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Friday, June 14, 2019

ENVOY CRUISING IN THE IONIAN SEA

Before leaving the marina we enjoy one day away from Envoy, hiring a car to tour around this great island of Lefkada with its small sandy coves, picturesque villages and inland mountains soaring to about 3,000 feet. Traffic is negligible and I don't think there's any traffic lights at all on the island.

Greece seems to be a very honest country with little crime evident beyond copious amounts of graffiti in the cities. Shopkeepers often leave items outside overnight and people leave their keys in cars and scooters. So it was a surprise when a 46ft Bavaria yacht was stolen from Lefkada's quayside during our stay and hasn't been seen since. Locals speculate that it will have been sailed across to Italy.
While in Lefkada we also meet our Kiwi friend Bruce from sailing cat Midi. This year his wife Leslie decided to stay home, so Bruce is cruising with two friends Gavin and David. Anybody thinking about sailing in the Med couldn't do better than to buy the superbly equipped and lovingly maintained Midi.

Envoy was re-launched on Tuesday 4 June and everything was fine when we did a short sea trial before going to our berth. It's certainly much nicer staying aboard in tn the water than on the hard.
Overall our cruise preparations went well. The only surprise issue was the sea water leak to the bilge and even that wasn't a total surprise given past history. Without that we'd have been cruising within 12 days of our arrival, but this turned out to be 16.
Chris and I spent a bit of time adjusting the Lugger's prop shaft stuffing box. When Sailand checked the sealings last year they tightened the bolts on the stuffing box too much so that the forward section of the stuffing box wouldn't loosen up as the adjusting bolts were slackened. We used a puller and some levers to get it moving again and now have a nice regular drip – we find that one drip about every 10-20 seconds is about right.
The RHIB maintenance turned into a bit of a saga. After the Yamaha was serviced I took it for a test run and noticed the tachometer (tacho) was no longer working. Spiros came back and did some work on it, telling me he'd put in a new tacho that still didn't work “so it must be the regulator” (that provides an electronic signal to the tacho). A few days later a new regulator arrives and is installed but still the tacho doesn't work. Spiros tries to convince me “you don't need a tacho anyway … just go and enjoy your cruise”. But I tell Spiros I want it fixed. A few minutes after that discussion he calls me to say its all fixed. He explains that when he initially checked the fault by putting in a different tacho, it was an old used one he had laying around his workshop and that one must have been faulty too. When he put in a new tacho it worked fine.
So all was finally ready – jobs done, stores loaded, documentation completed and we set off from Lefkada Marina on the Weds as planned (plan 2!)
Just before we leave our Italian friend Fabricius comes to say farewell. Fabricius had been aboard his yacht next to us on the hard stand. He gives us some valuable advice about places to see in the Italian region we're heading to – Puglia at the northern end of the “Boot”. In fact he surprises us by saying this si one of the most visited areas of Italy. In particular he recommends Lecce – known as the Florence of the south with its Baroque architecture.
We cruise just a couple of hours north to anchor off Preveza. Di has some favorite shops here and there's also a couple of guitar shops I want to check out, ending up buying a cheap Soundsation (Fender strat style)so I don't get too much out of practice while we're away.

Laurie doing first BBQ of the season

Here's an unusual large cat in the Polynesian style noticed at Preveza

Then we cruise up to Parga – one of the nicest village on the mainland coast overlooked by its 14th century Venetian castle.




Saturday, June 01, 2019

DELAY TO ENVOY'S LAUNCHING

We've met a NZ couple from Blenheim – Keven and Kerry who've recently bought a “green” motor vessel. It has an electric motor, good for about 20 miles cruising plus a VW diesel engine with a range of about 600 miles. They eventually plan to ship it home where the electric motor will suit cruising in the Marlborough Sounds.

We're constantly reminded that many costs are still very reasonable in Greece. Last night we went to dinner at a nice restaurant overlooking the estuary and had a Greek salad, french fries, fried eggplant, mushrooms with cheese, bread, one bottle of water, one litre of house white wine and desserts of fruit and yoghurt for a total cost of 27 Euros – about NZ$47. In many restaurants at home we'd pay nearly that just for the wine. On the other hand petrol is nearly 2 Euros per litre – about NZ$3.48.

Huge crane lifts our RHIB down for engine service

Preparation for Envoy's launching had been going well and after 7 days aboard were ready for launching the day before it occurred. So last Tuesday Envoy was lifted from her chocks on the hardstand and put into the water. 

Envoy in the travelift slings

We always spend a few minutes checking for any sea water leaks before the travel lift operator removes the slings and we soon noticed a leak into the engine room bilge.
Regular readers of this Blog may recall we've had similar leaks twice previously, but they've stopped quite quickly after launching (although we were never able to figure out exactly why). However this time more water was coming in (at a guess about a litre per minute) and it didn't look like stopping any time soon.
We had Sailand engineer Panos aboard for the launching and he suggested we allow more water to come into the bilge, then lift the boat out and hopefully see water coming back out from the inside.
So we did exactly this and after lifting back onto the hard were able to identify a small area of the keel leaking water .
Within an hour Sailand's GRP expert, Raza, was on the job with his assistant and they used a grinder to cut back the GRP in the area of the leak. In doing so they found some de-laminated GRP and then a plug of sealant. Raza's theory is that a previous owner must have had some minor impact damage, used sealant to make a temporary repair and then pulled the boat out of the water and glassed over it. This must have happened more than 12 years ago. When the boat was on the hard the sealant plug dried out and shrank so that when launched water could pass through until the sealant swelled a little to stop the flow. Anyhow this is conjecture and a fully professional repair is now being completed – first grinding back to solid, good condition GRP and then building it up again using carbon fibre and Kevlar cloth impregnated with West Systems epoxy resin and using presses to apply pressure during curing. They've nearly completed the exterior and today modified the interior of the aft bilge, pouring in Gurit's Ampreg 26 epoxy resin to fill in previous surface imperfections and building up the bilge's  level by about 150mm to provide more strength and a smoother impervious surface finish.
Raza is working on Sunday to finish sanding, undercoating, painting and anti-fouling so we can launch on Monday.

Raza working on the leak repair. A towel covers the Yanmar's prop for safety

He used infra red heaters both to dry the hull and to cure the epoxy

West System's 105 epoxy was used

Also carbon fibre and Kevlar cloth

This image shows the extent of the repair - pink


It's now Sunday and Raza has been working today to complete the job so we can launch tomorrow.

All other work is now completed except that our large RHIB is awaiting a new regulator for its Yamaha outboard's alternator – during servicing the mechanic noticed the battery is over charging. This part is due to arrive on Tuesday so we're hopeful of starting our cruise on Wednesday.


Thursday, May 23, 2019

BACK ABOARD ENVOY IN GREECE


We had a great trip up from Auckland enjoying one night stopovers in Dubai and Athens. The flight to Dubai is nearly 17 hours, but the time seemed to pass OK with nice meals, plenty of movies to watch and a few hours sleep. The economy class seats have quite generous space and we had a spare seat between us. Our favourite hotel in Dubai - the Roda Al Bustan upgraded us to a palatial suite having a separate lounge 26 feet across!

Our huge hotel room

After a five hour bus ride we arrived in Lefkada to a beautiful early evening, but the taxi driver told us the weather has been bad until a few days ago with heavy rain laden with red dust from Africa.
After checking into our hotel (which is pretty basic and no comparison with the Roda Al Bustan) we checked Envoy sitting on the hardstand. She still had her winter cover on and we could see the hull had been readied for anti-fouling and the Lugger, Yanmar and bow thruster props had been cleaned. Inside was perfectly dry as always and looked exactly the same as last November when we left her.
Next day we moved our gear to spend our 1,808th day aboard. We've since spent three days aboard and all is progressing well with re-launching scheduled for next Tuesday. The winter cover has been removed and is in remarkable condition for its age with just minor maintenance needed again, anti-fouling is complete, anodes replaced, washing and polishing of topsides to be completed tomorrow, Yanmar shaft seal checked, generator sea water circulating pump taken away for servicing, small Honda outboard sent for servicing and tomorrow the large RHIB will be lifted off Envoy to a trailer for servicing its Yamaha. Everything that we've used or tested so far is working well although some equipment like engines, heads and aircon can't be checked until we're in the water.
We've been busy loading supplies and the refrigeration has been working overtime to get stuff chilled down. Tomorrow Envoy comes out of Customs Bond and we get our new Transit Log. There is a new cruising tax here costing just over Euro 100 per month. Obviously no new costs are welcome, but a bit over Euro 3 per day isn't a lot to pay for cruising in paradise. So all is good and so far no surprises!
Chris arrives tomorrow and all being well we plan to leave the marina on 1 June.




Saturday, May 11, 2019

RETURN TO ENVOY NOW IMMINENT

Diane booked our fares yesterday and dealing with Emirates had no issues getting our travel arranged at short notice at good pricing with departure next Friday. We'll spend one night in Dubai and one in Athens before catching the bus for the five hour trip to Lefkada.
Just to clarify - yes Envoy has been sold but the new owners didn't intend to use her this season so part of the deal was we could use her. They will be joining us for some cruising in early August.
I had already arranged for Envoy's winter storage cover to be removed and for Envoy to be pulled out of the water onto the hardstand. There she will be water blasted to remove any marine growth, the hull sanded before having new anti-fouling applied, the props and shafts cleaned, zinc anodes replaced, stainless steel cleaned and white topsides areas polished.
Internally we're getting the generator and Yanmar wing engine sea water pumps checked over and impellers replaced. The Yanmar's dripless shaft seal will be checked and its Maxprop propeller greased. A new pump hose is required for the engines' oil change system and for the forward aircon's sea water inlet. Hopefully we'll be cruising about a week after our arrival.
We sometimes find something unexpected needs doing when returning to Envoy and fortunately we'll have our friend Chris, aka McGyver arriving a few days after us to help out. Chris not only has lots of knowledge but tons of energy and enthusiasm and will be staying with us until about the end of June by which time we will probably be somewhere in SE Italy.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

ENVOY'S 2109 CRUISING

We are home in Auckland, NZ while Envoy is in Greece's Lefkada marina.
We hope to know by this time next week - Thursday 2 May that all is on track for our return to the Med for several months of cruising - watch this space!

Monday, April 15, 2019

MAINTENANCE MANAGEMENT

We are currently home in Auckland, NZ and expect to return to Envoy to do some cruising mid-May. Envoy's new owners will join us during part of this time for a joint cruise.

There all types of boaties and about as many different approaches to the subject of boat care and maintenance. At one extreme plenty of derelict-looking boats can be seen on moorings, apparently never used with growth dangling below their hulls, while at the other extreme some owners can be seen on their anchored boats lovingly cleaning their pride and joy all day long.
Boating is about enjoyment – cruising to great anchorages, swimming, diving, fishing, children playing on the beach, BBQs with family and friends etc and as such it's well to consider that care and maintenance should focus more on the technical than the cosmetic aspects - minor marks and imperfections show that adventures and fun have been had, they add character and are part of a boat's life story. This is not to say that gelcoat and stainless steel shouldn't be cared for and we've learned long ago that regularly washing accumulated salt off our topsides and stainless steel pays huge dividends. We also get our topsides gelcoat professionally polished annually.
It can be challenging to monitor all of the checks and subsequent maintenance required aboard modern vessels with the growing complexity of the equipment they carry, especially as we all tend to focus on the immediate problems needing our attention rather than those in the future. So how can we keep track of the myriad of routine maintenance issues?
Our own approach is to be pragmatic and practical but not pedantic and we try to strike a balance between preventative maintenance and “if it ain't broke don't fix it”.
Maintenance normally falls into one of three categories:
# something that you notice needs doing – eg you see a frayed vee belt
# something based on hours of use – eg replacing engine oil and filter after 200 hours
# something based on elapsed time – eg replacing your oil and filter annually regardless of elapsed hours
The simplest way to manage this process is to go through the maintenance sections of your equipment manuals and make one list of what needs to be done at various time intervals, for example daily, weekly, monthly, 3-monthly, annually etc, plus another list showing the equipment to be maintained and its maintenance requirements every 100 hours, 200 hours, 500 hours etc.
When planning your maintenance consider that it's often best to group similar maintenance items together. For example when replacing the oil and filters on the engine(s), consider doing the generator at the same time, particularly if you're paying a mechanic to do this - if your oil is supposed to be changed at 200 hours it doesn't really matter if it turns out to be 180 or 220 hours.
Some owners like to do as much as possible themselves while others like to mostly use contractors.
If using contractors try to be aboard your vessel while they're working. It may lead to better results and at the least you will often learn useful information. Always check what has been done including a sea trial if anything more than minor work has been done on vital equipment.
It's a good idea for any boat to have an Operation Manual. This can range in size from a few pages for a smaller boat to probably around a hundred pages for a larger complex one. Not only does this simplify the operation of your boat but it's a valuable asset when it's time to sell. This Manual should document where equipment is located - particularly for safety-critical items like isolating switches and seacocks, how systems work - for example how to change from one fuel or fresh water tank to another and maintenance procedures - how to change oil, oil filters, fuel filters etc.
Another useful document is a list of spare parts carried aboard and their location, so they can be found quickly in an emergency like a vee belt breaking on your main engine while under way. Keep this updated so that used parts are replaced as soon as possible. Parts are expensive and should always be well packaged for their protection and stored in cool, dry conditions.
Aboard Envoy we like to keep things simple and rely on a few handwritten documents. Rather than jotting things down on various pieces of paper that get lost we use a Daybook to write down information relating to the boat's operation. For example if we're thinking about replacing an item of equipment and want to do some research about it we note the pertinent facts in the Daybook. We also keep a separate Logbook to record details of the voyage, for example where we've been been, what we've done and people we've met.
Another important document for us is our To Do List and my unlikely-to-be-achieved life's ambition is to have nothing on this list (I've yet to meet a boat owner who says there's nothing that needs doing on their boat).
Finally to maximize your technical security and independence it’s essential to carry aboard a comprehensive toolkit, manuals for all installed equipment, and an extensive range of chandlery items. Then even if you can't fix something yourself this may enable a fellow boatie to assist you.


Tuesday, April 02, 2019

REALITY CHECK - BUY Vs CHARTER


Envoy is in Greece's Lefkas Marina. We expect to return there mid-May for several months' cruising including some time with her new owners.

We recently wrote this article published in Pacific MotorBoat magazine.

When Envoy, our Greece-based Nordhavn 46 passagemaker was for sale, one inquiry is from a Kiwi guy saying that due to work commitments he'd only able to travel to Greece to use the boat for about one month a year. He asks my opinion on this idea. As much as I want to sell Envoy and proceed with our new boating plans I don't want to mislead anybody so tell him it would be much more practical and cost-effective to charter one of the thousands of boats available throughout the Med. My reply is based not only on cost, but also on the fact it takes at least a week to get your boat ready for cruising and about the same to lay her up again for winter. He agrees and this prompts me to write this article.

We've chartered boats several times here in NZ, in Britain and in Queensland's Whitsunday Islands and never been disappointed. If you own a boat locally there's a lot to be said for chartering overseas during our winter for a much-needed sunshine boost combined with enjoying a cruising adventure in a different location. Consider the Whitsundays, Pacific islands, the countries bordering the Mediterranean, the exotic Caribbean or Alaska's Inside Passage. Alternatively you could explore British canals by narrow boat enjoying the many pubs along the way or meander through European canals enjoying croissants and coffee in the morning and wine in the afternoon.

However it's quite another option and mind shift to charter locally instead of owning your own boat, even though there's a compelling logical and financial case to do so where people enjoy boating, but would use their boat infrequently (say less than about 20 days in a year).
There are two main issues to consider when comparing ownership with charter – the intangible and the tangible (financial) aspects.
Several intangible factors favoring ownership include pride in your vessel, the ability to potter around aboard doing odd jobs, having the exact boat and equipment you prefer, knowing how to handle your own boat and her limitations, being able to keep your gear aboard and of course unrestricted availability for use.
Conversely several intangible factors favoring charter include the ability to use different types and sizes of boat, cruising in different locations, being able to step on and off without the worry of repairs and maintenance (R&M) and being able to try out cruising before making a major financial commitment to purchase a boat.

Then we come to the tangible – the financial question. The cost of boat ownership is something many owners probably don't like to think about and is only generally discussed in hushed tones, preferably without spouses present. As the saying goes, if you have to think about this you can't afford it.
Let's consider the costs attached to a typical 12 metre twin-engine planing fly-bridge launch about 15 years old costing NZ$300,000, of which there are many similar examples currently advertised.
First you have to consider annual cash costs which I've calculated as: marina $9,000, insurance $2,800 and R&M $12,000, totaling $23,800. In this calculation the marina and insurance costs can be accurately defined, but R&M is always a guesstimate based on factors like the vessel's age and condition, how much work the owner does versus using contractors, how fastidious the owner is and whether the owner wants to upgrade ageing equipment etc. Some years may be less than $12,000 but in other years factors will certainly come out of left field to exceed it.
Since we are comparing ownership with charter, where diesel is an extra cost, the above figures don't include diesel. But a good guess on costs would be about $8,400 based on using your boat for a reasonably common 200 engine hours annually, averaging 30 litres per hour and a diesel cost of $1.40 per litre.

To bare-boat charter a vessel around 12m typically costs about $1,000 to $1,500 per day depending on location, season and vessel type so let's take an average of $1,250. This would reduce if you share the charter experience and cost with others (which many charterers do). These figures show you only need to use your boat more than 19 days per year for ownership to be the better financial option.
However we are missing vital components in this equation – the non cash costs of depreciation and opportunity cost.
The vast majority of boats depreciate and like cars the level's higher for newer boats until they eventually reach a level where their depreciation is negligible.
A fair figure for depreciation on a boat of this age would probably be around 5 per cent annually, so in the first five years of ownership the depreciation cost would be about $68,000 or about $13,600 per year. 
Opportunity cost refers to the fact that if you didn't spend that $300,000 on a boat it would be earning for you. In recent years that would easily be 5 per cent annually in a managed fund. So over 5 years that is about $83,000 or about $16,600 annually. Are these “real costs”? You betcha – the actual figures may vary higher or lower than this example but they are real nonetheless.
Now we have quite a different picture with your total ownership cost being about $54,000 annually and chartering being beneficial at any usage level below about 43 days per year. Of course if you borrow money and pay interest to buy your boat the figures change even more in favor of chartering.

To hell with logic though, in our case we'll follow our hearts not our heads and stick with ownership combined with occasional chartering in exotic locations.