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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Envoy nearly at western end of Crete

It was so great at Ormos Milati that we stayed there for seven nights - I think this is the longest we’ve ever left the anchor down anywhere. We always wanted to arrive at some nice place, and stay there without feeling we had to rack up the miles and move on; well Ormos Milati was just one of those places. We anchored in eight metres and could see the anchor. It was very sheltered, although we mostly had a wind of 15-25 knots that kicked up a bit of chop, so we kept the flopper stoppers on. Actually the breeze is good, as it keeps us a bit cool in the 30-34d temp. We’ve had no rain at all since leaving Marmaris on 1 June, but the wind is always with us. Incredibly there were no other boats anchored there the whole time we were there, in fact that’s been the case pretty much everywhere, and surprising considering this is now mid-season. Imagine going to Kawau or Waiheke in Dec/Jan, and finding no boats there. Consequently we haven’t met any other cruisers at all. There was water on a jetty, where we filled up on average 60l/day, and tavernas ashore. We spent one night in Soudha bay itself. This is a deep and beautiful harbour, and a NATO base. There were about 13 warships berthed there. In WW2 many allied ships were sunk here by German aircraft. Here also where 446 Kiwis, who were killed during the battle of Crete, are buried – see photo. It was very sad reading the gravestones of the mostly 20-30 year olds, although we did see a Private J A Jamieson, aged 44. We found this significant, as one of late closest family friends – Trevor Jamieson fought very bravely in Crete, was captured and escaped several times. Annette – is J.A.J. any relation to you? It was nice to see the cemetery maintained to a very high standard by the Allied War Graves Commission.
In the last posting I mentioned we would be meeting Kostis. Well we did and he had very interesting stories about the war years, together with cruising information for heading further west. He also insisted on buying the drinks.
We anchored off a village called Kolimvari for a couple of nights. There it was only 4m deep, again very clear with a beautiful sandy bottom. At these villages we always go ashore to have a look around, buy some fresh bread and yoghurt, and sometimes have a drink in a taverna.
As I write this we en route to Kissamos for a couple of nights. The visibility has now improved, and we can see about 25NM.
We’re going to spend until next Monday cruising around this area, then go into Chania marina. Chania is supposedly the most beautiful town in Crete, and we’re going to have a good look around, and rent a car to see more of Crete’s interior. There we meet Doug and Mary Gooch on 9/8, who are staying with us for a couple of weeks until we drop them at Santorini, about 75NM to the NE. As we can only remain in Greek waters for 90 days, at that point we’ll be heading east towards the Turkish coast again.
Log
Days aboard Envoy this trip: 114
Engine hours and distance this trip: 106hrs, 520NM
Technical: We’ve now done about 40 hours on the repaired gearbox and all’s fine. Envoy’s prop shaft has a traditional stuffing box to prevent sea water entering the boat through the shaft. You are supposed to have a little water coming in – about 1 drop per 10 seconds – to keep the shaft lubricated. In the stuffing box are seals impregnated with Teflon to keep the water out. I’ve been finding the Teflon is exuding out of the seal down the shaft, and it’s difficult to get the pressure in the stuffing box adjusted correctly to regulate the drip. Panagiotis suggested replacing the Teflon with silicone impregnated seals, and I think I’ll do that in Chania.
Our smaller RIB has developed an air leak, and deflates within a day, so we’ll try to get that repaired in Chania too.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Cruising west

When cruising, or in fact doing any traveling, you meet some great and interesting people. Since our return to the Med we’ve met a number of people from our 2007 trip and still keep in touch with others. In Agios Nikolaos we met a charming Scottish couple; Alan and Ann McIlravie who live on their boat “Sula Mac”. Alan and Ann have the temporary use of a friend’s car and kindly took us sight-seeing around some of the inland Cretan villages (some of the photos on the last posting were taken there). Coincidentally they are coming to New Zealand for a holiday in February, and we’ve arranged to catch up.
We left Agios Nikolaos as planned on Tuesday 13, and spent the night anchored in the lagoon beneath the fortress at Spinalonga. Once the last of the day-tripper boats departed we had the place all to ourselves. In fact there are hardly any cruising boats around, we only see the occasional fishing boat. It was amazing to sit at anchor only 50m from the fortress and think of its violent past – both the 16th century battleground of Christians and Muslims and later, the forced settlement of Greek lepers.
The next day was an eight hour trip to the island of Nisis Dhia. The visibility here in Crete is very hazy (maybe some ash from the Iceland eruption?). As I was writing this we were only three miles offshore, but any detail was difficult to pick out through the haze using binoculars. Although N Dhia is several hundred feet high, it only emerged through the haze when we were 13NM away – nothing like our Hauraki Gulf where we see Great Barrier Island from over 50NM. N Dhia is correctly described as “bleak”. There are four bays on the south side, sheltered from the predominant NW wind. We cruised through the first three with our paravanes still out, and saw several fishing boats moored before anchoring in the nicer fourth bay, and soon afterwards a Coastguard launch roared towards us. It came close and stopped while the crew studied us for a while, and then roared off again. We think one of the fishing boats thought we were towing fishing nets, and reported us to the Coastguard.
Our next stop was a small town of Ormos Bali. The Cruising Guide says there’s “a bit of a roll here”, and it’s not wrong. Although there was little wind we had about a 1m swell coming into the bay, so to be comfortable we put out our “flopper stoppers”, and used a stern anchor to keep us lined up with the swell.
There are very few areas to anchor on Crete’s north coast offering good shelter, because the “Meltemi” wind is consistently from the NW or N generating a 1-2m swell. It’s a bit like anchoring off Waiheke in 20kn of northerly. Only in the winter does the wind turn south, opening up dozens of additional coves where a boat could safely anchor. The coast is roughly 140NM from east to west, but there are only about six marinas and five good anchorages along its entire length. There are many more very small, shallow sheltered areas suitable for use by small craft, but not for visiting cruising boats.
On Saturday we arrived in a beautiful bay called Ormos Milati, protected from all except easterlies, and although this is one of the best anchorages on the coast we’re the only boat anchored here, and plan to stay here for a few days. Ashore are excellent clear, sandy beaches although in typical Greek and Turkish style they are covered completely with deck chairs. Some of the tavernas have loud music playing, spoiling the tranquility, which is one of the nice aspects of going to the beach.
As usual Envoy is attracting a lot of attention with her distinct and unusual appearance, paravanes out, and flopper-stoppers gently rising and falling. Many people in small craft, and even people swimming come up to us to talk and ask questions. Yesterday we met Constantine, Costas for short, who was intrigued by the boat, so we invited him aboard for a look around. He has a beach house ashore and has invited us for drinks tonight. This is one of the areas where very heavy fighting took place during WW2, and Costas’s father was a well-known partisan leader. I hope we’ll hear more about that tonight.
Ormos Milati is on the NE side of a four-mile long inlet running east-west. Further up the inlet is a NATO naval base and the town of Soudha – probably our next destination. There is also a military airfield nearby, and we get jet fighters roaring over our heads.
One of the very nice things about the Med is being able to dine outside in the very atmospheric tavernas. Unlike New Zealand there is no rain during the summer, and the temperature is still warm enough after dark to enjoy eating in the open. After they close for the night all the furniture is just left out, without the need for security – we imagine in New Zealand it would soon disappear.
Water management without the water maker is working fine, and with just the two of us aboard we only use about 50L/day, including use of the washing machine about every 3-4 days.
Log
Days aboard Envoy this trip: 105
Engine hours and distance this trip: 93Hrs / 448NM
Technical: All OK (for once!) The paravane stabilizers have been working well, and even in 2m beam seas our tea doesn’t spill.
When we came back aboard Envoy the four diesel tanks contained a total of about 1,380L – about 36% full. All of the fuel had conditioner added when we left in early 2008. In Rhodes we bought a further 1,000L (at Euro 1.348/L or about NZ$2.40/L) bringing us up to about 60% capacity. We’re using the old fuel first, and still have about 600L to go. For the distance we’re likely to cover this year (of maybe 1,200NM?) there’s no point in carrying a full load.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Mountain pass to the Lassithi Plateau

Rural Crete showing the rugged terrain - this was the cloudy day!

Crumbling archway of ruined monastary

Taverna in village of Fourni - always beautiful flowers

The pressure plate that connects the gearbox to the engine - the inner disc was loose against the outer

Typical rustic building in Cretan village

A happy Panagiotis (right), Steve & I after installing repaired gearbox - note his t-shirt

Further impressions of Crete

Crete is a large island measuring some 260km from west to east and 50km from north to south, with three mountain ranges rising over 2,000m. The topography is extremely rugged, and there are very few major inland roads. With the many rocky ravines and caves it’s easy to see how in WW2 the Cretan partisans were able to resist the Germans so effectively. On every spare piece of land there are olive trees – over 21 million of them in fact. It’s hard to imagine how all of these trees are harvested due to their sheer number, and in many cases poor accessibility. We were told that large nets are placed under the trees, and then the branches are mechanically shaken to bring the olives down. This provides employment during the harvesting time of October to February, when the tourist numbers are down. Crete is very windy, and windmills are still used extensively to pump water from bores. There are many remains of ancient stone windmills. A modern variation of this is windfarms to generate electricity – there are many hundreds of these tall, silent wind towers around the island. The Cretan villages are exactly as you picture them – narrow winding streets, where a car has to pull over to let an oncoming car through, ancient, rustic buildings, mostly in a poor state of repair and some derelict, peeling paint in white and blue, old men with waistcoats and moustaches sitting outside small tavernas, elderly hunched-over women dressed totally in black.
There are very few tourists here – a matter of great concern to the many taverna and café owners who still hope that August will bring the numbers to fill the arrays of empty café seats. It appears to us there are far too many tavernas, car & bike renters, and tour operators for the numbers of people.
There is not much traffic on the roads outside the main towns, but the driving is atrocious – much like Turkey. It seems that nobody is content to sit behind you, and drivers overtake on blind corners, double white lines or anywhere, forcing oncoming traffic to move over to the verge. Speed limit signs are a waste of space and there seems to be no traffic law enforcement.
They have small supermarkets and we’ve been able to buy everything we need. We found a good quaffing dry white wine called Kpaei Aeyko which is sold in bulk for Euro
1.80/litre. Better quality white and red wines cost about Euro 5-9 per 750ml bottle.
Here they have VAT, like our GST bt the level varies according to the product. Due to the tough economic times the top rate has just been increased to 23%.
We’ve now been in Agios Nikolaos since 22 June and plan to leave next Tuesday 13 July and head west along the northern coast. Sorry to hear of the bleak weather back home – must say the weather here is great; sunny, not humid, temps in high 20s to low 30s, sea is 26d. Yesterday there were a few clouds about, which we thought was a bit poor! It is windy here though – every day about 15-25kn from the NW kicking up a 1.5-2m sea in open waters – but the wind and sea should reduce as we head west.
Log
Days aboard this trip: 97
Engine hours and distance this trip: 70 hrs / 345 nm
Technical
Last Tuesday Panagiotis, the engineer from Piraeus, came back with the reconditioned pressure plate. Quite amazing that within 4 days, including a weekend, it had been sent to Piraeus (an overnight ferry trip), reconditioned and returned here. Panagiotis is a really knowledgeable guy – he was an engineer in the Royal Greek Navy for 29 years, and he’s also a real toiler. The gearbox weighs about 60kg, and when the local engineer Steve and I removed it we struggled together to carry it off Envoy to the shore. Panagiotis picked it up and carried it back on board by himself! After installation he spent some time aligning the prop shaft with the gearbox (which is attached to the engine) and found that the rear of the engine needed to drop down on it mounts quite a bit. He says this was the cause of the gearbox problem. Also three out of the four engine mounting bolts were loose. On Wednesday Di & I went for a cruise of a few hours duration and all seems OK – there is no vibration, no oil leaks and no other challenges (until the next one, but that’s boating!)

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Agios Nikolaos

We’ve now been in this really nice marina for 12 days. The cost structure is such that after 12 days you go on to the monthly rate, so our next 18 days would be free if we stayed that long. We can’t leave yet anyway, as our gearbox is not back in (see below). We’re going to use this time to do some further inland exploration of Crete by rental car. We’ve also been enjoying the beaches and watching World Cup Soccer at the tavernas. We’re likely to resume our cruise westwards along the north coast of Crete in about a week.
Log
Days aboard Envoy this trip: 89
Engine hours and distance covered this trip: 66hrs / 329NM
Technical
The gearbox has been fixed; the oil leak was due to the prop shaft coupling and gearbox not being correctly aligned after we had a new prop shaft made and installed in Marmaris. This has caused some vibration (which I must say we didn’t notice at all) and subsequent internal problems. Today an engineer came from Piraeus to re-install the gearbox, and found that the pressure plate – goes between the gearbox and the back of the engine – is a bit rattly (the inner plate is loose against the outer plate). He said the pressure plate might only last for a few months and suggested getting this fixed or replaced while it’s readily accessible. That’s going to take another few days. Then he’s going to put everything back and ensure it’s all correctly aligned.