Sailing: the fine art of getting wet and becoming ill while slowly going nowhere at great expense.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Winter Repairs and Maintenance

Blue skies have returned to Lefkas
We have been pottering along, doing boat chores when the weather permits.  As is the usual case with boat chores, a seemly straightforward job blows out to a major project.  Every time we remove a bit of lining we dread what new horrors of workmanship lay hidden underneath which will require hours or days to put right.  It has been especially frustrating this winter as with the constant rain.  We just cannot get any of the big jobs done.  We tend to have three lists:  List A - things that must be done; List B - things that should be done; and List C - things that would be nice to do.  It seems lots of things have been added and done on the C list but very little ticked off the A and B lists - mainly because the jobs on the A and B lists are big ones that require several days of clear weather to complete and we really are not getting this weather window.  
The lists
A major project has been the mast steps installation.  The main mast had steps up to the spreaders but no further and the mizzen mast had no steps.  Going up the mast is a frequent task for general maintenance and inspections.  It is very difficult trying to winch Bob up the 17m while he dangles in a bosun’s chair.  Steps make going up the mast so much easier and safer.  (But of course Bob is always attached to two separate halyards one a bosun chair and another on a safety harness.) 

We priced some new mast steps at the local chandlery and the cost was mind blowing.  Anything that has 'marine' around it is double the price for a similar 'house' or 'car' object.  So of course we try to source products that are not so overpriced.  Bob is a whiz at ebay.  We found used mast steps for one-quarter the price of new.  But they all require a bit of a clean-up with files and sandpaper and close inspection for any faults.  Then there are the rivets used to attach them to the aluminium mast.  These are made of special non-corrosive aluminium called monel.  They retail for about 3 euros each and we need three per step - 90 in total.  So Bob found a source in England that sells them for less than £1 each (one-third the price with exchange rate).  Then of course these have to be shipped to us.  Fortunately Greece is in the EU so shipping is fairly straightforward.  It was a nightmare in Turkey. 
Mast steps and rivets
Bob installed one of the steps on the mizzen mast as a trial and it went smoothly but the drilling of the holes leave small shards of aluminium all over the deck.  We did get a quote for riggers to do the installation but the cost was quite prohibitive.  Doing it ourselves costs us a fraction of the price quoted by the riggers.  But of course it is a huge job with Bob dangling up the mast welding a rivet punch and fiddling with drills and tools all tethered so if he they slip they will not go crashing onto the deck.
It's a long way up
Bob rivetting steps on the mizzen mast
We finally got three days (not in a row) of clear weather so we could finish installing the mast steps.  Bob can now go up the mast like a monkey with me winching the tether lines taunt but not having to winch Bob’s weight.  
Finished! Steps all the way to the top
Now that the steps are finished we can do the other two big jobs.  First job done was to install the repaired wind instrument.  This was another example of how working on an old boat in foreign ports is not quite the same or as straightforward as house repairs in Australia which usually involves going down to the local Bunnings and getting everything you need in one place.  Our 38 year old B&G wind instrument was on the blink.  The speed was always under reading and the wind directional indicators were intermittently a bit off.  So as with everything you wonder if it worth fixing a 38 year old instrument or is it better to get a new system.  
A new system or repair the old?

 A new system is over a thousand euros so Bob spent hours determining exactly what was wrong with the current system and then many more hours on the internet finding alternatives to getting a whole new system.  B&G no longer support our old model but there is a company in England which does repair them.  The anemometer needed new bearings and the cable needed replacing.  We thought we might be able to do some rewiring of the existing cable but in this case it was worth getting new.  So we shipped the anemometer to England and in about 10 days a renewed anemometer and 25 m of cable was shipped back to us in Greece.  Up the mast Bob went again, installed the anemometer at the top of the mast and then we had to thread the cable through the inside of the mast.  We had visions of the cable getting stuck halfway down but the whole process went smoothly.  The next day a good wind blew up and it was a delight to watch the instruments reading true.
It works!
The next big job will be to replace the rigging.  Although the rigging shows no obvious problems, it is over 10 years old so we should refresh it.  Again we can save thousands if we do it ourselves as long as the rigging company swages the cables for us.  This will be done over the next few weeks, weather permitting.

So we extended our contract for another month at the marina and each day shows more signs of spring.  There are cherry blossoms budding and the beautiful blue Mediterranean skies make an appearance every few days.  Spirits are lifting and chores are getting done.
Spring has arrived

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Carnival in Lefkas, Greece

The word Carnival evokes images of ornately and scantily clad Brazilian beauties dancing down the streets of Rio or if you are Australian, the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade in Sydney.
Carnival in Brazil
Sydney Mardi Gras
In Greece, Apokries is the celebration of Carnival.  Apokries (αποχή από κρέας) literally means ‘abstain from meat’ and marks the beginning of Lent in the Greek Orthodox tradition.  But as with most Christian traditions, Apokreis also has its roots in the ancient traditions and is a celebration of the coming of spring and Dionysos, the God of Wine and Feast (and I suspect Dionysos gets the biggest nod in Apokries celebraions).  The largest carnival in Greece is in the city of Patras, near the Rion-Andirion Bridge, which we passed under so spectacularly in early November.
Here in Lefkas, Carnival celebrations consist of 10 days of cultural events, parades and parties.  Many of the clubs and pubs, which have been sleepy all winter, have awakened to become gaily decorated party venues that are hopping into the wee hours of the morning.
List of Carnival events
Our favourite place for gyros
Friday afternoon was the children's parade for Carnival.  It was suppose to be the previous Friday but was postponed due to rain (of course during this wettest of winters!).  We were quite glad of the postponement as we were not aware of it the previous week.  The parade was great to see.  Each school was dressed up in different themes.  Everyone was blowing whistles and making as much noise as possible.  The teachers were having as much fun as the kids.  
Celebrating Chinese New Year - Year of the Dog
Mexicans in Greece
Sunday evening was the adult parade which was amazing.  It lasted for over 3 hours.  The costumes and floats were just incredible.  The music and noise deafening and everyone was dancing and buzzing with joie de vivre.  We couldn’t imagine were everyone came from.  There were hundreds participating in the parade in elaborate costumes and floats that must have taken months to make, plus spectators lined the pedestrian mall parade route like sardines.  Lefkas only has 8600 people and everyone seemed to take part in the Carnaval.  Greeks do these community events so well.

The following day was 'Clean Monday' (Καθαρά Δευτέρα) which marks the start of Lent and spring.  I suspect there were a few people nursing hangovers in the morning!  But the tradition for the day is for families to go on picnics with special foods and to fly kites.  No meat is eaten but seafood is allowed.  A must on the menu is flat bread called lagana which is dipped in taramosalata, a delicious dip of salted roe followed by halva for desert.
Celebrations finished – now bring on spring!
A few flowers beginning to bloom
But the mountains are still topped with snow

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

I Hate Winter! – The Battle with Rain and Mould

During the season I was looking forward to spending most of the winter on Songster.  It would be another aspect of the live aboard life I was eager to experience.  Oh the naivety of the newbie!  The previous three winters since buying Songster we spent the majority of the northern hemisphere winter travelling in warmer climes.  When we had returned to Songster in late winter or early spring she was dry and welcoming.  It is quite a different story when we are living, breathing and cooking on her during one of the wettest winters Lefkada locals can remember.

Since arriving at Lefkas in early November I can remember only one week where we had sun.  The skies have been very gray and dreary and rain seems to fall five days out of every seven.  Every breath we take, every cup of tea we make causes condensation.  We bought a dehumidifier which runs 24/7 and although we empty cups of water from it each day, it just cannot cope with the saturated atmosphere.  Every day we open another cupboard only to find a fresh crop of mould waiting for yet another attack with vinegar or bleach.   
View of Lefkas Marina on a non-rainy day
Snow on the mountains
Unknown leaks and undiscovered dodgy wiring have revealed themselves.  The lining inside of the boat has been stripped down to investigate.  Except for the forward hatch which we knew needed resealing, all the ‘leaks’ have turned out to be condensation.  I am really wondering how not to breathe at night so we don’t wake up every morning with water dripping off the windows!  We have made some temporary ‘double glazing’ for the big hatches which seems to help a bit.
Under the lining looking for leaks
The wiring for the wind instruments under the mast
Our temporary bubble wrap double glazing
All the wet weather and our innate indolence mean that the major winter projects, such as rigging, mast work and varnishing, are not getting done.  The rigging needs replacing – we have had no problems with it but it has been over 10 year since its last refresh and it is due for another.  The B&G wind instruments also need fixing.  As is often the case with a nearly 40 year old boat, these instruments are no longer made nor serviced by the manufacturer.  Bob has been beavering away at the problem and after several trips up the mast on the few non wet or windy days, much head scratching and tinkering with wiring, we think we have identified the issue.  But it will take several more trips up the mast and shipping parts to and from the UK before we are sure.  Finally varnishing may just have to wait until the spring.
Bob up the mast
It is a long way down
View across the marina
Still on the days when we are not hunkered down from wild wind and rain, or uninspired to get out of bed with the dreary gray skies, we do try to take some long walks and enjoy the beauty of Lefkas.
Overlooking the Lagoon
Agios Ioannis Beach
Flamingos in the lagoon
Winter grasses
Full moon over the marina