Valletta as we approached

Calling the marina at 0815 on our approach, we were met by a distinctive orange rib and shown to a berth just inside the entrance. We were flying the yellow ‘Q’ flag to show that we had arrived from another country as demanded by the Malta regulations. The berth was convenient for the ‘Black Pearl’ pub/restaurant but thoroughly inconvenient for the Police/customs/immigration office right round the other side of the marina which entailed a bit of a route march.

Hejira moored inside the breakwater with the ‘Black Pearl’ in the background

With the formalities and marina payments completed, we returned to the yacht and had just connected to the electrical supply and started the AC when there was a knock on the hull. I emerged to find an official with a clipboard standing on the aft deck and declaring himself to be from the department of health. For some reason, I thought it would be a ‘jolly jape’ to cough convulsively – he didn’t find it funny. In retrospect it was misguided and probably not at all funny or appropriate. He actually only really wanted to tick his boxes; where had we come from, what were we bringing into Malta, were we well (see above) and did we have any pets. It seems that surreptitiously bringing dogs or cats into Malta can carry the death sentence – for the pets.

I had never been to Malta before although my wife holidayed here regularly with her family and liked the island. We took an open top bus tour (isn’t this always the first and best thing to do) and I was really surprised by how built up it is.

One of a number of cruise ships docked in the Grand Harbour. This one passed us as we approached and took on a pilot. It is massive, floor upon floor of balconies.

It is sprawling, industrial in areas, historical and pretty in others, under construction all over the place and invariably clean and litter free. It seems really buoyant and booming. What a contrast to our experience of Sicily.

Elegant villas next to our marina location

Returning to Hejira via the adjacent ‘Royal Malta Yacht Club’ for a quenching of the thirst, I was embarrassed to see that my navigation lights had been left on after our overnight passage. Will I ever live it down?

It was not difficult to choose the venue for our final crew meal together, especially after the ‘overnight’ and a tiring day on the open top tour bus. So it was the ‘Black Pearl’, only about 20 metres from our berth and with such a promising menu. When we asked the waiter for his recommendation, he said he was a vegetarian but would choose the ribs…. In the event, the ribs were excellent but the service was the worst that Dave and I can remember.

The ‘Black Pearl’ pub restaurant

Well that’s it now for Dave, he has his taxi booked having brought his departure forward by one day – he claims it is so he can attend an important meeting, I’m not so sure……. His working has been a feature of his trip with his nose buried in his laptop and on the phone. This has prompted some serious discussion about our futurity (it has become a preoccupation of mine) and the prospect of his retirement. It is quite likely that his wife, Caroline will read this before he gets back so he might have an interesting homecoming. Anyway, as always, Dave has been excellent company, we have had some great laughs and a kaleidoscope of experiences.

I now have 24 hours on my own to clean the bits that Dave has missed before Carl Beetham and his son Tom arrive. I know Carl from squash (he is much better, younger & fitter than me but we play and he humours me to the point that I sometimes surprise him) and he sailed with me last year from Barcelona to Marseille. He is excellent company and will certainly lift the blog to a new level, I will also try to entice Tom to contribute and comment on his dad’s cooking! As a taster, this is an extract from Carl’s last message to me:-

“Our jobs are well-defined and lines of demarcation have been drawn.

Consequently, we have both joined UNISON and the first order of the day will be to convene a meeting with the management of the boat to define working conditions, sea-sickness pay, flexi-time, danger-money and any night-shift bonuses!

You will be relieved to hear that I remain within the galley and all things food and drink are my responsibility. I shall also act as purser. Wee Tom is principal deck-hand and will be responsible for all fender placement and relocation, securing Hejira against all buoys and marina berths, the filling of water & diesel tanks (sadly, you don’t have a great record in that department, Nick!) and hosing/scrubbing down thereafter.”

I look forward to their arrival.

Dave underWrights:-

As usual sailing with Nick has been an experience…………………

I am looking forward to:

– a full night’s sleep – no watches;

– respite from temperatures in the high 30 degrees centigrade;

– a relief from the constant bullying and piss taking by the skipper.

But – I may change my mind one nanosecond after returning to work tomorrow.

Taking over as crew from Bob (“Old Bob”) was always going to be a tough gig but I like to think I gave it my best shot. I am now cleaning the whole boat from top to bottom (where’s Nick?) and the sheets from my bunk are being washed, ironed and pressed ready for the crew change – good luck boys.

My abiding memories are:

– night watches under a blanket of millions of stars;

– freezing in the blast from the AC whilst working at the pilot berth;

– feeling really sorry for the guys trying to make the embarrassing bureaucracy in the Greek economy actually work;

– dropping anchor in picturesque bays which are almost completely unspoilt;

– the friendliness of the local people we met in Croatia, Greece, Italy, Sicily and Malta.

 

Thank you Nick and fair winds.

Dave toasting a completed mission

 

Dave Wright: Out