21 August 2010
We had a gentle sail north from St Marku to this extraordinary cliff-ringed cove on the north western tip of Gozo. Gozo is the second island in the archipelago and its northwestern end is characterised by cliffs rising as much as 300 feet above the sea and cut by caves of geometric precision. The north and south corners of this outcrop are angular, so that you literally turn a corner. Of course, the wind often turns with you, and we spent a lot of time close-hauled.
The Bay of Dwejra is a semi-circular cove, reminiscent of Lulworth Cove in Dorset. The water is dark, reflecting the walls around it, and silky, but only about 12m deep. The bottom is rock and sand, so really make sure the anchor is set.
The entrance to the cove is almost entirely closed by the huge and dramatic Fungus Rock. (The picture is Fungus Rock looking west from inside the cove; attempts to show the dramatic cliff walls don't work with our small camera, but have a good look on Google earth using the lat and long link from this post.) There is a narrow entrance on the north side; it is wide enough for a yacht but from the outside it doesn't look it. We took the wider entrance on the south side. The best shelter from the prevailing north-westerlies is as close under Fungus Rock as you can get.
Incidentally, it's called Fungus Rock after a lichen that grew here, highly prized by the Knights of St John (who ran Malta for over 200 years) for its supposed medicinal qualities. This Rock was tightly guarded with fearsome penalties for anyone caught trying to climb it.
We spent one night here, with the slap of swell on the rock and the cries of cliff birds for company, and just three other yachts. Unfortunately, said swell really made it uncomfortable and about midday the next day we left. Turning the corner at the south-western edge of Gozo we had a splendid, fast sail along the coast, sailing full-and-by and jibing about every 45 minutes. We investigated the tiny inlet at Mgarrix-Xini, but found that these days all the space relies on taking a line to rings on the rock and that it was packed. (By now, of course, it was Saturday.) We had intended to then sail down the western side of Malta, but the swell made it very unpleasant, and we would either have had to jibe a long way off and then in again, or jibe many times around headlands and rocks of a lee shore.
Instead we sailed through the narrow channel between Comino Island and Malta. This has its moments: the winds alter direction erratically, bouncing off headlands and heights, the ferries charge to and fro, there's a large fish-farm in the channel and innumerable tripper boats crowd the southern end.
We anchored in Mellilha Bay, near the head. Surprisingly the charts all showed us as in shallow water, about 5m, but we actually found about 12m, over quite a large area.