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Monday, April 09, 2018

MAN OVERBOARD

Envoy is berthed in Greece's Lefkas Marina while Diane and are home in Auckland. We're not planning any Med cruising this year.


The recent tragic loss of British Volvo Ocean Race competitor John Fisher should have reminded all cruisers of the dangers involved in falling overboard and here are some thoughts on dealing with these situations based on my experiences over many years both as a cruiser and as a Coastguard skipper, crew member and search and rescue controller.
Man overboard situations can range from the hilarious, when friends fall overboard in anchorages with no harm done except to their pride, to the horribly tragic where the victim doesn't survive. 
In some of the latter situations it has been the skipper going over and the crew left aboard not having the knowledge to turn their vessel around and conduct a search, particularly in the case of sailing vessels. 
Even some cases of people falling overboard in marinas or at anchor have ended tragically either as a result of injury causing the victim to drown, or the inability of the victim to haul himself/herself out of the water, or the inability of those aboard to haul the victim out of the water. In these cases exposure and hypothermia are often the cause of death.

Safety Briefings
I'm sure we're all guilty of this at times – it's a beautiful day and our friends arrive on board with fun foremost in mind. We tell them how to use the heads but that vital safety briefing about life jackets, fire extinguishers, first aid kits and man overboard drill is forgotten. 
Even some professionals overlook this; I've been out on a weekend commercial fishing charter and noticed there was no safety briefing of any kind. In reality this may not be too much of a problem provided that the skipper's there to take charge of an emergency, but who's going to take charge and handle a situation where the skipper is the victim?
So during a safety briefing it's essential to cover the basics of responding to a man overboard situation.
This starts with prevention and no crew member should venture onto the foredeck, side decks or boarding platform while the vessel is under way without the skipper's prior knowledge and then he/she should be under constant observation and wearing a lifejacket or personal flotation device (PFD) equipped with light, whistle and personal locator beacon (PLB).
Anyone observing someone falling in should immediately shout loudly “man overboard”, make sure they've been heard and continue to keep their eyes on the victim as well as pointing to him/her because if the observer is distracted it may prove difficult to re-establish visual contact. 
Somebody must throw a life ring or some other flotation device such as a large fender into the water serving not only to potentially support the victim in the water but to mark his/her approximate position. This should be done even if the victim can't be seen as it will mark one limit of the search area.
The briefing also needs to appoint someone to take charge of the vessel should it be the skipper who goes overboard and then to make sure that person knows how to respond in terms of controlling the vessel and managing the situation.


Managing a man overboard situation
You can divide these emergencies into two categories, that is where you can and can't see the victim.

1. You can see the victim:
The more competent people you have aboard the easier it is to manage this and provided that it's a crew member overboard (not the skipper) and that visual contact is maintained a speedy resolution is likely.
Unless it's completely obvious the victim will be safely recovered within a very few minutes a distress call (Mayday) should be made on VHF radio's international distress frequency channel 16, particularly if there are other circumstances like rough conditions, cold water or the victim may need medical attention. There's no doubt it's always a much better decision to transmit a distress call sooner than may be needed and cancel it after a successful resolution than to wish you had made it when the situation starts to go horribly wrong. Ideally you then need a crew member to handle the radio traffic since the responding coast station and responding vessels will divert your attention from the immediate task of picking up the victim. Many coast stations seem to have a system that requires answers to lots of questions, many of which seem irrelevent and time wasting at this crucial point when every minute counts. 
If other crew members are available they could be directed to eyeball the victim, prepare a flotation device with a line attached for use in recovering the victim and a fit person could don a PFD and be ready to enter the water if the victim needs assistance (which is often the case). 
It is normal to approach the victim from leeward so that the vessel isn't driven by wind and waves over the victim and when recovering the victim make sure there is no risk of injury from the vessel's propeller(s).
 
2. You can't see the victim
This is always an extremely serious situation and you should immediately record your lat/long, activate the MOB button on your chart plotter and make a VHF radio distress call. 
The complexity of the ensuing search depends on whether it's day or night time, weather conditions. general visibility, sea state and current, tidal flow, whether the victim was wearing a lifejacket or PFD with light and/or personal locator beacon (PLB), elapsed time since last sighting, whether a constant course has been kept since then and your distance from assisting resources such as dedicated rescue craft and helicopters. These resources generally carry search aids such as night vision binoculars, powerful spotlights and thermal detection equipment, greatly increasing the chances of finding a victim.
Rescue helicopters can also drop flotation devices to the victim, put a rescue swimmer in the water, lift the victim from the water, provide paramedic assistance and transport the victim quickly to hospital.
Once a coast radio station has responded to your distress call they will take responsibility for organising the search or pass this responsibility to another competent authority, for example Police, Coastguard or a Rescue Coordination Centre (in New Zealand this is RCCNZ). This task is much better accomplished by such an organisation using a stable platform with all the information resources on hand and experience in managing such situations. 
Using the facts you provide they will then establish an area of probability and direct both your own and other responding vessels on how to conduct the search. This takes time and depending on your location it will also take time for responding resources (pleasure craft, commercial craft, rescue vessels, helicopters etc) to reach you.
While waiting it would be a good idea to organise your available crew as for the first example and proceed slowly (e.g. about 5 knots) to search on a reciprocal course, for example if you were cruising to the west on a course of 270d, now proceed to the east on a course of 90d. If conditions allow you may be able to listen for your victim calling out for help.
More than likely you have a GPS plotter which will be displaying your original course line. 
Now follow that exact course back. Depending on your own knowledge you may decide to adjust this course for tide and current. In any case ensure you keep a record of the area searched.
If the victim has a PLB remember that its lat/long is transmitted to the rescue authority (in New Zealand RCCNZ), not to you and they will direct the nearest resource to that position.
Remember that victims can survive a surprisingly long time in the water so keep searching and don't give up hope.

Look for a further posting in about 10 days.



Tuesday, April 03, 2018

THE LIVE-ABOARD CRUISING LIFE – FINAL PART

Envoy is berthed in Greece's Lefkas Marina and we're home in Auckland. We don't plan to cruise aboard Envoy this year.

This is the last part of an article we wrote published in Australasia's Pacific PassageMaker magazine about starting the live-aboard cruising life.

What equipment is desirable for the live-aboard boat
Bear in mind the cruising experience is the thing – it's what you do with your boat that will make this experience, not whether it's 43ft or 46ft, whether it has teak or GRP decks or a particular brand of navigation equipment.
Having said that, we're assuming readers of this article aspire to a reasonable level of comfort as opposed to camping on the sea.

Envoy's master bedroom - we don't just camp on the sea but live rather well aboard

A live-aboard vessel often cruises beyond the easy reach of regular service and spare parts providers and 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 as well as an operation manual and documentation covering equipment carried aboard. Even if (like me) you're not an engineer, you can generally get assistance with problems if you have the necessary tools, parts and information.

Envoy's pilothouse has all the manuals needed to run and maintain the vessel

Fuel supply
Most diesel engine problems are fuel-related so this is an area to pay particular attention. Boats have a primary (before engine) fuel filter, and a secondary (on engine) filter. You can enhance this by having a system for filtering (or “polishing”) fuel into one tank (often known as a “day tank”) which will then supply the primary filter(s) and run the engine(s). This tank is kept reasonably full from the storage tanks using the polishing system and also accepts the filtered return fuel from the engine(s).
Envoy for example has a Racor-based polishing system which filters about 10 litres/minute through a 2 micron cartridge and in 10 years of ownership we've not encountered any kind of fuel contamination.
Large capacity dual primary filters able to be interchanged under way and fitted with a vacuum gauge and moisture detector will also help minimise problems.
Fuel tanks should have generous-sized removable inspection ports to allow periodic cleaning if required.

Envoy's fuel manifold controls diesel filtration ensuring a clean fuel supply

Electrical
A generator is desirable so that power is available when anchored for long periods.
The house battery bank should be deep cycle with sufficient amp hour capacity for the equipment carried. The start bank should not be deep cycle and dedicated to starting the engines. Both banks should have isolating switches and the banks should be connectable using a parallel switch in case of low voltage in the start bank.
All circuits should be protected using circuit breakers. Having an electrical circuit diagram is a big advantage.
Other desirable equipment is a high capacity engine alternator with a “smart” regulating system, a battery charger able to operate from both generator and shorepower and an inverter to produce AC from the house bank.

Envoy's 150 amp Balmar alternator

Ground tackle
To anchor in remote areas, sometimes in adverse weather it's essential to have a main anchor, spare anchors, all-chain rode and windlass appropriate to the size of vessel with a minimum of 100 metres of chain. Do not compromise in this area.

Water and sewage
Potable water is often not readily available overseas so ample fresh water storage is required, preferably in more than one tank. Sewage holding tanks are essential and it's a good idea to have a diverting valve on your head which can either discharge sewage directly into the sea when well offshore, or into the holding tank when close to shore.

Galley
 A stove with at least three burners is desirable together with a medium sized oven. We prefer lpg to electric so that we don’t need to run a generator to use the stove. Diane says our microwave is nice to have, but not necessary.

Envoy's stove and oven

Refrigeration
An effective high storage capacity refrigerator and freezer is essential - you've got to keep the beer cold! I don’t advocate refrigeration powered solely from the house battery as refrigeration generally causes by far the largest current draw and these systems are always chasing battery charge. Our system uses AC from the generator.

Stabilisation
Stabilisers are highly desirable for a displacement monohull vessel and we recommend as a minimum having paravane (passive) stabilisers. Although these are not pretty they are very robust and reliable and with this system you can also use flopper-stoppers to reduce roll when anchored. Hydraulic (active) stabilisers are more effective, but expensive to maintain and prone to occasional failure while most hydraulic systems don't help at anchor. Envoy has both of these systems.
Gyro systems are also highly effective, but less common and generally found on larger vessels.

Safety equipment
Of course you must ensure the vessel has, or will be equipped with all obvious safety equipment including an approved self-inflating liferaft if venturing offshore.

Tender
Many live-aboard vessels have large heavy tenders, which are only able to be launched or retrieved in calm conditions using a boom winch or a hoist. Our 3.7m RHIB with 25hp outboard is excellent, but we also value our much lighter 2.7m RHIB with a 2.3hp outboard, able to be launched by hand. Remember that for most coastal cruising vessels the tender is the liferaft so should be well-equipped and easily launched.

Your tender generally doubles as liferaft in coastal cruising - we carry two

Air conditioning and heating
Although Envoy has reverse cycle air conditioning we rarely use it as to work effectively all doors, windows and portholes need to be closed and the engine or generator needs to be running. Heating options need to be considered if wintering afloat in cold conditions.

Laundry
It's so inconvenient and expensive to get laundry done when cruising that we regard a washing machine as essential. It will soon pay for itself in saved laundry costs and remember that the first mate has to be happy too!

Surveying your vessel and final negotiations
Unless you are a boat builder or similarly qualified it's essential to engage a qualified surveyor (who acts for and is paid by the buyer). This applies to all pre-owned vessels, but should also be considered for new vessels as these are not immune from poor practice. Surveyors not only have considerable technical expertise, but follow a logical documented process for a thorough examination of the vessel and are totally objective whereas the excited buyer might overlook or downplay some negative issues. A recent survey is also helpful when insuring your vessel.

Now enjoy your vessel
Before heading to sea for the first time spend a few days thoroughly familiarising yourselves with your vessel. Know where all equipment is stowed, how it works, where the different seacocks are etc.

In the wake of the tragic loss of a Volvo Ocean Race competitor our next post discusses how to manage a man overboard situation on a cruising boat.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

THE LIVE-ABOARD CRUISING LIFE PART 3

Envoy is berthed in Greece's Lefkas Marina and we're home in Auckland. Circumstances prevent us returning to cruise in the Med this year.

This is the third part of an article we wrote published in Australasia's Pacific PassageMaker magazine about starting the live-aboard cruising life.

From the last two articles you understand life's time clock is ticking so do it now rather than later.
Also that most potential cruisers face some fears and how to overcome them as well as dealing with some of the practical issues that need to be considered.

BUYING YOUR LIVE-ABOARD VESSEL
The new and pre-owned boat market still favours buyers and there is ample choice available.
Most types of boat are suited to cruising the Med - we even met one German couple living on a six metre outboard-powered trailer boat which had cruised all the way from Germany down the Rhine and Danube rivers to the Black Sea and Turkey, then through the Dardanelles, across the Aegean Sea and through the Gulf of Corinth to Greece's Ionian Sea. 

Happy guitar playing skipper with his six metre live-aboard


However the majority of live-aboards are found on sailing yachts or catamarans, mostly up to about 14 metres. 
Generally the ideal vessel is the smallest one that will suit all of your needs. The larger vessel you have the greater will be the capital costs, the repairs and maintenance, fuel, insurance, berthage etc. In addition larger vessels are more restricted when it comes to what anchorages and harbours they can enter. From our observations many vessels over about 55 ft have some full time crew and in fact we see many boats well under that size professionally skippered and/or crewed.

 Bigger isn't necessarily better - this vessel uses about 700 litres/hr of diesel compared with Envoy's 8 litres/hr
 
 
We opted to buy a heavy displacement monohulled passagemaker to provide future options for long-range cruising and after visiting Nordhavn in Dana Point decided on a 46, which in our view still has the best sleek and classic lines without the slightly “top-heavy” appearance of some subsequent models.

The N46 has sleek classic lines
 

But everybody's tastes are different so do your own research by reading, visiting cruisers' blogs, checking out different boats and talking with live-aboard cruisers.

Consider the location of vessels for sale relative to your intended cruising area. We wanted to use our boat in the Med so primarily looked at vessels located in Europe, in 2006 buying Envoy which had participated in the Atlantic Rally and was then located in Ostia, Italy.
Allied to the location issue is the complex one of port of registry, particularly if local taxes haven't been paid. Envoy was USA registered with EU VAT unpaid and we changed her to New Zealand registered so she can remain in EU waters up to 18 months at a time without paying VAT. Before 18 months expires it's only necessary to leave EU waters for a few days (the actual period is not defined) to re-set the 18 month clock, which can be extended by placing your vessel in Customs bond while wintering over. However specialist advice should be obtained for each set of circumstances ensuring the vessel is unencumbered and 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 most other non EU passport holders to three months total in all member countries (most EU countries are members). Of course if you hold an EU passport you won't face this time restriction.
Turkey, Croatia and Albania require cruisers to use agents for clearing-in and out. Even where this is not required it’s a good idea to use agents as they have useful contacts and may be able to offer advice on extending your stay and minimising your obligations.
Spend some time with the boat’s previous owner to gain detailed knowledge of its operation, systems, maintenance and spare parts requirements. 
 
Should I buy new or pre-owned?
Some owners prefer taking delivery of a brand new vessel for the pleasure of specifying a vessel suited exactly to their requirements; having a choice of engineering, layout, equipment brands and furnishings; having a manufacturer’s warranty and benefiting from lower maintenance costs.
However people purchasing new in expectation of having no problems are often disappointed as many new boats seem to need quite a few miles cruising and some months to resolve initial teething issues. How well such issues are eventually resolved depends on the commitment of the manufacturer and to some extent how far you are away from their home base.
Other buyers prefer to purchase a pre-owned vessel for the benefits of immediate availability (there is generally a wait for new vessels), lower investment cost, lower initial depreciation cost and the fact that she's tried and tested with more equipment, spare parts, tools, chandlery, bedding, galley utensils etc included in the price.

Should I buy direct or use a broker?
The majority of pre-owned boats are listed with brokers. An experienced broker can provide valuable assistance in finding the ideal boat for your circumstances and negotiating a deal with the seller. The seller pays the broker’s commission so there's no disadvantage for the buyer.
If you are not using a reputable broker be very cautious about paying money without robust safeguards in place as buyers have been known to transfer significant sums to scammers posing as vendors.

In a week we'll publish the last part of this article dealing with equipment desirable for cruising.


Saturday, March 17, 2018

THE LIVE-ABOARD CRUISING LIFE – PART 2

Envoy is berthed in Greece's Lefkas Marina and we're home in Auckland. Unfortunately circumstances prevent us returning to cruise in the Med this year.

This is the second part of an article we wrote published in Australasia's Pacific PassageMaker magazine about starting the live-aboard cruising life.


PRACTICAL ISSUES TO CONSIDER FOR THE LIVE-ABOARD LIFE
OK from Part 1 we realise life's time clock is ticking and we've faced the common fears. 
Once we decide to live the cruising life there are numerous practical issues to consider mostly falling somewhere into these categories:

Envoy anchored in Vathi, Astypaelia

How long will you be away each yearthe vast majority of cruisers (power and sail) see little point in sitting out the whole of their cruising region's winter in a marina, particularly after doing it once, so they mostly return home to see their families and friends. An exception to this is that many European cruisers prefer the kinder winter weather in a location like the Med to that in their own country.

It's great fun to be in a harbour or marina but we choose not to spend the whole winter there




How many years will you cruise forthe short answer is as long as you are enjoying it and health, funds and other circumstances permit. About five years would be typical and we've rarely met cruisers who’ve lived aboard for more than ten.

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 we were living our lives to the full, appreciated our weekly phone call 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 in your cruising experience. Otherwise being able to see them for at least one period of a few months during the year keeps these relationships intact.

Your family and friends can visit to share your adventures

Workmost cruisers we meet are semi or completely retired. Some do consulting work remotely or are able to find some casual work if they choose to. 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 house 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. Allied to this issue is one partner having a lack of confidence in the other’s ability. If you're passionate you're half way there and your confidence will grow through sharing experiences together.

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. Travel insurance is essential as medical treatment can be extremely expensive overseas.

PetsOverseas regulations concerning transportation and quarantine of pets are less strict than in New Zealand or Australia and some cruisers take their pets along. Similarly there are fewer restrictions on pets on beaches and in restaurants and cafes. Diane and I always had a dog or cat at home and loved them dearly, but prefer to avoid the hassles of having a pet aboard a boat.

Comfort aboard – this will of course vary by vessel. When yachtsmen come aboard Envoy they are amazed at the living space available compared to sailing vessels of the same length. We don’t get wet, cold or wind-blown and with our stabilisers Envoy’s motion is rarely lively enough to spill a coffee.

Comfort isn't an issue aboard a well-found cruising boat - Envoy's dinette and galley viewed from astern


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 insurance, berthage and maintenance costs and can't get into some of the smaller anchorages and harbours. Living costs such as food, beverages, household supplies and personal spending are about the same for us while cruising as when at home. Maintenance is dearer due to the higher cost of parts and greater distances travelled. There is also the cost of travel to and from our boat and additional fuel for the longer distances cruised. Casual marina prices are high in the Med so the best option is to anchor wherever possible, which is always free. Excluding living costs repairs and maintenance have been our largest cost averaging about six per cent of Envoy’s estimated value each year. Diane and I look at this not as “cost” but “investment in fun”.

Read PART 3 in about a week.



Sunday, March 11, 2018

STARTING THE LIVE-ABOARD CRUISING LIFE - PART 1

Envoy is berthed in Greece's Lefkas Marina and we're home in Auckland. 
Unfortunately circumstances prevent us returning to cruise in the Med this year.

We recently wrote an article published in Pacific PassageMaker magazine about starting the live-aboard cruising life. Over the next few weeks we'll be psting this article to our Blog in several parts.

PART 1: THE LIVE-ABOARD CRUISING LIFE - HOW MANY GOOD SUMMERS DO YOU HAVE LEFT?
The live-aboard life isn’t for everyone; 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 is generally nothing to stop you. 
As famed cruiser and circumnavigator Scott Flanders advises, “tick…tick…tick… the clock is ticking, get the picture … do it now!” 
Regardless of whatever your future dream life happens to be if you can’t literally do it now, at least make a plan now and work towards achieving it.

Plan your dreams now - Envoy moored by Bodrum's castle, Turkey

When I turned 50 I expected to have about 20 good summers left, meaning that barring major illnesses or accidents I expected to enjoy our cruising passion until I was about 70 years old. 
Now I’m nearly 68 and believe most people could enjoy live-aboard cruising into their mid-70s.
The main issue which could prevent this is health. Whatever the upper age limit may be one thing’s for sure – you certainly don’t meet many cruisers in their 80s.
Here's a little exercise to help you visualise how many good summers you have left. Take a tape measure showing inches and stretch it out. Note where 75 inches is representing age 75 and where your age is (e.g. age 60 would be 60 inches). The sobering message is the huge length of tape up to 60 inches represents your life up to now and the short length of tape from your age to 75 (or thereabouts) represents the time you have left to do relatively demanding things like live-aboard cruising.

We had cruised extensively during weekends and holidays and dreamed of enjoying great destinations until we tired of them rather than meeting timetables. We had adult children living overseas, no health issues and wanted to cruise while circumstances permitted. Experience wasn't an issue and we'd always worked well as a team on four power boats we’d owned during 30 years to that time.
After two years' planning we bought our Nordhavn 46 Passagemaker, Envoy, in 2006 and I took a year's leave of absence from work so we could live-aboard during 2007. Then I went back to work leaving Envoy in a Turkish marina for two years before retiring in early 2010 at age 59.

Envoy on the hard stand at Maramaris, Turkey
 
By the time I reached the “traditional” retirement age of 65 we'd enjoyed six years of the live-aboard life and now we've had eight cruising in exotic places like Greece, Turkey, Italy, Albania, Croatia, Montenegro as well as hundreds of surrounding islands.

Something you wouldn't see while boating in New Zealand

The live-aboard life doesn't have to involve crossing oceans and we’ve cruised over 16,000 miles in the Med rarely being over 40 miles from the nearest land. There are thousands of people living aboard all manner of boats in various parts of the world enjoying adventurous coastal cruising. While it’s a great feeling to have a boat that is ocean-capable a large number of cruisers elect to ship even these vessels aboard purpose-built freighters rather than traverse the oceans on their own hulls and the two options are considered to be similar in cost.

THE MAJOR FEARS
Scott Flanders wrote an excellent article in 2011 outlining potential cruisers’ common concerns and some solutions. This is equally valid today.

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 and as most countries require some evidence of proficiency when clearing-in it’s a good idea to gain some certifications.

Mechanical abilityit isn’t the big things that fail and you will learn to deal with handling the smaller problems. Most countries have competent mechanical assistance available. Carry a comprehensive range of tools, spare parts, equipment manuals and chandlery aboard.

Most technical issues can be easily resolved - in Marmaris we had the stabiliser through-hull seals replaced

Handling rough seasbecomes easier with practice and although this is a concern for many one study reports 80 per cent of the time wave heights are less than 3.7m explaining how many cruisers travel thousands of ocean miles over many years rarely if ever encountering dangerous seas. 
 
Navigationis not difficult with today’s electronic equipment. Sextants are long gone 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 tidesthere is ample reliable information for coastal cruising while offshore cruisers often pay for professional forecasting. The internet hugely improves forecast availability. There is negligible tide in the Med.

Manoeuvring and dockingpractice makes perfect, but don’t worry about minor scratches on your gelcoat - they won't ruin a great experience. A bow thruster will greatly assist docking.

Another concern is piracy off the north-east coast of Africa making it dangerous to traverse these waters. Circumnavigators who include the Med in their route mostly ship their boats across the Indian Ocean. Piracy is not a major issue in other waters and the website www.noonsite.com provides regular updates.

Read PART 2 in about a week.


Saturday, March 03, 2018

GREECE - ARGUABLY THE WORLD'S GREATEST CRUISING AREA

Envoy is berthed in Lefkas Marina for the winter while we're home in Auckland enjoying the exceptionally hot southern hemisphere summer. 
Our future cruising plans aren't clear at this point and we'll have a better idea shortly.

This is an edited version of our article recently published in Pacific PowerBoat magazine.

The north-east coast of New Zealand's North Island's offers incredible cruising, particularly within its prime area ranging from Whitianga in the south to Whangaroa in the north, a distance of around 250 miles following the coast with about 50 offshore islands suitable for overnight anchoring along the way, a handful of which are virtually all-weather. Imagine an area many times this size with hundreds of offshore islands offering not only spectacular safe anchorages, but interesting atmospheric villages, welcoming rustic tavernas and historic ruins dating back thousands of years.
This is Greece, offering incredible cruising particularly from April through October with mostly stable warm weather, spectacular natural scenery, clean waters, areas of great historical interest, friendly and honest people, a high level of personal safety and reasonable costs. What about their economic crisis and the refugees? Well for the visitor there's little sign of any crisis and we've not yet seen a single refugee as they're mainly confined to a few islands close to Turkey.

Envoy moored stern-to in Rhodes harbour

Although thousands of boats cruise Greece during summer the area is so vast that even the popular anchorages are no more crowded than Auckland's Kawau or Waiheke islands during holiday weekends.
You don't need to own a boat to cruise here as there are many charter boats offered to high standards at reasonable costs. Depending on your experience level you can charter skippered or bareboat and cruise independently or as part of a flotilla. This is a great way to check out whether Med cruising is for you.

Envoy anchored off Spinalonga

 July and August are hot by our standards often reaching mid 30s, although the humidity is low and the sun doesn't have New Zealand's high U/V level so it doesn't seem uncomfortable. Although Envoy has air conditioning we never find conditions warrant using it, in any case preferring fresh air flowing through open windows and portholes.
It's easy to leave your boat in a marina and travel around Greece for sightseeing using high quality and regular coaches and ferries as well as rental cars (foreign licenses accepted). Motorways connect most of the major cities, but rural roads can be pretty basic. Many people speak passable English, particularly younger ones and most people are very polite and helpful.
Supplies are readily available with most prices cheap by our standards at supermarkets, markets and smaller shops while fuel and water are widely available dockside. Interestingly fuel pumps are not common and fuel is often delivered in small road tankers.
The main convenient international airports are Athens, Corfu and Iraklion, although there are others.
Greece is a natural gateway to other destinations as it's relatively easy to cruise north-east to Albania, Montenegro and Croatia, west to Italy and east to Turkey.

It's not unusual to encounter wandering stock on rural roads

Greece can be broadly divided into the four main regions mentioned below:

1 Mainland including Peloponnisos
Athens can be accessed from the port of Piraeus. A guided walking tour will show you most sights with the Parthenon atop the Acropolis and its adjacent museum of particular interest.
From the port of Itea in the Gulf of Corinth you can visit Delphi's many spectacular ruins, where in ancient times wealthy people paid a fortune to have the oracle interpreted, supposedly predicting their future.
Cruising around the Peloponnisos coast is a great experience visiting historic towns such as (west to east) Pilos, Methoni, Koroni, Kalamata, Yithion, the island of Kithera and Monemvasia.

2 Western side – Ionian Sea islands
Preveza on the mainland is a great place to rent a car to visit Meteora with its amazing ancient monasteries perched atop originally impregnable rock formations and accessed using rope ladders. Nearby Mystras has a great castle set upon a craggy hilltop. On the way you will pass through Ioannina, an historic Turkish town with an impressive lakeside castle
Anchor off the village of Parga with its narrow cobbled lanes, great waterfront and castle. Slightly further north is Mourtos with several spectacular anchorages set among several uninhabited islands.
Further north is the island of Corfu with its historic city, castles and spectacular seaside villages such as Ormos Agni, Ormos Kalami, Kassiopi and Palaiokastrita.
Just south of Corfu the island of Paxoi has great anchorages at Lakka, Longos and Gaios.

3 Eastern side – Aegean Sea islands
By far the most famous island is Santorini. Yes it's a bit crowded, but the Caldera is unforgettable.
There are many other stunning islands contained within the Northern and Eastern Sporades, the Cyclades and Dodecanese. Watch for the Meltemi – the strong north-westerly which often blows in the afternoon and can last several days.

4 Crete
You could easily cruise a few weeks here with plenty to see. Of particular interest from east to west are Ayios Nikolaos, Rethimno, Khania, Soudha Bay (visit the New Zealand war cemetery) and stunning Gramvousa Island with its spectacular hilltop castle.

NZ war cemetery at Soudha Bay


Envoy anchored off Dia Island

Because a place isn't mentioned in this article doesn't mean it's not great – there are just too many to mention! The only negatives to cruising in Greece are that the fishing is lousy (locals mostly fish using nets) and scuba diving is mostly not allowed except as part of a guided dive group (to prevent theft of artifacts).

Very shortly we'll post an article about preparing yourselves for the live-aboard cruising life.







Thursday, February 01, 2018

MOORING STERN-TO SHORE

Envoy is in Lefkas Marina for the winter while we are in Auckland enjoying summer.

Many aspects of cruising in the Med are completely different to those found in New Zealand and one major difference is how cruisers secure themselves over-night.
Most cruising boats in New Zealand waters are privately owned and the vast majority of their skippers prefer to swing to their anchors overnight and experience the tranquility of eating aboard. But this is the least common preference for boats cruising in the Med, where there are many chartered boats, mostly bareboat sailing yachts. It's mainly Europeans who charter here, typically for one to two weeks duration and mostly having several people aboard making meal preparation aboard more challenging. In any case they mostly don't want to spend their limited vacation time preparing meals, but savoring the atmosphere of the many tavernas ashore.
Add to this that some charter boats aren't equipped with ground tackle suitable for the occasional strong winds and that many don't have experienced skippers aboard and the result is there's often a reluctance to anchor. Instead many crews prefer to overnight in marinas (an expensive option), or moor stern-to a village quayside or a taverna's jetty (the latter two options being mostly free of charge).
In areas where the above options aren't available most boats moor stern-to shore, that is they deploy their anchor, reverse close to shore and secure stern lines to rocks, trees or embedded steel rings which are sometimes provided so that yachts can secure their lines safely and without damaging trees.
One advantage of this system is that small to medium sized bays can accommodate larger numbers of boats moored stern-to shore than free-anchored. Another is that small boats moving at speed in the mooring area (which is common in the Med) can only pass by off your bow. Also some bays are very deep for anchoring but shelve up to the shore making stern-to mooring a better option, especially because there's very little tide to be a concern.
But I want to highlight several major disadvantages we've observed with this system.
- It takes considerably more time to deploy and retrieve your anchor and stern lines than just to deploy and retrieve your anchor.
- At least one and sometimes two crew members need to go ashore to secure and free your stern lines and moving on can be tricky at night and/or in deteriorating conditions.
- Lines can become fouled in running gear during deployment and retrieval.
- It's possible to damage your rudder, running gear or keel when reversing into shallow water.
- Rodents and other vermin can come aboard using your stern lines, although the use of rat shields on lines will reduce this.
- Other boats will often moor stern-to very close-by, even alongside and this reduces your privacy.
- While mooring stern-to is generally secure with winds over the bow or stern, problems can occur if strong beam winds develop with the added windage causing anchors to drag or stern lines to break. If strong beam winds do cause problems it's a good idea to deploy a strong line to from roughly amidships at the greatest angle possible to a securing point ashore. If you are anchored stern-to and your boat starts dragging sideways the best course of action may be to release your stern lines and swing to your anchor. This could at least be a temporary measure while other options are considered. Strong beam winds are a lesser problem mooring stern-to quaysides where boats are packed tightly together.
You can spend a few entertaining late afternoon hours observing cruisers trying to moor stern-to shore; dropping their anchors too far from shore and running out of chain before they can deploy their lines, dropping their anchors too close to shore and dragging their anchors, unable to reverse into a space during a strong beam wind or fouling other moored boats' ground tackle.
Another common mistake is that crews moor stern-to with their anchor chain and stern lines completely taut allowing no movement and placing additional strain on all parts of the system.
Recently we saw a yacht's crew making several attempts to deploy their stern lines, finally securing them to trees. Shortly afterwards a moderate breeze sprang up and the yacht's weight pulled one tree out by its roots amid a minor landslide of rocks and dirt.
In a strong wind it's generally much safer to simply free anchor so that your boat swings its bow into the wind resulting in the least windage.