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Monday, April 30, 2007

Photos of Envoy

Envoy anchored off Cefalu with the Duomo in the background.

Amy & Drew aboard Envoy off the Island of Ustica

Friday, April 27, 2007


Well our last entry mentioned our intention to cruise Westwards for a few days prior to John’s visit but like all good plans we changed it and went East about 30 miles to Cefalu arriving Monday 16th. Cefalu is a hugely interesting place with a large promontory called La Rocca, 278m high on which there is the remains of an old castle, originally built by Arabs and then conquered by the Normans in 1063. Di was also impressed by the 4th Century Temple of Diana half way up La Rocca. The medieval village is largely unspoiled and the narrow cobbled streets meander down to the old harbour. As well as the quite modern fishing trawlers which ply these waters there are still fisherman rowing 4 m brightly coloured clinker built dinghys to lay their nets. They have an unusual rowing style in that they row standing up. Although the streets are narrow it doesn’t stop the noisy motor scooters and cars which you have to watch out for (a One Way Street means nothing here !) The Cathedral (Duomo) was built in the 11th & 12th Century with wonderful mosaics dating from that time. The Duomo was built under orders from King Roger after his fleet survived a savage storm. During our stay the Coastguard pulled alongside to check our passports etc, a not uncommon thing here.
So we anchored there for 4 nights and then went back to Palermo to meet John who arrived from Fort Lauderdale via London (where he saw Amy) on Monday 23rd. It was great to see John again and he was keen to go somewhere on Envoy so we decided to head back to Cefalu. John was only here for 2 nights so we spent a 2 great days anchored off Cefalu, doing some walking around the Old Town and the Castle again, had a swim (my first) in the rather cool 17 d water and explored the coastline a bit using the RIB. We had bought a NZ leg of lamb in Ostia and Di prepared a great roast dinner which we washed down with Sicilian Chianti. Last night John took a taxi from Cefalu to Palermo airport – a 90 min drive for what had taken us about 5 hours. John shared with us some great news that he has been promoted to First Mate of the ship he works on “Imagin” on the E Coast USA.
During the last few days the weather has become noticeably warmer – now about 24d in the day and there is a little more tourist and pleasure boat activity. People have warned us about the general lack of competence of pleasure boaters here and we experienced that for the first time when a 9 metre sports style launch anchored and dragged close to us three times before moving off to annoy others. Cefalu is more or less on the way from Palermo to the Aeolian Islands where we are heading as I type this, our first stop being the Island of Vulcano (no prizes for guessing what’s there). After a few days in this area we’re planning to head to Syracuse and then in the direction of Corfu to meet our next visitors Don & Peta Pickering.
Photos: yes we do plan to put some more photos on the site – anyday now.
Technical: mostly going OK currently. Had a minor gearbox oil leak putting red tinted ATF into the bilges. Found a very slightly loose bolt which I tightened a quarter of a turn and this slowed the leak but has not stopped it yet. Also have found the Genset sea water pump intake has a slight leak and this will need some attention.

Sunday, April 15, 2007


After arriving back in Palermo on Mon 16th, Amy & Drew flew back to London on evening of Tues 17th and we’ve stayed here since. Firstly we had a bit of shopping and re provisioning to do plus the inevitable few small jobs. But apart from that, Palermo is an amazing place and we’ve just enjoyed seeing some of the sights. Palermo has a very long history and there are many buildings still standing from about the 13-14 th Centuries, some of which we’ve been visiting. The weather has been fine but got very windy in the last couple of days – 20-25 knots – so we decided to see some more sights in Palermo rather than battle the elements. John arrives in Palermo on Mon 23rd so we now don’t want to travel too far but we plan to take off from here on Mon or Tues for as cruise Westwards for a few days. After John leaves we will head Eastwards to the Aolian Islands, the Straits of Messina, Syracuse, the SW coat of Italy and then across to Corfu to arrive by Mid May.
Equipment: Envoy is a superbly equipped vessel which was a major consideration in buying her – see our blog entry dated 5 Dec '06 . While in Palermo we have bought an additional 130 m of 20 mm anchor warp and some 10 mm chain to rig up a combi rope / chain anchor for use when we anchor in deep water. Sometimes you need to anchor in very deep (by our standards) water eg 30-40 m and we’re reluctant to use our main anchor and chain at that sort of depth.
Secondly we’ve bought an additional inflatable. Envoy has an excellent 3.6 m centre console RIB with 25 HP 4-stroke Yamaha, depth sounder, vhf, nav lights, bilge pump, integral fuel tank. But this weighs about 350 kg and can only be launched in very calm weather from the boat deck (on top of the saloon roof) using the boom and electric winches. This process takes about 30 mins to launch and the same to retrieve. Also the dinghy cannot really be launched except in an anchorage and cannot be rowed. All rather inconvenient if you just want to go 100 m to shore for a walk. So we bought an additional smaller inflatable – a 2.7 m with 2.2 HP 4-stroke Honda which in total weighs around 50 kg. This can be easily launched and retrieved by hand and can be rowed too.
Technical: the master loo is working fine again and the shower sump is too (some crud in the water strainer). There are always small jobs to do on a boat but “touch wood” at present things are working fine except for one vhf which has a power supply problem and a bilge water level alarm which does not work.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Ustica for Easter

Amy and her friend & flatmate Andrew (“Drew”) arrived from London Thursday night and we sampled the chianti big time to celebrate. Fortunately they also brought stable fine weather so we got our first real taste of this when we headed out about 30 miles to the Island of Ustica.
This is a small island, just a little larger than Rakino in the Hauraki Gulf. It was first inhabited around 2000 BC and 6,000 mutinous Carthaginian soldiers were abandoned there to die of hunger leading to the Island becoming known by the Greeks as the Osteodes (island of bones). In the 18th century it was colonised by Bourbons but they were massacred by pirates with only two escaping to tell the tale. We had a much less dramatic time and arrived on Friday. The harbour is very small at about 150 m square and with most of that taken up by moorings, fishing boats and a hydrofoil but with some help from someone ashore we anchored off a jetty and tied stern to as dark set in. Shortly afterwards a port official turned up and was not happy. He said we were “blocking the harbour” and the hydrofoil would not be able to get out. I couldn’t see his point but we agreed to leave the following morning before 0630 to allow the hydrofoil to leave by 0645.
For the next two nights we anchored with a spare all rope anchor in about 80 feet at a beautiful bay on the Southern side of the island. The wind was mostly 3-6 knots, the sea smooth and the water beautifully clear – you can see down to about 50 ft (this is a far cry from Palermo harbour where the water is filthy and everything imaginable is floating around the marina). The “bay” did not really afford much protection but in the conditions was fine. The seawater is still cold at about 15.5 dC but Amy ventured in for several swims and so did Di briefly take a plunge. I’m awaiting warmer temps ! We also got the chance to put the RIB to use for the first time and Amy enjoyed exploring around the island using it.
As I write this we’re cruising at 6.5 knots in perfect conditions back to Palermo for the night. We’ll go out for dinner tonight and spend tomorrow sight seeing around Palermo before Amy & Drew depart on Tuesday night. After their departure we’ll stay in the general area, hopefully going to the Aolian Islands before John arrives in Palermo on 23 April.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


We left Vibo Valentia on Monday afternoon after restocking and fuelling for the first time. We decided to just keep going rather than stop for the night and arrived in Palermo 24 hours later, this being our first ever through the night cruise. All went smoothly and there was little “traffic”.
In Envoy you don’t have the time flexibility we are used to from our previous faster boats. You’re only doing about 7 knots so that’s about 50 miles in a comfortable day’s cruising and you have to plan carefully where you’re going to stop next. Its mostly not safe or practical to arrive in an anchorage or marina after dark but it is practical to keep going through the night.
The reason you can’t arrive in a marina after dark is because you need their help to dock and need to know where to dock and they’re not there after about 1800.
You’re well offshore in very deep (1500 ft) water with no reefs, rocks, shoals. There’s only other boats to worry about and that’s only ships – we’ve hardly seen any other pleasure boats away from the marinas. You track them on radar from about 12 miles out because they’re going damn quick compared with us.
On arrival in Palermo we firstly went to a marina called Villia Igiea. It’s well set up but about 45 mins walk from Palermo and also very expensive at Euro 93 per night. So the next day we walked into Palermo and found the Yacht Club del Mediterraneo which has berths just outside “La Cala” – the old port. We met the President of the yacht club and organised to move Envoy here where the cost is Euro 28 per night and where we can walk to the town centre in about 5 mins.
Palermo has tonnes of character. It’s quite run down with virtually no recent development and a lot of derelict buildings but also very historical. Amy arrives to see us today so we’ll see some of the surrounding coastline and some of the sights of Palermo with her.
So far we’ve seen porpoises on three occasions, a whale and some sharks. Also more bird life than we expected so the Med is not so desolate as we expected. You often see people fishing from the shore, jetties etc but they seem to catch mostly what we call sprats and they keep them.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Lessons learned

We forgot to mention in our last posting that on the way from Ponza we saw two “flying inflatables” – and we hadn’t even had a rum ! These were conventional RIBs about 8ft long but instead of outboards they had high powered pusher prop type aero engines and a kind of hang glider wing mounted above. Well these things just took off and flew up a few hundred feet and then one buzzed us and the “pilot” waved to us. We were most impressed !
We had planned to anchor off Capri but that was not possible. Although the sea was calm – the depth was about 60m even about 30m off the island. There were also a lot of “no anchoring” signs around. We were running out of daylight so elected to head for Marina Grande.
The usual procedure at these marinas is you back up to a wall, you throw stern lines to a marinara, he throws you a light line which is attached to quite a heavy bow line, you pull up the bow line and make it fast (then you attach your heavy stern lines, water hose, power cable). Anyway we did all this and then the bow line snapped. Envoy is about 30 tonnes and there was a bit of surge caused by huge ferries coming and going. The boat started to veer off to leeward and come in towards the sea wall. Although panic was setting in we re started the engine and used the engine and the bow thruster to keep us off the wall. Di managed to find an alternate bow line and all was OK. The marina was very atmospheric and we had a nice meal ashore.
We didn’t have time this trip to go up the hillside to Capri township. On Thursday we made about 65 miles down the coast and anchored inside the seawall at Palinuro about 1730.
We planned to have dinner, get as few hours sleep and leave at 0300 to make Tropea the next day. We did leave on Friday at 0300 and it was fun doing our first night passage under radar and plotter and atching the night turn to dawn and seeing the sunrise. However by mid morning a gale warning was being broadcast and we still had about 8 hours to run.
The gale was forecast to be on our beam so we decided to turn to shelter at Cetraro, about 2 hours away. We duly arrived there and the marina was very primitive.
A guy (Franco) wandered down and directed us to berth alongside a wall. We were not happy about this but he assured us “no problemo” and asked us to pay him 40 Euros. By early evening the gale started to set in, the seas built and a surge started to build inside the marina.
We had fenders out of course but Envoy started to pound against the seawall. The seawall was concrete but very rough and we had real concerns the fenders would burst and lead to the hull grinding on the seawall. I went up to see the Coastguard to see if they could help.
They were friendly but little help – this is a “free marina”. I explained we had paid Franco 40 Euro and that got their attention. The wanted me to make some kind of statement about this but I advise I was only concerned about the safety of our vessel and not about recovering 40 Euros. To cut a long story short they were no help at all. Di meanwhile found some old tyres on the wharf so we borrowed 6 of those and made some makeshift additional fenders as an outer layer of protection, wooden planks between the tyres and the fenders and finally our fenders. This was all completed by 2300 and then we had some dinner and tried to get a little sleep. Sleep was difficult due to the noise of the tyres pounding and scraping the wall. We got up at 0400 and prepared for a departure at dawn as this was probably the worst and most worrying night we have ever spent on a boat (and all in a marina). Even thought there was still a gale warning in force, the wind was going to be on our starboard quarter and we liked our chances better at sea than pounding against a roughcast concrete wall. So by 0700 we were on our way heading South and covered about 60 miles to Vibo Valentia. The “gale” did not really happen – we only had about 20 knots of wind and 2-3 metre seas. In these conditions Envoy performed well with the stabilizers absorbing most of the roll and although there was more movement than we had seen to date we were still able to put our cups of tea safely on the table !
The lesson here was not to agree to lie against a jetty or seawall unless you are absolutely certain there’s not going to be any surge in the harbour. You are much better off with a bowline holding you off the wall and stern lines to the wall. The tyres were invaluable and without them we would have suffered damage, so we now have our own supply of 4 tyres. We are also going to source some heavy duty planks of wood.
The marina here at Vibo Valentia is great – very secure and well organized and we stayed two nights here getting reorganised. Tomorrow Monday 2 April we are going to refuel for the first time and head out towards Lipari, en route for Palermo.
For those interested in boat technicalities you all know that there’s always things needing fixing on boats ! Currently we have a toilet which will flush into the holding tank but not directly overboard – a blockage somewhere, a vhf radio which won’t power up, a bilge water high level alarm not working and a shower sump pump not pumping – all things to keep me amused !