Thursday, July 28, 2011

Damn Windows 7

Either I have turned into a certified "old fart," or Microsoft never considered people like us when they developed Windows 7.

Our grandson, Zachary, is visiting us for the third summer.  It is really nice to have him onboard BeBe.  He offers to help with anything and wants to learn everything...he is 10.  I have promised him a Midshipman's rating if he continues to learn all the nautical stuff I am teaching him...frankly, he deserves it now, but I am not telling him until the end of the summer.

Well, anyway, Zachary brought his own laptop with him this summer, and it is loaded with Windows 7.  It seems as though Microsoft decided that Windows 7 will update itself without any user input.  Zachary's computer downloaded 3 gigs of MS updates today.  Not so bad if you are sitting in Fort Home, USA, but when you pay 10 Euro per gig, it is a little upsetting to get dinged $43.00USD and not know what the hell it was for! Damn Microsoft!  

Let me hear from you.  Do you agree, or what?


Thursday, July 21, 2011

How many miles left to go?

I finally got around to adding the miles in our log book for the past year.  Since moving aboard 1 May 2006 and cruising full-time we have traveled a total of 29,438.1 nautical miles.  Of that distance, S/V BeBe was transported aboard a cargo ship from Male, Maldives to Marmaris, Turkey for a distance of 3866.1 NM -- or roughly 13% of total miles traveled; meaning we have sailed 86.9% of total miles traveled by S/V BeBe in the past 5 years.

We have sailed 25,572 NM thus far.

We have no idea how many more miles remain before this little adventure is complete.

Back to our favorite Greek anchorage

On Friday, 15 July, we finally tired of Finikas on the island of Syros.  The meltimi had almost blown itself out -- lasted 9 days this time rather than the normal 3 or 4 days.  Winds were predicted to be only 18 knots from the north, so it would be no problem for us to sail west back to our favorite anchorage thus far in Greece -- Ormos Kolona (Kolona Bay) on the the island of Kythnos.  We opted to sail to the southern tip of Kythnos rather than over the top, with full knowledge that once we  passed the southern tip of the island and turned north towards the anchorage on the northwestern side we would be motoring directly into the wind.  But, that was only about 6 miles so that shouldn't be a big deal.

The predicted 18 knots from the north turned in solid 25 knots from the northwest, gusting to 34 knots.  So we were tight-hauled and heeled nicely until we rounded the tip, furled the sails and turned on the motor.  This was a fast sail averaging over 9 knots.  The kids enjoyed it immensely.  Motoring northward up the western side of Kythnos must have been into current as well as the wind, because at our normal engine RPMs the boat was only getting speed-over-ground of 3.5 knots -- it should have been at least 6 knots.  So we upped the revs to move a more acceptable 5 knots.  That last 6 miles seemed to take forever.  Lots of splashes over the deck to get salt all over the boat.   The couple from Corpus Christi had left Finikas an hour before us, headed to the same destination.  They are on a 37-ft boat.  We arrived before 14:00 and they did not arrive until after 16:00.  Took them almost 4 hours longer than us.  They anchored in the small side-bay in Ormos Kolona.  One day the man came over to visit.

Note the tiny wake; slow speed
Once anchored at our favorite spot the kids immediately hit the beach for a couple of hours in the late afternoon sun.   It is nice that they are old enough now and know how to swim well enough that we can let them go to the beach alone.  Bill takes them ashore in the dinghy and then returns to the boat.  One or both of us sit in the cockpit and watch the kids playing on the shore and in the surf until we think they have had enough sun.  Then Bill goes back to collect them.  This provides them with time away from the adults and provides the adults time away from kids.  A year ago they would have been too young to let them out of our sight.   Elisabeth still does not swim all that well, so she wears my Aqua-jogger.  It provides enough additional buoyancy that she feels comfortable in the water.

Can she go any slower???
Next the kids insisted on trying out the new float-thingy that we had bought in Finikas.  This is a triangular-shaped multiple-layered blow-up float that one tethers with a long line and pulls behind a dinghy.   It has 2 thick hand grips to hold onto as one is dragged through the water.   We have named it Rider.  

Elisabeth went for the first ride.  She was fine and enjoyed it very much as long as Bill drove slowly.  When he sped up she burst into tears.  She still did not quite understand that the life vest she was wearing would support her in the water and that if she did not want to go fast then all she had to do was let go.  
Grinning from ear-to-ear

Bill couldn't understand why she was crying.  Just being a girl.

Boys like it rough; getting started
Next was Zach's turn.  Being a boy and having much stronger upper body muscles, he was able to climb up on Rider easier than Elisabeth.  

Faster! Faster!

Bill started slowly but Zach kept yelling to go faster, so soon the outboard engine was running flat out.  What a difference between these 2 kids!  Zach loved going as fast as possible.

Bill made Elisabeth take another turn and agreed not to go too fast this time.  Now she was back to enjoying it.  And she finally understood that letting go of the handles was the easiest way to get off -- even while Rider was going fast she would just calmly float away when she released her tight hand grip.
Love the speed!

For the next 4 days the kids enjoyed fast rides on Rider and playing on the beach each day.  I even got into the water and swam with them off the boat a few times.  I honestly cannot remember the last time I went swimming -- maybe in the Marquesas in June 2008.  The water here is exceptionally clear.  It is also cold.   I could never dive into this water except when the sun is shining strongly.  Then it gets very hot and the cold water is refreshing. 

And she finally gained speed & enjoyed it

We once again planned to climb the mountainside early the next morning before the sun got too hot to check out the very ancient ruins up there.  And, once again, we did not do it.  Bill checked the weather forecast and saw that westerly winds of 24 knots were expected overnight.  As we were in an anchorage fully exposed to the west, that did not sound comfortable or prudent to remain on what would soon become a lee shore.  So, instead of climbing the mountainside we weighed anchor and motored back to Finikas on the island of Syros.

And what a hot day that was!!!  There was not a breath of wind during the 5 hours motoring to Finikas.  The winds would start later that night.  We were all miserably hot on this windless sunny day.  We backed into the town quay around 14:00 and immediately closed all the hatches and cranked up the air-conditioning.  The kids were delighted to plugged back into shore power with internet 24/7 again.  It was delightful sleeping with air-conditioning.  

Today we have turned off the air-conditioning because we don't want to allow ourselves to become too adjusted to being comfortable.  That only makes it more uncomfortable when at anchor with only fans to cool the boat.  We will stay here for 3 nights, then sail to Mykonos on Saturday.  Elisabeth's parents and baby brother should arrive via ferry at Mykonos on Sunday afternoon.  They will remain with us for about 3 weeks.  Gosh, I hope it cools off while they are here, although that is not likely.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Our day trip to Ano Syros and San Michalis

Note the blue domed church on hilltop

As the winds were howling preventing us from sailing, we rented a car for the day and took off to explore the island of Syros.   

Looking WAY down on that blue domed church
We did not want to miss seeing the unique 'city' of Ano Syros.  

Plus, we also just wanted off the boat for a change of pace.

Winding steep steps in Ano Syros
As I wrote in an earlier posting, Ano Syros is a centuries old Roman Catholic settlement, rather than the usual Greek Orthodox.  According to the tourist brochures, during the 6th century A.D., when piracy devastated commerce on Syros, the old coastal city fell into decline.  Residents fled to the hills trying to get away from the Arabic pirates.  A settlement which came to be known as Ano Syros was founded high on the hill of Mesovouni.  

Entrance to the settlement was through 7 Portares (large arched opening with very heavy wooden doors).  The 7 Portares were closed each night for protection of the residents, making it like a walled city.  

Ano Syros was little influenced by the Ottoman Rule.  This is shocking to me because the Ottomans usually were not tolerant of Christianity.  The Catholic Diocese of San Georgios is on the highest point of the hill, including the Bishop's residence and offices and historical study center and archives.  The Diocese's archives are on micro-film for those who wish to research. 

Very old windmill near monastery
Unknown bust
Next to San Yiorgis (St. George's) is the Santa Claras Monastery, formerly the Jesuit Monastery 1743-2000.   Throughout Ano Syros are picturesque small alleys, far too narrow for motorized vehicles.  This is a fascinating little community.

2/3 way up to the church at Ano Syros

Supposedly 2 of the portares are still in place, although the doors themselves are long gone.  The tourist brochures stated that we should enter Ano Syros through one of these portares;  the woman at the car rental desk also told us that it is not possible to drive a car up to Ano Syros and that we should park the car and enter through one of the portares.  We searched high and low and could not find either of the 2 remaining portares.  Finally, Bill parked the car at a level that had to be the closest one could get to Ano Syros (because the road headed out across the mountains away from all buildings at that point); and we began walking.

Narrow streets Ano Syros
More narrow streets Ano Syros
To further confuse us, a hand-painted sign pointed the way to St. Nickalas rather than to St. George's.  Okay, which is the correct name of this cathedral/church?  We only found one up there; and, of course, there was no name on the church itself.  We assumed this was St. George's because it was very large (considering the space available on which to build on this mountaintop).  It was impossible to see much of the exterior of the church due to the narrowness of the alleyway "streets" and how steeply the mountaintop rose.  It interior, however, was more elaborate than we had anticipated, considering its age and location.  This church is still active today.
Interior St. George's on top of mountain

St. George's
Bill, being the only Catholic among us, lit a candle in St. George's.  Neither of our grandkids were familiar with this custom.  Neither of them is familiar with the Catholic religion and practices and I believe this was the first time either of them had been inside a Catholic church.  I explained the kneelers and the confessional, holy water containers (whatever those are called), and the baptismal font.  

Getting religion?
Irreverent as little heathens, they each kneeled as if in prayer.  They weren't fooling us.  We knew they were just kidding around.  

Bless me, Father.......
Elisabeth (THE BeBe) just had to pretend she was confessing, including "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned" -- although she forgot to make the sign of the Cross.  I don't think she does this in her Lutheran church at home or in her Episcopalian school.   Wonder where she learned that?  Surely from either books or movies.

We continued through the nave of the church out into a courtyard of sorts.  The views overlooking the opposite mountainsides and the city of Ermoupoulis and the sea were gorgeous.  The views were worth the hike up all those steep narrow alleyways.  

Old water fountain
In a corner there was a water fountain on a wall, and Zachary felt compelled to sample the water.  Elisabeth declined.  

At somewhat lower level at Ano Syros
Upon leaving the church Bill and Zachary headed off in the direction from which we had arrived.  Elisabeth and I watched them.  They never even turned around and obviously assumed we would follow like sheep.  So I turned in the opposite direction, with Elisabeth following.  We were not finished exploring yet.  Also wanted to see just how long it would take the boys to realize that the female sheep weren't following in their footsteps.

We girls wound around steep stairways and narrow alleyways -- first one direction and then another.  It is very easy to get disoriented in there!  I have an excellent sense of direction; a trait not shared by my husband.  I wondered how easily he would find his way out.

Lost wandering in Ano Syros
Elisabeth and I eventually came upon some workmen.  They were picking up their buckets and tools so we decided to follow them, thinking they probably knew the way out.  Nope; they led us into the monastery.  Backtracked a bit and then turned left down more steep steps, followed a winding stone path along the outside edge of some stone buildings, and then back up more steep stone steps where we found another stone walkway with the white stone markings down the center.  Those white stone markings down the center of certain alleyways apparently indicated a "major" street in this odd little town.  Follow one of those and you probably would eventually find the way out.  We did.  And we did.

Soon we were waiting at the spot where we had first entered Ano Syros.  About 15 minutes later Bill and Zachary arrived.  Don't know what took them so long.

Memorial for 2 soldiers

I loved this unique town.  Almost all of the tiny homes are still occupied.  Often during our walk we saw through open shutters into tiny bedrooms and sitting rooms or kitchens.  At one spot there was what was obviously a memorial to 2 men who had died.   it was a simple ledge with an urn to one side and a stone marker in the center. There was a plaque on the wall off to the left with an image of the 2 men.  Based upon the appearance of the uniforms it appeared they died during World War I.  

Everything in this town was so clean!  Almost every building was freshly painted and very well maintained.  There were very few empty or neglected buildings.  I would imagine the real estate here maintains value well.  

Entering San Michalis area
Now that all 4 of us were reunited, we piled into the car to search out our next destination -- San Michalis.  Don't really know much about San Michalis except that it is recommended as a lunch destination for tourists.  San Michalis is located on a mountaintop near the northern end of the island.   This is another place where you must park the car and walk up because the "streets" are too narrow for vehicles.  There were ruins of old stone buildings that formed a settlement in the very distant past.  We could see that at one time these buildings were plastered on the outside and were pink, then later white.  Now they are crumbling stone.

Inside tiny San Michalis Church

At the very top of the old stone settlement there was a relatively large home plastered yellow and in good condition.  There also stood the very tine San Michalis Church, which is also well maintained.  Behind the tiny church was one of the original stone buildings that is still occupied by an elderly man.  There was a mailbox on his stone wall, so mail must still be delivered here sometimes.  He came out into his yard and spoke to us in a friendly manner, but we don't know a single word of Greek so communication was impossible.

San Michalis candles
Bill lit another candle in San Michalis.  Guess he had not read the guide book to learn that this is a Greek Orthodox church, not Roman Catholic.  The kids did not feel compelled to pretend-pray in this church as they had at St. George's.   They wanted to light candles but we were out of small denomination currency.

Stone paths at San Michalis
Stone paths at San Michalis

We walked back along the stone path winding through the crumbling stone buildings to find a restaurant for lunch.  We found one receiving a beer delivery, but they were not yet open for business.  The Greeks eat lunch rather late in the day.  It was 12:30 and the kids were hungry.  A woman walked by and managed to convey to us that the restaurant would open in half an hour, maybe less.  So we decided to sit in the little arbor area and wait.  It was much cooler beneath the grape vines than out in the full sun.

Grape arbor at San Michalis
Sure enough, about 20 minutes later a man and a young woman arrived and opened the restaurant.  We gave them a few minutes to get set up for the day, then we found a table overlooking the mountainside and the sea.  Spectacular view.   We each ordered something different.  Three of the meals were delicious.  Zachary ordered grilled pork chops and that was disappointing. 
Lunch up at San Michalis
The pork chops did not resemble any pork chops we have ever seen -- very thin and mostly bones.  But there was more than enough food to share between the 4 of us.  We could not decide which was better -- the Greek style pork with thyme or the Greek style pork simmered in wine with the local San Michalis cheese.

During our drive back to Ermoupoulis the kids wanted to stop at a cave.  We had seen a sign for this cave as we were driving northward to San Michalis.  Unfortunately, there was no sign for southbound traffic.  By the time we realized where to turn for the cave, we were already past the turn-off.  The mountain road was much too narrow to turn around, so we missed spelunking.  

After we passed Ano Syros and drove 2 switch-backs on our return trip down the mountain, I asked Bill to stop at a market so I could buy a bottle of water.  Everyone waited in the air-conditioned car while I went in to buy the water.  Lo and behold, right next to the little market was one of the portares to enter into Ano Syros!   Apparently, tourists are expected to enter at this lower level and walk up many flights of steps to get to the church.  We entered about half-way up from this portare level.  Glad we cheated because our legs were trembling from these steep stone alleyways without that additional exertion.

In Ermoupoulis we stopped at a very nice produce market and loaded up.  The produce at the supermarket in Finikas where we are docked was very limited.  This market had almost anything one might want in the way of fresh veggies and fruits.  Next we found a kiosk to buy more internet top-up cards and ice cream for the kids.  Finally, on the the way out of Ermoupoulis we stopped at a large supermarket so I could stock up on things not usually found in smaller towns.  Figured we should take advantage of having the rent car to load up on heavy items like soft drinks, beer and 8 months of laundry detergent.  

Back on the boat Bill discovered that the top-ups we bought for internet usage were wrong.  These worked only for cell phones.  So the next morning he made another trip to town and found the right top-ups.  No refunds allowed (even though we specifically asked for internet top-ups), so it cost another 40 Euro.  Now we have 40 Euro on the cell phone that we will never use.  Hey, grandkids; want to call your parents?  The car rental lady was nice enough to let Bill use the car to return to town to correct the phone/internet issue and did not charge him for the extra 2 hours.  How very nice of her!

Winds are still howling but it looks like things will die down and we might be able to leave here in another 2 to 4 days.  Have no idea where to head next.

(As always, click on any image for larger view.)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Island of Syros

As I mentioned in the previous posting, we are now moored on the town quay in the village of Finicke (a/k/a Finikas) on the southwestern side of the island of Syros waiting out another blow of meltimi winds.  This is a nice place for this purpose.  Shelter from the wind is very good, especially docked where we are.  BeBe is being blown directly away from the dock.  The quay turns at an sharp angle and boats moored farther down the wall are being blown almost directly sideways.  Boats on the other side of the quay (inside the actual marina area) are being blown stern into the wall.  We have the best location for when northerly winds are blowing, as is expected for the next 4 or 5 days.

There are at least 3 beaches nearby, only 1 of which is accessible by walking.  The other 2 require a dinghy for access so we probably won't be visiting those.  Our dinghy is stored upside down on the mizzen deck and that is probably where it will remain during our stay.  There is a small supermarket, a nice bakery, a meat market and a produce market all within walking distance.  And more than a half-dozen restaurants nearby.  Everything one might want except a chandlery, and we have no need of anything boat related at the moment.  Plus, there is a chandlery or 2 just a short bus ride away should a need arise.

Blue domed church on hill
Drinks on the quay
Yesterday we took the bus to Ermoupoulis (a/k/a Hermoupolis), the main city on Syros.  Ermoupoulis is located on the eastern side about 2/3 up the island.  There is a lovely large town quay located there but it is far too exposed during northerly winds.  
Big Ferries!
Another major detracting factor to this very nice quay located in the heart of restaurants and shopping is that a major ferry port is also located on that same quay.  These ferries are quite large and have very large engines and powerful thrusters that churn the water to a dangerous level.  There is no way we would moor our yacht against that concrete wall.  The ferries would cause it to be beaten up.  During the few hours we were in the quay area of Ermoupoulis we saw 3 yachts tie up; each very briefly to exchange passengers or for someone to jump off and go shopping; then these yachts quickly departed.  What a shame that this nice quay cannot be utilized by yachts because of the ferries.

We enjoyed leisurely drinks beneath umbrellas on the quay.  Then off for a bit of shopping.  Shopping is NOT something I enjoy.  But Elisabeth said she needed to shop for 2 things.  
Shopping district
She had lost her earrings on the flights from Houston to Athens, and she wanted to buy a souvenir charm for her charm bracelet.   We walked down one of the narrow alleyway streets perpendicular to the quay area and discovered a shopper's paradise.  It was exactly how one might imagine a Greek town to be.  Narrow stone streets and sidewalks with brightly colored bougounvilla and other flowers hanging down in places.  Very narrow side alleyways heading off those streets leading to small cafes and restaurants.  Steep steps up hillsides.  Truly a lovely place.  I might not enjoy shopping but I certainly enjoyed the surroundings.

Blue domed church on hill
Shopping Queen
Elisabeth found some earrings that were acceptable to her, but Bill walked in and told her not to buy them until she looked at another shop down the street.  We walked down to the other shop and she found exactly what she wanted -- a pair of rose-shaped earrings that were the exact color as the blue-domed churches we have seen around Greece.  She thought having something this color blue would be a good remembrance of her trip to Greece.  She also found a small turtle for her charm bracelet.  The shop clerk added a small gift when she wrapped the package -- another tiny charm of an eye.  This reminded me of all the eyes one sees in Turkey.  Something about having an eye to ward off evil eyes.   Unfortunately, neither of these charms can be added to her charm bracelet because the openings are soldered closed.  She will need some sort of tiny circle with an opening or something to attach each charm to her bracelet.  I have never seen charms that don't have an opening for attaching to a bracelet or necklace.  Wonder how these are intended to be attached?

Ermoupoulis town quay
After the shopping expedition we read restaurant menus posted on the sidewalks until we found a place that served pizza.  Elisabeth really wanted pizza.  We found only one place serving pizza.  It was on the town quay.  It was really nice sitting beneath the umbrella in such a lovely place.   After lunch we found a kiosk selling ice cream.  If you are going to eat junk food, do it up right.  

Cousins horsing around
We walked back to the bus stop, where we waited a half hour or so for the correct bus returning to Finikas.  I enjoyed watching people while we waited.  The kids spent their time horsing around.  Zachary found he can pick up his cousin and then hold her up with only 1 arm.  He out weighs her by quite a bit and is 4-inches taller, yet they wear the same size shoes.  Totally different children, both physically and tempermentally. 

Each of us enjoyed our little day visit to town.  I had really wanted to see Ano Syros but we did not see a way to get up there.  While waiting for our return bus we saw a small bus offering Island Tours but by then it was too late to go to Ano Syros.  Guess this is just one of those things I will have to miss.  Can't see everything.

Ano Syros is a centuries old Catholic settlement, rather than the usual Greek Orthodox.  According to the tourist brochures, during the 6th century A.D., when piracy devastated commerce on Syros, the old coastal city fell into decline.  A settlement which came to be known as Ano Syros was founded up on the hill of Mesovouni.  Entrance to the settlement was through 7 Portares (large doors).  The 7 Portares were closed each night for protection of the residents, making it like a walled city.  Some of these doors are still in place.   Supposedly there are beautiful views overlooking Ermoupoulis and the sea.  Ano Syros was little influenced by the Ottoman Rule.  The Catholic Diocese of San Georgios is on the highest point of the hill, including the Bishop's residence and offices and historical study center and archives.  The Diocese's archives are on micro-film for those who wish to research.  Next to San Yiorgis (St. George's) is the Santa Claras' Monastery, formerly the Jesuit Monastery 1743-2000.   Throughout Ano Syros are picturesque small alleys, far too narrow for motorized vehicles.  I regret we were unable to visit this place.  But, hey, as I said earlier, we can't see it all.

Geography and history
Syros means "a rock cast into the sea."  It is located nearly in the center of the Cyclades.  From the hillsides on Syros one can see many of the surrounding Cyclades islands.  Homer sang of Syros and praised the island's beauty and agricultural bounty.  The hills we see around us appear rocky and barren, but the small valleys between the hills are filled with growing vegetables and fruit trees.   The name Syros was first recorded in 6th century B.C.

The tourist brochure claims that the first inhabitants occupied this island around 2800 B.C.  However, other literature claims that recently excavated human remains and artifacts date back to at least 4000 B.C.  The current excavations have shed much light on the prehistoric period.  The northeastern region being excavated includes many graves with their burial goods, ceramic vessels, stone compasses, statuettes, intact skeletons and ancient ruins, including the remains of a former Acropolis (fortified hilltop site) and watch tower.   

During the 8th century B.C. the Phonecians arrived on the island.  Then the island followed the typical history of the region:  Persian Wars; 4th century B.C. ruled by Macedonia; 1st century B.C. ruled by Romans.  The acme of civilization on Syros occurred during the Roman rule; then a severe decline followed.  The island was always overshadowed by its eastern neighbor, Sacred Delos (where we hope to visit soon).  Syros became almost unknown during the Christian and Byzatine periods.  The traditional Greek mythological gods and demi-gods relinquished their places to Christ and His Church.  During 7th and 8th century A.D. Syros was raided by Arab pirates, resulting in castrophe and the great plague.

Then the Venetians arrived; followed by the Ottomans (Turks).  The island declined into extreme poverty.    Thousands starved to death.  Finally, in 1821 there was a revolution (under French protection); and the island became a refuge for persecuted Greeks fleeing from every corner of their struggling land.  During this wave of immigrants the harbor town Hermoupolis was created, the commercial capital of Greece during the 19th century.  Hermoupolis was named in homor of Hermes, considered by some to be the old Greek god of commerce.  In 1861 the Greek Steamship Company opened its steam-powered foundry and dry dock.  Syros succeeded in becoming the central marketplace of Greece, supplying merchandise throughout Greece as well as to Egypt, Syria and Turkey for more than 50 years.  Then Athens replaced Syros for this title, and Syros again began to decline economically.  

Today has seen a resugence of economy.  More than half the population of all the Cyclades islands reside on the island of Syros.  This has become a very popular place to own property.   The shipyard and dry dock still operate.  And resorts are blossoming all around the island.  Tourism is very much alive and well in Syros.

BTW, just down the quay from us is a boat owned by a couple from Corpus Christi.   They noticed our Texas flag flying beneath the port spreader.  They are also flying a Texas flag.  Again we notice that Texans fly their state flag on their yachts; whereas, very few people from other states bother to fly their state flags.  These fellow Texans have very definitely taken the road less traveled.  They purchased their Bavaria yacht new and had it delivered to Slovenia.  (Wonder if that is outside the EU and therefore a way to avoid the ridiculously high VAT?)  They picked it up in Slovenia and sailed down through the Suez Canal and into the Gulf of Aqaba.  They lived in Jordan for several years and kept the boat there.  They said the Gulf of Aqaba is very limiting in areas to sail.  Basically, they could only sail 23 kilometers and turn around.  One cannot sail into Israeli waters in the Gulf of Aqaba nor into Saudi Arabian waters.  That leaves only 23 kilometers of Jordanian coast where they could sail.   They have now left Jordan and are sailing the Greek isles, with plans to participate in the ARC this year.  So they will be in the Caribbean in December.  These are the only people we have ever met who have sailed in the Gulf of Aqaba.

Shopping Queen is also DS Queen
Conquerer of the World
After our outing into town, both kids immediately retired to their respectives ends of the boats with their electronic toys.  Elisabeth to our aft cabin to play her DS (wearing her new blue earrings).  She enjoys animal games (wants to be a vet when she grows up).  And Zachary to the foreward cabin to play Civilization on his laptop.  I know nothing about this game but he sure enjoys conquering countries.  For several days he battled against Alexander the Great.  On this day he was proud that he had gotten his country's capital up to level 50.  The goal is to increase the capital's economy, happiness, production and food.  
Playing Civilization
He eventually topped out at level 57, which he tells me is an extemely high score.

As usual, click on any photo for a larger image.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Kythnos again, then to Syros

We had planned to stay at Kythnos for several days.  Then Bill checked the weather forecast and we abandoned those plans.  Another meltimi was forecast to begin in 2 days, so we had a choice -- either stay in the isolated bay on Kythnos for a full week and probably not be able to get off the boat for 5 days OR move now to somewhere that we might be able to dock on a town quay and be able to get off the boat during the high winds.  The kids wanted to stay put.  They thought playing DS and computer games all day for 5 days would be fun.  Bill and I did not like that idea.  

We checked the Pilot guide and the charts and decided that the town of Finicke or Finikas on the southwest side of the island of Syros would be a nice protected place to wait out high winds.  We sailed and motor-sailed the 27 miles to Finikas, arriving before 14:00.  Lucky us, there was plenty of space to dock on the wall in the area that we wanted.  This quay turns a corner and we wanted to be on the outside wall on the inside of the corner.  In that position the expected northerly winds would blow us away from the dock, rather than hitting the boat sideways.  Perfect location.  And someone even helped with our dock lines this time.  Shortly after 14:00 boats started arriving one right after another.  Well before 17:00 all dock space was filled.

World's Largest Hot Dogs
Since we were on a town quay it only seemed fitting that we should eat dinner ashore for a change.  The kids joined us in reading the menus posted street side at each restaurant.   They wanted pizza but that was not to be found in this small town.  However, they did find a tiny cafe that served hot dogs and hamburgers.  Those were the largest hot dogs any of us had ever seen!!  These were not regular frankfurters; these were huge locally-made sausages.  Sythos is famous in Greece for their local sausage.  It is the best sausage we have found outside of Texas.  Bill and I each ordered a Mama Burger -- which turned out to be 2 hamburger patties served with a wedge of lemon, slices of tomato and red onion and some french fries.  With no bread or bun.  Weird.  But, what the heck, it was food and I didn't have to cook it or clean the kitchen; so who can complain.  Neither Zachary nor Elisabeth were able to eat an entire hot dog.   But they enjoyed what they did eat.  They had wanted ice cream too but decided that could wait for another night because they were stuffed.

World's tiniest diesel delivery truck
The next day we saw the tiniest diesel truck deliver fuel to the boat docked next to us.  How cute.  If one can consider a truck cute.

Next was a bus trip to the largest town on this island.  But we are watching The Princess Bride now so writing about this trip must wait until tomorrow.  LOVE this movie!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Very bad experience with a New Zealand yacht painter

Someone emailed me and told me that Dale Pennington's Touch of Gloss is out of business.

What goes around comes around.

Written May 28 and scheduled to post July 7, 2011 -- allowing more than ample time for Touch of Gloss to respond if they chose to address their defective paint job.  We originally contacted Touch of Gloss to notify them of the paint problem on May 4. As problem has not been addressed in a timely manner as an ethical company would have done, we now identify the culprit.  Anyone doing business with Touch of Gloss should watch every step of the work performed and confirm that correct products and proper amounts of products are used and that all steps of the painting process are completed correctly.  Our experience with Touch of Gloss may have been caused by an employee without the knowledge of the owner.

When we had our previous haul-out in New Zealand at Gulf Harbour in Whangaparaoa, BeBe looked perfect.  We thought this was the best bottom job we had ever had done.  Time has changed that opinion.  We now consider this one of the worst bottom jobs we have experienced.

The company was Touch of Gloss and the manager's name was Sean.  We do not remember the name of the guy who actually painted BeBe, but he was a young blonde guy.  The painter had removed the paint and epoxy on our cast iron keel down to the bare metal.  Then he applied 2-part epoxy primer.  This is something that should be done every-so-many years as routine maintenance.  He did a fantastic job on this keel work.  Then he sanded the hull bottom and sprayed the hull bottom and the keel with Micron 66 anti-foul paint.  The boat looked great and we were very pleased.  Our next anti-fouling paint job would be in two years in Marmaris, Turkey.

Fast forward two years from March 2009 to April 2011when BeBe was hauled out of the water and placed aboard a transport ship destined for Marmaris, Turkey.  Within an hour and as soon as the paint dried while BeBe sat on the deck, the paint began flaking and peeling off in large sections.  It was a total mess!!

Bill contacted Touch of Gloss about the paint flaking off as it dried when BeBe was hauled out of the water in Male, Maldives.  The shop owner replied that this was probably due to incompatibility with the previous paint when we had them spray on the Micron 66.  NOT TRUE!!  Bill fired off a reply email explaining that the only bottom paint ever applied to BeBe has been Micron 66.  We have the receipts for every bottom paint job since the yacht left the Amel factory in January 2003.  The only difference is that all previous applications of Micron 66 had been rolled on.  Touch of Gloss sprayed the Micron 66.  The other difference is that all previous times the bottom had been wet sanded and wiped with thinner prior to the new application.  Touch of Gloss did not wet sand; the painter dry sanded before spraying the new paint.  We do not know if he wiped the surface with thinner or not.

Two weeks later when BeBe arrived in Marmaris, the painters we interviewed showed us where the remaining sprayed-on paint was shiny in appearance; whereas the rolled on paint had a dull appearance.  Each painter said that this shiny appearance was because thinner had been added to the paint.  Touch of Gloss denies using any thinner in the spray application.

Dale, the owner of Touch of Gloss, requested that the factory representative for International Paints (the manufacturer of Micron 66) inspect BeBe and evaluate the situation.  On May 17 the rep visited and inspected BeBe.  By this time most of the bottom had been scraped down to the gel coat and new barrier coats applied and Micron 77.  But luckily all the areas where the support posts had originally been located were still untouched.  So there were 13 sections spaced all around the hull that the rep inspected.

His comment to us:  "Obviously something went wrong during the application."  The rep said there has been no complaints anywhere in the world regarding this batch of paint, so this flaking was not due to faulty paint; it had to be something that happened during the application of the paint.  The rep said he would write a letter to Dale, owner of Touch of Gloss.

In our email correspondence Dale wrote that he has "never walked away from an issue yet."  We have correspondence several times via email from Touch of Gloss since the International Paints rep inspected BeBe, but thus far they still deny any responsibility for this paint problem.  They cannot identify what caused the paint to not adhere properly but are adamant that it was not due to anything they did.  This claim makes no sense because all previous Micron 66 applications were still in place.  Only the application sprayed on by Touch of Gloss did not adhere correctly.

We have learned 2 things from this experience:

1.)  Just because a paint job looks great does not mean that it is a good job.  The real test is how the paint holds up 2 years later when the boat is again removed from the water.

2.)  Even a company with an excellent reputation can give very bad service. 

UPDATE 6 August, 2011: International Paints, the manufacturer of Micron66, has issued us a $500 usd voucher to be used as when we next buy any International products.  We believe this is a fair settlement because we will use Micron again and this amounts to about 50% of the additional cost to remove the defective layer.

Touch of Gloss Invoice