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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Patras


With Don & Peta Pickering in stern of Envoy in Fiskhardo harbour
Envoy at Port Spigha



Well the great news is today we got our internet access back again. Since 9th May we have only been able to receive gmails (on my mobile phone) but not reply to them which has been very frustrating. Also we rely heavily on the internet for weather forecasts and are glad to have those again. Today we got a PCMCI card for my laptop which gives unlimited web access.
We tried to get this in Corfu but were told you had to have a Greek address to be able to buy this. However with Vodafone in Patras its no problem.
After leaving Vonitsa we went through the 4 mile long Levkas canal dredged through the shallow salt lakes separating mainland Greece from the island of Levkas. At the N end there is a well preserved castle guarding the approaches. On arrival you have to wait for the floating road bridge to be opened to let boat traffic through every hour. The first canal was dug there in the 7th century BC – that’s 2,700 years ago ! Mind you, labour was pretty cheap in those days.
We anchored in a very sheltered bay called Ormos Vlikho and Don joked that it was so calm you could have anchored with a brick on a string. Nevertheless we laid out our customary 40 metres or so of chain. A few hours later a sudden thunderstorm hit us and the wind went from 5 kots to 32 knots in the space of 5 mins, together with torrential rain. Boats started to drag and visibility was poor. We were OK though and didn’t move at all. The islands around there are beautiful and also very green and forested. One of the islands was the private residence of Aristotle and Jackie Onassis. From Levkas we cruised across to Cephalonia – the largest island of the Northern Ionians. This is the island where the events tookplace on which the great movie Captain Curulli’s Mandolin is based. If you haven’t seen this movie we do recommend it.
The Italians were occupying Greek Cephalonia during WW2 and when the Italians removed Mussolini and made peace with the allies, the Germans on Cephalonia demanded that the 9,000 Italian troops surrender their weapons to the Germans. The Italians refused and 56,000 were killed in the subsequent fighting lasting 7 days. Then 3,000 surrendered to the Germans but were lined up and shot in cold blood. Of the 9,000 troops, only 34 survived. A fantastic harbour was Fiskhardo where we went into the free marina lined with tavernas and cafes. The nearest restaurant table was literally one metre from our passarelle (boarding plank). Here once again we had a very strong blow and had to delay our departure by a day to wait for improving weather, even the ferries being cancelled. On Weds we arrived at Patras marina where Don & Peta Pickering left us today. We had a great time with Don & Peta and they are now off to see the Louis Vitton Cup finals in Valencia. They nearly didn't leave us as their passports etc were i our on board safe and last night it jammed and we couldn't open it. Fortunately through the marina we managed to get hold of a locksmith who came down within 30 mins and quickly was able to open it much to Don & Peta's relief. Kevin & Diane O’Sullivan will join us tomorrow night for some new adventures.
Patras is the 3rd largest city in Greece and on the island of Peloponnisos. From here we will explore the Gulf of Corinth and go Eastwards through the Corinth Canal towards Piraeus – the seaport of Athens. The last time I was there was in 1960 on my way to NZ.
Technical: our genset had an engine oil leak thru the sea water pump and this has been fixed today with a new oil seal. The hydraulic stabilizers are our main problem and we hope to get them repaired in Piraeus where a service agent is located and where we’ll have plenty of time. Also there we hope to get our gearbox oil leak fixed – apparently a 2 day job to replace leaking gasket. Apart from these issues there’s the usual array of minor jobs that need doing. Some varnishing is going to need doing soon – watch out visitors !

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Greece (edited 31/5)

Well we have not been able to update the blog as moving from Italy to Greece we lost internet access. We can receive emails on my mobile but are unable to send any or to update the blog. So I'm doing this in an intenet cafe (another first !). We are really well and currently have Don & Peta Pickering with us. After leaving Ciro we went across to Santa Maria di Leuca, our last Italian port and spent 2 nights there. We used this opportunity to stock up on Italian wine which is said to be nicer than Greek wine (so far seems to be true although Greek wine not bad and very cheap). This was a great spot and from there we headed straight out to the islands NW of Corfu. We had about 25 knots of wind on the port quarter so fairly good for our approx 45 mile trip. We arrived at one island - Nissis Othoni - but it was bleak, windswept and a few reefs around so we set off about 5 miles for the next one - Erikoussa. We had only gone a mile or so when we both smelt something burning. I switched on the engine room closed circuit tv and could see a lot of smoke (but no flames). Envoy has a temperature activated auto fire suppression system in the engine room so I figured it was only very hot rubber and opened an engine room hatch to clear the smoke. When it cleared I went in to see what was up and found the smell coming from very hot grease which had come out of a failed bearing which drives our hydraulic motor which in turn powers the stabilisers. This motor is powered via a fanbelt connection to the main engine and it was still turning and spewing hot smoking grease. We started the Yanmar wing engine to give us some steerage and turned off the main engine to stop the problem getting worse. I then disconnected the two fan belts allowing us to restart the main engine without turning the hydraulic pump. It was only 4 miles to our anchorage but quite rough without stabilisers to assist. On arrival we anchored and an inflatable pulled alongside with some kiwis aboard, from Dunedin in fact. They were running a charter boat fleet called Sailing Holidays and invited us to join them for drinks and dinner ashore (which we certainly needed). From there we had an uneventful and pleasant cruise to Corfu the next day and spent a week at a great marina in Gouvia. This marina is very well equipped and we were able to repair a leaking sea water pump on our Genset, do an oil and filter change and various other maintenance. We attempted a repair on the stabilisers and thought it was all OK but on testing it is still overheating so we need to get specialist help from the dealer based in Piraeus.
Don & Peta joined us in Corfu and we moved from Gouvia to a small marina directly under the castle - very spectacular and had a gresat day asnd evening in the old Corfu town. We then moved to the beautiful island of Paxos with an anchorage off the village in clear, clean water and spent two nights there.
Generally we're heading SE at present and everything is great. Be in touch again soon.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

The Aeolians to Calabria

On the summit of The Antechamber of Hell

Di and John at the summit of La Rocca, Cefalu overlooking our anchorage.

The Aeolian Islands are North of Sicily and we arrived at Vulcano on Thurs 26/4 for a delightful couple of days at anchor in a sheltered bay with the still active summit in the background, the last eruption occurring in 1890. Had a few swims, explored the immediate area in the dinghy and of course walked to the 391m high summit. Vulcano is quite new geologically rising from the seabed in 183 BC. The Ancients believed the crater was the entrance to the Underworld while in the Middle Ages, Christians regarded it as “The Antechamber of Hell”, a description which the Lonely Planet says is very apt on a hot summer weekend with thousands of tourists ! We were lucky though as its still the quiet season and there were only a few yachts at anchor here.
From there we moved about 5 miles to the Island of Lipari where we stayed in a marina as there are no suitable anchorages. Lipari has a long history being originally settled 6,000 years ago and was famous for obsidian & pumice, the latter being still mined. The township was regularly sacked by pirates including Barborossa or “Redbeard” who rampaged the town in 1544. The town was subsequently fortified and the impressive Citadel remains along with the Cathedral. We didn’t do too much rampaging but had a good explore around.
During our stay there we made a day trip to Stromboli, some 35 miles away. We decided to take the Hydrofoil as Stromboli is not on our way anywhere and there are no safe anchorages. Stromboli is an active volcano and a constant stream of lava “The Trail of Fire” flows down the Northern side into the sea. The last eruption was in 2003 when the town of Ginostra was showered with rocks. Our friend Frank Curulli’s father was born here and we made a “pilgrimage” to see his old family home and then had a great lunch of pasta and Stromboli wine.
We left this area on 2 May in very good conditions to leave the Tyrrhenian Sea (which we’ve been in since leaving Ostia) and head through the Straits of Messina, a journey of about 8 hours. The Straits are really interesting and is one of the very few places in the Med where there is much current. This current causes whirlpools and the cruising guide shows the position of four whirlpools which can be dangerous to small vessels. Needless to say we kept well clear of these !
We stayed that night at a very average marina called Reggio di Calabria and the next morning set off on a lengthy 30 hour cruise to Ciro in NE Calabria (area of mainland Southern Italy). After leaving the Straits of Messina you enter the Ionian Sea and we had to do an overnight cruise as there are no suitable marinas or places to anchor along this stretch of coast.
So we spent another night watching the radar screen and avoiding several ships.
Ciro where we are now is a very basic marina but its quite pleasant and best of all free !
It opens to the North which is good as we currently have a SE gale of Force 7 on the outside. This is forecast to continue another day so we’ll just sit here and wait it out before doing a 10 hour cruise NE to our last Italian stop – Santa Maria di Leuci from where we will head E to Corfu.

Technical. Everything mostly OK. The gearbox has leaked a quarter pint of oil in 55 running hours so its not of concern but I'm not sure how to fix it. The stabilizer water cooling pump needed its 2 fan belts replacing, the first fan belt I have replaced since I was about 18 years old on my Ford 10 !