Cruise of the Envoy

by admin


In this series about Envoy’s Med cruising there is a heavy technical content, and this is because dealing with repairs and maintenance is a significant part of the cruising life, especially for the typical cruiser who, like me, is not an engineer. Cruising is not just watching the sunset in some exotic location while enjoying a glass of wine, and plans often have to be revised around maintenance requirements.

We’ve now met dozens of other cruisers, mostly from sailing yachts, and most of them have had some problems needing to be fixed, with varying degrees of urgency. To rectify problems in the eastern Med is nowhere near as simple as doing so in Australasia. Parts can be difficult to obtain, the level of technical expertise is a lot less than what we are used to, and servicemen rarely have proper training, almost never have any manuals or wiring diagrams, and rarely have the required tools and equipment.

We had a great cruise during 2010, finishing with our return to Marmaris, Turkey, in mid- November. When Envoy was lifted from the water, everything below the waterline looked to be in good condition. We’d been told that when lifting out any boat it’s a good idea to check the rudder system within a few hours before the rudder stock’s cutless bearing dries out. We checked Envoy’s, and the rudder movement was good, but the top bearing was a bit sloppy.

While out of the water we got the Yanmar wing engine’s propeller shaft seal replaced, opting for the Volvo Deep Seal drip-less system as this seems to be very robust. This job required the Yanmar’s gearbox to be removed, so we got that checked over too, and the oil seals were replaced to eliminate a minor oil leak.

With Envoy safely tucked away under her custom- built winter cover on the hardstand, we asked Demir Marine to do a few jobs while we spent January to March back in New Zealand They replaced the two start batteries, refurbished the rudder stock’s sloppy top bearing, repaired some gelcoat scratches caused by our encounter with a large iron mooring buoy in Santorini, and removed an unused slightly-leaking seacock.

Thoughts on Anchoring

Since Envoy dragged her anchor in a gale last year I’ve done some more research on ground tackle, and concluded that Envoy’s anchor chain diameter at 9.5mm is a little light for a 14m vessel weighing over 30 tonnes, and 12mm would be better.

I’ve also thought about some of the “rules of thumb” concerning anchoring. The common one is to let out enough chain to provide a scope for the anchor rode of five to seven times the depth from the anchor roller at high water (bear in mind in the Med there is no tide to consider). Anchoring is of course far more complex than just calculating the scope of the rode, and we also need to consider the type and weight of anchor being used, the present and forecast weather conditions, the holding in the intended anchorage, special characteristics of the vessel such as windage or tendency to yaw, and the available room to anchor.

A study I found on the Internet reported that when using an all-warp rode the efficiency of an anchor at a scope of 4:1 is 54%, at 7:1 is 75% and at 10:1 is 85%. It also showed that these figures significantly increased using an all-chain rode. In my opinion it’s important to have a significant weight of chain lying on the bottom, regardless of depth, For Envoy this is around 40m, and in winds above 25 knots in future I will be laying out 7-10 times the depth, but always having a minimum of 40m of chain on the bottom.

I’m not in favour of deploying 2 anchors due to the difficulty in retrieving them quickly in an emergency. Many times we’ve had winds shift significantly during gales, turning Envoy completely around – which would surely tangle 2 anchor chains, and make them difficult to retrieve in any emergency in adverse conditions and darkness.

This year I plan to experiment with an “anchor buddy” weighing about 15kg, and will shackle this to the anchor chain about 30m back from the anchor using a light shackle, which can be cut with bolt cutters in an emergency. From what I have read these significantly improve holding, and I’ll report on this later in the year.

Fewer Cruising Yachts Now Visiting Turkey

According to many Turkish locals there have been fewer cruisers visiting Turkey over the last few seasons. There are several reasons for this, and the first is that costs have risen dramatically. For example casual marina prices for a 14m vessel have increased from around NZ$40 per night five years ago to about NZ$140 per night now, although wintering-over contracts are much less and we pay about NZ$14 per night. Three years ago a 90 minute taxi ride from Dalaman airport cost NZ$100, but now costs NZ$146, and bus fares from the marina to town have doubled in three years. It’s not that Turkey is expensive – just that it was once cheap and no longer is.

Secondly, cruisers are worried about increasingly onerous regulation. There has been talk about limiting visitors to 90 days in any six month period (similar to the Schengen Treaty countries), and although this idea seems to be losing favour it has nevertheless put off many intending cruisers.

While back in New Zealand we heard that a proposed law about discharging water containing detergent into the sea has been canned, and it’s great to see common sense has prevailed on this issue. This law relates to water used for washing down boats, and for dishes and showers – known as “grey water”. Most cruisers are very environmentally aware – they use eco-friendly soaps, and don’t need that kind of bureaucracy, especially when most of the sea pollution comes from the shore. Originally boats were going to be required to have grey water tank capacity equivalent to 100 litres for each berth. As most boats have at least four berths this would have meant installing tanks with at least 400 litres capacity, and obviously most boats don’t have space available to fit tanks of this size. Also boats were going to be required to pump out their grey water only at shore stations, and not at sea. There are not enough pump-out stations along the coast of Turkey to cater for even a fraction of the cruising boats, even if they did have tanks fitted. Although this idea is off the agenda for now I’m sure it will be resurrected in the future.

Costs and Budgets

Diane & I kept accurate records of our costs during 2010 to assist our writing projects. Different folks have different philosophies about their cruising lifestyles and associated costs, so what we are saying is not what’s “right”, but is simply our own experience to share with others. In general we find that actual living costs such as food, beverages, household supplies and personal spending are about the same when cruising as when at home, and the cost of owning a boat in the Med in terms of maintenance and insurance is also similar to New Zealand. What bumps up the cost is the travel to and from your boat, meeting regulatory requirements when moving between countries, sightseeing and associated costs ashore – particularly rental cars and accommodation, and the fuel cost resulting from cruising longer distances.

Below are listed our 2010 costs in order of magnitude, expressed as a percentage of our total costs, with some comments and cost-saving tips.

Maintenance (42%): A common “rule of thumb” is that annual maintenance costs will be about 10% of the value of your boat, but we have always found our average costs much less. During 2010 our maintenance cost was very high, but there was little maintenance done during 2008 & 2009 when Envoy was on the hard. Our cost is based on keeping Envoy in tip-top condition, and includes replacement of spare parts used. If we consider the three year period 2008-2010 our annual maintenance cost was about 6% of Envoy’s estimated capital value. Skippers who are very practical and can do most repairs and maintenance themselves will save a lot of money in this area.

Food, Beverages, Household (13%): included all consumables and cleaning supplies. Food is generally about the same price or slightly cheaper in Turkey and Greece than in New Zealand, while alcoholic beverages are dearer. It’s interesting to shop in one of the many local markets, where we can buy fresh food direct from the grower and save cost.

Going Ashore (10%): included refreshments, meals, buses, rental cars, accommodation and entry fees. Have some drinks ashore to enjoy the local atmosphere but mostly eat on board your boat, where the food is invariably better and always cheaper. When eating ashore, select restaurants locals use, back from the expensive water-side ones. 

Always select from the menu, never allow the waiter to “organise a nice meal for you” without first knowing the cost, and be prepared to negotiate in advance of ordering – you will often get a free bottle of wine. Shop around for cheap rental cars, or better still use the many excellent bus services available.

Insurance, Marinas, Regulatory (10%): included the cost of storing Envoy on the hard for four winter months, marina costs, cruising permits, immigration fees and vaccinations. During the summer most cruisers avoid the high cost of marinas and anchor overnight. Other possibilities are to use free restaurant jetties or moorings, or, especially in Greece, moor to a village quay at little or no cost. Most cruisers pay to winter over in a marina for four to five months, and very few winter over at anchor.

Travel (7%): most live-aboard cruisers choose to return home to their own country for several weeks once a year, or at least about every two years. It’s not only about seeing family and friends, but also attending to medical needs, replenishing hard-to-get spare parts, sorting out personal business matters, etc. Travel always seems to cost us more than we expect and there are several reasons for that. The bargain airfare deals are generally not obtainable for return dates more than six months from departure date. We have been heavily penalised for changing our return date; it’s a good idea to stay with booked travel dates if possible. We’ve had excess luggage, and that is both an expense and a major inconvenience when travelling. We stayed overnight on the way to and from Turkey incurring additional hotel, food and transportation charges, as well as more general spending.

Fuel (6%): included diesel for the three engines, petrol for two outboards and LPG for cooking. We could have reduced this a little by purchasing more diesel in Greece, where diesel is cheaper than in Turkey, and we’ll do that this year.

Miscellaneous (5%): comprised costs such as boat medical supplies, phone and Internet costs, some laundry (in marinas we cannot always use our washing machine) and postage.

Personal (4%): included buying clothing, cosmetics, medical, dentistry, gifts and similar. This is a cost that will vary enormously depending on the individual.

On-Board Improvements (2%): was the cost of making improvements to Envoy as opposed to maintaining or replacing existing equipment.

New Zealand Costs (1%): comprised bills such as house & car insurance, alarm monitoring fees, accounting and similar.

Looking ahead this year we expect our maintenance cost (and therefore our total costs) to significantly reduce, and we’ll inform readers on that later.

So what are we talking about in dollar terms? A recent Seven Seas Cruising Association newsletter advised of an American couple cruising on a modern 53ft sailing yacht, who originally estimated they could cruise on a budget of US$35,000 (approx. NZ$45,000) per year. They describe themselves as frugal by nature, and rarely ate ashore or went into marinas. They kept detailed day-by-day records of spending, and their reality was an average cost of US$43,000 (approx. NZ$55,000) per year over a period of four years up to April 2010, cruising the Caribbean, the Pacific, New Zealand and South East Asia. But that was over a period which ended over a year ago, and everywhere costs have significantly increased. The Med is no longer a cheap place to cruise, and most people are not frugal, so my advice to any intending cruiser would be to budget to spend not less than NZ$90,000 per year, not including any costs incurred back in New Zealand.

I can already hear some readers saying “that’s far too high an estimate”, so let me elaborate. That includes allowances of NZ$10,000 for fuel, NZ$20,000 for repairs and maintenance, NZ$15,000 for all insurances, winter berthage and meeting regulatory requirements, and NZ$7,000 for return travel for two. That’s a total of NZ$52,000 before you tour your first castle, eat a kebab or drink your first Efes (Turkish beer). Bear in mind too that a major technical problem could blow the $20,000 R & M figure out the window.

Our Return to Envoy

As we’d been away from Envoy for less than four months, we weren’t expecting a lot of work to be needed. The main expected jobs were to install the new high pressure membranes on the HRO water maker, install the new electronic control for the Naiad hydraulic stabilisers, roll on 2 coats of antifoul, change primary and secondary fuel filters on all three engines, fit new shaft seals onto the main propeller shaft, and have Envoy’s hull professionally polished.

Arriving back we found that everything was basically OK except that Envoy’s bilges were awash with about 60 litres of diesel from a leaking fuel tank. There’s no way this black-iron tank can be removed, so we’ll either have to get it repaired in-situ during next winter, or fit a flexible tank inside it.

Envoy went back into the water just nine days after our return, and with 29 other boats being launched on the same day there were inevitable delays; Envoy was launched at 2200 hours in the dark, cold and drizzle. After Envoy had been hoisted in the travelift’s slings we had to apply two coats of antifouling in the darkness to the areas where blocks had supported and covered the hull.

Our trusty Lugger engine started in a second, aided by our new start batteries. These are American Deka brand AGM start batteries. We didn’t want to install deep cycle batteries as contrary to what many think, deep cycle are recommended only for house batteries, not for start. Deka are apparently among the best batteries you can buy, and our occasional engine starting problems from last year are now resolved.

By early May it was getting a little warmer – in the low 20s, but the weather hadn’t settled, and many boats delayed their departure because of that. This led to a shortage of berths in the marina, and the travelift operators would only launch boats with an imminent departure date – upsetting quite a few people who wanted their boats launched. However for us it was great to be floating again as we were able to use our own shower, washing machine etc: life on a boat on the hardstand is not much fun at all.

Berthed on the same pier as Envoy was another Nordhavn 46 called Frog Kiss, and this is hull number one – the first Nordhavn passagemaker ever made. It was great to meet Christine & Patrick, to look over their boat, and compare layouts, storage systems etc. Frog Kiss is the boat that started the Nordhavn domination of the passagemaker market, cemented in place by the fact that of ten production power boats that have circumnavigated the world, eight are Nordhavns (and most of those are 46s).

We left Marmaris on 4 May and headed to Bozburun for a few days, where the village is charming, and there is good shelter – needed as there was a gale warning of force 6-8 winds. In our location the wind didn’t get above about 23 knots, and we spent some time cleaning up Envoy from the marina dust, and moving into cruising mode.

Nearby we met Alan & Jean Ward from the New Zealand yacht Tuatara. They are a retired couple from Hamilton, living their dream and doing a westward circumnavigation. They plan to return home late 2013, and then circumnavigate New Zealand.

Technical Issues

Before leaving Marmaris we had a sea trial with Demir Marine’s engineer, Yulmaz, aboard. This was the first time we’d had an engineer aboard Envoy under way, and the objective was to ensure he was happy with the alignment of the propeller shaft with the gearbox, as we didn’t want a repeat of last year’s gearbox problems. Like us, he thought there was very little vibration – so here’s hoping he’s right!

The antifouling went well and this time we got two coats rolled on instead of one coat sprayed on, hoping it will give us more thickness and keep Envoy’s hull more growth-free. Next year we’ll do this ourselves, as it’s not difficult or complicated.

We got the above waterline areas of Envoy’s hull polished, and it came up beautifully. It’s a tough job wielding an electric polisher on scaffolding, and we’ll continue to get Demir to do this for us.

We removed the gearbox from our Maxwell windlass for a three-yearly oil change and change of oil seal. We’re pleased that it’s working well as it‘s vital to have confidence in a good quality, reliable windlass.

That brings us to the subject of the HRO water maker and Naiad stabilisers.

Our new high pressure membranes for the water maker were here, but just before installation the engineers found they were the wrong size – too big. New membranes have to be kept moist until they’re installed, and then the water maker needs to be used straight away, so that’s why they couldn’t do the installation until Envoy was in the water. We looked at trying to adapt the unit to accept larger membranes, but without success. The membranes go into a tubular manifold made of Kevlar to resist the high pressures, and there was no way to duplicate them in Turkey. The correct membranes have now arrived, and are due to be installed while we’re in Alacati, in late May. In the meantime we’ve been using our 30-litre water containers once again.

The new electronic control box for the Naiad stabilisers was also here waiting, and when it was installed there was some progress as the system powered up, the hydraulics worked, the cooling system worked – none of which happened before. But the control system still wouldn’t give commands to the hydraulics, and the fins would not centre correctly. The local Naiad agent was using a very competent electrician, but he’d never worked on Naiads before, and after several hours of experimentation I said “enough is enough”. We phoned Naiad USA, and were told that they’d never use someone like that without specific factory training. Now we’ve returned the new control box to Naiad, and like last year we’ll use our simple, bullet-proof, and effective paravane stabilisers, and save quite a few dollars in the process. Naiad has since advised that after checking the control box they will send a trained technician out from Holland to meet us in Greece to hopefully resolve this issue.

We’ve had a little fresh water in the bilges, and discovered a slow water leak in our aft fresh water tank. Last year we replaced our two forward tanks, but not this one, which is located under the cabin sole in our sleeping cabin. I’m not greatly concerned as the leak is slow, so we can still use the tank, but next winter we’re probably going to need to repair or replace it. Envoy is 21 years old, and now we’ve had problems with all three water tanks, and one of the four diesel tanks.

On leaving Marmaris I noticed our Northstar GPS wasn’t working properly. This is one of three GPS units that can supply data to our MaxSea laptop-based navigation system. Northstar has suggested we upgrade the software to rectify this, which we’re currently investigating. Our current thinking is that we’d like to fix the Northstar, but also buy a separate GPS/Plotter, so that we have a totally separate system to the MaxSea. Of course, we have paper charts too if all else fails.

Our next article will cover cruising to the Turkish Ayvalik archipelago and the Greek islands of Lesvos and Limnos, as well as progress with our water maker.

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