In the last blog we sailed the Cyclades and finally set sail from Crete to Malta!
We picked up new companions at sea – migrant birds heading across the Mediterranean Sea from Africa to Europe - maybe housemartins, swifts or swallows - and they used the boat for a bit of respite on their long sea crossing - a few even stowed aboard in our cabin!
One of our human crew- Lisa - suffered from seasickness most of the journey so was confined to her bunk with a bucket. With a restricted watch and kids, exhaustion and sleep deprivation quickly set in and silly worries begin to surface especially on a night watch, like whether you can drag the kids through the hatch of a sinking boat with a lifejacket on – just the everyday worries of an everyday Mum!
There wasn’t as much wind as forecast so we used more fuel than we planned - something we came to regret later.
The AIS failed AGAIN, despite sending the unit back to DIGITAL YACHT a few weeks ago for updating. Craig (who happens to be an electrician) tried to fix it and we COULD eventually receive data but couldn’t transmit our position to other ships.
it's difficult to continue home schooling with sea sickness, cabin fever and constant movement while on passage so we just let the kids play and listen to audio books most of the time (David Walliams is a particular favourite).. and watch the odd film too.
When sleep-deprived even normal things like time keeping becomes tricky, especially when faced with daylight saving time, crossing international date lines and some clocks updating and some not. Our watch system really got confusing!
Eating properly can be an issue on long passages too. We carry plenty of fruit and frozen fruit for smoothies to keep energy levels high.. and throwing up easier! However, Woody quite happily tucked into Chilli con Carne while others struggled to keep a cup of water down.
We occupied our time with cockpit banter and ruminating on what friends and loved ones might be doing back on shore - like royal wedding garden parties. We and even indulged in a bit of food fetishism to pass the time.
Finally, the wind materialised and we did some proper sailing – dodging the cargo ships and tankers while cruising in a force 7 - gusting 8. You can only admire the Amel Super Maramu’s, they seem to relish heavy weather sailing.
Then as we were accompanied by a pod of dolphins on our final approach to Malta, and while passing a LOT of ships the kids shared their favourite and least favourite things about the passage - sea sickness, the lack of Greek food, having new people aboard, chocolate chip cookies and finally going to another country.
The engine began making strange noises, generating lots of smoke and burning oil at an alarming rate.. and then the inevitable happened - engine failure!
Despite filling up from jerry cans and bleeding the fuel lines of air (or so we thought!) we just couldn’t get the engine started again.
Our fuel gauge has never worked properly but we also discovered that the end had snapped off the fuel dipstick giving a false reading too.
With the wind slowly dying we knew it’d be tricky to get around the break waters in Valletta’s main harbour, especially with so many cargo ships, tankers and super yachts coming and going. We weren’t given permission to anchor so options were limited. We were close enough to shore to get online and eventually after lots of calls we managed to get permission to go to a marina. The Rescue Coordination Centre asked us if we were in distress and needed assistance, which we didn’t but we were concerned about coming in slowly and getting in the way of marina traffic.
Eventually a friendly pilot boat came over, took our line and towed us in to Grand Harbour Marina near fort St. Elmo. I’ve done many tows as lifeguard coxswain, RNLI crew and running an RYA training centre, but this was the first time I’ve been towed.
It wasn’t the best way to enter a new country, but without wind we didn't have any steerage and were just getting in the way.
The next morning we had a post traumatic, full English breakfast and Yorkshire tea, then noticed we were surrounded by billionaire neighbours in superyachts and realised what an expensive mistake this was going to be!
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