. But luckily once on the bus, we found a very talkative bus driver, which literally guided us along the whole bus journey (we are talking about a 45min drive) dropping us off on the beach, the best starting point to explore the city.
Our second impression of Tel Aviv? Security is not an option, but a way of life. Yes, security is everywhere in Tel Aviv and you will probably meet more big guns during your journey in Israel than in any other country, but interestingly it won’t feel harming or dangerous. Security in Israel is not seen as something negative or cold, it’s just part of their life. Standing next in line to a soldier getting his afternoon coffee carrying his big gun? Completely normal here in Tel Aviv. Being searched at the entrance to a mall? Part of your shopping routine in Tel Aviv. Sitting next to a soldier on the bus carrying his big gun on his way home? A daily encounter here in Tel Aviv. it might seem strange the first times you encounter these situations, but we have to be honest that after some days you will see the guns less and less until they almost feel part of the scenery.
In conclusion, we have experienced a very warm and welcoming society, paired with security and scrutiny, probably due to their history. However, if you allow yourself to understand the political situation and the religious implications you will find a “bubbling” atmosphere of people ready to create something new and leave history behind them.
As mentioned above, we were not particularly happy to move to the marina for winter, but after living two months at the Herzliya marina, we have to admit that marina life has its perks. First Herzliya marina is located between two beautiful beaches, used especially by surfers to ride waves. For us, those beaches became our backhouse garden. Perfect for a run in the morning or an afternoon break in the sun. Secondly, Herzliya marina offers a cozy lobby, with free coffee, which we turned to our office. Especially during the windy and rainy days, which we had a lot, unfortunately, it was much nicer finding refuge in the marina lobby instead of being rocked on the boat. And last but definitely not least – how nice is it to have water and electricity at your disposal all the time, without fear to finish the tanks or batteries? Long showers definitely became my favorite activity this winter.
In conclusion, we are very happy with our decision to spent two months at Herzliya marina. We have met many interesting people and always found a helping hand at the marina office, no matter if the question concerned Israeli bureaucracy or the best lunch spot in town. The marina is also perfectly located to explore the rest of Israel. After a short bus ride, you find yourself at the Herzliya train station. From there you can catch a train to Jerusalem (40min) or Haifa (50 min). Moreover, the airport can be reached by train in 20 minutes. This was very helpful to explore Eilat and the south of Israel which can be reached in a 40min flight. And last but not least there is a stunning sunset each night.
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