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Monday, December 29, 2014

LOOKING BACK ON SIX YEARS OF LIVING THE DREAM - CRUISING THE MED
Envoy is currently in Lefkas marina for the Med winter.
This is part one of a five part summary of Envoy’s six years Med cruising to date. The full article will shortly be published in Pacific Motor Yacht magazine.

The Med surprises
With an area of 2.5 million square kilometres the Med is slightly larger than the Tasman Sea and twice as wide at 2,400 miles. From north to south it varies from just nine miles at the Strait of Gibraltar to 990 miles, and has an average depth of 1,500 metres with a greatest of 5,267 metres. It is surrounded by three continents - Europe, Asia and Africa and 22 countries having a total population of about 500 million with highly diverse cultures, languages, cuisines, standards of living; their histories representing the cradle of western civilisation. It has thousands of islands with nine having areas over 1,000 square kilometres; the largest, Sicily, is home to over five million. Contrary to perception the Med can get mighty rough. 

Beginnings
 In late 2004 under cloudless blue skies with a gentle breeze we are ghosting across the sparkling turquoise sea aboard my brother’s 12 metre yacht, Acrobat, cruising southern Turkey’s stunning Kekova Roads area. Shaded by the billowing genoa Diane and I relax on the foredeck, where the only sound is Acrobat’s bow slicing through the sea as she creates a small bow wave of white foam. Cooled by drops of spray, we inhale the ozone as we reflect on how much we’re enjoying our brief holiday; a tantalising combination of stable summer weather, fascinating ancient history brought to life by easily-accessible ruins, great anchorages and the unique and exotic Turkish culture. In one of those memorable moments Diane and I decide, “we should do this full time”, and then and there commence our planning to live aboard in the Med.

Castle ruins at Kekova

Looking down from castle across Kekova Roads

We had cruised extensively in New Zealand, but work commitments restricted our adventures to four weeks duration, and we’d always dreamed of enjoying great destinations until we tired of them rather than meeting timetables. We had adult children living overseas, no health issues, and wanted to cruise while circumstances permitted. Boating experience was no issue, having always worked well as a team on four power boats we’d owned during 30 years.
Most types of boat are suited to cruising the Med, but after two years of extensive research and planning we decide to buy a heavy displacement mono-hull passagemaker providing future options for long-range cruising, possibly back to New Zealand. We want to cruise comfortably, not “camp on the sea”, and our decision to buy a Nordhavn 46 (14 metre) is based on a combination of size, legendary passage-making capability, classic lines, pricing and comfortable accommodation for two couples.
When we purchase Envoy in Ostia, Italy, we are thrilled with her trans-Atlantic pedigree and that she is immaculate and fully-equipped, needing only consumable stores added to commence our new life.

Changing Envoy's sign writing in Ostia marina

Launching Envoy for our first time at Ostia marina

The Med cruising season
We typically stay in the Med for eight months each year, starting around early-April, when it can still be a little chilly and showery, through to mid-November. The Med generally has consistent warm stable weather during June to September with clear skies, little or no rain and winds rarely above Force 7. The hottest and busiest months are July and August when Europeans take their summer vacations. In the winter months it can be cold, often with snow on surrounding mountain areas and with more frequent gales. During this period most cruisers hibernate in marinas or return home. ………… continued next posting

Friday, December 19, 2014

WINTERISING ENVOY FOR OUR RETURN TO NZ SUMMER

Our last post before Xmas so Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year. Next year we'll be finding new areas in the Greek Ionian to cruise as well as spending more time in Albania, central to northern Croatia, Venice and the east coast of Italy - so there will be lots of exciting things to read about.
Meanwhile we still have plenty of cruising matters to post.
Envoy is currently in Lefkas marina for the Med winter.
This posting is all technical.
Before leaving Envoy to return home to Auckland we do all of our normal lay-up procedures including running fresh water and then glycol through the generator, wing engine and all seawater cooled pumps. The main Lugger engine doesn’t need this as it’s cooled with a keel cooler, so no sea water is used.
The generator’s leaking sea water circulation pump, last re-built 2 years ago was stripped and new bearings, seals and impeller fitted. But on re-installation and testing it still leaked so it was removed again and the “shaft modified” - exactly how or why was lost in translation, but this has fixed it.
We replaced two below water level seacock hoses. These were both polyester yarn reinforced pvc hose and apart from the fact they were over eight years old, pvc is not recommended for use below the waterline. These have been replaced with new stainless steel wire reinforced pvc hoses which will be much stronger and which Sailand say are commonly used below waterline in Greece. I have some reservations about using any form of pvc (a long term problem is embrittlement caused by the pvc’s plasticiser leaching out) but for one of the seacocks the default position is off, and the other it is easily accessible.
We towed our large RHIB in to the marina so that it could be taken out of the water for a full service of the Yamaha outboard, service of faulty bilge pump and to get a new sounder transducer fitted.

Racor filter cartridge after a season’s use (left) and clean (right). We only need to change these annually

Envoy in the marina with her snug winter cover

We organised some jobs to be done while we’re back in New Zealand:
- The Lugger alternator rumbles when spun by hand, even though the unit was re-built last winter, so this will be checked. Sailand think the problem is with its shaft, not bearings
- The Lugger’s gearbox oil will be changed and suction strainer cleaned
- The Lugger’s prop shaft coupling and shaft alignment will be checked
- The Lugger’s two interchangeable Racor fuel filters will be removed, cleaned and have their drain seals replaced
- The wing engine has developed a little rust on the fuel pump and adjacent fuel lines so this will be cleaned up as well as checking the source of the corrosion which appears to be from small amounts of salt water dropping down onto it
- The wing engine’s mountings will be renewed
- The air cleaners and cooling hoses on all three engines will be checked
- The generator’s starter motor and solenoid will be serviced and its cooling system including the exhaust elbow will be cleaned and checked
- A hairline crack in the GRP base of the main shower will be repaired
- The electric windlass motor will be removed and checked
- Nikos of Ionian Safety now tells us (contrary to what he said in April) that he can certify our Halon-based engine room fire extinguisher, and will remove it for a thorough visual and weight check. Although Halon can no longer be used (for environmental reasons), Nikos believes it’s still the best system but Halon extinguishers can’t be refilled so eventually ours will have to be replaced
- The s/s wire strop that we use to lift our large RHIB (weighing about 320kg) out of the water is being renewed with a strop made from Spectra (ultra-strong plastic rope)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

MOSTLY ABOUT ENVOY'S AC POWER SYSTEM AND REFRIGERATION

Envoy is currently in Lefkas marina for the Med winter.
This posting is nearly all technical.
During this year’s cruising the main Lugger engine ran 346 hours and the Yanmar wing engine just 3.2 hours. Next year we’ll make a point of running the Yanmar for much longer periods, using it for passages on some calm days when the stabilisers are not needed (the stabilisers being driven from the Lugger).
Engines need to be used both regularly and for periods long enough to bring them up to normal working temperature to keep injectors and other components clean. Although Envoy only cruises at about 3.5 knots using the Yanmar, time is not an issue for us and most days our cruising distances are short.
Our biggest technical issue this year was the failure of our ancient Lugger-driven SeaPower 120 volt AC generator, which provided power for refrigeration anytime the Lugger was running (our AC refrigeration being powered only by 120 volts on board or 220 volts shorepower). The SeaPower was beyond repair and replacement would have cost about NZ$9,000, so we decided to cruise this year using the generator as our sole means of powering refrigeration while at sea (in fact very few vessels use engine-driven AC generators as most use inverters for low AC loads and generators for higher loads). This worked extremely well and interestingly we ran the generator for 334 hours, only 25 hours more than in 2013 and in fact 70 hours less than in 2012 - many less hours than we expected, so why?
1. Our cold plate, R12-based refrigerator and separate freezer are very efficient and typically only need to run about two hours per day – a little longer up to three hours in mid summer or with visitors aboard, and a little less – down to 90 minutes in cooler weather or with just two of us aboard.
2. It’s harder to keep the fridge cold than the freezer because the fridge is opened much more frequently. Many days the freezer isn't opened at all! Our freezer is rarely more than half-full of food so this year we regularly froze large bottles of water and put those in the refrigerator to help keep it cold, changing bottles around every couple of days.
3. This year we spent more time than usual in marinas on shorepower, particularly in parts of Sicily where safe anchorages were limited.
4. At anchor we generally run the generator for about 45 minutes in the morning and the same in the evening EVEN WHEN the SeaPower was working, so in reality we only need to run the generator for an additional half hour or so daily without the SeaPower.
5. We always have to run the generator when using the water maker and therefore run refrigeration at the same time. Water making takes several hours and this gives the refrigeration system temperatures a good chance to pull down.
So we now have no plans to change this system of using the generator to power refrigeration.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

ENVOY'S LAST CRUISING DAYS OF 2014

Envoy is currently in Lefkas marina for the Med winter.
Although our 2014 cruising has come to an end we have plenty of interesting material for updates to our blog re Envoy and cruising for the foreseeable future until we return to Envoy.
In late October with rain and 25 knot winds forecast we cruise into the Lefkas marina having so far spent 202 days aboard and cruised 1,732 miles, sharing those times with family – Amy; John and Alice and Lily; Sharon and Doug and special friends Chris, and Doug and Mary. It’s always a great feeling to finish your cruise without incident (barring my foot being lacerated in Marina di Portorosa when a paving stone collapsed under me) and without any major technical issues with Envoy.
Although the sea is still 21d and we’ve been swimming right up to now, it’s definitely much cooler with daytime temperatures around 20d, periodic snow on the peaks of distant mainland mountains, and being too cold to sit outside after sunset.
Back in the marina we have plenty of time - nine days to organise leaving Envoy for the winter.
We’re surprised to find that our first full day back is a public holiday – “Ochi” day commemorating Greece’s refusal to surrender to Italy in 1940 during WW2. Lefkas only has a population of about 15,000 and we’re amazed to find many thousands of patriotic people celebrating.

Lefkas’s town band marching along the waterfront

Even the priests are out for the occasion

We’re amazed at the size of the crowds

Patriotic children wave their Greek flags

Girls march in traditional Greek costume, followed by the not-so-traditional

A pretty Greek girl marches with her handsome partner

We find the marina fees are unchanged from last year and pay 2,337 Euros (NZ$3,769) for 186 days averaging 12.56 Euros (NZ$20.40) per day. There are cheaper options available but we like this marina’s excellent shelter from winter storms, the technical infrastructure and the atmospheric town. Like last year Envoy is in the water, not on the hardstand and this is 30 per cent cheaper.

Map showing how the very sheltered Lefkas marina is reached off the Lefkas Canal (passing through salt marshes) making it immune from waves and surge

We meet with our agent, Yvonne, of A1 Yachting to arrange the necessary paperwork for Envoy’s stay during the winter. Our Transit Log is given to Customs for this period and Envoy is deemed to be in bond and exempt from the 18 month restriction on staying within the EU without paying VAT. Yvonne also advises good news that the Greek Cruising Tax has been temporarily suspended while the Government figures out what system it will use in future – for the last couple of years any cruising boat visiting Greek water for more than 90 days has been levied this tax.

TECHNICAL
We use a water filter when filling Envoy’s water tanks from the shore

This image shows the water filter housing (right) and its cartridge (left) after seven months use. The cartridge started life white and is now brown, proving that it’s definitely worth using to filter out excessive dirt and minerals present in town water supplies. Our water maker is powered by the generator so we load water from the shore whenever it’s available to reduce needing to use the generator for long periods. The water maker produces about 80 litres per hour, and including use of the washing machine our daily water usage averages about 60 litres, but with guests aboard this more than doubles. Envoy’s three water tanks hold a total of about 980 litres, normally supplemented with about 200 litres carried in plastic drums on deck, these drums also being used to bring water from the shore using one of the RHIBs.