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Saturday, September 21, 2019

ENVOY IN ALBANIA

Envoy is now anchored at beautiful Cephalonia, Greece.
Fingers crossed we seem to have sorted out our photo issue now.

I meant to mention that although Envoy has two aircons – a forward unit cooling the two sleeping cabins and an amidships unit cooling the pilothouse and saloon – we only use these to provide an AC load for the generator as to use them properly we'd obviously have to close all the portholes, doors and windows - something Di and I don't like to do. Also to use the aircons we need AC power which means being on shore power or running the generator or running the Lugger with the inverter.
While we're in Gouvia marina waiting for the epirb situation to be resolved it's hot – like up to 37d. It's generally hotter in marinas as there's less wind than at anchor and large expanses of concretes that soak up and then radiate the heat. Larry and Catherine are having a bit of difficulty sleeping in the heat and suggest we run the forward aircon all night. So we close the portholes and do this, finding after about an hour or so the temperature drops about 5dC and more importantly the humidity drops considerably. So this is a useful experiment and we find the slight hum of the aircon working on shore power not a problem, though we wouldn't do it at anchor as we'd have to run the generator all night.

We have already spent a few days in Albania with Chris earlier in the season but now need to spend another few days there to avoid over-staying our allowed 90 days in Greece. On our three previous trips we've stayed at Sarande so this time decide to cruise a few miles north and south of Sarande. To do this our agent, Jelga, needs to file a cruise intinerary with the Port Police. At the Sarande dock is a very traditional Arab dhow about 120 feet long with its crew all decked out in traditional long white robes and turbans. Jelga tells us it's owned by an Emarati princess and when the dhow arrived the authorities laid a long red carpet from the dock to the Customs hall.

There's very few boats anchored here, but one is a NZ yacht called Sparrow. We meet her owners Peter and Dash and enjoy a great dinner ashore together costing a ridiculously low 19 Euros per couple.
Next day we start cruising north and anchor at a very sheltered bay east of Cape Kiephali. Here it's very remote, accessed only by a dirt road. There's a couple of houses ashore and a fish farm taking up some of the bay's space. At dusk we see two guys ashore dressed in military style clothing acting rather suspiciously. Dusk turns to dark and they are still there - doing what? We find it slightly scary so lock our doors during the night for the first time ever.

Envoy anchored near Cape Kiepheli, Albania

Next day we cruise further north to anchor off Qeparo Beach, east of Palermo Headland. Here is also very sheltered and there's a few tavernas ashore, one of which we visit for a cold and cheap Albanian beer. The barman speaks no English but we all manage OK. At both of these anchorages we are the only boat.

Grotto near our Qeparo Beach anchorage

Peter and Dash meanwhile have cruised past us to go alongside the wharf at Palermo Bay. This is a disused military wharf and very rough with lots of protrusions and no proper bollards. Although it's only a couple of miles from where we were last night Peter says they got winds gusting 40 knots whereas we had none. The main attraction at Palermo Bay is Ali Pasha's castle, which we've already seen so we move on to anchor in Himare Bay. 

Ali Pasha's castle viewed from the sea

Tucked in close at the north end of the bay close to a wharf there's reasonable shelter from the prevailing northerlies, although a bit of residual swell finds its way here. The village is quite atmospheric, even if a little run-down and the locals are mostly quite friendly – even the local Port Police who visit us to check on our ship's papers. The main issue here is small boats moving at high speed very close. We take a taxi to Himare's ancient Kastro high in the hills for some spectacular views of the coast.

View from Himare's Kastro

Himare is the last sheltered anchorage for many miles heading north so after two nights here we head back south again

Envoy anchored in Himare Bay

There are some very run-down apartments in Himare

On the way, passing Sarande we notice our dinghy is missing – my fault as I was the one who secured it (not very well). We haven't cruised far so backtrack about two miles to find it drifting near a rocky shore. It'stoo risky to take Envoy that close to a lee shore so we anchor off about 50 metres and I swim over to the dinghy which by now is very close to rocks. I manage to climb onto the rocks, push the dinghy away, climb in and start it. I get a few metres away from the rocks and the engine stops – the painter is still dragging in the choppy water and has wound around the prop. I jump back into the water, manage to free the prop quite easily, get back into the dinghy and motor over to Envoy. A good ending to a silly mistake.

Laurie rescuing our drifting dinghy

The only really nice anchorage we found to the south of Sarande is Ftelia Bay, which is very remote and perfectly sheltered from all wind directions except southerly. Again we are the sole boat here and one side of the bay is Albanian while the other is Greek. Some years back it was a military zone and cruisers weren't allowed to anchor here but it's all much more relaxed these days. There's no tavernas or facilities here but Ftlelia would rank among one of the nicest anchorages we've found.

Envoy anchored on the Albania/Greek border in Ftlelia Bay


Old fisherman's cottage on Greek side of Ftlelia Bay

So we clear-out of Albania and head back to Corfu's Gouvia marina to clear-in to Greece for the last time. The cost is 60 Euros for both clearing in and out, compared to 150 Euros to clear in and the same to clear out of Greece.





Thursday, September 12, 2019

ENVOY DETAINED AFTER EPIRB ACCIDENTALLY ACTIVATES

Envoy is currently anchored at Lefkada Island.
With Envoy's new owners, Larry and Catherine aboard we have left Italy's Santa Maria di Leuca at first light bound for Greece.
For those who don't know, an EPRB is an emergency position indicating radio beacon and when activated provides rescue authorities with your vessel details and position. You wouldn't use it unless in case of dire emergency combined with inability to give your position by VHF radio.
Just north of the Greek island of Othoni our old EPIRB with an expired battery, which I had kept on board activated by itself. This causes a Coastguard boat to come out from Othoni island to check we are OK as well as radio calls from Olympia Radio, the Greek rescue authorities. We explain both by VHF radio to Olympia Radio and in person to the Coastguard people alongside us that the EPIRB had activated by itself with no human intervention and I thought that might be the end of it – but no such luck. The Coastguard said we would have to go to the closest port - a small but lovely village on the south side of Othoni island called Ammou and would not be permitted to leave until Envoy had been surveyed for safety. 


Port Authority building at Ammou where the Coastguard are based

Well obviously there are no surveyors on Othoni and there's only an infrequent ferry service to Corfu. I ask the Coastguard if we can go to Corfu for the survey but they say no. I imagine this situation drawing out into many days and having to hire a water taxi to get a surveyor out to us. I'm also concerned about Larry and Catherine - although we're at a lovely bay they wouldn't want to spend the whole remaining time of their trip here and how would they get to Corfu to catch their ferry back to Italy? I also have concerns about the "survey". Few boats would pass a comprehensive survey without some preparation and we don't have that opportunity.
So I get our agent A1 Yachting involved and once again they perform great, putting me in touch with a Greek/Australian surveyor based in Corfu who soon manages to get permission from Coastguard for Envoy to move to Corfu's Gouvia marina. Even for this to happen he also had to get a letter of approval from the NZ Consulate in Athens. After arriving in Gouvia we find that our berth is very close to the Port Police base and assume they want to keep an eye on us. It takes five days for the necessary checks to be made and paperwork completed. The "survey" in fact turns out only to involve de-registering our old EPIRB, registering the new one we already have on board, checking our VHF and making some modifications to it. You can't rush bureaucracy but Larry and Catherine weren't fussed as it gave them a few days to see Corfu and for Catherine and Di to enjoy doing some shopping together.
We also hire a car and visit Corfu's west coast village of Paleokastritsa and the remote mountain village of Palia Perithia. Here we have lunch at a taverna patronised by Rick Stein, but unfortunately on our visit all find the meals a bit under-whelming, even though the taverna itself is atmospheric.

My final involvement with the epirb situation is to go to the Coastguard's Corfu office to pick up our clearance to leave. The surveyor says this will take 10 minutes but in fact it takes about three hours, mainly waiting around for people. Corfu's main Coastguard office has about 80 people working there and it's hard to find the right one to deal with. Finally I manage to find the right guy and he is reasonably friendly, even organising a coffee for me. He initially seems to find complications, but suddenly hands me some documents and tells me Envoy is free to leave.
So we leave the marina - free people again and have a nice few days cruising the bay's north of Corfu.  During this time we're anchored in  a large bay when two large twin-engined seaplanes come zooming down and skim across the water filling their sea water tanks for fire fighting. They do this several times and we jole that we've put this show on especially for Larry and Catherine.

We never did get an explanation on how the EPIRB may have self-activated, but the local expert said it was unlikely to be caused by the expired battery. Anyway I think the lessons here are don't keep an EPIRB with an expired battery aboard, but de-register and dispose of it and make sure you register your new one immediately after purchase.
After several more days cruising in Corfu Larry and Catherine leave us, looking very much forward to starting their very own Envoy adventures.

This unusual vessel noticed in Corfu has a helicopter hanger on its stern

Next day we clear-out of Greece to spend a week or so cruising in Albania.

We thought this rock looks like a bear sitting down


Sunday, September 08, 2019

RETURN TO ENVOY AFTER A SHORT BREAK BACK HOME

Envoy is currently cruising to Preveza, mainland Greece. Still having problems loading images so that's why there's not many.
Late in the evening of Sunday 28 July we arrive back to Envoy berthed at Taranto in Italy. There's a 20 knot wind blowing and the boat is moving around making it tricky to get our luggage back aboard across a bouncing passarelle. All is as we left it except that we inadvertently closed the fridge door (we usually leave it wedged open when its not operating) and in the high heat a bit of mould had formed inside. However this is soon cleaned up.
Next day the marina lends us a car and driver to take us to a supermarket a couple of km away where we do a huge shop to re-supply. It's fun in these smallish and unfamiliar Med supermarkets, but there always seems to be a shortage of trolleys.
Taranto is interesting but seems a bit run down with a lot of derelict, unoccupied buildings.
Next day we cruise back to Porti di Caesareo – already mentioned previously. Some locals take a shine to us and insist on taking us ashore for coffee and delicious cake.
That night Envoy rolls a bit and our RHIB, which is lifted out of the water at the transom, moves around and abrades some of our sign writing off the stern. Fortunately we have some spare decals aboard so this can be easily remedied.

Gallipoli
Envoy's new owners – Larry and Catherine from Brisbane are due to join us shortly for a couple of weeks so our agent had arranged a marina berth in Portolano marina at the beautiful town of Gallipoli.
This “marina” is a bit of a joke really – there's just a floating pontoon making a poor attempt at blocking waves from the open sea and it's quite rough inside. The lazy lines connecting the mooring lines to the jetty are far too short so they are more or less floating and one get's caught up in our bow thruster – damn! Last time this happened we had to pull Envoy from the water to free it at a cost of nearly a thousand bucks. More on this soon.
Fortunately we are bow on to the swell so it's not too uncomfortable, but at one stage our passarelle is moving through a range of about a metre up and down.
We arrive there early afternoon and by late afternoon there's a strong wind blowing directly into the marina, which has little room to manoever as it's really of a size for smaller trailerable boats.
A twin-engined displacement motor boat slightly larger than Envoy arrives to berth next to Envoy. As the boat comes in I can see the skipper has no idea what he's doing and he allows his boat to be taken so far downwind that there's no chance of him turning stern-to the jetty. His boat slams broadside into Envoy and the two boats next to us. Where he hits Envoy is the forward end of our anchor, which is now making a good job of grinding into his teak capping rail and adjacent gelcoat. The skipper's wife rushes out and attempts to push their boat off, but the on-scene marinaras and myself warn her away – there's a real risk of serious injury. I put out our heaviest duty fender to try to minimise damage to the other boat but it soon bursts with the pressure – later the other skipper pays me for it. The skipper then makes things worse by using power and wrapping a mooring line around one of his props. The marinaras then use their large RHIB to tow the boat upwind and back outside the marina. One of the marinaras takes over the boat's helm and to his credit does an excellent job of docking her even with one engine unusable. He lines up the boat at the entrance and reverses at remarkably high speed straight into the empty berth next to Envoy. The other boat also needs a diver and we are told to expect him next day at 0700. I am very sceptical about this – nothing happens during early mornings in the Med. My scepticism proves waranted when he arrives about 1000. Then he does a great job of removing the lines fouling our bow thruster and our neighbour's prop.
Next day Larry and Catherine arrive. It's Catherine's first time aboard and she likes Envoy very much. They aren't really concerned by the primitive marina, but meanwhile we have organised a berth at Bleu Salento marina inside Gallipoli harbour for the next two nights. Bleu Salento is only slightly dearer at 120 Euros per night but is perfectly sheltered with properly laid lines and plenty of room to manoever.
We organise a rental car and do a couple of days touring the local area including the stunning town of Lecce, already covered in a previous posting.

Great view from cafe near Gallipoli

Larry and Catherine quickly adjust to shipboard life and we cruise to Santa Maris di Leuca to anchor off the marina. During the night the wind changes to onshore making for a rather uncomfortable night – at least we thought so, but Larry and Catherine didn't seem to mind. We set off at first light heading for Greece on what would turn out to be an eventful day.




Friday, August 23, 2019

ITALY'S GOLFO DI TARANTO


Currently we're cruising in southern Albania until late next week when we'll return to Corfu in Greece.
Sorry the Blog has got behind. Have had Envoy's new owners aboard for last couple of weeks or so and a problem with an accidental EPIRB activation - will catch up now. Adding photos is an issue right now and I hope to add these later.

Golfo di Taranto
So far in our story we've been on the Adriatic coast of Italy and Porto Castro is the last reasonable anchorage heading south. So we cruise south and west into the Golfo di Taranto to anchor off the marina Santa Maria di Leuca. It's pretty good, but like many anchorages here subject to wakes from large motor boats from late morning until late afternoon. We stay here just one day and then cruise north with a southerly wind behind us further into the Golfo di Taranto. In the late afternoon we drop anchor in a very large and calm south-facing bay called Torre del Pizza. We're staggered to see more than 200 mostly motor boats ranging from 5 to 25 metres long anchored here. In the late afternoon we have drinks on the foredeck and watch as they all leave bar two sailing yachts which like us stay for the night.
In the morning the wind turns north again making this an exposed anchorage so we head further north finding an excellent small harbour called Porto Caesario. Access is via a narrow buoyed passage through a reef and once inside it seems like you're in a tropical Pacific atoll. The depth is only about 3 metres with lots of shallower water and ashore a beached wrecked yacht is a grim reminder of what can happen if things go wrong and a big westerly swell develops.

It's very pretty ashore and there's some interesting shopping (even I buy a few things which is rare indeed!) and good restaurants.
The day we arrive here is Monday and we're due to go into a marina at Taranto on Thursday. On Tuesday the updated forecast shows a bad situation developing from Wednesday late afternoon – 40 knot southerlies, turning to 40 knot northerlies with a major thunderstorm. Given our unfamiliarity with the local area and the shallow depth of this beautiful anchorage we decide to head off a day early on Wednesday for the safety of the marina.
Strong winds in themselves are not normally a problem and we've often been safely anchored in winds of 30-40 knots and occasionally up to 60 knots. In these cases the wind builds gradually and you have the chance to make sure your anchor is well set. The problem with thunderstorms is that they can hit suddenly and viciously, often causing adjacent charter yachts (that may have inadequate ground tackle and inexperienced crews) to drag. The other problem is the wind is not consistently from one direction but always veers as the front moves, so in anchorages chaos often occurs.

Storm in Taranto
On Wednesday we leave at 0650hrs and cruise west then north-west in a rising southerly about 40 miles to Otranto, arriving 1400hrs. The wind has only reached up to 14 knots when we arrive and we have no problem getting into our berth, stern-to as normal, assisted by competent and friendly marinaras Andrea and Luigi (yes Luigi!). Unlike Otranto this is a “proper” marina with toilets, showers, constant AC power and potable water. It's also much better-priced at 58 Euros per night including power and water.
The greater Taranto harbour is huge and historically one of Italy's major naval bases.
By about 1800hrs storm clouds start to gather and I deploy some heavy spring lines from amidships back to the pontoon. The storm continues to gather force in the distance and appears to be probably the worst we've ever seen. The sky is pitch black over the storm front and it's moving down on us - fast. We see the front within about half a mile from us with very low black swirling cloud and then see what looks like white smoke. In fact this is spray whipped up off the sea's surface by the wind. The wind and spray hits us suddenly on our beam with the wind going from less than 15 knots to over 40 in seconds. As we watch the developing scene from our pilothouse we see our newly repaired wind speed indicator hit 52 knots – that's nearly 100 km/hr. Nearby, lighter boats heel sharply and bang into each other while Envoy heels slightly and strains at her mooring lines. Ahead of us we see a two masted sailing yacht about 60ft long and moored alongside a jetty, heel very sharply as she's exposed broadside to the wind. She goes over further so that her gunwales go beneath the jetty's decking and the rising waves push her underneath, so that she's unable to right herself. There she stays for 15 minutes or so until the wind changes direction, the seas drop and she suddenly frees herself, popping upright again. We take a close look at her later to discover a lot of superficial gelcoat damage.
The wind veers 90 degrees from abeam to astern and I'm pleased I added those extra lines.
After some torrential rain the storm abates, but we sure are glad we came into the marina.
Damage” to Envoy consists of one cockpit cushion blown away (which funnily enough we find in the water a few hundred metres away two days later) and a little rain water in the engine room bilge, which had been driven through the windward air vent. Our windward neighbor on his Feretti 39 motor boat says he's lost a squab and we find it up on Envoy's boat deck. Two yachts on the hardstand are blown off their cradles onto the concrete – ironically one of which is owned by the marina manager. The cafeteria is flooded and its plastic tables and chairs wildly scattered. This same storm wreaks havoc down the coast and goes across to the north-west coast of Greece where sadly six tourists are killed. The only good parts about this were that we were safely in the marina and Envoy got a great fresh water wash!
Early on Saturday 13 July we leave Envoy safely in her marina berth to fly to Rome and then on back to Auckland for a short time, returning to Envoy on 28 July for the second phase of our 2019 adventure.





Friday, August 02, 2019

ITALY'S ADRIATIC COAST

Otranto area
At this point in our story Envoy's still in Italy, berthed in a not-so-good marina, but in a very picturesque location - Otranto. For several days there are over 20 knot winds outside the port causing two metre seas that create a surge in the port. All the moored boats move around and strain at their mooring lines, in fact we joke that it's a lot rougher here than in many anchorages. Nevertheless locals say Otranto is tenable in most conditions, even at anchor.
Otranto is in an area known as Apulia, steeped in history with many interesting places to see.
We arrange a taxi to take us to the historic town of Maglie and the fare is a very steep 40 Euros for about a 20 minute ride. Our visit coincides with siesta time so there's virtually nobody around in the streets and piazzas and nothing open. For the return journey Chris negotiates a cheaper fare of 30 Euros. The driver's a nice young guy and tells us he has a girlfriend, but that there's a big problem with the summer high season coming. I ask him if the problem is him having to work extra long hours. “No,” he replies. “It's due to the temptation of so many pretty girls around.”

We learn it's much cheaper to hire a car than use a taxi and arrange a rental for 40 Euros per day to visit Lecce – one of the main attractions in Apulia and known as the “Florence of the South” with its Baroque style buildings. There's also an impressive Roman ampitheatre in amazingly original condition discovered during excavations for a new building in the early 20th century. However the temperature's in the mid 30s - much too hot to wander around for too long so we spend much of our time in a shady cafe soaking in the atmosphere.

We have our final day and night out with our close friend Chris in Otranto and bid him farewell.
Chris has been our companion aboard Envoy longer than any other guest and contributed not only to the fun but used his energy, enthusiasm and skills to assist with many maintenance and upgrade jobs – thank you McGyver!
The wind drops and we're able to leave Otranto. It's not that the sea was particularly rough, but more our lack of local knowledge of nearby safe anchorages. The Cruising Guide says they are very few, but we find our first one just three miles south of Otranto, not even mentioned in the Cruising Guide and nicely sheltered from the predominating northerly wind. We stay here two nights with about 20 smallish boats anchored during the day but only we overnight. On the first night a police boat comes to check on us about 0200hrs and leaves us in peace after a brief chat. Fishing boats also work very close to us but leave us alone the second night.

Porto Miggiano
We cruise about five miles further south to a fantastic anchorage called Porto Miggiano. I note the log that so far we've cruised 184 miles since leaving Lefkada in early June and not a drop of spray has come on deck so far!
Again there are many dayboats but only us during a glassy calm night.
Ashore there are hundreds of bathers adorning the small beach and larger rocky foreshore, seemingly oblivious to the heat and the sun's ultra violet rays. People don't go to the beach for peace and quiet here and loud music booms across the water from early afternoon.
Nothing seems to happen early around the Med, so the nicest times in these anchorages are the tranquil mornings and evenings and these times generall coincide with when the wind is lightest too.

Envoy in Porto Miggiano

Bathers in Porto Miggiano

I want to get some information about our next anchorage called Porto Castro so jump into the RHIB and go over to see some locals in a 40ft sailing cat “Second Life”. As I approach they look at me like “who the hell are you and what do you want.” (later they tell me they were very surprised to see me).
I introduce myself and they tell me Porto Castro is great, that they are going to anchor there tonight and why don't we join them on board for dinner – a big surprise and of course I accept.
When we try to lift Envoy's anchor we find it's stuck. In well over a thousand times anchoring Envoy I think this is only the second time. In the water with my mask and snorkel I see the anchor's fluke is wedged under a large flat bed of rock and the depth is about 12 metres – much too deep for me to go down and free it. So the best alternative is to let out more chain, use our bow thruster and engine to turn Envoy 180 degrees and try to pull the anchor out from the opposite direction. Actually this wasn't so easy in a crowded anchorage with lots of small boats moving around. First I cleat a strong snubbing line on the anchor chain to avoid putting too much strain on the windlass. We reverse up steadily and first time – no luck. The second time we hear an almighty crunch and Envoy pulls sharply back from the strain. At first I think we've broken the anchor chain, but we have success and the anchor has pulled free.

Porto Castro
We cruise down to Porto Castro which turns out to be a great night time anchorage and really nice ashore too, but in the daytime it's subject to residual swell and lots of boat wakes. We have a really fun night with our new Italian friends, party people Sonia, Marco, Riccardo, Matina and another with name forgotten. They have a guitar aboard and I contribute singing The House of The Rising Sun.

Interesting cove at Porto Castro

Next day we find a safe place to leave our small RHIB in the crowded small boat marina and have a good explore ashore as well as visiting the castle, towering above the anchorage.

Stunning architecture near Porto Castro



Saturday, July 13, 2019

ENVOY IN ALBANIA


After we complete the work on Envoy in Corfu's Gouvia marina our agents, A1 Yachting, clear us out of Greece and we head to Sarande in Albania just a short hop across the Corfu Channel. Our friend Chris is still with us. 
On the way a six metre powerboat overtakes us at high speed about five metres off our beam – unthinking, dangerous behavior from locals in high speed power boats can be a problem throughout the Med.
At Sarande the shelter isn't very good as it's fully exposed to the South while the prevailing NW winds send a swell around into the bay. We're directed to moor quayside, but the quay was in fact just a finger about 10 metres long leaving Envoy's stern exposed and close to a large car ferry. So we decide not to stay there but to anchor out in the bay close to a NZ yacht with a solo yachtsman aboard. With our flopper stoppers deployed the effect of the swell is considerably reduced and we're quite comfortable.

Sarande anchorage viewed from castle

Envoy alongside a very short quay - we had to move


Both nights in Albania we eat out finding the food delicious and inexpensive with good friendly service.

View of fishing boats from our harbour side restaurant table

This is our third visit to Albania so we've seen many of the local sights but decide to hire a car and driver for a tour up the coast. Our driver is a nice guy called Mundi,  half Albanian and half Greek.
First we drive up to the hilltop castle for a spectacular view down on Sarande. Mundi explains that Albania was Communist until 1992 and then had a short but violent civil war in 1998 with about 2,000 people killed. It seems to be stable and reasonably safe these days and we never feel ill at ease
The sparsely populated coastline is rugged and spectacular. We stop for lunch at an unusual cafe with fresh water springs flowing through it and the water is so cold it has a cooling effect on the cafe.

Diane sitting in cafe with fresh water springs

Our other main stop is at one of Ali Pasha's castles in Panorma Bay, an important historical stop over point for vessels traversing this coast. The castle's still in pretty good condition and it's easy to imagine what it was like a few hundred years back. Ali Pasha employed French engineers to design and build the castle and being a pretty ruthless guy he had them all executed upon the castle's completion to keep its secrets. I nearly joined them in fact - as I went to step inside one of the nearby buildings a large snake slithered across the doorway just in front of me so I gave up the idea of going inside.

Inside Ali Pasha's castle, once decorated with carpets and tapestries


We leave Albania for Italy, stopping for one night to anchor off the village of Ammou on the south side of an island called Nissos Othoni. This is a first for us and Ammou would rate as one of the nicest anchorages we've been into. Ashore there's some nice tavernas and some torpedoes displayed in a memorial to Greek sailors lost in a submarine called Protefs rammed by an Italian gunboat in 1940. This is a stunning bay and we'll certainly spend more time there on the way back to Corfu. Of course most anchorages are subject to weather and our waitress told us that in southerly gales huge waves wash right up the beach and over the road.

Torpedo and launcher from submarine Protefs



View of Ammou


Leaving Ammou soon after first light we cruise to Otranto on Italy's NE Adriatic coastline. This is new territory for us and it's a nine hour cruise in light winds and a sloppy northerly one metre swell – a good test for the Naiad stabilisers and they perform well. As we get within about 20 miles of Otranto a southerly current sets and we lose about a knot – not significant on a fast boat, but in our case about 15% of our speed. We had planned to anchor in Otranto harbour, but several yachts anchored there are pitching wildly so we decide to moor stern-to the quay alongside some other boats. We're directed to a rather narrow space with a 12m yacht on our starboard side and a 6m power boat to port. As we reverse in to our position the 6m power boat moves in the wind, blocking our entry. A marinara jumps into the boat to move it away, but at the same time we have a problem securing the lazy line quickly and Envoy starts to drift to leeward away from her position. We quickly throw a line from Envoy's beam to somebody aboard the yacht to starboard and order is restored. The marinaras here – Andrea and Fabricio are really nice helpful guys, but the shelter is quite poor with a lot of movement. There are no toilets or showers, power is only available from 1600 to 0900hrs and the cost is a rather high 100 Euros per night! At least the atmosphere and views are great.
This quayside area seemed only suitable for smallish boats but next day a huge Envoy look-alike vessel berths here proving that theory wrong. Otium is about 80ft long weighing about 100 tonnes. Her owner tells me they almost lost Otium several years ago during a sudden 60 knot gale in the Gulf of Taranto when they were unable to turn Otium due to windage on her beam and six metre seas.

Envoy moored in Otranto beside big brother


Most of the boats in Otranto are small motor boats

Otranto's formidable castle



During our stay we enjoy one of our favorite meals spaghetti al vongole (clams) with local rose vino






Tuesday, July 02, 2019

ENVOY AROUND CORFU

Leaving Parga on Greece's mainland coast we cruise further up to Mourtos – one of Di's favorite shopping areas and also one of mine as they have an excellent hardware store and more importantly a great bakery with delicious chocolate cakes.

Parga harbour viewed from castle

At many of these small boat harbors it's quite difficult to find a place to leave your tender as nowhere provides a designated area and you have to find a spot among the local small fishing boats. There is no real concern about theft, just finding a vacant spot.
The first night at Mourtos there's a lot of lightning in the distance and this is always a bit disconcerting because if a thunderstorm arrives it can often bring nasty squalls and wind shifts. Our only few bad nights aboard Envoy have been during thunderstorms, but fortunately this one stays well away.
Another night we return to Envoy from ashore to find a yacht anchored much too close to us – at times only four metres away. We put out fenders but don't actually touch during the night.
We cruise over to Petriti on the island of Corfu stopping on the way to anchor off the Levkimmi Canal and take the dinghy up about a mile to the sleepy village of Levkimmi for lunch. We'd done this before with Frank and Marie but not with Chris.

Chris and Laurie moor the RHIB at Levkimmi canal

Our Naiad hydraulic stabilisers aren't operational at this point, but it's been so calm that so far we've only deployed our other paravane system – the “Birds” once. During this time we tried deploying just one “Bird”, something we've never done before. Using one certainly reduces roll but induces a lean to the side it's deployed so we didn't like it – if we wanted to cruise along on a lean we'd have bought a sailing yacht!

We spend a couple of nights anchored off Petriti and have a great evening ashore at a restaurant overlooking Envoy's anchorage to celebrate our 48th wedding anniversary.

By now we've run all of Envoy's equipment except for the watermaker (which we plan to use a bit later when Envoy's new owners join us for a couple of weeks) and everything is working well except for the Naiads and the B&G Network wind.
Our new air horn installed late last year wasn't working properly and we found that its air supply tubes had kinked and blocked the air supply. It was an easy matter to replace the tubes with new slightly shorter ones to prevent it kinking again and then it worked fine.

Leaving Petriti we cruise north stopping to anchor off Gouvia town, then Kalami, Ormos Ay Stefanos and Avalaki.

View from the Durell's White House in Kalami

During this time Chris and I spend some time trying to find the cause of a very small fresh water leak inside the main head's storage cabinet. It turned out to be a leaking anti-syphon valve for the toilet. I didn't even know this valve was there and it was a bit tricky to remove – but we did so and it's now cleaned up and working properly again ready to be re-installed.

Chris working on our leaking anti-syphon valve and close-up of the valve


There's a few super yachts around including this Australian-owned one with a helo on its foredeck

Chris and Laurie with busker in traditional costume

We spend four nights in Corfu's Gouvia marina to sort out a couple of technical issues left over from last year. While there we catch up with Bruce and Gavin from catamaran Midi and have a great night out at a Corfu restaurant, which is a bit different as you just write down what you want to eat and mostly they have it available.

Last year we left our BandG Network Wind instrument with a technician – Dimitris - to fix. Several months ago we'd sent him an eye watering 600 Euros for parts and he says it fixed and ready to install.
So up the mast he goes and fits the sensor. “Is it working?” he shouts down. “No” I reply – dammit!
So next day he arranges for two technicians from the B&G local agents to take a look. These guys seemed to have a methodical approach and were able to fix it within an hour, so all was well. I could have bought a new unit for less than 600 Euros, but the one we have is part of a network and also has a useful built-in battery voltage monitor which new ones don't have.

On Friday 21 June two technicians arrive from Athens to investigate why our Naiad hydraulic stabilisers are making loud banging noises when in use. Dimitris is an electrician and Konstantinos a mechanic – both very nice, competent and hard-working guys.

Laurie with Dimitris and Konstantinos

After checking the system over we start it in the marina and the loud knocking noises soon start.
A couple of years ago we had a modification done by the same company to lock the fins in the central position when de-energised. This was to avoid the need to manually lock the fins in their central position when anchored in rolly conditions so they don't bang from side to side. Dimitris has a theory that the valves fitted to achieve this central locking were the wrong ones and they are causing over-heating the hydraulic fluid leading to the knocking noises. So they remove the centring valve on the port side and the knocking noises disappear. In fact they seem to disappear on both sides. We do an hour long sea trial and they work perfectly. They also re-route the Naiad's oil cooler hoses as they were very close to the Lugger's lagged exhaust. This wasn't a danger but was affecting the cooling. Next day they remove the centring valve on the starboard side and we do a sea trial about 90 minutes long with the system working well. Since then we have cruised for several hours, including one nine hour cruise with quite a swell running and all is working well. The plan going forward is for these guys to obtain the correct valves from USA and fit them when we come back to Greece from Italy in September. So that was excellent news too as it's a great deal easier switching on the hydraulic stabilisers than deploying the “Birds”. I still can't fully understand why the system worked fine for several months after the centring valves were installed. Dimitris tried to explain to me it was something to do with the valve's internal springs but full meaning was lost in language and my lack of technical understanding.
Next Post – our visit to Albania.


Friday, June 14, 2019

ENVOY CRUISING IN THE IONIAN SEA

Before leaving the marina we enjoy one day away from Envoy, hiring a car to tour around this great island of Lefkada with its small sandy coves, picturesque villages and inland mountains soaring to about 3,000 feet. Traffic is negligible and I don't think there's any traffic lights at all on the island.

Greece seems to be a very honest country with little crime evident beyond copious amounts of graffiti in the cities. Shopkeepers often leave items outside overnight and people leave their keys in cars and scooters. So it was a surprise when a 46ft Bavaria yacht was stolen from Lefkada's quayside during our stay and hasn't been seen since. Locals speculate that it will have been sailed across to Italy.
While in Lefkada we also meet our Kiwi friend Bruce from sailing cat Midi. This year his wife Leslie decided to stay home, so Bruce is cruising with two friends Gavin and David. Anybody thinking about sailing in the Med couldn't do better than to buy the superbly equipped and lovingly maintained Midi.

Envoy was re-launched on Tuesday 4 June and everything was fine when we did a short sea trial before going to our berth. It's certainly much nicer staying aboard in tn the water than on the hard.
Overall our cruise preparations went well. The only surprise issue was the sea water leak to the bilge and even that wasn't a total surprise given past history. Without that we'd have been cruising within 12 days of our arrival, but this turned out to be 16.
Chris and I spent a bit of time adjusting the Lugger's prop shaft stuffing box. When Sailand checked the sealings last year they tightened the bolts on the stuffing box too much so that the forward section of the stuffing box wouldn't loosen up as the adjusting bolts were slackened. We used a puller and some levers to get it moving again and now have a nice regular drip – we find that one drip about every 10-20 seconds is about right.
The RHIB maintenance turned into a bit of a saga. After the Yamaha was serviced I took it for a test run and noticed the tachometer (tacho) was no longer working. Spiros came back and did some work on it, telling me he'd put in a new tacho that still didn't work “so it must be the regulator” (that provides an electronic signal to the tacho). A few days later a new regulator arrives and is installed but still the tacho doesn't work. Spiros tries to convince me “you don't need a tacho anyway … just go and enjoy your cruise”. But I tell Spiros I want it fixed. A few minutes after that discussion he calls me to say its all fixed. He explains that when he initially checked the fault by putting in a different tacho, it was an old used one he had laying around his workshop and that one must have been faulty too. When he put in a new tacho it worked fine.
So all was finally ready – jobs done, stores loaded, documentation completed and we set off from Lefkada Marina on the Weds as planned (plan 2!)
Just before we leave our Italian friend Fabricius comes to say farewell. Fabricius had been aboard his yacht next to us on the hard stand. He gives us some valuable advice about places to see in the Italian region we're heading to – Puglia at the northern end of the “Boot”. In fact he surprises us by saying this si one of the most visited areas of Italy. In particular he recommends Lecce – known as the Florence of the south with its Baroque architecture.
We cruise just a couple of hours north to anchor off Preveza. Di has some favorite shops here and there's also a couple of guitar shops I want to check out, ending up buying a cheap Soundsation (Fender strat style)so I don't get too much out of practice while we're away.

Laurie doing first BBQ of the season

Here's an unusual large cat in the Polynesian style noticed at Preveza

Then we cruise up to Parga – one of the nicest village on the mainland coast overlooked by its 14th century Venetian castle.




Saturday, June 01, 2019

DELAY TO ENVOY'S LAUNCHING

We've met a NZ couple from Blenheim – Keven and Kerry who've recently bought a “green” motor vessel. It has an electric motor, good for about 20 miles cruising plus a VW diesel engine with a range of about 600 miles. They eventually plan to ship it home where the electric motor will suit cruising in the Marlborough Sounds.

We're constantly reminded that many costs are still very reasonable in Greece. Last night we went to dinner at a nice restaurant overlooking the estuary and had a Greek salad, french fries, fried eggplant, mushrooms with cheese, bread, one bottle of water, one litre of house white wine and desserts of fruit and yoghurt for a total cost of 27 Euros – about NZ$47. In many restaurants at home we'd pay nearly that just for the wine. On the other hand petrol is nearly 2 Euros per litre – about NZ$3.48.

Huge crane lifts our RHIB down for engine service

Preparation for Envoy's launching had been going well and after 7 days aboard were ready for launching the day before it occurred. So last Tuesday Envoy was lifted from her chocks on the hardstand and put into the water. 

Envoy in the travelift slings

We always spend a few minutes checking for any sea water leaks before the travel lift operator removes the slings and we soon noticed a leak into the engine room bilge.
Regular readers of this Blog may recall we've had similar leaks twice previously, but they've stopped quite quickly after launching (although we were never able to figure out exactly why). However this time more water was coming in (at a guess about a litre per minute) and it didn't look like stopping any time soon.
We had Sailand engineer Panos aboard for the launching and he suggested we allow more water to come into the bilge, then lift the boat out and hopefully see water coming back out from the inside.
So we did exactly this and after lifting back onto the hard were able to identify a small area of the keel leaking water .
Within an hour Sailand's GRP expert, Raza, was on the job with his assistant and they used a grinder to cut back the GRP in the area of the leak. In doing so they found some de-laminated GRP and then a plug of sealant. Raza's theory is that a previous owner must have had some minor impact damage, used sealant to make a temporary repair and then pulled the boat out of the water and glassed over it. This must have happened more than 12 years ago. When the boat was on the hard the sealant plug dried out and shrank so that when launched water could pass through until the sealant swelled a little to stop the flow. Anyhow this is conjecture and a fully professional repair is now being completed – first grinding back to solid, good condition GRP and then building it up again using carbon fibre and Kevlar cloth impregnated with West Systems epoxy resin and using presses to apply pressure during curing. They've nearly completed the exterior and today modified the interior of the aft bilge, pouring in Gurit's Ampreg 26 epoxy resin to fill in previous surface imperfections and building up the bilge's  level by about 150mm to provide more strength and a smoother impervious surface finish.
Raza is working on Sunday to finish sanding, undercoating, painting and anti-fouling so we can launch on Monday.

Raza working on the leak repair. A towel covers the Yanmar's prop for safety

He used infra red heaters both to dry the hull and to cure the epoxy

West System's 105 epoxy was used

Also carbon fibre and Kevlar cloth

This image shows the extent of the repair - pink


It's now Sunday and Raza has been working today to complete the job so we can launch tomorrow.

All other work is now completed except that our large RHIB is awaiting a new regulator for its Yamaha outboard's alternator – during servicing the mechanic noticed the battery is over charging. This part is due to arrive on Tuesday so we're hopeful of starting our cruise on Wednesday.