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Friday, June 24, 2016

ENVOY CONTINUES CRUISING SOUTH

Envoy is currently anchored off Yiyhion on the mainland Greek southern coast with our friends Kevin and Diane aboard.

After leaving Lefkas Marina we cruise south to Argostoli, the port capital of Cephalonia, and anchor in the harbour seeing turtles for the first time this season as they pop their heads out of the water, take a look around and dive back to the depths. It's a quaint town that suffered considerable damage during an earthquake in 1953 and was then largely rebuilt in its original Venetian style.

Vista of Argostoli from Envoy at anchor

Chris and Laurie enjoy ice cold Mythos beers at Argostoli - someones gotta do this!

For the first time we visit the island of Zakynthos and anchor one night off a great beach at Alykanas before going into Zakynthos harbour so that Envoy will be safe while we hire a car to look around the island. The marina cost is a reasonable 35 Euros (about NZ$58) per night including power and water.

Envoy in Zakynthos Marina

Alykanas is a great settled weather anchorage

In Zakynthos we have a rare bad dining experience with poor quality and over-priced food costing 100 Euros (about NZ$167) for the three of us. To be fair this is partially our fault for not checking the price of off-menu specials so that we end up paying 50 Euros (about NZ$83) for a small snapper that we'd throw back in New Zealand. After Chris makes our complaints known on behalf of all of us, they offer free meals for the following night although get off lightly as we don't take up their offer.

We loved this rustic old stone building

On the south side of Zakynthos is a marine reserve where turtles return to sandy beaches to nest and breed. Understandably boats are not allowed in most of this area but are allowed at nearby Ormos Keri where we spend two nights and we're able to replenish our fresh water supplies from a tap at the local small boat harbour.

Gathering fresh water is a regular activity

Ormos Keri and its local boat harbour

Two miles off the anchorage the island of Marathonisi has numerous sea caves that we are able to explore taking our RHIB completely inside.

Marathonisi Island looks like a giant turtle

The sea caves of Marathonisi have exceptionally clear water


We are inside the cave looking out at Envoy

From here it's about 50 miles east to the mainland Peloponnese coast where we 'll spend the next several weeks, so we break the journey about halfway at the remote and lonely Nisidhos Strofadhes Islands. We are the only vessel here and the cruising guide says gales from any direction cause the seas to be like a giant washing machine swirling around.
We don't encounter a gale but even the 15 knot winds causes an uncomfortable swell to enter our anchorage making our flopper-stoppers necessary. The islands are inhabited by a solitary monk who looks after the 13th century Ay Panayis monastery, built like a fortress to withstand historic pirate attacks.

The fortress-like 13th century monastery

TECHNICAL
All fuel used by Envoy is filtered (or “polished”) using a 7 litres/min !2 volt pump feeding a 2 micron Racor filter and a magnetic DeBug unit into our in-use fuel tank before being used by any of the engines. Before if gets to the engine it then goes through a Racor primary filter and secondary on-engine filter. Shorty after leaving Lefkas Marina the 12V polishing pump fails, emitting just a faint clicking noise, so we replace it with our on-board spare - a simple exercise except for the time required to remove the pipe fittings from the failed pump and refit them to the new pump. As a new pump costs about US$500 and there was nothing to loose we decide to utilise Chris's expertise and attempt to repair the failed pump, which consists of three separate parts – a rotary vane pump, a 12V DC motor and an electronic controller – any one of which could be at fault.

Chris fixing the failed polishing pump motor in Envoy's pilothouse

We dismantle the vane pump and find no broken parts or blockages so dismantle the motor and find the armature and its associated brush housing in poor shape. We clean it up with white spirit and carefully clean the commutator grooves with a sharp blade and fine emery paper, then reassemble the motor without the pump and test it on a 12 volt power supply, but it still doesn’t run and makes the original clicking sound. However when we remove the motor from its electronic controller it runs perfectly. We take the controller apart and find two relays hard-wired onto a circuit board – by elimination probably the cause of failure. We consult the specs to find these relays simply enable the pump to be switched for forward or reverse operation. Our use is for one direction only, so we remove the relay board and hard-wire the motor using its existing switch and fuse, reattach the vane pump and it works perfectly.
We finally confirm the cause of the seawater leak to the guest cabin bilge. The outlet hose from the aircon's seawater cooling system discharges out of a through-hull fitting (without a seacock) just above the waterline. This hose is not visible or accessible for its complete length and must have a split or developed a small leak so that when sea water has been splashing into this hose it's been leaking into the bilge. We fit an in-line gate valve near the through-hull and when closed the leak soon stops. Normally gate valves aren't recommended, but this is an above-waterline and non-critical application so we're comfortable with it. The hose will need replacement.







Monday, June 13, 2016

CRUISING SOUTH IN THE IONIAN SEA

Envoy is now in the marina at Kalamata – famous for olives!

In Gouvia Marina we berth next to a 59ft wooden ketch called Acco built in 1938.
Dave and Gwen Nicholson have owned her since 1968 and spent the past 20 years or so living an alternative lifestyle aboard with their son John, mostly in Corfu. They'd just finished maintenance of the wooden masts and we were able to observe the interesting process of hoisting them up again using blocks and tackles plus plenty of eager volunteers.

Acco is a real traditional vessel. The green cover is to protect the wooden hull from the sun



Of course we made plenty of time to visit Corfu Old Town's labyrinth of cobbled lanes and quirky shops.

Envoy in Gouvia Marina

Leaving Gouvia Marina on 13 May we cruise to nearby Kalami Bay and have our first swim in coolish 18dC water and since then have swum most days.
Our first night at anchor with Chris aboard results in a rare unplanned 0630 hrs departure the following morning as an onshore windshift places Envoy too close to some mooring buoys which could potentially have fouled our propeller. At this stage we're mostly re-visiting places we've been to before but enjoying them nonetheless.

There's lots of interesting tavernas here where you can meet other cruisers, soak up some local atmosphere and enjoy an excellent cold draught Mythos (Greek beer) or three. The Greek taverna and restaurant staff make you feel very welcome and nearly always give you something for free, for example bar snacks, a dessert after dinner or a round of drinks.

Laurie and Chris enjoying coffee and cake ashore at Platarius

The weather is still unstable as shown in this image taken from Envoy at anchor in Mourtos

We've often been told by other cruisers about a great place to anchor called Two Rock Bay south of Parga on the mainland coast, so decide to check it out. Here we can see the anchor drop on the sandy bottom four metres beneath and Envoy is surrounded by small fish which eagerly eat small pieces of bread we throw into the water. We're the only boat here and there are no buildings ashore so tranquility is complete – a far cry from the marina we've so recently left.

There's a gentle swell rolling into the bay so we deploy our paravanes and flopper stoppers for the first time this season to reduce Envoy's roll to barely discernible.

Envoy at anchor in Two Rock Bay with paravanes and flopper-stoppers deployed

Panorama of Two Rock Bay from Envoy

Lots of seaweed has been washed ashore by heavy seas

Di and Laurie at Two Rock Bay

Envoy at Two Rock Bay 

This is a touch of paradise and we spend most of the following morning in our RHIB exploring the rocky shoreline and a sandy beach covered with flotsam - days like this are what it's all about.

We're going to spend the next night anchored off Lefkas marina and we time our arrival at the Lefkas Canal swing bridge perfectly for the on-the-hour opening at 1800hrs. Only problem is there's no one here to operate the bridge. We carefully maneuver in the shallow confined area for another hour and fortunately the operator shows up at 1900hr to let us and other vessels through.

TECHNICAL
Since Sailand fitted our new throttle cable the Lugger engine has not achieved full rpm, so Panos comes aboard to adjust it and solve this issue. It's not really important as we never cruise above about 1,800 rpm, but now we can achieve 2,150 if we want to.

Meanwhile we're still monitoring our slight sea water leak to the forward bilge. We're convinced it has something to do with our aircon unit, as that's the only equipment in the area of the leak. But with the seacock closed we're still getting a slight leak and we're presuming it must be leaking from a hose or hose joint coming from the aircon's sea water cooling discharge. We've eyeballed the aircon but unfortunately the hoses can't be accessed as they disappear under some decking. This is work in progress and not a concern as we're talking about less than half a litre a day – no need for life jackets yet!

I mentioned last posting that our close friend Chris, aka MacGyver, has been a huge help aboard Envoy undertaking both maintenance and improvement projects.
Here are some of the projects Chris has achieved so far on this visit:
-Prior to arriving he built a constant 19 volt DC voltage power supply device for Di's computer that runs from Envoy's nominal 12 volt power supply. This enables her computer to charge and run at any time regardless of the normal variations in nominal 12 volt output (depending on state of battery charge) and without needing to use our relatively current-hungry inverter to power the AC-driven charger.
-Installed a remote wireless temperature and humidity monitoring system measuring conditions inside the pilothouse, outside in the cockpit and in the engine room.
-Bought the components for and built a portable miniature bilge pump so we can more easily pump water out of the bilges below the water level that the main bilge pumps can pump from. Although our bilges are mostly dry some sea water and/or fresh water inevitably ends up there from spillages, rain and from the prop shaft gland.
-Bought the components for and built a system to pump fresh water from portable 25L water containers carried in the RHIB into Envoy's water tanks. Although we have a water maker it's very convenient to be able to get fresh water ashore in containers and the pump saves lifting the heavy containers aboard for decanting.

-Modified our boarding ladder to make it more rigid and the steps more stable.
-Modified and fixed our washing machine detergent supply drawer which had broken through wear and tear.
-Fine-tuned our stereo/DVD sound system to provide better quality sound.
-Fixed faulty wiring on our Yanmar wing engine's tachometer.
-Repaired some cosmetic wooden laminate in our galley.
-Improved safety insulation around some heavy-duty engine room DC cable terminals.
-Replaced some failed silicone beading around our anchor pulpit.
-Improved our cockpit fresh water wash down system and forward sea water wash down system by sourcing and replacing old and leaking components.
-Fixed faulty switch on air circulation fan in guest cabin.

And it continues … more on this next posting.

Friday, June 03, 2016

THE SCINTILLATING ITALIAN ISLAND OF SARDINIA

Envoy is currently at Ormos Keri, Zakinthos Island.

On our way back to Envoy we visit Sardinia for eight days both to share a holiday with our London-based daughter Amy and to check it out as a possible future cruising destination. Sardinia looks great in the cruising guides with many interesting anchorages and close proximity to the French island of Corsica, but an off-putting factor is its over-crowding during the peak summer months of July and August, especially by the self-absorbed rich and famous along the Costa Smeralda in the north-east. Oblong-shaped Sardinia is the second largest Med island measuring roughly 160km north to south by 100km east to west. It's the most remote Med island, being the furthermost from surrounding mainland, has a population of 1.67m, and like Sicily is a self-governing autonomous region of Italy. Official languages spoken are Sardu and Italian.

Mountainous Sardinia (the Gennargentu Range rises to 1,834m) is not historically regarded as a seafaring nation but one of farmers and shepherds.
Now that term “historic” is interesting as we find one of the great aspects of cruising the Med is immersing ourselves in its history. We come from New Zealand which has the shortest human history of any country, being first settled by Polynesians about 1300AD (the exact date is not known), and where the oldest building was built in 1821. By comparison the earliest signs of human occupation in Sardinia are stone tools dating back 170,000 years while parts of buildings still stand that were built between 1,800 and 1,200 BC. These are cone-shaped stone towers known as Nuraghe, built for an unknown purpose but likely used as dwellings or for religious rituals. More than 7,000 of these unique-to-Sardinia structures still survive from an estimated 10,000 built.

Contributing to Sardinia's colourful history is the fact that it was invaded consecutively by Phoenecians, Cathaginians, Romans, Vandals and Spanish before it became part of the new Republic of Italy in 1861.

ALGHERO
Eight days is too short a time to explore the whole island so after flying in to the capital – Cagliari we drive about 250km north-west to base ourselves in the historic town of Alghero.
Alghero lies on the Riviera del Corallo – the Coral Riviera, so-named for its rare red coral brought up from depths of over 80 metres by just a handful of licensed divers and fashioned into exquisite jewelry and ornaments.
It started as a fishing village in the 11th century and then had about 350 years of Spanish rule lasting to 1720, which has left an influence to this day. Now a thriving town with a population of 41,000 augmented by thousands of summer tourists drawn to Alghero's atmosphere, historic Old Town, sandy beaches, marina, local sights, vineyards and great eateries specialising in fresh seafood.

Alghero Old Town's impressive fortifications look like they can still withstand a siege
Beautifully ornate church steeple

Vista of Alghero harbour

This sweet shop with life-size pirate figures wasn't at all tacky


GROTTO DI NETTUNO
An especially exciting day is the boat trip to the Grotto di Nettuno (Neptune's Grotto), an extensive sea cave system named after the Roman god of the sea.
After arriving at the grotto's mouth the expertly-handled tourist boat, about 70 feet long, first picks up a stout stern line attached to a mooring buoy, then heads bow first through the approximately one metre high swells into the cave's narrow entrance. The crew then throw two heavy bow lines to shoremen who attach them to bollards and take up the slack while the boat still powers ahead taking up the strain of the stern line. With the boat temporarily secured the crew place a boarding platform over the bow to shore and assist the passengers, including some rather reluctant ones to take the seemingly perilous walk across the heaving platform to shore.
Two young Chinese ladies wearing ridiculously high heels for a boat trip struggle to get ashore and are then told their footwear is unsuitable for entering the grotto.
The grotto itself is extraordinarily spectacular with a pathway between stalagmites about 500 metres open to the public and a further 2,500 metres reserved for expert cavers. Inside the grotto is a mass of stalactites (descending from the cavernous roof) and stalagmites (ascending from the floor), built up over millions of years by calcium deposits from fresh water seepage. As it takes approximately 100-200 years for 1cm of calcium deposit to build, our minds are in awe of the process.

Ferry approaches cave

Watch out for the rocks! Ferry enters mouth of cave

Ferry's bow held firm in the swell with stout lines

A small part of the impressive interior of the Grotto


MARINAS
During our car exploration we find good marinas located at Bosa, Alghero and Castelsardo. Several anchorages also appears to be sheltered in most conditions. Driving conditions are good with mostly well-maintained and signposted roads, plenty of places to stop for refreshments and loads of interesting sights. We'd definitely recommend Sardinia for a relaxing holiday with lots of variety.


Two other places we really enjoyed visiting were Castelsardo and Stintino.
Castelsardo is a small town with a large modern marina overlooked by a medieval fortress. The day we visited was grey and bleak adding to the imposing nature of the fortress. It didn't seem to be such an interesting place as Alghero to stay.
Stintino is a fishing village turned tourist destination with a large inlet protected by rocky breakwaters and a quaint village with lots of great seafood restaurants.

A bleak day for our visit to Castelsardo

Amy and Laurie in Castelsardo main square below the fortress townwrapped up warm against the chill

Castelsardo

Stintino marina




FOR FOODIES
We're surprised to find roast donkey and roast horse on many menus but can't pluck up the courage to taste these local delicacies settling for culinary delights like grilled swordfish, octopus, squid, spaghetti with clams and roast pork (which they call “crispy roast piggy”).

At a great waterside taverna in Stintino we had Spaghetti Vongole - that is with clams and spaghetti with prawns - both delicious!