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04 July 2012

Malta And Crete


Yes It’s Us Again


Well Maggie arrived from the U.K. to join us in Malta and that morning we needed to up anchor and motor outside the harbour to empty our holding tanks. The weather was not the best as strong winds were blowing in through the entrance which gave for a very rolling exit and entrance.  Not the best introduction to the boat for Maggie.  She lives on a narrow boat on the English canals. 


We spent the next four days while waiting for the watermaker clutch to arrive, shopping and exploring a bit more of Malta.  On one of these days Maggie and I brought ourselves a two euro sixty cent bus pass which would take us anywhere over the Island – a great deal.  So off we set having no idea where we were going.   Our first stop took us into the old capital of Mdina and Rabat.  Mdina is the walled town and Rabat are its suburbs. Mdina is a very impressive town perched on a rocky outcrop in the southwest of the Island, commanding views over nearly the whole Island.  The narrow streets and wonderful old houses and palaces date back to the 1400’s, but it has been a fortified town for more than 3000 years. We visited another St Paul’s Cathedral.  This one is not as ornate as the one in Valletta.  They were setting it up for a wedding later in the day.



Here we are visiting yet another country greatly influenced in both history and architecture by the Crusaders – The Knights of St John.  First they were in the Holy Land, Jerusalem and Acre, visited. Then they were driven off to Famagusta on Cyprus, visited. Next was Rhodes, visited. Then Malta, visited.


We then got back onto a bus and headed for Bugibba and St Pauls Bay on the coast. From here you look out to the Island where the apostle Paul was ship wrecked. Bugibba is one of those popular summer resort towns which one really tries to avoid!! Too commercial for my liking.  The next bus took us back into Valletta.


While we were gallivanting around the Island Alec picked up the clutch for the watermaker and fitted it back on and even had made a tank of water by the time we arrived back.  His sister Anne had been helping him. 


So at 0615 the next morning it was with great delight we upped anchor from Marsamxett Harbour and motored on out on an oily calm morning and headed for Crete.  We had been in Malta for three weeks.  Much longer than we had originally planned.  It also meant that our trip to Tunisia will be postponed until next season.


Murphy’s law will always prevail.  We had been having perfect winds for a sail to Crete while sitting in Malta and now they died on us.  So our crossing took much longer than we first thought.  The 471nm trip took four days.  During this time we caught two lovely big tuna – so the Med is not void of fish – we each read at least two books, lay in the sun when it was warm enough, and watched the blue ocean pass under the hulls.  A couple of times we did get the MPS sail up and had a bit of a run.  The first one ended in disaster as the winds were just too light and the ‘B’ thing wrapped around the jib forestay. The only way we could get it unwrapped was for Alec to go up the mast. Not to be detoured, and after having to repack the whole thing again into its sock, we put it up again the next day with much better results.  It really is my favourite sail when it behaves itself.


We arrived into the old capital of Chania on the north western end of Crete and saw why we were still feeling the cold, particularly in the evenings.  Snow is still lying around on the high peaks!!  We are now at the very end of May beginning of June.  Help summer is meant to be here.  After mooring to the town quay we proceeded to check in with the port authorities and pick up our cruising permit for Greek waters.  This meant a bus trip over to the customs in Soudha Bay. Soudha Bay is a naval base, but also ferries and cruise ships drop off passengers here.  It also played as an important harbour during WW11.


We spent two and a half days here exploring the old Venetian City with its cobbled streets, lovely old Venetian houses, markets and a beautiful old harbour with great tavernas – cafes – along the water front, and particularly up in the back streets.  It was here we said bye to Anne who had been with us for about six weeks.


It was then on towards the new capital of Iraklion, but at the last minute Alec decided we didn’t need another dose of city night life, so we opted for the Island of Nisis Dhia, lying six miles to the NNE.  We anchored in a lovely bay with a few other yachts to find we had another problem with the watermaker.  This machine which I have been raving about to everyone is causing a bit of a headache at the moment.  Alec will send out an email to the manufactures.  We are still able to make water and I am sure it is nothing major.


Next stop was Spinalonga Lagoon towards the north eastern part of the Island. Maggie and I had just finished reading the book ‘The Island’ by Victoria Hislop (recommended reading) which is set around the Island of Spinalonga and tells of the Venetian Fort that was turned into a leper colony. A very moving story with great descriptions of what life was like for the lepers. The old fort is now open to the public so off Maggie and I set off to visit it.  We had anchored SHAMAL only a couple of hundred metres off, so took the tender across.  We must of stayed longer than we realised as when it came time to leave we found the gate which we had parked the tender outside was well and truly locked.  We had entered by a side gate, not the main one.  So it was off to find someone to let us out.  Thank goodness the last boat had not left the Island for the night.  They were just closing up, but someone did walk back and unlock the gate for us.  We were just debating which derelict house we were going to spend the night in.  With the huge Venetian wall all around it would have been rather difficult to escape from.


Next day it was a short sail around to Ayios Nikolaos.  Here we said good-bye to Maggie.  Alec and I then sailed back to Spinalonga Lagoon to spend the next four days waiting for friends from Dubai to arrive.  During our time at Ayios Nikalaos we were going to lift SHAMAL out of the water to clean her hulls and give the copper coat a touch up in places and change the sail drive oils.  Change of plan.  The expense of lifting the boat and staying on the hard for five days was going to be just short of 1,000 euros!!  Alec wants to lift the boat next year before we cross the Atlantic so we will wait till then.  We have dived and cleaned the hulls here in the Lagoon to find the copper coat really is working so well.  Considering we have not touched them for seven and a half months we took no time in giving them a clean.  Just a little bit of slime which is common here in the warm Med.


So with Judith and Graeme on board we start heading west back along the northern coast of Crete visiting Spinalonga Lagoon, then a small bay just outside of the capital Iraklion where we went ashore to fill one of our gas bottles. This turned into a bit of an “episode”.  We all went ashore in the tender and then Alec and I set off for the filling station.  Bottle filled at no cost.  Great as a bottle our size can cost up to 30 euros.  Back to the boat and bottle put in and connected up.  Oh help, the valve seems to be stuck closed – we think – so Alec removes the connection and next thing we have gas streaming out.  Ops this should not be happening.  Only option is to let the bottle empty itself so we all move to the back of the boat.  After some time Alec moves forward again to check the bottle.  He tilts the bottle over the side to find it still has plenty left inside.  By this time the locals on the beach some 80mts away are a bit upset at the smell of gas blowing their way and  contact the Coast Guard in the fishing harbour next door.  Meanwhile Alec and I put the bottle into the tender and I row while Alec holds the bottle over the side to a cliff face away from the beach so we can finish emptying the bottle.  Then another small mishap –the rowlock to hold one of the oars comes unstuck.  Now I have to paddle the tender.  Not an easy thing to do.  I will NOT let Alec start the outboard motor as I think there will be an explosion!!!.  Job done we paddle back to SHAMAL.  Now the Coast Guard arrive to find out what is going on.  They were very understanding and just requested we bring our boat papers for stamping to their office inside the harbour.  Final outcome, we return to the Gas Station and bottle refilled again for free, paper work all stamped and in order, new bottle connected up and we are on our way again. 


As we did not leave till after 2.00p.m. we had to do a bit of night sailing to reach our next stop, Chania.  But we were rewarded at dusk with Graeme bringing in two lovely big tuna each weighing between 8-10kg.  We anchor outside the harbour at 2.00 a.m.  Next lesson for Judith and Graeme – we go to lift the anchor in the morning to move inside the harbour, but no, we are well and truly stuck to the bottom.  Alec has to go down with the power snorkel and remove the anchor from under a rock.


We plan to spend only a couple of nights here but due to big seas breaking in through the narrow entrance we stay an extra day – See the photo in ‘Photos 4’.  Once we are on our way again we are now heading for new cruising grounds.  We are heading for the Peloponnese on mainland Greece.


So we will sign out for this letter


Lots of love


The Commander and The Admiral 

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