After the balmy weather of Christmas the New Year made a chilly contrast as colder, stormier weather arrived. We were too busy sleeping off the fun of New Year’s Eve to make the swim in the sea, but 10 or so hardy souls braved the waves.
Unfortunately after new year we came down with marina plague, but it was a good chance to chill out and plan the next round of jobs. We took advantage of the London boat show and many suppliers offering boat show deals even if you’re not there, to order a new fridge system. We went for a Frigoboat air cooled model, which I am pleased to say is now up and running and once again we can have fresh milk. The system slotted easily into the space left by the broken CoolBlue unit taking Colin only a day and a half to fit it.
Much of the advice we had read recommended water cooled fridges for warmer water cruising. However, after lots of research we decided to stick with air cooled. It meant we didn’t need to be lifted out to have a keel plate fitted, yes we could have gone with a pump taking in seawater for cooling but we didn’t want to have a pump running regularly or the cost of regularly replacing the pump, as we have heard of others with this system having to do. Our air cooled freezer performed well last summer in 30°C plus temperatures so there was no reason to think an air cooled fridge would perform less well. We have plenty of solar and wind power generating potential so the additional power drain with air cooled is negated. We added extra insulation to the fridge last winter so that too should make the cooling process more efficient.
Warm weather soon returned and I made the most of the sun to make more shade curtains for the cockpit enclosure. Our enclosure comprises three parts: the sprayhood, the bimini section which sits over the helm position and a piece that zips off that fits between those two parts. To keep the cockpit shady we needed to keep all three sections up but being thick green canvas it got pretty hot under there. I’ve made a piece out of Textilene mesh that will fit into the zip out section which should give us a good amount of shade protection but also allow air flow. Fingers crossed it works or I may be spending this summer in the sea with just my head sticking out. I also made mesh sunglasses for the sprayhood windows and a new mesh side panel as we only had one.
Colin has continued building the solar hot water heater that we hope will give us freely heated water for the summer. We need a couple of parts from the UK to finish it off completely and test the system. At the moment we can heat water one of three ways – running the engine, with our Refleks heater or via the 110v electric heater. The Refleks and 110v heater aren’t practical in summer and we don’t want to run the engine just for hot water so it will be good to have an alternative source.
We had fun one Saturday with a Slow Bicycle Race – the purpose of the race being the last to cross the line but without putting your feet on the ground whilst riding the course. I did pretty well in a heat but crossed the line next to last – although it turned out the person behind me had been doing some foot putting down! Oh well it’s the taking part that counts!
We were invited along with Anne and Stephen from Wandering Dragon for some exploring with a trip to the Greek and Roman temple remains at Agrigento. We had a beautiful sunny day and were able to wander freely over much of the site with just the temple structures themselves roped off. Being January it was great to not have crowds of people there, although some garden areas were closed off for maintenance. The early blossoming almond trees and the natural carpets of yellow and white wildflowers springing into life in every available green patch made up for the closed gardens.
Some of the temples were now piles of rubble with just a couple of restored columns standing proudly erect as they reached for the sky. Much of the building materials had been stolen away by later generations to construct new buildings and the nearby port of Empedocle. Here and there carvings that had withstood over 2000 years of weathering stood out amongst the jumble of rubble. In the crumbled temple of Zeus a couple of Apollo statues have been reassembled like a stone jigsaw, but they now lie prone rather than standing supporting the temple roof on their shoulders. Across the road were the more intact temples to Juno and Concordia.
We just made it back to the car as a rain shower arrived late afternoon when we drove to the B&B but it soon passed and we could head back to the site for sunset and to see the temples lit up in the dark.
The next day was pretty damp; we’d bought the joint temples and museum ticket so we hid from the rain for a couple of hours wandering around the zillions of ancient artifacts in the museum. We did reach ancient-pot-burnout stage but the visit was worth it to see an Apollo statue standing upright. It must have been awe inspiring to see all those Apollos towering way above.
As we drove back to MdR we realised that the Romans definitely hadn’t brought road drainage to Sicily with standing lakes of water and rivers flowing down the roads making it a bit of a treacherous journey. As we approached the marina some white substance was spotted lying at the side of the road. Ha ha it’s snow we joked. Well not far off – that morning a torrential hailstorm had pounded the marina along with strong winds leaving piles of peanut sized hailstones clustered together and looking like snow. It had managed to get inside our cockpit enclosure soaking everything, even filling my shoes with water. Colin was a little disappointed to have missed the exciting weather!