Saturday, 28 July 2007

Mooring Dramas

We could get no response on the radio from the marina at Sidi Bou Said so on arrival we moored alongside in the only available berth, just near the entrance. It was not long before someone came along and wanted us to move to another berth, much further into the tiny harbour. We were directed into a dead end and a berth far too small for Irony. As Nic tried to manoeuvre us in to the space we were hit with 25 knot crosswinds. Just to help matters, I couldn’t get the marinero to turn the rope I threw him around the bollard, he tried to hold on to it himself! We finally tied up but our stern was well into the already narrow channel. They decided we should go back to the original berth! Our departure was no less dramatic because, as Nic tried to reverse out, he was faced successively with 3 boats blocking the channel and showing no signs of moving until we gesticulated violently at them and shouted in French. Nic did a magnificent job getting Irony into position attracting much praise from other boats who were all thankful they weren’t in our place!

Friday, 27 July 2007

Pantelleria to Tunisia

On 26 July we set out late afternoon for Tunis, hoping the NW winds were turning more northerly. We met unpredicted 25 knot headwinds and a choppy sea. Just off the coast we had a major fuel leak with a failed float that Nic had to repair. Finally, about 10 miles into the journey we decided to turn back.

Take 2 the next day! Still NW headwinds but less strong with more moderate seas. We were forced to tack, adding about 35 miles on to our 90 mile journey and a lot of hours. Altogether an uncomfortable and tiring passage.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

On to Pantelleria

We checked out of Mgarr, Gozo on 23 July and took on some duty free fuel. Unfortunately a grain ship was being unloaded near the fuel quay and the wind was blowing in our direction. We’ve been severely sanded before but not “grained”.

Once again we experienced no wind or headwinds on our overnight sail to Pantelleria. High NW winds prevented us from visiting the harbour and limited us to one anchorage on the SE of the island, Dietro Isola. The scenery was spectacular and the snorkelling very good if blighted by too many jellyfish for comfort.

Saturday, 21 July 2007

Rescue operation in Gozo

We have had a fantastic time over the last couple of weeks anchoring around Malta and Gozo in some stunning bays. The snorkelling has been excellent. We also caught up with some friends, Simon and Martin, who live in Malta and whom we haven’t seen since our last visit 3 years ago. Gozo’s coastline is particularly memorable, lined with huge caves which we explored by dinghy, some stretched back 100 metres. There is also an incredible inland sea, reached through a narrow but very high cleft in the rocks. Once through it opens up and is bordered by fishing huts, quite a surprise.

In one anchorage, a bay almost entirely enclosed by high cliffs, a motorboat came alongside and told us they were sinking. A helicopter then began circling and dropped a man into the water. After a discussion with the captain he was hoisted up again and they left. Nic ended up ferrying the 18 passengers to shore in our dinghy and lent them a pump together with assistance. In the meantime a police boat arrived and left, shortly followed by the coastguard who seemed more interested in paperwork than any practical help. Several hours later, when enough water had been pumped out of the bilges, the motorboat managed to get an engine running and head home.

Friday, 13 July 2007

Cultural Highs

We managed to visit an incredible site called the Hypogeum. Dating from 3600 BC, it is a underground temple and burial site and predates the Pyramids and Stonehenge. They only allow 80 people in per day and it’s booked up for a couple of weeks in advance. We decided to chance our luck, turn up and hope for a cancellation. We had bit of a wait but were successful. The complex is an amazing construction, especially considering its age, consisting of 3 layers with beautifully domed rooms and massive construction. Well worth the effort.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007


After a couple of days at anchor in El Hofriet Bay we made our way into Valetta and are currently moored in Manoel Island Marina. It has given us a chance to get on the internet, wash the boat and do some sightseeing. Abramovich's enormous yacht is here in the marina complete with helicopter and a countless number of varying toys and tenders.

Our first night there was a local festival centred around the church by the marina. A statue of the Virgin Mary was paraded through the streets accompanied by a large amount of fireworks. This was just one of numerous such celebrations that take place all over the city all through the summer.

Today we visited the spectacular St John's Cathedral. Built by the Knights of St John in the 16th Century, the interior is one of the most elaborately decorated churches we have ever seen. It is also home to 2 fantastic Caravaggio paintings which were a joy to see. There also happened to be an exhibition of the Chinese terracotta army here which was fantastic to have the opportunity to see.

We will return to anchor tomorrow and make our way north to Gozo and then on to Pantelleria or Sicily (depending on wind and weather) before heading to Tunis to collect our new Spade anchor.

typical architecture in Valetta

local buses

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Cyprus to Malta

From Kores Bay we made our way around the north of the island to spectacular Lavrakas Bay. It is completely isolated, a stretch of golden sand ringed by high cliffs of sedimentary rock formations reminiscent of Arizona or Colarado. We had a fantastic walk following a gorge through some incredible scenery. Sadly there was too much swell to linger for more than a day in the bay so, at about 17:00 on Saturday 30th, we set off to Malta.

The first night we were flying along at 8 knots. In light winds we flew our cruising shute the second night but then we lost the wind entirely and ended up motoring in dead calm. We didn’t really get any serious wind until we were approaching Malta on Monday morning when we had to battle our way into the anchorage with a 25 knot headwind.

The trip was not without its dramas – a water alarm went off 200 miles from land. The cause was a split in the exhaust gooseneck leaking into the stern steering compartment – unexpected as this was a new Vetus part less than a year old.

We arrived in Malta on 4th July and anchored in El Hofriet Bay to relax before heading into Valetta for water, repairs and to order a new gooseneck!