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Thursday, October 31, 2013

OUR DAUGHTER AMY VISITS ENVOY

Envoy is currently at Sivota, Lefkas Island, Greece.
Amy arrived in Corfu 14 September, and at Gouvia Marina we added her passport details to our official Crew List, and had it stamped by the harbourmaster, as required in Greece.

Greek fishing families live in these rustic cottages just across from Envoy’s Gouvia Marina berth

What an anchorage - Laurie and Amy on Envoy’s foredeck with Corfu’s Castle in background
Corfu Old Town has stunning cobbled alleyways with quirky shops and cafes

Many cruise ships visit Corfu and we decided to give Norwegian Jade a wide berth as she crossed Envoy's bow

With Amy aboard we visited some of the delightful places we’d already been to, and we knew Amy would enjoy – Kalami, Mourtos and Lakka, where we enjoyed the sun, swam, walked, drank in tavernas and caught up on family news.

Envoy anchored in gorgeous Kalami

Near Agni, Laurie behind a probably hundreds of years old olive tree

We cruised further south to Lefkas trolling a lure and caught a small tuna, unfortunately too small to keep, but the first of three small fish we landed during Amy’s visit.

In Lakka Laurie gets free water from shore using Envoy's small RHIB. This is often easier than using the water maker all the time, and these two 30 litre containers provide about one day's usage

Lakka was a surprisingly busy anchorage, and Envoy was the only motor vessel

Amy took this photo of Laurie Di in the picturesque main street of Lefkas

In Lefkas we met Canadians Bill and Joanne Vanlenthe aboard their 44 ft Kady Krogen, Pescadou. This was great as we’ve been in email contact with them for some time. Bill told us they motored across the Atlantic, encountering waves up to 18 feet high. Then they navigated the inland waterways of the Rhine and Danube rivers to enter the Black Sea. Recently they had a bad experience though – like Nordhavns, Kadys need their stabilisers in any beam sea. During a recent trip heading north from Lefkas their Naiad stabilisers failed, and the boat rolled so much that their large RHIB broke its wire strops and fell off their boat deck into the sea. Conditions were too rough to recover it, although it eventually washed onto rocks ashore and was returned to them in a badly damaged condition. Bill said the waves they encountered on this trip knocked their boat around more than those in the Atlantic.
Having drinks aboard Envoy at one of our favourite bays, Ormos Dessimou, we heard some music playing. At first we thought it was a CD, but then noticed somebody playing the guitar on a small powerboat nearby. He was anchored close to cliffs which acted as a natural sound shell, and he sounded pretty good. We could see from the boat’s flag that the singer was German, and this was confirmed when he sang the Beatles’ song, Let it Be, as “visper vords of visdom, let it be” and Norwegian Wood as Norvegian Vood. Anyway he was a good act combining the guitar, singing and mouth organ. Later we had the chance to talk to our guitar-playing friend to discover he lives aboard his 5.9 metre outboard-powered trailer boat for five months of the year, while spending the winters busking in Germany. Incredibly, he motored his small craft from Germany down the Rhine and Danube rivers into the Black Sea, through the Dardanelles to cruise the coast of Turkey, then across the Aegean to the Ionian Sea. Some voyage in a 5.9 metre outboard cruiser!

Our German guitar-playing friend lives five months of each year aboard this boat

TECHNICAL Nothing to report
ENVOY LOG as at 28 September, 165 days spend aboard and 1,647 miles cruised for 320 engine hours.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

BACK IN THE GREEK IONIAN WE REFLECT ON CROATIA

Envoy is currently at Cephalonia Island, Greece
We had very high expectations of Croatia as Envoy’s former owners and many other cruisers told us it was their favourite destination – with the proviso about the irritation of having to pay for some anchorages. The September issue of Motor Boat and Yachting magazine had this to say (paraphrased) comparing Greece with Croatia:
“Both locations are stunning – crystal clear water, long sunny seasons and delicious cuisines. We found Greece less crowded and very friendly. The Greek islands offer a pretty unbeatable combination of wonderful anchorages and sandy beaches (Croatia doesn’t for the most part offer beaches) and a long season. The landscape is more varied than Croatia and each island offers something a little different. We also found Greece cheaper than Croatia – almost all the berths are free (either town quays with electricity and water, or pontoons in front of restaurants), the food is varied, supermarkets larger and cheaper and living costs lower. In Croatia provisions were limited in the smaller ports and fuel was quite expensive. Croatia’s proximity to Italy is very attractive and you will be spoilt for choice when dining out.”
Diane and I agree with all of the above but want to stress the friendliness of the Greeks compared to the Croatians. This is generally speaking, as we also found friendly Croatians. We found many of the small Croatian island villages quite dull compared with Greek villages and with less to see of historical interest. Prolific numbers of wasps are annoying in some areas (more wasps as you go north). On a positive note the Croatian medieval towns like Dubrovnik, Split and Korcula are stunning.
Since returning to Greece we’ve discussed this subject with other cruisers who’ve visited both areas, and most seem to prefer Greece.

As we approached the craggy white cliffs of Erikoussa Island a pod of dolphins played around Envoy, seemingly to welcome us back to Greece.

The impressive cliffs of Erikoussa Island

On our first morning back in Greece we went ashore on Erikoussa, where there is a great sandy beach, no wasps and where the owners of a local taverna were totally friendly and helpful, as we generally find in Greece. Very often shopkeepers give you a gift or a complimentary drink when you pay the bill, and after spending 167 Euros (about NZ$274) in a small superette, the friendly owner gave us a jar of local honey.

Beautiful sandy beach at Erikoussa

Note the windmill behind the beach

This boat for sale presumably comes with the geese sheltering underneath

We’ve spent some time in this general Corfu area so decided to check out a place we’d never been – Ormos Valtou, known as “Igoumenitsa Creek” offering superb shelter, but murky water with a few jellyfish. Nearby though is a great sandy beach with sparkling water and almost nobody there.

Envoy anchored in Igoumenitsa Creek
Health and Safety nightmare jetty
 
Run-down shack on run-down jetty
A wider view of the same sheltered anchorage

Stunning Ormos Valtou beach near Igoumenitsa
 
We cleared-in to Greece at Gouvia marina using our usual agents, A1 Yachting, and once again didn’t get our passports stamped but cleared-in as Captain and Crew, giving us a longer stay as the Schengen Treaty provisions don’t apply. Here we would replenish our stores, get some maintenance done and meet our daughter, Amy.
TECHNICAL In Gouvia marina two engineers who’ve worked on Envoy before, Leo and Theodore, tackled several jobs: Load Adaptor: They removed the load adaptor with the failed seal and took it away to do a rebuild. Fortunately only the grease seal had failed so they modified the adaptor so that an available seal size would fit and then re-assembled and installed it. This load adaptor is filled with high temperature grease to protect its bearings, and does not need any subsequent addition of grease, despite there being a grease nipple on the unit. Leo suggested loosening the grease nipple slightly to allow internal pressure to release through the threads of the nipple, rather than putting pressure on the seal. As we’ve “blown” two seals in five years we’ve done this and so far all good. Naiad stabiliser sea water cooling pump: This 12V Groco pump supplies sea water to cool the Naiad’s hydraulic oil, and had been leaking small amounts of sea water. Leo removed the pump, replaced the seal, and all is OK. At the same time we fitted an air bleed valve on the outlet side of the pump to make priming the pump easier after extended non-use. Domestic fresh water pump: One of two interchangeable Shurflo 12V pumps had stopped working. Leo removed and dismantled this, finding a failed water seal and subsequent corroded bearings. It was more economical to replace the pump with our spare new one than repair the old one. Generator: I had thought that recently the generator sounds a bit “rattly,” and asked Theodore to listen to it. He confirmed the cause as a worn bearing on the end of the shaft that supports the AC generation equipment together with the bush that supports the bearing becoming over-sized through wear. He suggested we get this seen to during the winter. I also took my two scuba tanks and regulator to a dive shop. In Greece tanks need to be hydrostatically tested and re-certified every three years and mine are well past that. The regulator hadn’t been used for several years so I wanted to get it professionally tested.
ENVOY LOG as at 11 September, 148 days spend aboard and 1,422 miles cruised for 274 engine hours.

Friday, October 18, 2013

ENVOY CRUISES BACK TO GREECE

Envoy is currently at Cefalonia Island, Greece.
Our last days in Croatia were spent at Sunj on the island of Lopud. Here is one of the few sandy beaches we found in Croatia, and although it’s busy during daytime, we had this idyllic spot to ourselves up to mid-morning and in the evenings.
Taking our RHIB about four miles around the island to the village of Lopud, we entered the tiny harbour, only suitable for boats up to about six metres long.
Lopud’s small harbour with reproduction galleon moored to the outside

Generally there are no spaces for visitors in these harbours, so we just take a vacant berth and keep an eye out for boats returning to the harbour in case we need to move. As we walked back to our RHIB we saw a boat come in the harbour and head to our RHIB. About two minutes later we were right there as an obviously agitated couple were trying to moor their boat. I apologised and said we’d move our boat right away. But this guy and his wife (Europeans but not Croatian) really let fly, and said “you Ingleesh are so inconsiderate”. Diane put him right on that one, but they sure did carry on -understandable if we had not been there to move our boat out of their way, but we were right there. Anyway we managed to keep our cool, smiled, and told them we hoped they enjoyed the rest of their holiday.

Medieval fortified monastery at Lopud

We don’t like to tow our large RHIB for any long distances in case of bad weather, so in preparation for our cruise to Greece we hoisted it back up on our top deck and launched our smaller RHIB (which before getting under way we can lift out of the water aft of Envoy’s transom using our boom winch). It was unusual and great that after 26 days in the water there was no growth at all on the large RHIB’s hull.
Originally we’d planned to stop over in Albania on the way from Croatia to Corfu, but with the Naiad stabilisers disconnected (see Technical), we decided to take advantage of a good weather and cruise 191 miles to Greece’s northernmost Ionian island of Erikoussa in one go. This took us 31.5 hours at an average speed of 6.06 knots, running between 1480 to 1560 rpm, and using 220 litres of fuel equating to1.07 litres/nm.
We cleared out of Croatia at the southern-most port of Cavtat, and headed off in very calm conditions with a light swell on the beam, sufficient to roll Envoy 5-10 degrees each side, occasionally to 15 degrees. This doesn’t sound like much roll, but is sufficient that we had to do some re-stowing (as up to now we’d been using the Naiad hydraulic stabilisers and experiencing negligible roll). We didn’t use the paravane stabilisers initially, as they reduce boat speed by about 10%, but late in the afternoon we deployed them for the overnight part of our trip and our roll reduced significantly to 3-5 degrees each side, occasionally to 10 degrees. We’d not used the paravane stabilisers for so long that we’d forgotten how effective they are.

Envoy’s paravanes in the down position with stabilisers suspended from chains 5 metres below the surface. The downhauls prevent the paravanes from lifting, and the forward guy lines prevent the paravanes from pulling aft
 Here we can see the stabiliser in the water more clearly

Fishing is not allowed in Croatian waters without a license, but as soon as we were offshore we towed a lure for all of the daylight part of the trip without any action at all.
A sparrow-like bird landed on Envoy as we left Croatian waters and stayed aboard until we arrived in Greece, occasionally flying off only to land somewhere different on Envoy. At one stage he even wandered into the main saloon and we had to open a window to let him out. This bird stayed with us most of the way from Croatia to Greece

Our passenger from Croatia to Greece

Unlike out journey north to Croatia, going south was calm, and we never took a single drop of spray over the deck. When we do night passages we make sure our grab bag and emergency gear is in the cockpit for quick access, have plenty of snacks and then have dinner very late – about 2300 as we find this makes the hours of darkness pass more quickly. Using radar we plotted the courses of all vessels within a 12 mile range, and several times needed to alter course to maintain a safe distance. Di had a few hours of sleep, and then took over the helm after dawn to give me a couple of hours rest.

During overnight passages our emergency gear is kept ready in the cockpit

TECHNICAL: During a routine engine room check I noticed grease dripping out of the seal on the Naiad stabilisers’ load adaptor. This load adaptor has pulleys fitted to take the load from the main engine vee-belts, and transfer it to the Vickers hydraulic pump via a central rotating shaft. I didn’t want to take any chances of failure during our overnight cruise to Greece, so disconnected the Naiads completely (by removing the vee belts). We have a new spare load adaptor, but fitting it needs doing in a workshop so we decided to wait until we get to Gouvia Marina.

ENVOY LOG as at 2 September 139 days spend aboard and 1,342 miles cruised for 258 engine hours.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

ENVOY BACK IN SOUTHERN CROATIA

Envoy is now cruising in the vicinity of our home base, Lefkas Island, Greece.
After Frank and Marie departed we had a week left to cruise south and clear-out of Croatia, and first headed back to Polace at the Mljet National Park. This is a stunning anchorage with great shelter, plenty of room and good facilities ashore, and costs a very reasonable Kn 100 (about NZ$22) per person to anchor for up to a week, including entrance to the park and use of their shuttle bus and ferry.

Ruins of the Roman fortified palace after which “Polace” is named

During the night we had a severe thunderstorm with heavy rain – the first for weeks, and although the wind only came up to 15 knots a nearby charter yacht moored stern-to-shore dragged her anchor, grounded on rocks and had to be assisted off by another yacht.
The system widely used in the Med of anchoring and then securing stern lines to shore is fine for light winds or even for stronger winds on the bow or stern, but when there are strong winds on the beam the windage places considerable force on the anchor compared with a vessel freely swinging bow-to-wind. If anchoring stern-to-shore it’s wise to ensure your anchor is well dug-in, and deploy a long and strong spring line from amidships on the weather side at as wide an angle as possible to the shore.
Cruising next day to Spanska Luka the weather was still unstable and a front overtook us from astern with rain, wind up to 20 knots and a 1.5 metre chop. One of the portholes in our bedroom was closed but not screwed home tight, so we took in some sea water making our bedding quite wet.
At Spanska Luka we had a great dinner ashore with Australians Alan and Gloria, from Adelaide, who own a pilothouse sloop called Nick of Time. Alan is interesting to talk to as a long-time yachtsman having done some Sydney to Hobart races as well as international yacht delivery voyages.
The food in Croatia has been reasonably priced and this excellent dinner with starters, seafood mains and wine came to Kn 250 (about NZ$56) per person.
We had taken Alan and Gloria ashore in our RHIB, leaving it moored outside a taverna. When we jumped into it to return to our boats a man came up to us and said he had a group needing a lift back to their boat, and asked if we were a water taxi. I explained we weren’t but would be happy to come back and ferry them to their boat after dropping off Alan and Gloria. Diane and I duly came back and he invited us into the taverna for a drink, and introduced us to his party of Danish friends. When I asked him where the boat was that he wanted a lift to, he laughed and pointed to a 43 metre charter boat moored alongside the jetty, explaining that he only wanted us to join them for a drink. The Danes sure know how to enjoy themselves and that ended up being a very late night.

The friendly and hospitable Danes were aboard this charter boat, Futura

TECHNICAL – I changed the Lugger engine oil, which is very easy using Envoy’s oil change manifold and inbuilt 12 volt reversing pump to remove the old oil and then pump in the new.
Nothing else to report.

ENVOY LOG as at 28 August 134 days spend aboard and 1,105 miles cruised for 222 engine hours.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

STUNNING KORCULA

Envoy is now at Lefkas Island, Greece.
Back to Croatia - being close to the island of Zlarin, famous for jewelry hand made from locally-sourced coral, we headed there for breakfast, anchoring in Zlarin’s sheltered harbour.

Small boat harbour in Zlarin

Zlarin is famous for hand made coral jewelry

Zlarin is also known as the home of the inventor of the popular aluminium “Mag-light” flashlights.
With his new-found wealth he bought this waterfront mansion in Zlarin.

Zlarin is picturesque, but here we found the Croatian waiter service a low point, really to the point of rudeness, and we were reluctant to spend any money there at all. Additionally none of the several tavernas served breakfast fare so we settled for luke-warm coffee and a croissant from a nearby bakery.

However we did find a fresh water supply on the wharf and filled up our containers to replenish Envoy’s water supply.

Zlarin's gorgeous tree-lined streets


That afternoon we cruised to a group of un-named islands off Zlarin’s southern side and had evening drinks ashore. We always enjoy having drinks ashore, but wasps were still a real concern swarming over our drinks and food.

Frank and Laurie enjoying a cold beer ashore

Laurie cools off in a rock pool with Envoy's RHIB moored to nearby rocks

Envoy anchored near the island of Zlarin

Needing to make up some miles southwards we cruised 38 miles back to Soline in the SV Klement islands. A swell here caused Envoy to roll at anchor so we deployed our flopper stoppers for the first time in weeks, making our stay much more comfortable and giving Frank and Marie a great demonstration of their effectiveness.
A major consideration in choosing anchorages has been avoiding having to pay, and we found a superb free anchorage at Uvala Luka, on the western end of the mainland’s Peljesac Peninsula, so sheltered from all wind directions that it was used by Roman galleys two thousand years ago. There’s a great village called Loviste, and the staff in two tavernas we visited couldn’t have been more friendly and helpful. When we explained the problems we’d had with taverna staff further north our waiter laughed and said, “yes they’re all savages up there”. As we moved south the wasp situation also improved drmatically.
We returned to a favourite anchorage near Lombarda for Frank and Marie’s last three days. Ashore was a terrific Pacific island-style beach bar shaded with palm tree fronds, and we had evening cocktails served again by friendly staff.

Laurie, Frank and Marie enjoy cocktails in the Lombarda beach bar

A wetsuit-clad snorkeler climbed out of the water onto a jetty and showed me three good-sized octopus he’d caught in the bay, soon to end up on the BBQ.
From Lombarda it’s only a short bus ride to Korcula and we spent a day looking around this fascinating fortified historic town, built in its present form in the 15th century and dripping with atmosphere.

Korcula viewed from seaward

Lonely Planet describes Korcula as having a Gothic core with Renaissance overtones. Even the “new Korcula” dates from the 17th and 18th centuries.
Intricate Gothic stone carvings decorate the medieval buildings
 
Korcula's narrow lanes are filled with interesting shops and tavernas
 
Korcula's impressive main gate

A highlight is ascending the stiflingly narrow staircase of the St Mark’s Cathedral bell tower.

Lifelong friends Laurie and Frank enjoy view of Korcula from the Cathedral bell tower

This is one of the stunning views
Frank and Marie on Korcula's fortifications

Next day we hired a car and drove around Korcula Island with the highlights being visiting a vineyard and buying some great white wine near Smokvica, seeing a traditional wedding in the tiny town of Pupnat, and having a great lunch in Vela Luka.

Vineyard near the village of Smokvica

Korcula is very stony and it was amazing how much work over the centuries has gone into clearing the stony ground and building terraced retaining walls to prevent erosion and keep the moisture in the soil for olive plantations.
Vela Luka's harbour and waterfront


After three great weeks Frank and Marie left us at Lombarda.

TECHNICAL – nothing to report
ENVOY LOG as at 25 August 131 days spend aboard and 1,086 miles cruised for 213 engine hours.