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Thursday, December 14, 2017

ENVOY IN GREECE'S LEFKAS MARINA

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

Technical
Apart from the ongoing water maker saga I'm pleased to say we haven't had any technical issues for some time now except for routine checks and maintenance.
I checked all our internal water strainers. These trainers filter out debris from water before it passes through a pump, catching it in a stainless steel basket that can be easily cleaned out, rather than clogging the vanes of a pump that can't be so easily cleaned. Some filter sea water, such as for the generator or Yanmar wing engine while others filter fresh water, such as for showers.

I'd left this shower pump water strainer for too long, but once cleaned was fine again

I've heard that our damaged Freedom combination inverter/charger is beyond repair. 
This was damaged early in the season when I wrongly attempted to start the main engine while the generator was running and powering the battery charger while the start battery bank's voltage was too low. It's not a major issue for us as we've already replaced the inverter with a spare equally powerful Xantrex unit we had aboard. The Xantrex is only an inverter not a combination charger so charging when running the generator is now done using our Charles 60 amp charger. The Freedom charger was more powerful at 150 amps and for the future we have the option of the status quo, installing an additional new charger or installing a new inverter/charger, leaving the Xantrex as a spare once again. I'll consider this during winter.

View of marina from Envoy's top deck - we have a great position


Envoy has a dry exhaust system - that is a vertical exhaust from the engine room with a muffler installed above the upper deck level. Although the section of exhaust located in the engine room was checked in 2012 when some new parts were installed and the heat insulation was replaced, the muffler hasn't been properly checked at all during the time we've owned Envoy. All I've done during this time is occasionally measure the temperature of the muffler using an infra red pyrometer to see if there are any particularly hot spots – which would indicate some thinning of the muffler's metal. 
So that's at least eleven years and we thought it was time for a check. When the Sailand engineers arrived they suggested we check the whole exhaust system downstream from the exhaust manifold, since this is supposed to be checked every five years.
I felt a bit sorry for the technician designated to remove the old insulation as it's quite a messy job and fibres from the insulation cause some itching. To remove the complete system was a job that took three mechanics about four hours and I really was wondering whether this was all necessary (apart from checking the muffler). However they did find an area at the bottom of the vertical exhaust pipe where exhaust gases appear to have been escaping – evidenced by black soot stains on the heat insulation's exterior. The current situation is that the various components – the adapter from the exhaust elbow to the expansion joint, the expansion joint itself, the horizontal engine room exhaust, the vertical exhaust, the muffler and the final exhaust pipe have all been taken away for cleaning and inspection.

Here the muffler covered with heat insulation sits in its housing on the top deck

Mechanics pull out the vertical section of the exhaust

The main exhaust atop mechanic's van

Close-up shows the white insulation discoloured by leaking soot

This year we have only a short list of jobs getting done during winter:
-Resealing two Lewmar hatches into their aluminium frames. These were repaired at the end of last year but the sealant has failed again.
-Servicing the sea water pumps on the generator and Yanmar and replacing their vee-belts.
-Replacing a leaking galley faucet

Blog's next positing will deal with the subject of mooring stern-to-shore


Saturday, November 25, 2017

ENVOY CRUISING WITH GRAHAM AND CHERRY

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

I forgot to mention that just before Amy left us our bow thruster's 24 volt electric motor was repaired and re-installed. Its sudden stop (caused by a line fouling its prop at Lefkas Marina) caused damage to the bases of the brushes and these have been replaced. We only use our bow thruster when berthing in a marina or harbour so not having it for a few weeks wasn't a problem.

During late September after clearing-in back to Greece from Albania we spend a few days cruising
around northern Corfu awaiting news of our water maker. It's too late to make much difference for this season but we'd like to have it for next. Actually we haven't had any problems at all getting plenty of fresh water ashore, but the water maker is a nice-to-have.

Envoy alongside wharf at Saranda, Albania

When the wind increased at Saranda a large ferry started to drag its anchor towards Envoy. Fortunately some crew were on hand to resolve this.

View of Saranda's waterfront


Agri is a stunning anchorage in settled conditions

This house has been constructed using rocks obtained during excavation of the building site

These guys are shaping the rocks into blocks

We get an interesting weather forecast; SE winds Force 4 to 5 soon becoming cyclonic with thunderstorms. With the storm at Sivota still in our minds we cruise just a few miles to the northern side of Corfu to anchor in Ormos Galiaies – a protected south-facing bay. 

Although we prepare for the worst we thankfully only get winds up to about 25 knots and no thunderstorms. The problem with thunderstorms here being they are usually accompanied by violent squalls and major wind direction shifts.

A few days later a water maker technician, Esideras, from Athens comes aboard at Gouvia Marina to check our system. Angelos, the local technician, thinks our problem is caused by a reduced flow of input seawater but Esideras runs some tests and concludes the fault lies with the high pressure pump. This is despite the fact he's already had the pump in Athens for testing, but again he takes the pump plus the membrane in its casing for further tests.

Engineer working on our water maker. The pump and membrane are on deck

Envoy alongside in Gouvia Marina for water maker work

In the marina we see a trailer boat on the hardstand with four huge outboards, all with their props badly damaged after presumably running aground. As Di took the photo below a Coastguard officer rushed up gesticulating no photos – but too late.

Laurie by boat with four huge Yamaha outboards

Closer inspection shows four badly damaged propellers and bottoms of outboards

In late September long time Kiwi friends Graham and Cherry Poole arrive for a week with us – their first visit to Greece and to Envoy. We meet them at the beautiful anchorage of Mourtos and during the transfer of their luggage to Envoy one of Cherry's bags gets left behind in a taverna. No problem though, the taverna's manager finds it and we collect it the next day.
Being an engineer, ex Navy Reserve Chief Petty Officer and ex Coastguard Skipper Graham is excellent crew as well as being a very keen and experienced fisherman (as is soon confirmed).

Graham and Cherry only have seven nights with us and we cruise across to Lakka Bay on the island of Paxxos, down to Logos, across to Parga on the mainland and down to Preveza. All places we've been to and know they'll enjoy.

Parga is a great place to fill our water tanks from ashore using our jerricans. Many charter yacht flotillas overnight here and have an interesting way of mooring – the small harbour has deep water right up to a calm sandy beach so the yachts put out a stern anchor, run their bows ashore and put their bow anchors on dry land.
While cruising from Parga to Preveza we tow two lures and land four tuna. Graham does an excellent filleting job and we dine on sashimi for the first time in ages.

Graham with freshly caught small tuna

Then we cruise through the Lefkas Canal to anchor off Lefkas where Graham and Cherry leave us.

On our last night at anchor we see these charter yachts moor forming a circle so that their cockpits are in the centre

Two days later we're in Lefkas marina for the winter.
It's been an unusual cruising year having lost two months repairing the fire damage.
We cruised 926 miles, less than half our usual annual distance, logging 181 engine hours and having no injuries or major incidents apart from the fire damage on the day we arrived. Two technical issues we encountered were mostly our own fault – that is the inverter failure and bow thruster issue and these are resolved while the water maker problem will hopefully be resolved on our return next year.

Our agent A1 Yachting puts Envoy in Customs bond for the winter to maximise the time she can remain in EU waters with VAT unpaid.
A few days later we dine at one of our favourite local restaurants enjoying some fresh tuna where the friendly chef shows a photo of the tuna we're eating. Caught off nearby Megani. Island and weighing an impressive 180 kg, he says tuna of this size are still caught regularly.

Next posting shortly about technical matters being attended to in the marina,


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