We took a ‘slightly’ different approach this time. We participated in an offshore cruising trip, organised by Ultra Sailing. The trip brought us from Split (Croatia) via various Italian harbours to La Valletta on Malta (and back). The distance covered was over 1.100 nautical miles in all, 2.000 kilometres.
Sailing the high seas requires a different ship. Our choice was a Bénéteau 50. A good and stable ship, with all the facilities required for a trip like this. Our route can be found here. We had a crew of 9, including a professional skipper with experience on this route. Myself, I was one of the watch leaders. The trip took 2 weeks to complete.
We took hundreds of photos during this trip. It takes me some time to sort them out. For this first version of the story I have just selected a few, more will follow!
The alarm set for 0600, and by 0630 everybody was up (but not yet running…) – despite last night’s drinks in the cockpit. Around 0730 we drop our moorings. The trip back to Croatia has begun.
Valletta Port Control kept us waiting still. We slowly circled the harbour several times while they tried to get confirmation from Customs that we were properly cleared out. Of course we did, so around 0800 we got the permission to leave the harbour. Outside the breakwater, conditions were perfect for sailing. Wind from the north-west, 15 – 18 knots, so the sails went up in no-time. After the days of rest and recreation, everybody was eager for some action. Course 040, speed 7 – 8 knots.
After only a few hours at sea, we really were in our sailing-routine again. For a while we got company from a tired pigeon, which used our foredeck as a resting place. But for the rest it was just us and an occasional ship on the horizon.
Today, we also saw a lot of sea turtles. Difficult to photograph: they are small and slow, we are a lot faster.
Later that day, the wind left us, returning later from the north-east. On our bow, so motoring again… That evening, we stop for a few hours in Siracuse on Sicily. Better winds are predicted for later that night, so we want to leave again at 0200. We have a dinner, and catch some sleep before the watch system disrupts our sleeping pattern again…
Further rest and recreation in Valletta. In the afternoon we take delivery of fuel. Given that the only nautical petrol station is closed for renovations, we do the traditional bunkering. It requires that we move the boat out of the Marina to the quay, after which a fuel truck shows up.
During the days in Valletta we kept a close eye on the weather map. Leaving on Monday shows a favourable weather-window, at least according to the prognoses…
Rest and recreation in Valletta. We take a water taxi to the city. These water taxis are traditional Maltese wooden boats, the so-called ‘dghajsa’, but with an outboard engine.
Strolling around you feel the history in the buildings and fortresses. For years and years Malta has not paid much attention to its heritage. Fortunately, that is changing rapidly now. We visit the Maritime Museum and the Archaeological Museum, and have a stroll around the city.
During the night the wind becomes variable, which means that we regularly have to change the sails. The sea was calm, the shipping traffic however was quite dense. Especially fishermen ‘racing’ from left to right, but there is also a lot of cargo traffic in the waters between Sicily and Malta.
Shortly after my watch starts at 0300 we see the first lights of Malta at the horizon. Anticipation grows as we come closer. We even decide to let the next watch sleep: we want to bring the ship in ourselves. The approach to Malta is gorgeous: the old castles, fortresses and churches with their lights are visible from miles away.
Several miles from the harbour we call Valletta Port Control via VHF to announce our arrival. They give us information regarding the current movements of other (bigger) boats, which helps us to stay clear. Around 0530 we glide between the breakwaters of Valletta’s eastern harbour. Instantly the waves stop, and a serene tranquillity comes over our ship. The rolling stops as we glide slowly into this harbour. It has a rich history, and we see the places where the ships of the Knights of St. John were moored when they were not fighting the Ottomans.
We moor our ship in Grand Harbour Marina in Vittoriosa, across the bay from Valletta and with a great view on the city and the Fortress San Angelo. After mooring, the boat becomes very quiet except for the snoring of people trying to catch up on their sleep…
Showers (private bathrooms!), laundry, cleaning the boat, a well-deserved beer, lunch… Time flies when you are having fun.
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