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Friday, April 15, 2016

TOP CRUISING SPOTS OF THE EASTERN MED (PART 10) – SICILY'S TOWN OF TRAPANI AND THE EGADI ISLANDS

We are now back aboard Envoy in Lefkas Marina, Greece, preparing for cruising.

This is the last of our 10 part series on favourite cruising destinations in the Med.

Destination 10: Trapani and the Egadi Islands
Where is it?: Trapani is a town is on Sicily's north-west coast with the Egadi Islands close by.
How long is required to enjoy here?: At least a week.
Brief outline: Favignana, Marretimo and Levanzo are the main three islands of the Egadi Marine Reserve. Nearby Trapani offers an interesting safe haven in event of strong winds.
Must do: Take the cable car from Trapani to the village of Erice.

The Egadi Islands form a marine reserve with restrictions on boats in some areas and reasonably-priced moorings available in many sheltered bays.

Favignana is the largest island, roughly the shape of a butterfly, with some great anchorages on the southern side overlooked by the imposing hilltop fortress of Santa Caterina.

Favignana is the main island with great anchorages on the southern side

Stunning view from one of favourite anchorages

The islands were a base for tuna fishing and you can see interesting relics from those days in Favignana village where you can also enjoy delicious fare in one of the many cafes. Our favourite is cannoli - a crispy tube of pastry filled with sweetened ricotta cheese.

Delicious cannoli

Huge pile of old anchors formerly used for fishing nets

Tuna fishing in the heyday - a monster

One of the most interesting delicatessens we've ever seen

Beach in Favignana harbour with fortress on hilltop in background


Another interesting island is Marettimo where we berthed in a small marina which was quite expensive, but at islands like this there’s no good shelter for anchoring with any wind so we had no choice. Here we dined at a great restaurant overlooking the marina, La Scalatta, made famous after a visit and positive reviews from Jamie Oliver. There are no menus and the chef, Giovanni serves whatever delicious fare he feels like preparing, with a heavy fresh seafood bias. Giovanni served us a culinary six course treat of bruschetta, clam chowder, grilled tuna, prawn risotto, mixed grilled fish and cassata and lemon gateau, of course washed down with various local wine varieties which still made their presence felt the next day.

Trapani is based around an ancient harbour where the Spanish landed in 1282 and has an interesting well-preserved Old Town of cobbled alleyways, churches, former palazzos (palaces), restaurants, tavernas and quirky shops.
Atop Monte San Giuliano, 756 metres above Trapani, is the fabulous medieval walled village of Erice, accessed by cable cars that provide stunning vistas of the surrounding area.

Great view from Erice

Sunday, April 10, 2016

BACK ABOARD ENVOY

During our break from cruising last year we shared some wonderful times with family and friends, but at times during the last 14 months I sure tired of typing the words for the blog “while Envoy is in Lefkas Marina we are home in Auckland.” So it's great to be finally able to say here we are back in Lefkas aboard Envoy with six months of cruising ahead of us -whatever your dream is do it now if you can while you can, as you never know what circumstances may lurk around the corner.

We arrived here in brilliant sunny conditions with temps in the low 20s which made for a great nearly six hour bus trip from Athens, mostly on the southern shore of the Gulf of Corinth, and on our arrival it was ideal conditions for getting our gear aboard. Nothing worse than starting off with miserable weather and everything getting wet.
As before there is no refugee issue either in Athens or anywhere on the south and west coast - it's pretty much confined to the Greek Aegean islands near Turkey and to the northern mainland.
Also as before there is no real sign of any “Greek crisis” - most people are smiling and the cafes are full.

Before we arrived Sailand had already removed our huge storage cover and arranged for it to be pressure washed prior to storage. This cover has been amazing – made of “Stamoid” fabric in late 2007 and used every winter since including continuously for three years, it's still in reasonable condition and will only need some minor repairs done while we're cruising so it's ready for service next winter. Sailand say that although very few boats have storage covers, they are a huge advantage in keeping your gelcoat in good condition providing good protection not only from the weather but also from all the dust from sanding etc around the marina hardstand.

An early priority has been to buy some supplies as we leave very little aboard from the end of one season to the next. A simple matter back home driving the car to the supermarket, but here we have to walk about a kilometer round trip carrying everything and the need to buy bottled water adds considerably to the load.

Aboard Envoy everything is pretty much how we left it and we've started on a list of about 70 jobs to be done before we start cruising. Having arrived here on Wednesday last week we hope to be in the water the coming Friday.
Apart from routine things like filter changing, anode replacement and anti-fouling a few issues have emerged.
1. In our absence Sailand removed and successfully reconditioned the domestic fresh water heater, but weren't able to test it until we returned. It's working but has a slight water leak and is not feeding hot water to all outlets so more work to be done.
2. The pump which drains our bathroom sink and shower has a sheared-off plastic fitting at the outlet where the hose clamps on so we're organising a new one. Coming from the plastics industry this annoys me as I know very well that fittings like this can be made using materials like glass-fibre  reinforced polyamide that would make them virtually unbreakable, but some manufacturers cut costs and use inferior polymers that cause annoying failures down the track.
3. One of our two interchangeable domestic fresh water pumps has failed and is being removed for overhaul.
4. Our large RHIB and Yamaha 25hp outboard is being serviced (even though we gave it to them in late 2014 it's only being done now). One issue is the depth sounder giving faulty readings due to a suspected faulty transducer. The mechanic, Spiros, informed me it's definitely faulty now as his dog has chewed it to pieces! Fortunately he still has the spare one we gave him when he took on the job. 5. The boom winch is not operating and I suspect an electrical wiring problem.
6. New Deka bow thruster batteries have arrived from Italy and will be installed next week – a major job as they're incredibly heavy.
7. Our Naiad stabiliser hydraulic rams have been removed for fitting new seals ex USA to hopefully eliminate some slight hydraulic fluid leaks. These are due to go be put back next week.
8. We have four diesel tanks totaling about 3,800 litres storage capacity and with about 2,400 litres aboard left over from late 2014. By the way 2,400 litres would carry us well over 2,000 miles. To reduce the chance of any “diesel bug” issues we're using our fuel polishing system to filter all of this fuel through a 2 micron Racor running in combination with a “DeBug” brand magnetic device that kills the fungal spores which comprise “diesel bug” correctly known as Hormoconis resinae (H.res). All seems to be good as we're not seeing any water in the Racor filter bowls or any evidence of H.res – which thrive more readily with water present. The polishing system runs at about 500 litres/hr so the process requires close supervision to avoid over-filling a tank.

This just gives a flavour of what we're working through currently – more to follow soon including a review of our 8 day visit to Sardinia on the way here.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

TOP CRUISING SPOTS OF THE EASTERN MED (PART 9) – SICILY'S MEDIEVAL VILLAGE AND PORT OF CEFALU

We return to Envoy in Lefkas Marina, Greece, early next month

Destination 9: Cefalu
Where is it?: On the central northern coast of Sicily.
How long is required to enjoy here?: A few days.
Brief outline: Cefalu is a medieval village with a protected harbour and marina in walking distance to the west.
Must do: Climb La Rocca for a stunning view over the Cefalu area.

Cefalu is a hugely interesting place with a large promontory called La Rocca (The Rock), 278m high with the remains of Il Castello, a castle originally built by Arabs and then conquered by the Normans in 1063.

Map of Cefalu - the town is to the left and marina and anchorage to the right

We anchored in a great, picturesque anchorage, protected from all except north-east winds and dominated by La Rocca. The medieval village is largely unspoiled and narrow cobbled streets meander down to the old harbour.
A highlight is the Duomo di Cefalu, a stunning cathedral built in the 12th century. Fisherman row their brightly-coloured clinker-built dinghies to lay nets using an unusual rowing style of standing.  

Cefalu and La Rocca viewed from the sea. The large cathedral is clearly visible centre

Some swell penetrates the anchorage but our flopper-stoppers kept us comfortable as well as keeping other boats from passing too closely.

Envoy in stunning Cefalu anchorage

Cefalu's main beach certainly attracts the crowds in high season

12th century Norman-built Duomo di Cefalu

Nearby mountain village of Nuvarra

Cruise about 45 miles to the north-west to explore the Aeolian Islands, where you can visit active volcanoes on Stomboli and Vulcano, wallow in the thermal mud pool on Vulcano and visit Lipari's historic Old Town.

Enjoying a picnic ashore on Vulcano Island

Thermal mud pool on Vulcano Island

Envoy anchored off Gelso, Vulcano Island