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Thursday, May 30, 2013

ENVOY’S ROUGH TRIP TO MONTENEGRO

Envoy is currently in moored to the town quay in historic Kotor, Montenegro.
Before we left Corfu’s Gouvia marina we had some heavy rain bringing with it more brown dust, which quickly turns to mud. This stuff is like ochre and really marks the topsides so has to be washed off as quickly as possible. The dust is borne by southerly winds from the African desert, and stays in the atmosphere until it’s brought down by rain.
From Gouvia it was going to be a 180 mile trip to our Montenegrin port of entry - Bar. An option would have been to clear-in to Albania and cruise up Albania’s coast, but we needed to get to Montenegro quickly to meet Kevin and Diane just three days later. Maybe we’ll visit Albania on the way back south in September.
We decided to break the trip by stopping overnight at Erikoussa, Greece’s northernmost island 32 miles from Gouvia. On arriving, there was a strong onshore southerly breeze and a breaking one metre chop, but the wind was forecast to turn to the north so we decided to stay - in any case there was nowhere else to go except back to Corfu. While the wind remained southerly with Envoy’s bow to the seas the anchorage was OK, but as the wind dropped Envoy turned beam-on and rolled from side to side in the waves.

Looking ashore Erikoussa from Envoy at anchor – with the waves it was not the perfect anchorage!

The wind duly came up from the north but pushed a northerly swell into the anchorage making it worse - we should have used our flopper-stoppers to make Envoy more comfortable in the roll.
Leaving Erikoussa early next morning we headed directly into a 25 knot north-westerly wind with breaking 2-3 metre waves, and for the first time this year took waves over Envoy’s bow, two metres above sea level, sweeping across the foredeck and breaking against our Portuguese bridge. The Med seas seem to be more ferocious for any given wind speed than we’re used to in Auckland, and with the wind and sea directly on our bow we couldn’t make more than four knots. The Adriatic Sea runs from NW to SE, so with a NW wind we were at the end of nearly 500 miles of fetch, accounting for the unpleasant conditions. Unable to maintain a direct course we turned about 25 degrees to starboard taking the waves on our port bow, and then managed to maintain 5-6 knots with more comfort. The rough conditions lasted until early evening, but fortunately moderated for the overnight part of our journey, and we picked up a north-heading current, increasing our speed to over six knots and making up for some lost time. Two thirds of our 27 hour trip was pretty rough, and we were thankful Envoy performed superbly, not missing a beat.
We cleared into Montenegro at the commercial port of Bar using the marina as there’s nowhere to anchor.

Bar Marina, Montenegro - before the storm set-in

Envoy alongside jetty at Bar Marina

A local cruising permit is called a “Vignette” and costs Euro 225 (about NZ$346) per month. You are also supposed to buy a separate Vignette for your RHIB costing Euro 100 (about NZ$154), but you can only buy these if your RHIB has its own Certificate of Registration. Hardly any boats other than super yachts would have separate Registration of their tender, so strictly speaking we’re not able to use our RHIB in Montenegro.
After Kevin and Diane arrived 23 May we had to stay in the marina four nights due to gale force winds with rough seas, heavy rain and electrical storms.

Buying provisions at the Bar market – few spoke English but this girl did and was very helpful.
Everything was very cheap

We spent one day exploring Stari Bar – the Old Bar fortress, built 4 km inland from present-day Bar for protection against pirates.

Stari Bar fortifications

Stari Bar street scene

We explored Stari Bar in heavy rain - Diane, Kevin and Laurie

This 14 year-old waiter spoke good English and we had a traditional platter of cheeses, olives, ham and pickles for lunch

Another day we explored the narrow cobbled lanes of the Venetian walled town of Budra.

Kevin and Laurie examine old anchor outside Budra’s fortress

Laurie, Diane and Kevin on ramparts Budra's ramparts overlooking the sea

The Budra fortress offered protection against raids from pirates

Finally the gale and seas dropped, the weather improved and we cruised up to a protected anchorage called Bigova.
Formerly part of Yugoslavia, Montenegro is a mountainous country (Montenegro means Black Mountain) smaller than Wales with a population of about 700,000. It has some stunning places, both on the coast and inland, and many fascinating historical sites dating back to the Iron-Age, but so far the local people don’t seem to be as happy, friendly or helpful as the Greek people we’ve become used to. We hope to be proved wrong on this as time progresses.

TECHNICAL - Nothing to report (at last!)

ENVOY LOG (to 26 May) - 63 days aboard so far this year, 391 miles cruised for 76 engine hours.



Friday, May 24, 2013

CRUISING NORTH TO CORFU

Throughout the Adriatic and the Central Med there is very unstable weather with Force 7-8 gales in most areas, and Envoy is in the marina at Bar, Montenegro sitting it out.
Kevin and Diane O’Sullivan joined us yesterday, coming by bus from Dubrovnik – not the ideal day for them to start a Med holiday.
After leaving Lefkas Marina we went up the Lefkas canal, through the road bridge that opens every hour and on to Gaios on the island of Paxos. We were the only boat anchored there until we saw a Nordhavn 47 steaming into the bay. This turned out to be “Mad Sunday,” owned by Ian and Linda from the Isle of Man and kept in Corfu. The next day we met them ashore in Gaios for coffee – it’s always interesting to talk with other cruisers and especially Nordhavn owners.

Mad Sunday and Envoy anchored off Gaios

The next day we moved to a sheltered bay further north on Paxos called Lakka. Here we made friends with some Australian guys, Simon and Glen, on an Oceanis 473 sailing yacht. It turns out they are heading in much the same direction as us, so we’ll be seeing more of them.

Laurie and Chris enjoy a drink while BBQing at Lakka

Chris, Di and I went ashore for drinks at a taverna, and when we asked for the bill they said the drinks were free as it was their first night open after being closed for several years and they were celebrating – we need more tavernas like that.
About every 10 days or so we lift the large RHIB out of the water up onto Envoy’s boat deck, and use the small RHIB for a few days so that the large RHIB doesn’t get any marine growth (it’s not anti-fouled).
After moving to Mourtos we decided to re-launch the large RHIB. I tried to start the Yamaha outboard which normally bursts into life immediately, but it wouldn’t start. Chris and I spent some time checking it out and were about to remove the spark plugs when Chris said, “isn’t this supposed to have an emergency stop lanyard?” Then the penny dropped in my brain - while at Lefkas Marina I had removed the lanyard and its plastic button to buy a new one, then not replaced it. As soon as we plugged that in the Yamaha fired up.
From Mourtos we cruised to Corfu and anchored off the medieval castle.

Envoy (speck in the distance right) anchored off Corfu

View of Corfu castle from Envoy's anchorage

Unlike anywhere we’ve been so far this year, Corfu is a major city and has every facility and great shops. Di spent a half day wandering around the picturesque streets and checking out the bargains.

Street scene in Corfu's quaint Old Town

While in Gouvia Marina we hired a rental car for a day’s touring of Corfu’s northern part, and it was great to see some of the mountainous interior.

Laurie and Chris having morning coffee at Agri Bay during hire car tour of Corfu

“MacGyver” Chris left us at Corfu after we’d enjoyed his company for three great weeks.
Chris loves to be active and doing stuff, and helped us with a vast number of maintenance and improvement jobs aboard Envoy including installing a new DVD player and LCD screen, replacing window gaskets, repairing our fridge handle, fitting a new solar air vent in Guest Cabin – just to name a few projects on a list of 23.

TECHNICAL
I’m looking forward to typing in this space “nothing to report”!
We’ve had a couple of issues with the generator. Firstly the starting relay failed (it was last replaced about two years ago), but this was easily solved by using a spare. A few days later we were in a spectacular anchorage overlooked by Corfu’s castle and decided to use the water maker – which requires power from the generator. When we tried to start the water maker, the generator couldn’t develop enough electrical power to run it, and an oily soot came out of the exhaust and spread across the water. We had to go into nearby Gouvia Marina to clear-out of Greek waters, so we arranged through A1 Yachting for some mechanics to take a look. They came aboard the same day we arrived, and after starting the genset and applying some load diagnosed the problem as faulty injectors. I was a bit skeptical as I understood injector problems don’t happen suddenly. It only took them about an hour to remove the three injectors and they took them to a nearby diesel injector and fuel-pump specialist who pronounced that the injector tips were burnt and the injectors were generally worn. New injectors were ordered from Athens, and they arrived and were installed the following day.

This is what a diesel fuel injector looks like

At the same time the valve clearances were checked and adjusted (although they were pretty good). After that the generator worked perfectly and we were able to use the water maker again. The cost of this repair was a very reasonable Euro 565 (about NZ$870). Northern Lights recommend checking and cleaning the injectors every 600 hours (for us about two season’s use). Passagemaker magazine recommends checking injectors every 1,000 hours while other people have told me they only need checking when there is some issue or every 2,000 hours. In future I think we’ll check them every 1,000 hours or so, and this winter I’ll also have the main Lugger engine’s injectors and valve clearances checked as it will be more than 2,000 hours since their last check.

ENVOY LOG (to 17 May)
50 days aboard so far this year, 209 miles cruised for 44 engine hours.

Friday, May 17, 2013

COMPLETION OF OUR SHAKEDOWN CRUISE

Envoy is now at Gouvia Marina, Corfu Island. We leave tomorrow and on Monday do a nonstop cruise of about 165 miles to Bar in the small country of Montenegro, where we meet Kevin and Diane.
From Port Leone we cruised to Kefalonia to show Chris some of the great spots we’ve visited previously including Fiskhardo and Ay Eufimia.

View of Fiskhardo from Envoy at anchor

The “high season” is still a few weeks away, and although everything is now open it is still quiet with few tourists.
We can’t get over how cheap it is to eat out in Greece. A few days ago we paid NZ$77 in total for three of us to enjoy a superb meal of breads and dips with pate and olives, an appetizer of smoked salmon and aubergine, large individual main courses with a side of a fresh and colourful Greek salad, three jugs of wine and complimentary dessert. On top of that we had friendly service, terrific atmosphere and a spectacular harbour view. We have always encountered warm welcomes and friendly service, and the tavernas really make an effort for your custom.
Arriving at Ormos Skhoinos on the island of Ithica we saw a Coastguard boat roaring towards us, and they asked if we’d seen a swimmer in the water – we hadn’t. There was a distraught woman on the beach, and soon several additional vessels arrived to search for her missing partner who’d gone into the water about two hours previously and was nowhere to be seen. Everybody feared the worst, but the story has a happy ending – the swimmer had swum far across to the other side of the bay – nearly two miles away, gone ashore for a rest, and then swum back. We imagine he got a good telling-off from the Police and from his partner.

Envoy anchored in the bay where the swimmer went missing

This stunning (although pebbly) beach was a half hour walk from our anchorage

A sumptuous selection of cakes at a bakery in Vathi - we couldn't resist

View of Vathi from Envoy at anchor. The harbour is totally protected but subject to katabatic winds

Ancient Laurie and Chris by statue of ancient fishermen in Vathi

Laurie, Chris and Di enjoying breakfast ashore at Sivota

Chris and Laurie by still widely-used traditional Greek fishing boat in Sivota

From Ithica we started our cruise north stopping off at Lefkas Marina on the way.

TECHNICAL
We’d only been away four days when our Maxwell electric windlass failed. Fortunately this happened just after we’d lifted the anchor, as it would be difficult to raise our anchor manually. Chris and I tested the electrical circuits to find that power was getting through the relay to the electric motor OK, but the motor was in open circuit – a sure sign of a motor problem. The motor was easy to pull off the gearbox and we opened it up to find a considerable amount of coarse dust and carbon from badly worn brushes inside the casing. Fortunately we carry a spare motor and fitted this, although the new motor’s cable terminals were in a different position, and it took a few hours of extra work to lengthen the previous cables so they fitted. The windlass motor was last serviced for the 2010 season so has had three seasons’ use, but it does get heavy usage as we mostly anchor out, and in future we’ll need to inspect it for preventative maintenance after every two years.

Chris "MacGyver" working on lengthened cables for the replacement windlass motor

Two days later our Naiad hydraulic stabilisers stopped working. We did some tests under the direction of the Greek service agents, and the problem seemed to be that 24 volt power was not coming out of the Electronic Control Unit (ECU) to drive the main hydraulic servo valve. We had to pass Lefkas marina on our way north so we got Sailand’s electrician to run some tests. Within about three hours he resolved the problem. A coil on the hydraulic servo valve had failed causing a fuse in the ECU to blow. The coil is what gives the servo valve its operating instructions. It was easy enough to replace these, and all is OK once more. This system is 10 years old and having to replace a coil is not unexpected, although you don’t normally replace them for preventative maintenance.

The Naiad stabiliser hydraulic system showing servo valve on the left. The failed coil has the red wire coming out of it

ENVOY’S LOG (to 8 May)
40 days aboard so far this year, 129 miles cruised for 27 engine hours.





Sunday, May 12, 2013

ENVOY’S “SHAKEDOWN” CRUISE

Envoy is currently at Paxos Island just south of Corfu.
Med summer is now settling in with daytime temps in the mid 20s, sunny skies, light winds up to 15 knots and smooth seas. The sea is still a chilly 21dC, but we’re swimming daily.
We spent our last day in the marina stocking up with provisions from a small supermarket at the marina owned by Spiros (a very common name here). Spiros is very friendly and gives generous discounts - for example one recent bill came to Euro 312 (about NZ$480) and he discounted this to Euro 265 (about NZ$408). Not only that but he gives us small gifts like special local salamis, cheeses and pickles. Spiros also has a great selection of wine imported from Spain, Italy, France, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and US so we bought some at prices ranging from Euro 4.60 (about NZ$7) to Euro 9.40 (about NZ$15) per bottle. We’ve also found some very acceptable Greek wines, and generally pay at the lower end of the above range.
Our friend, Chris, arrived on 23/4, and we left the marina on 25/4 for a shakedown cruise around adjacent islands to the south. Everything aboard Envoy worked well including the repaired Robertson autopilot.
We’ve been enjoying showing Chris some places we’ve been to previously as well as some new destinations, and at the same time Chris, also known as “MacGyver,” has been doing many technical maintenance and improvement jobs for us along the way.

Mitika is a medium-sized village on the mainland coast where few tourists go, making it more interesting and typically Greek the main street shown here is very quiet
 
This is a view of Mitika's seafront from where Envoy was anchored
 
Nisos Kalamos is also a bit of the beaten path and we anchored off Port Kalamos for one night. While ashore at a taverna the owner couldn’t understand why we didn’t bring Envoy alongside the wharf in the free harbour. If the weather was adverse we would have, but in good weather we prefer to anchor.

This is Kalamos harbour and Envoy is anchored outside

Chris, Diane & I had drinks in "Georgio's" quaint beachside taverna at Port Kalamos

The following night we anchored in Port Leonie, a small Greek village deserted after an earthquake in 1953 and never re-inhabited. Apart from ruined houses all that remains is a church maintained by nearby locals.

Envoy anchored off Port Leone

Envoy in front of the deserted ruins of Port Leone

A wild horse foraging on Port Leone's rocky foreshore


TECHNICAL
Envoy has a large inventory of lifejackets consisting of nine of the bulky standard type, and eight CO2 cartridge-inflated jackets. Most of these would be something like 10 years old but all look like brand-new. Bear in mind we mostly have just the two of us aboard, sometimes four and never more than five. The inflatable jackets are all a well-known US brand and mostly in their original packets, but as they’d never been officially tested since we bought Envoy, we decided to have them checked and re-certified by a marine safety company. Imagine our surprise when they told us that only two out of the eight inflatable jackets passed the test! We went to see the problems for ourselves - firstly there were problems of seams delaminating under air pressure, and secondly the rubber oral inflation tubes lose their flexibility over the years, go quite stiff, and when you move them (as you would do in the water when blowing in more air) they act like a lever, and rip away from the jacket letting all of the air out. We literally threw out six inflatable jackets, and had to buy two more to give us four in total.

Chris tries on a new lifejacket and holds the oral inflation tube which failed on so many of our old jackets

In future we will test them annually by orally inflating them and leaving them for 24 hours to see if they hold pressure, then move the inflation valves around to see if they still hold pressure.
We were also surprised how fragile the inflatable jackets appear to be, giving the impression they would easily lose air and be useless if snagged on a sharp protrusion while taking to the water or in the water. If the occasion ever arises to need lifejackets Diane and I would also be taking with us one of the bulky and uncomfortable but totally trustworthy traditional jackets.
Next blog We’ll talk about since-resolved problems with our windlass and stabilisers.

ENVOY’S LOG
42 days aboard so far this year, 165 miles cruised for 34 engine hours.



Friday, May 03, 2013

FIRST PICS OF THE 2013 CRUISE

Envoy is now located near Vathi on Ithica Island and all is well.
Here is a selection of photos related to blog postings up to now.

 The only problem going into the water was a leaking strainer from the generator seacock
 
Standing under Envoy's bow on launching day 
 

 
Our swim ladder was modified with additional stainless steel rails to strengthen it  
 
Final antifouling is added before launching


Envoy just before she was lifted by the travelift
 
Canadian Nordhavn 47 C'mon Girl berthed almost alongside us
 
Beautiful Porto Katsiki beach on Lefkas Island
 
 
A reproduction Greek galley at Nidri, Lefkada Island takes tourists for cruises


 
 
Guy, Lou, Laurie and Di by staue of Aristotle Onassis at Nidri, where he was much loved for providing considerable employment at his nearby private island
 

 
Ruins of a medieval monastery on Lefkas Island 
 

 View from the mountains of Lefkas across to nearby islands