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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

ENVOY'S 2019 CRUISING PLANS


Although the sale of Envoy was finalised late last year, the new Brisbane-based owners don't plan to use her until they retire and part of our sales agreement was that we are able to still use Envoy this year.
At the time we left Envoy we were inclined towards not using her again, but having been away for several months we've changed our minds and now plan to return around mid-May and cruise through to about early October.
This of course will be better for Envoy and her new owners since it's preferable for machinery to be used than to sit in storage.
Under normal circumstances NZ passport holders are allowed to spend up to 90 days out of any 180 day period in each of the Schengen Treaty countries, which are similar to but not exactly the same as EU countries. Using an agent we've previously managed to get that extended to the whole 180 days in Greece and if we can do the same again we'll spend the whole time there. However this extension is becoming more difficult and we may be restricted this time to 90 days in Greece, in which case we'll spend 90 days or so in Italy. In either case we'll visit Albania again for a few days in order to re-set the 18 month clock for Envoy's time allowed in EU waters as a non-EU registered vessel.
So in Greece we plan to first cruise north to Corfu, both because it's a great venue and so that our B&G Network wind speed and direction transducer repaired there can be re-fitted. Then we'll head south-east through the Gulf of Corinth and the Corinth Canal to Piraeus so the repair of our Naiad stabilisers can be completed there. Our return to the Ionian will be going south around the Peloponnisos.
Our most regular visitor Chris, aka McGyver is already planning to spend about a month with us and some family members are also looking at joining us.
So watch this space for any updates.


Sunday, March 10, 2019

THE MAGNIFICENT MARLBOROUGH SOUNDS


Watch this space for some news of Envoy's future plans about this time next week.
Here is an article we wrote that was recently published in Pacific PowerBoat magazine.

The North Island's north-east coast and the greater Marlborough Sounds area provide New Zealand's two prime cruising areas. Many visitors only experience Queen Charlotte Sound as their ferry cruises into Picton, but this is only a small part of the broader “Sounds” cruising area also comprising Kerepuru and Pelorus Sounds, D'Urville and several other smaller islands, Taman Bay including the coastal sections of the Abel Tasman National Park and Golden Bay, together constituting over a fifth of New Zealand's entire coastline.
The majority of cruisers here are South Islanders, but some hardy Wellingtonians venture across the often challenging (particularly in fresh northerlies and southerlies) Cook Strait, both from Wellington harbour itself, some 50 miles distant and from Mana only about 25 miles away.
Indeed the notorious Cook Strait has a history of shipwrecks including the Union Steamship Company's ferry Wahine in 1968 in winds up to 160 knots with the loss of 153 lives and the Soviet Union's cruise ship Mikhail Lermontov in 1986 with the loss of one crew member.

In early January we arrive by ferry after a calm Cook Strait crossing, entering the Tory Channel with its swirling tidal rips to view wooded hills gently sloping down from around 600 metres in places to sparkling blue (albeit rather chilly) waters, rocky shorelines and delightful sandy coves. Heading up Queen Charlotte Sound to Picton we pass fish farms and sparsely situated holiday homes, many with the ultimate in privacy being accessible only by sea. Later the building intensity increases as we pass the impressive Waikawa marina to port. This is New Zealand's third largest marina and one of five in the area, the others being located at Picton, Havelock, Nelson and Port Tarakohe (near Takaka) all with fuel available.

Maori have inhabited the area for several hundred years and the first European to visit here was Abel Tasman in 1642, but it was well over a hundred years before the next Europeans led by Captain Cook visited here in 1770. He made efforts to meet and understand Maori and while this was largely successful there were also some violent encounters. Whalers established shore stations during the 1820s and although whaling's heyday was over by 1850 the last station didn't close until 1964.

We drive off the ferry at Picton and head to Whatamango Bay to stay with friends at their beachside holiday home. Picton itself is a delightfully quaint village with its ferry terminal and commercial wharves to the west and the marina to the east from where all manner of sightseeing and fishing trips are available as well as bareboat charters.
The waterfront and few short main streets are interesting and lined with basic shops as well as many bars, cafes and restaurants. A short drive south takes you past the airport to one of New Zealand's most famous wine growing areas with many well-known vineyards offering tasting and quality dining.
To the south of this area and about thirty minutes drive from Picton, Blenheim is the region's main town and offerins most facilities.
Our friends are keen boaters owning an impressive Christchurch-built seven metre Huntsman Crusader, kept on a convenient mooring reducing the need to launch and retrieve it. Next day six of us head off for a few hours fishing. The Crusader leaps onto the plane with its powerful 200hp 4-stroke Yamaha outboard comfortably achieving 20 knots at 4,400rpm and topping out 35 knots at 5,500rpm.
Cod is the most prevalent fish here and we find this every bit as delicious (many would argue more so) than snapper, found in larger numbers further north. We easily reach the daily limit of two each and interestingly land eight different species in a couple of hours including cod, rock cod, terakihi, barracuda, shark, spiny dogfish, leatherjacket, gurnard and octopus – an unusual combination compared to our experiences further north. Our hosts tell us that additional common species include red cod, sea perch, kahawai, snapper, spottie, kingfish, eels and rays. It's not unusual to see seals, leopard seals, whales, dolphins and orcas while divers can also find mussels, crayfish and scallops subject to restrictions in place at various times.
Between D'Urville Island and the mainland is the narrow and notorious French Pass where dangerous tidal currents can reach 8 knots and cause whirlpools. This is New Zealand's strongest tidal current caused by a two metre difference between tide levels on Cook Strait to the east and Tasman Bay to the west.
Anchorages here are picturesque and plentiful with moorings also available in some areas (the Mana Cruising Club owns about a hundred). Except for the entrances to the Sounds most areas are free from ocean swell, but the wind is often strong and can whip up a surprisingly large and uncomfortable chop. Katabatic winds can also sweep down the hillsides taking unprepared boats by surprise.

Everybody knows the Sounds are stunning, but the area is much larger than commonly imagined and to explore the area fully would require about a month of cruising, something we hope to achieve one day - a good option for us may be to buy our next boat in that area, spend some time cruising there and cruise back to Auckland.


Tuesday, January 15, 2019

WHY SO MANY KIWIS AND AUSSIES CRUISE THE MED


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

Travel not to escape life but so life doesn’t escape you

You don't have to cruise far in the Med to come across a yacht flying the Silver Fern or Boxing Kangaroo flag from its yardarm. I say “yacht” deliberately because the vast majority of Australasian Med cruisers are found aboard sailing yachts (including many catamarans) and rarely aboard motor vessels. Most of the cruisers we meet are retired couples aged in their 50s on who've bought their new or pre-owned boats in Europe. 
Here there are many more boats for sale and consequently more choice and cheaper prices. 
Some cruisers plan to ship or sail their boats home, although if you are planning this you need to consider the total cost of getting your boat back to Australasia including GST and duty. 
There's also a far smaller number of cruisers who've sailed their boats to the Med either as their destination or as part of a circumnavigation. There used to be many more circumnavigators but the piracy issues on Africa's north-east coast have considerably reduced their numbers.
In the Med you come across many other nationalities – in no special order mainly Americans, Canadians, British, French, Germans, Italians, Greeks, Dutch, Danish and Swedish, but over the years we've found Australians the friendliest.
New Zealand has some fantastic accessible cruising areas, particularly the North Island's north-east coast and the South Island's Marlborough Sounds (Blog posting coming soon on the Sounds). However the total area of these destinations is quite limited and while it's great to cruise back to favourite haunts you soon run out of new and varied cruising destinations.
Australia undoubtably has a very strong boating community, but quality cruising (as opposed to day or weekend boating) seems to be pretty much restricted to the east coast, particularly Queensland. 
In this tropical area the sea is nicely tepid, but unlike the Med swimming opportunities can be limited by the dangers of sharks, crocodiles and poisonous jelly fish.

Adventure and diversity
So the first thing the Med offers is adventure, the ability to explore a huge cruising area about 2,500 miles from west to east and 500 miles north to south, with an area of 970,000 square miles containing about 3,300 islands and a coastline of 29,000 miles. 
The Med's large enough that it's divided into seven smaller seas: from west to east the Alboran, Balearic, Ligurian, Tyrrhenian, Ionian, Adriatic and Aegean and each one offers months of cruising possibilities.
Twenty one European, African and Middle-Eastern countries border the Med and this fascinating diversity of cultures offers more cruising variety and historical interest than anywhere else on our planet. Here you can anchor in the same bay where at different times Persians, Phoenecians, Greeks, Romans, Venetians, Crusaders and Ottomans have anchored and many areas famous battles have been fought from ancient times right up to WW 2.
If natural scenery is your thing you can anchor near Santorini's Caldina and ponder on one of the world's largest volcanic eruptions that caused a massive tsunami, ending Crete's Minoan civilisation.
To put the Med's cruising possibilities in perspective during nine seasons we've spent 1,442 days aboard Envoy, cruised 16,300 miles through Italy, Greece, Turkey, Albania, Montenegro and Croatia, visited about 100 islands and still only covered about 20 per cent of the Med.

Great weather
The Med's subtropical weather is the next appeal, particularly as its summer coincides with Australasian winter. Although some cruisers live aboard all-year-round spending the relatively mild Med winter in a marina most choose to cruise from about May to September when you can expect stable sunny weather without clouds or rain. Although it can be hot with temperatures often reaching the mid 30s or more, there's little humidity and the sun doesn't have the searing ultra-violet levels we encounter. Predominantly northerly winds can be strong often reaching mid-20 knots during afternoons, but then mostly dying away overnight. In some areas like Croatia there are notorious katabatic winds that cruisers need to be aware of as well as thunderstorms throughout the Med, mostly from September on that cause squalls and wind direction changes.

Stunning scenery
The Med largely has stunning coastal scenery and many spectacular beaches with mostly clean and clear waters with that famous turquoise colour and nothing in the warm water that's going to hurt you. Yes many beaches are quite crowded (as many are here) in the July to August high season, but you can generally find your own quiet hideaway. With some notable exceptions when cruising in Australia or New Zealand there's not much of huge interest to see ashore whereas scattered along the Med coast are countless interesting villages and towns each contributing their own piece of history and unique points of interest. Additionally you will find rustic beach-side tavernas, often thrown up just for the summer in a way that would have our health and safety inspectors pulling their hair out, but never lacking frosty glasses full of ice-cold local beer.

Reasonable cost
Cruising in the Med can be surprisingly economical as putting boat-related costs aside (you would have those at home anyway) the costs of most foods as well as eating out are significantly cheaper than found at home. You also have the bonus of visiting interesting markets to buy many of your fresh provisions. The ladies will soon discover that shopping isn't restricted to the necessities of life with plenty of retail therapy opportunities to explore. 
Marinas for wintering over are a similar cost to Australasia although summer casual marina prices can be very expensive, typically NZ$80-180 per night. To keep costs down it's best to anchor wherever possible or moor stern-to to a town quayside being far cheaper and more atmospheric than marinas. The eastern Med is generally cheaper than the western.

Safety
There's no piracy in the Med and ashore is generally safe except in some of the countries on the African and Middle-Eastern coast. Only in the larger Italian and Spanish cities do visitors need to be aware of pickpockets and theft from vehicles.

You could cruise the Med for a lifetime and not see it all, but it's certainly fun trying.


Wednesday, January 09, 2019

WE MEET THE OWNERS OF STARLET


A couple of weeks back we had the huge pleasure of meeting Mark and Jennifer, the American owners of N46 Starlet, currently in Auckland's Westhaven marina. 
They purchased Starlet in the States then cruised across the Atlantic to explore the Med, cruised back across the Atlantic to the States, then across the Pacific to New Zealand.
Being very keen scuba divers they had a very leisurely cruise across the Pacific stopping not only at some of the well-known islands but also at many remote reefs to dive.
Built about ten years after Envoy, Starlet is a magnificent vessel and a credit to her owners. She has a different layout to Envoy, the main variations being her forward main stateroom (Envoy's is amidships), wider galley layout, a flybridge above the pilothouse and a boarding platform (making diving a lot easier). 
Starlet also has no stair access from the pilothouse to the the forward stateroom, making for more space in the pilothouse. We also liked her carpeted saloon and stairway up to the pilothouse. 
Starlet uses passive stabilisers (ie paravane type) and Mark commented that often deploying one is sufficient for comfort. She also carries a dive compressor.
It never ceases to amaze me how these remarkable and comparatively small (46ft or 14m) vessels safely transverse oceans, bearing in mind that many “superyachts” don't cross the major oceans on their own hulls.
Mark and Jennifer mentioned they'd missed visiting Fiji on the way here so they plan to cruise up to Fiji and back to rectify that. This was said in the same casual way a local might talk about cruising to Great Barrier Island for the weekend!
It seems Starlet's future plans also include visiting the South Island, crossing to Australia and visiting S E Asia. Wishing Mark and Jennifer continued great adventures and safe cruising.

Next Post – why so many Kiwis and Aussies cruise the Med.