Malta, Manoel Island

Vasco da Gama
Ian Strathcarron
Sat 7 Mar 2009 16:26

I don’t recommend visiting Malta in March.  The limestone fortifications, palaces and churches which cover this part of the island, are golden and glistening in the sun, but dull and imposing under a grey sky and lapped by a grey sea. 

Since I arrived on Sunday we have had two days when the sun shone for a few hours, but we have mostly been in a low pressure zone, visited by gales, torrential rain, hail and a violent thunder storm.  It’s also been quite cold.  We hope by next winter we will either be in Egypt or North Africa but we are not going anywhere for a while, especially without sails.  They have been re-made in England and will arrive next week.

Last night we went to a lecture, with slides, given by a Canadian couple who have lived on boats for 23 years.  They are younger than us and are very attractive, no doubt as a result of a healthy and adventurous life.  They have crossed the Pacific twice from Vancouver, once to Japan, and most recently they came via the Far East through the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean.  It was all very interesting, but the most interesting part to us, and presumably to many other live-aboard yachties in the audience, was how they crossed ‘pirate alley’ as they called it.  This is the most pirate-infested section of the Arabian Sea south of Yemen and north of Somalia, and  we will have to sail through  it to reach India.  They formed a convey with four other yachts, kept their lights and radio contact to the minimum, always looked out for each other and safely sailed through one 100 mile section which is particularly dangerous.  They had one slide showing a yacht being approached by a black RIB with many  men wearing robes and balaclavas on board , but it turned out that the men were fishermen who were simply curious and not threatening.  Our yachties were just sailing past and made contact with the yacht in the slide, who said they had had a few frightening moments but they were alright.

The good news is that there is going to be a corridor created with patrol vessels from what the Canadians called ‘the coalition’ to protect shipping in that area, which hopefully will be in place by the time we get there.   Apart from such dangers, sailing through the Red Sea looks amazing, so we will add that to the list of delights to look forward to, as soon as the weather improves and we are on our way.