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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Cruising north up the west coast of Turkey

Well our big news since the last update is that on 13/9 we had a call from our son John with the great news that he and Alice, his girlfriend of three years, have become engaged. They are working on a superyacht called Imagine on the East Coast USA, and plan to continue that for the time being. We first met Alice in 2007, and many times since. She is really super, and Di and I are over the moon with this news.
We’ve been heading north up Turkey’s west coast. One small remote bay we stopped at for a night was Port St Paul. There is nothing there except a sheltered anchorage, but the apostle St Paul stopped over here about two thousand years ago, giving his oarsmen a rest as they rowed north against the prevailing Meltemi. Just north of Port St Paul we passed through the Samos Strait, where the distance between the Greek island of Samos and the Turkish mainland is under a mile.
As we neared the coastal town of Sigacek we pulled into a sheltered bay to retrieve our stabilizer birds. Just as we lifted one using our block and tackle a military helicopter passed overhead. It must have seen us lifting something out of the water and got very curious, hovering about 100m away close to sea level for about 20 minutes watching us. We think they might have suspected us of lifting relics off the sea bed. We thought a Coastguard vessel might turn up, but when the helo went off that was the last we heard.
Sigacik has a marina but the area outside the harbour is very sheltered and we anchored there. This brings me to the subject of marina prices – they have increased enormously, and to the point that they are now a blatant rip-off. For a boat of Envoy’s size a typical casual rate is about Euro 80 per night plus water and power. That’s about NZ$140 per night. Consequently we avoid marinas and look for good anchorages - which are free.
Some towns have harbours where a visiting boat can moor, these used to be next to no cost, but now charge about Lire 50 per night (about $45). When you stay at a marina for a long period of the course the rate reduces dramatically.
Don & Kerrin arrived 18/9 in very good shape after their non-stop trip from Auckland, and the final leg of their journey was a RIB trip from the Sigacik wharf to Envoy.
Sigasik is an interesting small town with a large part of it contained within the walls of (yet another) medieval castle. Nearby are the ruins of the ancient Ionoan city of Teos, with the highlight being the remains of a temple erected for our favourite Greek God; Dionysus – the God of Wine. That reminds me – Don & Kerrin very kindly brought over two bottles of NZ white wine. The Greeks have been making wine for 3,000 years, but they don’t seem to have learned as much as NZ winemakers have learned in the 40 years wine has been popular in NZ.
Within the walls of Sigasik there was a market, and we had a traditional Turkish lunch of Gozlemes – similar to pancakes - for a very reasonable price of Lire 14 in total.
We had decided to visit the Greek Island of Chios for a day by ferry, and needing a safe place to leave Envoy headed for Dalyankoy. On the way we experienced a bit of rough water when we headed for a couple of hours directly into some very short, steep 1.5-2m breaking waves. One larger wave broke over Envoy’s bow (2.3m above sea level), and swept across the foredeck.
We anchored off Dalyankoy harbour, and all went ashore to try to organize a berth for Envoy. We needed to find the Harbourmaster, so we stopped at the Coastguard jetty and asked them. They couldn’t speak much English but invited us ashore for a cup of tea, and a few minutes later the Harbourmaster arrived. We arranged a berth for Lire 50 per night including power and water, and as common with berths like this, we were berthed right by a restaurant – diners literally 5m from our cockpit.
From here we were able to get a dolmus (bus) to the nearby port town of Cesme, interesting because of its mix of architecture, and because there are few tourists there.
Here is some input from Di.
On Don and Kerrin’s last day with us we decided to go to the Greek Island of Chios. This involved a 45min ferry ride from Cesme, where we bought the tickets the previous day, departing at 10am and returning 5pm. We turned up at 9am, strolled through customs and had a lovely trip across with a full ferry of people. When we arrived we wondered why everybody was in such a hurry to get off until we discovered there was only one customs officer to check and stamp our passports for the whole ferry! One hour later we finally got through and went to find the car rental place. With our limited time we decided to concentrate on three places that Lonely Planet had recommended in the southern part of the island. The village of Pyrgi had been described as one of the most extraordinary villages of the whole of Greece. What makes it unique are the building facades decorated with intricate grey and white designs, and fascinated, we wandered around the narrow, labyrinth streets to the main square beside the 12th century church, and had lunch. We then moved onto the 14th century village of Mesta, completely enclosed by massive fortified walls, and where entrance was through one of five gates. This was for protection against pirates and marauders. Fortunately they still let us in, and we walked through narrow cobbled streets with bare stone houses and archways that hadn’t changed since the 14th century. It was absolutely amazing to see people still going about their everyday life in such a setting. This area was (and is) famous for the production of mastic from mastic trees. A major use of mastic was the production of chewing gum. In 1822 the Turks massacred most of the population of Chios, but left the villages producing mastic alone as the Turkish Sultan and his concubines didn’t want to interrupt the supply of chewing gum.
We then drove through the centre of the island to the Nea Moni, an 11th century World Heritage monastery. In 1822 it was set on fire by the Turks and the skulls of the massacred monks are still on display in the chapel! As we were running out of time we made a hasty trip back down to the port and ferry. It had been a great day and a wonderful way to finish Don and Kerrin’s time with us.
We had a farewell dinner with Don & Kerrin on 25/9, and late evening there was a shower for the first time since early May. Since then we’ve had several slight showers and overcast days.
For the last few days we’ve anchored near Dalyankoy while we re-supply, and make some future cruising plans.
Days aboard Envoy this trip: 178
Engine hours and distance this trip: 253hrs, 1,210NM
Technical: Nothing much to report, and that’s the way we like it!
I’ve changed the filter on our Racor filter based diesel pumping system as the vacuum gauge was getting up over 24 bar (should be about 20).
I had to do some more work on the anchor light as even after changing the bulb it was intermittently going off & on. In fact the bulb was not the problem, but the spring loaded +ve & -ve pins on the light fitting have got weaker, and not making constant contact with the terminals on the bulb. I soldered some extra length on the bulb terminals to make a more positive contact, and all now OK.
While in Dalyankoy I had a reminder that it’s necessary to monitor on-board power usage against power available from the shore. I was running our fridge/freezer and hot water heater at the same time when the 2-pin 220v plug melted. In retrospect I think the power available was only about 10amps and I was trying to draw about 20.
Di was cleaning our loo, and the brush broke in half with one half disappearing down the loo. I unbolted the toilet from the deck, and fortunately found that the macerator pump body has an inspection cover. It was a simple matter to remove the brush from there.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Envoy has cruised over 1,000NM since 1 June, and now back in Turkey

Since leaving Marmaris 1 June, and cruising to Rhodos, Karpathos, Crete, Santorini, Astipalaia, Kalimnos, and Bodrum in Turkey we’ve now logged over 1,000NM.
We cleared out of Greek waters on 2 September at the island of Kalimnos. This involved first visiting the Coastguard to get our Transit Log stamped, then going by taxi to the Police Station to have our passports stamped, then back to the Coastguard to show our passports, then to the Port Office to pay 5 Euro, and finally back to the Coastguard to get our departure form. As you can imagine, you have to allow a little time for this. The Coastguard office and the Police Station looked like something out of an old movie set, being very dilapidated buildings with shabby paint, old furniture, and jumbled electrical wiring on the walls. No computers were to be seen, and everything was written down using carbon paper to make copies, but all the officials were friendly and helpful.
In Kalimnos we also got some more water using our 30 litre drums. We are always on the scrounge for water, and only need two drums per day. There’s plenty of water available if you go into a port, but that’s generally a hassle. You not only have to pay the port fees, but also for the water. So we take the drums in our dinghy, and find a free source. Sometimes there are grocery stores on the wharf, and we buy some supplies and ask for water from their hose – never a problem. The water here is mostly not suitable for drinking, and we go through about three 1.5L bottles per day for drinking, making tea (most important), and cooking.
Clearing in to Turkey requires an agent nowadays – a change since our last visit. So we cruised the short 20NM distance from Kalimnos to Bodrum, anchored off the marina beneath the Crusader’s castle, and went ashore to find an agent. This was no problem, and two hours later, and Euro 185 poorer we were cleared in. Now Envoy can stay fairly indefinitely in Turkey, but Di & I can only stay 90 days. That means in early December we’ll need to get a ferry from Marmaris to Rhodos for the day, then re-enter Turkey.
After the barren Greek islands, it was great to see the greenness of Turkey again.
We went to see Vodafone to buy more internet air-time for our USB. For some reason the USB stick wouldn’t work on Di’s laptop (although it was fine when we left Turkey), so we went to Turkcell, which is their equivalent of Telecom, and bought another USB stick, and that works fine. This now gives us the security of two sources of internet access. Although phones are fairly straight forward here, it seems to be a constant hassle getting internet access, and we need to do more research on this. Would be good to have a system where you could get economical internet access wherever you are without having to change USBs and SIM cards, and having to go to Vodafone, Turkcell etc to buy more time.
Since Bodrum we’ve cruised north covering some new territory. One interesting place is Kazili Iskelisi in the Gulf of Korfezi. This is an estuary, not unlike the Mahurangi; very calm and not many people around. In fact there was only one yacht there plus some fishing boats, then seven charter yachts came in, but all went together on one restaurant jetty. In the last couple of weeks we’ve only been in one bay where there was more than one other boat overnight. In some bays the local “gullets” come in with day-trippers, but they’re all gone by 1800 hours.
In this area there are many large fish farms. Some cruisers complain that the farms take up too many anchorages, but you’ve got to look at it from the Turks’ point of view; the fish farms provide food and lots of employment.
We have been surprised by the level of development of holiday resorts and hotels along the coast, and have seen dozens of them, many quite large and usually consisting of 100 or so identical villas set back from the beach. In many cases it seems that little thought was given to style, or to landscaping around the developments and some of them are ugly concrete boxes, and blots on the landscape. Considering the population of Turkey is 75m, with a growing standard of living, they’ve gotta holiday somewhere.
As I complete this we’re anchored off a new and very flash marina at Altinkum, and during the next four days we’re cruising about 60NM further north to Cigasik to meet Don & Kerrin, flying into Izmir on 18th.
Days aboard Envoy this trip: 161
Engine hours and distance this trip: 220hrs, 1,060NM
Technical: Again I’m pleased to say no major issues.
In Bodrum the Vacuflush guest toilet was fixed by their local service agent. The pump needed rebuilding, but this took only a couple of hours, and it’s now working fine again, and holding vacuum. Toilets are a regular problem on boats, and I can remember many years ago when Frank Curulli was so enraged by constant toilet problems on his boat that he ripped it out, and threw it into the Motuihe Channel before replacing it with a more reliable unit.
A few days ago the temperature alarm on the Yanmar wing engine sounded. I stopped the engine, and found the sea water strainer had some weed in it, but I was not sure if there was sufficient weed to stop the water flow. After clearing this weed out, and restarting the engine there was still no water coming out of the exhaust. I thought the water pump impellor was probably damaged from running dry for the time it took for the engine to overheat and sound the alarm. The Yanmar’s water pump is very hard to access (because it’s low on the rear of the engine, and there’s not much space between the bulkhead and the engine), and the impellor has to be replaced by feel – a bit beyond me. Fortunately there are Yanmar service agents nearly everywhere, and we had it fixed by a guy, Savas, who does only Yanmar engines based at Didim Marina, Altinkum. Even he said the pump was difficult to access. It turned out the pump itself had worn out (nothing to do with any weed in the strainer). The pump’s vee-belt pulley is held on a keyway to the water pump drive shaft. It was the keyway which had failed, so the pulley was not driving the pump.
As often mentioned we have considerable spare parts aboard, wait for it - including a brand new complete Yanmar water pump. This was fitted and all fine, the failed pump is being rebuilt to become the new spare.
I changed the Lugger’s oil at 200 engine hours. This is quite easy on Envoy, as we have an oil-change pumping system connected to each engine via a manifold. You simply remove the old oil filter, open the valve on the manifold to connect with the engine you want to change, start the pump, and then pump the oil out into an empty drum. Normally the new oil is then pumped back out of a 20L drum, but this time I couldn’t buy a 20Ldrum, so had to pour in 20 x one litre packs manually. Then you fit the new oil filter, and all done.
We’ve now used the last of the diesel from 2007, and are running on new fuel bought in Rhodos in June. Because we’re not doing huge distances I’m not keeping the tanks full; firstly there’s no point in carrying the weight, and secondly it’s best to have fresh fuel. We have four tanks, each holding about 940L, for a total of 3,773L. I like to always have some fuel sloshing around in each tank to keep the inside of the iron tanks coated with diesel, but today we were down to about 1,000L, so bought another 1,200L to give us 2,200L -about 275 hours, or two months running. Cost here is TL 3.01 per litre – a little under NZ$3.00 litre.
This trip we’ve been more conscious of Envoy’s cosmetic care. Keeping on top of this requires only a little time, but regularity is the key. The most important thing is to always wash the salt off with fresh water. Salt soon puts rust stains on stainless steel, and on the topsides gelcoat the salt attracts dirt. It also deteriorates the varnish. A wash down sometimes needs doing daily if we’ve been through heavy spray, or sometimes every few days. There’s a great product called “Miracle Cloth” made by Seafit, USA. After removing salt from the stainless, we let it dry, and then use the Miracle Cloth to quickly bring up the stainless like new. It also leaves a slight trace of waxy coating which gives some protection - highly recommended!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Last days in Greek waters

We left our Dia Is anchorage, six NM north of Crete, at 0400hrs to make our 12 hour passage to Santorini with plenty of daylight left. This is always a good idea when arriving in an unfamiliar location, so that you have plenty of time to find a good anchorage or berth. The gale had only subsided two days previously, and the seas were about 1.5m, occasionally 2m, but short and steep giving quite a different ride to the waters of the Hauraki Gulf. I just about s..t myself when a larger wave rolled us more heavily to starboard, and our port stabilizer bird launched itself out of the water into the air, and flew like a delta-winged jet for a few metres until it plunged back into the sea (see Technical). During the trip we only saw one cruising vessel, although two huge catamaran ferries roared passed us.
Santorini is a romantic, mysterious and hugely impressive island. In 1440 BC it was the scene of one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded history, when the entire centre of the island, comprising some 30 cubic km blew into the sky, leaving a crater some 6NM long and 4NM wide, which filled with seawater to form the present cliff-lined Caldera. This eruption caused a series of Tsunamis estimated up to 100m high, which devastated Crete, 60NM away, and destroyed the Minoan civilization. Some postulate that Santorini is the lost island of Atlantis, and it is the island on which Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea is based.
Santorini has notoriously poor shelter for visiting yachts, and the Cruising Guide recommends leaving your boat in the marina at nearby Ios Is, and catching a ferry across. The Caldera is mostly too deep to anchor, and the marina on the south side of the island is too shallow for larger vessels. However an Australian friend told us that a Captain Yiannis had moorings available below the village of Oia, provided that you ate in his restaurant.
We cruised into the Caldera marveling at the size of an eruption that could cause such a crater, and headed to the bay below Oia. Nosing up to the jetty we couldn’t find Captain Yiannis, but asked some locals if we could use a mooring. One said yes and waved us in the direction of empty moorings; we thought he was indicating to take any one of those. So we picked one up, and were about to celebrate our arrival when a small boat roared towards us, and the occupant told us very rudely that we weren’t allowed to stay there. He ignored our question about which mooring was OK, so we headed away across the Caldera to O Ay Nikolau. Again we nosed up to a jetty, and a local pointed out a large mooring to us, and said we could use it. We had no sooner picked up its line when a 25m charter yacht’s skipper told us we’d have to move, but he was polite and helpful, and said he’d only be using it for 40 minutes, and then we could use it overnight. So an hour later we were finally attached with a long line to this 2m diameter, square-shaped, rusty mooring buoy. This would have been the happy ending, except that during the night the wind dropped totally, and Envoy drifted forward and scraped her gelcoat on both sides on the mooring buoy. These will be easily repaired out of the water in Marmaris, but is another lesson learned!
The next day Di rowed Doug & Mary ashore to Captain Yiannis’s wharf so they could walk up to visit Oia, and Di managed to find Captain Yiannis. He was very friendly, said New Zealanders are always welcome and directed us to a mooring. Half an hour later a yacht pulled up alongside, and its very p’d off Captain told us this was his mooring, and he wanted to use it. We told him Captain Yiannis had put us there, and this made him even more p’d off. He eventually calmed down and pointed out another mooring we could use, so we moved. Ten minutes later Captain Yiannis appeared in a small boat, and said we couldn’t stay on that mooring, then roared off. Di rowed ashore again (it was too deep to anchor) and found a very different Captain Yiannis, who now very rudely said there were no moorings available at all. What a saga! By now we’d had enough of moorings and decided to anchor off a beach on the south side of Santorini. We found a delightful bay called Akrotiri with clear water, and anchored in 7m. Ashore were some very picturesque tavernas, and a road with regular buses to Fira and Oia. We should have come here first..
We met Doug & Mary in Oia, and after a wander around the quaint cobblestone alleyways got a table in a restaurant overlooking the Caldera with a perfect view of the sunset. Oia is supposed to have one of the world’s greatest sunsets, and there were hundreds of tourists and backpackers selecting vantage points to see it. Our restaurant was a very comfortable spot with bubbly for Mary & Di, and beers for Doug & I. There is no doubt the Caldera is amazing and spectacular, and that the atmosphere of the whole sunset thing was great, but the sunset itself was a bit disappointing. There is so much haze that when the sun drops low you can’t actually see the horizon itself, and the sun disappears into the haze before it drops over the horizon. Auckland’s west coast is more spectacular for the actual sunset.
Around Santorini there was a noticeable increase in the number of cruising yachts as well as several superyachts.
The next day we explored Fira, had a farewell lunch, and then Doug & Mary flew to Athens after 18 days with us. Each and every visitor we have contributes to our enjoyment of this experience. Doug & Mary are a wonderful couple, and they’ve been an absolute pleasure to have as guests. We’re missing Mary’s infectious laughter, and their great sense of fun.
When you are cruising a couple of days in Santorini is sufficient. It’s quite crowded, and very much caters to the tourist with endless shops and restaurants – all very good, but not the “real Greece”. If you’re staying in a hotel for a holiday it would be a great place to chill out and enjoy.
We left Santorini on Saturday for an eight hour cruise to Astipalaia. During a relatively calm passage we saw only one yacht, and despite the fact Astipalia is one of the most sheltered anchorages in the Aegean there were only about six other cruisers in this island group similar in size to the Mercurys.
The weather has been amazing; the last rain we had was late April. Most days there are very few clouds, and the typical temperature has been 29-32dC. We’ve had the odd day as high as 37dC. The sea water temperature varies between 26-28dC. Most days there is little or no wind to start, then the wind builds to about 12-15 knots, and then dies in the evening. We have had some days with winds in the mid 20 knots.
We are now on the eastern side of Kalimnos Is, and can see Turkey in the distance.
In Greece they have the Schengen Treaty, under which New Zealanders are allowed to stay only for 90 days in any calendar year and then must leave. This does seem crazy when Greece is basically broke, and can use all the visitors’ spending money they can get. Our 90 days expires on 3 September so we’re “clearing out” of Kalimnos, and will then “clear in” to Turkey at Bodrum. Then we’re going to cruise up Turkey’s west coast towards Izmir to met Don & Kerrin Waterer on 18 September.
In late October we also meet Steve & Jane Wilson somewhere near Izmir, and then our last visitor Chris O’Brien meets us in Bodrum 1 November, and will cruise down to Marmaris with us, arriving 15 November.
Days aboard Envoy this trip: 149
Engine hours and distance this trip: 192hrs, 937NM
Technical: No major issues. Improved charging system running very well – thanks Doug.
While in Bodrum I’m going to change the engine oil in the Lugger (required every 200hrs). We’ve also arranged to get our Vacuflush guest head serviced, as the vacuum pump keeps running all the time. Up to now we’ve solved this temporarily with a separate on/off switch on the toilet, so it’s only switched on when being used.
I had to climb up the mast to fix the anchor light. I’m not good on heights, but waited for a calm day. Turned out to be just a loose bulb, and easily fixed. For the few days we had no anchor light I removed the bulbs from the port and starboard navigation lights and used the masthead and stern lights as a temporary all round white anchor light.
The prop shaft sealings seem to have settled down and allow about the right amount of seawater through to cool the shaft. I check it regularly with my infra-red pyrometer and it’s running at about 32dC – about 6dC above the ambient seawater temp, so this is fine.
I have good quality shaft sealings on board now if any problems arise.
Our stabilizer “birds” – the steel plates which suspend 5m under water – have adjustments. At the front of the bird is a weighted section to make the bird want to dive deeper. A chain connects the bird to the stabilizer paravane. The further aft on the bird you connect the chain, the deeper the bird wants to dive, and the more effective it becomes, but the more it slows Envoy down. As a result of a bird flying out of the water I have adjusted the connections so the birds dive deeper.