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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

ENVOY LAUNCHED WITHOUT A HITCH

Envoy is currently berthed at Lefkas Marina, Ionian Sea, Greece.
Envoy went into the water without a hitch on a beautiful still and sunny spring day last Thursday.
Launching is quite a procedure. The travelift arrives (always at a different time to that booked), and we have to get off the boat and remove the ladder while the marinaras position the heavy-duty synthetic lifting straps. Although we are nervous, these guys have done this hundreds of times before, and have no qualms about walking under boats while they are suspended from the straps. With its diesel engine roaring and belching exhaust smoke the travelift slowly trundles to the dock and gently lowers Envoy into the water. We need about ten minutes to check for any seawater leaks before the straps are removed. Aboard Envoy this involves checking eleven different internal areas, but the marinaras are relaxed (“don’t worry, take your time my friend”) and enjoy a smoke in the sun while they wait.
We give the all-clear and turn the engine’s start key. Last shut down six months, ago the trusty Lugger roars into life within a second. We back out of the launching dock as the marinaras fend us away from its rough concrete sides, and head to our berth.
So far everything is working well, the only issue was a leaking seawater strainer downstream from the generator’s seacock. While we were home in New Zealand the engineers from Sailand replaced the very heavy-duty Edson manual bilge pump hose, as it was cracking. This hose runs very close to the clear plastic section of the strainer, and the strainer probably got damaged as they wrestled the old hose out. A replacement from Athens and been installed.
With the generator running we were able to re-commission the water maker (the high electrical power requirement of the water maker means that we can only run it using the generator). Today I flushed out the winter “pickling” chemicals from the water maker, changed the two fresh water filters, cleaned the heavy-duty seawater filter, and the water maker started producing quality water within a few minutes.
Somebody up there does love me after all!
In a country where bulk potable water is not available, and you can only drink bottled water, you can’t imagine how great it feels to be able to produce your own drinking water.
Because the leaking diesel tank has not been fixed we needed to put ballast into it to maintain Envoy’s lateral trim. Previously we used ten litre bottles of water, but we can’t really get enough weight into the tank with water, so we’re now using old anchor chain. We needed about 500kg in total, which is obviously difficult to handle and load in one length, so we cut it up into approx 20 kg sections packed into plastic bags to avoid rust from the old chain spreading to our tank. Anchor chain makes great ballast because it settles into the available space within a tank.
Now we’ve only got a few jobs to complete before we can start cruising, and plan to leave Thursday.

During the weekend we had a huge surprise to see a Nordhavn 47 come into Lefkas Marina and moor just a few metres from us. This superb vessel, called C’mon Girl, is owned by Canadians Guy and Lou Goodwin. We had a great night out with Guy and Lou, who have cruised from Italy heading to Marmaris, Turkey, and we shared a rental car on Sunday to explore the interior of Lefkas Island.

For all you non-technical readers of the blog – hopefully our work stops, fun starts and the next posting will be more interesting with plenty of pics.



Wednesday, April 17, 2013

ENVOY'S LAUNCHING IMMINENT

Envoy is currently on the hardstand at Lefkas Marina, Ionian Sea, Greece.

During the three weeks we’ve so far been here the weather has improved dramatically and most days are now sunny with temperatures in the low 20s. Activity around the marina has significantly increased, with many more owners arriving and preparing their boats for cruising; the silence now broken by grinders, hammers, motor scooters and the travelift moving boats on the hardstand.
In Lefkas town, shutters are coming off shops and tavernas closed during winter, and colourful umbrellas are now appearing on the waterfront (although it’s still too chilly to eat outside at night).

I am not an engineer or mechanic, just someone trying to learn and do as much as I can myself for reasons of safe cruising, independence, cost saving and having the full live-aboard cruising experience. Inconsistent and conflicting advice from “experts” is always a problem; here is an example. The main seawater filter for our water maker costs Euro 124 (about NZ$191). The previous owner said they don’t need to be changed annually, just removed and washed either annually or when the pressure on the gauge on the filter housing rises above an indicated level. But last year in Turkey the water maker technician told us this was incorrect and the filters must be changed annually regardless. Being out of these filters we bought two from a water maker mechanic we met in Piraeus in 2007, and he re-affirmed they can be washed (even though he’s in the business of selling filters). This kind of situation happens a lot and you need to be very careful whose advice you follow or you can waste money or make mistakes.

Our Yanmar propeller shaft modification is now complete, and all the parts re-installed. This was the critical job for launching Envoy and we’re going into the water tomorrow.
The leaking diesel tank issue has been complicated. After exposing as much of the tank as possible so that we could best see the source of the leak, we progressively filled it with fresh water, but nothing leaked out. The theory is that very light surface rust gathered and filled the small pinhole where diesel was leaking. We considered applying a small amount (e.g. under 1 psi) of air pressure internally, but this was considered to be too risky. This outcome is not what we expected; several hours of wasted labour costs, and now time has run out to investigate this further so we’ll spend another cruising season with the tank in ballast (to maintain Envoy’s trim). Coastal cruising in the Med we don’t need the lost fuel capacity, as the other three tanks can contain up to about 2,900 litres of diesel, which is about 480 hours of cruising (typically about 3 months). I now think the best solution to this may be to make the tank’s access port larger, remove the internal steel baffles, and install a heavy duty off-the-shelf flexible tank inside.
We’ve also delayed some other non-critical jobs in order to get cruising as our friend Chris arrives from New Zealand on 24 April and we want to get moving shortly after that.
I doubt there’s ever been a ship “set sail” with no outstanding jobs on their list!

Here’s hoping that all goes well with launching - that there are no leaking seacocks, that our three engines all fire up, and that the water maker and other equipment not yet tested all works. Read about it in a few days.



Friday, April 12, 2013

SLOWER THAN EXPECTED PROGRESS

We’ve now completed all of the out-of-water jobs we can do ourselves and are waiting for the leaking diesel tank and Yanmar prop shaft to be repaired.
Work started on the tank today – removing all of the plumbing attached to the exterior of the tank, then the stainless steel mesh, then a plywood facing which had to be destroyed to remove it, so a new plywood facing will be needed. Now the tank is much more exposed, and it’s been filled with water so that tomorrow they’ll use a miniature camera again to confirm the area of the leak. The final repair plan depends on just where the leak is.
The Yanmar prop shaft has been modified and is ready to be installed. We definitely needed to do this job because for example, if we have any future problems with the Yanmar gearbox we’d have to pull Envoy out of the water and remove the gearbox and prop shaft as one piece – and that makes no sense at all.
Our best guess for launching Envoy is now mid next week. Then there’s only a few jobs left to be done – most importantly starting the water maker.

Greece obviously has many economic problems impacting on the populace, particularly high unemployment (especially under age 30) and reducing benefits. A 61 year old shopkeeper told us he formerly received a pension of Euro 2,800 per month (about NZ$4,300) and has so far suffered five cuts, so that it is now Euro 1,200 (about NZ$1,846) per month. He also mentioned that at one point the government had no money, so the pension was not paid for three months. As a matter of interest, in NZ you don’t qualify for the pension until age 65 and for a couple the pension is about $2,548 per month (before tax). Medical care used to be almost free, but now, although accident treatment is free patients have to pay 25% of the cost of any medications.

I’m always surprised by the cost of dry-cell batteries, particularly “D” type at Euro 3.44 (about NZ$5.30) each. Some of our flashlights require four or six of these, whereas you can buy LED torches with “AA” batteries included for about Euro 5 (NZ$7.70). When replacing the “AA” batteries they are Euro 0.40 (NZ$0.63) each, and nowadays the small high quality LED torches are as bright as a large conventional flashlights. Sure you can buy Chinese D batteries for half the price, but they last next to no time, and when you need a flashlight on a boat you need it to work. We’ll be gradually moving over to LED flashlights.





Monday, April 08, 2013

ENVOY TAKING SHAPE

Daily we progress and tick more items off a very long list without adding too many more.
An unexpected issue has arisen with the Yanmar wing engine. Each year its prop shaft seal (which stops seawater coming into the boat) has to be checked after removing the prop shaft. Last year the shaft was stuck solid to a collar which holds the shaft to the gearbox. This year we got the shaft and gearbox removed as one piece (drawn forward internally) and taken to a machine shop where the shaft was removed. The problem is that the prop shaft has too tight a fit to the gearbox, not allowing sufficient movement for correct alignment of the shaft. Sailand are modifying the shaft, and machining the gearbox bearing to overcome this, which will take several days, and of course we can’t launch Envoy until this is done. The shaft seal is also worn and needs replacing. While access allowed, the clutch plate was also found to be in good condition, but cleaned up and treated for light surface corrosion.
So this job together with the repair to our leaking diesel fuel tank is holding us up - the last blog predicted we’d be cruising by 11 April, and our best guess now is a week later.

For a 23 year-old vessel Envoy is in excellent condition and her gelcoat and stainless steel gleams. Every year we invest in a machine cut-and-polish of the whole topsides and hull, and believe this has paid dividends. Of course we could do it ourselves, but this is seriously hard physical work taking two much younger guys than us about three days, plus another day to apply two coats of antifouling with a third coat around the waterline, as well as a different formulation for the three propellers (main, wing and thruster).
I’ve replaced most of the zinc anodes, but done them slightly differently this year. Previously they’ve been mounted snug up against Envoy’s hull, but I read that anodes should be mounted with a gap between the hull allowing the seawater to access the whole anode – so that’s what we’ve done.
So far we haven’t needed to buy too much, but we do shop around. Chandlers provide a valuable service of convenience, mostly being situated within marinas, but their prices are often very high. Needing some spray-on electrical contact cleaner a chandler’s price was Euro 12, whereas a hardware shop in town charged only Euro 5. In Turkey we had examples where chandlery shops charged several times the price we paid elsewhere. The moral of the story is that everything to do with “marine” seems to cost exorbitantly so wherever possible just buy your needs in a normal shop.
We met with the marina manager regarding booking Envoy into Lefkas marina for the coming winter. He says it’s no problem to leave Envoy in the water, but the hardstand is already full, and although he thinks there’s a 90% chance they can squeeze us in, there’s a 10% chance they can’t. We’ve decided to take this chance, and in the worst case winter Envoy in the water for the first time. There’s no problem about the safety of the boat from weather, as the wintering-berths are sheltered by buildings. In many marinas surge coming from large swells during winter gales is the major problem, but not so in Lefkas which is accessed from a canal. Of course the vast majority of boats here and at home are wintered in the water with no problems, and we can take precautions like closing all seacocks, and leaving the automatic bilge pumps on. Wooden boats are generally left in the water because their seams can open-up if they’re out of the water for too long. Overall we prefer to winter Envoy on the hardstand, but we’ll have to wait and see if that’s going to be possible. With Envoy in the water we won’t be able to use our storage cover, designed for use on land.
During winter we removed our anchor chain from its locker and stored it flaked over a stand at ground level, a practice which most boats on the hardstand follow. Although we always wash the anchor chain with fresh water at the end of season to remove salt deposits, storage in this way helps the winter rains to wash it further, and prevent rust spots forming where chain links touch. Up to now the bitter end of the anchor chain has been shackled to a ring in the anchor locker, but we wanted to change this arrangement to make it easier to discard the anchor chain in an emergency. What kind of emergency? Well for example we could be anchored in some bay during a gale, need to move and find the anchor is snagged and not able to be retrieved. Now we have shackled five metres of 12mm line to the last link of the anchor chain and secured the other end of the line to the ring in the anchor locker. This would allow us to let out the whole length of chain until the last link came through the hawse pipe onto the deck, and then we can secure the end of a long buoyed line back through the pulpit anchor roller to the last link of the chain, let go the other line, leave the anchor and chain buoyed for later retrieval, and move away. Of course Envoy has other combination chain/warp anchors for use in the meantime.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

PROGRESS WITH ENVOY

It’s been showery and chilly here with daytime temps under 20dC, but we’re snug aboard Envoy on the hardstand. With Envoy’s cover on it’s a bit like living in a cave, but yesterday we removed the cover, so we now have natural light and can see the surrounding area.
This early in the season, many facilities and shops aren’t open yet and it’s not until early May that everything is in “summer mode”.
Early Monday morning we heard and felt a sharp “crack”, as though something heavy had fallen against Envoy. Inspection revealed that all was OK, and we concluded this must have been a minor earthquake. Minor quakes are common here, and even major ones are not uncommon in this region. Nearby Cephalonia had a giant quake in 1953, that levelled most buildings and tragically killed 476 people – a large percentage of their population.
Lefkas last had a serious quake in 2006, which badly damaged houses and caused widespread panic and minor injuries.
During this week most of the out-of-water jobs should be completed, and we hope to launch Envoy some time next week. From a technical viewpoint all seems to mostly OK so far.
Envoy’s storage cover was made in 2007 to protect Envoy through two or three summers while we returned to NZ to complete our work commitments. In fact we were away for 27 months and the cover lasted well. Since then it’s been repaired twice, but now again the fabric has small tears, and is wearing thin in several places. A rough estimate for the price of a new cover is Euro 4,000 (over NZ$6,000), so we’re planning to get the cover repaired yet again.
Last season we extended the length of our stainless steel swim ladder to make it easier to climb out of the water (us older folks have to think of such things!). This extension resulted in more leverage on the stainless steel tube, and subsequent bending. During winter the ladder has been repaired and reinforced with some additional stainless steel tube, so we hope this will be OK for the coming year.
The Lugger alternator has been reconditioned, and its noisy bearings replaced – very essential for battery charging.
Both RHIBs have had minor repairs completed and their engines serviced. The 25hp Yamaha needed a new tachometer, a new remote control lever, and replacement of a corroded hydraulic tilt pump.
A split on the main radar’s radome housing has been repaired, and our 23ft-long SSB radio aerial has been re-glassed as it was de-laminating.
Our Robertson autopilot’s hydraulic pump motor was repaired, but there seems to be some problem with its control – we won’t know more until we can do a sea-trial. In any case this we have two auto pilots, so we won’t do further work on this before our departure.
In our guest cabin two very sun-damaged and cracked acrylic hatches have been replaced, and their teak surrounds re-varnished.
A canvas repair shop has repaired or replaced a variety of squab covers, awnings and storage bags.
So the work continues, and in about a week from now we’ll have a clear idea of our departure date. Our target is to start cruising on Thurs 11 April. Our friend Chris O’Brien joins us for three weeks from 24 April for our cruise north to Montenegro.