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Thursday, March 30, 2017

CRUISING ABOARD MORITZ - PART 2

CRUISING ABOARD MORITZ PART 2

Envoy is in Lefkas Marina for the northern hemisphere winter while we're home for the New Zealand summer – but not for much longer as in early April we start our journey back end of next week.

First we'll be spending 10 days in the Orkney Islands off Scotland's north-west coast, where I'm sure there will be plenty of boating-related material to write about. Then we head to Athens for the six hour bus trip to Lefkas Marina and Envoy.

Continuing on from our last Blog posting we're aboard stunning Maritimo 48 foot motor yacht, Moritz,  owned by our friends Morris and Gail.

On day two we wake up well-refreshed and while eating breakfast quietly cruise across to Waiheke Island to anchor in Matiatia Bay. 

Matiatia Bay wharf from Moritz at anchor

Here we go ashore to walk around the headland overlooking Matiatia while culturally enriching ourselves by viewing the Sculpture on the Gulf Exhibition supported by about 50 sponsors including respected international names like Jaguar, Sothebys and Mazda.

The 30 or so sculptures are spread along a hilly coastal track about two miles long and range from “is that art? Gosh a five year old could do that” to incredibly clever. Sedately viewing them amongst stunning landscapes is a great way to enjoy our morning walk.

This "sculpture" has us scratching our heads

But we liked this one

And the views along the walk are great

Looking down on Matiatia Bay

Later we cruise along Waiheke's northern shore and across a flat-calm Firth of Thames to Elephant Cove (so-named as the imposing rocks on its northern entrance look like an elephant's head) on Motukahaua Island.

Inside Elephant Cove

There's not much anchoring room in the small cove with two boats already there, but Morris finds a great spot still leaving room for two more boats that come in later.

Fishing is a huge part of the New Zealand boating scene and next morning we try several spots down the coast, but without success. For some reason Auckland's summer sea temperature at 19 degrees is about two degrees cooler than usual and the snapper don't like it, but we see a nearby school of kahawai and manage to catch several in just a few minutes with trolling lures.

Morris then takes us to his “secret spot X” where a rock awash at low tide has a surprisingly abundant supply of green-lipped mussels, so that night we're anchored on the eastern side of Waimate Island just north of Coromandel Harbour having a great feed of fresh sashimi and mussels.

Gail in Moritz's galley

The village of Coromandel is quirky and arty, embracing what you might call “alternative culture” and just before next day's high tide we anchor off the shallow creek heading to the town. We don't really need any supplies but it's a tradition to head up the creek in your dinghy while high tide allows and sample pies or doughnuts from the bakery and a beer from the pub, though on this occasion we opt for coffees.

Morris guides us up the very tidal Coromandel Creek
 
New Zealand regulations sensibly require all boats to carry correctly-sized life jackets for all people, while on those boats under six metres they must be worn unless the skipper determines it is safe not to do so. For example crossing a bar is dangerous and they should be worn but perhaps the're not necessary (except for non swimmers) if you're simply going a few metres from one boat to another. However Coromandel comes under a different jurisdiction requiring jackets to be worn at all times and we're pleased to have complied when the harbourmaster's boat passes nearby.

Coromandel village is at the creek's head

After a night anchored in serene Te Kouma harbour we're heading back across the Firth of Thames to Hooks Bay on the eastern side of Waiheke to meet mutual friends for brunch aboard their boat.

Next day we pull the fishing rods out again without landing a single fish, then anchor off Rotorua Island which used to be an alcohol rehabilitation centre run by the Salvation Army off-limits to the public. Recently the centre moved and the island has been opened up to the public, also making available some stunning formerly inaccessible beaches. Ashore there's an interesting museum documenting the valuable work done by the “Sallies” with addicts over several decades.

Rotoroa's stunning beaches like this one are now accessible

Our last night is spent nearby anchored off Waiheke's Man O'War Bay where we visit the Man O'War Vineyard – an excellent place to enjoy a pre-dinner glass of wine or three.

Laurie, Di and Morris enjoy a wine at the vineyard

Thanks very much to our hosts Morris and Gail and the good ship Moritz.




Tuesday, March 21, 2017

CRUISING ABOARD MORITZ - PART 1

Envoy is in Lefkas Marina for the northern hemisphere winter while we're home for the New Zealand summer, returning next month.

It's early February, nearly three months since we left Envoy and after such a break from boating we're ready for some more, happily accepting an invitation to join long-time friends Morris and Gail Watson for a few days aboard “Moritz”, a Maritimo 48 motor yacht in Auckland's superb Hauraki Gulf.
Maritimos are upper end of the market planing motor yachts built in Queensland's Gold Coast. 
The company's owner, Bill Barry-Cotter, is well experienced in the marine industry and formerly owned Riviera – also builders of popular planing motor yachts. We presume the brand name is inspired by Maritimo Island, one of the Egadi Islands located off the north-west coast of Sicily where coincidentally we visited in 2014.

Moritz is a big volume luxury boat

We meet Morris and Gail at Half Moon Bay Marina and quickly settle on Moritz – not only have we been aboard previously but Morris and Gail have cruised aboard Envoy with us in the Aegean Sea. In fact they're also meeting us this year for a week in Sicily.
Being a weekday there are no other boats around and the sun is shining with little wind as we cruise sedately down the Tamaki River sipping a cold welcome-aboard beer.

Moritz is a luxuriously appointed big-volume boat with two staterooms, two having en-suite heads and bathrooms plus a third cabin with bunks that doubles as a utility room with a built-in washer/dryer ( a great feature aboard a cruising boat). The saloon has plenty of seating and a generous sized dining area while access to the huge flying bridge area is by an easily manageable staircase rather than the glorified ladder that many boats have.

The staircase to Moritz's flybridge is way better than the ladder we had on our last boat

Full walk-around decks give great access for crew duties, while a huge cockpit and boarding platform give ample space for outdoor entertaining and fishing. Previously I've been one of about 18 people aboard Moritz for a day's fishing without the boat feeling over-crowded.

Apparently there's a trend away from flybridge vessels to sedan style, but I honestly find this difficult to understand unless a buyer is really particular about a sportier appearance or has an issue with air draft. Flybridges work really well on larger boats providing much greater usable space and storage space for the same length, vastly improved unobstructed visibility and reduced engine noise at the helm. Advocates of the sedan style say it's nice to have all the crew in the same space, but I believe it's a much greater plus to have an additional and separate area of space. Another factor is that when seas are a bit rough, it's less claustrophobic and all looks a bit better looking down on the waves from on high.

Moritz's flybridge is perfect with full headroom, just the single helm position (in my opinion additional helm stations below add unnecessary expense and take a lot of space), glass windows (vinyl clears have restricted visibility in rough conditions and don't stay pristine for more than a couple of seasons), plenty of comfortable seating, a small fresh water sink and refrigerator, and easy staircase access.

With a flybridge like this who'd want a sedan style cruiser?

Some critics of flybridges also cite their additional windage, but in fact windage is generally not a problem applicable to boats (it has negligible effect compared to the drag caused by water) except perhaps for some inexperienced skippers encountering high beam winds in marinas and let's face it - most boats like this have twin engines and bow thrusters making maneuverability a breeze. Moritz even has stern thrusters! Incidentally for the technically minded hull drag caused by water increases at a phenomenal square of the increase in speed.

I do agree that flybridges don't work so well on smaller vessels (less than about 40ft) as their seating and headroom is too low, access is more difficult and vessel stability can be impaired by a higher centre of gravity.
This trip is also interesting to us for another reason. We're starting to think about what sort of boat we may buy back in Auckland when our Med adventures aboard Envoy are completed and so far all motor vessel options are on the table including conventional shaft-driven planing boats.
Moritz's twin 670hp Cummins diesel engines purr away driving their shafts with minimal vibration as we clear the channel and increase rpm slightly to 930 giving a still-sedate speed of 9.2 knots and fuel consumption of 14 litres/hour for each engine.
We're in no hurry and like many owners of fast planing boats Morris sees no benefit in going very much above displacement speed and then getting a bumpier ride and greatly increased fuel consumption. Later we're cruising at 1090 rpm providing 10 knots and 18 litres/hour.

First stop is Motutapu Island's Station Bay which is perfectly calm with only three other boats swinging at anchor. For me it makes an enjoyable change to be crew rather than skipper and not have tough decisions like deciding where to drop the anchor and how much chain to deploy. Morris and Gail are long time cruisers, originally aboard sailing yachts and we have the utmost confidence in them.

Leaving Motutapu Island's Station Bay

Planing boats tend to have a different sound at night compared with their displacement cousins as wind-driven wavelets hit their planing strakes and make a little bit of noise, but we're used to this from our former days of owning planing boats so it's no problem.

Next Blog we cruise to Waiheke Island and the Coromandel Peninsula.








Sunday, March 05, 2017

AHOY THERE CAPTAIN

Envoy is in Lefkas Marina for the northern hemisphere winter and we're home for the New Zealand summer, returning April – not too far away now!

This is an article we wrote published by Pacific MotorBoat magazine – not to be taken too seriously!

Boating is one of the few freedoms left, a hugely relaxing pastime and as such we shouldn't allow many things out there on the water to annoy us. I don't easily get annoyed and even smile and wave when high-powered speedboats towing water skiers pass within a few metres of Envoy at anchor – that's how it is in the Med.

But I'm not perfect by any means so I do find the odd thing irritating.

High on the list is boats at anchor displaying incorrect lights – I mean Rules are Rules. I must admit it tends to be mostly sailing yacht skippers who display white or coloured flashing strobe lights instead of the regulation all-round continuous white light. They justify this by saying the white light is not clearly visible to other vessels, especially against a background of lights ashore and /or high above eye level aloft the mast, whereas a flashing strobe is more visible. This is probably true, but if they're going to display strobe lights they should also display the legally-required light. It would be interesting to see what liability was attached to a skipper whose boat was accidentally hit while displaying incorrect lights and whether he/she would be covered by insurance. Incidentally it is illegal to display any anchor light, other than an all-round white light, that could be mistaken for another navigation light such as a nearby channel marker.

Another on my list is inconsiderate skippers laying out stern anchors and/or buoying their anchors in busy anchorages.

Stern anchors are useful in exposed anchorages to keep your boat aligned with the swell to reduce rolling, but they cause problems in normal anchorages when boats swing to changing wind or tide, except of course the one with the stern anchor.

Anchor buoys can be useful in very rocky anchorages when the buoy's line can be used to lift a fouled anchor (sometimes this works but not always), but some skippers also use them to mark the position of their anchor in an effort to discourage other skippers from anchoring anywhere nearby. There is a common misconception that a newly arriving boat should not anchor in a position where it ends up over another boat's anchor. There's actually nothing wrong with this practice – it could all change with the slightest wind shift, but what you shouldn't do is lay your anchor chain over that of another boat, making it difficult for them to retrieve their anchor. These anchor buoys and their lines can be a menace when boats move with wind and tide and I have no hesitation in removing any buoy that threatens to snag our running gear and politely returning it to its owner.

Stern anchors and anchor buoys should not be used in busy anchorages like this one at Knidos, Turkey

Then there is the incorrect use of the title “Captain”. When tradesmen come aboard Envoy they usually greet me and then carry on referring to me as “Captain” which always strikes me as rather ridiculous aboard a 14 metre vessel with mostly only two people on board.

In most navies including the US, British, Australian and New Zealand the rank of Captain is very senior, in fact equating to that of Colonel in the army, whereas an army Captain equates to a navy Lieutenant (three ranks down from a navy Captain).

You don't have to hold the rank of Captain to command a navy ship and often they are commanded by lesser ranks such as Commanders, Lieutenant Commanders or even Lieutenants on smaller vessels. By tradition in these cases he or she in command is referred to as “Captain” aboard the vessel regardless of actual rank.

Whereas “Captain” is a rank in the Armed Services, in the Merchant Navy the term “Master” describes the person in command and “Captain” is a courtesy title that correctly used applies to those marine professionals holding an internationally recognised Master's certificate of competency and who command or have commanded a seagoing merchant ship. Those who command pleasure vessels should be referred to as the “Skipper”.

A naval Captain is a higher rank than that of Captain in the army or air force

Sometimes in boating magazines you find letters to the editor or advertisements for services signed by somebody prefixing their name with the title “Captain”. This is fine if the person concerned is or has been a Captain in the Navy or a Master in the Merchant Navy, but should not be used by for example a pleasure boat skipper, a charter boat skipper or someone who has completed a course, even those offered by leading providers such as CoastGuard and the Royal Yachting Association. Some other marine education providers call their offering a “Captain's Course” but a graduate cannot correctly be called a Captain; this is about as ridiculous as the local Darts Team Captain using the title outside of the pub.