Trip on Viking Blonde starting 2016-09-06 in BSAOct16
Sailing in Malta, September 6 – 12, report by Phil Steele
Phil and Jane arrived early at Kalkara marina, Valletta, to drop kit but ended up with a handover which included a check over, all seemed to be in order, sail check scheduled for the next morning. The sail inspection revealed that the Genoa had frayed at the luff and was noted. The 46ft four cabin yacht that was chartered was not available due to engine problems so we had been upgraded to a 50ft five cabin Bavaria (Viking Blonde). The rest of the crew arrived and after shopping, we all went out for the evening for a cold beer to counter the very hot humid evening to the sound of cannon fire and fireworks leading up the festival in two days on Thursday.
The next morning we noted that the forward heads was not working properly but after the maintenance checked it and said to be ok. John helmed out of the very tight mooring made easy by the bow thrusters. We left the harbour, raised sails requiring us to move the sheets from the spinnaker winches to the main winches only to discover that although the main winches spun easily they were very stiff under load and that someone had had to use the spinnaker winches previously. This was the start of a catalogue of poor maintenance irritations that included the starboard guard rails had several clevises missing from the pins and two heads not being fully serviceable. Otherwise the boat sailed very well in the northerly F4 and was comfortable in a light moderate sea. We pulled into St Pauls bay accompanied by dolphins for lunch and found that the anchor chain markings very effective insufficient line was available to use as a break out tripping line.
After the swim stop we headed a short distance to Mallieha bay to find a night mooring in a very busy area and enjoyed the après sail refreshments. We had planned to go ashore and as the light faded made ready to launch the dinghy, then down came the rain so we decided to stay on board. We were entertained by a series of firework displays launched from the town to the south of us every hour until 01:00 in celebration of the birth of the Holy Mary. To the NE we had a terrific lightning display, apparently common at this time of year.
As we departed the next morning a training yacht waited for our well chosen spot, we were sailing to Mgarr harbour on Gozo by part circumnavigation of the island of Comino. The wind had gone westerly F3-4 and sunny again. A lunch stop was identified as a small inlet of Xini 3 miles to the west but was very crowded and narrow so we had lunch under engine trawling under the sheltering cliffs on tick over. We headed to Mgarr and called in with an ok for pontoon B, we moored side on to the hammer head. Although we had booked in advance the exact mooring was not decided so we had to move to a tight inner berth, again thank goodness for the bow thrusters. It was a handy spot for a short walk to the beach for a cooling swim after port of entry formalities were complete. This week was a main holiday period and was very busy both ashore and on the water. Nevertheless we managed to secure a table in one of the restaurants. The consensus was to stay an extra night so that a trip to the capital of Victoria could be undertaken, we were lucky enough to remain after the helpful harbour masters juggled bookings and berths.
We departed Mgarr to circumnavigate Gozo clockwise in a NW4 + relentless sun, note in log dolphins again. It was a bit bumpy and a lunch stop preferred so we entered Dwerja a circular small bay partially protected by Fungus Rock. This was very sheltered and safe for lunch despite its tricky entrance. We sailed around the island encountering a strong smell of fuel on the north side from the oil rigs. It was getting late when we sailed to Comino to find a mooring outside Santa Maria sheltering under the rocks from the WNW wind.
Next morning we whipped around the corner to “Blue Lagoon” for an early swim before the tripper boats arrived and departing as it got busy and noisy in the WNW F3 building to a F4. Sailing down the west coast of Malta continuing to about half way down, we turned at Dingli heading back north. A sunfish was observed and so were the numerous caves in the limestone, curiously some of them had entries carved as rectangular doorways (air raid shelters?). A lunch stop was at Golden Bay, and after a leisurely lunch a challenge of a snagged anchor presented itself which required some brute force to move it. The wind dropped for a while but picked up a little to aid our passage at the north of Malta returning to Mallieha anchoring in the same spot near sundown when the day trippers departed.
The dinghy and outboard made ready before après sail in time to enjoy the sunset. A pleasant enough meal ashore but the food portions were too big for ice cream but after a stroll we rose to the occasion. The morning did not provide sufficient wind so we motored back to St Paul’s bay for swimming and a restful lunch. Still no wind so we motored back to Kalkara marina. A list of problems was given at the debrief but little interest was shown by the staff or base manager. This is the second year that booking through Nautilus has proved unsatisfactory. The trip was enjoyable and the boat was well designed; for a small effort it could have been brilliant.