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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Link to Map

Don't forget that on the bottom right hand side of this page is a link to a map showing where we've been and where we are.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Envoy at anchor in Spinalonga Lagoon, viewed from the fortress

"The Island of the Living Dead" - Venetian fortress turned leper colony

Cretan fishing boats on the jetty where Envoy berthed in Sitia

Lindos Castle viewed from our anchorage

First week in Crete

We had heard Cretans are friendly, and this has proven correct. We first went ashore at the tiny village of Kato Zakros on the east coast. While Brian & I downed a Mythos beer or two in a taverna, Carol & Diane went off to buy some vegetables.
They returned with a large bag full of tomatoes, aubergines, beetroot, parsley, onions, capsicum, eggplant and carrots. They had gone to a restaurant, and asked Carmen, the waitress, where they could buy vegetables. Carmen said there was no shop in the village, but they would be happy to give us whatever vegetables we needed. Later we had dinner at this restaurant and the owner, Costas, told us that his father grew all the vegetables, tending the garden from 5am. Before the night was out they gave us an additional beer crate of vegetables and two bottles of red wine –all for free.
Costas told us that in the 1950s his father was ploughing some of his land and came across some stone slabs and ruins. This turned out to be the Minoan palace of Zakros. The Government confiscated that piece of land, and now charge the public admission to see the ruins.
Like his father, Costas was born in this tiny village, and is now raising his three children there.
We cruised NW to Sitia, where we laid alongside a rough concrete jetty.
The skipper of a neighboring British yacht told us to be careful, as the previous night someone had stolen some expensive mooring lines from his deck, including some in-use mooring lines. Local fisherman were extremely upset over this and were convinced the thieves were not from Sitia, making it very clear what they would do to any thieves they caught. We still understand that instances of theft like this are very rare and we had no problems.
There was no electrical power on the wharf, and the closest water tap was about 150m away, well beyond the reach of our hoses (although we could have lugged it using our 30L jerry cans). Brian and I found a closer tap, half submerged in muddy water, and with a broken handle. We managed to make a temporary tap handle and get our water OK.
From Sitia we went further west to the Spinalonga Lagoon, a large inlet only about 3m deep, with the entrance protected by a Venetian fortress built in 1579. When it was eventually taken by the Turks the Venetian and Genoese defenders were allowed to leave, while the local Cretan defenders were all enslaved. This island fortress later became the infamous Greek leper colony, where lepers lived and died in appalling conditions, the last one dying in 1953. Today the locals still call it “the island of the living dead”.
At anchor during dusk we noticed a snake swimming towards the boat. At first I thought I’d had one rum too many, but we all saw it approach within about 10m. There are several varieties of snake on land in this area, but we were not aware of any sea snakes. The internet advises there are no sea snakes in the Med, as it’s too salty, and that the “snake-eel” is commonly mistaken for a snake. We’re going to believe that, but it certainly damn-well looked like a snake, with its head well up out of the water.We also saw a large turtle swimming around.
The weather has been hot – in the mid to high 20s, but the wind has been exceptionally strong – most days reaching over 20 knots. As the wind is always from the NW, it puts up quite a choppy sea outside of sheltered areas.
We had decided to spend our last few days with Brian & Carol touring some of inland Crete by rental car so went to Agios Nikolaos marina where we are now. This is a good marina, with power and water, in a very picturesque location with swimming beaches nearby, along with lots of tavernas.
We spent two days driving through some of the mountain villages to the southern coast, and spent the night at a great fishing-village-turned-tourist-spot called Aghia Galini. We also visited the famous ruins of King Minos’s palace at Knossos, dating from 1700 BC. This is where the (mythical?) half man, half bull Minotaur lurked in the labyrinth, until a warrior killed it, finding his way out of the labyrinth with a ball of string. The palace, and indeed Minoan civilization, ended with the huge volcanic eruption at Santorini and the ensuing tsunami.
Times are more than a bit tough in Greece. The official unemployment rate is 12%, but probably closer to 20%. Tourist numbers are down, so tavernas, restaurants and shops are quiet. Taxes are going up and all pensions have been reduced by Euro 200 per month (about 30%). Nonetheless, the Greek people are stoic, largely cheerful and seem to think everything will be OK.
We had a wonderful time with Brian & Carol, who left on Friday. We’re now in Agios Nikolaos for the next week (see below), and will then head further west along the northern coast of Crete.
Technical
On the last day of Brian & Carol’s cruise I noticed some oil in the bilge and then found an oil leak from the Borg Warner gearbox. Fortunately it was only a short distance to our destination at Agios Nikolaos marina, and on arrival here an engineer from A1 came aboard and saw the leak. Thanks to my friend Brooke Archbold for arranging a Borg Warner gearbox expert in NZ for me to speak with – James Mobberly of Moon Engines. James was able to give us some useful advice about repairing the leak, which is being done currently while we're in such a nice place to stay. Should be under way again late next week.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

RHODES TO CRETE

Thanks for various comments about the blog. We don’t intend the blog to be a travelogue, but more about our experiences and impressions. The content has been very technical, because our main focus has been getting Envoy ready to cruise, but now that we are cruising the balance will change ("phew!" says Trish).
We arrived in Rhodes on Mon 7 June and went into ancient Mandraki Harbour, once lined with war galleys, and where the 35m high, bronze Colossus of Rhodes had one leg astride each side of the harbour entrance. Built in 290 BC, the Colossus was destroyed by an earthquake about 60 years later. We booked a space using an agent,
A1, who operate throughout Greece and we’ve used previously, as we wanted to ensure we would be in the harbour to meet our first guests, Brian & Carol. A1 do charge a fee, but it’s worth it for the advice and help they give. Other cruisers without bookings were turned away to roll outside at anchor in the wakes of numerous ferries. The water and power supply were not working (due to waves washing over the breakwater in a storm!), and A1 were able to organize an alternative for us. As with most harbours of this type the procedure is to drop your anchor in the middle of the harbour and reverse to the quay, where you secure with stern lines. The watching skippers of the adjacent vessels were pleased to see that we managed this without any problems.
Greece has passed a law introducing a new cruising tax for visiting boats. Under this law boats are only allowed to visit for a period of 60 days in any one calendar year; then they have to pay a tax – supposedly several thousand Euros. Obviously very few cruisers would pay this much, so if the new law does take effect cruisers would be leaving Greek waters in droves. A1 are close to developments and tell us the law is unlikely to proceed for the above reason. In any case, under the Schengen Treaty we can only stay 90 days in Greece, and then have to leave and re-enter.
Rhodes is a wonderful, interesting town, blending the historical aspects of the well-preserved fortress and Old Town, good eateries, excellent shopping and availability of most things you need, eg our two favourite brands of rum – Mt Gay and Lambs Navy! The supermarkets are well stocked up and the four of us spent a couple of hours doing a big shop for the supplies needed during Brian & Carol’s visit. The standard of shops was excellent and Carol and Di spent a very happy day checking them all out. All the major European brands are represented, and even during siesta time, when the shops were closed, they managed to come back with the odd parcel or two. We found an excellent wine shop, and as well as buying some good Greek & Italian wines bought a 10L cask of Tsambi quaffing dry white for Euro 17 – this has turned out to be quite reasonable drinking. As we’d moved from Turkey to Greece we also had to get a new Greek SIM card for the phone and Vodafone USB for internet access (costs 2 Euro/day for unlimited access).
All around Rhodes are piles of large round stones, and these were hurled by catapult into Rhodes during a siege by Demetrius around 300 BC. Much later in 1522 the vast fortress was held by about 1,850 Crusaders against 100,000 Turks for five months, until the Crusaders surrendered and were allowed to leave.
We spent five days in Mandraki and one of the days hired a car to tour the whole island, easily done in a day. Plenty to see including ruins from various periods in history, great beaches, villages and wineries.
Leaving Rhodes on Saturday 12th, we cruised about 20NM down the coast to spend two nights in Lindos. Inhabited since 2000BC, Lindos has a blend of architecture from then until now, including the usual hill-top fortress. Lindos has a maze of narrow alleyways lined with shops and restaurants, and cars are not allowed to enter; instead they have donkey taxis which patiently transport you around the town.
Like Rhodes, Lindos was surprisingly un-crowded – there seems to be not that many tourists yet and very few cruisers.
We then did quite a long cruise of 10 hours to the island of Karpathos. This was a good test of Envoy’s systems and all is working well. Most of the 10 hours was in a 25kn wind on the starboard bow with 2m seas and the paravane stabilizers were excellent. As we approached the lee of Karpathos we expected some shelter from the wind. Instead, due to the very high hills, the wind increased to 35knots kicking up a short, sharp, offshore chop. The wind overturned our smaller RIB, which had been under tow, fortunately without the outboard; another lesson learned. Carol noticed this, otherwise er might have lost it altogether. We had hoped to spend a night in the main harbour, Pigadhia, but in the strong wind I preferred to anchor in better shelter. We did go ashore in Pigadhia, and while Brian & I found a water hose and filled eight 30 litre containers Di and Carol went shopping for supplies. Surprisingly they found in the local supermarket frozen NZ green-lipped mussels and NZ legs of lamb. A small dog fell in love with Di, and when we set off in the dinghy back to Envoy, the dog jumped off the quay into the water and tried to follow us. I had to fish the dog out of the water and we had a very quick debate about whether we wanted a dog on board. Di tied it up ashore (with much heart-wrenching) so it wouldn’t follow us again, after arranging for it to be released after we’d left the harbour.
Karpathos has some great beaches and we spent a couple of days chilling out, anchored off one of them. We have to call in at Karpathos on the way back to Turkey, as I promised to visit a particular Taverna there.
As I write this we are cruising from Karpathos to the eastern end of Crete, a journey of about 9 hours and all OK. Conditions 6 knots on the nose and half metre sea.
Technical
We took on 1,000L of diesel at Euro 1.348L, bringing our total fuel up to about
2,000L or 50% of capacity. There’s no reason to carry more than about this level with the comparatively short distances we’re cruising this year. The diesel is carried in four different tanks, so we’ll be careful to use our three-year old fuel (which is stabilized) first, before going on to the new supply. The Groco 12V pump that drives our fuel transfer and filtering system failed, so we mounted the spare and all OK.
Since leaving Rhodes I’ve been monitoring our water usage and it’s about 75L/day, including use of the washing machine, and without making any real sacrifices; so that means we’re carrying over 2 weeks supply. We were contemplating a quick trip back to Marmaris in July to fix our water maker and Naiad stabilizers, but more than likely we’ll leave that until we return to Marmaris in November.

Monday, June 14, 2010

READER'S COMMENTS

Several friends have told us they have made comments on the blog, but they didn't appear. I changed th settings concerning comments a few days OK and see that a comment from Deidre has been published. I guess this means comments will be OK from now on. Today we're leaving Lindos, Rhodes, for the Karpathos Islands - about half way from Marmaris to Crete. This is about a 7 hour run. All OK.

Monday, June 07, 2010

FIRST DAYS OF CRUISING

Our first six days of cruising were spent in Turkey, between Marmaris & Bozburun. Today in Bozburun we completed the exit formalities to leave Turkey tomorrow and cruise over to Rhodes in Greece – only about 20NM. Since we left Marmaris everything has gone perfectly well and according to plan….almost. We anchored in a beautiful bay near Bozburun and switched off the engine for a swim and relaxing afternoon. When I went to start the engine later it wouldn’t start. The engine was slowly turning over so I figured it wasn’t the starter motor. I went to the start battery bank and put the multi-meter probes on the battery connections; the readings were very inconsistent, eg 7.5 to 13.5v. Then I put the probes on the battery terminals themselves and got a consistent 13.5v. The connections didn’t look bad, but one was slightly loose. I cleaned and sprayed them all with contact cleaner, tightened them up and hey presto – all OK and the engine started with sighs of relief all round. The only thing I don’t understand is having done that, the volt readings were still inconsistent on the connections, however problem solved, and when our friend Doug Gooch (electrician) joins us in August, he’ll be able to explain that.
In 2007 we towed the dinghy around most of the time and paid the price – growth on the hull and general deterioration. We’ve now had the dinghy’s hull sanded back and repainted so we want to keep it in good shape. This means lifting it aboard, at least after a few days towing – not a real major, but takes about 20 minutes and can only be done in calm conditions. For the sake of safety we replaced the lifting lines with 12mm spectra (Kevin’s suggestion). Apparently 12mm spectra can lift over a tonne, so more than adequate for our 300kg RIB, and we feel happier about that. We’ve also noticed an increase in our cruising speed by about half a knot when not towing the RIB – not important in a planing boat, but when you’re averaging about 6 knots, it makes a difference.
So for we’ve been covering old ground – as I post this we're 8NM from Rhodes and new territory.