Travels with S/Y Thetis

Thetis only

1996: Malta

This web page describes a portion of a 7 week trip with S/Y Thetis in 1996 from Greece to Malta, Sardinia, Ustica, and Calabria in Italy, and back to Greece. The portion described here is our stay and sightseeing in Malta. It is illustrated with maps and photographs, also included are some historical and geographical descriptions of the places visited as well as several links to other related web sites.

Map of Malta
Map of Malta

Malta Malta has a long history. Malta’s harbors are well described in World Cruising Wiki.

Tuesday September 24, 1996 Day 12

I woke up at 6:30 and I noticed that Lewis was up also. I guess getting up early has become a habit! After coffee I went to a Bank and changed money and also bought a telephone card with which I called my mother Pitsa. My brother Nikos, it turned out, did not go to US after all, he was at home. I called him and he answered the phone. He went to “Halkidiki” and not to “Ameriki” as Mary had told me. So much for Greco/American/Filipino communications. Nikos told me that he was interested in joining me in Sardinia when Lewis leaves. I then bought a battery charger and a long extension cord so that we can connect to shore AC power. I also found the local Autohelm dealer, but they were not open yet.

When I got back on Thetis Mr. Paul Mizzi came and told us that now we had to relocate to our permanent berth. So, we raised the anchor and moved about 50 m away without any problems. Next order of business was to get the radar reflector repaired. Lewis winched me up the mast and I removed the reflector and its holder. Lewis had brought me mountain climber’s gear for climbing the mast but I had not mastered enough courage to try it yet. I will need to experiment on my own in a quiet anchorage. We installed the new voltage regulator and rewired the sensor wire from the start battery to the service battery. It seemed to work as it was producing 40 A. We then connected the charger and a water hose. We stowed the storm jib and tidied up the boat. Lewis, who did not like inflating the zodiac by hand, opened the electrical air pump and found that its switch had melted; he repaired it with a wooden clothes pin, which he shaped with his Swiss army knife.

[Photo of Sliena Harbor]
The harbor of Sliena

The harbor was bustling. There must had been a few hundred boats of all descriptions. A truck full of fresh produce, bread, and other groceries was making the rounds of all the boats several times in the morning. The diesel truck arrived and we re-fuel. Several craftsmen, riggers, divers, carpenters etc, asked if we needed anything. Yachting here is a serious business!

We then went ashore. Lewis had great difficulty in going in and out of the boat from the passarella due to his acrophobia. We called Paul and asked him if he could arrange for us to rent motorbikes so that we could explore the island. We walked to the Autohelm dealer, yes they may be able to fix the bad indication problem but they need the wind sensor. I had to climb the mast again!

In the early afternoon the motorbikes were delivered. We took a small exploratory drive. It was very scary driving on the left side of the road on a motorbike. I called Alice again. She sounded very relieved that we are safe. She had already sent e-mails about our arrival to my daughters Cynthia and Corinna.

In the early evening I prepared to climb the mast again to remove the wind sensor. As I started, a pretty young lady in the sail boat next to us, flying the German flag, also started climbing their mast. Lewis was very much captivated by the mast climbing lady. Later, Peter came and looked at the radar reflector stud. Yes, he could machine a new one in stainless steel, not in cast steel, which can be brittle, like the old one. This will cost us 40 #M (about $100). He wanted 10 #M now so that he could buy the steel. I gave him the money and the broken stud with some apprehension since I did not know if he was honest. He promised to have it ready by tomorrow evening.

We drove our motorbikes to dinner. We could not locate a Maltese restaurant but we ended up in an Indian one. It was OK but nothing special.

Wednesday September 25, 1996 Day 13

After coffee, I ran a few errands. I took the wind sensor to the Autohelm dealer. They will tell me tomorrow if they can fix it.

Back on the boat we started getting ready to go to sight seeing. Valletta, the old citadel, was built by the Knights of St. John after they were chased away from Rhodes by the Ottomans.

Finally we took off with the motorbikes. The traffic was very heavy and driving to the left was hair-raising.

[Photo of Valletta]
[Photo of Grand Master's Palace]
Grand Master’s Palace

Valletta is wonderful and very photogenic. We saw many churches, palaces, gardens, fortifications etc. It was also very hot. The streets were all very narrow, a true mediaeval town. No cars are allowed within the citadel but all the main streets were crowded. The place was bustling with activity and street vendors. Many outdoor cafes and restaurants. Unfortunately we could not see much of the interior of the Grand Master’s palaces because they were all being used as government buildings. In only one of the buildings there was a small museum of the Knights of St. John (picture on right).

[Photo of a Valletta Street]
A street in Valletta

In the afternoon we drove to Gnejna, a beach recommended by Paul. It is on the NW side of the island north of Rabat. The drive was interesting. Getting out of Valetta was quite an experience due to the heavy traffic. The whole island, which is not very high, is very densely built. It has the highest population density in Europe with 366,000 inhabitants. They are descendants of the Phoenicians and the language is a strange mixture of Arabic and Italian. The buildings near the town are high-rise but there are many private houses further out.

[Photo of the Mosta Cathedral]
The Mosta Cathedral

On our way we drove through the city of Mosta. Mosta has a famous cathedral with a very large dome. During the war a German bomb fell and went right through the dome but did not explode. This, of course, was attributed to a miracle.

During our drive we saw a few farmhouses built with local stones.

[Photo of a Farmhouse]
A farmhouse
[Photo of a Gnejna Beach]
Gnejna Beach

The Gnejna Bay beach is in the least populated section of the island. It is very pretty but the water is nowhere as clear as in the Aegean. Lewis had no interest in swimming. While I was in the water, he rented a beach umbrella and a chaise long and he had installed himself near some attractive young things. Unfortunately there was a strong wind that continuously dislodged his umbrella and he spent considerable time chasing it.

[Photo of a Golden Bay]
Golden Bay
[Photo of the East Coast]
The East Coast

We drove back the long way along the East coast through Ghadira and Mellieha Bay and via St. Paul’s Bay where St. Paul was shipwrecked on his way, as a prisoner, to Rome. This drive allowed us to see a good part of the island. It is about the size of Samos, if not smaller. The East coast is mostly built up but rugged. Scuba Diving appears to be a big thing here.

[Photo of a Maltese Boat]

A Maltese boat

[Photo of Senglea]


[Photo of Maltese Boats]
Maltese Boats

As we approached Sliema, which is next to our harbor, we got hopelessly lost in the heavy traffic. The street signs must have been designed by the same people who designed the Washington D.C. signs! By the time we made it back it was already dark.

While taking showers, Peter came with the new radar reflector stud. I was very relieved as I paid him the balance. We walked along the esplanade looking for a restaurant. We located a laundry along the way. A nice, old-looking restaurant struck our fancy so we enter. It turned out that it was a British restaurant. The food was rather bad. On our way back, however, Lewis discovered a small Maltese restaurant on a side street which looked rather hopeful; we will try it tomorrow.

Thursday September 26, 1996 Day 14

First thing in the morning we stuffed the motorbikes with our laundry and took it for washing. We then bought grease for the radar reflector and a new rope to replace the roller reef line which was getting dangerously frayed. The news from Autohelm was bad! Yes, the sensor can be repaired but they did not have the parts. They could order them from England but it will take at least a week and cost 60 #M. They did, however, have a new sensor in stock for 120 #M. Having very little choice, and after 2 years of putting up with an improperly working wind meter, I replaced the sensor.

[Photo of Lewis at the Mdina Gate]
Lewis at the Mdina Gate

After these errands we were ready to become tourists again. We went with the motorbikes to Mdina, right next to Rabat. Mdina is a mediaeval town and the old capital of Malta before the arrival of the Knights of St. John. It is fantastic and in a very well preserved state. Everything was very clean. We spent the best part of the day wandering through the old streets and admired the view from the ramparts. But the wind was getting stronger and some black clouds appeared on the horizon. As we were leaving this morning I had noticed that a sailboat anchored near us had problems raising its anchor and I was now nervous lest they dislodged our anchor and with the rising wind it was now dragging. We started on our way back. In the heavy traffic Lewis and I were separated, he took one turn and I took another. I got slightly lost again but eventually I found my way back.

[Photo of a wall in Mdina]
A wall in Mdina

My fears were justified! As I got near Thetis I was confronted with a bad scene. Our anchor had indeed been dislodged and with the wind had dragged and our stern started to bang on the cement pier. Fortunately the Germans from the boat next to us put some tires as extra fenders and tied a spring line between Thetis and their boat. Thanks to their intervention we escaped with only a few nicks to our stern. Things could have been much, much worse! Since the zodiac was already inflated, it did not take very long to mount the outboard and deploy the second anchor. I used over 100 m of rope in addition to the 20 m of chain, just to make sure. In the mean time, with the strong wind and the extra strain of the spring line, the German boat started to drag its anchor also. Now it was our turn to help the Germans. Their skipper, Elke, the blond girl who was climbing the mast the other day, came in the zodiac and we set their second anchor. Their boat was an old sail boat, longer but much narrower than ours, owned jointly by 8 young German school teachers who took turns using it with their friends. Elke was one of them, her boy friend, a very pleasant young fellow, was a physics graduate student.

[Photo of a street at Mdina]

A street

[Photo of the Cathedral of Mdina]

The Cathedral

Later Paul and Johna arrived and we had an ouzo at the cockpit. Johna will be going again to London tomorrow and was very sorry that he could not invite us to dinner, unless we stayed over for the weekend. We agreed to get together with Paul tomorrow for dinner.

Now we went out to dinner ourselves. We tried the Maltese restaurant that Lewis discovered last night. Unfortunately, it was packed and there was no room, but they gladly took our reservations for tomorrow. We ate, instead, in the nice Italian place where we had eaten the first night here. The food was excellent.

Back to the boat Lewis started a long conversation with Elke and the other Germans. They came and saw our boat, they admired our roomy and modern accommodations and our electronics. We went over to their boat and we admired the lovely old woodwork, but their boat needed a lot of work. Lewis went and brought his old Scotch whiskey and we all had a drink. I was sleepy and took my leave but Lewis stayed.

Friday September 27, 1996 Day 15

Once more, I climbed the mast to install the new wind sensor. I also re-installed the radar reflector and adjusted its retaining cord so that it will minimize large swings. The wind instruments, now seemed to work correctly!

I went ashore and, after changing some money, I walked over the bridge to the marina office and settled our account, so that we could leave tomorrow. Lewis called the Maltese weather service, the forecast for the next three days for Malta and Southern Sardinia was 5 on the Beaufort Scale, NW today and tomorrow, 4-5 NE on Sunday, decreasing to 3-4 W on Monday. Based on this, we decided to leave tomorrow.

We spent most of the day on errands. We first went to a super market, very large with lots of British and Italian products. I was looking for a jar of capers but since I could not find any I asked. They did have some, by the kilo, on the cheese counter. Also there they have excellent Parmezan which they cut and grind for you. Good breads also. We carried all the groceries to the boat and then returned the motorbikes. We also bought some extra cord and glue with which I repaired the wall upholstery which had come loose in the watermaker area. We then emptied completely the water tanks and re-filled them with the hose.

In the evening Paul Mizzi came ready to take us to dinner. We counter-proposed taking him. After a wonderful Mediterranean round of arguments, he accepted. We timidly proposed Lewis’ restaurant but asked if he knew of another better one but definitely offering Maltese food. It turns out that Lewis’ restaurant was rather well known and he, Paul, had been planning for some time to try it. The food was excellent! It is a family run place and we were served by the owner’s daughter, a most attractive young lady. We had some typically prepared fish, with tomatoes, peppers, and onions, rabbit, which we were told is very Maltese, and some Maltese sausages. All very good.

On the way back, I called Alice and told her that we will be leaving tomorrow and my next communication will be from Sardinia. I tried Nikos, but he was not in so I left a message, the same with Cynthia. I then tried Corinna, amazingly enough she was in and I had a very nice chat with her. I do miss them all. Lewis called his son, Joshua, and his wife Inga.