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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

More photos

Doug & Laurie enjoying a typical Greek taverna - this one in Mercini
Piraeus - port of Athens where we spent a couple of weeks getting various jobs done and where Sharon & Doug joined us. This is an ancient port but nothing left of its history and now all apartments and tavernas.
This is a typical "Chora" - hilltop village with castle. This one is Skala where we visited with Sharon & Doug.
Laurie opening our weekly ration of wine (yeah right !) in the galley. Dinette is to port.
The entrance to the Corinth Canal - we followed this ship through with Kevin & Diane on board and Kevin took the helm for a while.

This very small door is the only entrance to the Monastieri of the Panayia. Now it has the staircase but in former times had a wooden ladder which was lowered from the door.











Sunday, July 29, 2007

From Paros to Bodrum, Turkey with Sharon & Doug.

Di, Sharon & Doug in front of traditional Greek boat which an elderly couple live on and sell marine "treasures" - sponges, shells etc

With editor of Turkish cruising guide at Amorgos - see text below
The Monastieri of the Panayia - see text below

We have arrived in Turkey and once again had communication problems until we bought a new Turkish SIM card for our computer
We finally cleared our delightful bay in Paros when the gale warning was cancelled on Tuesday 17th. There was still about 25 knots of wind and 2 m breaking seas but no problem, particularly as most of our passage was to be SE with the N wind behind us.
We wondered if we should have left earlier but when an “official” gale warning is in place a safe anchorage is the place to be.
Our next anchorage was Ormos Mirsini on Nisos Skinhousa. This is a delightful small harbour where we put out a bow anchor and tied stern to the shore. Typically at these spots we walk into the village (usually at the top of a steep hill and called the “Chora”, pronounced “Hora”) to buy some milk, bread etc, check out a couple of tavernas and then sometimes eat out or sometimes eat on the boat. Nearly all of our cooking is on the BBQ on the rear deck as its too hot to cook in the galley. Next stop was Katupola on Amorgos where we stayed a couple of nights.

A highlight of this stay and of the whole trip was visiting the Monastieri of the Panayia (see photo). This dates from 1088 and is set high into a cliff face and only accessible by a steep 350 step path from below. There are still a few monks there and visits are allowed provided that men must wear long trousers and shirts to the elbow and women must wear skirts at least to the knee and have their shoulders covered. One lady climbed all those steps in jeans and was denied entrance. In the monastery you can see icons, religious artifacts and handwritten manuscripts and books dating back to the 11th C. It is said this site was chosen because an ancient wooden icon of the Virgin Mary which had been missing for hundreds of years was found washed up on the beach below where the Monastieri was subsequently built. Many of these ports have shops & tavernas on the quayside and Katupola was no exception. I was in a shop looking at a Cruising Guide of the Amorgos and Small Cyclades when a guy approached me and we got talking about boats etc. It turned out he was the Editor of the book I was holding and he gave me a free autographed copy, a real character! (see photo). We moved on to Skala on Nisos Astipalaia. This island is said to have the “best anchorages of the Greek islands” and there were some great bays and coves, some with buildings ashore and some totally unspoilt.

At Skala there is the almost obligatory castle on the hilltop and we took the bus up to explore. This one was built in the 13th C and survived virtually intact until the 1950s when the interior buildings were mostly destroyed by an earthquake. Nevertheless you still get quite a feeling for the castle and its dominant position. Next stop was Maltezana a short hop up the coast where we had one of our most delicious meals ashore yet. Doug discussed our menu with the taverna owner and we were given the most enormous platter of delicious prawns with pasta.
The prawns are caught locally and were much bigger than Australian prawns. Needless to say we ate the lot and washed it down with a bottle or two of some rather nice Greek wine.
On Monday 23rd we did a 6 hour trip to Southern Kos and stopped at Maltegara before heading the next day to Kos to sign out of Greek waters (see Bureaucracy) heading below. Also here we were able to collect Sharon & Doug’s air tickets which had been couriered from NZ.

Kos is dominated by a huge castle and would be a nice enough place but it ashore it was crowded with visitors and very hot so our stop was only to sort out paperwork which took about 4 hours before we headed the short distance across to Turkish waters and an anchorage West of Bodrum called Baglar Koyu. On arriving in Turkish waters we immediately noticed how green the land is compared with the Greek Islands which are largely brown and desolate looking.
We visited Bodrum and completed our entry formalities – again see under Bureaucracy and then set off East to spend a couple of nights at Cokertme. It was so nice here that we anchored for a couple of nights and had a great Turkish meal ashore at the Cokertme Restorant.
The staff were really friendly and we were all soon on first name terms. We promised Hassan that we’ll go back and we will.
Yesterday, Friday 27th Sharon & Doug departed after spending a great month together during which we cruised 300 miles from Piraeus to Bodrum. During this time they never saw rain and I think saw a cloud once.
Diane & I are now heading South to explore the Southern side of the Dorian Promontory.

So far we have yet to experience the much talked of hordes of boats and crowded anchorages, in fact we’ve frequently had bays to ourselves and so far its been much less crowded than for example Kawau or the Barrier at Xmas. Most boats prefer to go into marinas or harbours, or they tie stern to the shore with an anchor from their bow. We mostly anchor out in 10-25m depth and always have plenty of room and privacy. Envoy’s hull makes no noise and rolls quite gently so we don’t have to anchor in perfectly calm seas.

Weather: There is no doubt the weather in this area is fantastic. Di & I have not seen anything except cloudless blue skies since 8 June. When I say “cloudless” I mean that literally – not a single cloud in the sky all day. We have not had any rain since 24 May. Everyday the temperature is mostly around 28-35 d but sometimes up to 40d – but there is no humidity so you don’t feel too bad, also the u/v level in the sun is not intense so you can stay in the sun OK. When you want to cool off the water temp now is 25 to 27d and that’s even in deep water.
Of course we have experienced some strong winds and mostly in Paros where we had to wait for 5 nights for it to drop below “gale”, but it was a great place to be stuck in. During that time the wind blew nonstop during days and nights but mostly the wind reduces to under 5 knots overnight. In the open sea we have experienced winds up to 45 knots and frequently winds in the 20-30 knot range but have not had waves over about 2.5m so far. With the stabilizers working as they are, Envoy really doesn’t notice seas of this size unless you are heading directly into them in which case there is pitching. Of course the best cruising is with the seas behind in which case Envoy surfs down the waves and we pick up extra speed. So far we have mostly towed our dinghy (instead of lifting it up onto the top deck) , in fact it has been in the water since we left Piraeus. It has been no problem in any winds or seas we have so far encountered.
Miles covered 2040 in 143 days on board with 400 engine hours.

Bureacracy: To sign out of Greece in Kos we had to go with our Transit Log first to the Passport Control then to Port Police and finally to Customs, all separated by about 1 km. There was nobody at Passport Control so we waited around until someone came. The process took about 3 hours and we got a bit of a scare when the Customs Officer said that since we had been in the EU over 3 months, we had violated the Schengen Treaty (under which non EU residents are allowed to stay in EU only 3 months) and would have to pay a fine of Euro 1200 each. I pointed out that Diane & I had not in fact slept ashore at all and were living on a boat which means we can stay indefinitely. After some muttering the Officer agreed and we were on our way.
In Bodrum things were slightly more organized and we had to go to the Marina Office to buy a Transit Log, then to Health Office, then to Passport Control and then to the Harbourmaster. Only the Skipper has to go with all the vessel documentation and Di, Sharon & Doug did the shopping for supplies . No real problems in Turkey except that every time someone leaves or joins the boat you are supposed to report to the Harbourmaster and get approval (this is the same in Greece too). After every three changes you have to get a new Transit log which requires the whole nine yards of visits again. In this area there are various Greek Islands very close(ie within 5-10 miles) of Turkey and we had assumed we would be able to visit both Greek Islands and mainland Turkey up and down the Coast. It turns out this is not so easy as everytime you leave Turkish waters you are supposed to sign out and the same applies for Greek waters – has anyone reading this done this and can offer advice ?

Technical: all OK currently and nothing of significance to report (which is great !). Except one – our Toshiba laptop used for navigation with C-map has a built in fingerpad to control the cursor instead of a mouse. I guess there’s a name for this “fingerpad” but I’m not sure what it is. Anyway sometimes when we switch the computer on the cursor jumps all over the screen and does not respond to commands via the fingerpad. After I reboot the computer a few times it comes right. Any ideas please? We have been dealing with various issues as they arose but have now completed a maintenance schedule based on both hours run and time which we will base our ongoing maintenance on.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The 444BC Temple of Poseidon viewed from our anchorage below with Sharon & Doug 6 July
Remains of a corner tower at 4th C BC Fort of Porto Germano, Gulf of Corinth. There with Kevin & Diane 8 June



Photos

The Corinth Canal we passed through with the O'Sullivans on 9 June

This is the narrow channel at Paros where a ferry almost hit us.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Andiparos & Paros

Photos to be posted shortly ! Having a great time with Sharon & Doug aboard and they are truly chilled out now and in holiday mode. Serifos was great and we spent 2 nights in Livadhiou on the South coast.
On the hill overlooking the bay is the “Chora” or village and we went up by bus to have a look around the ancient village and had lunch there. Also in this bay we tried our “flopper stoppers” for the first time. These are stainless steel hinged plates which hang 5m under the water using the same paravane arms as our stabilizers and they significantly reduce rolling at anchor.
They worked well when arriving large ferries put up a big wake (common in most anchorages). On Weds 11th we anchored off and visited the ancient walled town of Kastro on Serifos.
Kastro is a well preserved medieval village perched on a cliff top above a tiny cove.
It was a very hot day for a walk up there but well worth it to see the beautiful old buildings in streets thankfully too narrow for cars. Kastro is not sheltered enough for overnighting so we headed East to the island of Andiparos and a bay called Ormos Dhespotico. This bay is very well protected and in the 16th-17th centuries was the base of pirate galleys. We went ashore to the inevitable taverna and saw lots of octopuses put out on a wire fence by the roadside to dry in the sun – Doug and I were forced to try some grilled octopus to have with our local Mythos beer. Sharon & Di said we were eating “road kill” but whatever – it tasted great. The next day, Thursday we visited the romantic village of Andiparos, another ancient walled town but with little remaining of the walls. A narrow channel separates the islands of Andiparos & Paros with depths down to 1.8m but we put our trust in our C-map (navigational software) and went through OK to Ormos ay Ioannou on the island of Paros. Paros was inhabited from 7th century BC and was famous for marble – Napoleon’s tomb being made of marble from here.
We had checked the forecast and it advised of gale force Northerlies for several days.
This bay looked like the best one to be “stuck” in and tonight will be our 5th night with no sign of a let up in the 30-40 knot wind at times lifting sheets of water off the sea. However there has not been a cloud in the sky in that time, the water is clear, clean and warm and the bay is very attractive with an old church in one corner and a taverna in another. One feature of anchoring here is nobody takes the slightest notice of the “5 knots rule” – that is keep speed under 5 knots within 200 metres of the shore or 30m from another boat. Here there are water skiers, jet skiers etc passing within 10 m of us. Envoy doesn’t rock with the wake and its something you just have to get used to. This longer than expected stay will mean that Sharon & Doug won’t get to see quite as much but there’s not much you can do about the weather except enjoy what you’re doing. They have caught the ferry each day to visit the town of Naousa and explore around there, while I’ve not been wanting to leave Envoy unattended at anchor in these very strong winds. We hope the wind and sea will drop a little tomorrow and will head South towards Skinousa and then East towards Astipalaia in the Dodecanese group. Sharon & Doug leave us on Friday 27th from Bodrum (Turkey) so we expect to be either in Bodrum or close to there by then. Our next visitors will be Ian & Patsy Ristrom from Christchurch joining us in Bodrum on 10th August and in fact we plan to base ourselves around Bodrum for the next few weeks exploring the Turkish Turquoise coast and the more Eastern Greek islands.
Miles covered 1832 in 131 days on board.
Technical: nothing to report at this time.

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Western Cyclades

As I write this we are approaching the island of Serifos doing about 7 knots in a following 2 metre breaking sea with 25 knots of wind up our rear. Not a cloud to be seen and the sea is a beautiful deep blue.
Sharon & Doug arrived on schedule on Mon 2/7 a bit jet lagged after their direct flight from Auckland and made worse by the heat of Piraeus – well into the 30s. Di, Sharon & Doug went into Athens to see the Acropolis while I stayed on board as the stabilizers were being worked on. Unfortunately they were a bit disappointed by the Acropolis. They found the organisation of the site very poor and the staff mostly less than helpful. Also the site is being renovated and the appearance is spoilt by cranes and scaffolding.
Piraeus itself has little of interest but is simply the seaport of Athens and although it has a long history, there is virtually nothing which survives. But our objective in spending the time there was to get our gearbox oil leak and our stabilizers fixed, both of which were achieved.
On Fri 6/7, after 9 nights in Piraeus we departed for Sounion, on the mainland SE of Piraeus. Here is the Temple of Poseidon built in 444 BC and which still has much of the original structure standing. Sharon & Doug had their first Med swims and it was a fantastic first night out at anchor - the Temple on a hilltop only a few hundred metres away and spotlit all night.
This was made better by the fact that ashore nearby was a wedding and about 10 pm they put on a great fireworks display. You certainly wonder about all the boats which would have anchored in these places during the last several millennia. In the morning we went ashore to visit the Temple only to find out the ticket sellers were on strike and it was closed.
In Greece so far we’ve had several such instances.
The next day we left the mainland and headed East to the Cyclades starting with Kithnos and anchored in a great bay called Ormos Apokrothis. Went to a couple of nice Tavernas on the shore and at one they were preparing for a function – probably a wedding. Well they know how to party and the band only stopped playing at 6.30 the next morning. The next day we had a bit of a rough trip in a 25 knot headwind to the Eastern side of the island and a bay called Ayios Stefanos. This was very secluded with only one other boat anchored there.
Again we went ashore to a Taverna and had a great dinner with local Greeks being the only other patrons. They didn’t have menus but the owner just came and sat with us to talk about what he had to offer. All tasted great especially when washed down with a carafe of local red wine.
Other news is that “Imagine” – the boat which our son John crews on has been sold and is now en route from USA to the Med so that’s great.
Distance covered: 1804 miles in 124 days on board.
Technical: well the engineers did return with our Vickers hydraulic pump fitted with 3 pulleys of a slightly larger diameter than the previous 2 pulleys. Also using cogged drive belts as per Frank’s suggestion. So far after about 20 hours running all is OK and the drive belts are running cooler than the belts which drive our alternator and generator. Belt temps reached so far is about 73 dC, whereas the belts driving our AC generator reach 80dC – I’m not sure what the max allowable temp for fan belts is – does anybody ? Anyway it’s great to have the stabilizers working once again.
Gearbox oil leak is fine apart from a little coming out of a hose fitting that needs tightening.
In Piraeus our Groco fuel polishing pump gave up and with help from an engineer we fitted a new replacement pump we had on board. Frustratingly the engineer over tightened the inlet hose fitting and split the brass inlet of the (US$350) pump. He took it away and repaired it so all is OK apart from a very slight weeping (from me and the pump !)
After over 4 months in the water the underside of the hull needs a clean so I’ll have to sort out my scuba gear and get onto that. The antifoul applied in Italy doesn’t seem as good as what we’re used to in NZ.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Poros & Gulf of Hydra

We left Piraeus on Weds 20/6 and after an overnight stop in a bay on Aigina Island went to Poros – a small Island separated from Peloponnisos by a very narrow channel and with several beautiful bays for anchoring. Here we had several very relaxing days just anchored, swimming and exploring the local coastline in the dinghy. Its quite hard to find a nice remote beach here. Nearly all beaches have makeshift tavernas on them with loud music blaring and every square metre covered in deck chairs, so most of our swimming is just done off the boat.
Poros was settled in the 7th century BC but although its quite picturesque there is nothing to be seen of any ancient ruins. In the narrow channel there are numerous smallish ferries of about 30 feet bringing day trippers from Galatas on the other side and one of them nearly caused a disaster. We were coming down the channel and a ferry was approaching us on our port bow, on a course where the ferry would pass us closely on our port side. Suddenly the ferry changed course to port directly across our bow. We had to turn hard to port ourselves and missed ramming the ferry amidships by only a few metres !
Normally you should turn to starboard to avoid a collision but we couldn’t as we were too close to the shore on starboard side.
The ferry captain and passengers seemed oblivious to the near disaster and gaily waved to us as we passed closely by. Needless to say we’re now treating all ferries with huge caution.
We cruised down the coast of Hydra island where it would have been interesting to go ashore to the town of Hydra, but there are no anchorages there so we kept going and anchored at a very large and sheltered bay called Ormos Skindos.
We came back to Zea marina, Piraeus on Weds 27th so the Naiad stabilizer engineers could start work on the 28th. Once again it was extremely hot in the marina – high 30s but has now “cooled down” to low 30s. Sharon & Doug arrive tomorrow and we’ll do some sight seeing in Athens with them before heading off through the Cyclades and Dodecanese island groups, probably to end up in Kos by the end of July.
1714 miles covered to date in 116 days on board.
Technical: I put this section separately and last as I realize not everyone’s interested – only boating aficianados ! The only real issue currently is the hydraulic stabilizers and it has been difficult to get the engineers to start as here its like NZ in mid December – everybody wanting jobs done. Last Thursday an engineer removed the Hydraulic Pump assembly and the pulleys off the engine and took it away for testing. Their proposed solution is to increase the number of pulleys and drive belts from 2 to 3 and this does make sense. They are also going to try and go to a slightly larger pulley size. However, its not clear when they can do this by and we want to leave here about Wednesday. So we may elect to move on and either have their engineer travel to us or return to Piraeus at a quieter time. The stabilizers are great to have but we also have the paravanes anyway.