Follow by Email

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A CLASSIC COLD FRONT OVERTAKES ENVOY

At the time of posting we are back in Auckland, New Zealand- but the blog continues, and this post takes us up to 28/9/12.

Heading further south from Paxos Island to mainland Preveza a large and classic black-skied cold front with loud thunder and bolts of lightning overtook us, deluging us with rain. Visibility was so reduced that I had to switch on the navigation lights and radar. Before the visibility closed out I saw and tracked on radar a sailing yacht two miles directly ahead but traveling south like us. When the heavy rain arrived the radar image disappeared, even with the Sea Clutter control adjusted. Some of these fronts can generate very strong winds on their leading edge, and we were relieved to encounter only about 30 knots whipping up a choppy 1.5m following sea. The front took only about 30 minutes to pass us and then blue skies, a light wind and calm seas returned.

This nasty cold front overtook us from astern

Preveza is a town on the mainland reached by a long dredged channel, and here we anchored in a sheltered bay north of the town, and linked up with our Kiwi friends Bruce and Lesley Tebbutt aboard their sailing cat, Midi, as well as Australians Mike and Sue of the yacht, Skedaddle Again. They were all quite astonished when during cocktails aboard Midi we laid out a beautiful plate of sashimi, using the tuna we’d recently caught.
Bruce and Lesley had spent a couple of months in Croatia, Venice and Montenegro – all places we expect to head next year, so we gained some useful information.

Leaving Preveza it was stunningly calm. This photo shows the dredged and buoyed channel with an approaching yacht

Lefkas is an island only due to the four-mile-long canal dredged through the shallow salt lakes separating mainland Greece from Lefkas. At the northern end of the canal is a well-preserved Venetian castle, which formerly guarded its approaches. This area is quite shallow with moving sand bars, and with many boats milling around waiting for the floating pontoon road bridge to be opened every hour some care is needed. The first canal was dug here in the 7th century BC – that’s 2,700 years ago! The present one dates from the early 19th century, and is supposedly dredged to a depth of six metres, but we encountered depths as shallow as three.
Passing by Lefkas marina, where Envoy will be wintered, we spent the next several days in loose company with Bruce and Lesley, going back to some nice bays we’d visited previously, and then to Vasiliki on the south coast of Lefkas Island. It gets a bit windy here as evidenced by Vasiliki being one of the world’s top 10 windsurfing spots, but we had little wind, and anchored off a great sandy beach where we could see our anchor on the bottom.

Midi and Envoy anchored in perfect calm off Vasiliki beach

The small harbour village is particularly attractive and we had a great breakfast ashore making a change in our usual routine.

Quiet village of Vasiliki

Close-up of Vasiliki's not-very-busy harbour

Every village has a bakery - this one is particularly atmospheric

With little wind on the sea this windsurfer tries out a wind-driven skateboard on land

TECHNICAL: Nothing to report.
LOG: Up to 28 September had spent 182 days aboard, and cruised 1,680 miles for 325 engine hours.



Thursday, October 18, 2012

CORFU’S GORGEOUS PALAIOKASTRITA

At the time of posting we’re on the hardstand at Lefkas marina in the final stages of preparing Envoy for winter storage. This posting takes us to 19 September.

If you want to cut loose from normal life, and start experiencing and enjoying this lifestyle of cruising the Med aboard a rugged passagemaker, there is only one Nordhavn 46 for sale in the Med, and she belongs to friends of ours. She is fully equipped, currently cruising, and for an investment of Euro 280,000 (about US$363,000) you could jump aboard and start living your dreams too – in the Med and anywhere in the world you want to cruise. Email me (admiralfw@gmail.com), and I’ll put you in touch with the owner.

We’d never been around the western side of Corfu Island, so after the weather settled we left our haven at Avalaki, and headed around there to a spectacular area called Palaiokastrita, where there is a series of about five beautiful bays with golden sandy beaches set between rugged rocky bluffs. Some of the beaches were still in their natural state while others had quaint tavernas and guest houses scattered around. From Envoy’s anchorage the views in all directions were stunning, and we were the only boat there.

View of beautiful beach from Envoy's anchorage at Palaiokastrita

Envoy in the setting sun. We had our flopper-stoppers out as there was a bit of a roll coming from the sea open to the west. A bit cloudy this day

The nearby village of Lakones, 450m above sea level, can be reached by a five km long road or a steep, stony mountain track, and we chose to walk the track for a bit of exercise.

This track to Lakones got steeper and steeper although the photo doesn’t really show it

 
We should have ridden this friendly donkey up the hill

These goats also seemed a cheerful herd

The view down on Palaiokastrita from Lakones was stunning, and in the photo below we were anchored just out of picture to the left

We did some shopping up at Lakones, and laden with groceries decided to be cheeky and ask somebody for a lift back to sea level by car. We spotted a driver, who’d stopped to look at the view, and asked for a ride. It turned out the driver was a British tourist who lived in Bedford, very close to where I was born, and near where my parents used to live, so he was only too happy to oblige while we had a chat about the Bedford and Luton regions.

We noticed this unusual looking pedal boat passing by

Village behind Envoy's anchorage

Leaving Palaiokastrita we headed nearly 40 miles south to Paxos Island, trolling a lure, and landed another three small tuna. The main bay at Paxos is called Lakka, and although we had sufficient room to anchor, there were 55 boats anchored in total, of which all but two of us were sailing yachts. This is quite typical as there are very few cruising motor vessels. Lakka is a great place to anchor with good shelter, shallow and clear water, and interesting surroundings. The village is interesting to wander around, with some nice tavernas to enjoy a beer as the sun sets.

Lakka Bay on Paxos Island

Envoy anchored in Lakka

Lakka village

Another shot of the picturesque village

Here we met some Kiwis from a Wellington yacht, Largo Star, doing a circumnavigation. They are great friends of our mate, Brooke Archbold, who spent a few days with us in July. We had also seen them last year in northern Turkey, and although the Med is a huge area, you do seem to meet people again unexpectedly.

TECHNICAL: Again nothing to report to this time.
LOG: Up to 19 September had spent 173 days aboard, and cruised 1,602 miles for 310 engine hours.



Thursday, October 11, 2012

STORMY WEATHER AT CORFU ISLAND

Our cruising season is over, all is well, and Envoy is now safely in Lefkas marina for the winter.
We leave here for New Zealand on 19 October, but the season isn’t finished for the Blog, which still has quite a bit of catching up to do.
This year we’ve included more photos with the Blog, and have had great feedback, but the occasional comment that the photos are too small. You can increase the on-screen size of the photos by left clicking on them once, and increase the size again by left clicking a second time. Then click on the left arrow, top left of screen to return to the Blog.
For the next few postings we’ve got some great shots, and plan to use more pictures and less text. Our posting frequency is approximately every five days. This post takes us up to 15 September.

On the island of Corfu the forecast was now showing some unseasonable weather for mid-September – strong south-east to south-west winds, heavy rain and thunderstorms. We carefully checked the charts, and decided to anchor at Avalaki on the north-east side of Corfu, where we found a large sheltered bay with no rocks or moorings, a nice beach, tavernas ashore, and an ideal anchoring depth of about eight metres.

Storm clouds gather over our anchorage at Avalaki

Initially when we anchored there the wind was still about 15 knots onshore (the prevailing northerly), and I guess the locals wondered why we had anchored in nearly a metre of chop causing Envoy to pitch a little at anchor. But by early evening the wind shifted to the south as forecast, and we had perfect shelter, in fact the next day several other boats joined us. We were also reassured by a local fisherman, who confirmed this bay would be ideal in the forecast conditions. Heavy rain came that night, accompanied by a thunderstorm with lightning that lasted several hours, but the wind in our location never exceeded 23 knots, and we had no problems. Of course the locals welcomed the rain, the first for months, to lay the dust and keep their gardens green.

The beach had a jetty where we were able to secure our RHIB, but we had to be careful as the jetty had missing deck planks and was very shaky. These jetties are removed for the winter and nobody was doing maintenance this late in the year.

Envoy’s RHIB secured to a less than safe jetty with missing deck planks. In the far background behind Envoy is the coast of Albania


On the shore we found a lifeboat. Although still in use, it was in very poor condition, and looking inside I noticed that the bilge pump had been in pieces for a long time.

Laurie beside lifeboat in Avalaki - Envoy in background


We stayed in Avalaki for three days until the southerly blow, rain squalls, and thunderstorms finished, but while there visited the pretty village of Kassiopi using our RHIB

Looking down from Venetian castle on village of Kassiopi, near our Avalaki anchorage


TECHNICAL: Nothing to report – great!
LOG: Up to 15 September had spent 169 days aboard, and cruised 1,542 miles for 298 engine hours.





Wednesday, October 03, 2012

GREECE’S WOES AND KOMBARI – THE HOME OF WRITER, GERALD DURELL

We are currently back in Ay Eufimia, still cruising with fellow Kiwis Bruce and Lesley. All is well and the weather has been great – high 20s and sunny with little wind.
This is our last week cruising as next Sunday 7th we go into the marina for the winter.
This post takes us up to 11 September.

A PLUG FOR GREECE
While cruising we rarely read newspapers or attempt to catch up with “the news”, but we were given a copy of the International Herald Tribune, 27 September.
What a shame to see on the front page a picture of some louts throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at Police in Athens. If you read the facts on this, there was a peaceful demonstration of about 40,000 people protesting about further cuts in income and pensions to meet the terms of Greece’s lenders to release further money. Then a few masked hoodlums acted violently, as apparently the same small group always does, portraying Greece in a totally false light - just like the so-called London riot a few months ago.
Having spent over four months in Greece this year, we have yet to see any kind of violence, intimidatory behavior, or even anti-social behavior, and we certainly feel safer walking around at night here than we do in our own country. Neither do we see soup kitchens or miserable faces.
Yes Greece has major economic woes caused by lack of exports, oversized and inefficient government bureaucracy, rife government corruption, and failure to collect taxes among other reasons, but most Greeks are hard-working, honest, helpful, and extremely friendly people. Among OECD countries, working Greeks work more hours per year than any other country except S Korea. Sadly though, there is currently 24% unemployment, and 55% youth unemployment.
The average wage here slipped from Euro 20,400/yr (about NZ$31,900) in 2010 to Euro 15,800 /yr (about NZ$24,700) in 2011, a decline of about 25%, while VAT increased to 23%.
“Services”, including tourism, accounts for 85% of Greece’s GDP, while Industry is 12% and Agriculture only 3%. Interestingly Greece has the world’s largest merchant navy accounting for 16% of total tonnage.

KOMBARI AND GERALD DURRELL
We left Corfu town to explore some of Corfu’s coastline we hadn’t yet been to.
Diane has been an avid reader of author, Gerald Durrell, based on his life at Corfu, so it was great to spend a night anchored in Kalami, where their family home, the White House, has been converted into a taverna. Of course it was mandatory to make a pilgrimage ashore for a cold beer there.

This is Diane’s contribution.
“We were steaming along the sparkling east coast of Corfu, heading towards an area that had fired my imagination since my teen-hood. Ever since I’d read Gerald Durrell’s fascinating and often hilarious "The Corfu Trilogy" I was determined to see the place that he had written about.
He had grown up as a young lad in Kalami, a small Corfu seaside village, during the 1930s, and later wrote about the local characters and the various birds, animals and insects he studied. It was here that he started his lifelong love of collecting and conserving all species of the animal kingdom.
Kalami itself is an absolutely stunning area, consisting of several small white-stony beaches, vivid clear water and green hillsides dotted with rather sumptuous villas and small hotels. It was in one of these bays where “The White House” languished, right on the waters edge. This was the former home of the Durrell family with the often mentioned olive grove alongside, and the small beach where Gerald would spend hours, swimming and boating. It is now a very popular taverna owned and operated by the Greek family that ‘did’ for the Durrells when they lived there. We went ashore that night for a drink and were told that the Durrell family had continued to return with their families for many years.
Looking up at the beautiful lush mountains I could well picture a young Gerry stalking up the hills with his dogs in tow, and his bag full of specimen jars in which he placed his ‘finds’. It was so satisfying to see reality actually improving on my imaginations of old.”

Former home of author, Lawrence Durell in Kalami

Envoy anchored in Kalami

While anchored in Kalami a charter yacht crewed by a young Dutch couple had some problems anchoring, and fouled the anchor of a German yacht. They seemed to have no idea what to do about it, so I went over in our RHIB to lend a hand, and showed them how to take the weight off the chain that was fouled on their anchor using a line made fast to their bow, then release some tension off their own anchor chain, free and retrieve their anchor, then let the other yacht’s chain fall free – job done!

TECHNICAL: I have been taking further temperature readings around our Lugger main engine using a laser digital thermometer. Sharing these readings with Northern Lights (the Lugger manufacturer), they believe it most likely that the keel cooler is the problem. Silicates can build up inside the cooler, while on the outside you get some marine growth, plus accumulated anti-fouling. It’s probably best not to antifoul these. When we go into the marina I’ve organised a diesel engine mechanic to take a look at this.

I noticed an odour of lpg around our gas bottle locker on the Portuguese bridge. On investigation I found that the regulator on top of the gas bottle was leaking and needed replacement.

LOG: Up to 11 September had spent 165 days aboard, and cruised 1,533 miles for 296 engine hours.