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Saturday, July 13, 2019

ENVOY IN ALBANIA


After we complete the work on Envoy in Corfu's Gouvia marina our agents, A1 Yachting, clear us out of Greece and we head to Sarande in Albania just a short hop across the Corfu Channel. Our friend Chris is still with us. 
On the way a six metre powerboat overtakes us at high speed about five metres off our beam – unthinking, dangerous behavior from locals in high speed power boats can be a problem throughout the Med.
At Sarande the shelter isn't very good as it's fully exposed to the South while the prevailing NW winds send a swell around into the bay. We're directed to moor quayside, but the quay was in fact just a finger about 10 metres long leaving Envoy's stern exposed and close to a large car ferry. So we decide not to stay there but to anchor out in the bay close to a NZ yacht with a solo yachtsman aboard. With our flopper stoppers deployed the effect of the swell is considerably reduced and we're quite comfortable.

Sarande anchorage viewed from castle

Envoy alongside a very short quay - we had to move


Both nights in Albania we eat out finding the food delicious and inexpensive with good friendly service.

View of fishing boats from our harbour side restaurant table

This is our third visit to Albania so we've seen many of the local sights but decide to hire a car and driver for a tour up the coast. Our driver is a nice guy called Mundi,  half Albanian and half Greek.
First we drive up to the hilltop castle for a spectacular view down on Sarande. Mundi explains that Albania was Communist until 1992 and then had a short but violent civil war in 1998 with about 2,000 people killed. It seems to be stable and reasonably safe these days and we never feel ill at ease
The sparsely populated coastline is rugged and spectacular. We stop for lunch at an unusual cafe with fresh water springs flowing through it and the water is so cold it has a cooling effect on the cafe.

Diane sitting in cafe with fresh water springs

Our other main stop is at one of Ali Pasha's castles in Panorma Bay, an important historical stop over point for vessels traversing this coast. The castle's still in pretty good condition and it's easy to imagine what it was like a few hundred years back. Ali Pasha employed French engineers to design and build the castle and being a pretty ruthless guy he had them all executed upon the castle's completion to keep its secrets. I nearly joined them in fact - as I went to step inside one of the nearby buildings a large snake slithered across the doorway just in front of me so I gave up the idea of going inside.

Inside Ali Pasha's castle, once decorated with carpets and tapestries


We leave Albania for Italy, stopping for one night to anchor off the village of Ammou on the south side of an island called Nissos Othoni. This is a first for us and Ammou would rate as one of the nicest anchorages we've been into. Ashore there's some nice tavernas and some torpedoes displayed in a memorial to Greek sailors lost in a submarine called Protefs rammed by an Italian gunboat in 1940. This is a stunning bay and we'll certainly spend more time there on the way back to Corfu. Of course most anchorages are subject to weather and our waitress told us that in southerly gales huge waves wash right up the beach and over the road.

Torpedo and launcher from submarine Protefs



View of Ammou


Leaving Ammou soon after first light we cruise to Otranto on Italy's NE Adriatic coastline. This is new territory for us and it's a nine hour cruise in light winds and a sloppy northerly one metre swell – a good test for the Naiad stabilisers and they perform well. As we get within about 20 miles of Otranto a southerly current sets and we lose about a knot – not significant on a fast boat, but in our case about 15% of our speed. We had planned to anchor in Otranto harbour, but several yachts anchored there are pitching wildly so we decide to moor stern-to the quay alongside some other boats. We're directed to a rather narrow space with a 12m yacht on our starboard side and a 6m power boat to port. As we reverse in to our position the 6m power boat moves in the wind, blocking our entry. A marinara jumps into the boat to move it away, but at the same time we have a problem securing the lazy line quickly and Envoy starts to drift to leeward away from her position. We quickly throw a line from Envoy's beam to somebody aboard the yacht to starboard and order is restored. The marinaras here – Andrea and Fabricio are really nice helpful guys, but the shelter is quite poor with a lot of movement. There are no toilets or showers, power is only available from 1600 to 0900hrs and the cost is a rather high 100 Euros per night! At least the atmosphere and views are great.
This quayside area seemed only suitable for smallish boats but next day a huge Envoy look-alike vessel berths here proving that theory wrong. Otium is about 80ft long weighing about 100 tonnes. Her owner tells me they almost lost Otium several years ago during a sudden 60 knot gale in the Gulf of Taranto when they were unable to turn Otium due to windage on her beam and six metre seas.

Envoy moored in Otranto beside big brother


Most of the boats in Otranto are small motor boats

Otranto's formidable castle



During our stay we enjoy one of our favorite meals spaghetti al vongole (clams) with local rose vino






Tuesday, July 02, 2019

ENVOY AROUND CORFU

Leaving Parga on Greece's mainland coast we cruise further up to Mourtos – one of Di's favorite shopping areas and also one of mine as they have an excellent hardware store and more importantly a great bakery with delicious chocolate cakes.

Parga harbour viewed from castle

At many of these small boat harbors it's quite difficult to find a place to leave your tender as nowhere provides a designated area and you have to find a spot among the local small fishing boats. There is no real concern about theft, just finding a vacant spot.
The first night at Mourtos there's a lot of lightning in the distance and this is always a bit disconcerting because if a thunderstorm arrives it can often bring nasty squalls and wind shifts. Our only few bad nights aboard Envoy have been during thunderstorms, but fortunately this one stays well away.
Another night we return to Envoy from ashore to find a yacht anchored much too close to us – at times only four metres away. We put out fenders but don't actually touch during the night.
We cruise over to Petriti on the island of Corfu stopping on the way to anchor off the Levkimmi Canal and take the dinghy up about a mile to the sleepy village of Levkimmi for lunch. We'd done this before with Frank and Marie but not with Chris.

Chris and Laurie moor the RHIB at Levkimmi canal

Our Naiad hydraulic stabilisers aren't operational at this point, but it's been so calm that so far we've only deployed our other paravane system – the “Birds” once. During this time we tried deploying just one “Bird”, something we've never done before. Using one certainly reduces roll but induces a lean to the side it's deployed so we didn't like it – if we wanted to cruise along on a lean we'd have bought a sailing yacht!

We spend a couple of nights anchored off Petriti and have a great evening ashore at a restaurant overlooking Envoy's anchorage to celebrate our 48th wedding anniversary.

By now we've run all of Envoy's equipment except for the watermaker (which we plan to use a bit later when Envoy's new owners join us for a couple of weeks) and everything is working well except for the Naiads and the B&G Network wind.
Our new air horn installed late last year wasn't working properly and we found that its air supply tubes had kinked and blocked the air supply. It was an easy matter to replace the tubes with new slightly shorter ones to prevent it kinking again and then it worked fine.

Leaving Petriti we cruise north stopping to anchor off Gouvia town, then Kalami, Ormos Ay Stefanos and Avalaki.

View from the Durell's White House in Kalami

During this time Chris and I spend some time trying to find the cause of a very small fresh water leak inside the main head's storage cabinet. It turned out to be a leaking anti-syphon valve for the toilet. I didn't even know this valve was there and it was a bit tricky to remove – but we did so and it's now cleaned up and working properly again ready to be re-installed.

Chris working on our leaking anti-syphon valve and close-up of the valve


There's a few super yachts around including this Australian-owned one with a helo on its foredeck

Chris and Laurie with busker in traditional costume

We spend four nights in Corfu's Gouvia marina to sort out a couple of technical issues left over from last year. While there we catch up with Bruce and Gavin from catamaran Midi and have a great night out at a Corfu restaurant, which is a bit different as you just write down what you want to eat and mostly they have it available.

Last year we left our BandG Network Wind instrument with a technician – Dimitris - to fix. Several months ago we'd sent him an eye watering 600 Euros for parts and he says it fixed and ready to install.
So up the mast he goes and fits the sensor. “Is it working?” he shouts down. “No” I reply – dammit!
So next day he arranges for two technicians from the B&G local agents to take a look. These guys seemed to have a methodical approach and were able to fix it within an hour, so all was well. I could have bought a new unit for less than 600 Euros, but the one we have is part of a network and also has a useful built-in battery voltage monitor which new ones don't have.

On Friday 21 June two technicians arrive from Athens to investigate why our Naiad hydraulic stabilisers are making loud banging noises when in use. Dimitris is an electrician and Konstantinos a mechanic – both very nice, competent and hard-working guys.

Laurie with Dimitris and Konstantinos

After checking the system over we start it in the marina and the loud knocking noises soon start.
A couple of years ago we had a modification done by the same company to lock the fins in the central position when de-energised. This was to avoid the need to manually lock the fins in their central position when anchored in rolly conditions so they don't bang from side to side. Dimitris has a theory that the valves fitted to achieve this central locking were the wrong ones and they are causing over-heating the hydraulic fluid leading to the knocking noises. So they remove the centring valve on the port side and the knocking noises disappear. In fact they seem to disappear on both sides. We do an hour long sea trial and they work perfectly. They also re-route the Naiad's oil cooler hoses as they were very close to the Lugger's lagged exhaust. This wasn't a danger but was affecting the cooling. Next day they remove the centring valve on the starboard side and we do a sea trial about 90 minutes long with the system working well. Since then we have cruised for several hours, including one nine hour cruise with quite a swell running and all is working well. The plan going forward is for these guys to obtain the correct valves from USA and fit them when we come back to Greece from Italy in September. So that was excellent news too as it's a great deal easier switching on the hydraulic stabilisers than deploying the “Birds”. I still can't fully understand why the system worked fine for several months after the centring valves were installed. Dimitris tried to explain to me it was something to do with the valve's internal springs but full meaning was lost in language and my lack of technical understanding.
Next Post – our visit to Albania.


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!