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Sunday, December 27, 2015

SCOTLAND’S LOSSIEMOUTH HARBOUR (PART 1)

While Envoy is in Lefkas Marina, Greece, we are home in Auckland, New Zealand, planning to return to Greece late March.

THE FIRTH OF MORAY
The next best thing to boating is wandering around interesting marinas. I’m lucky to have seen plenty of them around the world, but few as interesting as fishing harbour-turned-marina Lossiemouth in Scotland’s largest Firth – the Moray on the north-east coast.

Fishing-harbour-turned-marina Lossiemouth

Bordering the Highlands this is wild territory, where temperatures can struggle to reach double figures (the days we spent there were around 7dC), vicious North Sea gales and huge waves often lash the coast and the har (fog) severely restricts visibility.

This scene looks peaceful but these massive harbour wall stone blocks were  knocked down by huge breaking waves

The Firth’s 500 miles of shoreline includes salt marshes, mudflats, rocky shores, windswept cliffs and surprisingly, many stunning sandy beaches. But even in summer the water is a very chilly 12dC, discouraging all but the most masochistic of swimmers. Nevertheless hardy types enjoy kayaking, surfing windsurfing and sailing.
The Firth holds abundant wildlife both within and outside its Special Area of Conservation, one of Europe’s largest marine protection areas hosting seals, whales, dolphins, lobsters, scallops, many varieties of fish and hundreds of bird species.

Unlike the Med Scotland is very tidal
Picturesque Cullen harbour

At its western end the Firth leads to the famous Loch Ness and the 60-mile-long Caledonian Canal completed in 1822 and providing access to western Scotland. At the outer eastern end is the closest of the North Sea fields – Beatrice, with drilling rigs towering out of the sea.
Numerous whisky distilleries surround the area, many of which are open for the public to tour, enjoy tastings and lunches.

This whisky shop near the distilleries has an unbelievable number of whisky brands

Whisky bar near distilleries

LOSSIEMOUTH
The quaint village of Lossiemouth’s harbour is found at the mouth of the Lossie River, blasted out of solid rock in the 1830s as a trading port for the nearby town of Elgin.

The narrow harbour entrance is parallel to the beach to reduce the surge from large waves

Access to this area is by train or air to Inverness 40 miles to the west of Elgin.
Between the two is the site of the historic Culloden battlefield where the last major battle on British soil took place in 1746. This battle still gets passions rising but contrary to the popular belief that this bloody battle was fought between Scots and English it was in fact between Protestant Loyalists led by the Duke of Cumberland and consisting of English, Scots, Irish and even some German and Austrian troops and Catholic Jacobites led by Charles Stuart consisting of mostly Highland Scots with some English and Irish troops. The Jacobites were largely non-professional volunteers and their early attack was quickly routed with severe casualties and further reprisals on the Jacobites to prevent any chance of the House of Stuart threatening the House of Hanover’s control of the monarchy.
The RAF has long maintained an airfield here nowadays home to Tornado fighters, Sea King Helicopters and the 617 Squadron – famously known as the Dambusters. It's common to see these Tornados thundering overhead at low altitude.
Fishing became the mainstay of the economy and the first modern seine-net boat was designed here. Lossiemouth was Scotland’s second largest whitefish port and a fascinating quayside maritime museum brings back to life the tough times the hardy fishermen endured. In its zenith Lossiemouth was home port to about 80 fishing boats and the present chairman of the Marina Board, George Reid once owned 18. He explained to us the industry not only provided employment for about 400 boat crew but also for an infrastructure of a further 600 associated workers including packers, drivers, chandlers, mechanics and riggers. Nowadays all we could see is a solitary lobster boat plus about six small open fishing boats.

The fishing fleet now consists of a solitary lobster boat plus the small boats in the foreground




Close-up of lobster boat (lobsters are plentiful)

Although we assumed fishing died out here in the 1980s due to over-fishing and depletion of stocks, George says this was only part of the story and the other part is the EU largely forced the UK to abandon fishing. Many of the displaced workers subsequently found employment in the oil industry centred around Aberdeen.

Trawlers still operate from some ports including MacDuff

This is exactly my idea of a traditional still-working Scottish trawler

Next posting read more on the marina itself plus a highly unusual submersible travel lift and the 54ft wooden motor yacht that went to Dunkirk.

FOR FOODIES Think of Scottish food and you first think of porridge and haggis, but a more popular “national dish” these days is a rich seafood soup called Cullen Skink. We’ve enjoyed delicious clam chowder in Massachusetts and traditional bisque in France, but Cullen Skink has a smokier flavour than the former and is heartier than the latter – just the thing to warm you up on a cold Scottish autumn day. Cullen Skink originated in the medieval seaside town of Cullen on Scotland’s east coast, now a popular summer holiday and surfing resort. It’s based on smoked haddock, which is a popular and heavily fished species found on both sides of the North Atlantic generally reaching a size of about 600mm in length and 1.5kg in weight. We haven’t tried, but guess Cullen Skink could work well with any smoked fish. The balance is potatoes and onions. First the onions are lightly fried in butter. Meanwhile the haddock is separately lightly poached. Add milk to the onions, then small chunks of potato. When the spuds are nearly cooked, add the haddock and simmer for about five minutes. Add salt, pepper and chopped parsley, then serve piping hot with fresh crusty bread and butter - it is absolutely delicious.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

WORK DONE ON ENVOY IN OUR ABSENCE DURING 2015

While Envoy is in Lefkas Marina, Greece, we are home in New Zealand

APOLOGY - it's been too long since our last post - sorry about that and we'll now be more regular once again. Please look back on the last three posts which have now been "brought to life" with the addition of some great images.

Still having our rental car, by the way costing about 20 Euros (NZ$35) a day, we visited some of Lefkas’s west coast that we hadn’t explored aboard Envoy, in particular two stunning beaches.
Kalamitsi is accessed using an extremely narrow, steep winding road making us thankful it was now off-season with little traffic. The beach is secluded and gorgeous consisting of a series of small coves with crystal clear water set between large rocks affording each cove complete privacy from the others.

Great isolated beach at Kalamitsi

Enjoying a dip at Kalamitsi

Agios Nikitas is also very special – without the spectacular approach but has a stunning beach overlooked by several great tavernas. Just the place to swim before enjoying a cold beer as we watch the sunset.
This is an ideal time to visit Greece as the weather is warm without being sweltering, the sea is still warm and most of the tourists have gone.

Looking down on Agios Nikitas on Lefkas Island

The picturesque taverna-lined lane to Agios Nikitas beach

Agios Nikitas beach in late afternoon

My father and stepmother have friends of about our age living in Lefkas and while there we met with Gene (his wife Vicki was away). Gene and Vicki built a Herreshoff sailing yacht on which they lived and cruised the Australian coast for many years. Nowadays they’re “over owning boats” but occasionally enjoy boating with friends. Gene says they love having retired in Lefkas, mostly because of the acceptance and friendliness of the local people, the respect that people have for each other and the young have for the older, the less materialistic lifestyle, the great summers and mild winters and the low cost of housing and living. Of course this would probably not be feasible if they still needed to work. Lefkas is an ideal Greek island to live on as it’s connected to the mainland by a bridge over the Lefkas Canal. As we have mentioned previously there’s no refugee issue in this area of Greece and little sign of any economic problem. Recently they bought a donkey named Henry and have great fun walking him and attempting to train him. Donkeys are still widely used throughout the Greek countryside for transport over rough terrains.

TECHNICAL We’ve found the contractor we use in Lefkas, Sailand, to be very good technically and nice people to deal with. Just a few days before leaving Lefkas I mentioned to Sailand’s owner, Andreas, that we’d like to pay him some money (as we hadn’t asked us to pay him anything for the last 11 months). He replied casually, “don’t worry about small things like that”.
In our absence during this year Sailand did some maintenance for us:

Lugger main engine:
- Alternator rebuilt and sent to Athens for balancing
- Gearbox oil replaced and suction filter cleaned
- Primary Racor filters dismantled, cleaned and new drain seal kits fitted

Wing Engine (Yanmar):
- New engine mounts fitted
- Alternator reconditioned
- Leaking raw water pump reconditioned
- Heat exchanger reconditioned, including rebuilding and machining some corroded parts
- Coolant circulation pump replaced
- Injectors checked by specialist shop and replaced
- High pressure fuel pump reconditioned by specialist shop
- Gearbox oil replaced

Generator:
- Starter motor removed and checked (last checked more than 10 years ago but needed nothing more than greasing)
- Partially carbon-clogged cast iron exhaust elbow replaced with stainless steel unit
- Heat exchanger reconditioned
- Coolant circulation pump reconditioned
- Some coolant hoses replaced
- Injectors checked by specialist shop and replaced

Main head holding tank: - Breather pipe connection to tank replaced and new hose fitted due to blockage 

Still to be done is to remove and check the Maxwell windlass electric motor.

No Foodies section in this posting.

Friday, October 23, 2015

GREEK MOUNTAINS ROAD TRIP

Envoy is currently in Lefkas marina, Greece, and we are in England.
During our recent visit to Lefkas we hired a car to visit some of the mainland’s mountain villages just an easy half a day’s drive north-west towards the Albanian border.
The great thing about driving in Greece and Italy is that every couple of miles there are stunning things to see – the natural rugged scenery, interesting villages and historical ruins – not only Greek but from the Roman and Turkish occupations. The not-so-great thing is sharing the roads with local drivers for whom speed limits and no passing zones represent a challenge not a restriction. You need to keep a constant lookout for drivers approaching you on the wrong side of the road as they overtake, expecting you as oncoming traffic to pull well over to avoid them. However I must say that we’ve not seen any accidents or cases of road rage. Greece has some superb toll motorways, where the speed limit ranges up to 130 km/hr, with spectacular viaducts bridging valleys and long tunnels piercing mountains - we drove through some up to 3 km long putting to shame anything we have home in New Zealand.
On the other hand when you leave the motorways and climb into the mountains, the roads are winding, narrow, potholed, mostly one-way through the villages and frequently shared with flocks of sheep and herds of goats.

The sheer walls of one of Lefkas's medieval castles

First stop for us was Papingo, high on the slopes of Mt Astraka, looming 2,436m above sea level, where we stayed in a traditional inn (see a previous Foodies comment). This is within a national park featuring rugged mountains, forests and rivers, although high on the mountain slopes the trees give way to stubby shrubs, rocks and slopes of scree. The hewn-stone village buildings with slate roofs blend with the landscape as if they were always meant to be there. This is a noted skiing area during the winter months.
Next we make a lunch stop at Ioannina – a bustling town built from the 6th century around the western side of Lake Pamvotis. Here the notorious Ottoman-Albanian ruler Ali Pasha ruled the larger area from a formidable, largely still-intact castle.

We found this incredibly interesting and rustic antique shop

We moved on to the village of Metsovo, using it as a base to visit the area’s highlight – the monasteries of Meteora, a word meaning “suspended in the air”, as the monasteries are built on seemingly inaccessible towering rock pillars. There is evidence of cave habitation here 23,000 years ago, but the first monasteries were built around the 12th century. Eventually they numbered 20 but today only six remain, each inhabited with less than 10 monks or nuns. In former times the monasteries could only be accessed by long wooden or rope ladders, or using wicker baskets lowered by hand-powered winches. But these days roads have been built to accommodate the lucrative tourist trade – as Diane said, “these nuns have got a right little earner going” as you pay for the entrance fee and then extra to visit certain areas. As Lonely Planet says – visiting two or three is probably going to suffice, but they sure are spectacular.

The hilltop monasteries of Meteora




Our last night was spent at the delightful seaside town of Parga with its incomparable harbour overlooked by what remains of an 11th century castle. Nearby there’s yet another of Ali Pasha’s many castles, but this one has only ruins left. Ottoman rule of Greece lasted nearly 400 years until 1821.

Parga waterfront scene

Looking down on Parga from Ali Pasha's castle

FOR FOODIES
In the Med countries we’ve visited so far the dynamics of most restaurants are quite different to what we’re used to at home. Most of them are operated by families who between them do the cooking, maitre de duties, waiting and clearing. Hardly any of them seem to employ chefs, although the larger ones employ additional waiting staff.
In Greece there are very large numbers of restaurants (called tavernas), particularly in tourist areas where they only open from about May through October and then close for the winter. Although we’ve always found the fare to be good and well-priced there is little variety from one to another. Home in New Zealand we’re used to a huge ethnic diversity of eateries but apart from the occasional Italian restaurant and an even rarer Chinese one, it’s all very much Greek. We always get a very courteous and friendly reception and menus are available in English. A custom we really like is that they always offer you something a little extra for free – typically an appetiser, a plate of dessert fruits, a round of wines or ouzo.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

MORE ABOUT ABOARD ENVOY IN LEFKAS MARINA

CORRECTION of last posting; Greeks can withdraw 60 Euros from the bank per day not 6 as mentioned.
I mentioned last posting there were no great technical surprises coming back aboard Envoy, but there’s a few things to mention:
- Normally when we return to Envoy the interior is exactly how we left her, but this time she was a bit dustier than usual as we’d had some fibre-glassing work done to repair a crack in the floor of the main shower, and a bit of grinding dust had spread through the boat – not bad though.
- We’d had a short circuit in our bow thruster 24V battery bank caused by cable connections working loose. This has resulted in one of the two Deka AGM batteries not holding charge and although these batteries are only a bit over three years old we’re needing to replace both of them as it’s not recommended to replace just one battery in a bank. Fortunately we can get these from the Deka dealer in Italy.
- For all of the time we’ve owned Envoy the aft stainless steel fresh water tank has leaked a little (less than 1 L/day) when filled above about half capacity. I removed an inspection hatch in the top of the tank and found its general condition to appear OK. Being empty, I gave the exposed surfaces of the tank a clean.
- Our domestic hot water tank has signs of corrosion on its outer galvanized steel protective cover (as opposed to the aluminium alloy water tank). This seems to have been caused by tiny leaks of fresh water from the input tap running onto the cover over a period of several years. The difficult to access exterior of the tap itself is coated with a thick layer of calcification resulting from the leak. The tank is working fine but Sailand are going to remove it for refurbishment.

Corrosion and calcification build-up on the cover of our water heater

Close up of corroded area - this has since been removed and reconditioned
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- Last year we took our Toshiba laptop used for navigation back to New Zealand for repair as it kept shutting down. We got it repaired in Auckland and there it seemed to be OK, but now it’s doing the same again – it gets hot real quick and its two cooling fans aren’t working. So it’s back to NZ for repair once again!
- When leaving your boat for the winter the fuel tanks should ideally be over 80% full to reduce the chance of water ingress through condensation. Our four tanks are 25%, 46%, 70% and 90% full – so not ideal, especially considering our longer than expected absence. Envoy has a fuel “polishing” (ie filtration) system based on a 12V, 7L/min pump passing fuel through a magnetic DeBug device and a Racor filter. If any water or “bug” is present this should show up in the Racor’s clear bowl. I’ve polished a portion of the fuel from each tank, over 1,000L in total, being careful to avoid cross contamination and all seems to be OK.
While we were away from Envoy the local service company, Sailand did some work for us and I’ll detail that in another post, but next post we’ll skip the technicalities and talk about our road trip to the Greek mountains.

FOR FOODIES: Greek Salad – a salad sans greens.
Every single taverna and restaurant we’ve been to here offer a delicious Greek salad and they all seem to follow much the same formula. Normally the salad seems to be eaten before the main course.
A Greek salad is based on lots of coarsely chopped tomatoes. Greek and Italian tomatoes are big, sweet and juicy. Next in volume is medium thicknesses of sliced cucumber. Then add slices of red onions and green pepper. Fetta cheese is generally added as one large thick slice on top of the salad rather than as cubes mixed in. Lastly add some ground oregano, a generous quantity of olive oil and a little balsamic – there you have it.

A mouth-watering Greek salad

Thursday, October 08, 2015

BACK IN LEFKAS ABOARD ENVOY

Read our new Blog section below – FOR FOODIES.
Last November 2014 when we left our second home – our Nordhavn 46 “Envoy” in Greece’s Lefkas Marina, we expected to be back cruising by April this year. Unexpected circumstances prevented that and just last week we returned to Lefkas to check on Envoy, as part of a wider trip to visit our daughter in London and my brother and his wife in Scotland. We knew it was too late in the season to do any cruising – winter weather generally arrives by early November and it normally takes about two to three weeks to prepare Envoy and a week to winterize her after cruising. So this trip we’re using Envoy like a motel unit – to do some land-based exploration.
On arriving aboard Envoy up on the marina’s hardstand we found everything OK with no surprises - more on Envoy technically in next post.
Obviously Greece has featured a lot in the news recently with their financial crisis and the refugee issues. We arrived into Athens, spent one night there and then made the five hour bus trip to Lefkas.

This 16th century church is nestled in the basement of a new multi-story building in Athens

So far we haven’t seen any refugees or any visible signs of the crisis. We’ve no doubt that a lot of hardship does exist, but people are out and about, tavernas are bustling and several Lefkas shop owners told Di it has been one of their best seasons ever. But we have heard that Greeks can only withdraw six Euro per day from banks or ATMs. The areas where refugees are flooding into Greece are the islands adjacent to Turkey, such as Kos and Lesvos – a long way from here.
We hired a rental car for eight days to explore some inland areas we’ve not visited previously and will mention that in our next posting.

FOR FOODIES Yes “foodie” is a real word and refers to a person having an enthusiastic interest in the preparation and consumption of great food. During our unexpected sojourn home in New Zealand I took on three months consultancy work with some old friends. One of them, Vivienne, told me she regularly reads our blog, is not particularly interested in the technical stuff, but when we mention going into this or that “taverna” would like to hear more about what we eat. So this new section is dedicated to Viv, and we'll get it going properly when we come back to the Med next year.
While staying in the village of Papingo high on the slopes of Mt Astraka looming 2,436m above sea level we stayed in a traditional inn.

Papingo is set high in rugged mountains

We weren’t particularly hungry and opted for a simple three-course organic vegetarian dinner, which turned out to be stunning with all of the ingredients coming from the inn’s garden and surrounding fields:
- Zucchini salad: smallish light green zucchini sliced lengthways very thinly with a potato peeler, doused with finely-chopped phenyl, whole red pepper corns, olive oil mixed with lemon juice and garnished with sliced lemon
- Fried porchini mushrooms: porchini mushrooms are the ones with very ragged edges. Our host, Kostas, said they gather about 100kg of mushrooms every third day from the fields around the inn. These were served fried in olive oil and garlic, and garnished with rocket leaves and ground pepper.
- Green beans: coarsely sliced lengthways and lightly cooked in a tomato pasta sauce heavily diluted in olive oil. We’re definitely going to try and replicate this back home.
Of course this was complimented by obligatory glasses of passable local red and white wines at ridiculously low prices.

Our traditional taverna served organic vegetables fresh from their own garden

Trays of porchini mushrooms drying in the sun

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

LEAVING ENVOY DURING THE WINTER IN THE WATER VS HARDSTAND

Envoy is on the hard in Lefkas marina, Greece and we will be back there early next week.

Having owned Envoy since late 2006 we’ve now left her unattended for periods ranging from about 5 months to 27 months, mostly on the hardstand but sometimes in the water so what are the pros and cons of each for boats in general?
Next week when we rejoin Envoy she’ll have been out of the water for about 6 months so then we’ll report more on this subject.

Envoy on the Ostia marina hardstand, Italy

Firstly it’s much more pleasant in a marina living aboard while your boat is in the water. You still get gentle boat movement (sometimes not so gentle during gales) and it’s much easier and safer to get aboard your boat and load supplies using the passarelle from the dock compared to a ladder from the ground.
In most marinas we can use our own shower rather than the shore facilities and empty the galley sink, neither of which we can do on the hardstand.
Marina hardstand areas are generally rather litter-strewn and dusty so we always find it easier to keep Envoy clean while in the water. But of course below waterline areas are a different story and while your boat is sitting unused in the water your hull will suffer more marine growth than usual.
So far as safety of the vessel is concerned each option is probably neutral. While in the water there is the risk of damage to mooring lines, cleats and hulls during storms, as well as the risk of taking on water if a leak develops. This is very dependent on the location of the marina since many are subject to surges during adverse winter weather.
On the hardstand there is some risk of damage during travel lift operations or from the vessel falling or being knocked over during earthquakes or severe storms, both of which are prevalent in the Med.
Personal safety is better with your vessel in the water as many accidents occur with people falling from their vessel or ladder onto the hardstand below.
In most marinas security is better on marina piers than it is on the hardstand where there are more people coming and going and public access is less restricted.
Cost is another factor to take into account and this depends on the individual marina and their ratio of berths to hardstand area. Sometimes it’s cheaper in the water and sometimes not. Seasonality also affects this with considerable more hardstand area being available during summer months.
Envoy’s refrigeration system has the option of air or seawater cooling but the latter is more efficient so that’s another plus for being in the water.
There are some repairs and maintenance which can only be performed out of water (for example servicing seacocks and running gear) but on balance there is more that can be achieved in the water.
Another negative for staying in the water is the possibility of galvanic corrosion and/or stray current electrolysis.
Osmosis is another risk for GRP hulls and a spell of several months out of the water can only assist its prevention.

Monday, September 14, 2015

INTERESTING INFORMATION FROM TECHNICAL TRAINING SEMINAR ABOARD NORDHAVN 68 – PART TWO

Envoy is currently in Lefkas marina, Greece and we’re home in New Zealand. But we arrive back in Lefkas late next week and soon after that will give an update on how Envoy's faring having been left for 11 months.

Our last posting introduced the technical seminar held aboard Nordhavn 68, Karajas, in Akuna Bay Marina north of Sydney.

View of Karaja's engine room with single John Deere main plus Northern Lights wing engine

Steve d'Antonio talks to course attendees in engine room

So what are a few key points others can learn from? Here is a flavour of some specifics.
- Always install equipment according to the manufacturer’s guidelines and insist that contractors do so,
as well as supplying a schematic diagram where needed.
- No AC power connections should be exposed or able to be accidentally touched.
- When working on AC power systems always totally isolate the inverter and remove the shore power
cable.
- Stainless steel bolts, nuts and washers should not be used in demanding applications like prop shaft couplings, steering couplings or engine mounts. Nor should they be used in electrical situations due to
the low conductivity of stainless steel.
- Although two hose clamps are supposed to be used for all raw water plumbing applications it is better
to use one properly than two improperly. Ensure hose clamps are marine grade stainless steel and have
solid not perforated bands. To avoid cuts and injuries use “Clamp-Aid” silicone covers on the sharp
exposed tail of the clamp.
- Only use correctly rated and marked hose for raw water plumbing and exhaust systems.
- Operate seacocks regularly to avoid them seizing up.
- Hydraulic steering rams and tiller arms should be regularly checked both at rest and under way while steering lock-to-lock to check for significant leaks and movement in fastenings.
- Test your emergency steering tiller before you need to use it.
- To reduce corrosion on aluminium masts, paravanes, booms, door frames etc bed fittings and hardware
in a PU bedding compound. This can be done retrospectively.
- In the event of engine room fire stop all engines and blowers (to maximise the effect of the extinguishing agent) and isolate the batteries (in case the fire is caused by a short circuit or overload).
- The prop shaft stuffing box temperature should not exceed about 30dF above the ambient sea water temperature.
- There is no need to change primary fuel filter cartridges too often, but as dictated by your vacuum gauge
(at about 5 inches of vacuum). Use 10 or 30 micron cartridges – finer is not better in the primaries.
- Bleeding of the fuel system should not be necessary if the primary and secondary filters are bled
correctly when changed. To ensure any air remaining in the system is passed through run the engine for
about 5 mins at 1200-1440 rpm, not at idle. This rpm range will reduce the chance of the engine stalling while passing air.
- Dry exhaust thermal insulation should be regularly checked using the pyrometer and for potential fire
and safety reasons no section should exceed 200dF. Wet exhaust system hoses should not exceed about 160dF.
- To maximise AGM battery life normally discharge to about 50% of its capacity and don’t routinely start charging much above that level.

I would certainly recommend any serious cruiser to attend a course run by Steve or a similarly qualified industry expert both to learn specifics and to stimulate thought.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

INTERESTING INFORMATION FROM TECHNICAL TRAINING SEMINAR ABOARD NORDHAVN 68 – PART ONE

Envoy is currently in Lefkas marina, Greece and we’re home in New Zealand, heading to Lefkas next month.
Last week I attended a technical training seminar run by noted industry guru Steve D’Antonio.
Steve has owned and managed marine engineering companies, written numerous technical articles and is a marine engineering consultant. The course was held aboard a very impressive near-new Nordhavn 68, Karajas, berthed in the stunning Akuna Bay Marina within the Ku-ring-gai National Park about an hour’s drive north of downtown Sydney, Australia. Attendance was limited to 13, both to maximize interaction and to make full use of Karajas’s impressively large full-headroom engine room for some hands-on instruction.

Nordhavn 68, Karaja is an impressive vessel

Attendees pose on Karaja's wide Portuguese bridge

There was some interesting discussion on why buyers of many brands of new boats seem to suffer an unreasonably long time before “teething problems” are resolved. Although there was no conclusion on this, Steve noted that compared for example with cars, production numbers of each type of boat are very low, no two boats are the same (as owners specify so many different options), and many trades people involved in their building don’t have the knowledge or take the care they should. Add to this the salt water and air environment and Murphy’s Law!

Boat owners in general vary in both their technical aptitude and desire to undertake maintenance work from doing nearly everything themselves to doing nothing at all, but Steve emphasized that as a minimum an owner should understand the function of installed equipment; have all switches, breakers, fuses, and controls clearly labeled; and be able to change primary and secondary fuel filters, vee belts and pump impellers.
The general theme of the seminar was that paying attention to detail will pay huge dividends in reducing operating problems. This not only applies to owners undertaking work themselves but also to ensuring contractors undertake work correctly, something which Steve says is sometimes sadly lacking due to one of or a combination of attitude, lack of knowledge and experience or ingrained poor practice (“what’s wrong … we’ve always done it that way”).
During a very full day we covered topics such as using multimeters for fault finding (particularly engine starting), using infrared pyrometers for bench marking and preventative maintenance, electrical connections, electrical safety, AGM battery security and charging, water and fuel plumbing systems, hydraulic steering systems, filter cartridge changes, prop shaft cooling, engine mounts, engine room fire suppression, aluminium corrosion protection and correct selection and use of fastenings.
Within the context of these broad subjects numerous other interesting points emerged, many of which will be of practical benefit to myself and other attendees. See our next posting for some useful tips.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

WHERE TO GET THE INFORMATION YOU NEED FOR CRUISING

Envoy is currently in Lefkas marina, Greece. We’re home in New Zealand but heading to Lefkas next month.
PassageMaker, published in the US, is the undisputed leading magazine dealing with passagemakers – that is boats from about 40 to 70 feet in length able to undertake extended voyages with minimal crews across open seas in most weather conditions (although like all small power or sailing vessels avoiding hurricane and cyclone seasons).
Passagemakers are a growing market with over 500 Nordhavns sold along with similar brands such as Kady Krogen, Selene, Fleming and Ocean Alexander as well as other brands and custom-built vessels.
While some passagemakers have done some very impressive blue water cruising (for example Nordhavn 46, Kanaloa, has recently commenced her fourth circumnavigation), I believe it’s true to say the great majority of passagemakers are purchased because owners like the traditional style and economy of a “small ship” rather than they intend to do much offshore cruising. We fall into this category ourselves and have only done coastal cruising aboard Envoy with our greatest distance from land having been about 60 miles.
PassageMaker has recently celebrated its 20th anniversary and this reminded me how this magazine was the first source of information we turned to when we decided to buy a passagemaker, eventually leading us to purchase our Nordhavn 46.
So what sources of information are available to those interested in adopting the cruising lifestyle?
Information requirements generally fall into two categories – technical and destinations - including formalities needed, and here are the sources we have used and still use to meet these requirements:
- Our on board Nordhavn 46 technical Manual, constantly updated
- Our on board equipment instruction Manuals
- Manufacturers of the equipment in question
- Technical books such as Nigel Calder’s Boat Owners Mechanical and Electrical Manual
- Articles we have copied from boating magazines
- Discussions with other cruisers
- Selected cruisers’ blogs
- Local marine engineering companies and/or agents for equipment
- Internet searches and youtube
- The Nordhavn factory
- The Nordhavn Owners website
- Previous owners of our vessel
- Technical questions at passagemaker.com
- Charts and cruising guides
- Tourist guides such as Lonely Planet
- Google Earth
- Navionics on our iPad
- www.noonsite.com a website offering cruisers a wealth of information

Passagemaker’s special 20th anniversary edition mentioned some amusing reflections on maintenance:
- No boat project can be accomplished without creating new projects and the more complicated the first project the more new projects it will spawn
- You will never have all the parts, supplies, fasteners etc required to complete a project no matter how well you plan, and the final item needed won’t be identified until after the stores have all closed
- All projects except the tiniest will result in the entire boat being torn up
- The more deeply you are involved in a project the more people will stop by the boat for a chat
- Any dropped object will end up in the most inaccessible place possible, including Davy Jones locker

Next week I’m attending a technical training course run by well-known guru Steve D’Antonio so our next post will be about that.

Monday, August 03, 2015

BOATING ETIQUETTE

Envoy is still in Lefkas Marina, Greece and we plan to return there in September.
In New Zealand we’re fortunate that the majority of skippers have some degree of competence and sense of courtesy to others, and that we have a sensible and reasonably enforced set of Navigation Safety Rules.
But cruising around Mediterranean countries it’s an entirely different story and we frequently observe poor behavior on the water ranging from the discourteous to the downright dangerous - for example failure to observe collision regulations, crew bow riding on high speed vessels, anchoring too closely, and speeding or water skiing between anchored vessels and close to swimmers.
Most aggravation that occurs seems to revolve around anchoring, speed, wakes, jet-skis and noise and I’m going to take a light-hearted look at these issues.
The first people in an anchorage have priority and should expect skippers of later arrivals to respect their space and peace as much as possible. But this doesn’t mean they can have the anchorage all to themselves; how often have you slowly cruised into an anchorage to see one or two other skippers standing on deck, unsmiling, with hands on hips and negative body language intently watching your every move? You approach their stern and drop your anchor about two metres behind them.
“Why don’t you drop your anchor in my cockpit?” is sometimes asked aggressively.
I’m often tempted to reply, “yeah I was aiming for it but missed”.
There is nothing wrong with laying your anchor immediately astern of another boat or even close alongside it, as your own vessel will drop well back behind them respecting their space and privacy.
Sometimes you will anchor your boat safely clear of and in front of another whose skipper will yell out, “hey your boat’s over my anchor.” There’s nothing wrong with being over someone else’s anchor, provided you move your boat if necessary when they want to retrieve it. This is not to be confused with laying your anchor or chain over the top of somebody else’s, an understandably annoying practice.
It can be a good idea to buoy your anchor in rocky anchorages so that if it gets fouled you can retrieve it more easily (though this doesn’t always work). However some skippers have the annoying practice of using buoys wherever they anchor, probably with the aim of keeping other vessels away. The problem here is that as boats move position with tide and wind changes the buoy’s line can foul another boat’s running gear. Buoyed anchors and stern anchors have no place in a busy anchorage where all boats must be able to swing freely, and if another vessel’s anchor buoy becomes a hazard you should politely ask her skipper to remove it.
Nowadays we see much larger planing vessels than were apparent several years ago and most of these cause considerable wakes. Unfortunately many skippers helming this type of boat seem to have more money than sense or experience and a regular widespread problem is planing boats approaching anchorages at a speed just off the plane, pushing up huge wakes, their skippers seemingly oblivious to the fact they will cause every vessel at anchor to roll alarmingly. Good seamanship requires approaching an anchorage at a speed which will cause the smallest possible wake.

We now see ever larger high speed planing boats putting up dangerous wakes


In the Med people driving dinghies or jet skis at high speed or water skiing within a few metres of anchored vessels is a major problem, and extremely dangerous since people are often swimming around their vessels. In six years cruising here we’ve never seen any type of action by authorities to prevent this.
Many boaties enjoy listening to their music over a few drinks in the evening as they recount the day’s events, but these days there are so many high-powered sound systems that an anchorage can sound like a raging battle of the bands. If a nearby boat was anchored first and has a good sound system, why not listen to their music rather than try to drown it out with yours?
Many people like to enjoy themselves and make a bit of noise until a reasonable hour, but if you intend to party loudly all night long, best anchor well away from others.
Boating remains one of the great pleasures in life and can be made that much more enjoyable if all observe regulations, show consideration to others, keep their cool and avoid confrontation.

Monday, July 13, 2015

MARINAS IN THE MED ARE VERY DIFFERENT TO THOSE IN NEW ZEALAND

Envoy is still in Lefkas Marina, Greece and we plan to return there in September.
Marinas in the Med are totally different to what we are used to in New Zealand, and some of them can be quite a daunting experience. Ironically the only two boating-related injuries we’ve ever sustained have been in Med marinas.
The first one occurred while sheltering from a storm in a marina in Turkey. We were enjoying a cup of coffee in a local taverna when a horrendous gust of wind imploded its large sea-facing window, showering us with shards of glass and requiring us both to have a few stitches in hospital.

My ear was half ripped off by broken glass from the window

The second one happened just last year in a Sicilian marina when I stepped on a concrete paving stone that collapsed under me, lacerating my foot.
In the Med many marinas are not well-protected from the open sea, so during strong winds, especially during winter storms, swells and surge can make them uncomfortable and in some cases untenable with large waves cascading over their protective seawalls. For example, one day in Italy’s Ostia marina there was such a large surge that we couldn’t safely disembark from Envoy and the boat next to us broke its stern lines and went adrift dragging its power cable and water hose astern.

Huge waves crashing against a seawall. One boat on hardstand to left has been knocked from its supports. Concrete blocks weighing several tonnes were moved more than 5 metres. Even if waves don't come over the wall (and they do!) they can cause a heavy surge inside the marina

Med marinas don’t have pontoons or poles between the boats, which are moored stern-to the dock protected only by their fenders, and with a lazy line or sometimes your own anchor to secure your bow.

In six years cruising this is the only time we had a berth with a pontoon on our side

If a blow with some surge is expected it’s a good idea to use two bow lines, or at least ensure the one you have is strong enough to hold. Also to use additional long spring lines secured from amidships back to the jetty, as surge can easily break short stern lines and damage cleats, or indeed pull them out of your deck. Most marinas provide staff to assist with docking and to help make boats more secure if strong winds and surge are expected.
Apart from surge, wakes from ferries and fishing boats passing nearby or through marinas can be problem too.
Access to your boat in a marina is generally by passarelle (boarding plank) from your stern to the dock, and these should be used with care as accidents are common. We generally rig a safety line to hold onto while using the passarelle, especially when we have guests who are not used to this procedure.
Most marinas provide water, but it’s rarely potable and most cruisers buy bottled water for drinking. It’s a good idea to regularly fill your water tank in case of any problems with the marina water supply. Sometimes the water supply can be a considerable distance from the boat so long hoses should be carried.
Electricity is also commonly provided, but maintenance levels are poor - many power sockets don’t work or have low voltage, and power outages are particularly common during heavy rain and thunderstorms. Often the power outages are not just on the marina but for the whole local area. Power costs are mostly included in the marina berth charge, but in other cases it’s charged extra, normally using a pre-pay card. It’s a good idea to maintain a large selection of plugs and extension leads as the power sockets vary and sometimes there are not enough for each boat. In these cases a neighbouring skipper will generally agree to share his power socket with you, or the marina staff will make that decision for him.
We have always found security in marinas good and theft is rarely an issue provided that normal sensible precautions are taken.
Many cruisers in the Med don’t anchor at all, simply travelling from marina to marina without ever removing and stowing their fenders. This is particularly the case with chartered yachts, which are often poorly equipped with ground tackle, and with crew who aren’t confident in their anchoring ability and want to enjoy the marina’s action, restaurants and atmosphere. We try to avoid marinas as much as possible because they’re expensive (typically about $70 to $130 per night). It’s also time-consuming to set up mooring lines, power cord and passarelle, and many marinas and harbours require you to go through the inconvenience of reporting to the authorities to have your ship’s documents checked. Another factor is we like to swim as much as possible, which is generally not possible in marinas (not only forbidden but potentially dangerous to swim in areas close to poorly maintained shore power terminals).
Much as we prefer not to, during a typical year we inevitably spend some weeks in various marinas – preparing our boat for cruising at the beginning of the season and for winter at season’s end, when guests arrive and depart, in locations where there are no safe anchorages, for maintenance, for shelter from adverse weather (above Force 7) and when we want to leave our boat unattended for inland travel.
All marinas allow living aboard your boat in the water, and most allow living aboard on the hardstand (even if their advertised terms and conditions say this is not allowed).
Most marinas provide clean toilets and hot showers, but few have facilities to empty holding tanks so it’s a good idea to pump them out at sea before entering a marina.
It’s rarely a problem to discharge grey water or to use a washing machine in marinas. Laundry facilities are common in larger marinas but tend to be very expensive. Cheaper options can often be found in nearby villages.
Shops and markets for most supplies are generally plentiful.

On the hardstand
When your boat needs to be slipped for anti-fouling and below water maintenance it’s a big advantage to continue living aboard and most Med marinas allow this.
Ensure your ladder is stable, securely tied top and bottom, and used very carefully as serious injury-causing accidents involving ladders are common.


It’s a good idea to check your boat’s hull supports periodically, particularly wooden ones, as we have found they can move and need adjustment.

When wooden hull supports are used they can move and need regular checking

Most marina hardstand areas are very dusty and turn muddy during rain, so ensure your cockpit is well protected from dirty footwear and you have a mat at the bottom of your ladder. Keep an old hose especially for use on the hardstand as hoses generally can’t be cleaned sufficiently for normal use after being used there. The power cable also gets very dirty and needs a thorough clean after use.
Grey water cannot be discharged directly onto the hardstand so we place bowls in the galley and head sinks, and empty them periodically into marina storm water drains. In case we get caught short during the night we place a bucket in the head and empty it first thing in the morning.
Although living aboard on the hardstand is probably the least enjoyable aspect of the Med cruising life, it’s often improved by the fact that you’re probably looking up at some nearby ancient temple or castle, and after that time comes the great consistent weather, fascinating historical destinations and wonderfully interesting cultures and cuisines.
The next Blog posting will discuss boating etiquette.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

PREPARING YOUR GRAB BAG

Envoy is currently in Lefkas marina, western Greece, while we are home in New Zealand.
We plan to return to Envoy in September.
You’re cruising along the coastline enjoying idyllic conditions and keeping watch as your autopilot does its work. Your boat has a gentle motion in the slight seas and you sniff the aroma from your mug of fresh coffee, ever hopeful of hearing the screaming zing of your trolling line’s reel.
The last thing on your mind is having to suddenly abandon your vessel, but at sea the unexpected can and does occur, especially during night time, and you should always be prepared for dealing with emergencies such as collision with another vessel, hitting a heavy floating or semi-submerged object, striking a rock or reef, going aground, fire, capsize, or taking on water. It’s easy to say these situations couldn’t happen to me, but Coastguard incident records tell a different story, and whether you’re aboard a high speed trailer boat or a 20 metre cruiser a little forethought and preparation will improve your chances of success in dealing with an emergency.
Most emergency situations are either resolved or kept under control until assistance arrives using your own safety equipment:
- Correctly installed and regularly tested bilge pumps of adequate capacity
- Fire fighting equipment including an engine room extinguishing system, strategically located high capacity fire extinguishers and fire blankets
- A comprehensive tool kit including tools to quickly make and secure emergency patches
- A repair kit including a selection of soft wooden plugs to use as bungs, small sheets of plywood and aluminium to make patches, sealant, duct tape, hose repair kit and hose clamps

Abandoning ship is an action taken only after all other options are exhausted - as old salts say - you step up into a life raft not down into one. It’s safer to stay aboard your boat even half-full of water than taking to a dinghy in open waters, and you will be easier to locate and rescue; many vessels have been found floating long after being abandoned.
However situations arise, particularly serious fires and imminent sinking, where there is no option but to leave the vessel. Most vessels over about seven metres in length carry a tender, and as few coastal cruisers carry certified life rafts the tender is the primary means of escape and survival. Most tenders used today are RHIBs and will stay afloat even in very adverse conditions, but if your tender is aluminium or wooden consider installing watertight, foam-filled compartments.
If your tender is being towed or carried on a boarding platform it should be possible to deploy quickly. However towing tenders is unwise in rough or potentially rough conditions as they can overturn or become swamped. Larger tenders requiring a crane to lift them are difficult to launch quickly in the event of fire, sudden sinking, power failure or rough seas, and it’s worth having a second smaller tender available for rapid manual launching in event of an emergency.

Our larger RHIB shown below would be impossible to launch using the crane from Envoy's boat deck quickly in an emergency, so we also carry a smaller RHIB that can be launched by hand



All boats should have a Grab Bag (or Ditch Bag) in case you have to abandon ship quickly, and these are available from most chandlers. It should be immediately recognisable, and have a line attached to reduce the chance of loss while abandoning ship. Although you are most likely to be rescued within a short time, victims sometimes spend overnight or longer in their RHIB, so Grab Bags typically have the following contents (packed in individual plastic bags to keep them dry):
- Hand-held VHF radio in a waterproof case with spare batteries
- Fully-charged mobile phone in waterproof case, preferably with spare battery
- EPIRB
- Hand bearing compass
- Binoculars
- Orange safety square
- First aid kit
- Fresh water
- Snack food
- Hand held searchlight and waterproof torches with spare batteries
- Strobe light and spare batteries
- Flares kit
- Air horn
- Whistle
- Signaling mirror
- RHIB repair kit
- Sharp knife
- Length of line
- Rescue quoit with floating line
- Sun hats, sunglasses, sun block, lip screen
- Notebook and pencil
- Thermal blankets
- Toilet roll

This list assumes that the crew is already suitably dressed for the conditions, including life jackets and footwear in case of landing on a rocky shore.
Some Grab Bag items such as your mobile phone may be in regular use – so keep these conveniently located to add later if necessary.
When we do passages at night, or in heavy weather or a long distance offshore we keep our Grab Bag, lifejackets, RHIB pump and all other necessary items together in the saloon or cockpit so they’re available immediately if needed.

These comments are related to coastal, not offshore cruising - for which considerably more extensive preparation and equipping is required.
The next posting will be about living aboard your vessel in marinas.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

THE CRUISING LIFE - FIXING YOUR BOAT IN EXOTIC LOCATIONS

Envoy is located at Lefkas Marina, Greece.
Cruisers have a popular saying: “the cruising life is fixing your boat in exotic locations” and this carries a lot of truth - during our several months of cruising the Med each year we meet many fellow cruisers – mostly with sailing yachts, and inevitably conversation soon turns to the subject of what equipment needs fixing. Regardless of the type of boat or its age we have yet to meet a cruiser who says nothing on his boat needs attention.

Anchoring in great bays like these is a major part of cruising but not without some technical work too


Most cruisers are very pragmatic about this and don’t let a technical problem spoil their cruising. For example we’ve cruised for a whole season without a working water maker and another without our hydraulic stabilisers. Of course there was some irritation about these circumstances but we didn’t let them interfere with our cruising plans - if you become overly pedantic about non mission-critical problems you may never cast off from the marina to start your adventures.
In New Zealand we’re fortunate in having a tremendous infrastructure of qualified and competent marine technicians and spare parts availability, but this is often not the case when cruising overseas and can be further complicated by a lack of knowledge of the local situation and by different languages. Cruisers like us, who mostly relied on service contractors when boating in home waters, soon learn to become independent and try to tackle as much as possible themselves.
Fortunately there are many sources of technical information available to assist the cruiser, and at various times we’ve used most of the following:
- Our own boat’s technical manual originally prepared by the manufacturer and added to by owners
- On board instruction manuals and spare parts lists from original equipment suppliers
- Contact with the boat’s manufacturer, previous owners and owners’ associations
- Contact with the manufacturer of the equipment in question
- Technical reference books carried aboard (such as Nigel Calder’s “Boatowners Mechanical and Electrical Manual”)
- Technical articles copied from boating magazines
- Talking with other skippers
- Local marine engineering companies
- Agents for the equipment in question both locally and back in New Zealand
- Internet searches for information
- The many available You Tube videos showing how to perform numerous technical tasks

Among many other tasks during 2015 our main rudder bearing needed replacement

............as did our toilet's joker valves

But we inevitably need to have work done by contractors when we don’t have the knowledge or skills to carry out a task and recent examples have been changing injectors, setting valve clearances and reconditioning a starter motor and alternator.
When we need a contractor we try to find out who the best ones are by talking with other cruisers, and we always remain on board while the job is done. This is necessary because contractors normally arrive without any manuals or information, and often without even adequate tools to complete the task - recently an electrician arrived for a fault-finding job on our electric head and needed to borrow our multimeter! Working alongside contractors is also a great way to increase our technical skills.
Contractors in some overseas regions often don’t deliver the service we expect and mostly receive in New Zealand; example – an Italian service agent for a well known European engine brand “fixed” an engine oil leak by placing a plastic container under the leak to catch the drips. On the positive side we have found many skilled and resourceful contractors very adept at repairing failed components rather than replacing them with expensive and difficult-to-source new ones.
To maximize your technical security and independence it’s essential to carry onboard a comprehensive toolkit, complete spare parts and manuals for all installed equipment, and an extensive range of chandlery items.
It’s often said that the cost of maintaining a cruising boat is about ten per cent of the boat’s capital value each year, but over six years we’ve found between five and six per cent to be closer to the mark (not including fuel and oil). Our philosophy is to maintain our boat in tip-top condition mechanically, better than average condition cosmetically and to strike a balance between preventative maintenance and “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”
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Saturday, May 16, 2015

LOOKING BACK ON THE UNIQUE PLEASURE OF OUR VERY FIRST BOAT

Envoy is currently located at Lefkas marina, Greece.
We have fond memories of all six power boats we’ve owned, each one being a great experience and serving us well during different phases of our lives. But one stands out in our minds as extra special; our very first boat purchased in 1982, a 5.3 metre Seacraft Valencia powered with a Mercruiser 140hp petrol sterndrive. We still remember seeing this boat for the first time in the Seacraft showroom, thinking how big she looked sitting high on her tandem-axle trailer and admiring her rugged no-nonsense GRP clinker-hull styling.

Mokruiser on trailer

Then we met Seacraft director Lionel Sands and discovered this boat was special as she’d been built for his family use and included many optional extras. The boat was called Mokruiser, and Lionel explained the unusual name was based on the contraction of Mercruiser and Moko Hinau Islands (off the north-east coast of New Zealand’s North Island), where Lionel made regular fishing and diving expeditions from the family beach house near the Whangarei Heads. These Moko Hinaus, some 35 miles out from the Heads, can be a rough trip but the rewards are excellent fishing for snapper and kingfish as well as diving in the clear waters for large crayfish.
Mokruiser’s pedigree was sufficient to convince us that she would meet all our needs at that time, and during the two-year-long steep learning curve we owned her we logged 154 days cruising Auckland’s greater Hauraki Gulf, as well as trailering Mokruiser north to explore the incomparable Bay of Islands.
Most of our leisure time with our two kids was spent boating, our son introduced to boating from just a few months old strapped into a car safety seat adapted for use aboard Mokruiser. John obviously got a healthy dose of salt water into his veins as he later became first mate on a super yacht cruising Mediterranean and North American waters. After our skills and confidence grew we joined Coastguard’s volunteer Search and Rescue Group, and Mokruiser became a familiar volunteer “Rescue Cutter” back in the days before dedicated rescue craft.
We remember a day when our kids were building sand castles on a beach in Northland as we chatted with an older and wiser man who advised us to make the most of these special boating days as you don’t get a second chance. How right he was, and we never forget those early boating days and our various firsts – our first cruise around Kawau Island, the first time our kids rowed the dinghy and the first time they caught a fish with infectious excitement.

A family day out with Mokruiser in the early 1980s

Mokruiser on the right - we wouldn't be doing this with Envoy

Thirty two years later we meet Lionel again. Of course time changes us all, but there is instant mutual recognition and we express our gratitude to Lionel for putting us on course for lives which have largely revolved around boating, logging thousands of days skippering various boats in seven different countries. Lionel proudly guides us around Seacraft (now called Seacraft Miller Moyes), and explains the various stages in the production procedure for the highly respected Haines Hunter range of outboard-powered GRP trailer boats consisting of six core models ranging from 4.85 metres up to the flagship 7.25 metres.
This is an occasion for some reflection, and Lionel recounts how they started producing wooden boats. All the early boat shows he attended comprised only wooden boats. Then GRP boats first appeared during the mid-1960s, and within a short time there were few wooden boats to be seen. Later along came the rise of aluminium boats and RHIBs, so that today’s market has a wide diversity of offerings including imported boats.
These days Lionel goes to sea in a Haines Hunter SP725 and still sometimes ventures to the Moko Hinaus, but showed us some recent photos proving that he can always catch plenty of excellent snapper much closer to the Whangarei Heads largely negating the need for such a long round trip.
We enjoyed our time with Mokruiser so much that our next two trailer boats retained the same name, and it was both satisfying and intriguing for us to meet Lionel again to be reminded of our boating roots which have stood us in good stead for many years.