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Log Entry Friday 11th June - We leave Malta, destination Greece?
With all of our visitors "been and gone" and a vast knowledge of the Maltese islands gained it is now time for us to move on, we plan to leave Thursday 10th June. The forecast yesterday (easterly winds) was not suitable for Greece, today's moderate to strong south easterlies far more suitable. Under standing how "fickle" the winds can be we had set ourselves a range of coarse's to make good, between 60 & 90 degrees magnetic. This would give us a destination in Greece of between Cephhalonia and Crete - not too much to ask we thought. This would mean a journey of between 350 and 425 nautical miles to complete, possibly, up to five days at sea.
We left our berth at about 1300 hours "ready for the Greek islands". We make our way out of the port of Valletta, struggling, one must admit to make our way over the bar and out to sea due to the oncoming waves. As we left the shelter of the port the swell was considerable, but more concerning was the wind direction, from the east, no good what so ever for Greece? Our plan "B" if the wind was no good, was to retreat to one of the anchorages to the north and await better winds? We made the decision to push out to see and see if the wind became more stable, so we did. As we made our way off shore there was a wind shift, but not to the south as forecast, but to the north. Within two hours it was clear that our only destination, other than the anchorages, could be Sicily, and that would take some work? We set our coarse and sails and on we continued, the winds did grow to strong, at least some of the forecast was correct, this brought the building seas and a "confused swell" for what ever reason. We had considerable waves from both the east and the north, we were either sliding down the side of the swell burring our stanchions well into the water at their trough, or, when from the north the waves, a series in short period, almost bringing us to a halt? Nothing was consistent, the seas were very confused, but we were making an average of 4 knots over all, so we decided to carry on. Our destination was now Porto Palo, on the very south east tip of Sicily, our anticipated arrival time 0400 ours, Friday morning.
We continued through the night, nothing changed, until about 10 miles from our destination, the winds began to drop off, the swell now becoming uncomfortable, but in time, it too fell. We arrived as planned, we dropped our sails, and made ready to enter the anchorage within the port, by the time we had a cupper it would be dawn, making our entry even easier.
We at this time dug out the Italian courtesy flag and dropped the Maltese flag.
Log Entry Monday 7th June - Time to make our way back to Vittoriosa, Mum leaves us today.
We leave the Blue Lagoon anchorage early, this weekend is a holiday weekend, yesterday the anchorage was completely full, we wanted to leave before it became too crowded. We had also planned to stop off at a small anchorage on the north west corner of Malta call "Anchor Bay". It was described as "a small, narrow bay where, at it's head stood a village created for the making of a Popye movie". This must have been some time ago but, it sounded interesting? We had previously tried to get their with Dave and Hazel, but the weather had been against us - to day was flat calm, with little or no wind.
We made our way towards the cove, arriving about 0900, surprised by the lack of vessels at anchor on this holiday weekend as this was a "posted tourist attraction" on the island? The "village" came into sight, as we got closer we could make out more of the detail, one interesting detail was the bright green inflatable's strung across the narrow entrance to the bay - to keep out non-paying visitors perhaps?
As we got closer we could make out the little town, one guesses the set must have been bought some time ago, clearly maintained as a tourist attraction. We could get no closer than 25 meters in depth to anchor, so we decided to leave. It would have been fun to visit but the trip had to be made by road.
We now made our way back to the east side of Malta, through the channel between Malta and Comino, lunch time was fast approaching to we decide to stop at an anchorage in Mellieha Bay. We made our way over to the resort of "Mellieha Bay", there was dozens and dozens of boats already there? We stayed well back from the bulk of the visitors, dropping our anchor in about five meters of water. Ann set about making lunch while I secured Sailaway, Mum kept her eye on "things". In the distance more boats were streaming in?
There was plenty to keep one occupied within the bay, we even watched a super yacht drag it's anchor as the wind got up - crew must have been busy preparing lunch? We had estimated 1300 hours was a good time to leave, giving us plenty of time to get Mum ready for the airport, Mum had also set her mind on apple pie in the Tate Cafe in the marina complex?
We left about 1300 hours as planned, the wind was strong enough now to allow us to make good way with the the headsail up.
Sailing the nine miles or so there was plenty to keep us occupied, we had taken a route inside the mussel beds, we could watch the boats working them, taking their catch back to harbour. I felt some what sorry for a lone fisherman, I waved causally as we passed some 300 meters off, he returned the gesture. Others were not so courteous, the waters were extremely busy now, high speed power boats were almost swamping him as there past in close proximity.
We arrived at the entrance to Valletta Harbour in good time, upon calling port control for permission to enter we ere asked to hang back and follow a large white, British motor yacht in - quite a site! Making Sailaway secure in the marina, Mum's visit was now over (but the apple pie!) we had a day or so to plan our next trip, straight over, non-stop to Greece, 4/5 days at sea.
Log Entry Sunday 6th June - Boat trip to Gozo!
We decide to take one of the many water taxis from here, the Blue Lagoon, over to the port of Mgarr on the island of Gozo. The island of Gozo is about six miles long, three miles wide, with a population of about 30,000. The trip itself is only some two miles across the channel, however, too far for our small dinghy out board. We wave a couple down before we can get a reasonable price, and a pick up from Sailaway - our taxi comes complete with it's own sea dog "Lucky".
There is an almost continuous ferry service between Malta and Gozo, we arrive in Mgarr in no time at all in our high speed taxi, it carries a sign for the public "If you are pregnant or suffer from back pain, you ride in this taxi at your own risk". That in itself gives you an indication of the type of ride it was as we bounced off the waves? The port has been equipped with a modern ferry terminal, however the town itself has remained quaint and compact.
There appears to be a sizeable fishing presence, and an extended marina, a small boat yard exists to service all.
The town, from it's numerous restaurants, is clearly highly dependant on the tourist trade, but is still has a sizeable presence of planted terraces supplying some of their needs.
We walk up the hill to the top of the town where you can gain an excellant view of all of the Maltese islands (Malta, Comino and Gozo). It is also clear that transport is needled to see any more of the island so we source a suitable method of transport to kill the next three to four hours.
Our first stop is at the Parish St John, Baptist church, we are told it holds one of the largest domes in Europe, we then quickly move on to Victoria (Rabat in local tong) the capital of the island.
The town is a lot busier that Mgarr as one would expect, it's main feature here being the Citadel, however tourists are well catered for. Religion through time has obviously played a great feature on this island we are told that there are no less than thirty churches on the island, most still fully in tact and used.
After a walk around the relatively small town we head up to the Citadel. The Citadel, was a further creation of the Knights of St John, for many years the island was raided by Corsairs and Saracens who would take the island people into slavery. Up until 1673 the island population was commanded by law to spend each night within the Citadel for their own safety. Today it holds a fine cathedral, four museums and provides excellant views from it walls.
It is hard to imagine how life must have been in those times, this structure does give an indication as to what fears the locals must have had? The walls are at places we saw over five meters thick, further reinforced by the Knights following ongoing conflicts with the Turks.
The narrow streets within are still some what in tact also, obviously reworked in time. There are four museums within the walls, we are little short of time so we did not visit - a full day was really required should one want to visit all. The Old Prison did catch our eye, used from the mid 16th up until the 20th centuries, the cells and corridors still etched with the inmates graffiti.
We are then taken Marsalforn, Mum needs her lunch, with out regular (very, that is) she just fades away? Marsalforn is situated on the northern coastline, originally a fishing village it is now the largest resort on the island. For lunch we chose one of the many sea front restaurants, the quality good and the price reasonable, fish much cheaper than on the mainland.
We obviously have to walk around the small, shallow harbour to see boats! It is still working, with a small slipway to pull vessels in and out.
After walking off some of our lunch we then make our way back to our car and Mgarr to meet up with our high speed trip back to Sailaway.
Then comes Mum's best event of the day, two young men to man handle her (literally) in and out of the boat onto Sailaway - hands and legs every where, still, she enjoyed it!
We, especially Mum, wished our farewells to the gents, with a full stomach and lots of excitement, it's now time for Mum to relax!
Log Entry Friday 4th June - Arrival at the Blue Lagoon.
We eventually find a kind window to allow us to take Mum to the north of Malta to the island of Comino where we look to spend some time at the "Blue Lagoon Anchorage". The winds are moderate north westerlies so we have to beat against the wind to the north covering about 20 miles in total to make approximately 10 miles over the ground. Still, mum, takes it well and enjoys the five hours at sea however, on approach to the anchorage we are stopped by a police rib. We are informed that they are to tow a barges out from the small harbour and we must stay well clear - we have no problem with that.
Eventually the tug pulls the barges and earth remover clear of us and we are signaled "clear to enter", we pick our spot right down the bay as we are totally alone in the anchorage - good for us.
Log Entry Thursday 3rd June - We go on tour!
Still sitting out strong winds and the corresponding rough seas we have yet another day to kill with Mum. However, tomorrow looks good for our departure north to the anchorages. We have had our eye on one of the organised tours "CitySightseeing Malta", a guided tour of the south of the island. The pick up point is Valletta, across the river - we opt for one of the water taxis operating from the marina.
The trip is only 15 minutes or so, considerably longer by road, we are dropped off by the old Customs House in Valletta.
It is quite a walk to the pick point in town so we choose to take a taxi, by road this time.
We are dropped in the town bus station, Malta is famous for it's old public transport buses, a lot dating back quite some time. Mum thought she had been on this one when she was younger?
We walk from the bus station through the magnificent city walls into Freedom Square to grab a coffee and, of coarse, with two women, a little shopping.
It's now time to "catch our bus", so we leave the city by it's gate, and make our way to the pick up point. As we do so we see the arrival of a holiday cruiser, a sizable craft, towering high above the dock side buildings. The flocks of tourist could be seen exiting the dock area, making for the city, from our elevated position.
As we join our bus tour we are taken straight to our first point of interest the "Auberge de Castille" an administration building dating back to "The Knights of St John", itself, dating back to the late 1500's. To provide a little back ground, the order of the Knights of St John was founded in Jerusalem in the 11th Century, the supreme head was known as the Grand Master. After the fall of Jerusalem in the late 13th century the Knights build an Island fortress in Rhodes, the Grand Master at that time was Pierre d'Aubusson, however the Knights were banished by the Ottomans in 1522. The Holy Roman Emperor Charles V offered the Knights the Maltese Islands, they arrive in Malta in 1530.
We were walked through a short section of the town to St John's Co-cathedral, it's front holds three clocks displaying, time, day and month, a remarkable achievement for it's time (apologies for the pun!)
The Cathedral was designed by Gerolamo Cassar and consecrated in 1578, it is said it looms over Valletta like a giant fortress and claims an interior of dazzling beauty with marble floors, richly inlaid tombstones, splendid walls and ceilings. We are not to visit the interior, but are given a brief description by our multilingual guide and we move on.
As we walk through the streets we see more recent British memorabilia.
We make our way next to the "Auberge D'Italie" built in 1574 to house the Italian Knights of St John, across to which stood Malta's Political House, where Napoleon was housed during his visit. During the period in which the Knights fortified Malta, gardens were banned as they required water, and to an island under siege, water was a critical resource.
In time, two gardens were allowed, we visited one of them "Barrakka Tafuq Garden".
The garden was quite an impressive area, and helps one under stand the Knights origin view with regards to the conservation of water.
On the platform below the garden is the "Saluting Battery", still used today, they are fired at 12 noon each day and of coarse for other special occasions, We had often see the canon flashes and heard the respective sounds from Sailaway.
We continue our tour through the city to the Tarxien Temples, once a village said to date back to the "Copper Age". As we travel evidence of the multicultural influences are evident every where.
The site was originally discovered in the early 1900's, at that time farm land, it's owner was said to be always complaining about the huge boulders on his land creating many problems for him? the original complex was built between 3000 and 2500BC.
Discoveries at the site bring about the belief that the temple was used to sacrifice domestic animals to the Gods, seeking in return fertility, good strong beasts and crops.
Above, left is a "ring stone" to which it is believed the beasts were tied before the sacrifice - the area shared with a Salamanca at present. Once killed and dissected the body parts were placed in a furnace (centre picture) and burned. As the ashes, in theory would have belonged to the Gods, they were stored in the square stone storage jar below the furnace.
In the above three pictures they show an area which was said to be used by the High Priestess only, parts of the sacrificed animal presented to him in the circular stone jar. The dwellings shown top right are believed to be where he only, would have lived.
Many an old relic was uncovered through out this area?
Our next destination was to "Marsaxlokk, a fishing village to the south. This is a place to admire the typical brightly coloured fishing boats known as II-Luzzu", fishing nets that are most of the times spread on the quay to dry on the sun, other fishermen can be seen mending their nets". Or so the literature said. The village was truly a rather large town, with a back drop of a container port, still we had an hour and a half to kill for lunch here.
We strolled around but the high street was being completely resurfaced, so we settled down in a water side cafe for an hour or so. One boat name caught my attention "God Save Us", pictured top right.
There was an interesting street cafe, shown above with a disused (I think) petrol pump behind one of the tables?
Log Entry Monday 31st May - a walk around Vittoriosa.
Dave and Hazel left this morning, with the rest of the day to kill the three of us decide to walk up into the old town of Vittoriosa. It is claimed that some of the buildings date back to the 1500's, it certainly makes an interesting walk.
We walk up the hill behind the Maritime Museum to the town square, not too crowded, complemented with small cafes.
Walking west, through the narrow streets and decorative houses towards Senglea, the views over the harbour to Valletta are breath taking.
We make our way back down, through "Provence Gate" to the exterior of the original fortifications, a tremendous amount of restoration funded by the EU?
Walking around the walls, making our way back around the fortifications we end up back at Dockland, where the marina is based, far enough in the heat, back to Sailaway.
Log Entry Sunday 30th May - Mum arrives
We made our way back to Vittoriosa yesterday, arriving in the early evening. We had head winds all the way so we tacked down the coast line, with the winds falling off and a potentially a damaged genoa winch we completed the return trip by motor. Ann's mum arrived today, she is with us for a week, Dave and Hazel leave in the morning - all change as they say!
All agree, the week has passed so quickly, as time does, strong winds and corresponding rough seas have set for the next few days?
Log Entry Saturday 29th May - time to play!
We take Sailaway out for the day, we have a forecast but like all of those things, still a little unreliable? last night we had it all, strong winds in the anchorage, quite an annoying swell, time to move. The only plan we had was to try and sail around Gozo and end up where ever? As we left the the anchorage we made for the east coasts of the island and the forecast winds would blow us around easily? Once clear of the channel the winds were light and unfavourable for our initial plan any way. We used the light northerly winds to fill our canvas and take us any where? We favoured an anchorage on the northeast coast of Malta, but we had now a strengthening easterly wind which would be blowing straight into the anchorage - another "annoying night?" We made the decision to make our way through the channel south of Comino over to the west side of the island, as we entered the channel the wind dropped right off, "local influences" I told Dave and Hazel.
Coming out to the west side of the islands the wind was far stronger, now locally from the west - how that works, who knows? The sea was building quickly, as it does, making the intended anchorages on the west side a little exposed - the best plan was to head back for the Blue Lagoon on Comino? With a good day sail of almost 20 nautical miles under our belt we turned for Comino.
Once inside, due to the time, most tourists where gone, the girls wanted the canoe inflated, once in off they went. Dave and I gathered our snorkels and took to the water. I need lots of practice, Dave is a good help.
Log Entry Friday 28th May - we go ashore onto Comino.
After a couple of restful days, with even ice cream available, delivered to Sailaway by a "floating ice cream van" we decide to go ashore. We wait until late afternoon when the large trip boats leave with their hundreds of tourists. The small quay is used by the stream of visitors, along side it lies one of the few "sand beaches" on the island, no more than 15 meters by 10 meters, we were amazed at how many people, or rather deck chairs (chargeable of coarse) they could squeeze on?
Sailaway sits well at anchor amongst the daily chaos, one can only imagine what it must be like in July and August - glad we are here now in May to be honest?
The small concrete road servicing the quay is less than 50 meters long, it is then reduced to rock and sand as it makes it's way into the island. The colours are fascinating, even what looks like "Scottish heather" grows here in this baron place.
It is strange, the island is covered in a maze of walls, possibly indicating arable, or farming at one time, even the cactus appear to be suffering, due to lack of moisture now?
We make our way toward Comino Tower, closed today, originally build by the the Knights in the 1600's to protect the islands from pirates, now restored to it former glory. The "Village" as it is named is where the few inhabitants live, they looked more like concrete boxes than houses? The summer trade must support them, but all year round must be an issue, some appeared to be growing something, plenty of geese and chickens could be heard?
As we make our way back to Sailaway we are passed by the mobile food vans, finished for the day, back in the morning. One of the trucks had only three wheels on it's four wheel rear axle - no M.O.T's here? Unfortunately, the day is dampened, climbing back on Sailaway from the dinghy Hazel looses her glasses over board in about eight meters of water - lost forever in amongst the weed!
Log Entry Wednesday 26th May - Dave and Hazel arrive.
Dave and Hazel are with us for a week, we meet them at the airport, the first thing we have to confess to is that while we were waiting we had been into Burger King and demolished two whoppers, fries etc, etc! Ann and I had seen the sign advertising burgers in the taxi and both gained an instant crazing for them, we could not remember when we last had a burger? They were lovely, well at least to us! We arrange a taxi to take us back to Sailaway, unfortunately all work enabling us to sail in the morning (Tuesday) was not complete, we had been at it since 0700 hours. We asked Dave and Hazel to "go on the wander" for a few hours until we finish off, there is plenty to see locally, we arrange to meet in one of the water side bars. I have to source some more gearbox oil and complete the oil change after I had packed all of the shopping away - I never stop! Ann goes off to meet up with them as planned, bad news, during their chatting they notice the menu - well that's the evening meal sorted. We get organised on board before we head off to eat.
In the morning, life jackets are fitted and final plans completed for the next few days, the weather forecast looks good for the next three days. Dave and Hazel have had a boat before so, we pay our dues and slip our lines to head north towards Comino and Gozo. Once out of the harbour we raise our canvas and head north, the winds are a light north west so we tack up the coastline, time is not an issue we are only 10/12 miles form our destination. Every one settles in very quickly to the slow pace, our speed only 3 knots or so. Hazel, be it the salt air, or sea sickness tablets show signs of weakening very quickly, soon she retires down below.
As we make our way slowly up the coast we work the sails to get best performance, scorning at the others as they motor past. Hazel utilises her energy, some times she lies on her side, some times on her back?
Hazel eventually joins us again as we approach our destination, an anchorage called "Blue Lagoon" on the north of Comino island.
Making our way through the channel between the island and Gozo is strait forward, we head into the busy little anchorage, once secure the skipper issues the traditional order "drinks all round to celebrate our safe arrival!"
We then sit, talk, catching up on the gossip, drink and watch the sun go down.
Log Entry Sunday 23rd May - well on our way to Malta.
The night has been interesting with winds from almost all directions, all, unfortunately light. We were reduced to motoring around midnight, we now had no wind and the heat from the sun quite intense. With Gozo, the island to the north of Malta coming into view at day break we feel it is time to drop the Italian courtesy flag and raise the Malta flag. Although Malta is in the EU it still maintains strict clearance conditions, it is the only country in the EU that insists that a "Q flag" is flown, requesting "free pratigue" as a healthy vessel.
The west coast of Gozo is very steep and high, we see the odd vessel anchored in the declared anchorages, all with little or no shelter from weather?
It is our intension to pass to the south of Comino, between it and the mainland, making our way through the constant traffic between Mgarr (Gozo) and Marfa point (Malta)
Once through the channel we make our way south down the east coast of Malta towards Valletta. It's Sunday, we now have all of the local vessels (private and commercial) making their way to there berths, reminded us of the traffic on the south coast of England? Our destination is Msida Marina, listed as one of the best value marinas, we had been unable to contact them by telephone before we left, according to our pilot book they had a visitors and customs clearance pontoon - seemed fairly straight forward?
There are two waterways, north and south of Valletta, the waterways were guarded over time by three forts, Fort Tigne to the north, Fort St Elmo off Valletta and Fort Ricasoli to the south. The marina is in Msida Creek down the northern waterway, we find the entrance below Fort Tigne relatively easy. We make our way around the local vessels, upon finding the marina we discover that the Customs clearance/visitors quay has gone. The marina does not answer neither VHF or telephone? We are now tired, calling around the only marina to reply was The Grand harbour Marina within the Grand harbour it's self, we make our way back out to sea and around to the Grand Harbour seeking clearance from Valetta Port Control.
Entering the Grand Harbour is a wonderful experience, the fortifications, obviously rebuilt over time are over whelming, the water way itself quite quiet.
We make our way through the Grand Harbour until we take Fort St Angelo on our port side, we call the marina on CH13 as requested, we turn into Dockyard Creek where the marina is sited.
We are met on the pontoon by two very helpful gentlemen, we tie up about 1800 hours, our 33 hour journey over. Customs clearance and registration is very simple and painless, we eat early and then retire. We have a busy morning ahead before our friends Dave and Hazel arrive, cleaning, shopping, a couple of things to fix as usual, an engine and gearbox oil change is also due.