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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Cruising north to Santorini

We had two great nights back at Gramvousa (photos and details in previous postings) with Mary & Doug. We missed Brian & Carol when they left Agios Nikolaos, and after several weeks by ourselves it’s great to have company once again. Doug & I snorkeled around the shipwreck, and with the water temperature at 28d stayed in the water for ages, although the sea life is not as interesting as the Hauraki Gulf. From Gramvousa we went back to Soudha, and ran into Dave & Lindy from “Raconteur”, who we met in 2007, and in Marmaris earlier this year. They told us the manager of Maramaris marina has been shot dead during a dispute with a car park security guard, who pulled his gun and shot him five times. Must have been quite a heated argument!
Rethimno was great, not unlike Chania except they don’t have the noisy discos. Rethimno has an ancient harbour – filled with tour boats and local fishing boats, ringed with tavernas, and dominated by the 16th century Venetian Fortressa.
Here we left Envoy alongside the quay for a couple of days while we did some further touring in the mountains by rental car to give Doug & Mary a taste of “real Crete”.
In earlier blogs I mentioned the strong winds. Well they dropped from late July to mostly 8-15 knots from the north, and we had some glassy calm days. However while in Rethimno a gale warning was issued (the first one since we arrived), and we got three days of about 30 knots NW. Not really a gale, but it kicked up quite a sea, with waves crashing against the harbour breakwater throwing up plumes of spray. On the nearby beach there was quite a reasonable surf of about 1.5m, so Doug & I grabbed some fins and went bodysurfing. Not for long though – when we were about 50m offshore enjoying the waves the lifeguards blew their whistles, and signaled us to come to shore, where they gave us a telling-off, and said swimmers were not allowed to go out more than waist deep in “these rough conditions”. I wonder what they would make of Piha.
As I write this we’re half way through a 12 hour passage to Santorini. We have a 15-18kn NW wind with 1.5m seas on our port bow, and although there is some pitching, the “birds” stop most of the rolling. Several dolphins swam alongside us a few minutes ago to wish us good luck. Most of our cruising so far has been westwards, and now north, so mostly into the prevailing north westerlies. As we head back towards Turkish waters it will be good to be pointing east for the next few weeks, and have the wind and seas behind us.
Di & I have been doing some forward planning. We go back into Marmaris marina for the winter on 15 November, then on 19 December fly to London, where we’re going to spend Xmas with Amy. John & Alice may join us, but we’re not sure yet. During this time we’ll also catch up with my brother Charles, and Marie. We then fly back to Auckland on 2 January, and stay until mid-April, when we’ll return to Marmaris.
Days aboard Envoy this trip: 142
Engine hours and distance this trip: 156hrs, 760NM
Technical: Currently no major issues, but I’m going into a bit of detail here for the benefit of people who’ve cruised aboard Envoy.
As mentioned in the last posting Doug is an electrician, and a very practical guy, and we’ve been doing a few jobs together – that means Doug doing the jobs, and me making cups of tea for him!
The forward facing loud-hailer on the Portuguese Bridge has been removed – I always considered this a nuisance, as most people have to duck below it when walking in front of the pilothouse.
The engine room lights have been improved so that the CCTV gives clearer pictures, and we can now see the two sets of Lugger vee-belts on our screen.
Doug considered that the charging voltage from the Lugger (main engine) alternator was too low as displayed on the digital voltmeter. It was showing about 12.8v with the engine running, and should be about 14v. Actually Frank told me the same thing in 2007 – I should have taken more notice Frank! So Doug did a series of tests on the Balmar alternator, wiring loom, and Balmar ARS 4 regulator, and discovered the regulator was faulty. This sounds easy, but took most of a day as you go through a logical step-by-step process. The wing engine has the same regulator, and that tested out OK so we interchanged the two regulators, and the Lugger’s charging voltage is now above 14v. In fact this doesn’t affect the charging performance of the wing engine, because the wing generates 110v AC, which in turn powers a battery charger. It’s not clear what the real purpose of the wing engine’s alternator is. I have now ordered a new regulator to be installed on the Lugger, and we’ll put the replaced one back on the wing engine.
We have a small issue that the Lugger and the Genset occasionally don’t start first turn of the starter. This has been the case for some time, even back in 2007. As they always start second or third try, it’s not a major issue, and if it becomes one, we can parallel the battery banks to start either engine. It doesn’t seem to be battery-related, and we have checked the battery connections and isolating switches. It may be a problem with wiring to the ignition or sticking solenoids. I’m going to resolve this one back in Marmaris.
Brian & Carol – you’ll be pleased to know we’ve improved the fridge door closure. Not only is it more secure, but 2-3d colder.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Chania area

Chania is a great town with very quaint narrow streets and the ever present reminders of the Venetian fortress which once protected the harbour. Much of the fortress walls remain, and many more recent buildings are built into them. We were moored Med-style (i.e. stern-to) at the town quay. It was cheap here – Euro 150 for eight days – but also very noisy, as we had two tavernas within 20m of our stern. These tavernas started playing loud music about 2300hrs, which didn’t stop until 0400hrs. We slept using our engine room ear muffs to keep out most of the noise. The pedestrian traffic was huge after about 1900hrs, and we felt like goldfish in a bowl as passers-by peered down into Envoy, cockpit and salon. We visited the extremely interesting Maritime Museum. They have a large photo of the harbour entrance taken during a storm in 2008 showing 5 metre breaking waves crashing across the entrance. The locals told us such conditions are rare, and only occur in winter (thank goodness).
We hired a rental car for two days and drove into the mountains, and to the south coast. To me the mountain villages are the “real Crete”, and many have changed hardly at all for decades. In many places the roads are too narrow for oncoming cars to pass, and one has to back up. At other times the roads are blocked by herds of goats, and you have to patiently let them pass. Fortunately the traffic is very light, as most people flock to the beaches on the coast.
We visited the German War Cemetry at Maleme. The cemetery is located at the scene of some of the fiercest fighting of the Battle of Crete. This is Hill 107 overlooking the airport, and held by New Zealanders. They were decimating the German paratroopers on the airfield below until German aircraft arrived and wiped out most of the Kiwis. The cemetery is well designed and maintained, containing the remains of 4,460 young German men, disinterred from about 60 graveyards around Crete to be finally laid to rest in one location. It is typical of the generosity of the Cretans, that despite the appalling atrocities of the Germans to civilians during their occupation, they donated the land for the cemetery. The Cretans did of course fight very fiercely, and bravely against the German occupiers, eventually forcing them to retreat to the town of Canea, where they remained until the surrender.
Last Monday our friends Doug & Mary Gooch arrived. Doug & Mary are the parents of one of John’s closest friends – Bevin. We had two great nights in Chania and then left for some cruising. Doug is a bit prone to sea sickness, and was feeling a bit seedy on the first day. I’m not sure how much of that was due to the sea, and how much to the inevitable festivities on arriving aboard Envoy. Mary gave Doug a pill, but he wasn’t getting any better. She then discovered she had given him a pill for diarrhea, not sea sickness! At least our guest head will be getting a rest for a while.
As I type this we’re heading back to Gramvousa. With Doug & Mary we’ll cover several places we’ve already been to, then head to the picturesque harbour of Rethimno, before crossing 75NM north east to Santorini.
Days aboard Envoy this trip: 129
Engine hours and distance this trip: 127hrs, 616NM
Technical: Pleased to say nothing much to report. With Doug being an electrician, boatie and excellent technically we’ve been doing some checks and small maintenance jobs. We’re also checking the Lugger’s charging system (Balmar alternator and regulator), as it seems a bit light on charge voltage – this is work in progress.
Our smaller 2.7m Arimar RIB was in a sad way. The wooden transom had parted from the vinyl, air leaked out of the tubes, and water leaked into the boat. It was going to cost Euro 800 to get repaired, so we decided to buy a new one. Availability is limited here, but we opted for a Portuguese-built Valiant 2.7m rigid hull inflatable. This is now on board and great. It’s useful to have a second, smaller RIB as our 3.7m Nautica RIB with a 25hp Yamaha, weighing about 350kg can only be launched and retrieved from the boat deck in very calm conditions using the boom winch; in the event of an emergency we might not be able to launch it.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

NW coast of Crete

Kissamos was a nice little town – not touristy, and we anchored inside the harbour wavebreak. I used the dinghy to top up our water supply from a free tap ashore using our 30 litre water containers. At 0400 the next morning we heard a very loud rumbling sound. I went up on deck and saw a huge ferry, about 90m long, berthing nearby. The loud rumbling was the ferry’s engines and thrusters. It’s amazing here how such large ferrys berth in quite small harbours.
We cruised around the most westerly point of Crete’s north coast to the island of Gramvousa. This is a spectacular area and the island has a couple of bays on its south side, making it reasonably sheltered from the prevailing NW-N winds. Crowning the island are the ruins of a huge Venetian fortress built in 1579. This fortress is triangular in shape, with each side 1km long. It was the last Cretan stronghold to fall to the Turks in 1692, having been held for three years by 3,000 Cretans. In the early 19th century the area became a haven for pirates until an Anglo/French expedition rooted them out in 1828. Why can’t we do the same to the Somalis today?
On rocks separating the two bays is the wreck of a steel ship, about 40m long. Most of the parts are still recognisable, and a sombre reminder of what can happen at sea.
We spent two nights there, and from mid-morning to late afternoon ferries brought day- trippers to the island, but after the last of the ferries left it was very peaceful, with only a fishing boat and runabout moored in the bay, and a few campers ashore.
Gramvousa is as far west as we’re heading this year, and the furthest distance from Marmaris. The whole time we’ve been heading west from Rhodes, and then along Crete’s north coast the wind has been NW or W. We thought from now on we’re going to have the wind behind us or on Envoy’s port quarter, which does make more pleasant cruising. Guess what! When we left Gramvousa to head east back to Kolimbari we had our first NE wind, albeit quite light.
When we’re cruising we mostly leave our paravane arms in the down position, and if we’re in the open sea we have the stabilizing fins deployed, as it’s much easier to launch these when it’s calm, using a block and tackle that Kevin O’Sullivan & I set up back in ’07. When we anchor we either leave the stabilizers in the water, or replace them with our flopper-stoppers, which are more effective at reducing roll when Envoy is stationary.
During this passage we watched the All Blacks play the Wallabies using our Vodafone USB plug-in for internet access, and a site Di found called If this proves to be reliable it may save us having to invest in satellite TV to watch the World Cup next year.
We spent a further couple of nights around Kolimbari and then came into the delightful Chania harbour, which we’ll cover in our next posting.
I do harp on about how few boats we’ve seen. Since leaving Agios Nikolaos marina we spent 21 nights anchored at some of the most sheltered and beautiful locations in NE Crete. Out of those nights we had 17 with no other boats in the bay, or in sight. The most crowded was a night when we had a runabout, a yacht and a fishing boat in the same bay. As we sit in Chania harbour there is only one British yacht and two local motor yachts here. Where are all the cruisers?
This 21 nights gave us a good opportunity to monitor our water usage, averaging 44 litres/day. This means that with Di & I aboard we have about 34 days’ supply, while we expect to have about 15 day’s supply with guests aboard – but then we have more hands to help replenish water!
Days aboard Envoy this trip: 122
Engine hours and distance this trip: 120hrs, 584NM
Technical: No real issues. We now have from Piraeus the correct stuffing gasket material for our prop shaft. Our smaller Arimar RIB is away getting repaired, or may have to be replaced.