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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Approaching Capri

As I type this we’re in sunshine, smooth seas 5 knots of breeze and 18d. The island of Capri is ahead about 18 miles where we will anchor for the night. We left Ostia on Monday and went directly to Nettuna and stayed in the marina. This was more “typical” than Ostia which is all quite new. On Tuesday shortly after leaving at 0700, we were stopped in quick succession by three different navy patrol vessels. To the South of Nettuna is a military firing zone and we were told to steam 6 miles West to avoid it. We decided to comply rather than risk being target practice. Tuesday night saw us at the island of Ponza and our first anchorage which all went smoothly. Three police came out to us in a dinghy to inspect our papers. Felt amazing sitting at anchor in a harbour first used several hundred years BC. The small harbour was full of colourful fishing boats and looked like a pitate’s lair of old (which it is). We were the only boat at anchor but apparently in the summer its virtually impossible to get in there.
There’s very few boats around and so far in 3 days we’ve only seen one pleasure boat. Apart from that a number of commercial fishing vessels which has Diane excited thinking there must be some fish to be caught.
Our current priority is to get to Palermo, Sicily a day or two before Easter. This meant that we cut short our plans to visit Rome and will do that another time. Currently the weather is good and having seen a gale here we do want to make some progress while the weather is good. The problem is not only the potentially rough seas but the fact you can’t get into or out of a lot of marinas in adverse conditions. We could have done a direct, non stop route from Ponza to Palermo of about 165 miles or about 24 hours continuous cruising but elected to take the longer but more reassuring coast hopping route as the direct route would have placed us up to 80 miles from the closest land.
Cruising at about 7 knots is quite different to what we’re used to, but great. The main difference is that on a vessel like Envoy you do things while going along, for example typing this or preparing and eating meals. Then there’s the usual “household” chores to do plus particular boat tasks such as making water using the watermaker, doing regular checks on equipment etc. Another difference is the fuel economy of under 10 litres per hour. We have on board internet access interfacing our laptop with a Vodafone mobile with an Italian prepaid sim card. Using this we dial direct to the internet and can send our gmails which is a very cheap and effective system.

Friday, March 23, 2007

After 3 weeks

The gale subsided by Weds night, the seas subsided by Thurs morning and we’re in a light breeze but very cold, about 8-12 dC.
We have been here 3 weeks today and on Envoy 2 weeks. Today is the first day we feel we are pretty organized, ready to go and the list of “urgent” things to do is dwindling.
Wayne & Pat left 2 weeks ago but have continued to provide much advice via text, phone & email as we simply ran out of time to go through things before they departed and our only voyage with them was from the travel lift to our berth.
So we’re now fully provisioned, all checks completed and on Monday or Tuesday plan to leave Ostia and coast hop South towards Sicily. The weather is still very unsettled in the region so we’ll be watching this pretty carefully in fact I’ve spent several hours today researching the various ways to get good forecasting – there are plenty of these including vhf (continuous), ssb, navtex and various internet sites not to mention the Mark 1 eyeball.
The marina chandlery has been extremely helpful and helped us to sort out our gas bottle situation and marina power cables among other things.
Di & I have been well and very busy, pretty much going from 0700 to 2000 hrs before relaxing with a chianti and pasta !
Will post more news on leaving Ostia.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Our First Gale

Well in our last update we were saying the wind had not exceeded 10 knots and now we’re in a gale. Its Tuesday at 1300 and the wind log is showing 40 knots. We were out in great conditions on Saturday but by Sunday there was a gale warning of Force 7 winds. Although we are in the marina we are within 50m of the marina entrance which faces the open sea. By Monday morning there were approx 2-3 m waves breaking all the way across the entrance and sending a surge into the marina. The surge is the problem rather than the wind as the boat lifts and drops putting pressure on all of the lines and causing them to jerk. We picked up a spare bow heavy line, doubling our protection on the bow and put out extra stern lines including a heavy spring running two thirds the length of the boat (secured by pilot house to take the jerkiness out). Despite this, there is still a of movement and we have to be very careful going ashore as the Passarelle (boarding plank) goes up and down by a metre or so. Yesterday I had to put additional stern lines on an unattended 44 ft planing vessel on our starboard side. She had totally unsuitable stern lines which were already half frayed through. At 0300 today I got up to check around and found the 42 ft planing vessel which had been our port side had gone ! She had broken her stern lines and gone adrift dragging her power line and hose off the dock. I could see her up against yachts on the lee side of the marina but could do nothing myself and there was nobody around listening to the marina radio. At daylight the “marinaras” came and sorted it out and there seemed to be minimal damage.
About now is the time we were planning to do some sight seeing in Rome but we’re not going to leave Envoy unattended in these conditions. Of course there’s plenty to do to keep us occupied. Together with a great guy called we are making up some power cable adaptors so that we can source power from different types of power outlets. Wayne used to make his up as he went along but he’s more practical than me in that regard. We also need to sort out our gas bottle refilling as the bottles we have on Envoy are suitable for Spain and Turkey but not for Italy.
So in addition to that we are well and enjoying but now looking forward to some balmy weather again which, if permitting we intend to leave Ostia for Capri, the Amalfi Coast and then Sicily on the weekend.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

A voyage at last

Well there’s been a fair bit happening since our last update. After Wayne & Pat (the previous owners) departed on the evening of Sat 10th we spent an enormous amount of time finding things on Envoy, re-stowing to suit our needs and unpacking and stowing our gear. Envoy is like a floating “Sailor’s Corner” chandlery shop with an enormous amount of equipment, spare parts, tools, etc. For example we discovered a water blaster that we didn’t even know was there. There are so many very practical features like walkie talkie headsets so that Di & I can talk to each other when we are berthing (you can’t really see anything from the Pilothouse when reversing into a berth so I rely on instructions from Di in the cockpit).
So Envoy settled another 50 mm or so into the water when we loaded our groceries, provisions and the odd bottle of wine !
Because Envoy has been out of the water for 5 months we have also needed to check all systems are working and this has been time consuming but fun and educational as we find our way around the boat.
Soon after buying Envoy, we retained the services of an Italian maritime lawyer – Andrea Petragnani Ciancarelli who was recommended by Wayne & Pat. His help & advice has been great and for example he liased between us and the Italian boatyard – Rizzardi – who worked on Envoy during the time she was out of the water. So with Andrea last Tuesday we went to the head office of the Coastguard to sort out our Italian and EC entry documentation. This was quite different to Coastguard as we know it. There was heavy security there with guards wearing sidearms, everybody in uniform (even the receptionist I noticed) and quite formal. Italy is quite bureaucratic and to do what we in NZ might consider simple takes a while. For example Di & I went to the Post Office to buy some stamps and post some cards. Well we might have been asking for tickets for lunar travel ! As Frank had warned us these things take much time, much conversation and gesticulation by all involved including everybody in the place.
That afternoon we completed our shopping and went to a frozen foods shop where we bought some NZ lamb. We couldn’t resist it but it was NZ$40 for a leg. Again much fun with the sales lady and we left there with Di and her giving each other a big cuddle
(I missed out !).
On Thursday we went to the airport to collect our unaccompanied luggage that we’d sent from NZ. Fortunately we got on well with Riccardo the taxi van driver who took us to our hotel on our arrival in Rome on 1 March. Riccardo is the Italian equivalent of a Corporate Cab owner. So we phoned him and he picked us up and took us to the airport. What a performance ! Without Riccardo we’d have had a snowball’s chance in hell of getting our luggage. The bureaucracy was incredible and even Riccardo couldn’t understand the system and what needed to be done. He shrugged his shoulders and said “This is Italy …. and we have to wait ..” Anyway 3 hours later we were on our way and then spent the rest of the day finding room for the contents of 5 suitcases on a very full boat. What has been amazing here is the weather. Bearing in mind this is early Spring the weather is day after day sunny and very still ! The wind has never been over 10 knots and mostly much less. Nothing like the Hauraki Gulf where it seems there’s a wind warning every other day. Anyway next week there’s a cold front coming down from Northern Europe so we’ll see.
Today we finally did our first voyage ! Left Ostia for a 5 hour round trip and everything ran fine. The sensation is very different to what we are used to. It’s a very “solid” feeling and of course slow. Unlike a planing vessel you don’t need to move things because Envoy just sits there, aided of course by stabilizers. So today was an exciting day and we’re pleased to have a first trip under our belt. Coming back into the marina we were a little apprehensive but it was fine. Envoy is very heavy at about 30 tonne, doesn’t move much with the wind and with the bow thruster is quite manoeverable so no real problem.
Up to now we’ve not had time to do any sight seeing in Rome itself but hope to do some this coming week. We plan to leave here in about a week for Sicily but are pretty well organized now so should have some time.
If you’re reading this please make a comment.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The “Launching”
Well the bow thruster job turned out (as most boat related jobs do) to be quite a mission but thanks to Wayne’s knowledge & experience we completed it by Thursday and launched on Friday. The sealant which stops seawater coming up through the bow thruster “tunnel” has all been replaced using 3M 5200 which Wayne says is far superior to any other product for this type of job. For one thing, although it takes about a week to fully cure, we were able to launch the boat about 6 hours after application as 5200 cures under water. Its tough to work with and sticks like the proverbial s..t to a blanket but that’s what makes it good. Wayne & Pat had originally been due to leave us on Friday but very kindly changed their own vacation plans to spend 2 more days with us, due to the bow thruster issue. This was certainly highly appreciated. So we launched for the second time late Friday afternoon and once again did our checks prior to leaving the safety of the travel lift. To my horror I saw traces of water in the bilge adjacent to the bow thruster. On closer inspection (by Wayne) this water was seeping out of a sea water strainer for the deck wash down and had nothing to do with the bow thruster – a classic case of 1 + 1 = 3. We turned off the seacock and all was OK – I’ll just have to replace the strainer before we turn it back on.
So on Friday night we spent our first night aboard.
All day Saturday was spent with Wayne & Pat showing us all about the operation of Envoy and there was a lot to learn, for example re commissioning the watermaker took about 3 hours and its pretty complex stuff. Once the watermaker is in use it must be used about every 3 days or problems arise.
Wayne & Pat departed on late Saturday afternoon after what I can only describe as a fantastic effort by them to assist us and Diane & I were on our own. That night we drank a bottle of sparkling wine left for us by Wayne & Pat and poured a glass over the bow of Envoy in recognition of her new owners and re flagging as a NZ vessel.
Since then we’ve been very, very busy ! We have a rental car and have been ferrying back and forth to the shops to fully provision the boat. So far 3 complete car loads of groceries with of course a bottle or three of vino.
But the shops are very interesting with the different food to what we are used to.
Also we have started going through Envoy from stem to stern to see what is on board and where it is. I can only describe this as being like “kids in a toyshop”! Envoy truly has so much equipment, spare parts etc that it’s a lot of fun just opening every locker to discover what is there.
Today the re stocking is mostly complete and we need a couple more days to familiarize ourselves with operating Envoy before we venture forth out of the harbour for the first time. This will probably be on Wednesday and we'll go out for the day and come back. By the way the weather here is like early Spring in Auckland – mild and pleasant in the day and coolish at night. Have not seen any rain so far, apart from a brief light shower. This is a beautiful marina and we're enjoying the atmosphere.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

All Roads Lead To Rome

All Roads Lead To Rome
Well we left Auckland on Friday 2 March to fly all the way through to Rome.
We had decided to go via USA as the luggage allowance is much more generous at 46 kg each or 92 kg in total. Nevertheless we had more and had to pay excess. Although the total travelling time was over 30 hours we arrive in Ostia on Friday afternoon due to the time difference.
Ostia is at the mouth of the Tiber and is the ancient port of Rome founded in about 600 BC.
On Saturday we picked up a rental car and went down to check out Envoy and all seemed to be OK.
That night the car was broken into while parked outside the hotel. Nothing taken but the car is now unable to be locked. The rental company was unconcerned but didn’t have another car – “these things happen in Italy ….don’t worry.”
On Sunday we went to see the ruins of the ancient port City – Ostia Antica.
These are phenomenal and not only date back to BC but cover an area about the size of downtown Auckland taking several hours to walk around.
On Monday we met up with Wayne & Patricia Davis the previous owners of Envoy and the boat was due to be launched in the afternoon. Not so ! For one thing the jobs being done were not quite finished but more importantly the road connecting the boatyard to the launching area was closed due to road works. This was not a major issue as it gave us time to spend with Wayne & Pat going over the huge learning curve we are faced with Envoy. Dealing with the boatyard was an experience. They always say they will be there in 10 minutes but hours later nobody has been seen so it ended up being a last minute rush to finish jobs. The work done is OK but not to the quality we would expect at home.
On Wednesday afternoon the boat was finally launched using a huge travel lift.
Envoy is quite huge out of the water and it was a bit nerve wracking seeing her on the trailer being taken to the lift. The launching took place but this was short lived. When in the water and during inspections we found that some seawater was leaking into the boat from the bow thruster and there was no option but to pull the boat out again.
Wayne & I spent the remainder of Wednesday and today Thursday pulling out the bow thruster to expose the problem which is old sealant having broken down and letting water leak in.
This is not an easy job as the component parts are heavy and very difficult to access, however all done now and on Friday we will reassemble everything and re-launch. On Wednesday the boatyard people said they would be down first thing on Thursday to fix the problem.
Knowing their timing routines Wayne & I decided to press on and do it ourselves and when the yard people turned up about 11 am (first thing !) they were surprised to find most of the components removed and we told them we would finish the job ourselves.
So the next stage is to launch the boat, complete the handover process and get settled in aboard Envoy.
We have email access OK via gmail and have a new Italian mobile number which we are now monitoring: +34 93828712.