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Friday, October 27, 2017

GREECE AND TURKEY'S WAR OF WORDS

Envoy is now in Lefkas Marina for the winter and we're home in Auckland for the southern hemisphere summer.

Turkey and Greece have fought each other for centuries and during the period of 400 hundred years or so when Turkey occupied large parts of Greece they ruthlessly suppressed any resistance. 
Cyprus is still divided into the southern Greek section and northern Turkish section and Greek ownership of some Aegean Islands close to the Turkish coast is being disputed by Turkey. 
A more recent contentious issue is that Greece provided political asylum to some fleeing Turkish general after the attempted coup.
Currently there is a decline in western tourists going to Turkey because of perceived security threats. Because less charter boat customers are now going to Turkey, some Turkish charter boats, known as gulets have been chartering in Greece. Recently Greek coastguard have been investigating Turkish charter yachts visiting Greek islands without completing official procedures to operate there and Turkey has retaliated by banning all Greek commercial vessels from its waters.

Now they are having a battle of words on Navtex, which is a system where coast radio stations can transmit weather and safety information by text to vessels equipped with Navtex receivers.

This is a recent Turkish text:
"On 3 July 2017 a Turkish flagged merchant vessel was fired upon by a Greek coastguard boat. Turkish flagged vessels sailing in the Aegean are requested to be vigilant against such incidents with respect to safety of life and safety on navigation and should there be a need they are urged to swiftly inform the Turkish coastguard and Turkish navy."

This is the Greek response
"Aegean Sea has always been safe and secure for seafarers. Turkey has repeatedly exploited the Navtex warning system to promote her revisionist national agenda regarding the status of the Aegean to the detriment of safety of mariners. The Hellenic authorities denounce such practices and underline that the Hellenic coastguard stands ready to protect the life at sea, safeguard the freedom of navigation along with the interests of the international shipping community and enforce the rule of law at sea."

Let's hope the situation remains a war of words.

Our next post will cover the last few weeks of our time cruising.


Friday, October 13, 2017

ENVOY HIT BY YACHT DRAGGING ANCHOR DURING STORM

Envoy is now in Lefkas marina for the Greek winter. It's now Friday and next Wednesday we fly home to NZ.

Back to our cruising adventures with Amy.

Amy loves to have dinner by candlelight and we have various candle holders aboard, mostly bought in Turkey.

Early September we're anchored in Sivota with several yachts anchored around us. 
As we return to Envoy from dinner ashore we all comment on how perfectly still the air is and how calm the sea is. Talk about the calm before the storm! 
At 1230 we're all rudely awoken by huge gusts of wind buffeting Envoy, then thunder, lightning and heavy rain. We all immediately get up and reaching the pilothouse see a Belgian aluminium yacht, Grand Chalem, dragging sideways down onto our bow. There is no time to take any evasive action before her starboard side squarely slams into our stretched-out anchor chain, bounces off, then slides bow first down our starboard side before disappearing into the night. 
Other yachts are also dragging their anchors so we put on our deck lights to make ourselves more visible while they maneuver themselves out of trouble. We see gusts over 40 knots, but Envoy doesn't drag and only moves around to the wind shifts – the GPS drift alarm, set for 0.003 miles or about 54 metres doesn't go off. Within about half an hour the storm passes, the boats settle to their anchors and we go back to bed wondering if there is any damage to Envoy's newly painted hull. 
I'm up the next morning at first light checking Envoy's hull from our RHIB, delighted to find no damage except the faintest of minor small paint scratches that's not worth worrying about. 
Grand Chalem's skipper comes over in his RHIB to check and is also relieved there is to damage to either boat, probably because he had fenders on his hull. However he says is wife is somewhat traumatised by the experience and they will spend a few days secured to a pontoon in the harbour until they're ready to venture forth again.

We'd hoped that at least the heavy rain would have given Envoy a good fresh water wash but that wasn't to be either as the rain was laden with red dust, which turns quickly to mud and stains everything unless removed quickly.
Sudden thunder storms are reasonably common here at this time of year and they usually bring squalls and wind shifts so from now on we'll put out fenders at night when anchored close to other boats.

At Meganisi Is this yacht got into trouble trying to reverse to a the quay and ended up broadside to the other moored yachts

Amy and Laurie enjoying late afternoon drinks at Meganisi

After a stopping at Meganisi Island we head back to Lefkas so that Amy can catch a flight back to London.
We had a fantastic time with Amy aboard for 6 weeks, cruising 419 miles, re-visiting some of our favourite places and finding new ones.

We start heading north towards Corfu where we will clear out of Greece, spend a few days in nearby Albania and then come back to Greece. This is partly because we need to take Envoy out of the EU periodically to avoid the need to pay VAT and partly because we need a new Greek Transit Log since our present 18 month one is about to expire.

We spotted this huge open RHIB at Gouvia Marina - about 13m and even has a small RHIB on its stern

On the way we anchor at Preveza, Parga and Mourtos – all of which are now a lot quieter as the season comes to an end.

Envoy anchored at Mourtos

Same anchorage shot from the idyllic beach

An interesting flower bed at Mourtos

A day tripper boat enters a sea cave near Mourtos

When the tour boat leaves we enter the cave

From Corfu we cruise across to Albania. Having already visited Sarande in Albania we only stay a couple of days and on returning to Corfu we refuel for the first (and will be only) time this year taking on 1,300 litres of diesel at Euro 1.41 (approx NZ$ 2.17) per litre. The fuel quay attendant tells me our purchase is relatively small and a motor boat recently took on 200,000 litres, requiring ten tankers each holding 20,000 litres. At the price we paid this would have been Euros 282,000 or about NZ$434,000.

While at Corfu the water maker technician, Angelos, tells us our water maker high pressure pump is ready for installation. It's been checked by the main dealer in Athens who found nothing wrong with it, which doesn't help solve the issue of why the system isn't working properly. After it's installed we test the system and it still doesn't work properly – the output is too low and the salinity too high. Angelos believes there is some restriction in the seawater supply so gets a diver to check the under-hull seawater inlet but that's all clear. The next step is to get a technician from Athens to come and take a look.



Saturday, September 30, 2017

ENVOY CRUISES NORTH BACK TO CEPHALONIA

Envoy is now anchored off the Greek mainland at spectacular Mourtos, while the Blog continues at Ormos Keri – the turtle area with our daughter Amy still aboard.
Greece is not a place noted for its health and safety regulations (or indeed for observing any regulations!) and when we land ashore we find the decking of the main jetty has many holes and missing planks. We're surprised as this is the jetty used by tourists to board their hire boats, but never mind – helpful young Greek guys are on hand to help you. When walking along the many makeshift jetties here it's a good idea to place you feet on areas where the thin planks are supported underneath.

With missing planks you need to watch your step

This part is much worse and requires a big stretch

While anchored at Keri a strong offshore wind develops one afternoon. Later we see an inflatable plastic turtle blowing from the beach towards us. We imagine that some poor child is crying over this lost turtle so Amy and I jump in the RHIB, retrieve it and head to shore. As we approach the beach Amy stands up and starts waving the turtle around to find its owners who turn out to be a young Chinese couple. They're delighted to be reunited with their turtle but in less than a heartbeat they lose it again to the strong wind and again we retrieve it for them. I think these are the first oriental people we've seen in months as Greece is very mono-cultural and even among visitors you rarely see a non-European face.

Aboard our RHIB inside a cave at Ormos Keri


Ormos Keri is the furthermost point we'll be from our Lefkada home base and on 2 September we start heading back north to Cephalonia. Again we cruise up Zakyntos's remote west coast and again the swell is rolling in too much to anchor, despite fine weather and a light wind.
We try out our new trolling lures and bingo – catch a fish, but we don't recognise the species and decide not to chance our luck by eating it. Since then we've caught four more fish, but all too small to eat so back to the sea they went.
The coming of September signals a noticeable change in the weather and temperatures drop by a few degrees to mid 20s, there is more cloud around and generally more unstable weather. Usually this change doesn't occur until mid September.

Spectacular ravine at Poros, Cephalonia - in the foreground is a spillway floodwaters

Enjoying drinks in the rustic Pirate's Bar at Poros.

It's interesting how the decking and bar have been built into the rocks


Ruined houses ashore at Kalo Lim viewed from Envoy

Kalo Lim is a great sheltered anchorage

We spend a couple of days anchored at one of our favourite bays – Foki, which is just south of Fiskhardo on Cephalonia Island. Most cruisers here in the Med don't want to anchor and instead moor stern-to the shore and we spend some amusing time watching people trying to do this unsuccessfully. One large British yacht secures a stern line to a tree and a short time later pulls it out by the roots and sends it crashing into the sea amid a minor landslide of rocks and dirt.

This yacht's stern line pulled out the tree it was moored to by its roots

I'm going to write some more shortly about the advantages and pitfalls of mooring stern to shore as opposed to anchoring


Saturday, September 23, 2017

ENVOY AMONG THE TURTLES

Envoy is now cruising around Corfu having just returned from nearby Albania.
Amy has left us after a great six weeks together, but the good news is that she's moving back to live in Auckland arriving late November.

We cruise east to anchor in the harbour of Cephalonia's capital – Argostoli. This is a great harbour where you see quite few Loggerhead turtles in the water as it's adjacent to a large breeding and feeding lagoon called Koutavos. Amy had a great experience when a large turtle became interested in our RHIB and it swam close-by giving her great views.

Amy snapped this turtle swimming around our RHIB

In Argostoli I buy a new trolling reel and some new lures as this is the season to catch tuna – watch this space (hopefully!)

Only thing missing is the fish!

Next day we take a rental car to visit the Castle of St George, originally built by Byzantines in the 12th century but taken over by Normans, then Turks. The Venetians defeated the Turks in 1500 and took the castle which they held for the next 300 years.

Argostoli harbour viewed from castle - as you can see it's very sheltered

Another great view from the castle

Laurie and Amy on ramp to castle's main gate

Laurie at castle's gate

During our driving tour we visit this spectacular cave


While filling our water containers ashore I meet some British cruisers who had just sailed here from Malta. Our original plan was to cruise to Malta until Envoy's fire damage changed that. These people said Malta was a great place to visit by land but they didn't enjoy cruising around there during July and August as the few anchorages were crowded and there were too many fast speedboats zipping around.

We move south to anchor off Spatia, somewhere he hadn't been before, and like it so much we stay two nights. Here is great scenery and holding with very few other boats. 
Here and at many similar bays locals and visitors leave their small craft such as RHIBs, kayaks, dinghys and trailerable motor boats unattended on moorings, unlocked without any fear of theft or damage. Sadly this is something you cannot do in most parts of New Zealand any longer – your boat would be stripped of all valuable gear or possibly stolen in total.

Dingy moorings at Spatia

We moor our RHIB - front right in a nearby small boat harbour. There are many hundreds or probably thousands of similar very small harbours throughout Greece

As we depart Spatia for Zakynthos Island there are spectacular storm clouds on nearby hills and soon the thunder and lightning starts. 

Storm clouds over Envoy

See how the clouds are rolling down from the hilltop

The wind strength increases, the seas come up and we have a slightly rough crossing until we reach the shelter of Zakynthos. We cruise down the island's rugged west coast, famous for its vast number of caves - in fact we've never seen a stretch of coast with so many. 
We'd hoped to find some semi-sheltered bay where we could anchor overnight but the ground swell is too much and we have to keep going, just stopping briefly to take photos at famous Wreck Bay – said to be the most photographed bay in Greece. The crew of a charter catamaran anchored in the bay seem to be a bit inebriated judging by their loud music and gyrating on deck and we have to take evasive action when a teenage girl dives into the water and obliviously starts swimming across Envoy's intended track.

Famous Wreck Bay

Close-up of actual wreck

On Zakynthos's southern side is a relatively sheltered bay called Ormos Keri where we anchor for a few days. Early one morning we take our RHIB out to a sandy beach on Marathonisi Island where there's a turtle breeding ground. 

Marathonisi Island has the appearance of a turtle

By sheer luck we time our visit perfectly as three rangers are digging up a nest where eggs have been laid to help some turtles find their way out of the sand and down to the water. It's a wonderful experience to see five turtles, each about the size of a thumbnail, flipper their way down the beach and launch themselves into the sea for their first time. 

The Rangers are excavating a turtles nest to help baby turtles

Baby turtles


This beach gets a lot of visitors brought out by ferry and catering is provided by several floating cafes which come out each day and run themselves ashore.

A bit of commercial crassness at the turtle breeding area






Monday, September 11, 2017

ENVOY CRUISING AROUND CEPHALONIA

Envoy is now cruising around Meganisi with our daughter Amy aboard.

I meant to include this picture of Di in the Corfu market in an earlier post. Although we've been mostly unsuccessful in our fishing endeavors there is an enormous annual fish catch in the Med of 800,000 tonnes.

Di in Corfu fish and produce market

Fish shops and markets are common place, supplied by an estimated 82,000 commercial fishing boats employing 314,000 people. Virtually every seaside village has its own tiny shallow harbour, generally consisting of a simple rock wall providing some shelter to its fishing boat fleet - mostly boats under 10 metres.

After leaving Lefkas Marina we head south through the canal, initially constructed by Corinthians in the 8th century BC. It's always great to visit places for the first time and we anchor in a stunning bay at the island of Nisis Arkoudian. During the day there are five RHIBs anchored but we enjoy the solitude of being the only boat there at night.
From here it's a short cruise over to Ithica Island, said to be the home of Odysseus in ancient times.
Many nice bays are too deep to anchor in, being over 40 metres and offshore the depth is hundreds of metres. We anchor in Ormos Skhoinos offshore from a local family's holiday villa. They've had the same caretaker for over 50 years, who lives in a beautifully maintained wooden sailing boat alongside their jetty. 

The family villa's caretaker lives aboard this unusually painted boat

Envoy at anchor in Ormos Skhoinis

Further out in the bay a superyacht is anchored looking more like a floating childrens' playground than a serious boat.

While a boat of this size would turn heads back in New Zealand, there are hundreds of boats like this in the Med and nobody really bats an eyelid.

Very close to this anchorage is a stunning unnamed bay with a rustic but ramshackle beach bar. 

Sitting outside the bar is a very thin older man looking like a biblical prophet cleaning some recently caught squid that are covered in wasps. When Di and Amy commented on this he replied “wasps don't worry me they are my friends.” We think this highly amusing as wasps have been an issue in some bays and both Di and Amy have been stung. Very few flies or mosquitoes though.

This ferry drives up onto the beach to disembark day trippers using a builder's ladder

We move on to Cephalonia, the largest of seven main Ionian islands, although there are many dozen smaller islands. I'm sure I've mentioned previously that this island is also where the events took place on which the novel and movie Captain Corelli's mandolin are based. That is in 1943 German soldiers massacred around 5,000 Italian soldiers of the Acqui Division who had surrendered and represented no threat to the Germans.
First we anchor in the harbour of Ay Eufimia, one of our favorite anchorages. Here is a great butcher's shop where we are able to buy New Zealand lamb chops and top quality fillet steak at surprisingly reasonable prices.
One morning we walk inland up a gorgeous valley to an old Turkish village called Drakopoulata. 

The lush valley leading inland from Ay Eufimia

During the 1920s Turks living in Greece were sent home as were Greeks living in Turkey and now the village remains largely ruined.

This old building contains rusty remains of olive presses


Cruising down to Ormos Katelios we put our trolling lure in the water for the first time this year and catch a small tuna. It's far too small to eat but at least it proves the lure works.
This is an interesting anchorage as it's quite shallow with many areas of underwater rocks and requires great care. The locals have marked some of the reefs and rocks with buoys which is a big help.

Looking down on Ormos Katelios

From here we're heading to Cephalonia's capital – Argostoli.


Thursday, August 31, 2017

CRUISING IN THE IONIAN SEA

Envoy is now cruising around Zakynthos Island with our daughter Amy aboard.

Before Frank and Marie left us we saw this stunning Maltese cruise ship

When we started our water maker for the first time this season it ran fine but the second time it had some problems. The salinity was high, the fresh water produced seemed warmer than usual and the pump rpm varied by about plus or minus 5 bar. I don't know what it is about water makers but lots of cruisers seem to have issues with them. While in Mandraki Marina technician Angelos made a few checks and cleaned the intake water seacock but it made little difference. We met him a few days later and he installed a new high pressure membrane. This also made no improvement so he removed the main pump to check in his workshop. We're awaiting the result of this and meanwhile having no problems finding plenty of free fresh water from the shore.

Angelos installing a new high pressure membrane

The water maker's main pump

After Frank and Marie departed at Mandraki we cruised down to Igoumenitsa Creek for a couple of nights and met up with our friends Bruce and Lesley aboard their catamaran, Midi. Also aboard were their friends Nick and Robyn who know other friends of ours from home – Christine Eden and Karl Koller. A small world as they say.

Igoumenitsa Creek is a great protected anchorage

Washing day aboard Midi

Bruce and Lesley had wintered Midi at Turkey's Albatross Marina near normally busy Marmaris and they confirmed what we'd heard - that it's all very quiet there now as cruisers and charter operators have left in droves. This is due to a combination of recent terrorist activities, a perception of political change and instability and negative changes to cruising regulations. We've had wonderful times cruising in Turkey and it's very sad to hear that conditions are now less favourable.

Spending a night anchored off Mourtos was not so enjoyable usual because of large numbers of local tripper boats traveling at high speed close-by and putting up large wakes. Home in NZ you're not allowed to exceed 5 knots within 200 metres of the shore or within 50 metres of a swimmer or another vessel, but no such regulations seem to exist here and we saw tripper boats at high speed within a few metres of people in kayaks and small dinghys.
Lots of people do bow riding here - a practice which is illegal in New Zealand due to horrific injuries and deaths when people fall in and the propeller hits them

Highly dangerous bow riding

Amy joined us on 1 August in Corfu for a six week stay. She has now finished living in London and will move back to Auckland later this year.
We normally swim at least three times daily in the beautiful 26 to 28dC water but our “swim” normally consists of a leisurely paddle around the boat. Amy had an excellent idea that she and I start some long distance swimming and this has been great with us now achieving swims of several hundred metres.
We headed south with Amy calling at favorite places like Petriti, Mourtos, Gaios, Loggos and Parga and spending the days strolling ashore, swimming and cruising the short distances. 

Beautiful garden bar at Petriti

They sell a selection of hand painted olive oil jars for just five Euros each

Below the bar is this awesome swimming cove

Most everywhere has been light winds and seas so calm that we didn't use our stabilisers for days. But that changed when we cruised 32 miles in five hours from Parga to Preveza. We had winds over 25 knots and breaking, closely spaced two to three metre seas on our starboard beam. The stabilisers had trouble coping with these waves and several times we had to “tack” to take the seas at more of an angle to the beam. At times the autopilot also had trouble coping with the vicious movements and I had to steer by hand for a few short periods. Normally Envoy is so stable that it would be rare to spill a coffee – but on this trip the cups sure were sliding!

Close-by to Preveza we found a bay called Panayaia that we'd never visited previously. It's well sheltered with a nice uncrowded beach and a rustic beach bar playing a good selection of music from blues to jazz to reggae. It's owned by friendly 30 year old Manioti born in Melbourne to Greek parents who came back to live in Greece and we enjoyed meeting him for a chat over a few cold beers.

Manioti's beach bar

Envoy at anchor viewed from bar

Manioti with Amy and Laurie

Laurie and Amy enjoy a cold beer

From there we headed through the canal that makes Lefkas an island and into the marina to get a temporary Plexiglas window fitted as so far we've not been able to locate a supplier for a new Triplex glass one. While maneuvering into the marina we jammed the tail end of our RHIB's painter in the bow thruster's propeller and couldn't use it, making for an interesting time berthing in the confined marina spaces. Next day a diver tried unsuccessfully to free the painter so we had to lift Envoy out of the water and were then able to free it quite quickly. Unfortunately the bow thruster's sudden stop caused some damage to the 24V motor so it's been removed and is currently ashore getting repaired while we carried on. We've since heard that it's successfully fixed.

Rope jammed behind bow thruster propeller