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Sunday, December 27, 2015


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

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

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


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

- 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.