In the depths of January the winter seemed to be crawling by, but in the blink of an eye, here we are in the last flurries of preparation to depart for our summer adventures.
As usual, there have been plenty of jobs to do on Emerald. There was the usual maintenance and fixes to be made as well as several new projects.
The temporary repairs we made following the storm damage to our upper guard rails in Volos last summer have been beefed up with permanent solid stainless steel tube from the middle gate all the way aft. They’ll provide a much stronger fixing point for fenders as well as making getting in and out of our cockpit safer.
A major improvement has been to expand our solar capacity to 760W along with new batteries with an increased capacity of 720Ah to hold the extra power. This should make our daily life easier without having to fettle with the fridge and freezer which struggled for power when it was really hot. Staying with power, the wind generator has had a service including new bearings and runs much quieter now. The wind genny mount has been strengthened too so it no longer shakes the solar arch to pieces.
Emerald now has a mini stern platform to aid getting in and out of the boat and the cockpit is looking super smart after a coat of paint.
The weather was damper than expected which scuppered some of our adventuring plans, however, we still managed to enjoy some walks in the hills and a trip to Naples. Directly behind the marina there are a couple of walks, which in spring were bursting with colour. A car is needed to get further into the hills where the views are stunning.
The town is an everyday working town with a good selection of cafes, supermarkets, produce shops and services. Larger DIY shops and supermarkets are a bus or train ride away. However, the town is just under 3km from the marina, a pleasant enough walk or cycle along the promenade in the daytime but a bit of a drag for going out in the evenings.
The town put on a Christmas market in the castle, a rock music competition has been running at one of the bars and another bar hosts music on a Friday. Although the music generally doesn’t start until well after 10pm, which our northern European habits still haven’t adjusted to, even after 4 years in the Med.
Christmas & New Year
Just before Christmas we drove to the nearby medieval town of Gerace where the narrow streets and old buildings provided a perfect backdrop for street performers to entertain us, then on Christmas Day the marina residents got together to enjoy a turkey dinner. On New Year’s Eve we wandered into town shortly before midnight to find the place deserted. No people, no cars; even a tumbleweed would have found it too quiet. We stood around for a few minutes wondering what to do when we were jolted from our pondering by several loud bangs from a street to the side of us. People were throwing firecrackers around with wild abandon. We checked the time and saw there was one minute to go and did our own countdown. Then the real explosions began – firework after firework lighting up the sky, first one street, then another would take over creating a continuous stream of light and noise for well over 20 minutes. People began to pour out of their houses and by 12:30am the bars were packed, busier than we’d ever seen in the daytime, and a disco had started up at a seafront bar.
Getting around is reasonably easy – trains run along the coast and up to northern Italy as well as coaches. We took a 7 hour coach trip to Naples for €56 each return. The seats were comfy with more space than a standard coach, the staff were very friendly and provided drinks and snacks. The time passed quickly with beautiful scenery to look at and there was a film to watch – but of course it was in Italian!
We spent a tourist packed 4 days in Naples, seeing the sights of Herculaneum and Pompei, discovering the vast tunnel network underneath the city and enjoying the bustle of the centro storico. The metro was great for getting around and to discover the tube station artworks. To replenish our energy from all the walking around, we of course had to eat pizza. Our accommodation host recommended we ate at the Starita restaurant – we weren’t disappointed, it ranked as the best pizza we’ve ever had.
On our bucket list was to take the train across the Messina Straits – yes that’s right a train goes across the sea! We boarded the train on the mainland side before the carriages were shunted onto a ferry. There was no need for us to get off the train whilst this happened and we could even stay in out seats for the ferry trip across. Thirty minutes later we were shunted off the other side and continued on our way.
We now wait for weather to head westwards – our plan this summer is to visit Sardinia, Corsica, France and Italy. No timescales, no fixed route; we’ll just see where the winds blow us.