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Saturday, November 09, 2019

OUR FINAL CRUISING DAYS ABOARD ENVOY


Envoy's ownership is now transferred to Larry and Catherine Wood of Brisbane, Australia and we're sure they'll have as much fun and adventure as we enjoyed. 
Envoy has been de-registered from the NZ Shipping Register in preparation for her new Australian listing.
We've been back home in Auckland for three weeks now and busy searching for a new boat. We looked at about 15 before we found one we really liked and signed the deal last Wednesday, subject to survey, sea trial and engineering report. This should be all complete in about two weeks and then I'll provide some details.

We've been too busy to sort out our problem of loading images to the blog so I'll post this update and add images next week.

Now back to the Med. It's late September and we leave Kastos Island to cruise through the Dragonera and Echinades Islands. There are several islands in this remote and barren group with many fish farms among them. Although there are good day anchorages here it's not the place you'd want to move around at night if you needed to, so we head to the nearby mainland coast and anchor at a bay called Ormos Dhioni. This is nothing special but well sheltered and just a few hundred metres from the mouth of Greece's longest river – the Achelos, a slow flowing river passing through marshlands and forming a shallow sandspit where it flow into the sea.
Next day we cruise about 25 miles to Messalonghi. This is a very sheltered harbour about half a mile wide at the end of a two-mile-long canal from the sea. Here we find a handful of yachts anchored and the superyacht Christina O moored alongside the jetty. This is the ship formerly belonging to Aristotle Onassis and named after his daughter. The ship is a converted WW2 warship which saw service at the D Day landings and was beautifully restored and modified.
Messalonghi is important in recent Greek history as a centre of resistance to Turkish rule. In the early 19th century the Turks attacked the town and 7,000 citizens escaped through a gate in the walls and fled into the hills. Unfortunately they encountered some Albanian mercenaries working for the Turks and were ruthlessly slaughtered.
Here my brother Charles joins us having flown in from Scotland for our final cruise aboard Envoy back to the marina.
We cruise to Ormos Antissamos on Cephalonia Island and during the night there's a lot of distant thunder and lightning but no problem for us. Next day we head to Kalo Limani where it's very calm until midnight, but then another thunderstorm starts and continues non-stop until dawn with some very heavy rain but without the violent winds that normally accompany these storms. Charles wonders what he's got himself into having come here for some great Med late summer weather.
Next day we motor to nearby Ay Eufemia to find it's been severely flood-damaged by the heavy rain and the sea is brown to several hundred metres offshore. As we approach the harbour we're warned not to enter because of the large amount of driftwood floating around so we anchor outside and take the dinghy in. Many shops have been flooded and the locals are busy cleaning up and trying to get the thick mud off the roads and footpaths.
Next day we cruise to Ormos Vlikkho on Lefkada Island. Our anchor isn't free-falling very well indicating the windlass needs greasing, so we strip the above deck components and give it a good grease – then it's all good. We spend a few days here basically just filling in time before we go to the marina and doing wintering preparation.
On Monday 7th October the forecast is for strong winds and “destructive thunderstorms” so we decide to go into Lefkada marina a couple of days early. On the way in we refuel for the only time this year (our new boat won't be quite so economical!) putting in 1,690 litres plus the Stanadyne fuel stabiliser that we use.
Next posting – our final days aboard Envoy.



Tuesday, October 22, 2019

UNEXPLODED HAND GRENADE IN ENVOY'S ANCHORAGE


We're now back home in Auckland and Envoy is safely on the hard at Lefkas marina, Greece.
We're now in the process of changing legal ownership of Envoy to Larry and Catherine and associated matters such as converting insurance and taking Envoy off the NZ register.
However we still have three or four postings to do to complete Envoy's epic under our ownership.

I'm going to add some photos to this posting in a few days.

It's mid-September as we leave our anchorage at Ormos Varko heading further south to Syvota, mentioned many times on the Blog, and then on to Cephalonia, one of the most attractive of the Ionian Islands. The weather is still warm being in the mid 20s and the sea temperature is 25d, but as usual in September over here the weather is unstable with many thunderstorm warnings.
Here we anchor at a not-so-popular (because there's no tavernas or shops) but very sheltered bay called Kalo Limani. 
In the early evening we notice a few Coastguard personnel and what appear to be soldiers on the beach and somebody snorkeling around the shallows. We're anchored about 200 metres off the beach and see Coastguard personnel instruct the skipper of a yacht anchored much closer to the beach to move away. The yacht comes over to us and the skipper says he's been told to re-anchor behind us because they've found an unexploded WW2 hand grenade in the shallows and the bomb disposal team are going to blow it up. Apparently someone was snorkeling around earlier, noticed the grenade and called the Coastguard. Of course Cephalonia was the scene of much activity during WW2 including the events depicted in the great movie Captain Corelli's Mandolin. So we sip our wine and wait for the blast. We expect to see a fountain of water erupting, but the reality is disappointing, sounding like two fire crackers going off.
Next day we cruise south to one of our favourite anchorages – Ay Eufemia for a couple of nights and meet a nice couple Duncan and Julia from Falmouth aboard S/Y Rampage (what a great boat name).
This season we've met many interesting fellow cruisers, mainly from Australia, NZ, UK and Italy.
One of the nights here we encounter a severe thunderstorm with winds up to 43 knots and the classic 180 degree reversal of wind direction. One catamaran and one monohull yacht drag, but as usual Envoy is OK, though the storm did keep us up on watch for a couple of hours during the night.
We spend a few days around the island of Ithica re-visiting some favourite haunts and encounter yet another thunder storm while anchored in Vathi Harbour. This one is prolonged, lasting about three hours, but with the wind only reaches about 20 knots with no boats dragging.
With an even worse weather forecast we head back to Lefkada Island for one night, anchoring in the very sheltered Vlikho Bay. The swell is close to 2 metres providing a good test for our Naiad stabilisers, which perform well and as the wind increases we take some spray over the bow for the first time this season.
As usual there are huge numbers of dinner plate sized jellyfish here – I counted 30 around Envoy at one point so definitely not the place for a swim. 
Late in the afternoon the wind increases to about 20 knots and I see a yacht about 100 metres in front of us to windward turn beam to wind and start to drag towards us. We start the engine and start to pull up our anchor to move out of the way, but the yacht is moving too fast and I realise we won't pull up the anchor in time. Our only alternative is to let out much more chain and power ourselves out of the way of the yacht. It's a close call but the yacht passes by dragging her anchor and fortunately not fouling our chain. I notice that she drags at least another 200 metres before her anchor bites and holds.
We need to meet my brother Charles who's flying into Athens so head to Messalonghi, about 70 miles away on the mainland as here has good bus connections with Athens and is a place we've never been.
We spend the first night at Port Leone on Nisos Kalamos. It's perfectly calm here and we have a great night anchored off the derelict village, abandoned after an earthquake in 1953.
Next day we anchor off Port Kalamos and go ashore for a look around before heading to nearby Nisos Kastos and anchoring in very sheltered South-East Bay. It's deep here and we anchor in 23 metres.
Autumn is coming and we need to put a blanket on the bed for the first time since summer started and we're no longer needing our electric fans to keep cool.
We explore more of Nisos Kastos, which is a really nice island, before heading to Astakos on the nearby mainland, anchoring off the village and going ashore. The wind comes up to 25 knots, building a heavy chop and making this exposed position untenable overnight so we cruise down to nearby Port Marathia. It's very windy here too but it's offshore and we have good holding despite a half metre wind-driven chop.
Next Post is cruising through the Dragonera and Echinades Islands to Messolonghi where we see the superyacht Christina O, formerly owned by Aristotle Onassis.




Friday, September 27, 2019

ENVOY CRUISING SOUTH FROM CORFU


ENVOY CRUISING SOUTH FROM CORFU 
Envoy is now at stunning Kastos Island on the way to Mesolonghi to meet my brother Charles.
Back to late August we've cleared in to Greece at Corfu after our return from Albania and heading south we spend time in Petriti and Syvota – both extensively mentioned in previous blogs.

Enjoying cakes at one of our favourite bakeries - in Syvota (Mourtos)

Cruising west from Petriti you need to stay well clear to the north of a large sand spit, covered with shallow water and well marked on charts but with no buoyage. There's a line of boats including us and several charter yachts keeping well clear of the spit and then I see a 45 ft sailing catamaran under motor veer out of line off to the south. At first I think maybe he has local knowledge and with his cat's shallow draught may be OK. He's well out of hailing distance when I see things go horribly wrong and the cat grounds. Fortunately the sea is very calm and I see the cat trying to get clear, but instead of trying to get out the way it came in the cat veers in another direction where it's shallower still. There's nothing we can do to assist as he's several hundred metres away from water deep enough for Envoy to venture safely. In any case I'd be reluctant to put a tow line on a vessel over here, not knowing the insurance implications.

We cruise on to Loggos on Paxxos Island. This is a stunning village we've been to with our friends Frank and Marie when we all decided it was one of our favorite places with a quaint bakery selling croissants, plus several nice tavernas and restaurants and quirky shops.

Envoy anchored in Loggos with superyacht  in background

Loggos's stunning waterfront


Our favorite house in Loggos overlooks the anchorage

Then we head to Lakka Bay on Paxxos, surprisingly finding three Kiwi boats there. We get together with Richard and Janet from motorboat Matariki plus Jeremy and Chrissy from yacht Fernweh for drinks aboard Envoy and dinner ashore. We find out that Richard is about 80 years old and still enjoying his boating, having a yacht in the Bay of Islands that he originally sailed out to NZ from England.

Interesting charter vessel moored close to us at Lakka

I planned to do a genset oil and filter change the next day. I had my new spare Shell oil stored on the top deck in 20 litre plastic drums and when I went to fetch it found that the tops of both drums had split – presumably with the heat and u/v. In retrospect I should have covered them for protection. We'd had a little rain a few days before and I wasn't going to risk using oil possibly contaminated with water so consigned these drums to the oil dump station where I looked with disgust as 40 litres of possibly perfectly good oil was poured in - about 170 Euros worth!

From Paxxos we cruise about six hours to Preveza on the mainland – another great anchorage where we've spent many comfortable nights. 

Having dinner out at Preveza

Before it got dark we notice this bird's nest of wiring on a nearby power pole

Here I buy some new 15W40 oil and change the generator's oil and filter, a job which if properly organised takes about an hour using Envoy's built-in oil change pump. On completion when I try to start the generator – nothing! Well obviously I think the problem must be connected to the oil change, but I can't see how - did I dislodge a wire?. The generator provides our only source of AC power for refrigeration so we need it. We head to nearby Lefkada marina where we can connect to shorepower while the generator problem is solved. Sailand's electrician – Velisaris knows Envoy well and comes aboard at 1800 hours, soon diagnoses the problem as the starter motor, removes it and takes it away for repair. He's back at 1000 the next day and says the starter motor needed a good clean out of accumulated carbon dust and new brushes. I check our Envoy manual and find this starter motor should be serviced every five years. Lo and behold - it's 5 years since our last service. While Velissaris is aboard I also get him to test the output of the Lugger's alternator and this tests fine.

Having dinner in Lefkada's main square with yachtsmen friends Mike and Keith

We leave Lefkada and head south through the canal stopping at Ormos Varko for two nights. This is a remote, peaceful anchorage well sheltered from prevailing northerlies and without annoying speed boats roaring around. One night we're on the fringes of an electrical storm, but apart from a few brief squalls up to 20 knots have no problem and see the main front pass away well to our east.
Then it's further south to Ormos Dessimou. This is a bit busier with many campers ashore and some small boats coming in and out.

Tavernas on O. Dessimou's tranquil shore

Next posting - unexploded WW2 hand grenade found in our anchorage

Saturday, September 21, 2019

ENVOY IN ALBANIA

Envoy is now anchored at beautiful Cephalonia, Greece.
Fingers crossed we seem to have sorted out our photo issue now.

I meant to mention that although Envoy has two aircons – a forward unit cooling the two sleeping cabins and an amidships unit cooling the pilothouse and saloon – we only use these to provide an AC load for the generator as to use them properly we'd obviously have to close all the portholes, doors and windows - something Di and I don't like to do. Also to use the aircons we need AC power which means being on shore power or running the generator or running the Lugger with the inverter.
While we're in Gouvia marina waiting for the epirb situation to be resolved it's hot – like up to 37d. It's generally hotter in marinas as there's less wind than at anchor and large expanses of concretes that soak up and then radiate the heat. Larry and Catherine are having a bit of difficulty sleeping in the heat and suggest we run the forward aircon all night. So we close the portholes and do this, finding after about an hour or so the temperature drops about 5dC and more importantly the humidity drops considerably. So this is a useful experiment and we find the slight hum of the aircon working on shore power not a problem, though we wouldn't do it at anchor as we'd have to run the generator all night.

We have already spent a few days in Albania with Chris earlier in the season but now need to spend another few days there to avoid over-staying our allowed 90 days in Greece. On our three previous trips we've stayed at Sarande so this time decide to cruise a few miles north and south of Sarande. To do this our agent, Jelga, needs to file a cruise intinerary with the Port Police. At the Sarande dock is a very traditional Arab dhow about 120 feet long with its crew all decked out in traditional long white robes and turbans. Jelga tells us it's owned by an Emarati princess and when the dhow arrived the authorities laid a long red carpet from the dock to the Customs hall.

There's very few boats anchored here, but one is a NZ yacht called Sparrow. We meet her owners Peter and Dash and enjoy a great dinner ashore together costing a ridiculously low 19 Euros per couple.
Next day we start cruising north and anchor at a very sheltered bay east of Cape Kiephali. Here it's very remote, accessed only by a dirt road. There's a couple of houses ashore and a fish farm taking up some of the bay's space. At dusk we see two guys ashore dressed in military style clothing acting rather suspiciously. Dusk turns to dark and they are still there - doing what? We find it slightly scary so lock our doors during the night for the first time ever.

Envoy anchored near Cape Kiepheli, Albania

Next day we cruise further north to anchor off Qeparo Beach, east of Palermo Headland. Here is also very sheltered and there's a few tavernas ashore, one of which we visit for a cold and cheap Albanian beer. The barman speaks no English but we all manage OK. At both of these anchorages we are the only boat.

Grotto near our Qeparo Beach anchorage

Peter and Dash meanwhile have cruised past us to go alongside the wharf at Palermo Bay. This is a disused military wharf and very rough with lots of protrusions and no proper bollards. Although it's only a couple of miles from where we were last night Peter says they got winds gusting 40 knots whereas we had none. The main attraction at Palermo Bay is Ali Pasha's castle, which we've already seen so we move on to anchor in Himare Bay. 

Ali Pasha's castle viewed from the sea

Tucked in close at the north end of the bay close to a wharf there's reasonable shelter from the prevailing northerlies, although a bit of residual swell finds its way here. The village is quite atmospheric, even if a little run-down and the locals are mostly quite friendly – even the local Port Police who visit us to check on our ship's papers. The main issue here is small boats moving at high speed very close. We take a taxi to Himare's ancient Kastro high in the hills for some spectacular views of the coast.

View from Himare's Kastro

Himare is the last sheltered anchorage for many miles heading north so after two nights here we head back south again

Envoy anchored in Himare Bay

There are some very run-down apartments in Himare

On the way, passing Sarande we notice our dinghy is missing – my fault as I was the one who secured it (not very well). We haven't cruised far so backtrack about two miles to find it drifting near a rocky shore. It'stoo risky to take Envoy that close to a lee shore so we anchor off about 50 metres and I swim over to the dinghy which by now is very close to rocks. I manage to climb onto the rocks, push the dinghy away, climb in and start it. I get a few metres away from the rocks and the engine stops – the painter is still dragging in the choppy water and has wound around the prop. I jump back into the water, manage to free the prop quite easily, get back into the dinghy and motor over to Envoy. A good ending to a silly mistake.

Laurie rescuing our drifting dinghy

The only really nice anchorage we found to the south of Sarande is Ftelia Bay, which is very remote and perfectly sheltered from all wind directions except southerly. Again we are the sole boat here and one side of the bay is Albanian while the other is Greek. Some years back it was a military zone and cruisers weren't allowed to anchor here but it's all much more relaxed these days. There's no tavernas or facilities here but Ftlelia would rank among one of the nicest anchorages we've found.

Envoy anchored on the Albania/Greek border in Ftlelia Bay


Old fisherman's cottage on Greek side of Ftlelia Bay

So we clear-out of Albania and head back to Corfu's Gouvia marina to clear-in to Greece for the last time. The cost is 60 Euros for both clearing in and out, compared to 150 Euros to clear in and the same to clear out of Greece.





Thursday, September 12, 2019

ENVOY DETAINED AFTER EPIRB ACCIDENTALLY ACTIVATES

Envoy is currently anchored at Lefkada Island.
With Envoy's new owners, Larry and Catherine aboard we have left Italy's Santa Maria di Leuca at first light bound for Greece.
For those who don't know, an EPRB is an emergency position indicating radio beacon and when activated provides rescue authorities with your vessel details and position. You wouldn't use it unless in case of dire emergency combined with inability to give your position by VHF radio.
Just north of the Greek island of Othoni our old EPIRB with an expired battery, which I had kept on board activated by itself. This causes a Coastguard boat to come out from Othoni island to check we are OK as well as radio calls from Olympia Radio, the Greek rescue authorities. We explain both by VHF radio to Olympia Radio and in person to the Coastguard people alongside us that the EPIRB had activated by itself with no human intervention and I thought that might be the end of it – but no such luck. The Coastguard said we would have to go to the closest port - a small but lovely village on the south side of Othoni island called Ammou and would not be permitted to leave until Envoy had been surveyed for safety. 


Port Authority building at Ammou where the Coastguard are based

Well obviously there are no surveyors on Othoni and there's only an infrequent ferry service to Corfu. I ask the Coastguard if we can go to Corfu for the survey but they say no. I imagine this situation drawing out into many days and having to hire a water taxi to get a surveyor out to us. I'm also concerned about Larry and Catherine - although we're at a lovely bay they wouldn't want to spend the whole remaining time of their trip here and how would they get to Corfu to catch their ferry back to Italy? I also have concerns about the "survey". Few boats would pass a comprehensive survey without some preparation and we don't have that opportunity.
So I get our agent A1 Yachting involved and once again they perform great, putting me in touch with a Greek/Australian surveyor based in Corfu who soon manages to get permission from Coastguard for Envoy to move to Corfu's Gouvia marina. Even for this to happen he also had to get a letter of approval from the NZ Consulate in Athens. After arriving in Gouvia we find that our berth is very close to the Port Police base and assume they want to keep an eye on us. It takes five days for the necessary checks to be made and paperwork completed. The "survey" in fact turns out only to involve de-registering our old EPIRB, registering the new one we already have on board, checking our VHF and making some modifications to it. You can't rush bureaucracy but Larry and Catherine weren't fussed as it gave them a few days to see Corfu and for Catherine and Di to enjoy doing some shopping together.
We also hire a car and visit Corfu's west coast village of Paleokastritsa and the remote mountain village of Palia Perithia. Here we have lunch at a taverna patronised by Rick Stein, but unfortunately on our visit all find the meals a bit under-whelming, even though the taverna itself is atmospheric.

My final involvement with the epirb situation is to go to the Coastguard's Corfu office to pick up our clearance to leave. The surveyor says this will take 10 minutes but in fact it takes about three hours, mainly waiting around for people. Corfu's main Coastguard office has about 80 people working there and it's hard to find the right one to deal with. Finally I manage to find the right guy and he is reasonably friendly, even organising a coffee for me. He initially seems to find complications, but suddenly hands me some documents and tells me Envoy is free to leave.
So we leave the marina - free people again and have a nice few days cruising the bay's north of Corfu.  During this time we're anchored in  a large bay when two large twin-engined seaplanes come zooming down and skim across the water filling their sea water tanks for fire fighting. They do this several times and we jole that we've put this show on especially for Larry and Catherine.

We never did get an explanation on how the EPIRB may have self-activated, but the local expert said it was unlikely to be caused by the expired battery. Anyway I think the lessons here are don't keep an EPIRB with an expired battery aboard, but de-register and dispose of it and make sure you register your new one immediately after purchase.
After several more days cruising in Corfu Larry and Catherine leave us, looking very much forward to starting their very own Envoy adventures.

This unusual vessel noticed in Corfu has a helicopter hanger on its stern

Next day we clear-out of Greece to spend a week or so cruising in Albania.

We thought this rock looks like a bear sitting down


Sunday, September 08, 2019

RETURN TO ENVOY AFTER A SHORT BREAK BACK HOME

Envoy is currently cruising to Preveza, mainland Greece. Still having problems loading images so that's why there's not many.
Late in the evening of Sunday 28 July we arrive back to Envoy berthed at Taranto in Italy. There's a 20 knot wind blowing and the boat is moving around making it tricky to get our luggage back aboard across a bouncing passarelle. All is as we left it except that we inadvertently closed the fridge door (we usually leave it wedged open when its not operating) and in the high heat a bit of mould had formed inside. However this is soon cleaned up.
Next day the marina lends us a car and driver to take us to a supermarket a couple of km away where we do a huge shop to re-supply. It's fun in these smallish and unfamiliar Med supermarkets, but there always seems to be a shortage of trolleys.
Taranto is interesting but seems a bit run down with a lot of derelict, unoccupied buildings.
Next day we cruise back to Porti di Caesareo – already mentioned previously. Some locals take a shine to us and insist on taking us ashore for coffee and delicious cake.
That night Envoy rolls a bit and our RHIB, which is lifted out of the water at the transom, moves around and abrades some of our sign writing off the stern. Fortunately we have some spare decals aboard so this can be easily remedied.

Gallipoli
Envoy's new owners – Larry and Catherine from Brisbane are due to join us shortly for a couple of weeks so our agent had arranged a marina berth in Portolano marina at the beautiful town of Gallipoli.
This “marina” is a bit of a joke really – there's just a floating pontoon making a poor attempt at blocking waves from the open sea and it's quite rough inside. The lazy lines connecting the mooring lines to the jetty are far too short so they are more or less floating and one get's caught up in our bow thruster – damn! Last time this happened we had to pull Envoy from the water to free it at a cost of nearly a thousand bucks. More on this soon.
Fortunately we are bow on to the swell so it's not too uncomfortable, but at one stage our passarelle is moving through a range of about a metre up and down.
We arrive there early afternoon and by late afternoon there's a strong wind blowing directly into the marina, which has little room to manoever as it's really of a size for smaller trailerable boats.
A twin-engined displacement motor boat slightly larger than Envoy arrives to berth next to Envoy. As the boat comes in I can see the skipper has no idea what he's doing and he allows his boat to be taken so far downwind that there's no chance of him turning stern-to the jetty. His boat slams broadside into Envoy and the two boats next to us. Where he hits Envoy is the forward end of our anchor, which is now making a good job of grinding into his teak capping rail and adjacent gelcoat. The skipper's wife rushes out and attempts to push their boat off, but the on-scene marinaras and myself warn her away – there's a real risk of serious injury. I put out our heaviest duty fender to try to minimise damage to the other boat but it soon bursts with the pressure – later the other skipper pays me for it. The skipper then makes things worse by using power and wrapping a mooring line around one of his props. The marinaras then use their large RHIB to tow the boat upwind and back outside the marina. One of the marinaras takes over the boat's helm and to his credit does an excellent job of docking her even with one engine unusable. He lines up the boat at the entrance and reverses at remarkably high speed straight into the empty berth next to Envoy. The other boat also needs a diver and we are told to expect him next day at 0700. I am very sceptical about this – nothing happens during early mornings in the Med. My scepticism proves waranted when he arrives about 1000. Then he does a great job of removing the lines fouling our bow thruster and our neighbour's prop.
Next day Larry and Catherine arrive. It's Catherine's first time aboard and she likes Envoy very much. They aren't really concerned by the primitive marina, but meanwhile we have organised a berth at Bleu Salento marina inside Gallipoli harbour for the next two nights. Bleu Salento is only slightly dearer at 120 Euros per night but is perfectly sheltered with properly laid lines and plenty of room to manoever.
We organise a rental car and do a couple of days touring the local area including the stunning town of Lecce, already covered in a previous posting.

Great view from cafe near Gallipoli

Larry and Catherine quickly adjust to shipboard life and we cruise to Santa Maris di Leuca to anchor off the marina. During the night the wind changes to onshore making for a rather uncomfortable night – at least we thought so, but Larry and Catherine didn't seem to mind. We set off at first light heading for Greece on what would turn out to be an eventful day.




Friday, August 23, 2019

ITALY'S GOLFO DI TARANTO


Currently we're cruising in southern Albania until late next week when we'll return to Corfu in Greece.
Sorry the Blog has got behind. Have had Envoy's new owners aboard for last couple of weeks or so and a problem with an accidental EPIRB activation - will catch up now. Adding photos is an issue right now and I hope to add these later.

Golfo di Taranto
So far in our story we've been on the Adriatic coast of Italy and Porto Castro is the last reasonable anchorage heading south. So we cruise south and west into the Golfo di Taranto to anchor off the marina Santa Maria di Leuca. It's pretty good, but like many anchorages here subject to wakes from large motor boats from late morning until late afternoon. We stay here just one day and then cruise north with a southerly wind behind us further into the Golfo di Taranto. In the late afternoon we drop anchor in a very large and calm south-facing bay called Torre del Pizza. We're staggered to see more than 200 mostly motor boats ranging from 5 to 25 metres long anchored here. In the late afternoon we have drinks on the foredeck and watch as they all leave bar two sailing yachts which like us stay for the night.
In the morning the wind turns north again making this an exposed anchorage so we head further north finding an excellent small harbour called Porto Caesario. Access is via a narrow buoyed passage through a reef and once inside it seems like you're in a tropical Pacific atoll. The depth is only about 3 metres with lots of shallower water and ashore a beached wrecked yacht is a grim reminder of what can happen if things go wrong and a big westerly swell develops.

It's very pretty ashore and there's some interesting shopping (even I buy a few things which is rare indeed!) and good restaurants.
The day we arrive here is Monday and we're due to go into a marina at Taranto on Thursday. On Tuesday the updated forecast shows a bad situation developing from Wednesday late afternoon – 40 knot southerlies, turning to 40 knot northerlies with a major thunderstorm. Given our unfamiliarity with the local area and the shallow depth of this beautiful anchorage we decide to head off a day early on Wednesday for the safety of the marina.
Strong winds in themselves are not normally a problem and we've often been safely anchored in winds of 30-40 knots and occasionally up to 60 knots. In these cases the wind builds gradually and you have the chance to make sure your anchor is well set. The problem with thunderstorms is that they can hit suddenly and viciously, often causing adjacent charter yachts (that may have inadequate ground tackle and inexperienced crews) to drag. The other problem is the wind is not consistently from one direction but always veers as the front moves, so in anchorages chaos often occurs.

Storm in Taranto
On Wednesday we leave at 0650hrs and cruise west then north-west in a rising southerly about 40 miles to Otranto, arriving 1400hrs. The wind has only reached up to 14 knots when we arrive and we have no problem getting into our berth, stern-to as normal, assisted by competent and friendly marinaras Andrea and Luigi (yes Luigi!). Unlike Otranto this is a “proper” marina with toilets, showers, constant AC power and potable water. It's also much better-priced at 58 Euros per night including power and water.
The greater Taranto harbour is huge and historically one of Italy's major naval bases.
By about 1800hrs storm clouds start to gather and I deploy some heavy spring lines from amidships back to the pontoon. The storm continues to gather force in the distance and appears to be probably the worst we've ever seen. The sky is pitch black over the storm front and it's moving down on us - fast. We see the front within about half a mile from us with very low black swirling cloud and then see what looks like white smoke. In fact this is spray whipped up off the sea's surface by the wind. The wind and spray hits us suddenly on our beam with the wind going from less than 15 knots to over 40 in seconds. As we watch the developing scene from our pilothouse we see our newly repaired wind speed indicator hit 52 knots – that's nearly 100 km/hr. Nearby, lighter boats heel sharply and bang into each other while Envoy heels slightly and strains at her mooring lines. Ahead of us we see a two masted sailing yacht about 60ft long and moored alongside a jetty, heel very sharply as she's exposed broadside to the wind. She goes over further so that her gunwales go beneath the jetty's decking and the rising waves push her underneath, so that she's unable to right herself. There she stays for 15 minutes or so until the wind changes direction, the seas drop and she suddenly frees herself, popping upright again. We take a close look at her later to discover a lot of superficial gelcoat damage.
The wind veers 90 degrees from abeam to astern and I'm pleased I added those extra lines.
After some torrential rain the storm abates, but we sure are glad we came into the marina.
Damage” to Envoy consists of one cockpit cushion blown away (which funnily enough we find in the water a few hundred metres away two days later) and a little rain water in the engine room bilge, which had been driven through the windward air vent. Our windward neighbor on his Feretti 39 motor boat says he's lost a squab and we find it up on Envoy's boat deck. Two yachts on the hardstand are blown off their cradles onto the concrete – ironically one of which is owned by the marina manager. The cafeteria is flooded and its plastic tables and chairs wildly scattered. This same storm wreaks havoc down the coast and goes across to the north-west coast of Greece where sadly six tourists are killed. The only good parts about this were that we were safely in the marina and Envoy got a great fresh water wash!
Early on Saturday 13 July we leave Envoy safely in her marina berth to fly to Rome and then on back to Auckland for a short time, returning to Envoy on 28 July for the second phase of our 2019 adventure.