Winter Maintenance Jobs

March 11, 2012

Well, we live in the part of the world where the ancients used to ascribe all natural events to the will of the gods. If that still holds good, then all I can say is that, just now, the god responsible for wind has been eating a high fibre diet for the past few days, as we’ve had a constant gale from the north east. The wind has, at times, been so strong as to make moving round the boat uncomfortable and required us to raise the gangplank to prevent damage to it and the stern of the boat.

Snow on the mountains northeast of Messolonghi this week.

It makes going into town a real effort, as the town lies to the east of the marina and means cycling into a head wind which has on occasion exceeded 50 knots. However, coming back from town is a breeze, (forgive the pun) needing no effort at all, other than on the brakes to stop you running out of road.

There’s been a lot going on since we last wrote a blog but only now that we’ve once more been forced to seek shelter inside the boat has time offered itself to sit down and write something for our readers. So, where to begin?

This year we’ve started to use an A4 diary to keep a day to day record of what we’ve been up – we may also use it for a log when we start sailing again but we may find that the lack of a proper set of ruled columns (for details of time, wind, heading etc. etc) will work against that idea. Why on earth am I telling you this? So that you can understand that I’m not making things up but using the new diary to make sure I have things in the right order. Efficient or what?

Now, having read back through since 7 February when we last published a blog, I can see that we’ve actually accomplished quite a lot. When we put the last post up on the blog, we’d rather run out of things to do on board, as we were waiting for ‘white van man’ aka Vernon, to arrive with various bits and pieces from UK. We’d ordered fabric to make a new shade tent and bimini, had taken the sewing machine out of storage and had a heap of other little bits and pieces delivered to my brother, Mike for dispatch to us. Vernon, who lives in Nidri, arrived in Messolonghi on Saturday 11 February with all the packages for us, plus deliveries for Bob and Lesley on “Moon Rebel” and Lee and Joan on “Wishbone.” It was like Christmas all over again as we unpacked boxes and examined all the ‘stuff’ we’d bought.

Our neighbours, Hugh and Brenda from "Scotia" test out their dinghy after finishing repairs to it.

All around us people are working on their winter maintenance programmes: Bob has fitted a wind vane self steerer onto “Moon Rebel” and Hugh has been repainting all the wooden toe rails on “Scotia.”  Our delivery from UK meant that we too could start on various new projects as we now had the materials we needed. I’ve fitted a new split charge device, which prevents the engine battery being flattened, put a security bolt on to the companionway hatch and done various other little bits round the boat, including some more LED lights in the galley area. J has been almost causing meltdown in the sewing machine as she has made a new bimini, new shade tent, 2 rope tidies for the cockpit and various other little bits and pieces. With some alterations to the way the framework is set up, we now have a bimini which will cover most of the cockpit area for the summer – a great improvement over the bare 1/3 that the old one shaded.

J's new rope tidy on the port guardrail.

On 22 February, I left the boat at 0330 and walked up to the coach station through torrential rain to catch the bus to Athens. I flew back to Manchester arriving mid afternoon to be met by Mike. I then spent the next 9 days in UK visiting my parents, discussing care plans for my mother (father is already in a residential home), catching up with my brother and sisters and buying yet more ‘stuff’ for “Rampage.” I also got a new right hearing aid, which was actually the main purpose of my trip! I could have had a new aid fitted here in Greece but it would have cost about twice as much as the airfare, so it was an easy decision.

I also took the opportunity to pop up to Carlisle to visit Andy and Susan off “Curly Sue.” Susan has been diagnosed as having a brain tumour and they have not been able to return to their boat as planned because of her treatment, so I went to see how they were and to talk about anything they wanted doing to their boat, which is moored alongside us here in Messolonghi. They live in a lovely flat in Carlisle, which has views out over the hills to the east.

Meanwhile, J was continuing the sewing back on “Rampage” and did other nasty little jobs, like cleaning the oven, which I was grateful to escape!

Our first solar panel. This one on the cabin roof is semi-flexible. Next winter's project will be to build a gantry to hold a couple of larger, rigid ones.

The return journey also required another very early get up – we left Mike’s house at 0330! But at least there was no walk through the wind and rain as there had been when I departed, just a trip in the car. The rest of the trip went well and I arrived back in Messolonghi by about 1800, accompanied by the biggest case I’ve used for some time. I’d bought it in the Chester Oxfam shop for about £2.50 and it was just the right size to take the solar panel was bringing back with me. Once unpacked, the case was put into the laundry here and had been snapped up within minutes by someone else who needed a big case! (Few of the cruising community keep a large suitcase on board as they just take up far too much space.)

Please click on the photo to enlarge it and enable you to see the frame for the outboard hoist which D is currently working on.

Since my return I have been concentrating on building a hoist for the outboard as lifting the thing on and off the back of “Rampage” is a real struggle for J when she’s on her own and is starting to wreck my back. We’ve now just about finished most of the jobs on the ‘winter to do list’ apart from those which have to wait until we lift out next week, so we’re feeling a bit smug. (He’s forgetting that we await the delivery of new foam in order to completely remake all the saloon seat cushions – a big and, for me, extremely daunting task! J) We have lots of new bits and pieces, some of which were simply a case of buying things and fitting them; others are a result of a good deal of hard work and clever design. Of course, we now have to wait until the season starts before we can see if the designs will really work…….

Well, that about brings you up to speed on things “Rampage” and so I’ll get the boss to read through this and see if there’s anything she’d like to add before we put it up, along with a few pictures. Sadly we haven’t taken any of the new bimini or boom tent and frankly, with the wind as it is, we’re not about to put up either, simply to photograph them for the blog. However, we’ll endeavour to provide pictures with our next post.

Meat bottling

J here: One thing the Skipper has not mentioned is our meat bottling trial. A fellow cruiser, Jane from “Jane G” was telling us how she bottles meat to preserve it for such occasions as when stuck in an anchorage miles from the nearest shop and unable to move because of the weather, as happened to us last summer in the Peloponnese. We thought this was a good plan and conducted a trial bottling of some mince before D went back to the UK. On his return couple of weeks later we tested one of the jars and found it to be okay, although having been in the pressure cooker for an hour and a quarter the meat had lost some of its flavour and texture. We made a cottage pie with it but another time I think I’d go for a recipe with more “kick” – probably our favourite chilli con carne for mince or a curry for other meat. However, I do now plan to do a few more jars of chicken, pork and mince to have in reserve. The instructions, courtesy of “Jane G” – for anyone who may be interested – are given below:

Use mason jars or old jam jars etc. Any jar will do as long as you are satisfied that you will get a good vacuum seal.

Sterilize the jars in the pressure cooker by steaming for 10 minutes with the lids loose.

Cut the meat, (any meat) into 1 inch chunks (or use mince or sausages) and pack in the hot jars, leaving about 1 inch headspace.

Add ½ tsp salt or 1 bouillon cube (optional)

Add no liquid. Screw lids on tight and place in the pressure cooker on a rack or trivet.

Fill to about ½ way with water and place lid on without the weight.

Heat and then free steam for 10 minutes before placing on the weight. Once up to pressure, process for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Remove pressure cooker from heat and let pressure release naturally. Remove weight and leave for 10 minutes before removing the jars. Place them on a towel and cover away from draughts.

After 24 hours test the seals by checking that the lids are concave and do not pop up and down when pushed with a finger. Any that fails the test must be used straight away.




  1. Dear Duncan and Julia,

    As always, it’s such a pleasure to hear about things with you. Also, just wanted to send an early ‘Happy Anniversary’ as your blog is three years old next month.

    We think of you often and wish you all the best as your fourth year of cruising begins.

    Love, Ruth and David

    • Dear Ruth,
      How sweet of you to notice. We have just published our 99th blog and have had 15,000 hits in total – not bad for a pair of amateurs who only did this for fun, family & friends! I hope one day we can meet up again – maybe on the other side of the “pond”!
      Hugs, J & D xxx

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