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Wintering in Malta

MALTA – First Week

Tuesday 25th October – we are tied up on the outer point of the inner pontoon outside the Royal Malta Yacht Club.  We heard that the outer pontoon broke away last weekend in the storms.  It appears to have been fixed and is ready for the return of the race participants.

You Tube link to video of the conditions: http://youtu.be/NMyq1sMkx3A

The sun is shining and we are awaiting the first of the yachts to complete the Rolex Middle Sea Race.  The line honours will go to the yacht we saw exiting the Messina straits as we approached on Sunday. Everyone here is geared up to the race but we noted that despite the fame of the race the trappings that are in attendance are so minor compared to the America’s Cup we saw in Cascais.  A few containers are in the car park for the crews to store their gear.  The club house is open round the clock and constantly full of people in the bar, media rooms, restaurant etc.

Wednesday 26th – Overnight we heard the finishing signal on and off all night as the first of the main fleet of racers came across the line.  We are enjoying watching the hustle and bustle along with close up views of the racing yachts.  During the day today there was a constant stream of yachts across the line with the cheers and applause on shore growing louder each time as the crews of those already across the line joined the spectators.  We met Jean Paul Mauren co-skipper of the yacht Med-Spirit.  He came up to see Red Ruth on the pontoon and also joined us for a chat whilst we were dining at the local restaurant.  He is a most interesting person, with loads of experience; it’s a shame that we didn’t have longer to talk to him.

pic: Middle Sea Racers on RMYC pontoons

Thursday 27th – all the racers finished today with the last two arriving late in the afternoon (one was the smallest which is a 9 metre yacht from Russia).  There are two pontoons available for the participants both of which are now full.  The weather is predicted to be Force 5 from ENE later tonight and over the weekend.  We have started to realise that these pontoons have no protection and are totally open to the seas and any NE  (the Gregale) winds that blow so we are hoping the wind stays more easterly.

Friday 28th – Our hopes are dashed and the wind is blowing more northerly.  The boats are surging back and forward against the pontoon.  We have put on huge compensator springs with 24mm lines along with springs and secondary lines on the bow.
Saturday 29th – the Rolex end of race party is on at the Club tonight. The prize giving was held this morning in Valetta and most of the crews are now enjoying a good party.  We are on board Red Ruth enjoying a glass of wine (or two) and keeping an eye on the weather.  The pontoons have started to twist and we have seen two or three people struggle to get on and off their boats.

Sunday 30th – the pontoons are now twisting and bucking quite badly with the wind blowing straight through the gap.  Walking down the pontoon is quite an effort with every step taken followed by getting your balance before the next step.  A couple of yachts have left already despite the weather conditions. Both the lines on our compensator springs have worn through after only two days – we have had to reset them.  I was crawling on all fours on the pontoon and hanging on like a limpet whilst pulling through the frayed part and retying the bow-line.  (I amazed myself that I was able to tie a bow-line under the circumstances as I can’t seem to do it any other time!).


pic: Middle Sea Racers

Monday 31st – Overnight we probably only got about an hours sleep at any one time.  The boat snatched and twisted all night as the pontoon surged, twisted and tipped up.  This morning we can’t get off the boat as its too dangerous to get any closer to the pontoon than we are – we had to drop back a long way as despite being bows-in we still had a crash against the pontoon.  The pontoon itself is also not safe to walk on as it is lifting by 60 degrees as well as twisting.  Not a safe place or a happy place today.  We have a breakwater behind us so I’m starting to get paranoid about the pontoon breaking and us ending up on the rocks!  Poor Peter has to put up with me!!!!

Tuesday 1st November – we HAD to get off the boat today.  I ended up taking a seasickness pill last night (and I don’t often take them even in bad weather!).  The wind has died down a bit as has the sea but the pontoon is still bucking and twisting.  We headed off into town for a bit of shore based R&R.  We have decided that we must move off this pontoon.  We cannot stay there for the winter – its just not safe.  As we walked along it this morning we could see the damage done to the other boats – handfuls of fibreglass left behind and broken pontoon boards where sterns have crashed onto the pontoon.
Going out for most of the day so we spent some time in the evening looking at our options for moving.  Malta is definitely not the place for visiting on spec outside summer season when you can anchor in the bays.  (incidently we tried VERY hard to book in advance and were told at every turn that " we can only tell you if we have a berth when you arrive") The marinas are jam packed full – everywhere you look there are yachts and boats.  The joiner (Peter a local chippie)_ that is doing some deck work for us is going to help us find out prices for taking Red Ruth out the water and storing her on the hard.  We have a couple of jobs below the water line but had hoped the haul out would only be for a couple of days, not a couple of months as it now appears it will have to be.

Wednesday 2nd November – we have arranged accommodation for ourselves (a hotel room at £75 per week), a date for haul out and hard standing storage as well as managing to secure a safer berth in Msida Creek Marina for three weeks until the haul out date.  The weather is to pick up again in the afternoon so we are moving Red Ruth this morning to her new berth.  It involves a lot of negotiation and running back and forward to marina offices but its worth it to know that both boat and ourselves are safe.  During the negotiations we learned that any free berth the marina expected to have has gone as there were so many of the Rolex boats damaged on the pontoon that they need to stay here longer for the repairs to be done.  The pontoon we are moving to has 4 boats on it from the race. Again Peter Chippe help has been most valuable.

Thursday 3rd November – a great nights sleep!  The first in over a week.  No snatching, no bangs, cracks or squeaks of ropes, no crashing of boat onto pontoon.  It rained all night but even that didn’t bother us now that we are safe.  In the afternoon we spent a bit of time on the internet and found some You Tube videos of the Rolex 2011 Middle Sea Race.  One of them showed the outer pontoon breaking up during the storm the weekend before we arrived.  A few others also show Red Ruth on the pontoon as the finishers crossed the line.  I’ll put the link onto the links page if you wish to have a look at them.

Now we can get on with the sight seeing.  So far we like what we have seen.  The streets are clean, the people are friendly and helpful.  We took a trip into Valetta when we arrived but it poured with rain so we didn’t see much. We have found the supermarkets, the chandlers and a couple of good restaurants.  Favourite so far is the Yacht Café which serves Lebanese Food – delicious and definitely more-ish.
 

14/11/11 - we have done the open top bus, the harbour cruise (well worth it) and the local buses around the island.  We are saving the Malta experience and other such tourist attractions until we are land based otherwise we might run out of things to do in the next 4 months.  The island is lovely - such a contrast between east and west - rocky with tiny fertile fields wherever they can be squeezed into built-up urban compressed areas.  Such vibrancy and friendliness is a real pleasure.

The Harbour tour is also done.  Its actually really good to go round the creeks and harbours on the tour as you see everything from a different perspective and can get into places not normally accessible

.

pic: All seeing and All Hearing - we know you're out there!

25/11/11 - On Friday last week (18th) we craned Red Ruth out of the water.  She is now sitting on the hard at Manoel Island Yacht Yard.  It was a bit of a performance as we had to take off the forestay, which was fine but when we attempted to reattach it the wind decided to blow so we had to leave it tied off until the next day.  At that point we spend 2 hours trying to re-attach the forestay.  Thankfully thats done but we will have to repeat the effort in March when we go back into the water. 

pic: Red Ruth at Manoel Island

We are living in a self catering room in an hotel on the waterfront at Sliema.  We can see the yacht from the roof top bar and its a 5 minute walk to the yard.  We have been collecting our thoughts around the jobs that need to be done.  The barnacles are off the keel, the prop is cleaned and polished as is the bow thruster.  We will redo the antifoul in March.  The fridge and the interior have been cleaned out so now we have some varnishing to do on the interior wood.

On occasion we have used the public transport buses to explore the island.  A visit to the airport; now we know where to go to meet anyone that comes out to visit us.  A bus ride to Marsaslokk where we found a restaurant serving a set menu lunch for E6.50 each which consisted of a glass of wine, a huge bowl of fish soup, followed by a plate of large prawns, salad and chips.

  

 pic: Lunch menu  ;  Fisherman fountain                                                    

Yesterday (24th) we took the cargo ferry to the island of Gozo.  We only had a few hours so we walked around Mgarr, had lunch in the Grand Hotel (E3.50 for a pint of Cisk!) then caught the passenger ferry back to the mainland followed by the bus trip to Msida where we disembarked and took shanks' pony (walked) back to Sliema.  Travel is really cheap on the island with a return ferry trip costing £4.50 each and a day pass on the bus £2.60 each.

                

pic: Mgarr on Gozo : Poinsetta Tree on Gozo ready for Xmas                                          

19 December 2011 (its raining today!)

We have been busy with jobs on Red Ruth.  Winches are being serviced and woodwork down below is being revarnished.  Zips on the spray hood and bimini's etc are all being lubed and electronic communications are being re-established and tested. 

Off the boat we have been busy sorting out the electronic communications using the hotel wi-fi, updating our photo folder on flickr, organising renewal of our yacht insurance and revising options for medical insurance when we leave the EU.  Our christmas shopping is done with one one present left for delivery (keeping fingers crossed the weather in UK doesn't stop deliveries at this late stage).  We have been searching for a little christmas tree for the yacht as we plan on being on board on christmas day to cook our lunch and relax, hopefully in the sun.  I've bought a new table cloth and some christmas ribbon to decorate the saloon with but first I'll need to tidy away all the tools that have been left lying around whilst we work.

We wish all our friends and family a wonderful Christmas and we will be thinking of you over this holiday time.       

23rd December 2011 saw us at the Royal Malta Yacht Club enjoying drinks for the end of year prize giving and Christmas celebration.  We were able to sit outside on the terrace in the sun enjoying our free wine.  We met some nice people and had a relaxing afternoon.  On Saturday we were up early and at the supermarket at 08h30 to obtain our food for our Christmas dinner, which we are going to prepare on board Red Ruth.  The decorations were up and we plan to spend Christmas day on board relaxing, reading and eating...  As planned we were on board by 10am on Christmas day.  Werner, our neighbour at the yard, came over to join us for morning coffee, rum and cheeses. By 3pm our dinner was ready and we settled down to enjoy our turkey dinner.

                                        

pic:  Our Christmas tree

Boxing day dawned bright and windy.  We took a walk along the Sliema front as far as St Julians Bay to have a look at the sea.  The North West Force 6 wind had been blowing since nightfall the day before and gave us some spectacular sights.  The sound of the waves hitting the coast with a 'Whump' was the first sign that you may get wet.  At some points the spray was thrown about 60 feet in the air, crashing down on any unsuspecting spectator.  The roads in Sliema were flooded where the swell came through the storm drains into the street.  The rollers were enormous with lovely colours of green and blue under the spotless white froth that topped them and folded under them the closer to shore they came.  On Tuesday the wind moved round to North East after blowing at Force 8 overnight.  Again we took a turn around Sliema front to watch the sea.  The wave direction had changed but the strength of the rollers and the resultant spray were just as spectacular.  Unfortunately this time we were amongst the unsuspecting spectators with both of us being drenched from head to toe in salt water!  On returning along the waterfront toward the hotel we peered over the wall at the 'live-aboards' moored alongside.  The sight made us eternally grateful that we were safely on the 'hard' at Manoel Island.  The performing yachts were bucking, twisting and crashing with each swell of the sea.  One poor soul did get out in a rib to check one of the yachts lines but he didn't look too happy to be out there!

As we come toward the end of 2011 we would like to wish all our friends and family a very happy New Year.  We hope that 2012 brings you many good things, that you fulfill your dreams and hopes.  We thank you for your good wishes and support on our journey during 2011 and we hope that you enjoy our website ramblings and that they don't bore you too much.  All the very best to you all for 2012.