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Sunday, March 25, 2018

THE LIVE-ABOARD CRUISING LIFE PART 3

Envoy is berthed in Greece's Lefkas Marina and we're home in Auckland. Circumstances prevent us returning to cruise in the Med this year.

This is the third part of an article we wrote published in Australasia's Pacific PassageMaker magazine about starting the live-aboard cruising life.

From the last two articles you understand life's time clock is ticking so do it now rather than later.
Also that most potential cruisers face some fears and how to overcome them as well as dealing with some of the practical issues that need to be considered.

BUYING YOUR LIVE-ABOARD VESSEL
The new and pre-owned boat market still favours buyers and there is ample choice available.
Most types of boat are suited to cruising the Med - we even met one German couple living on a six metre outboard-powered trailer boat which had cruised all the way from Germany down the Rhine and Danube rivers to the Black Sea and Turkey, then through the Dardanelles, across the Aegean Sea and through the Gulf of Corinth to Greece's Ionian Sea. 

Happy guitar playing skipper with his six metre live-aboard


However the majority of live-aboards are found on sailing yachts or catamarans, mostly up to about 14 metres. 
Generally the ideal vessel is the smallest one that will suit all of your needs. The larger vessel you have the greater will be the capital costs, the repairs and maintenance, fuel, insurance, berthage etc. In addition larger vessels are more restricted when it comes to what anchorages and harbours they can enter. From our observations many vessels over about 55 ft have some full time crew and in fact we see many boats well under that size professionally skippered and/or crewed.

 Bigger isn't necessarily better - this vessel uses about 700 litres/hr of diesel compared with Envoy's 8 litres/hr
 
 
We opted to buy a heavy displacement monohulled passagemaker to provide future options for long-range cruising and after visiting Nordhavn in Dana Point decided on a 46, which in our view still has the best sleek and classic lines without the slightly “top-heavy” appearance of some subsequent models.

The N46 has sleek classic lines
 

But everybody's tastes are different so do your own research by reading, visiting cruisers' blogs, checking out different boats and talking with live-aboard cruisers.

Consider the location of vessels for sale relative to your intended cruising area. We wanted to use our boat in the Med so primarily looked at vessels located in Europe, in 2006 buying Envoy which had participated in the Atlantic Rally and was then located in Ostia, Italy.
Allied to the location issue is the complex one of port of registry, particularly if local taxes haven't been paid. Envoy was USA registered with EU VAT unpaid and we changed her to New Zealand registered so she can remain in EU waters up to 18 months at a time without paying VAT. Before 18 months expires it's only necessary to leave EU waters for a few days (the actual period is not defined) to re-set the 18 month clock, which can be extended by placing your vessel in Customs bond while wintering over. However specialist advice should be obtained for each set of circumstances ensuring the vessel is unencumbered and that correct documentary procedures are followed to minimise liabilities.

Familiarise yourself with other relevant regulations such as the Schengen Treaty which currently limits visits by New Zealand passport holders to three months in each treaty member country and most other non EU passport holders to three months total in all member countries (most EU countries are members). Of course if you hold an EU passport you won't face this time restriction.
Turkey, Croatia and Albania require cruisers to use agents for clearing-in and out. Even where this is not required it’s a good idea to use agents as they have useful contacts and may be able to offer advice on extending your stay and minimising your obligations.
Spend some time with the boat’s previous owner to gain detailed knowledge of its operation, systems, maintenance and spare parts requirements. 
 
Should I buy new or pre-owned?
Some owners prefer taking delivery of a brand new vessel for the pleasure of specifying a vessel suited exactly to their requirements; having a choice of engineering, layout, equipment brands and furnishings; having a manufacturer’s warranty and benefiting from lower maintenance costs.
However people purchasing new in expectation of having no problems are often disappointed as many new boats seem to need quite a few miles cruising and some months to resolve initial teething issues. How well such issues are eventually resolved depends on the commitment of the manufacturer and to some extent how far you are away from their home base.
Other buyers prefer to purchase a pre-owned vessel for the benefits of immediate availability (there is generally a wait for new vessels), lower investment cost, lower initial depreciation cost and the fact that she's tried and tested with more equipment, spare parts, tools, chandlery, bedding, galley utensils etc included in the price.

Should I buy direct or use a broker?
The majority of pre-owned boats are listed with brokers. An experienced broker can provide valuable assistance in finding the ideal boat for your circumstances and negotiating a deal with the seller. The seller pays the broker’s commission so there's no disadvantage for the buyer.
If you are not using a reputable broker be very cautious about paying money without robust safeguards in place as buyers have been known to transfer significant sums to scammers posing as vendors.

In a week we'll publish the last part of this article dealing with equipment desirable for cruising.


Saturday, March 17, 2018

THE LIVE-ABOARD CRUISING LIFE – PART 2

Envoy is berthed in Greece's Lefkas Marina and we're home in Auckland. Unfortunately circumstances prevent us returning to cruise in the Med this year.

This is the second part of an article we wrote published in Australasia's Pacific PassageMaker magazine about starting the live-aboard cruising life.


PRACTICAL ISSUES TO CONSIDER FOR THE LIVE-ABOARD LIFE
OK from Part 1 we realise life's time clock is ticking and we've faced the common fears. 
Once we decide to live the cruising life there are numerous practical issues to consider mostly falling somewhere into these categories:

Envoy anchored in Vathi, Astypaelia

How long will you be away each yearthe vast majority of cruisers (power and sail) see little point in sitting out the whole of their cruising region's winter in a marina, particularly after doing it once, so they mostly return home to see their families and friends. An exception to this is that many European cruisers prefer the kinder winter weather in a location like the Med to that in their own country.

It's great fun to be in a harbour or marina but we choose not to spend the whole winter there




How many years will you cruise forthe short answer is as long as you are enjoying it and health, funds and other circumstances permit. About five years would be typical and we've rarely met cruisers who’ve lived aboard for more than ten.

Dependent familymost of the cruising community are in the age group mid-50s to mid-70s without school-age children and cruisers living aboard with children are rare. When we started cruising we each had an elderly parent who accepted we were living our lives to the full, appreciated our weekly phone call and enjoyed our home visits.

Family and Friends – of course you miss your family and close friends, but some may be able to visit you and share in your cruising experience. Otherwise being able to see them for at least one period of a few months during the year keeps these relationships intact.

Your family and friends can visit to share your adventures

Workmost cruisers we meet are semi or completely retired. Some do consulting work remotely or are able to find some casual work if they choose to. A fewer number of younger cruisers take time out from the work force intending to rejoin it later.

Your homesome cruisers elect to sell their house to provide funds for cruising while most others rent it out, get house sitters or leave it vacant.

Compatibility and confidence – some people may speculate you won’t get on well together as a couple spending so much time in the confines of a boat. Only you will know if this is correct or not and we probably all know people where this lifestyle would be doomed to failure. Allied to this issue is one partner having a lack of confidence in the other’s ability. If you're passionate you're half way there and your confidence will grow through sharing experiences together.

Healtha reasonable but not perfect standard of general health and fitness is required for the live-aboard life reinforcing the case for starting the cruising life sooner than later. Travel insurance is essential as medical treatment can be extremely expensive overseas.

PetsOverseas regulations concerning transportation and quarantine of pets are less strict than in New Zealand or Australia and some cruisers take their pets along. Similarly there are fewer restrictions on pets on beaches and in restaurants and cafes. Diane and I always had a dog or cat at home and loved them dearly, but prefer to avoid the hassles of having a pet aboard a boat.

Comfort aboard – this will of course vary by vessel. When yachtsmen come aboard Envoy they are amazed at the living space available compared to sailing vessels of the same length. We don’t get wet, cold or wind-blown and with our stabilisers Envoy’s motion is rarely lively enough to spill a coffee.

Comfort isn't an issue aboard a well-found cruising boat - Envoy's dinette and galley viewed from astern


Capital and living costs – the size, age and condition of your vessel determines its capital cost. Remember that bigger isn’t always better as larger vessels have dearer insurance, berthage and maintenance costs and can't get into some of the smaller anchorages and harbours. Living costs such as food, beverages, household supplies and personal spending are about the same for us while cruising as when at home. Maintenance is dearer due to the higher cost of parts and greater distances travelled. There is also the cost of travel to and from our boat and additional fuel for the longer distances cruised. Casual marina prices are high in the Med so the best option is to anchor wherever possible, which is always free. Excluding living costs repairs and maintenance have been our largest cost averaging about six per cent of Envoy’s estimated value each year. Diane and I look at this not as “cost” but “investment in fun”.

Read PART 3 in about a week.



Sunday, March 11, 2018

STARTING THE LIVE-ABOARD CRUISING LIFE - PART 1

Envoy is berthed in Greece's Lefkas Marina and we're home in Auckland. 
Unfortunately circumstances prevent us returning to cruise in the Med this year.

We recently wrote an article published in Pacific PassageMaker magazine about starting the live-aboard cruising life. Over the next few weeks we'll be psting this article to our Blog in several parts.

PART 1: THE LIVE-ABOARD CRUISING LIFE - HOW MANY GOOD SUMMERS DO YOU HAVE LEFT?
The live-aboard life isn’t for everyone; there are many competent, dedicated weekend cruisers who wouldn't want to spend more time at sea than ashore. But for those who have the live-aboard passion there is generally nothing to stop you. 
As famed cruiser and circumnavigator Scott Flanders advises, “tick…tick…tick… the clock is ticking, get the picture … do it now!” 
Regardless of whatever your future dream life happens to be if you can’t literally do it now, at least make a plan now and work towards achieving it.

Plan your dreams now - Envoy moored by Bodrum's castle, Turkey

When I turned 50 I expected to have about 20 good summers left, meaning that barring major illnesses or accidents I expected to enjoy our cruising passion until I was about 70 years old. 
Now I’m nearly 68 and believe most people could enjoy live-aboard cruising into their mid-70s.
The main issue which could prevent this is health. Whatever the upper age limit may be one thing’s for sure – you certainly don’t meet many cruisers in their 80s.
Here's a little exercise to help you visualise how many good summers you have left. Take a tape measure showing inches and stretch it out. Note where 75 inches is representing age 75 and where your age is (e.g. age 60 would be 60 inches). The sobering message is the huge length of tape up to 60 inches represents your life up to now and the short length of tape from your age to 75 (or thereabouts) represents the time you have left to do relatively demanding things like live-aboard cruising.

We had cruised extensively during weekends and holidays and dreamed of enjoying great destinations until we tired of them rather than meeting timetables. We had adult children living overseas, no health issues and wanted to cruise while circumstances permitted. Experience wasn't an issue and we'd always worked well as a team on four power boats we’d owned during 30 years to that time.
After two years' planning we bought our Nordhavn 46 Passagemaker, Envoy, in 2006 and I took a year's leave of absence from work so we could live-aboard during 2007. Then I went back to work leaving Envoy in a Turkish marina for two years before retiring in early 2010 at age 59.

Envoy on the hard stand at Maramaris, Turkey
 
By the time I reached the “traditional” retirement age of 65 we'd enjoyed six years of the live-aboard life and now we've had eight cruising in exotic places like Greece, Turkey, Italy, Albania, Croatia, Montenegro as well as hundreds of surrounding islands.

Something you wouldn't see while boating in New Zealand

The live-aboard life doesn't have to involve crossing oceans and we’ve cruised over 16,000 miles in the Med rarely being over 40 miles from the nearest land. There are thousands of people living aboard all manner of boats in various parts of the world enjoying adventurous coastal cruising. While it’s a great feeling to have a boat that is ocean-capable a large number of cruisers elect to ship even these vessels aboard purpose-built freighters rather than traverse the oceans on their own hulls and the two options are considered to be similar in cost.

THE MAJOR FEARS
Scott Flanders wrote an excellent article in 2011 outlining potential cruisers’ common concerns and some solutions. This is equally valid today.

Experience levelseveryone starts somewhere so take small steps first and learn from your mistakes. Coastguard and the Royal Yachting Association run excellent courses to gain practical and theoretical skills and as most countries require some evidence of proficiency when clearing-in it’s a good idea to gain some certifications.

Mechanical abilityit isn’t the big things that fail and you will learn to deal with handling the smaller problems. Most countries have competent mechanical assistance available. Carry a comprehensive range of tools, spare parts, equipment manuals and chandlery aboard.

Most technical issues can be easily resolved - in Marmaris we had the stabiliser through-hull seals replaced

Handling rough seasbecomes easier with practice and although this is a concern for many one study reports 80 per cent of the time wave heights are less than 3.7m explaining how many cruisers travel thousands of ocean miles over many years rarely if ever encountering dangerous seas. 
 
Navigationis not difficult with today’s electronic equipment. Sextants are long gone and this is an area where courses will greatly assist.
 
Seasicknessmany cruisers start off getting seasick but wean themselves out of it and medications can assist.

Weather and tidesthere is ample reliable information for coastal cruising while offshore cruisers often pay for professional forecasting. The internet hugely improves forecast availability. There is negligible tide in the Med.

Manoeuvring and dockingpractice makes perfect, but don’t worry about minor scratches on your gelcoat - they won't ruin a great experience. A bow thruster will greatly assist docking.

Another concern is piracy off the north-east coast of Africa making it dangerous to traverse these waters. Circumnavigators who include the Med in their route mostly ship their boats across the Indian Ocean. Piracy is not a major issue in other waters and the website www.noonsite.com provides regular updates.

Read PART 2 in about a week.


Saturday, March 03, 2018

GREECE - ARGUABLY THE WORLD'S GREATEST CRUISING AREA

Envoy is berthed in Lefkas Marina for the winter while we're home in Auckland enjoying the exceptionally hot southern hemisphere summer. 
Our future cruising plans aren't clear at this point and we'll have a better idea shortly.

This is an edited version of our article recently published in Pacific PowerBoat magazine.

The north-east coast of New Zealand's North Island's offers incredible cruising, particularly within its prime area ranging from Whitianga in the south to Whangaroa in the north, a distance of around 250 miles following the coast with about 50 offshore islands suitable for overnight anchoring along the way, a handful of which are virtually all-weather. Imagine an area many times this size with hundreds of offshore islands offering not only spectacular safe anchorages, but interesting atmospheric villages, welcoming rustic tavernas and historic ruins dating back thousands of years.
This is Greece, offering incredible cruising particularly from April through October with mostly stable warm weather, spectacular natural scenery, clean waters, areas of great historical interest, friendly and honest people, a high level of personal safety and reasonable costs. What about their economic crisis and the refugees? Well for the visitor there's little sign of any crisis and we've not yet seen a single refugee as they're mainly confined to a few islands close to Turkey.

Envoy moored stern-to in Rhodes harbour

Although thousands of boats cruise Greece during summer the area is so vast that even the popular anchorages are no more crowded than Auckland's Kawau or Waiheke islands during holiday weekends.
You don't need to own a boat to cruise here as there are many charter boats offered to high standards at reasonable costs. Depending on your experience level you can charter skippered or bareboat and cruise independently or as part of a flotilla. This is a great way to check out whether Med cruising is for you.

Envoy anchored off Spinalonga

 July and August are hot by our standards often reaching mid 30s, although the humidity is low and the sun doesn't have New Zealand's high U/V level so it doesn't seem uncomfortable. Although Envoy has air conditioning we never find conditions warrant using it, in any case preferring fresh air flowing through open windows and portholes.
It's easy to leave your boat in a marina and travel around Greece for sightseeing using high quality and regular coaches and ferries as well as rental cars (foreign licenses accepted). Motorways connect most of the major cities, but rural roads can be pretty basic. Many people speak passable English, particularly younger ones and most people are very polite and helpful.
Supplies are readily available with most prices cheap by our standards at supermarkets, markets and smaller shops while fuel and water are widely available dockside. Interestingly fuel pumps are not common and fuel is often delivered in small road tankers.
The main convenient international airports are Athens, Corfu and Iraklion, although there are others.
Greece is a natural gateway to other destinations as it's relatively easy to cruise north-east to Albania, Montenegro and Croatia, west to Italy and east to Turkey.

It's not unusual to encounter wandering stock on rural roads

Greece can be broadly divided into the four main regions mentioned below:

1 Mainland including Peloponnisos
Athens can be accessed from the port of Piraeus. A guided walking tour will show you most sights with the Parthenon atop the Acropolis and its adjacent museum of particular interest.
From the port of Itea in the Gulf of Corinth you can visit Delphi's many spectacular ruins, where in ancient times wealthy people paid a fortune to have the oracle interpreted, supposedly predicting their future.
Cruising around the Peloponnisos coast is a great experience visiting historic towns such as (west to east) Pilos, Methoni, Koroni, Kalamata, Yithion, the island of Kithera and Monemvasia.

2 Western side – Ionian Sea islands
Preveza on the mainland is a great place to rent a car to visit Meteora with its amazing ancient monasteries perched atop originally impregnable rock formations and accessed using rope ladders. Nearby Mystras has a great castle set upon a craggy hilltop. On the way you will pass through Ioannina, an historic Turkish town with an impressive lakeside castle
Anchor off the village of Parga with its narrow cobbled lanes, great waterfront and castle. Slightly further north is Mourtos with several spectacular anchorages set among several uninhabited islands.
Further north is the island of Corfu with its historic city, castles and spectacular seaside villages such as Ormos Agni, Ormos Kalami, Kassiopi and Palaiokastrita.
Just south of Corfu the island of Paxoi has great anchorages at Lakka, Longos and Gaios.

3 Eastern side – Aegean Sea islands
By far the most famous island is Santorini. Yes it's a bit crowded, but the Caldera is unforgettable.
There are many other stunning islands contained within the Northern and Eastern Sporades, the Cyclades and Dodecanese. Watch for the Meltemi – the strong north-westerly which often blows in the afternoon and can last several days.

4 Crete
You could easily cruise a few weeks here with plenty to see. Of particular interest from east to west are Ayios Nikolaos, Rethimno, Khania, Soudha Bay (visit the New Zealand war cemetery) and stunning Gramvousa Island with its spectacular hilltop castle.

NZ war cemetery at Soudha Bay


Envoy anchored off Dia Island

Because a place isn't mentioned in this article doesn't mean it's not great – there are just too many to mention! The only negatives to cruising in Greece are that the fishing is lousy (locals mostly fish using nets) and scuba diving is mostly not allowed except as part of a guided dive group (to prevent theft of artifacts).

Very shortly we'll post an article about preparing yourselves for the live-aboard cruising life.