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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

THE ROMANTIC MEDIEVAL CITADEL OF MONEMVASIA

A particularly interesting and romantic place is the medieval Byzantine town of Monemvasia, located on a steep fortified island rising dramatically from the sea, and connected by a causeway to the mainland.

Impressive Monemvasia Island is known as the “Gibraltar of Greece”

Several churches here were built in the 12th century and still in-use, although during the long period of Turkish occupation they were used as mosques. Now many formerly ruined houses in the narrow cobbled lanes have been rebuilt as holiday homes, small hotels, tavernas and shops, while retaining all the former charm and character.
This was a substantial town of 40,000 people during the Middle Ages.
Part of the town’s violent history is that its Turkish inhabitants were massacred when they surrendered to the Greeks after a three month siege during the War of Independence.

Brian, Carol & Laurie with Envoy anchored stern-to the causeway to Monemvasia.

Medieval fortified village of Menemvasia

The romantic lanes of Monemvasia

Brian looking at local produce shop in Monemvasia

The church of Ayia Sofia on the island’s summit dates from the 12th century

Looking down on Monemvasia from the hilltop castle

We found this great little cove to moor our RIB while we explored Monemvasia

This impressive traditional sailing cruise ship anchored close-by at Monemvasia

We still encounter very few other cruisers, and mostly when we anchor there are only about four or five other boats around – mostly Greek, but also British, French, Italian, Dutch, Swedish & German. We haven’t seen and New Zealand, Australian or American boats for some time.
TECHNICAL
Nothing to report
LOG
Up to 7 July have spent 100 days aboard, and cruised 756 miles for 139 engine hours.



Saturday, July 14, 2012

CRUISING THE EASTERN PELOPONNISOS

The Peloponnisos is the southernmost mainland area of Greece. Strictly speaking it’s not an island, but it is separated from the rest of Greece by the Corinth Canal. This area is quite sizeable being roughly 350 miles from NE to NW. The famous areas of Sparta and Olympia are located here. The eastern side is on the Aegean Sea and the western side on the Ionian. On the southern side are three peninsulas, each about 24 miles long, forming two large gulfs. The tips of these peninsulas are known as the “Cape Horns of the Med”, due to strong winds and rough seas often encountered here but so far we’ve had only very light winds and smooth seas. The strong winds are very often katabatic winds coming down from the mountains that rise to 2,400m.
Brian and Carol arrived safely in Nafplio by bus from Athens.
The cruising guide said that Nafplio harbour had a faint smell of sewage, and it wasn’t wrong – the town sewage gets discharged into the harbour and the odour is very noticeable. Here we laid alongside a rough concrete jetty, which had old tyres fixed in position to act as effective buffers. These were needed as the harbour isn’t well protected from NW winds and had quite a slop.

Envoy lying alongside jetty in Nafplio

View of the Nafplio waterfront with castle walls in background

During our second day in Nafplio a catamaran was trying to berth alongside the jetty ahead of us, but came too close and hit our port for’ard stainless steel rubbing strake. No damage to us, but this was the second time in as many weeks that we’ve been hit by other vessels.
When visitors join us for more than a few days we report to the Port Police to get our Transit Log updated with our visitors’ name and passport details. This is very simple and involves filling out a few forms and paying a small fee of usually around 20 Euro, which includes a night’s stay in the harbour.
In Nafplio we also took on 600 litres of diesel at Euro 1.49 (about NZ$2.40) per litre. There is no fuelling berth, so the diesel is delivered by a small tanker. Although I’m not in favor of bio-diesel, this was in fact bio-diesel, but blended with our existing fuel the bio content will be minimal.

Brian, Carol and Laurie enjoying a beer in taverna in Porto Kheli

View of Porto Kheli taken from Envoy at anchor

View of Kiparissi taken from Envoy at anchor

Ieraka is a small, sleepy village in an inlet, completely hidden from seaward. Here we anchored in a depth of 5 metres and could see the anchor and chain on the seabed. Shortly after anchoring a large loggerhead turtle swam close by and looked at us curiously. Since then we’ve seen several more turtles up to about 1.5m long.

A loggerhead turtle swimming close to Envoy

Envoy at anchor in Ieraka (2)

Photo of Envoy at anchor in Ieraka shows the small harbour

A strange looking three wheel car we found in Ieraka

In Ieraka we met Nikos cruising from Piraeus to the Ionian on his distinctive converted 1945 coastal trader, looking rather like a pirate ship.

TECHNICAL
All going well and nothing to report, so let’s talk about Envoy’s main engine – a “Lugger”, made by Northern Lights Marine, Seattle, USA.
This text is largely borrowed from Robert Senter, commonly known as “Lugger Bob”.
The Lugger starts out as a John Deere industrial engine block (as in John Deere tractors), and then the specific marine parts are designed, engineered and installed at the Northern Lights Seattle factory. These parts include the wet exhaust manifold, turbocharger (where applicable), exhaust elbow, air intake system, after cooler (where applicable), cooling system surge tank, heat exchanger, seawater pump, auxiliary drives, gear oil cooler, front accessory drives, engine mount brackets, mounts and wiring harnesses.
The Lugger is quieter than a John Deere because its specific pieces are typically large, heavy, extremely overbuilt castings whereas John Deere marine engines are usually welded and fabricated lighter sheet steel parts. That gives John Deere a lighter, less expensive engine, which is a good thing, competitively speaking.
Luggers are not competitive in weight or price, but only in fuel efficiency and long term value. The only people who buy them are commercial operators who bet their lives and business on the extra durability ….... or, passage making cruisers who consider the additional cost a small price to pay for peace of mind when they are thousands of miles from land.
Although Envoy is a heavy boat, weighing over 30 tonne, she is round bilge full-displacement, and easily driven. Our Lugger engine is rated at 143 hp, but mostly we’re cruising along at about 1,500 rpm, using much less than 143 hp, and consequently running very economically. Your rpm and speed has a huge effect on fuel consumption and cruising range – for example at 6 knots Envoy uses about 1.08 USG/hr, and has a range of about 6,100 miles, while at 8 knots she uses about 4.05 USG/hr reducing her range to about 2,200 miles. So there’s really no point in trying to go 2 knots faster when burning nearly four times as much diesel.
LOG
Up to 5 July have spent 97 days aboard, and cruised 720 miles for 132 engine hours.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

ON THE WESTERN SIDE OF THE AEGEAN

Laurie getting into the spirit wearing colorful local hat

We really enjoyed the Cycladic island of Nisos Folegandros where we anchored in the idyllic bay of Karavostasi. On the beach beside the small port was a great little taverna where we enjoyed ice-cold beers at the end of hot days, and from the port there was a regular bus service to the hilltop chora (village).

This little taverna on the beach really appealed to us

Great cafe in chora’s village square at Folegandros

This rustic gate was made entirely from pieces of driftwood – nothing wasted

The weather forecast for the Aegean Sea showed a protracted (five day) NW blow up to 35 knots approaching. We didn’t really want to be stuck in one place for five days, particularly with friends arriving in about 10 days, so decided to head for the eastern Greek mainland, where the weather appeared much more settled. We had a great 63 mile open sea trip from the Aegean island of Serifos to Ermioni on the Greek mainland, in a 20 knot NW, with 1.5 to 2m seas breaking on our starboard bow, showering Envoy in spray (which is quite rare). The stabilisers “did their thing” and only once did my cup of tea spill a little! This is one of the longest journeys we’ll do in one day this year, as mostly we’re hopping between anchorages, typically 20 mile cruises.
We found an excellent sheltered bay near Ermioni, well sheltered from the north, and the blow here reached only 30 knots and lasted a couple of days. Here for the first time this year we saw some turtles in the water. Ermioni was also excellent for re-stocking supplies, and we found a great bakery where the lady serving us insisted that we taste her delicious treats.
Moving on to anchor off a small village called Vivari we met a fleet of 11 charter yachts. Many of the skippers had limited anchoring skills, and one of the yachts dragged and banged into Envoy, but no damage was caused. Shortly after that we could smell smoke, and a large bush fire erupted near the village. The smoke got thicker and then warm ash started to fall around us and aboard Envoy - so time to move. As we motored to a nearby bay two sea planes arrived to fight the fire – they took on water from the sea and dropped it on the fire.

Bushfire behind the village of Vivari

The next day the smoke cleared and we were able to return to our preferred bay of Vivari. Here we noticed a house near the water with a large vegetable garden, and beautiful organic fruit and vegetables for sale. They were remarkably cheap and we bought a good quantity of potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, beans, peppers, cucumbers, and corgettes for a total of nine Euros (about NZ$15). The place was run by Dimitri and Marie, who invited us to come for a coffee the next day.

Organic vegetable garden in Vivari

Marie had painted this odd-shaped organic potato to look like a lady’s face

Our friend Brooke Archbold joined us here for three nights – our first visitor from New Zealand this year.
With Brooke we anchored in a nearby bay called Krathona, and climbed a steep winding track to visit a tiny old chapel built into a cave.

Envoy anchored in Karathona

Stairs to the small chapel in cleft of rocks

Laurie in a small section of the chapel

Diane Laurie in chapel’s main room


We were the only visitors, but there is one resident – in a corner of the chapel we found a small wooden box with a glass top containing a human skull and bones, with no explanation on the person’s identity.

Box containing human skull and bones

Laurie and Brooke outside chapel

Brooke is very knowledgeable about recent developments in all sorts of boating equipment, and as a result of discussions we’ve decided to buy a tablet to use as a GPS/Plotter, as we really want the back-up of a system which is not hard-wired to Envoy.
At the time of posting Brooke had moved on, and we are heading to nearby Nafplio to berth in the harbour and meet some more friends arriving from New Zealand.
Then we’re going to cruise around the southern area of mainland Greece known as the Peloponnisos into the Ionian Sea.
TECHNICAL
All mostly going well. Our smaller RHIB seems to have a minor air leak, as we need to pump in more air every few days. We’ll get this checked in Corfu early August.
Our Maxwell windlass has a minor oil leak from the gearbox. We have a spare gearbox so will swap that over in Corfu too, and get the leaking one fixed.
Envoy has two interchangeable autopilots. The Robertson unit (which are no longer produced) powers up OK, but will not hold a course, so we’re having to use the Simrad most of the time.
LOG
Up to 30 June have spent 92 days aboard, and cruised 640 miles for 118 engine hours.