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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

CRUISING ACTIVITY GRINDS TO A TEMPORARY HALT


CRUISING ACTIVITY GRINDS TO A TEMPORARY HALT

How quickly situations can change. Just a few weeks ago we all watched TV news in amazement as parts of China went into total lockdown and thought that could never happen here. The humorists among us joked that if it happens we could all go boating, but sadly it seems not.
The first affects on boating were overseas, as when international borders were closed to travel this applied to pleasure boaters too. By mid-March some countries including France and Greece had placed a complete ban on all movements of recreational boats and closed harbours and marinas except to ferries. Cruisers with boats located overseas started canceling their overseas travel as there was no point in traveling if they couldn’t use their boat and soon after that travel became virtually impossible anyway.
This applied to the very disappointed Queenslanders who bought our boat Envoy based in Greece and who will now probably have to wait until next year for their maiden cruise.
In mid-March people aged over 70 were asked to stay home and on 27 March New Zealand went into lock down.
At first many people thought this situation may provide an ideal time to go boating and fishing but this has since received some clarification.

We were aboard our boat Rapport in Coromandel Harbour when the lockdown was announced commencing a few days later. We decided to head home to comply. A strong north-westerly had built a boisterous chop in the Firth of Thames, so we set out when the wind dropped early on the last morning before the lockdown when the conditions were perfect.
Arriving back at our marina we found many boat owners busy loading supplies and intending to head out before the lockdown started. Several of them commented to us that they “don’t know if this is allowed or not”. One person says he’s loaded his boat with supplies so “has to go”. Another says that his and other families intend to “group isolate” in their boats on the water. Generally there was a festive atmosphere, like Boxing Day when boaties load up and depart for their holidays.

On 24 March Coastguard sent an email message to their members and part of this reads:
We have has a lot of calls and messages from the public asking if they’re able to go out on the water during the lockdown period; our answer is no”.
This is based on the fact that by going out on the water you could potentially get into trouble and require assistance, putting Coastguard or other authorities at risk during the lockdown.
In Marlborough the harbour master has declared that boating is not permitted during the lockdown and that patrols will ensure this is adhered to.
The situation was further clarified a day or so later on TV news when fishing and boating were specifically advised as non-permitted activities. Several boating clubs have advised boating is not allowed and one of Auckland’s biggest trailer boat launching areas the Outboard Boating club, has closed its facilities for the duration of the lockdown.
Just today our marina emailed berth holders saying it has noticed an increase in people coming to the marina to do maintenance or just to visit their boats and stating it is not permitted to come to the marina for any reason during the lockdown.

Even as of 31/3 I can’t find any information online that expressly forbids boating (except for trailer boating), but my view is boating now would be irresponsible – why?
- It ignores the advice of Coastguard, other SAR authorities and boating clubs
- If we are over 70 it’s a no brainer, we are required to stay at home
- We are only permitted to travel for essential purposes including to and from designated essential work, buying food and obtaining medical services - so travel to and from the marina does not qualify
- It’s not practically possible to pass by other people on marina berth fingers and maintain a social distance of over two metres and this risks spreading infections
- To attempt to go boating would contravene the spirit of the lockdown (as well as possibly the law)

It will be interesting to see if people attempt to treat this Easter as a normal one and head to their marina to go cruising.
Anyway one week of the period has almost passed so it hopefully won’t be too much longer before boating returns to normal.



Tuesday, March 17, 2020

TAKE CARE OF YOUR DIESEL

The corona virus issue will have a major effect on cruisers and many will be canceling their plans to join their vessels overseas for the northern hemisphere summer. Their major concerns are the risk of contracting the virus, the relative inadequacy of medical facilities in some destinations, uncertainties about medical insurance and repatriation in case of illness, difficulties for their visitors to travel and return to their country of origin, the difficulty in returning should any emergency occur at home, the large scale closure of cafes, restaurants and tourist areas of interest, possible difficulties in obtaining technical assistance should the crisis worsen and the general uncertainty during what is currently an escalating phase.

This is an article we wrote published a while back in Pacific PowerBoat magazine.

Since a large number of diesel engine problems are fuel-related we should always follow best practice procedures in managing our fuel supply; the key areas to consider being monitoring, filtration and rotation.

Fuel Tanks and Filtration
All tanks require an air breather to equalise internal pressure during changes in fuel level and should ideally have a removable inspection port enabling access for periodic inspection and cleaning. The tank's outlet should be situated as low as possible to avoid the accumulation of water and contaminants in the bottom of the tank.
Filtration starts with a “primary” filter to separate any water present and clean the fuel before it reaches the engine, where a replaceable on-engine “secondary” filter provides a final clean before fuel is supplied to the injection pump. If water accumulates in the primary filter's clear inspection bowl we need to identify its cause and resolve the problem.
Many primary filtration systems have a vacuum gauge to indicate when the replaceable filter cartridges should be changed. In any case they should be replaced about annually as the paper filter media can deteriorate after long term diesel immersion. Sometimes it's hard to tell if this gauge is working (Envoy’s needle rarely moved) and you can check this by slowly closing the engine's fuel supply valve (not the return valve) with the engine idling in neutral. You should see the gauge's needle begin to rise confirming a vacuum is present. Every boat should carry several spare filters and every skipper should know how to change them.
While diesel sold throughout Australasia is generally high quality and contamination is rare, this is not always the case in other countries and long range cruising vessels often have a further filtration (or “polishing”) system to polish all fuel into one designated tank (often called a “day tank”) which solely supplies fuel to run the engine(s). The excess fuel from the engine(s) also returns to this tank. Most commercial vessels also use this system.
A long range cruising vessel also generally has a dual primary filter installation so that a filter cartridge can be replaced underway.

Diesel contamination
For a boat owner the mention of diesel “bug” invokes about the same amount of consternation as osmosis. All diesel carries bug to some extent and the presence of water encourages growth, hence the need to reduce condensation in fuel tanks by keeping them as full as possible. The bug is a fungal organism called Hormoconis resinae (H.res) and is a bacteria not an algae (which would require light). It can normally be seen in filter bowls as black spots or stringy matter. Water and/or hazy, cloudy fuel is also a sign of possible pending problems.
Another issue is asphaltenes (sticky black tar-like particles) which can start to form after about 90 days in unstabilised fuel. You can tell the difference between asphaltenes and other contaminants by collecting a black particle from the fuel filter and putting a drop of acetone or thinner on it. If it begins to melt it’s an asphaltene particle from old, degraded fuel. Bacterial particles also emit a sulphur dioxide (rotten egg) smell.
Aboard Envoy we had a New Zealand-made De-Bug unit installed in the polishing system's fuel input to reduce the chances of diesel bug and either by good luck or good management we never encountered the problem.

Fuel Stabiliser
We always used a fuel stabiliser when refueling to reduce oxidation, increase lubricity and reduce fuel injector pump and injector wear. It's important to add the correct levels of stabiliser and especially not too much. While stabilisers act as antioxidants they also gradually break down any asphaltine particulates and it's important this occurs only gradually and not suddenly as could happen with excessive additions. Also if too much stabiliser is added any water present may emulsify in the diesel and pass through the filters into the injection pump and injectors where it could cause damage and corrosion.
Additives that deal with water fall into two categories:
The first encourages its mixture with, or suspension in fuel so the water is captured by a water separator or goes to the engine to be vaporised in combustion. These are known as emulsifiers or dispersants or suspension additives. The second category encourages its separation from fuel so it can be drained from a tank or filter. These are demulsifiers.
Some engine manufacturers prohibit using the first option, so only use additives recommended by your engine supplier.

What about bio-diesel?
New Zealand's bio-diesel has a 5 per cent “bio” content (sourced from tallow) and isn't generally sold at marine outlets. Bio-diesel is slightly more hygroscopic than standard diesel although at the five per cent level it is very similar to standard. An industry source informed me that while bio-diesel should preferably be used within six months of purchase it contains additional antioxidant and shouldn't be a problem for up to twelve months. Some commercial operators regularly use bio-diesel and report less emissions and longer periods between filter changes, however unlike privately owned vessels theirs are in frequent use and constantly turning their fuel over.
Maritime New Zealand recommends checking with your engine manufacturer before using bio-diesel. In the Med the commonly sold fuel is 15 per cent bio-diesel and we've used this up to two years after purchase without any issues.
The key point is whatever fuel you are using, monitor it and always use your oldest fuel first.


Tuesday, February 04, 2020

OUR CRUISING MOVES FROM THE MED TO AUCKLAND


This is an edited version of an article we wrote for Pacific Powerboat magazine.
We return to Auckland from Greece last October after leaving Envoy, our beloved Nordhavn 46, for the last time. We owned her for 12 years, spending more time aboard than at home during that period and cruising over 26,000 miles along the spectacular coastlines of Italy, Greece, Albania, Montenegro and Turkey plus many dozens of their offshore islands, providing fun and adventure for ourselves, family and close friends. From May Envoy will continue cruising under the Australian flag of her new Brisbane-based owners.
We immediately start searching for a new boat and provide a brief to several brokers. We’re looking for a planing monohull power vessel with single or twin diesels and shaft drive(s); around 14 metres long; preferably constructed in GRP later than 1990; with an enclosed full-height fly bridge; with comfortable accommodation for two couples; in excellent mechanical and reasonable cosmetic condition throughout. It must have sufficient water and fuel capacity to provide a generous cruising range; a sturdy RHIB with outboard; excellent ground tackle; generous cockpit space; two seawater flushing heads; shore power operation of refrigeration, hot water and battery charging; lpg gas cooking; satellite TV and be fully equipped for cruising.
We consider dozens of boats and inspect around 20, none of which seem to meet our needs.
More on this after we ponder on our time in the Med.

THE LIVE-ABOARD CRUISING LIFE
Owning four boats ranging up to 12 metres in Auckland since the 1980s we’d cruised extensively during weekends and holidays and dreamed of enjoying great destinations until we tired of them rather than needing to meet work timetables.
We bought Envoy in 2006 and by the time we reached normal retirement age of 65 we'd already enjoyed six years of the live-aboard cruising life. This isn’t for everyone as there are many competent, dedicated weekend cruisers who wouldn't want to spend more time at sea than ashore, but for those who have the live-aboard passion there’s generally nothing to stop you joining the many thousands of cruisers living aboard all manner of boats in various parts of the world.
We chose to cruise the Med. With an area of 2.5 million square kilometres it’s surrounded by three continents - Europe, Asia and Africa and 22 countries with highly diverse cultures, languages, cuisines and standards of living; their histories representing the cradle of western civilisation. It has thousands of islands with nine having areas over 1,000 square kilometres; the largest, Sicily, is home to over five million. Contrary to perception the Med can get mighty rough, but there’s plenty of good shelter and you’re rarely over 50 miles from the nearest land.

Many people have told us they’d love to live aboard and the reasons they didn’t are generally among the following:
Experience levelseveryone starts somewhere, so take small steps first and learn from your mistakes. Coastguard and the Royal Yachting Association run excellent courses to gain practical and theoretical skills.
Mechanical abilityit usually isn’t the big things that fail and you will soon learn to deal with handling the smaller problems assisted by a comprehensive range of tools, spare parts, equipment manuals and chandlery. There’s competent technical assistance available in most parts of the cruising world.
Handling rough seas – this becomes easier with practice and many cruisers travel thousands of miles over many years rarely if ever encountering dangerous seas.
Navigation – sextants are long gone so it’s not difficult with today’s GPS-based electronic equipment and this is an area where courses will greatly assist.
Seasicknessmany cruisers start off getting seasick but wean themselves out of it and medications can assist.
Weather and tidesthe internet provides mostly reliable forecasts and good planning will enable you to find shelter or a marina to sit out the worst weather.
Manoeuvring and dockingpractice makes perfect and a bow thruster will greatly assist docking.

If you decide to embark on the cruising life there are numerous issues to consider mostly falling into these categories:
How long will you be away each year – we and the vast majority of power or sail cruisers see little point in sitting out the winter in a marina (after doing it once) and most spend several months away then return home to see their families and friends and enjoy the southern hemisphere summer.
How many years will you cruise forthe short answer is as long as you are enjoying it and health, finances and other circumstances permit. About five years would be typical.
Dependent familymost of the cruising community are in the age group mid-50s to mid-70s without school-age children and cruisers living aboard with children are rare. When we started cruising we each had an elderly parent who accepted our absences, appreciated our regular phone calls and enjoyed our home visits.
Family and Friends – of course you miss your family and close friends, but some may be able to visit you and share your cruising experience. Being home to see them for a few months during the year keeps these relationships intact.
Workmost cruisers we have met are semi or completely retired. A fewer number of younger cruisers take time out from the work force intending to rejoin it later.
Your homesome cruisers elect to sell their home to provide funds for cruising while most others rent it out, get house sitters or leave it vacant.
Compatibility and confidence – some people may speculate you won’t get on well together as a couple spending so much time in the confines of a boat. Only you will know if this is correct or not and we probably all know people where this lifestyle would be doomed to failure.
Healtha reasonable but not perfect standard of general health and fitness is required for the live-aboard life reinforcing the case for starting the cruising life sooner than later. Health insurance is preferable.
Pets – overseas regulations concerning transportation and quarantine of pets are less strict than in Australasia and there are generally fewer restrictions concerning pets on beaches and in restaurants so some cruisers take their pets along. We decided to cruise pet-free for additional flexibility.
Comfort aboard – this will of course vary by vessel. When yachtsmen came aboard Envoy they were amazed at the living space available compared to sailing vessels of the same length and we didn’t get wet, cold or wind-blown.
Capital and living costs – the size, age and condition of your vessel determines its capital cost. Remember that bigger isn’t always better as larger vessels have dearer maintenance, marina and insurance costs. We found that living costs such as food, beverages, household supplies and personal spending were about the same while cruising as when at home. Maintaining a boat overseas was dearer due to the higher cost of parts and greater distances travelled. There was also the cost of travel to and from our boat and additional fuel costs for the longer distances cruised. Excluding living costs maintenance was our largest cost, averaging about six per cent of Envoy’s estimated value each year.

Buying your live aboard cruising vessel
Relatively few cruisers take their boats from New Zealand or Australia and the European new and pre-owned boat market favours buyers with ample choice available. Most types of boat are suited to cruising the Med and we even met one couple in Greece living aboard a six metre outboard-powered trailer boat on which they’d cruised from Germany. However the majority of live-aboards are found on sailing yachts or catamarans, mostly up to about 14 metres.
Do your research by reading, visiting cruisers' blogs and talking with live-aboard cruisers.
Consider the location of vessels for sale relative to your intended cruising area.
Bearing in mind the boating adage that everything that can go wrong will eventually go wrong, she needs to be engineered for maximum reliability with redundancy of systems and a well-planned inventory of chandlery, tools, key spare parts and documentation covering equipment carried aboard. Make sure you have reliable ground tackle and a rugged RHIB (this is also the life raft for most cruisers).
Exercise caution in your financial dealings as some buyers have lost funds sent overseas to fraudulent sellers.
Be sure to get a qualified surveyor to check your vessel prior to purchase as many insurers require a recent survey and he/she may identify costly and time consuming problems.

Understand local regulations
Allied to the issue of the location of the boat you purchase is the complex one of port of registry, particularly if local overseas taxes haven't been paid.
A New Zealand or Australian registered boat can remain in EU waters up to 18 months at a time without paying VAT. You can place your boat in Customs bond during your winter layover and this period is not included in the 18 months. Before the 18 month period expires it's only necessary to leave EU waters for a few days to re-set the 18 month clock. It’s a good idea to get specialist advice for your circumstances so that correct documentary procedures are followed to minimise liabilities.
Familiarise yourself with other relevant regulations such as the Schengen Treaty which currently limits visits by New Zealand passport holders to three months in each treaty member country and Australians to three months total in all member countries (most but not all EU countries are members).
Many countries require cruisers to use agents for clearing-in and out. Even where not required it’s a good idea to use agents as they save time, have useful contacts and may be able to offer advice on extending your stay and minimising your obligations. They are also extremely useful if you encounter any major problem with authorities, such as when our EPIRB activated accidentally and we needed special permission from Coastguard to continue on to a port where our safety equipment could be surveyed.

OUR NEW VESSEL IN AUCKLAND
On Westhaven’s hard stand a broker shows us over a boat which like so many others looked reasonable on paper but quickly proves unsuitable. Disappointed, we wander down to Oram’s sales berth and stumble across a very well presented Salthouse 52 equipped with twin Caterpillar 3208s.
She’s called Awesome and that’s our impression too as she’s by far the best presented vessel we’d seen.
Launched in 1993, she’s been owned by a boating professional for offshore game fishing including several trips to the Three Kings. He’s also overseen extensive recent improvements including a rebuild of the engines and gearboxes just 900 engine hours ago, new house and start battery banks, new exterior repaint, new teak cockpit decking, new Furuno electronics and new carpet throughout.
However there’s quite a few variances from our wish list.
Firstly she’s 16 metres, but we’re impressed with her three sleeping cabin layout and generous space accentuated by her 1.96 metre headroom and we soon find that getting a suitable marina isn’t as difficult as we’d expected.
We find that Awesome is an alloy boat, so research this to satisfy ourselves while our surveyor makes additional checks including ultrasonic testing of the hull to find she’s very sound throughout with an “above ground” earthing system to minimise electrolysis.
We don’t like the imported RHIB with an inflatable floor, but plan to use it for now and replace it with a locally built rigid hulled design during winter.
Cooking is electric, but the vessel is equipped with a generator. Nevertheless we invest in a portable lpg gas stove for the galley, so we can at least have our morning cuppa’ without needing to start the generator.
The only major downside was she wasn’t fully equipped for cruising having not been used very much in the previous 18 months, so after purchasing her in early December we set about updating safety equipment, buying new bedding, galley supplies, barbecue, tools, spare parts, fishing gear and a proverbial 101 other items.
On the plus side Awesome has some additional equipment including long range fuel tanks providing 2,900 litres capacity which is sufficient for over 500 miles cruising, a fuel polishing system, an engine oil changing system, a recently fitted water maker, a bow thruster, underwater lighting and throttles and autopilot controls in the cockpit in addition to those at the lower and upper helm positions.
Although we don’t mind Awesome’s name we decide to change her name to Rapport – the same as our last boat in Auckland.
So the purchase is finalised and we enjoy a couple of weeks cruising the inner Gulf – Waiheke, Rotoroa, Motutapu and Mahurangi.
We call Coastguard with our trip reports, a service not provided in the Med and it’s great to know that if we have any problems they’ll assist with no strings attached, unlike in the Med where you need to get your vessel cleared by a surveyor after being assisted by Coastguard.
Although we find the fishing slow we manage to feed ourselves and enjoy smoking some fish ashore over a few late afternoon beers. The sandy beach is pristine, litter-free and without the numerous deck chairs and loud music found on many sandy beaches in the Med.
We’re not annoyed by boats moving too fast through anchored boats as found in the Med, except for some jet ski operators at Mahurangi.
Our RHIB had been stored deflated in the lazarette at the time of purchase and when we inflate it we have to repair one leaking seam. Later we encounter more leaking seams and soon totally lose confidence in using this RHIB so return to Hobsonville marina to buy a new one.
Back in the marina I ask one of the contractors to check out our windlass as it’s making a banging noise. It seems the stripper plate is hitting the underside of the gypsy. When they pull the windlass apart they find the circular plate containing the keyway is also damaged, so the windlass is removed to their workshop for inspection. We find it makes more sense to purchase a new windlass rather than invest in the repair of an old unit and delivery is going to take about three weeks, so our initial cruising was short lived.
During our short cruise we’d discovered a few other minor niggling issues – probably as a result of little use in the last eighteen months and these are largely resolved during the wait for our new windlass after contractors return to work in mid-January.
At time of writing this article we’re about to set off again, hopefully with teething issues resolved.
Our last boat Envoy attracted a lot of admirers on the dock or at anchor and we’re now finding the same with Rapport. Of course we still have a few other additions and alterations to transform our boat from Awesome – the full-on game fishing boat to Rapport – the comfortable cruiser, but that’s part of the fun of boating.

Monday, December 02, 2019

NEW BOAT NOW IN OUR LIVES

The purchase of our new boat has now been finalised and we take over ownership in the next few days.
While Envoy, as a full displacement vessel, was perfect for the Med, we never intended to buy such a vessel here. Instead we have been looking at planing or what are commonly called "semi-displacement", although I'm told this term is not technically correct as a vessel is either planing or it's not.
We planned to buy a boat around 14 metres and looked over around 20 without finding anything that really suited us in terms of either design, space or condition until we found "Awesome" by accident when we wandered onto the Westhaven sales jetty of a broker called Orams Marine.
We saw Awesome sitting there with a For Sale sign, went aboard and within minutes felt she was the right boat for us. At 16 metres she is a little larger than we intended, but she has the advantage of three separate sleeping cabins and two bathrooms/Heads. Much of our boating will be with other couples aboard (or Chris aka MacGyver of course) so this is perfect, She's powered by twin Cat 3208 diesels and has a generator and water maker.


Although Awesome has a leading designer - Salthouse, she's built from alloy, which was a complication for us initially as we knew little about larger alloy boats although realised that many rugged commercial vessels are alloy. A rigorous in water and out of water survey including ultrasonic testing of the hull detected very few issues and a sea trial with a GoughCat engineer aboard doing tests verified the engines as being sound. In fact both Cats and their Twin Disc gearboxes were reconditioned in 2014 and only have 600 hours on them since.
The previous owner has used her mostly for offshore game fishing and she's done many trips to remote places like the Three Kings as well as Cook Strait crossings and a voyage from Picton to Auckland. Awesome has additional fuel tanks for long range so can carry nearly 3,000 litres of diesel, which should give a range of over 500 miles at lower speeds.
During the sea trial fully loaded with fuel, water and five people aboard she achieved 21 knots wide open throttle at 2,800 rpm, but her usual cruising speed on the plane is around 15-17 knots and 2,200-2,400 rpm.
We expect to use her off the plane quite a lot, cruising around 8 knots.
We'll be berthing her at our preferred marina - Hobsonville (previously called Westpark) and will be changing her name to "Rapport", the same name as our last boat owned in Auckland in partnership with our always-missed great friend Brian.
Awesome doesn't have much gear aboard so we've been busy buying tools, spares, galley equipment, bedding, safety equipment etc.
Hoping to start a two week "shakedown" cruise this weekend.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

GOODBYE TO ENVOY

We're home in Auckland and Envoy is in Greece's Lefkada marina. 
Our involvement with Envoy is over as she's now under the control of her new Australian owners, Larry and Catherine.
We've been looking at buying a new (pre-owned) boat and have taken one to survey stage, so if we proceed with this boat I'll give more details next week.

It's early October and we're back in Lefkada marina with my brother Charles aboard. It's fitting that he's with us for our final days aboard Envoy as he's the reason we're here. In the early 2000s Charles and his French wife Marie sailed their 34ft yacht Acrobat from Brisbane to Turkey and invited us to join them there  in 2004 for a couple of weeks cruising. It was during that time Diane and I decided to do this Med cruising.
We came into the marina two days early because a “destructive thunderstorm” was forecast and we didn't want to take any chances – we've seen what they can do! However despite our caution this time the storm doesn't materialise.
The day before we come to the marina the generator fails to start – it turns over OK and runs provided the glow plug pre-heat switch is kept activated but stops when this switch is let go. 
Charles and I check it over and change a few relays to no avail. 
Sailand's electrician Velissaris comes aboard and when we explain the issue he nods his head knowingly, saying that probably the oil or coolant level is too low. I'm skeptical as I'd checked the coolant level the same day, however we check it again and find it's slightly low. We add coolant then lo and behold all is good.
The generator has always needed a very small amount of coolant added every couple of weeks, however we ask Velissaris to check the generator's cooling system during winter and the exhaust system while they're at it.
We have six days before catching the bus to Athens and this is plenty of time to prepare Envoy for winter. Our final short cruise is from our marina berth to the haul-out area – how many times we've stood by watching Envoy being pulled out or launched!

We watch Envoy being positioned on the hard stand for our final time

Maybe this will be our next boat?

This year's cruise has been great and we've enjoyed sharing it with Chris, Larry and Catherine and Charles. We've visited Greece, Albania and Italy and cruised 964 miles. 
We recall some of the challenges we had making this an interesting cruise: a leaking bilge that took Sailand about a week to permanently repair, the major storm in the marina at Taranto, a large motor vessel hitting us in the marina at Gallipoli, getting our anchor stuck in a bay in Italy, a storm in Ay Eufemia harbour with other boats adrift, being detained by Coastguard for a week after our EPIRB inadvertently activated, losing and then finding our RHIB in Albania and being anchored in Vlikho Bay when an adrift yacht nearly hit us. All good fun!
So folks I see that our first post was in late 2006, so after 13 years that's the end of the Envoy Blog, although I will post a bit more material here, particularly regarding our new vessel. 
Envoy was perfect for this Med adventure, but our next boat will be somewhat different!
Thanks for following us.



Saturday, November 09, 2019

OUR FINAL CRUISING DAYS ABOARD ENVOY


Envoy's ownership is now transferred to Larry and Catherine Wood of Brisbane, Australia and we're sure they'll have as much fun and adventure as we enjoyed. 
Envoy has been de-registered from the NZ Shipping Register in preparation for her new Australian listing.
We've been back home in Auckland for three weeks now and busy searching for a new boat. We looked at about 15 before we found one we really liked and signed the deal last Wednesday, subject to survey, sea trial and engineering report. This should be all complete in about two weeks and then I'll provide some details.

Now back to the Med. It's late September and we leave Kastos Island to cruise through the Dragonera and Echinades Islands. There are several islands in this remote and barren group with many fish farms among them. 

The Dragonera islands


Although there are good day anchorages here it's not the place you'd want to move around at night if you needed to, so we head to the nearby mainland coast and anchor at a bay called Ormos Dhioni. This is nothing special but well sheltered and just a few hundred metres from the mouth of Greece's longest river – the Achelos, a slow flowing river passing through marshlands and forming a shallow sandspit where it flow into the sea.
Next day we cruise about 25 miles to Messalonghi. This is a very sheltered harbour about half a mile wide at the end of a two-mile-long canal from the sea.

The canal going to Messalonghi has some interesting dwellings


Here we find a handful of yachts anchored and the superyacht Christina O moored alongside the jetty. This is the ship formerly belonging to Aristotle Onassis and named after his daughter. The ship is a converted WW2 warship which saw service at the D Day landings and was beautifully restored and modified.

Christina O by day and night




Messalonghi is important in recent Greek history as a centre of resistance to Turkish rule. In the early 19th century the Turks attacked the town and 7,000 citizens escaped through a gate in the walls and fled into the hills. Unfortunately they encountered some Albanian mercenaries working for the Turks and were ruthlessly slaughtered.
Here my brother Charles joins us having flown in from Scotland for our final cruise aboard Envoy back to the marina.

Charles by gate through which 7,000 people passed before their slaughter

19th century hospital now a tourist spot


We cruise to Ormos Antissamos on Cephalonia Island and during the night there's a lot of distant thunder and lightning but no problem for us. Next day we head to Kalo Limani where it's very calm until midnight, but then another thunderstorm starts and continues non-stop until dawn with some very heavy rain but without the violent winds that normally accompany these storms. Charles wonders what he's got himself into having come here for some great Med late summer weather.
Next day we motor to nearby Ay Eufemia to find it's been severely flood-damaged by the heavy rain and the sea is brown to several hundred metres offshore. As we approach the harbour we're warned not to enter because of the large amount of driftwood floating around so we anchor outside and take the dinghy in. Many shops have been flooded and the locals are busy cleaning up and trying to get the thick mud off the roads and footpaths.

A very muddy Ay Eufemia harbour

And equally muddy footpaths


Next day we cruise to Ormos Vlikkho on Lefkada Island. Our anchor isn't free-falling very well indicating the windlass needs greasing, so we strip the above deck components and give it a good grease – then it's all good. We spend a few days here basically just filling in time before we go to the marina and doing wintering preparation.

There are hundreds of dinner plate sized jellyfish in Ormos Vlikkho

Ormos Vlikkho is a bit of a boat graveyard as you can see in following images








On Monday 7th October the forecast is for strong winds and “destructive thunderstorms” so we decide to go into Lefkada marina a couple of days early. On the way in we refuel for the only time this year (our new boat won't be quite so economical!) putting in 1,690 litres plus the Stanadyne fuel stabiliser that we use.
Next posting – our final days aboard Envoy.



Tuesday, October 22, 2019

UNEXPLODED HAND GRENADE IN ENVOY'S ANCHORAGE


We're now back home in Auckland and Envoy is safely on the hard at Lefkas marina, Greece.
We're now in the process of changing legal ownership of Envoy to Larry and Catherine and associated matters such as converting insurance and taking Envoy off the NZ register.
However we still have three or four postings to do to complete Envoy's epic under our ownership.

I'm going to add some photos to this posting in a few days.

It's mid-September as we leave our anchorage at Ormos Varko heading further south to Syvota, mentioned many times on the Blog, and then on to Cephalonia, one of the most attractive of the Ionian Islands. The weather is still warm being in the mid 20s and the sea temperature is 25d, but as usual in September over here the weather is unstable with many thunderstorm warnings.
Here we anchor at a not-so-popular (because there's no tavernas or shops) but very sheltered bay called Kalo Limani. 
In the early evening we notice a few Coastguard personnel and what appear to be soldiers on the beach and somebody snorkeling around the shallows. We're anchored about 200 metres off the beach and see Coastguard personnel instruct the skipper of a yacht anchored much closer to the beach to move away. The yacht comes over to us and the skipper says he's been told to re-anchor behind us because they've found an unexploded WW2 hand grenade in the shallows and the bomb disposal team are going to blow it up. Apparently someone was snorkeling around earlier, noticed the grenade and called the Coastguard. Of course Cephalonia was the scene of much activity during WW2 including the events depicted in the great movie Captain Corelli's Mandolin. So we sip our wine and wait for the blast. We expect to see a fountain of water erupting, but the reality is disappointing, sounding like two fire crackers going off.
Next day we cruise south to one of our favourite anchorages – Ay Eufemia for a couple of nights and meet a nice couple Duncan and Julia from Falmouth aboard S/Y Rampage (what a great boat name).

Rampage


Ay Eufemia harbour


This season we've met many interesting fellow cruisers, mainly from Australia, NZ, UK and Italy.
One of the nights here we encounter a severe thunderstorm with winds up to 43 knots and the classic 180 degree reversal of wind direction. One catamaran and one monohull yacht drag, but as usual Envoy is OK, though the storm did keep us up on watch for a couple of hours during the night.
We spend a few days around the island of Ithica re-visiting some favourite haunts and encounter yet another thunder storm while anchored in Vathi Harbour. This one is prolonged, lasting about three hours, but with the wind only reaches about 20 knots with no boats dragging.

Stormy morning in Vathi


With an even worse weather forecast we head back to Lefkada Island for one night, anchoring in the very sheltered Vlikho Bay. The swell is close to 2 metres providing a good test for our Naiad stabilisers, which perform well and as the wind increases we take some spray over the bow for the first time this season.

Cruising back to Vlikho with foul weather behind


As usual there are huge numbers of dinner plate sized jellyfish here – I counted 30 around Envoy at one point so definitely not the place for a swim. 

Late in the afternoon the wind increases to about 20 knots and I see a yacht about 100 metres in front of us to windward turn beam to wind and start to drag towards us. We start the engine and start to pull up our anchor to move out of the way, but the yacht is moving too fast and I realise we won't pull up the anchor in time. Our only alternative is to let out much more chain and power ourselves out of the way of the yacht. It's a close call but the yacht passes by dragging her anchor and fortunately not fouling our chain. I notice that she drags at least another 200 metres before her anchor bites and holds.
We need to meet my brother Charles who's flying into Athens so head to Messalonghi, about 70 miles away on the mainland as here has good bus connections with Athens and is a place we've never been.
We spend the first night at Port Leone on Nisos Kalamos. It's perfectly calm here and we have a great night anchored off the derelict village, abandoned after an earthquake in 1953.
Next day we anchor off Port Kalamos and go ashore for a look around before heading to nearby Nisos Kastos and anchoring in very sheltered South-East Bay. It's deep here and we anchor in 23 metres.

Port Kalamos


Autumn is coming and we need to put a blanket on the bed for the first time since summer started and we're no longer needing our electric fans to keep cool.
We explore more of Nisos Kastos, which is a really nice island, before heading to Astakos on the nearby mainland, anchoring off the village and going ashore. 

Large open fishing boat at Astakos


The wind comes up to 25 knots, building a heavy chop and making this exposed position untenable overnight so we cruise down to nearby Port Marathia. It's very windy here too but it's offshore and we have good holding despite a half metre wind-driven chop.
Next Post is cruising through the Dragonera and Echinades Islands to Messolonghi where we see the superyacht Christina O, formerly owned by Aristotle Onassis.