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Friday, September 28, 2012


All is well and we are back around Levkas Island, in company with our Kiwi friends Bruce and Lesley aboard their sailing cat, Midi. Weather is great with temps in the high 20s, but the season is ending – shops and tavernas are closing, and there are fewer boats around. Now we only have another week before we go into the marina for the winter. This posting brings us up to 8 September.
After Graham left us at Levkas marina we cruised back to Sivota, where we had arranged to meet friends from New Zealand, Lionel and Mary Rogers. They had shipped their 1930 Ford Model A over from New Zealand in a container, and had been touring countries adjacent to the Med - over several months visiting Italy, Croatia, Albania, Montenegro, Slovakia, Greece, Turkey, Georgia, and Armenia.
The only drama they had with the Model A was a rear wheel falling off while driving at 60 km/hr, due to a missing split pin on the axle nut. Apart from that, some starting problems when after heavy rain, and a slight rattle in the exhaust, the Model A has performed faultlessly, and the classic bright-red vintage car has attracted huge attention wherever they go.
Lionel and Mary covered 8,232 km, used 1,115 litres of petrol for an economy of 7.4 km/litre, 20.8 MPG, or 17.7 miles per USG

Lionel and Mary’s 1930 Ford Model A attracted attention everywhere

It had been a while since we’d cruised to any new places, but on the way north to Corfu stopped at the very atmospheric town of Parga. Here there are two harbours, one either side of a castle on a promontory. We took our RHIB to explore the other harbour and saw the Silver Fern flag flying from a yacht. We soon met Colin and Christine Merryfair from Epsom, Auckland with their daughter Nicole. They bought a new yacht called Shapeshifter four years ago in Spain, and have been spending several months a year cruising the Med since.
Parga was a great anchorage except for speedboats towing water skiers far too close to Envoy for comfort.

This is Parga wharf on a nice day

This is the same wharf during a southerly blow

We have towed various fishing lures for thousands of miles all over the Med and caught very few fish – in fact until recently none this year. Graham Reiher showed us a lure he’d caught some tuna on - a feather lure rather than a shiny one. So we changed to one of these lures, and have caught several small tuna since, and enjoyed some sashimi and barbecued fillets. Tuna is a great fish as it’s easy to fillet and bone, has no scales, and provides a good yield.

Di battles with a huge 1.5kg tuna!

We're not proud - this was good eating

Going to another anchorage on the island of Corfu, Petriti, for the first time, we met Dick and Val Carey from Norfolk, England aboard their Nordhavn 55, Tai-Pan, bought new five years ago. People coming aboard Envoy often say she’s like a small ship. Well Tai-Pan is like a large ship, and looks like she’s just out of the showroom.
On the flying-bridge you look down on the water from something like 25 feet above sea level. She has three double cabins and three heads, with one cabin being immediately aft of the pilot house – an excellent captain’s cabin. The walk-in engine room with full head room also made me very jealous. She has a hydraulic hoist for lifting their RHIB in and out of the water, resulting in a very un-cluttered boat deck, set up with a bimini and outdoor seating in a position which catches the breeze. For about a cool US$1.4 m or so, you too could own one of these! We’ll be seeing more of Dick and Val, as Tai-Pan winters over at Corfu’s Gouvia marina.

The magnificent Nordhavn 55, Tai-Pan

Petriti is off the beaten track and a great little village. We found a perfect taverna set in a luscious green garden, and had ice cold beers at the end of the day.

This taverna at Petriti was set in luscious green gardens

Wreck of German steel-hulled yacht ashore at Petriti

After Petriti we anchored for a few days off Corfu town’s castle while we explored more of Corfu.

TECHNICAL: Just as we were about to leave Lefkas marina I noticed the port side of our large RHIB was flat. Further checking showed that the valve had disintegrated, but within half an hour we’d located a local RHIB repair guy, who replaced the valve and for Euro 20 (about NZ$32) all was fixed.
A few days later the bush in the RHIB’s propeller failed (shortly after I’d caught the painter in the prop!), meaning we couldn’t get the RHIB to plane. I found a Yamaha dealer at Gouvia marina and he sold me a prop of the same diameter – 9 and 7/8 inch, but a slighter lower pitch - 10.5 instead of 11”. This results in a slightly lower top speed, but makes the RHIB easier to get up on the plane, which will be an advantage for us with guests. Cost was Euro 130 (about NZ$206). I had tried to get the prop re-bushed, as we do in New Zealand, but the dealer had never heard of this.
Dick showed me a product he uses to help keep Tai-Pan looking so great - Starbrite Rust Stain Remover. I was amazed when he demonstrated aboard Envoy how quickly and easily this spay-on product removes rust streaks from gelcoat. I’ve since bought some and found it to be excellent, although judging by its smell it’s based upon oxalic acid, so needs to be thoroughly washed off gelcoat.
LOG. Up to 8 September had spent 162 days aboard, and cruised 1,522 miles for 293 engine hours.

Saturday, September 22, 2012


All is well and we are on the western side of mainland Greece anchored off Preveza. This posting brings us up to 29 August, and is big on technical stuff, so might be a very quick read for the fairer sex.
I was sitting in a taverna at Lefkas Marina having a beer with Doug on the last day of his visit, when to my huge surprise an old friend and Coastguard colleague, Graham Reiher, wandered up and said “gooday” in the New Zealand style. Neither of us knew that the other was in Lefkas, so this was quite amazing.
Graham was crewing aboard Roaring Meg, a Beneteau 44, with the owners Noel and Sharon, restaurateurs from Christchurch.
A couple of years ago Noel bought Roaring Meg in the US and Graham helped him sail her across the Atlantic to the Med. We had a great dinner out with Graham, Noel and Sharon, who were nearing the end of their cruise and finalising arrangements to leave Roaring Meg on a mooring in Ormos Vlikho for the winter, looked after by the Vlikho Yacht Club.

Sharon, Laurie, Graham, Noel and Di enjoy dinner at the Vlikho Yacht Club

Noel and Sharon’s yacht, Roaring Meg, in the Levkas Canal

Graham had a few spare days, so joined us aboard Envoy for a few days cruising around Lefkas and adjacent islands.
On Graham’s last night we had a great dinner out in Lefkas town, and later partook in one of the latest crazes over here – putting your feet in a tank full of tiny, but very hungry live fish which eat the dead skin off your feet.
See the fish eating Diane's feet

Laurie and Graham on Envoy’s boat deck fixing a halyard lock

TECHNICAL: Graham is not only a successful businessman and a very experienced mariner, but an engineer and diesel mechanic. Being also a very active person he was eager to get his hands dirty in Envoy’s engine room.
We had a good look at our leaking starboard forward diesel tank, currently ballasted with bottled water. The leak developed a couple of years ago, but we’ve not fixed it partly due to the magnitude of the task (it will involve cutting away some of our salon’s teak decking to gain access), and partly as we don’t need the fuel capacity for coastal cruising. Graham has shown us a logical path forward with this problem, and we’ll tackle it back in Lefkas Marina before next year’s cruise.
Graham located our Lugger tachometer sender unit - mounted on top of our Borg Warner gearbox. He managed to get the tachometer working for a while, but its drive pin was badly worn and needed replacement. A few days later, back at Levkas Marina we were able to buy and fit a new sender unit, and it’s been working fine since.
Also of great interest was Graham showing me how to start our Lugger engine if the starter solenoid sticks, as sometimes can happen on any engine, using a screwdriver to short out the solenoid terminals. I tried this myself and will be happy to do so again if it’s ever necessary.
Graham uses a screwdriver like a stethoscope for listening to engines and components of engines. He listened to our engine etc and pronounced it extremely healthy except for noisy bearings on our alternator. This is the one which was reconditioned last year in Skiathos, but we need to get it serviced again over the winter. Meanwhile we do carry a spare if it’s needed.
The colour of exhaust smoke emitted from diesel engines is one way of diagnosing any technical issues with engines. We ran Envoy at a whole range of different rpm and temperatures, and there was no exhaust smoke discernable under any condition, which Graham advised as being an excellent sign. However the Lugger’s running temperature is an issue – read on if you’re interested.
When we bought Envoy in 2006 she ran hot at high rpm, i.e. 1,750rpm was good at 175dF, 2,000rpm good at 185dF, but running at wide open throttle (WOT) at 2,400rpm reached 205dF and still climbing. This was not a concern to the previous owner or to us because Envoy is normally run from 1450 to 1650rpm at which range the temperature is always fine.
However this year I’ve noticed that the temperatures have crept up from above, so that 1,700 rpm reads 190dF, at 1,800rpm it climbs quickly to about 200dF, and at 2,000 rpm reaches 215dF initiating the over-temperature alarm set at 210dF.
Graham said that running a diesel engine up to about 200dF is no problem.
I’ve since been in touch with my usual technical contact at Lugger, known as “Lugger Bob”, and he has told us the Lugger can be run continuously up to 215d, so there is absolutely no problem at our usual cruising rpm, or even a bit more. However a diesel engine should be able to run at (WOT), so we’ll check this further with a diesel mechanic when we go into Levkas marina for the winter. Current theory is an airlock in the Lugger cooling system, or a dirty and partially blocked interior of the gearbox heat exchanger, which is also connected to the Lugger's cooling system.
Meanwhile we’ll just enjoy cruising.
LOG. Up to 29 August had spent 152 days aboard, and cruised 1,420 miles for 270 engine hours.

Friday, September 14, 2012


All is well and we are on the northern side of Corfu Island. We’ve had great weather – sunny skies, few clouds and light variable winds, but now a front is approaching and we’re going to get some strong southerlies and showers, so we needed a good sheltered anchorage for a few days. This posting brings us up to 22 August.
Anchored at Ormos Dessimou we found a great secluded cave with its own little grotto and sandy beach, and all had a swim there in perfectly clean and sparkling clear water with little fishes darting around our feet, and no other people. We all felt like we were in paradise, and actually that’s a pretty good description.

At Ormos Dessimou we swam in this beautiful grotto - Di and Laurie
Mary and Doug hold on to our transport to the Grotto

We showed Doug and Mary the private island of Skorpios, belonging to the Onassis family, and then went to the traditional hill-top village of Spartakhori on Meganisi Island.

Looking down from Spartakhori

As we walked past a house along one of the residential streets there was a Greek family enjoying a noisy lunch with much music, dancing and ouzo. Mary got talking to them to discover that one of them was from Sydney, and they soon invited us to join them. Although we had nothing to contribute they plied us with ouzo, and dishes of fish, octopus, bread, figs and cucumber. After a couple of hours the ouzo was taking its toll and it was time to move on, but not before the family insisted on us taking a bottle of ouzo with us. This is another example of what I frequently say about things usually happening when we go ashore.

An impromptu lunch with Greek family at Spartakhori

On the south-western side of Meganisi Island is a large sea cave called Papa Nicolis’s cave. This is big enough for small boats to go right into, and supposedly the Greeks operated a midget submarine from here during WW2. We left Envoy to drift in the swell outside the cave and took our RHIB in to investigate. It’s a large and interesting cave, though not as cavernous as some sea caves we’ve seen at the Poor Knights in New Zealand.

Papa Nicolis’s cave entrance

Inside Papa Nicolis's cave

Doug get's into holiday spirit having dinner aboard Envoy

The next day we had brunch ashore in Vathi at Neptune’s Taverna where the owner serenaded us with his balilica. Nearby was a large statue of Neptune which seemed to get Diane and Mary quite excited.

Diane and Mary were highly amused by this statue of Neptune in Vathi

The mates enjoy a beer - Doug and Laurie on Envoy's foredeck

Doug and Mary on Envoy's slightly cluttered foredeck.

Doug and Laurie take a break on Ay Eufimia waterfront

Mary and Di enjoy a frappe (ice-cold coffee) at bakery in Ay Eufimia

Di and Mary dressed to thrill for Doug and Mary's farewell dinner. Shows Envoy's dining area and adjacent galley

All too soon it was time for Doug and Mary to leave us and we cruised back to Levkas Marina, where they took a five hour bus ride to Athens. We thought they were our last guests for the season, but that was not to be – see next posting.

TECHNICAL: I had a problem with our remote controller for the boom winch. Doug was able to fix this by transferring some wiring to a spare unused circuit on the remote control.
Last year we bought a new spare alternator and regulator for the main engine, but the wiring on these is slightly different to our existing units. Doug, being an electrician, was able to figure out for me how to connect these if needed.
Also had a problem with our navigation laptop whereby the cursor froze and wouldn’t move. I changed to our spare laptop and that was OK, although the MaxSea information isn’t as complete on that unit. I later changed back to the standard computer, and the cursor problem had fixed itself, but then the separate Toshiba screen switched itself off when connected to the laptop. I consulted the guru – Chris, otherwise known as MacGyver, and he was able to explain to me how to fix this with the computer’s F5 switch – now all OK.
In Levkas marina I got the boarding ladder re-welded for the second time – this time with a stainless steel insert inside the tube of the ladder. The issue here is that we lengthened the ladder to make it easier to climb out of the water, but in doing so created more leverage for the ladder to bend. Since the second repair it’s holding out OK, but during the winter we’ll get it reinforced a bit further, as it’s critical equipment aboard Envoy.
LOG. Up to 22 August had spent 145 days aboard, and cruised 1,374 miles for 261 engine hours.

Saturday, September 08, 2012


All is well and we are at Corfu again, having been there in early August, cruised south, and now returned. This posting brings us up to 14 August.
In early August we cruised from Levkas up to Corfu, and berthed at the large Gouvia Marina to meet our friends Doug and Mary, and get a few jobs done aboard Envoy.
Gouvia is a well organised and reasonably priced marina at Euro 68 (about NZ$103) per day including electricity and water, but it’s unsuitable to leave Envoy for the winter, as it has a very small and unsecured hardstand area - that’s why we plan to leave Envoy at Lefkas Marina.
Corfu is a great island and town, with a strong English influence – it’s the only place in Greece with a cricket pitch. The Duke of Edinburgh comes from Corfu.
The Old Town is really interesting with great shops. Even I enjoyed shopping – and that’s rare!
Doug & Mary arrived on the ninth, and on that night we had a great dinner at a Taverna aptly named Zorba’s.
The next day Doug and I fitted the new house batteries (see Technical) while Diane and Mary checked out the end-of-summer sales in Corfu town.

The marina’s chandlery shop had this unusual sign – what a bargain, 15% ON the prices

This large motor vessel is owned by an artist and has a most unusual (and unattractive) paint job, which is considered a work-of-art

Leaving the marina we headed south again to Mourtos – a great area to anchor with several small islands providing secluded and quiet coves, and spoilt only by inconsiderate people in small speedboats traveling too fast and dangerously close to anchored vessels. The temperature was still in the low 30s and we had a moonlight swim before bed.

The sunset from our anchorage at Mourtos

Looking at the entrance to Mourtos harbour from Envoy’s anchorage

Next day we cruised over to Gaios on the island of Paxos. We started in calm conditions, but half way across the wind came up over 20 knots and a 1.5m sea quickly built up, breaking on our port bow, and making Doug a bit queasy.
But Gaios is a delightful little village, sheltered from the open sea by a narrow but navigable channel.

Laurie, Doug and Mary having breakfast in Gaios – shirts off as over 30d

Buying olive oil from rustic shop in Gaios where they decant it from barrels into plastic bottles

Laurie with his new friend the pirate outside taverna – which one’s the dummy!

In Greece we often see large RHIBs, about 7-10m long, with a full canopy from the bow to amidships that are used for camping at sea. Their owners sleep aboard, but mostly eat ashore at one of the many very cheap tavernas.

Greek-style RHIB used for sleeping aboard

Laurie, Doug and Mary enjoying dinner at upmarket taverna in Ormos Vlikho

Laurie and Di aboard Envoy’s RHIB

TECHNICAL. In Gouvia Marina we got some maintenance done.
I changed the engine oil and filters on the Lugger, which is done about every 200 hours.
A small puncture was fixed on our small RIB – I probably caused this while laying out a stern anchor a few weeks back. I find that both RIBs need a few pumps of air every couple of weeks.
The larger RIB was taken out of the water to get a leaking gelcoat abrasion repaired, and the hull repainted at the same time.
Our Maxwell windlass gearbox had been leaking oil, so this was removed, the two halves of the gearbox casing were machined flat where they seal together, a new gasket made and fitted, and the windlass re-mounted. A sticking clutch was also greased.
Doug and I removed the six old 6 volt House Bank batteries and replaced them with new Deka AGM batteries from the US. As expected, these have made a huge difference and we no longer need to run the Genset at night if we’ve been cruising during the day, and in the morning our voltage is typically 12.5 volts instead of the previous 12.2 to 12.3 volts (this may not sound much but is a 16% to 25% greater voltage.
We also had to buy a new gas bottle as we couldn’t get our Turkish one re-filled.
We tried to get our main engine tachometer fixed but no luck – neither Doug and I nor a marine electrician could find where its sender unit is located (more on this later).
Doug (who is an electrician) checked Envoy’s charging systems – our alternator and regulator and pronounced them to be working great. While doing this he found that the negative terminal on the Start Bank battery terminal was very loose. This Bank was replaced early last year, and the electrician must have tightened the nut on the terminal as tight as it would go, but there is a problem with the thread and it doesn’t tighten completely, leaving the cables very loose. This could be the cause of occasional starting problems we’ve had with our Lugger and our generator even since the new batteries were fitted. We could neither tighten nor loosen this nut, and eventually broke the top half of the battery’s terminal bolt. No problem for Doug – we have a tap and die set on board, so Doug cleaned up the thread on the remaining half of the terminal bolt, and we were able to fit the negative wire tightly as it should have been in the first place.
Since then there has been no further starting problems.

LOG. Up to 14 August had spent 137 days aboard, and cruised 1,293 miles for 243 engine hours.

Saturday, September 01, 2012


All is well, and we are cruising around the Greek island of Levkas. This posting brings us up to 5/8/12. We only have five weeks left now before we come into Levkas Marina for the winter (and NZ summer). I say “only”, but this is about the longest time we ever cruised before we started our cruising life. Read further down re change of plans from Croatia to Levkas.

This Ionian Islands are green and lush compared to those of the Aegean

The last few weeks have been mid-summer with consistent fine weather, temperatures in the mid 30s, and a sea temperature of about 28d. It has also been busy in some places, but never over-crowded, except one time we found a bay too crowded to anchor in.
Now the high season is ending and it is becoming quieter.
So far we’ve found the Ionian to be much less windy than the Aegean with its notorious Meltemi north-westerly wind, however with a forecast predicting 30 knot winds we needed some good shelter and anchored inside the beautiful little harbour of Ay Eufimia for three nights.

Ay Eufimia harbour taken from Envoy at anchor

Priest with his bags of groceries beside horse and buggy at Ay Eufimia. Envoy was anchored to left , out of picture

This large derelict house occupies prime real estate on Ay Eufimia’s waterfront

Most cruising boats tie stern-to in the harbours, as they like to get ashore for meals, probably feel safer due to their limited anchoring experience, and in the case of charter yachts often don’t have suitable tenders to get ashore. We always prefer to anchor, as it’s cooler with the wind blowing through the boat and without the surrounding concrete quayside, it’s quieter without the traffic and disco noise, it’s more private, we can swim, we don’t have the hassle of mooring lines and potentially fouled anchors, and we don’t have to pay anything or report to the Port Police and pay their fee (which you are supposed to do if mooring to the harbour wall).

Captain Corelli’s restaurant in Ay Eufimia. The movie Captain Corelli’s Mandolin was based on events in Kefallonia during WW2

A rare shot of Laurie with a beer in his hand

A great little seaside taverna in Ay Eufimia

Moving on to the sheltered harbour of Vathi we met a great Australian couple – Gary and Annie, of the motor yacht First Star, and had dinner ashore with them. The wind was again up to 20-25 knots, and there was quite some slop in the harbour causing us to get a bit damp in our RIB going ashore, and returning to Envoy.
Gary and Annie wintered First Star on the hardstand at Croatia’s Cres marina, and told us that last year with Croatia’s coldest winter in 50 years, around 300 boats suffered damage caused by frozen water bursting pipes and fittings in fresh water systems, refrigeration and water makers. This year they are returning to Cres, but will flush all their plumbing through with potable grade antifreeze.
We’ve now decided to leave Envoy in Levkas Marina in Greece. This means we won’t have any problems with ice, and can also start our cruising a bit earlier when we return to the Med in March 2013 – first cruising in the warmer south, then heading north to Montenegro and Croatia. Levkas is a great marina with excellent facilities, very clean and secure, easy walking distance to the town itself, and a good bus service to Athens.
We had been to a very sheltered bay called Ormos Vlikho in Spring 2007, and encountered a thunderstorm, rain and a strong squall causing many yachts to drag their anchors. The bay is surrounded by high hills, resulting in katabatic winds. Not long after we entered the same bay this time, a similar thing happened and we had a thunderstorm, wind squalls and the first rain since May, causing many people to wash their boats and themselves down with the rainwater.

In Ormos Vlikho we had the first downpour of rain in months

Here we met up with Gary and Annie from First Star again, and while having dinner ashore with them and a British couple, Will and Jilly, another squall developed causing an unattended yacht anchored near First Star started to drag towards her. Gary, Will and I leapt into Gary’s large RIB and powered out to check the situation. The drifting yacht had a ridiculously under-sized anchor chain – more appropriate for a bath plug chain. We boarded the drifting yacht, let out an additional 20 metres or so of chain to secure her, and then all was well.

Dinner with (left to right) Gary, Jilly, Laurie, Willy, Annie

Also here is the Vlikho Yacht Club with a great bar and facilities plus various boating services.
In September last year a storm whipped through this bay killing one person aboard a yacht, causing significant damage to anchored boats, many of which were flung onto their beams, and resulting in 27 boats on the hardstand falling over. Winds of 90 knots (Force 11) were recorded during the approximate 45 minute duration of the storm, which was localized only to this particular bay. The wind flipped over a 37 ft catamaran, Sanyassa, trapping a 67 year old lady under the upturned hull. Ruairi Bradley, the owner of the Yacht Club, went out to the cat, dived below and rescued the lady, earning himself a Royal Humane Society Bronze Medal for Bravery. Ironically Sanyassa had completed a 14 year circumnavigation covering 54,000 miles and visiting 54 countries without major problems, only to be destroyed while safely anchored.

Some of the wrecks resulting from last year’s storm in Ormos Vlikho

TECHNICAL: There was nothing to report up to here, but next posting will report on some maintenance issues and installation of new batteries in Corfu where we met Doug & Mary.

LOG: Up to 5 August have spent 128 days aboard, and cruised 1,176 miles for 221 engine hours.