Thursday morning was mass exodus day from Marina di Ragusa – the first calm weather day since Saturday. We were in the first batch of departees at 6am when the marineros came on duty and could help us and others without those new-fangled bowthruster gizmos to turn in the narrow gaps between the pontoons.
We had to wait a few minutes for our turn but then we were off, being waved farewell and out into a flat but rolling sea. Ahead of us were 6 boats heading off at different angles for various harbours in Malta with another group eastwards bound.
We motored with main sail up to help ease the roll under a blue sky with warming sun and a light offshore wind – we were almost doing 6kts. Unfortunately the wind soon melted away but it did mean the sea roll eased allowing my breakfast of yesterday’s left over ‘last pizza in Sicily’ to stay put in my tum.
With the calm sea we could easily spot turtles looking like lumps of wood floating by and hundreds of small, strange looking sail-like objects. It turns out they are a type of jellyfish called Valella valella – also known as ‘by-the-wind sailors’ (click here to read more about them and see what they really look like). Underwater is a flat blue coloured plate and on top is a rigid sail like structure; they have no direction control so spend their life eating plankton being blown wherever the wind blows them. They look quite beautiful as they glide by.
It didn’t seem like long before Gozo could be seen in the distance and then Malta.
By about 4pm we were off Valletta when the wind began to increase from the south. Nearly a knot of speed was knocked off our progress and it was time to remind ourselves that Emerald does not beat to windward – especially when there are perfectly good anchorages just a couple of miles to starboard. So we gave up on our planned destination of Marsaxlokk and made a right turn for Grand Harbour.
As we got close to the entrance there were no ships around so it seemed like a good time to get the main down. Turning into the wind we were surprised by an almightly honking from down in the harbour and the nose of a Norwegian cruise ship came into view. We got the sail down quick like and ran away from it’s path. Discretion being the better part of valour of course.
Once it was clear we headed for the breakwaters; at which point a commercial ship appeared. We had to wait for that to pass and some pleasure yachts before we could cross the channel to Rinella Creek. We must have arrived at rush hour.
One other boat was in the creek and we still had plenty of space. The anchor set, Emerald tidied away and put to bed we could sit back and enjoy the sun setting behind the Valletta skyline and watch the ships going in and out. As darkness fell the walled city was lit up.
Friday was exploring day. The creek has easy access to get ashore and within 20 minutes of walking we were amongst the super yachts of Grand Harbour marina. We wandered up and down the narrow streets of the old Three Cities area and admired the pretty houses with their brightly painted overhanging window boxes. Out to the viewpoint at Gardjola Gardens at the tip of Senglea we could see right around the harbour, the sandstone walls and forts glowing in the sunshine.
We spotted British postboxes and had to remind ourselves that the Maltese drive on the same side of the road as the UK (the correct side!) when crossing. And the cars stop for people at a zebra crossing; it’s always a little nerve wracking testing that out in a new country.
Another thing we noticed is that the Maltese like their flags and they like them BIG!
Oh No! There’s Water Coming In!
We were woken at 6am the next morning by the automatic bilge pump running. Colin emptied it completely and we went back to bed to see if was just the collected run off from filling the tanks and washing the boat. On looking in the bilge a few hours later, more water had gathered – we had a leak. After all the obvious possibilities were eliminated we were left with the stern tube and rudder stock as the suspects. The stern tube is easy to check as it under the aft cabin floor with a lift up hatch to get access. Other than a bit of salt and dirt buildup all was dry. The rudder stock isn’t so easy to access as it is under the bed – the bed with it’s many layers of wooden slats and several mattresses. It was a rainy and windy day out anyway so might as well get on with removing them all.
And yes, there was a bubbling of water up around the stock. Colin added some grease and I turned the helm with the hope that some of the grease would work its way down and close up any miniscule gaps. No luck, water was still seeping out. Next was to tighten down the stock a bit. Not so easy a job using the huge pipe wrench given the limted access. All done, the helm was turned back and forth to test out the fix. We waited….. No more water. A bit more grease and wait a while longer. Still dry. Phew!
Marina to Ragusa, Sicily to Rinella Creek, Malta: 56nm travelled (all motor-sailed)
Position: 35 53.68’N 14 31.57’E
Weather: Very light winds, going southerly in afternoon F4-F5. Dry, sunny