Royal Malta yacht Club, Valletta
35:53.838N 14:30.066E Sun 25th Sep 2017
Wow! Our three day, two night, 360 nautical mile passage to Malta was one of those that threw a huge variety of conditions at us and delivered some highs and lows along the way (not including the forecast ones!). It proved once again that sailing in the Mediterranean can be harder than an ocean crossing. Our first day out from Pylos was pretty challenging as we sailed upwind with reefed sails over rough seas from early morning until mid evening. Moving around below was as difficult as first mate could ever remember and she even found it hard to climb up the steps to the cockpit at times. She was also queasy all morning which is a very rare event on our “sea kindly” home. We were both thrown around quite a bit and cook was grateful that a lunch of our last Greek spanokopitas (spinach and feta pies) could be eaten straight out of their paper bag with no plates or preparation involved.
By midnight the seas had calmed down and Lindsay had one of those magical watches when Goldcrest sailed gently along under a magnificently starry sky and all was right with the world. A spell like that is what gives longer passages their appeal and makes you feel lucky to experience such beauty and quiet.
By 6am on the second morning, after only 22 hours of sailing, we were motoring as the winds gave up on us altogether and so it continued for the next 24 hours. The seas became glassier and glassier with the bonus that we spotted three turtles sunbathing on the surface. Late afternoon we stopped the engine and both had a quick skinny dip in the deep blue sea. The temperature was 26.5°C and it was something to remember on a cold winter’s day in the future. Needless to say, we didn’t both enter the water at the same time and when skipper dived in, he hung on to a trailed rope straight away so that the boat did not get away from him!
After motoring all night, this time with cloudy skies, we were able to sail again from just after 6am. The winds gradually built up until mid morning when we were suddenly faced with a full on gale and very large seas. The wind speed topped out at a gust of 50kts and we had quite a long spell in the 40s which is F9, a “severe gale”. We had to put both companion-way boards in to protect “downstairs”, and both of us donned lifejackets and clipped on in the cockpit – not something we have ever done before on this boat! We hung on tight as wave water and rain soaked us and thanked our lucky stars that at least it was warm. Conditions like that in northern waters would have been pretty dire. After struggling to control the boat, we eventually decided to put the sails away and motor through the storm as we had to thread our way in poor visibility through some of the 50 plus big ships that anchor 20 miles off Malta. The storm lasted for about two hours and then winds and seas calmed down some as we approached Valletta. By the time we were berthing alongside in the Royal Malta Yacht Club, it had turned into a lovely calm and sunny afternoon. We felt very happy to be back in these wonderful surroundings after such an eventful passage. The gods smiled on us during our first night here as a spectacular lightning display was followed by enough heavy rain to wash all the salt of the boat for us.
Apologies for the absence of photos – we would love to share what the worst conditions looked like, but somehow, getting the camera out was the last thing we wanted to do!