Follow by Email

Thursday, February 27, 2014

THOUGHTS ON NAVIGATION AND HOW OUR iPAD HAS PROVEN A TREMENDOUS ASSET ABOARD ENVOY

Envoy is wintering in Lefkas Marina, Greece, and we are home in New Zealand, returning 23 March.
The Jan/Feb issue of Passagemaker magazine has an interesting article concerning navigation and paper charts. They posed a question to a panel of recognised cruising gurus: are paper charts redundant nowadays with the array of GPS-based navigation aids? Perhaps surprisingly the over-whelming response was no, and that paper charts should still be used in consultation with electronics.
Particular issues highlighted were:
- easier voyage planning when you can usually see the entire voyage on a large scale chart and keep it in view.
- the ability to record regular position checks on your chart and retain this information in the event of equipment failure, or in the event of abandoning ship.
- insurance against the possibility of a Murphy’s Law equipment failure at a time when precise navigational information is required (this happened to us when our anchor dragged during a night storm in Turkey).
- the importance of eye-balling your intended course while cruising close-to-shore or in hazardous areas (for example many close-to-shore rocks and shoals aren’t noted on either electronic or paper charts, and in some cases their positions aren’t precisely accurate - we have found this on numerous occasions.)
- it’s not necessary to have a complete set of charts, just sufficient to get by in event of equipment failure. It’s also considered impractical to regularly renew charts or to correct them.

Aboard Envoy we always keep a particularly sharp lookout close-to-shore (e.g. within 0.25nm), use charts as a back-up when we have them for that area, and use the Cruising Guides as our hard copy when we don’t have charts, as well as for all harbours and anchorages. Although Cruising Guides always have a disclaimer stating they are not suitable for navigation, their level of detail for harbours and anchorages is generally greater than charts provide, and in the Med you get coverage of a whole country in one guide, whereas it would be impractical and cost-prohibitive to have charts for all areas of the main Med countries. Most Cruising Guides also have annual online updates, and we print these out for consultation. While night cruising or during daytime when we are away from visual land references (and with Med visibility this can be as little as 10nm offshore) we note down our lat/long at least hourly.

iPads
We initially purchased our iPad solely in case of failure of our laptop-based C-Map navigation system, but have found it terrific to have aboard - it fulfills our original objective, is now loaded with other useful cruising apps, is easy to take ashore to Wi-Fi cafes, can take reasonable photos and has multiple other uses.
We already described the Marine Traffic app in detail – see posting 13 March.
Although there are about three very good navigation apps, after talking to users and doing a bit of research we opted for Navionics. We can use this anywhere around or even away from Envoy, and it’s not hard-wired to the boat, so in the event of any power problem we still have a navigation system (at least until the iPad battery runs out). IPad versions 3 and later also have inbuilt GPS so they’re not reliant on internet or phone connectivity.

Laurie planning tomorrow’s cruise from the comfort of Envoy’s saloon armchair

On top of that an iPad is a fraction of the cost of having a conventional chartplotter as a back-up system (we wouldn’t consider using a tablet-based app instead of a conventional chartplotter as our prime system). We’ve found Navionics provides excellent chart detail and graphics, in many cases better than the version of C-Map we’re using, and chart updates are free. We have found Navionics (like C-Map) doesn’t show every close-to shore rock or shoal so usual caution and non-total reliance on GPS is required.
It’s very easy to change the chart scale using pinching and spreading or on-screen + and – buttons.
Your vessel’s position is indicated on screen by an icon with your current heading shown as a red line and your speed displayed. If you start a track, the ground covered shows as a yellow line and your average and top speeds are displayed.

View of Navionics on iPad

Some negatives are Navionics doesn’t show your current heading numerically, and doesn’t interface with your autopilot in any way. Neither is your lat/long continuously displayed, but can be found by placing a cursor over the vessel icon. There is also a lack of comprehensive user instructions although Navionics have a comprehensive FAQ section on their website.
Navionics allows you to measure the distance between any two points on the chart, create and edit waypoints, plot a track, display distance and time to go to reach your destination and automatically calculate and plot a safe track with multiple waypoints after you enter start and destination points.
If you load Navionics with your typical cruising speed and fuel consumption data it will display your estimated fuel usage to destination.
Units and several aspects of the display can be customised, for example a user-selected depth is shaded lighter blue to make shallower water areas more conspicuous.
The screen has a moveable cursor that enables the user to ask questions about any chart feature positioned under the cursor, and you can place an icon on screen with your own descriptive text attached. You can read other cruisers’ public comments posted to the charts, and if you are on-line you can post your own public comments, display photos or videos that either you or other cruisers have added, and overlay Google Map to view land features.
There are numerous other features that would be of interest to the more computer-savvy than we, and we definitely recommend Navionics as an additional and backup navigation system (of course without replacing hard copy backup).

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

FIRST RECENT ACT OF PIRACY IN THE MED

In the first recent case of piracy in the Med that we’ve heard of, a 17m (54ft) Garcia trawler called Armageddon was hijacked by a group of four armed pirates off the Ilots des Moines, near Bonaficio, Corsica. The owner, his wife and a friend were initially tied up and then set adrift unharmed but shocked in a lifeboat, eventually reaching shore. So far the trawler hasn’t been found. Let’s hope this isn’t the start of a trend. French authorities don't dispute the facts but say this is not "piracy" because the crew were not held for ransom. They are saying this is a marine version of luxury car theft. There has been little media coverage of this incident.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

PREPARING ENVOY TO BE LEFT DURING WINTER

Envoy is wintering in Lefkas Marina, Greece, and we are home in New Zealand, returning March – just four weeks to go.
After leaving Envoy we made the five hour bus trip to Athens to catch our flight home. This was our first time staying in Athens and it was interesting there was little sign of any economic doom and gloom in the downtown area of Plaka, and shops, bars and cafes were full of people. Athens is amazing and we enjoyed climbing to the summit of the Acropolis to visit the Parthenon, viewing priceless friezes from the Parthenon in the Acropolis museum, seeing the Parliament guarded by soldiers in traditional garb, and visiting several ruined temples as well as just soaking up some great local atmosphere. We saw no sign of any protests or demonstrations and local people told us that the occasional protests are largely peaceful and greatly exaggerated by foreign media.

Soldier in traditional uniform guards Parliament Building

Laurie with Greek guard

Changing the Guard

The Parthenon atop the Acropolis - I was last here with my parents in 1960

 TECHNICAL
Our last two postings mentioned special year-end technical projects. This posting details the numerous routine winterising measures we take to increase Envoy’s safety during our absence and reduce maintenance upon our return - only technical aficionados are likely to be interested in reading on about these details.
Each year we leave Envoy for about four months of Med winter and arrange someone to regularly check on Envoy, particularly following any severe weather. They also periodically charge our battery banks and run our dehumidifier. Before leaving Envoy it takes about a week to complete the process and we always think it’s much more fun getting Envoy ready to cruise at the beginning of the season.
- seacocks - we close, except for bilge pump, sink and shower outlets.
- water maker - we pickle with storage chemicals to protect the high pressure membrane.
- engines and pumps - it’s not considered good practice to run diesel engines during winter layovers because they don’t reach their correct operating temperature. We flush the engines and all seawater pumps with fresh water for 10-15 minutes and then run glycol into their systems. This takes about three hours including genset, wing engine, two aircons, refrigeration, seawater wash down and Naiad stabilisers.
Engines must not be run with pressurised water directly from the supply, so we connect a hose to the strainers and adjust the water flow as required.
- engine master switches - we turn off.
- engine oil - unless it’s near new we change it along with oil filters for Lugger, genset and wing. We briefly run the engines on new oil to circulate it.
- drive belts - we slacken the tension and on return remove them to check condition. Many we replace annually regardless of condition.
- engine room and lazarette - we liberally spray everywhere with CRC Longlife, avoiding vee-belts and pulleys.
- main engine exhaust - we clean the stainless steel and fit its winter cover to keep out moisture.
- engine water pump impellors - we leave the genset and wing impellors in place and replace them on return. - start and house battery banks - we isolate them, leave fully-charged and arrange for monthly charging.
- dry cell batteries - we remove from all equipment.
- main breaker panel - we spray its interior with contact cleaner. On return we spray again and tighten all terminals.
- fuel tank, engine oil and coolant levels - we record these so that on return we can check for leaks.
- iron fuel tanks - we spray their tops with WD40 to reduce corrosion. We fill the tanks to 75-85% with conditioner added. Any unpolished fuel is processed through our polishing system to remove any water and microbes.
- engine fuel filters - we leave the old ones in place and replace them on our return (because immersion in fuel effects the lifetime of filters).
- fuel tank breathers - some like to block these off with masking tape to prevent the ingress of moisture. We prefer to let the tanks breathe.
- heads - we drain our holding tanks and fill them with fresh water, and leave fresh water in the bowls to keep seals moist.
- refrigerator and freezer - we empty and clean them and leave their doors open with gaskets not touching anything to avoid deformation.
 - washing machine - we leave the door open with its gasket not touching anything as above.
- galley sink waste disposer - we run plenty of water through to clean it thoroughly.
- sinks - we clean and leave plugs in to stop water vapour coming into the boat.
- mosquito nets on doors - we spray zips with silicone lubricant, spread the lubricant out using the zips, remove the nets and store below.
- interior timber - we apply a coat of our usual timber polish.
 - exterior timber - we ensure it’s all free of salt.
- navigation instruments, radios etc - we clean and fit plastic covers.
- bow thruster and windlass - we turn master power switches off and strip, check and grease the above deck areas of the windlass as well as electrical connections. Fit windlass cover.
- anchor chain - we wash with fresh water when retrieving it for the last time and check its condition in case re-galvanising is needed. Each year we turn the chain end for end to even its wear.
- fresh water tanks - we fill and add chlorine bleach to each tank.
- fresh water manifold and taps and showers - we leave turned off.
- hinges for doors and cupboards - we wipe with oil.
- locks and padlocks - we lubricate with light oil.
- stainless steel - we was exterior s/s with fresh water to remove salt. Any corrosion is removed with metal polish, then we protect the s/s with WD40.
- BBQ - we clean it (takes ages!) and stow below.
- large RHIB – we remove the seats, wash and dry them and store below. We leave the fuel tank at a low level as petrol degrades over time. We remove the battery and take it ashore for regular charging.
- small RHIB - we clean and store under cover on our foredeck.
- outboard engines - we add fuel stabiliser to the petrol and run it through the system, flush the engines with fresh water (not done during the year when using daily), and spray them with WD40. The small Honda is stored below.
- cockpit shower hose and seawater wash down hose - we drain the water out to avoid algae growth and store below.
- boat hooks - we clean and spray with WD40 to prevent seizure.
- bilge pumps - we leave on.
- mattresses - we store upright to avoid mildew.
- saloon chairs - we fit their protective covers on.
- ventilation - we leave all drawers, cupboards and doors slightly open to allow air circulation as well as leaving one saloon engine room hatch off for the same reason.
- lpg bottles and fittings - we turn off and spray with WD40.
- deck storage boxes - we secure with padlocks.
- boom winch controls - we remove and stow the remote sensor box, spray the winches and cables with WD40 and wrap them in plastic film to protect them from damp.
 - flags - we remove and store inside.
- cockpit chairs - we clean and store inside.
- cockpit sun shade - we remove, clean and stow below.
- flares - we check expiry dates and if needed replace on return.
- fire extinguishers - we visually check each year and get them professionally tested every 5 years.
- storage cover - we cover the entire boat ensuring full protection from the elements - takes most of a day.
Thank goodness we don't have sails to wash, dry, fold and stow.
If you’ve read this far you deserve a medal!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

LEFKADA'S SANTA MAURA CASTLE AND ENVOY WINTER PROJECTS

Envoy is wintering in Lefkas Marina, Greece, and we’re home in New Zealand returning March.
The canal adjacent to Lefkas marina has a long history, the original one built by the Corinthians around
700 BC. Being of great strategic importance it was protected by several castles and we took some time away from working on Envoy to visit the Santa Maura Castle protecting the canal’s northern approaches. Workmen were busily clearing and burning scrub within the castle walls, and the smoke haze and smell provided an eerie authentic atmosphere to the scene.
Looking down on the castle’s interior from the ramparts we were able to visualise an impression of how the castle may have originally functioned - supplies being moved in carts, guards checking people entering through the sturdy gates, the din of blacksmiths and the aroma of baking bread. There were so many old cannons lying around that many haven’t even been placed on display. Even one of these would qualify as a treasure in New Zealand.

Ruins of buildings inside Santa Maura Castle

Prison cell inside Santa Maura Castle

Narrow and shallow northern approaches to Lefkas Canal viewed from castle walls

Cannon with maker’s name clearly visible

Discarded cannons in castle car park

Ruins of bridge across the moat to main entrance

TECHNICAL
Great news is that our leaking diesel tank has been fixed and is now partly filled with 700 litres of diesel. The Sailand engineers had to cut away a section of the tank to give internal access, then welded a large plate over the area of the leak, and closed the hole in the tank with a welded patch.

Continuing from last blog with details of non-routine technical year-end projects:
Master Head: was not activating its supply of fresh water upon flushing. This was an easy fix – just a failed plug-in wiring connection to the solenoid which starts the fresh water pump.
Bilge pump: our back-up bilge pump has been working on manual but not automatic, and I wasn’t happy to leave Envoy in the water for the winter with this situation. The pump was removed and found to have a faulty water level sensor, which has been replaced.
Lugger engine injectors: although the Lugger has been running fine we decided to check the injectors for the first time since new ones were fitted in 2004. On removal they appeared to be quite carbonized and when checked by a specialist shop, were found to all need replacing. I guess that’s not bad for nine years.
Lugger engine valve clearances: again these have not been checked since 2004, but were found to need only very slight adjustment.
Lugger engine starter motor and solenoid: these had not been serviced since 2004 so we decided to get them checked. There hasn’t been any particular problem except that very occasionally the engine doesn’t start with the first turn of the key. I suspected this was a sticking solenoid. The motor was found to be in good condition and only needed a clean. The solenoid was also stripped and cleaned, and hopefully won’t stick any more.
Lugger engine cooling system hoses: the two main hoses were replaced last year, but there are two small hoses (about 100mm long) which haven’t been removed and checked for at least seven years, partly as they’re very difficult to access. Sailand checked them and are satisfied they’re OK.
Lugger engine diesel leaks: one slight leak was fixed from a fuel pipe coming from the injector pump. Our lift pump had a slight leak and was replaced with a new one.
Portholes: One of our bedroom portholes has been leaking in heavy spray or wind-driven rain. Sailand are going to re-silicone the exterior where the housing meets the hull and replace the rubber seals on the inside of the closing section. The closing tension is adjustable using allan screws so that wear on the seals can be compensated for.
Next post will detail the more routine winterisation technical topics.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

ENVOY IN LEFKAS MARINA FOR WINTER

Envoy is currently wintering in Lefkas Marina, Greece, and we are home in New Zealand, returning March. Lefkas Marina is very sheltered and runs off a canal not the open sea, so isn’t subject to surge that many other marinas are prone to. Envoy is moored in an excellent position stern-to a smooth concrete jetty and not a floating pontoon. This is great because in severe storms floating pontoons can come adrift and cause damage to boats moored to them. Lefkas town, just minutes walk away, is delightful and the area has a reasonable infrastructure of shops and technical resources, including the company Sailand that we use to assist us. The marina’s hardstand area is full so this year is the first time we’re leaving Envoy in the water during winter, making our usual routine is a bit different and much simpler. Staying in the water is also 30% cheaper and the marina’s cost is what we consider a reasonable 12.40 Euros (NZ$20.40) per day including power and water. We will have to pay additional for hauling out in March for washing, antifouling and underwater maintenance. Fortunately our full storage cover can also still be used as its lashings are above waterline level. There are big advantages when you can cruise and then return to the same marina, for example some equipment we don’t need all the time can be left ashore (like our bulky winter storage cover).

Envoy in Lefkas Marina - it's best to be moored to concrete, not floating pontoons

TECHNICAL We’ve recently started using an in-line water filter when refilling water from the dock to reduce the chance of microbial growth in our water tanks. We’ve noticed that we never get any growth in plastic containers stored on deck filled with water from the water maker because it’s so pure, but sometimes we see a bit of green slime start to appear in containers filled with dock water. Often we add a little chlorine bleach to dock water to kill any microbial matter as well. Hopefully the filter will eliminate algae in dock water supplies.

Laurie with in-line water filter

Apart from our usual routine winterising jobs (which will be detailed in a forthcoming post) the projects we tackled were:
Leaking diesel tank: the iron tank had been filled with old anchor chain to act as ballast to keep Envoy’s trim, so the first task was to take this out.

Laurie behind huge pile of anchor chain ballast removed from leaking fuel tank

While we’re away Sailand are going to weld a patch on the area of the leak and reinforce this with a section of angle iron. Then they’ll progressively fill the tank with diesel to check that it no longer leaks.
Seapower generator: after being reconditioned in Croatia and running well for only 193 hours this has been working only intermittently for the last few weeks. I imagined there would be some minor fault like a bad wiring connection, but it turned out the “reconditioning” had been done very poorly using brushes which didn’t fit correctly and Chinese-made bearings which were already starting to rumble. The cause of the intermittent running was a temperature sensing wire that had been incorrectly installed and was sometimes rubbing on the casing during operation causing the unit to incorrectly sense an overheat condition.

To be continued next posting.