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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

ENVOY'S FIRE DAMAGE REPAIRS NEARLY COMPLETE

Envoy is in Lefkas Marina undergoing repairs for cosmetic damage caused by fire on an adjacent boat while we're staying in an apartment near the marina.

Last Saturday was four weeks since YachtPaint started the repair work. They said it was a four week job and we were skeptical, but most is completed. The painting and anti fouling is complete, the mast is back up and the only remaining things are the pilot house special curved window (due next week), the VHF antenna (due any day), the hull's name transfers (due any day), replacement navigation light (due tomorrow) plus a couple of minor things. The job is excellent and Envoy gleams.

Tomorrow the technicians from Internaftiki, Athens arrive to do a routine periodic service of the Naiad stabilisers, involving removing the fins and replacing the through-hull seals. This is a four to five day job and during this time we expect Sailand to complete most of their outstanding work. So we're looking at putting Envoy back in the water next week, then sea-trialing, then cruising by first week July.

This has been a long and at times frustrating process, but we can now see light at the end of the tunnel.


Sunday, June 11, 2017

ENVOY'S FIRE DAMAGE REPAIRS PROGRESSING IN EARNEST

Envoy is in Lefkas Marina undergoing repairs for cosmetic damage caused by fire on an adjacent boat. We spent last week in Corfu with our friend Chris but are now back in Lefkas staying in an apartment near the marina.

It's now three weeks since YachtPaint started Envoy's repairs. Progress has been slightly slower than we expected but they are still saying it will take four weeks, meaning completion in one week. However looking at Envoy on Saturday we can't envisage this and expect a further week or so and then one to two weeks to complete various other jobs that can't be done while YachtPaint are working. This includes a routine 5-yearly service of the Naiad stabilisers involving changing over the fins' through hull seals scheduled to take about 4-5 days but if time becomes a problem we can post-phone this to next season.

YachtPaint's first task was lifting off Envoy's aluminium mast to ground level. It's been sanded back and primed for repainting with two-pot epoxy, including sandblasting of a few areas where oxidation of the aluminium occurred under the old paint causing blisters.
When the mast is re-stepped in the coming week all of the lines are being replaced although the stainless steel stays are OK.

Envoy's mast at ground level

The insurance is paying for repainting the hull's port side and polishing the port side. After discussions with YachtPaint we decided to pay some extra and have both sides repainted using Awlgrip. These areas have been repainted and now just need some paint runs removed and touching up.

Yachtpaint are due to work on the hull below waterline in the coming week as well as re-varnishing some teak coamings, and polishing those areas that aren't being repainted.

The flat windows and portholes have been repaired and will be refitted in a few days. The curved window has been an issue though. It's 10mm thick and curved in two planes. We finally found a Greek company that can build a mould to make this and got insurer's approval to proceed last Wednesday with delivery two weeks from then.

The next two to three weeks should see most jobs finally come to fruition and we're still on track to start cruising about 4 July.

We haven't posted any pictures for a while so here goes.

Outside and inside views of the atmospheric three-story house in the hills built in 1888, where we spent our first month


Amy was able to join us for a week in Lefkada and here we're enjoying lunch at Sivota

With Amy we did a three day road trip to Meteora where there's several monasteries over a thousand years old built on the top of inaccessible hills.

Look at the "cable car" used to access the monastery

This would have been quite a climb in the old days

But then you can partake from this 12,000 litre barrel of wine

Amy at Meteora

Monday, May 22, 2017

MAJOR PROGRESS ON ENVOY'S FIRE DAMAGE REPAIR

Envoy is in Lefkas Marina undergoing repairs for cosmetic damage caused by fire on an adjacent boat while we're living ashore in a nearby village.
Tomorrow, Tuesday it's a month since we got back to Lefkas and progress seems to have been painfully slow, but on Friday we got the insurer's approval to proceed with repairs and our repair contractor, YachtPaint, started today. In fact they were on the job by 0830 – the earliest we can ever recall a contractor turning up for work on Envoy. Let's hope that's a good omen!

We had expected repairs to start much sooner but with insurance there is a process to go through and here's a timeline of this whole affair so far:
Tue 25/4: arrive Lefkas the day of fire
Thu 27/4: meet assessor and YachtPaint manager
Fri 28/4: receive quote from YachtPaint to clean Envoy of fire debris and forward to insurer
Sun 30/4: organise accommodation and rental car as we can't live on board
Tue 1/5: insurers approve cleaning quote
Thu 4/5 – Fri 5/5: crane hoists RHIB down from Envoy and YachtPaint clean Envoy so damage can be properly inspected
Tue 9/5: assessor returns for full joint inspection with YachtPaint and us. Degree of damage identified and YachtPaint to quote for total repair
Wed 10/5: original expected cruising start date
Fri 12/5: meet YachtPaint at Envoy to discuss repair quote
Sat 13/5: Sailand and I list all rigging needing replacement
Mon 16/5: Sailand remove all broken windows and portholes and send to glass factory. I obtain quote for 3 soot-damaged covers that need replacing. YachtPaint's quote received and forwarded to assessor, who sends to insurer
Tues 17/5: Sailand do a considerable amount of non fire-related work
Fri 20/5: insurer's verbal approval to proceed obtained. YachtPaint advised
Mon 22/5: insurer's written approval expected. YachtPaint start work
Sat 24/6: projected completion date
Fri 30/6: projected launch and sea trial date
Tues 4/7: projected departure and start cruising date

Looking back it doesn't seem so bad to get repair work started four weeks after the event, although with the benefit of hindsight we could probably have saved a few days. Presuming everything now goes according to plan we will have lost nearly two months of our 2017 cruising season.
There's still quite a bit of non fire-related work to do, the biggest job being an overhaul of the Naiad hydraulic stabilisers expected to take 4-5 days. We'll be doing our best to have work done concurrently, although it's not possible during grinding, sanding and spraying.




Thursday, May 18, 2017

UPDATE ON THE CRUISING SITUATION IN TURKEY

We are staying ashore in the hills behind Lefkas Marina, Greece where Envoy is on the hardstand awaiting repairs to heat and soot damage caused by fire on a nearby boat.

It's over three weeks since the fire and not much has happened except for a major clean-up so the damage could be properly assessed. The broken windows and portholes have also been removed for repair so that's a start. These windows are a bit unusual since each toughened glass pane is set into a stainless steel frame which is then sealed into a further stainless steel frame attached to the GRP cabin's window cavity. All the windows have rounded corners and one is slightly curved as well. The insurance assessor and local contractors tell us that usually the boat's manufacturer supplies replacements for broken windows but Nordhavn told us they don't stock these, and in fact haven't been very helpful at all.
The quote to repair Envoy was received Tuesday and it will take several days to get insurer's approval for work to start. The contractor says he'll have six guys working full time on Envoy and it will be completed within five weeks. So our best guess for completion is end June.

Now to Turkey - we've heard that lots of cruisers are leaving there, so here's an update based on our best information.

Turkey has arguably been one of the world's greatest cruising destinations with great anchorages, spectacular scenery, mostly clean waters, an interesting and different culture and cuisine, loads of excellent well-preserved historical sites dating back thousands of years, friendly honest people, low cost, political stability, reasonable safety, competent technical infrastructure and proximity to interesting Greek islands.

It's also been a huge tourist destination with 42m visitors during the peak year of 2014, but in recent years some of Turkey's circumstances have gradually been changing causing many cruisers to leave, fewer tourists arriving (25m last year) and a less certain future for the approximately 1.6m Turks reliant on tourism for employment.
For cruisers the first major change occurred with regulations limiting the time yachts can spend cruising some popular areas along the famed Turquoise Coast and requiring the purchase of a “Blue Card” (an electronic card) to record the discharge of sewage from holding tanks into shore-based or mobile pump-out stations. This card costs 280 Lira (about NZ$115) and although it appears this regulation is not being rigidly or uniformly enforced it’s causing consternation due to both its added cost and the limited number of pump-out facilities available making strict compliance next to impossible. The CoastGuard does board vessels to inspect their documentation and there have been cases of cruisers being fined 1,000 Lira (about NZ$420) because their card hadn't been used within the last two weeks even when in some cases the local facilities weren't operational. Other reports say cruisers have to account for grey water waste as well as sewage. Not many cruisers have grey water holding tanks so the whole situation is uncertain and worrying.

Basically this requirement seems to exist just so that authorities can show they're trying to solve a problem that doesn't really exist. In our time cruising Turkey we never found any areas with sewage issues except where the sewage originated from shore, although plenty of beaches and other areas were covered in serious amounts of general litter.

Then a regulation was introduced limiting the time visitors can spend in Turkey to 90 days in any period of 180 days, making Turkey similar to Schengen Treaty countries. Previously a visitor could get a 90 day visa, exit for a few hours to a Greek island before the completion of 90 days and then return to Turkey and get a new 90 day visa issued. A concession was later made for cruisers allowing temporary residency using their boat as an address, but the process still involves some additional cost and inconvenience compared to the previous 90 day renewable visa system.

Although like many countries Turkey has suffered isolated terrorist incidents and some comparatively minor bombings for many years, sadly this has increased since 2014 resulting in many governments including New Zealand, Australia, USA and UK to step up their travel alert levels. While there have been loss-of-life incidents at tourist areas in some major cities, notably Istanbul, thankfully terrorism does not appear to have hit coastal resorts and cruising areas.

Last July Turkey had an attempted coup resulting in considerable numbers of arrests and the declaration of a State of Emergency. This has recently been extended for three months, but it appears the government does intend to revert to normality soon after that. Meanwhile the government led by President Erdogan recently narrowly won a controversial referendum to increase its powers. Turkey's post referendum direction remains to be seen, but many people are concerned that it may be more autocratic, less democratic and less secular.

Last year we heard from cruisers based in Turkey that many cruisers as well as charter yacht fleets are leaving. Incredibly, Turkish marinas have reacted by increasing their prices to compensate for the revenue loss caused by reductions in boat numbers. Previously average Turkish marina prices were quite competitive with, for example Greek marinas, but are now more expensive (although in both countries there is a very broad range of pricing). There are many cruisers who don't concern themselves too much with the local politics of their host country, but nearly all cruisers are budget-conscious and these price increases have further increased numbers of departures.

Many Turkish based and owned boats are registered elsewhere (a surprising number in USA) presumably to avoid Turkish VAT. In an effort to encourage them to fly the Turkish flag authorities have very recently introduced two significant new measures (advised to us by major yachting agency BWA). Boats switching flags to Turkish will be allowed to become VAT-registered by paying a one off charge of one per cent of their insured value and paying a “harbour master's fee” varying according to boat length but for 12-20 metres length set at 1,627 Turkish Lira (approx NZ$668)

Foreign owned and flagged cruisers can also change to Turkish flag under the same conditions, but I imagine that idea won't hold much appeal as cruisers tend to move between countries and take pride in their own country's flag, an exception being larger vessels and super-yachts whose owners mostly register in countries with lenient tax regimes.

We're just glad that we immensely enjoyed part of several seasons cruising in Turkey during the easier less complicated times.


Tuesday, May 09, 2017

ENVOY'S FIRE DAMAGE ASSESSMENT COMPLETED

We are staying ashore in a country area 10km from Lefkas Marina, Greece where Envoy is on the hardstand.
Vassilis warned us about snakes and although we haven't seen any near the house we've seen two slithering across the road to Lefkas.

Following heat, soot and smoke damage to Envoy caused by fire on a nearby boat the clean up has finished and today Tuesday the surveyor, together with the contractor who will be doing the repairs, visited for the second time to fully assess the actual damage. This was mostly about determining which GRP areas need repairs to the GRP, which need painting and which only need polishing.
The next steps are the contractor has to prepare a detailed quote for every item that needs repair, discuss it with me on Friday, then pass it to the surveyor who will pass it on to the insurers with his recommendations. The one contractor is quoting for everything and will engage subcontractors (eg for rigging, upholstery, glazing) as needed. The surveyor says we should have the go-ahead to start work about mid next week and the contractor advises he can start within a couple of days from then.

The nature of the issues hasn't changed from our previous postings except that our large RHIB stored on the starboard side upper deck, facing the fire, will need a new pontoon cover (known as “chaps”) and its hull (slightly discolored by heat) painting.
Everyone knows me as an optimist, but I can't see this being finished much before the end of June (that is 6 weeks) and maybe that's optimistic. The contractor will be giving me his time estimate with the quote.

Of course things are still happening that aren't related to the fire.
We've successfully tested much of Envoy's equipment but lots of other equipment can't be tested until we're back in the water.
We've taken six fire extinguishers and two inflatable life jackets in for periodic routine servicing.
Or smaller 2,7m “Valiant” is being repaired due to a sea water leak through the transom and is turning out to be a bit of a major with the repair cost about one third the cost of a new one. But we're assured it will be like new so proceeding with the repair.
Sailand are about to start some work including:
- remove keel cooler for periodic servicing involving dismantling and internal and external cleaning, plus remove and re-seal its through hull fitting
- replace leaking domestic fresh water filter housing
- replace failed Robertson auto pilot sender unit with new one
- replace fresh water purifier's u/v lamp

Next update mid next week should include the repair work's start date and estimated completion date.
Meanwhile our daughter Amy is with us and tomorrow we're heading away for a three-day drive to some scenic Greek mainland areas.




Friday, May 05, 2017

ENVOY'S FIRE DAMAGE PROGRESS REPORT

Following smoke and heat damage to Envoy caused by fire on a nearby boat one of our priorities was to find somewhere to stay since we can't live aboard while the clean up, sanding and then GRP repairs and painting are being done.
As the arrival of May signals the start of the local summer season and accommodation becomes more difficult we mention this to our contractor, Sailand, whose staff member Vassilis advises the house next to his is available for rent. Last Sunday we check this out to find a large four-bed-roomed, two-bath-roomed stone villa fully furnished and equipped, built in 1888 but completely refurbished while retaining its historical charm based on a mostly wooden interior decorated with antiques and artifacts. It's located high in the hills about 10 km from the marina where it's nice and cool with a stunning view over the Lefkas area and sea beyond. All of this for a most reasonable 600 Euros (about NZ$923) for a MONTH – that is about $30 per day. Ironically Di and I have often said we'd love to spend some time in a traditional Greek mountain village and the three nearby fit this bill perfectly.
Vasillis did say that as this is a country area to keep a watch out for snakes and scorpions but we've so far only seen one snake crossing a road.

Our agents, A1 organise a near new Nissan Micro 4-door rental car for us at the extremely favourable rate of 20 Euros (about NZ$31) per day including insurance.
To top it off our London-based daughter Amy is going to fly over on Sunday and stay with us for a week.

Now to Envoy. It seemed to take ages for anything to start as we awaited feedback from our insurers, but on Thursday a huge crane lowered our RHIB down from Envoy's upper deck so that it could be cleaned and Envoy's upper deck accessed for cleaning. Then a team from Yachtpaint started the complete cleaning of Envoy's exterior and the sanding of heat blisters from the hull and gelcoat.
Two days of work made a huge difference and all of the soot and debris aboard Envoy has been removed. What remains are some fairly extensive ingrained soot marks on the starboard side white topsides gelcoat as well as a small area of peeled burnt gelcoat.
The blisters on the hull and stabiliser fin have been removed with the hull being taken back to bare GRP in those areas.

The surveyor is visiting again on Tuesday when decisions will be made regarding what areas can be polished back to the near-perfect condition that existed before and what areas will need repair and painting. The more areas that require painting, the longer the job will take since extensive masking will be required.
Thankfully Yachtpaint are available to start the job as soon as the insurers accept the surveyor's recommendations, but Envoy will need to be moved undercover (site is available) and we don't expect anything to start much before the end of next week.

Best indication of time required at this stage is about a month so that takes us through to about mid-June and even that is quite speculative depending on what the surveyor suggests and how things go.

Meanwhile we're making progress on sourcing replacement flat windows but having some difficulty with the curved pilothouse window. The crack in this is fairly minor (about 60cm) so we could cruise with it cracked and get it replaced during winter, although people tell us the insurers might not agree to this as they will want to wrap up the claim.

A local rigger will also inspect damage to Envoy's rigging next week and quote for her repair.

The time issue is going to be GRP repair and painting since most other issues can be dealt with simultaneously and by late next week we should have a pretty accurate idea of what is to be done and the time required.




Saturday, April 29, 2017

ENVOY'S NEAR DISASTER

We are now staying in a hotel at Lefkas Marina, Greece.

On the way to Lefkas we spend ten great but cold days at Scotland's Orkney Islands, famous for their scenic beauty, wildlife and history including Neolithic and Viking settlement and the Royal Navy's Scapa Flow base which saw extensive action during both World Wars. A future Blog posting will describe the Orkneys.
In the cruising life you have mostly great days and some not so great, but this one would end up one of our worst.

We arrive at Lefkas by five hour bus trip from Athens on a beautiful sunny Tuesday late afternoon. After checking into the marina hotel we wander over to check Envoy on the hardstand, approaching from her port side. We're firstly surprised to see Envoy's location surrounded by wide red “crime scene” style tape. As we get closer we see marina staff standing watch over the area, then closer still we smell a bitter aroma in the air and see the burnt-out remains of a large motor boat at right angles to Envoy with her stern about four metres away from Envoy's mid starboard beam.

Burnt vessel to left of Envoy with debris from fire on the ground

The marina staff initially advise we can't enter the area until they realise we're Envoy's owners.
The burnt out wreck and debris littering the ground is so much in our faces that we don't initially notice any damage to Envoy except that her starboard side's rigging and white topsides are badly stained by smoke and soot. Very soon though we notice a large area about 7 x 2 metres of heat blistering on her hull's gelcoat, heat blistering and peeled gelcoat on a white outboard facing topsides area about 3 x 2 metres, two cracked portholes and four cracked windows.

Looking down from Envoy on Dorset Urchins 

While we're still in a slightly dazed state the marina staff explain that a British motor boat named Dorset Urchins had only been taken out of the water that morning and positioned next to Envoy.
The fire started with nobody aboard during lunchtime and although the marina staff and Fire Brigade (located a few hundred metres across the road) were on scene quickly Dorset Urchins was badly damaged and most likely an insurance write-off. Envoy was close to and downwind from Dorset Urchins and the damage is not from flames but heat and smoke.
Fortunately nobody was injured and there was certainly plenty of potential for injury from lpg bottles, diesel and petrol for outboards.
We stay around the boat for an on-site meeting with the marina's manager who explains Dorset Urchins is fully insured and assures us the marina will do everything possible to help us. He explains they didn't phone us as they knew we're arriving today. By now it's about 7.30pm so it's off to the marina bar for a calming drink!

That evening we contact our insurers – Pantaenius, who respond quickly and next day they advise that Nikolas will be our surveyor and will visit Thursday.
During that night's dinner we ponder how we'd planned to commence cruising in week of 8 May and wonder how long repairs to Envoy will take. This is now a busy time for all contractors with more cruisers arriving daily and wanting to start their journeys so it may be difficult to get work done.
On the bright side the fire could have taken hold on Envoy and caused irreparable damage.

In the meantime during Wednesday we're not allowed back on the site as it's under investigation by Fire Brigade inspectors and other local authorities.

Thursday comes and we meet Nikolas who immediately impresses us with his professional and cautious attitude plus his knowledge gained as a naval architect and marine engineer. Together we inspect Envoy outside and inside to find apart from above mentioned damage:
-damaged starboard navigation light and vhf aerial
-paint damage to aluminium radar housing
-several rigging blocks, stainless steel wires and rope lines damaged and/or discoloured
-starboard side teak coaming and teak Envoy name sign's varnish damaged

Close up of Envoy's blistered gelcoat

He examines the hull gelcoat blisters and gives an initial opinion that while the blisters are mostly in the paint, the gelcoat will need to be stripped off damaged areas and new gelcoat applied. When the area is laid bare it will also be inspected in case of structural damage.
Fortunately there is no damage whatsoever inside, not even a smoke smell.

Envoy's smoke and heat damaged rigging

Nikolas decides the first priority is to get Envoy's exterior professionally cleaned to get rid of damaging soot and be able to better assess the damage. As this is insurance work quotes have to be obtained and approved by the insurers, but we now have a quote awaiting approval and the contractor can do the clean-up mid next week (Monday being a local holiday). Then he is able to start the gelcoat repairs the following week.
We also have a contractor who will quote for the repairs to rigging late next week after the clean-up and he can start the work within a few days of acceptance.

The other major issue is windows and portholes. Nordhavn advise they don't supply these as they're normally sourced from local glass contractors. Sailand have inspected them and confirm local supply should be possible. There is one exception – a curved window in the pilot house and we'll have to find a specialised glass provider to supply this one. Fortunately the crack in this window is only about 70mm and virtually out of sight so we could go cruising with the crack and have the window replaced on our return.

While all this is happening we still need to complete quite a bit of regular work in parallel not connected to the fire. In fact Sailand haven't completed as much of this during winter as we'd expected.
Best guess now for the start of cruising is mid June, but we'll have a more accurate assessment about mid May.
Meanwhile we're looking for somewhere to stay as we can't stay aboard Envoy with the dust, fumes and noise from GRP repairs.
People tell us we seem very calm considering the situation, but we're thankful nobody was hurt and that damage to Envoy is superficial and easily repairable. A yacht alongside Dorset Urchins is much more seriously damaged.
Look for our update in about a week.