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Monday, June 18, 2007

Piraeus and 100 days on board

I’m going to apologise in advance if this episode is a bit “dry” as we’ve not been doing anything really exciting in the last week but mostly repairs and maintenance.
We arrived in Zea Marina, Piraeus (seaport of Athens) last Tuesday 12th June which coincided with our 36th wedding anniversary and was duly celebrated with our first Chinese meal since leaving NZ. Piraeus is one of the Med’s largest ports and Zea is an ancient harbour which once housed the Greek battle fleet. It is perfectly sheltered and now holds over 700 pleasure craft including many very large vessels. We are used to being one of the larger vessels around but are now definitely one of the smaller ones here with many boats being professionally crewed. Nowadays there is nothing historical to see here and the port is ringed with 5-7 storey apartment blocks, cafes and restaurants. It is quite hot here – in the mid 30s and supposed to get to 40 in the next few days. This would be great out in some nice anchorage but not so in the marina where we are mostly working and can’t have swims (life is tough !)
We’ll be here only a few more days and then head off to nearby islands and return to meet Diane’s sister Sharon and her husband Doug who join us on 2nd July and we’ll do a couple of days sight seeing in Athens with them before heading out to sea again.
Saturday was our 100th consecutive night on board which of course is quite a long time to spend on a boat. In fact Di & I haven’t spent 100 consecutive nights anywhere even at home, for many years. On board life is quite different to normal home life and many things are quite time consuming. Simple things like shopping take a lot of time as you have to walk to the shops and carry everything back with you. We often use two granny style shopping trolleys to bring the supplies back. Of course on board there’s all the usual things that have to be done at home (we’re very fortunate to have a washing machine / dryer which most boats don’t have) and we have to manage things such as:
- Fuel supply: all diesel is “polished” before it is run in an engine. The procedure is that after taking on fuel it is circulated through a filtering system at about 500 litres/hour to remove any water or contamination, then before it is used it is again filtered into a “day tank” which supplies through yet another filter the engine, wing engine or genset. In addition we have to pump fuel around between port and starboard to maintain the trim of Envoy as water and fuel levels change and for example when we launch the dinghy which takes 350 kg off the starboard side.
- Water has to be managed when not on the marina supply and we produce this using the watermaker at about 100 litres/hour. Normally we need about 90 mins daily to keep up or more when laundry is being done. We use more fresh water than most boats as the toilets also flush with fresh water (which reduces odours). The procedure to start and stop the watermaker is quite complex and needs the genset also as the watermaker runs on 110 volts.
- Sewage from the two heads goes into two separate holding tanks when at anchor or in the marina and this has to be discharged and the holding tanks cleaned at sea.
- Electric power supply has to be managed and especially when not on shore power at the marina. We use 110 volt AC and 12v DC but on the marina also use 220 v AC for some appliances and to charge the batteries. Away from the marina we need at least 90 mins generation each morning and evening plus sometimes a little more in the late evening. We can produce 110v AC and 12 v DC by either of the main engine, the wing engine or the genset.
On average we probably spend about 2 hours per day on routine maintenance so the day soon disappears.
Marine Life: its usually said that “there are no fish in the Med” however this is not really correct. The Romans complained that fishing was poor and comparatively this is so as there is no tidal movement and little seaweed. However even the tiniest coastal village has its own fishing fleet and there are many, many thousands of fishing boats operating here.
The fisherman here mainly use nets but also long lines. We have so far seen whales, porpoises, sharks, turtles and flying fish and everywhere there are markets selling fresh fish such as tuna, swordfish, squid, octopus, mullet, john dory, sardines, prawns, eels, barracuda, bass, wrasse, gurnard, sole, flounder, small snapper plus lobsters, crabs and other fish species we don’t know. We have yet to put a line in the water but this is about to change – we’ll keep you posted.
Technical – the main reason for coming here to Zea marina was to get a few jobs done and this is progressing:
Gearbox – was leaking oil (ATF) and has been pulled out, checked over, new gaskets installed, cooling pump replaced, pressure guage fitted and gearbox reinstalled and tested. This was quite a major as it weighs about 100 kg and is in a tight space at the bottom of the boat.
The engineers were quite competent but pretty rough and were often lacking the right tools and gear which we fortunately had on board. Also Health and Safety would not have been pleased and I was very careful not to place myself under the gearbox as those guys did. However all now done and tested and we have changed from ATF to SAE 30 as the lubricant at the gearbox shop recommendation (Borg Warner manual says either is OK).
Prop shaft – the cooling of the shaft via the stuffing box has been checked over, new stuffing installed, tested and all OK. Still not much water dripping out (you are supposed to have 3-4 drops a minute under way) but the temperature of the shaft and the stuffing box is good at about 30d C whereas a maximum of about 70d is OK.
Spare VHF radio now working and electrician did a number of small jobs at the same time so that now almost everything electrical is working fine.
EPIRB batteries replaced (can only be done by dealer) and our MMSI identification number programmed in so that if our EPIRB is ever activated they will know our position and who we are.
Yamaha 25hp to be fully serviced tomorrow.
Naiad hydraulic stabilizers have been looked at and we’ve had discussions with Naiad USA.
The suggested solution is to increase the size of the engine pulley wheels which drive the fan belts which drive the Vickers hydraulic pump and at the same time to improve the alignment of the pulleys as they are out by about 12mm currently. This is still being worked through but we are not so concerned about this as we were intitially as the paravane stabilisers work fine and are not mechanical so really nothing to go wrong. The difference is the Naiads remove about 80% of the roll and the Paravanes only 50%.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Oracle

View of Navpaktos from Envoy's anchorage

The two Dianes - modern day "oracles" - by Temple of Apollo ruins, Delphi



Kevin & Diane O’Sullivan arrived in Patras on Friday 1 June and on Saturday we passed under the spectacular Rio Antirrio bridge which links Peloponnisos Island with mainland Greece and anchored off the village of Navpaktos. Here is one of the most preserved medieval harbours to be found in the Med, overlooked by a Venetian castle. We took a long walk up the hill to the castle only to find it is closed for renovations. However we found a great cafĂ© up there and had a drink overlooking the harbour.
The next stop was due to be Galaxidi but the whole jetty structure was being repaired so we diverted to Itea and laid alongside the jetty which was very smooth concrete with no surge. Nevertheless we deployed our tyres to protect the fenders just in case and stayed two nights.


It was in this bay that one Frank Abney Hastings used one of the first steam powered iron warships to destroy a large Turkish fleet. Itea is not at all “touristy” but just a Greek working town. We found a rather primitive butcher’s shop and asked for lamb but they only had mutton and with bits of bone and fat flying everywhere the butcher prepared some chops which were the largest we’d ever seen and turned out to be delicious. Itea is only 20 mins by taxi from ancient Delphi and we went up for an explore. The ruins at Delphi are spectacular, one of the most important in Greece, covering quite a wide area and well marked out so that you can get an appreciation of how it once was. In particular the Temple of Apollo , the 180m long Stadium (where you can still see the athlete’s starting blocks) and the Theatre were great.


Delphi was considered by ancient Greeks to be the Centre of the World and was inhabited from 1300 BC. The cult of the Oracle was established by 700 BC and the most recent Temple of Apollo of which the ruins can be seen, was built in 330 BC. In the chambers beneath the Temple, the “Pythia” or High Priestess would go into a state of ecstasy and give a prophecy in inarticulate sounds which were supposedly the voices of the Gods. These would be translated by Priests and the Prophecy given to the supplicant who had paid considerably for it.


Alexander the Great took matters into his own hands: after hearing the jibbering of the Pythia he grabbed her by the hair and dragged her around until she screamed “enough Oh unbeatable one”. Alexander said “I have my prophecy” and let her go. There was a tendency for the supplicants to try and seduce the Pythia in order to gain a more favourable prophecy so later all Pythias had to be over 50 years old !
Kevin & Diane, who we’ve known for many years through Coastguard are of course very experienced boaties, Kevin being a commercial skipper and the consummate yachtsman who “wrote the book” on knots. So we’ve been spending time with Kevin refreshing our knowledge of knots, learning some new ones while Kevin has also done some splicing for us at about four times my pace.
For the last few days we’ve been getting Louis Vitton results by text from Frank Curulli & Don Pickering and celebrating in style especially for the final result on Weds 6/6 – the time of the results coinciding perfectly with “beer o’clock”.
From Itea we went Eastwards through the Kolpos Domvrainis to the most Easterly part of the Gulf of Corinth – Porto Germeno. Here is the impressive remains of the 4th Century BC fortress of Aegosthena with stone walls and two towers quite intact. Apparently the area turned out to be of little strategic importance so was never damaged by war or improved upon by subsequent armies.
The next day a small Coastguard vessel pulled alongside and wanted to know what we were “towing in the water”. By sign language Kevin explained they are our stabilizing paravanes.
On Saturday 9 June we left the Gulf of Corinth via the 3.2 mile long, 25 metre wide Corinth Canal, which has a maximum height in the limestone cut of 76 metres. This is quite expensive costing about 200 Euros but saves a several day trip around the South of Peloponnisos Island. The canal was originally started by Nero who used a ceremonial golden axe to make the first cut and then put 6,000 Jewish slaves on the job. The canal was never completed until the French & Greeks did so in 1893.
We are now in the beautiful harbour at Aigina and Kevin & Diane departed this morning.


Last night we met friends of theirs – Takas, Irene and their daughter Katarina who fluently speaks Greek, French, Italian, Spanish, Turkish & English ! Takas was an admiral (a real admiral !) in the Greek navy and had interesting tales to tell about his experiences.
From here we head to Piraeus, near Athens where we will stay for about 1-2 weeks and get our stabilizers working again and the gearbox oil leak fixed. Also do some sight seeing in Athens.
Technical: Nothing much to report - we are using the Paravane stabilizers and the metal “birds” or stabilizing plates which are 5m under water, weigh about 25 kg each and are heavy to retrieve. Kevin has rigged up a block and tackle for us to save our backs when retrieving the birds out of the water.