Cephalonia to Valletta

Bodrum, Turkey to Bridgetown, Barbados

4,886 nautical miles to Barbados

August 7, 2013

Valletta, Malta

At 0400 the wind dropped to 5 knots. At 0420 the autopilot failed. Dean had steering, freighters, sails, fluky wind and a cup of tea to deal with. Marie managed a 360. We rediscovered that the autopilot is worth 3 helmsmen – worth more really – only eats a few amps a day.

The first 2 days of the crossing to Malta saw average 15 knot NW wind on the beam. Right between the five knot forecast by “Passage Weather” and 25 knots by “Poseidon Weather.” The beam sea had me fending off seasickness. Throw-up, barf, puke, chunder, technicolour yawn. Select any one of the five options to really ruin your day. “If you get seasick Dick, why go sailing?” Well, that is part of the bigger question, “Why do we do what we do?” Fortunately I usually only suffer the first day or so of a passage.

Years ago I was forced by fog and nightfall to anchor Puffin II behind a tiny rock north of Vancouver Island exposed to the Pacific swells from Japan. Marian had saved champagne and treats, which she encouraged me to share with her from my spot by the rail feeding the fish. Lorne Priestley said to son Jason, Rowley and me on a night race to Ballenas Island, “I never get seasick.” An hour later that record was gone. The following day on the spinnaker run back to the yacht club he said, “Dick, If there was a bridge to your boat last night I would have walked back to Vancouver and sold my new boat.”

Russell tells the story of coming up to the cockpit for night watch on a bumpy Juan de Fuca race with a beer, a Mars bar and a cigarette in hand. The girl he was replacing lurched across the cockpit to the rail – the sight of Russell was just too much. (Sorry Russell – too good of a story)

Enough – fellow sufferers will relate.

The new Icom MA-500TR AIS (Automatic Identification System) we installed at Argostoli works really well. With the dedicated VHF antenna on the first spreader it finds, sorts and lists all the ships in range (250+ near Malta) and makes a separate list of those that may be trying to kill us. And costs just one BOAT unit = Bring On Another Thousand.

When the wind stopped completely 100 miles from Malta we stopped too, went swimming, did some laundry, replaced a suspiciously tight Seatalk cable to the autopilot, reset the autopilot compass and continued to Valletta with light winds, some engine and a dozen dolphins off the bow for a couple of hours.

Dean, Marie, and a Dolphin

Dean, Marie, and a Dolphin

We anchored in Marsamxett Harbour near Msida Point. The garbage in the water did not encourage swimming, but did not seem to bother the locals who were packed on the rocks and in the water behind us. Malta is a sandstone rock. All the older buildings are constructed from blocks of this material. The east coast is becoming wall-to-wall 10 storey concrete highrises.

When the Knights of Saint John were offered the islands of Malta by Emperor Charles V of Spain in 1530, they were hesitant to accept as Malta paled in comparison to Rhodes, where they had been overthrown by the Turks. They accepted, reluctantly, because they had no other options, and Malta has the Grand Harbour which was ideal for their activities.

Malta is off the path to Barbados, but I needed to visit after reading “The Great Siege,” Malta 1565 by Ernle Bradford. We spent a morning walking through Valletta and looking across Grand Harbour to Fort St. Angelo which is still recognizable as a fort. After the hot walk we had 10 pints of the local Cisk beer. We decided that the beer was not that great so we should move on (Marie wants it noted that she only had two).


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