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Monday, July 25, 2011

WE ASSIST A YACHT AGROUND ON A REEF IN THE NORTHERN SPORADES AND ENVOY GETS HER NAIAD STABILISERS REPAIRED

We’re well into our 2011 cruise now with over 1,100NM covered. Summer has set in with daytime temperatures of about 36d, and the seawater at 27d. Fortunately the humidity is not high here, which makes the heat manageable.
The Northern Sporades group consists of about eight main islands, with numerous other islets. We spent just four nights there as we needed to keep moving to Chalkis on Evia Is about 85NM away, where we would meet the Naiad technician. This short visit gave us the chance to scope out the N Sporades for our longer visit next month with Sharon & Doug.
One late afternoon we anchored off a fantastic sandy beach on the small uninhabited nature reserve islet of Nissos Tsoungria. Lush green forest came right down to the beach, and the islet was deserted except for a great little rustic taverna on the shore with home-built tables and chairs, and fern leaves over a makeshift frame to provide shelter from the sun. The staff don’t live there, but when the last patron leaves they go home to Skiathos each night on their fishing boat. They just lock everything up, and leave it all unattended. Can you imagine doing that in New Zealand?

Envoy anchored off Nisos Tsoungria



The great taverna on Nisos Tsoungria



We watched the sunset, and spent the night sharing the bay with three sailing yachts and a high-powered six metre RIB, the occupants of which were camping ashore. We had a tranquil night, with just enough motion to remind us we were anchored off an exposed beach.
In the morning I went up to the pilothouse, and noticed that one of the yachts had departed – but not very far, as 200m away she was stuck fast on an underwater reef that protruded out from the end of the bay. The yacht was a Beneteau 385 sloop, flying the Greek flag, and with 3 people aboard. I watched for a few minutes, and nothing was happening except one of the occupants was in the water checking the depths around the hull.

The yacht Bonnie aground on a reef



There was no swell, and there is virtually no tide here. My Coastguard training kicked-in, and I jumped in our small dinghy, and went over to see if I could help.
The skipper’s wife spoke some English, and it was apparent they had little idea what to do, although he was able to tell me that only the keel was aground, they were not taking water, and the deepest water was astern. I suggested that I take the skipper ashore to ask the owner of the six metre RIB for assistance to tow him off, and to ask the skipper of a nearby Greek yacht to lend a hand with his large dinghy by tilting the Beneteau over using a halyard attached to the top of the mast. This would lessen the yacht’s draught, and make it easier to free from the reef. The owner of the RIB was only too happy to help (after we’d woken him up), but the other skipper didn’t want to know. Consequently we used our own small RIB with the 2.3HP Honda to tilt the yacht over, and were surprised how little power was needed with the amount of leverage provided by the line to the halyard. On the second attempt the RIB slowly pulled the Beneteau off the reef and was able to tow her to deeper, safe water.

The RIB takes the strain - you can see the reef under the water in foreground



After the skipper checked that there was little damage apart from scrapes to the keel, and to his pride, he gave us a bottle of Greek chardonnay for our help. In NZ & Australia we’re so lucky to have Coastguard to assist us out of boating mishaps, and at negligible cost. The Coastguard here is much more concerned about enforcement, people/arms/drug smuggling, and anti-terrorism than in providing assistance, although they are responsible for SAR at sea.

TECHNICAL
On 18 July Wim Verkoelen, a Naiad engineer based in Holland, visited us in Chalkis, about an hour’s drive north of Athens airport. With him were two engineers from Naiad’s Greek agents. Wim brought with him a new Control Unit (cost Euro 1,881 or about NZ$3,400), and a Display Panel – both of which had been tested and were working well.
It’s great to see a talented and knowledgeable guy like Wim at work, and within about two hours he had checked the whole system over and installed the new Control Unit. We did a sea trial, and everything seemed to be working OK I only say “seems” because where we are currently the sea state is very flat, and there was no chance to test the system in waves. Wim found there were some errors made by the Turkish agent’s staff during re-assembly of the system after they changed the seals for the fins, one wrong polarity possibly causing the failure of our own Control Unit. Since then we’ve used the Naiads for about 20 hours and all is well so far. We’ve yet to encounter any waves above about half a metre to really test them, but inevitably will.

Wim from Naiad Holland (3rd from left)fixed our stabilisers - I'm smiling




I forgot to mention that a couple of weeks ago we had a fresh water leak into the bilges. I was talking with Kevin in the pilothouse, and noticed the amp meter was running a bit high, there were no lights on, and there were no faucets open, but when I switched off the fresh water pump breaker the amps dropped. It turned out that the outlet hose from the fresh water pump had come off the inlet to the water filter. If this had happened at anchor we would have heard the water pump running, but under way we can’t hear the fresh water pump. It was a simple matter to re-connect, and shows the importance of keeping an eye on the instruments. On Envoy we do a full check hourly, but also watch things in between.
LOG (to 19/7/11): 77 days aboard since leaving Marmaris, 1,132NM cruised for 229 engine hours.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Photos taken during Kevin & Diane's visit

Part of the fish market in Kavala


Envoy in Kavala with castle in background


Porto Koufos was a narrow sheltered anchorage that reminded us on NZ's Whangaroa


There are 20 major monastaries on the Akti Peninsula



One of the many monastaries near Mt Athos - women are not allowed within 500m of the shore


Beautiful fresh cherries in the weekly market



The fascinating weekly market in Kavala - where local people shop



Laurie with Kostas, who was very friendly and a great help to us in Kavala



Kevin makes the traditional pikelets


Kevin, who was a senior fire officer explains a hydrant to Laurie



Kevin & Diane in relax mode aboard Envoy
Envoy moored among the busy fishing boats in Kavala Harbour coming and going all hours



Aqueduct in Kavala built by the Turkish Suleyman the Magnificent in 16th century

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

THE THREE FINGERS AND THE INCREDIBLE MONASTERIES NEAR MT ATHOS

On 27 June with Kevin & Diane we left Kavala after a very enjoyable stay there. It’s great to see destinations where normal local people live and work, without hordes of tourists. Those tourists who do visit this area mostly drive down from eastern Europe. Our Greek friends from Blue Cruises wished us “kales thalases”, meaning “have favourable weather and a safe voyage”, and left us their contact details in case of any problems – they are professional skippers and engineers.
We cruised over to the area of Chalkidiki or “The Thee Fingers”, so-called because there are three peninsulas, each about 25NM long, forming two gulfs between them, and another gulf with mainland Greece. The easternmost peninsula is Akti, and at its southern end is the spectacular “holy mountain” of Mt Athos, rising to 2,033m, with ice flows still visible near the cloud-shrouded summit. The Virgin Mary is said to have visited here after the death of Jesus. The Akti Peninsula is a semi-autonomous region of Greece ruled by the monks who inhabit 20 large monasteries, some dating back to the 9th century. Some of these are the size of large villages, and of course over the centuries have been attacked and ransacked numerous times by various pirates and invaders. Access to the peninsula is sealed off, and only 110 visitors (who must be Christian) are allowed each day, after gaining permission which can take up to six months. No females are allowed to visit, and any boat containing a female is not allowed to approach closer than 500m to the shore. Because of this limitation we had to make the 61NM voyage around the peninsula in one day, and several times we were joined by schools of dolphins frolicking around Envoy’s bow. It was really spectacular to see not only the monasteries, but also numerous other monks’ huts and retreats perched on the sides of cliffs, some in the most inaccessible of positions – they sure like their isolation.
Here for the first time we’ve seen a few other cruisers – one night nine other boats in the same perfectly protected bay of Ormos Kriftos, about half the size of Auckland’s Islington Bay. Four of them were rafted together so there was ample space.
In retrospect we should have stayed another night or two there, as the area has several beautiful and secure anchorages.
It’s a tradition when we go boating with Kevin & Diane that Kevin makes pikelets, and this time he made a lunch of them which we enjoyed at anchor off Ormos Sikias.
We finished our time with Kevin & Diane in Porto Koufo, a very protected bay that reminded us of Northland’s Whangaroa Harbour, with its narrow entrance, high rugged cliffs and perfect shelter.
We took on fuel for the second time this year, buying 750 litres at Porto Carras marina at Euro 1.57/L (about NZ$2.86). Here was a large resort with plenty of facilities including a doctor I visited to get an ear infection looked at. She gave me some antibiotic ear drops and asked me to come back 2 days later to have my ears cleaned out. She did an excellent job, and the two visits cost a total of Euro 80 (about NZ$146), which was excellent considering the time she spent.
Nearby we met some British cruisers aboard a yacht called Rosa di Venti, and it turned out they know our friends Alan & Anne from Sula-Mac. Once again a small world.
We did a 49NM cruise south to the Northern Sporades, where we are now en route for Chalkis, on Evia Is near Athens. There we’ll meet the Naiad serviceman coming from Holland to try and fix our stabilisers. He says it will be a 2-3 hour job so here’s hoping he’s right!
There are more boats around now as the holiday season kicks in, but nowhere has it been crowded. The temperature is now in the low 30s with the sea a very warm 26. Although the Aegean is notorious for it strong NW wind – the Meltemi – it doesn’t often reach this NW section, and we’ve had light winds up to about 15 knots.
There is little observance of boating regulations, or common sense here by small boat users, and speedboats, RIBs and jet skis roar around at high speed, very close (5 metres distant) to anchored vessels. This is annoying and of course highly dangerous, especially as there are often people swimming from anchored vessels.
TECHNICAL
Kevin is very knowledgeable about rigging, and he inspected ours, and took some measurements of the mast and boom so that he can calculate if it’s safe to lift our large RIB, weighing about 250kg, up out of the water behind Envoy’s transom using the boom winch The purpose of this would be to avoid barnacles growing on the RIB, which is not anti fouled. Our initial conclusion is this would not be a good idea, at it would place too much strain on the lifting tackle. It would be possible to design and build an A-frame support for the boom so this lift could be done, but I think we’ll just continue to lift out our RIB for a day or two once a week. In any case when Diane and I don’t have visitors we use our smaller RIB, weighing only about 50kg, which we do lift out at the transom without any problems.
LOG (to 10/7/11): 68 days aboard since leaving Marmaris, 929NM cruised for 190 engine hours.

Photos relating to last blog posting

These days wild deer roam the Myrina Castle grounds



View of Envoy anchored in Myrina harbour from the castle above it



View of Myrina's hilltop castle from Envoy's anchored position in the harbour



Ian wheeling the shopping trolley full of supplies



Ian & Patsy enjoy some time ashore



Envoy anchored at Skala Marion, Thassos Is
Greek oil rig between Thassos Island and Kavala



Di, Ian, Patsy & Laurie enjoy a traditional dinner ashore in Myrina

Friday, July 01, 2011

ENVOY VISITS LIMNOS, THASSOS & KAVALA

We arrived at the island of Limnos a day before Ian & Patsy, who were arriving from Malta late at night and staying in a hotel, and sent them a text from our Greek phone with our location, so they could meet us the next day. On the next day, mid-morning turned to early afternoon, and we still hadn’t heard back from them, so I sent further texts using both our Greek & NZ phones. They only got the text from our NZ phone, and it turned out that our original text hadn’t been received at all (it did arrive a day later), so Ian & Patsy had no idea where we were, or how to get to us. Ian & Patsy did finally join us after some consternation - panic over, and we enjoyed a great six days together.
Limnos is a very fertile island, with many farms, but rather devoid of interesting features compared with islands further south. The first night we spent in Moudros Bay - very large and sheltered, but unappealing. This bay was the base for the Allied fleet during the First World War’s disastrous Gallipoli campaign. We met Ian & Patsy at the much nicer, totally unspoiled Ormos Kondio.
Limnos has a strong Greek military presence due to its proximity to the Dardanelles, and we frequently saw fighter jets soaring loudly overhead during their training runs. One night we saw large light flashes on the horizon, and heard distant rumbles as the navy practiced gunnery.
The highlight at Limnos was spending a couple of days anchored in the port of Myrina. In ancient times Limnos was ruled by Amazon warriors, and Myrina is named after one of their Queens. It’s reputed that the beach we anchored off is where the Amazons cut the throats of husbands they had tired of. Although Ian and I were sure Patsy & Di weren’t tired of us, we took the precaution of making sure all Envoy’s sharp knives were well out of sight. Jason and the Argonauts called at Limnos about 1300BC on their way to the Black Sea in search of the Golden Fleece. They spent two years dallying with the Amazons, who by that time had killed all the men on the island, and continued on their quest with their throats intact, though probably somewhat underweight and exhausted - a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do!
Myrina is overlooked by the inevitable hilltop castle – this one dates from very early times, was rebuilt by the Byzantines in 1186, and then by the Venetians in 1214. Now it is home to about 200 tame deer who freely roam the interior grassy hillsides.
We had to keep moving as Ian & Patsy were spending only five nights with us, and we had over 100NM to cruise to their departure point. Further north is the island of Nissos Thassos, and finding very little shelter, we anchored off ocean beaches for two nights, using our flopper-stoppers to reduce rolling. We enjoyed one very picturesque fishing village called Skala Marion, and went ashore there, but it wasn’t sheltered enough to stay overnight. Overall we couldn’t recommend N Thassos as a cruising destination, although we believe it’s great for land-based touring.
Between N Thassos and the mainland Greek coast of Macedonia are several active oil rigs, looking rather incongruous against a Med backdrop.
It’s always a bit stressful arriving in a strange harbour for the first time, not knowing if berths are available, where to berth, whether bow lines are provided or we need to use our anchor, if water and power is available, where the authorities are located etc. Some harbours have signs at the entrance advising VHF radio channels to use. Others send a guide boat out immediately a visitor arrives. At Kavala Harbour on the mainland coast there was none of this, and we glided in trying unsuccessfully to call Harbour Control on the radio. We saw a guy standing on the foredeck of a motor yacht. We headed over to him, and I asked Di to go out and ask him where we could berth, figuring he’d be more helpful to Di than to me. Sure enough, he told us it was OK to berth right next to him, and he helped us with our lines.
We berthed stern-to a busy quay which backs on to Kavala’s main street.
Apparently very few foreign boats visit Kavala, and we were the only cruising boat among a harbour filled with fishing boats, and local pleasure boats, so we attracted quite a lot of attention (in fact we’d not seen another cruising boat since leaving Limnos.)
An elderly lady came to see us, having noticed our NZ registration. She was born in Kavala, lived for 50 years in Wellington, and recently returned here to live, preferring the Greek weather to that of Wellington (can’t say I blame her – why wait 50 years!). She still gets a weekly copy of “The New Zealander” delivered. This newspaper is published in Australia for expat Kiwis, and the next day she brought a copy for us. She used to work for Mobil Oil, and knew one of our close friends – Don – who also used to work for Mobil – a small world!
Kavala is an interesting city with quite a history, having been inhabited since Neolithic times – that is the period from 10,000 to 3,000BC. Even St Paul came to visit here, so we were in good company. A prominent feature is a large aqueduct built by the Turks in the 16th century, and still in good repair. The castle here was originally built in the 5th century BC, and modified by subsequent invaders.
The guy who helped us with the lines is called Kostas, and he was really friendly and helpful with advice. Power and water is always an issue in these harbours because of poor maintenance, and Kostas let us connect into his power and water supply. He also gave us a large basil plant, telling us it’s excellent for keeping away mosquitoes. Time will tell on that.
Having spent some time in Greece waters again we’re reminded how cheap the restaurants are here – we’re getting excellent meals for about NZ$30 per head. That includes wine, all you can eat, great atmosphere and service, and even food for the numerous cats who invariably congregate around us. Very often wandering musicians come through the restaurants to serenade the patrons, but this is not for free, and when the tambourine is passed around some contribution is expected.
Ian & Patsy left us here, and the next post will cover Kevin & Diane’s visit.
We’ll be spending the next few weeks heading west along the mainland coast, until we head south to The Sporades.
TECHNICAL
Our fresh water system problem was resolved. It turned out to be that a seal on one of the replaceable filters had moved enough to block about half of the water flow. Now all OK.
We had some further starting issues with the Genset. A local (and seemingly very competent) engineer checked the connections to the relays again, left us with a spare and made up a wiring loom to bypass the state relay if we can’t start the engine. I also learned from him never to touch a capacitor, even with the engine off, as they store enough voltage to give a nasty shock. No other issues right now.
LOG (to 26/6/11): 54 days aboard since leaving Marmaris, 689NM cruised for 143 engine hours.