Cruise of the Envoy in Greece

by admin

After our unexpected break from cruising during 2015, it’s great to be able to say here we are back in Greece aboard Envoy with six months of cruising ahead of us. Whatever your dream is – do it now while you can, as life’s clock is ticking and you never know what circumstances may lurk around the corner to foil your plans left too far into the future.

We arrive at the marina in brilliant sunny conditions ideal for getting our gear aboard Envoy on the hardstand. Family and friends had teased us that Envoy was probably now home to several Syrian refugee families, but there’s no refugee issue on Greece’ssouth and west coasts as it is mainly confined to the Greek Aegean islands near Turkey and the northern mainland. Also, as when we last left here, there is no real sign of any “Greek crisis” with most people smiling and the cafes full. Before we arrived our contractor, Sailand, had already removed Envoy’s huge winter cover and arranged for it to be pressure washed before storage.

This cover has been great – made of “Stamoid” fabric in late 2007 and used every winter since as well as continuously for three years, it’s still in reasonable condition and will only need some minor repairs while we’re cruising to be ready for use next winter. Covers provide a huge advantage in keeping your gelcoat in good condition and providing protection not only from the weather but also from sanding dust etc. around the marina, particularly if your boat is on the hardstand. An early priority is to buy supplies as we leave very little aboard from one season to the next. Back home it’s a simple matter of driving to the supermarket, but here we have to walk about a kilometre round trip carrying everything. As Greek marina water is generally not potable the need to buy bottled drinking water adds considerably to the load. We enjoy the process of preparing Envoy for cruising having decided not to worry about meeting any schedule, to take each day as it comes and not become frustrated when, as often happens, contractors don’t turn up on time or at all – here it’s Mediterranean time!

Back in the Water

Envoy goes into the water on a beautiful sunny day with large excitement on our part. The travel lift operators always give you plenty of time to check for sea water leaks and after half an hour of checking, we have none. But when we check again after docking into our marina berth we quickly resolve a couple of minor leaks. We spend most of a morning with our agent, A1 Yachting, discussing our cruising plans and then visiting the Port Police, Customs and regular Police to get our documentation sorted out for cruising here. 

Although in Greece it’s possible to do this without using an agent, we’ve found A1’s assistance over the years to be invaluable, saving a lot of time, hassle, heartache and cost as A1’s relationship with officialdom seem to smooth the way. It’s especially important this year as some new cruising regulations came into effect on 1 May and nobody yet seems totally clear on how they will be applied. On a technically complex small ship like Envoy there are always matters needing attention and if we waited in the marina to solve every single issue we’d never leave, so we finally depart Lefkas Marina late April with a few remaining jobs but no major problems. It’s early in the cruising season with hardly any cruisers around and a lot of tavernas and shops not open yet – but all that will change in a few weeks as the summer cruising season gets into gear.

Poem for the Sea

Here is a great poem about going back to sea – a bit of poetic license on our part as Envoy isn’t exactly a “bark” but the feeling is the same.

My bounding bark, I fly to thee, I’m wearied of the shore; 
I long to hail the swelling sea, And wander free once more: 
A sailor’s life of reckless glee. That only is the life for me!

I was not born for fashion’s slave, Or the dull city’s strife; 
Be mine the spirit-stirring wave, The roving sailor’s life:
A life of freedom on the sea.That is the only life for me!

I was not born for lighted halls, Or the gay revel’s round; 
My music is where Ocean calls, And echoing rocks resound:
The wandering sailor’s life of glee. That is the only life for me! 

Off to Corfu

Some problems only show themselves after a few hours running and after a shake-down cruise around some favourite destinations close to Lefkas Marina we confirm all is running well and set off north for Corfu about 65 miles away. Easter is celebrated later in Greece than other countries and the small village of Lakka on Paxxos Island we’re able to see the local people marching to their band and parading religious relics through the streets. Greece is still a country with strong traditional family and religious values, which is very apparent to us observing locals of all ages participate in this long-practised ritual. We weren’t keen to test our water maker in the slightly contaminated waters of Lefkas marina but do so in the crystal clear waters of Lakka. The procedure is to run the system with no pressure for 10 minutes to clear out the end-of-season pickling chemicals and then to run it normally. The pump supplying sea water to the system wasn’t working so we put this problem on a short list of items to resolve at Corfu’s Gouvia Marina.

There later an engineer called Angelos checks the water maker and confirms the sea water pump is not working. Ours is rather old having been installed in 2002 and with repair not economical we bite the bullet and opt for a new one to be sent down from Athens. After that’s installed, the water maker works fine. Since leaving Lefkas, we’d been towing our larger Nautica RIB fitted with a 25hp Yamaha outboard and now want to lift it aboard. We recently replaced our stainless steel wire lifting strop with a high tensile strength polymer rope strop. As the RIB weighs about 250kg, we wanted to test the whole system before lifting it too high out of the water. If one of the two boom winch cables or the lifting strap were to break it could be extremely dangerous. So the test was to lift the RIB clear of the water and then for Diane and me to stand in it together with about 50 litres of water in two jerrycans providing an additional load of about 190kg. The system successfully handled this extra weight so we proceed to lift the RIB with confidence and without problems. In early May we enter Corfu’s Gouvia Marina – one of our favourites. Here we’re meeting Chris – our first visitor of the season. Chris is also known as “MacGyver” due to his special technical skills and he quickly gets stuck into a multitude of maintenance and improvement jobs.

Envoy Tech-talk

Arriving aboard Envoy at Lefkas we find everything is pretty much how we left it and quickly start on a list of about 70 jobs to be done before we start cruising, initially concentrating on those that need completion before Envoy is launched back into the water in about ten days. Apart from routine things like testing systems, filter changing and anti-fouling a few issues emerge.

* One of our two interchangeable domestic fresh water pumps fails and is replaced with a new one.

* Our large RIB and Yamaha 25hp outboard was still being serviced (even though we gave it to mechanic Spiros in late 2014). One issue had been the depth sounder giving faulty readings due to a suspected faulty transducer. Spiros informs me the transducer’s faulty now as his dog has chewed it to pieces! Fortunately, he still had the spare one we gave him when he took on the job and this plus some modifications to loose wiring solves the problem.

* Here in the EU there is a requirement that fuels must have 10 % ethanol content for so-called environmental reasons. Not only are the environmental grounds for doing this very dubious, but the practical result is very negative for the boating community because ethanol is hygroscopic and Spiros tells us many of the problems he resolves are directly related to this – particularly moisture and “sugar-like”deposits in carburettors and fuel lines. It’s not such a problem in cars because the fuel is used more quickly and doesn’t have time to attract moisture, but outboard motor petrol is often kept for many months. Spiros tells us not to keep petrol too long, never from one season to the next and to add “Wurth” fuel conditioner. Methanol addition is also an issue in diesel and we’re
now using “Stanadyne” as recommended by Northern Lights and several industry gurus.

* We install two new “Deka” AGM deep cycle bow thruster batteries, a major job in the confined space of the anchor locker as they weigh 69kg each.

* Our Naiad stabiliser’s hydraulic rams had new seal kits and knuckle bearings installed and are working well, but the 12-volt pump providing sea water for cooling the hydraulic oil doesn’t work so we replace that with our onboard spare. We also change the hydraulic fluid filter and I want to change the fluid as recommended by Naiad for every two years. The Sailand mechanics talk me out of this as the current fluid has only been used for a few hundred hours, is filtered, looks perfect and – as they said, “heavy hydraulic equipment is usually operated nearly every day for many years without any fluid changes”.

* We have four diesel tanks totalling about 3,800 litres of storage capacity which were holding about 2,400 litres left over from late 2014. To reduce the chance of any “diesel bug” issues we use our fuel polishing system to filter all of this fuel through a two micron Racor running in combination with a “DeBug” brand magnetic device that kills the fungal spores comprising “diesel bug”, correctly known as Hormoconis resinae (H.res). It seems to have worked as we do not see any water in the Racorfilter bowls or any evidence of H.res – which thrives more readily with water present. The polishing system runs at about 460 litres/hr so the process requires close supervision to avoid overfilling a tank and polluting the water.

* Our Yanmar wing engine wouldn’t start and Sailand’s mechanic instals a new fuel lift pump to solve this.

* Our generator doesn’t start easily so Sailand’s electrician tests the glow plug and finds no current reaching it. A new relay fixes that.

* The Lugger engine isn’t starting easily either so Sailand’s electrician measures the voltage at the starter finding it very low. He suggests installing a heavy-duty earth cable between the engine and the battery bank’s negative earth busbar and after this is done starting is excellent. At the same time he checks the battery bank’s emergency start parallel switch and considers it to be too light for the amps involved, so sources and fits a new heavier duty switch.

* The Lugger’s throttle cable is jamming so Sailand installed a new control unit plus throttle and gear cables. This installation takes three of us most of a day as thelengthy cables travel between decks and it’s very hard to access some of the spaces and then feed the cables through them. Our To Do List always looks pretty daunting at the beginning of a new season and it’s hugely satisfying to see 79 items ticked off with only a few non-urgent ones remaining. PMB’s next issue follows Envoy’s cruise south in the Ionian Sea. More detail can be accessed from Envoy’s blog:

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