07/09/2010, Trapani, Sicily
If you have seen the fishing boat pictured in the waters off Marsala/Mazara, Sicily, stay away!! He is one crazy Sicilian! Details below.
After 2 overnight passages got us from Tunisia to first Isola Pantelleria and then Mazara, we hunkered down for a few days in the outer harbor to rest up and wait for the wind to abate. The day before we weighed anchor, stuck our nose out around the corner of the breakwater, and tucked our tail and headed back to the anchorage! It was just too windy and Will and I made the executive decision (without even consulting Ruth) that it wasn't worth a 25 nm uphill trip in 25k!
Yesterday morning we decided we would get an early start while the wind was light. The two overnighters had taken their toll on me and I had that achy feeling in my legs that tells me I need to just chill out and recharge. So I let Ruth and Will handle the whole thing with me watching on in an 'advisory' role. I only wish I had done this earlier. They both did splendidly and I had the opportunity to find out just how good of a sailor my son can be if you remove his domineering father from the picture! I think I may fake the achiness in my legs a few more weeks! And Ruth was just as splendid. She maneuvered the boats through some fairly technical spots flawlessly - including staying well out of the way of the fishermen!
We were motoring dead into the wind with the main up and Otto driving. Will and I were playing Yahtzee in the cockpit when I noticed a fishing boat closing on us at an angle off our quarter. I kept an eye on him as it appeared to be one of those "constant bearing, decreasing range" situations that usually results in something really bad happening.
When he was about two boat lengths away from us I stopped our game of Yahtzee to concentrate totally on this boat. Two boat lengths might seem like a lot of room. But when you have the whole friggin' Mediterranean Sea to operate in then two boat lengths seems like an arm length. As the burden vessel, I was obligated to "maintain course until it became apparent collision was imminent and the other boat was not taking avoiding action." We hadn't gotten to the point where I felt the need to alter course...just yet...but we were rapidly approaching that point. This fisherman was not altering his course. I could tell he was in the pilot house. I was, basically, confused (and getting more and more irritated).
Finally he punched his throttle a bit and altered course a few degrees to avoid us and when he was clear ahead, altered his course again to his original bearing. At that point I figured he just wanted to pass in front of us and had too much testosterone in him to want to pass astern of a sailboat (which would have been the obvious choice several minutes ago). What happened next I still cannot fathom.
He was dragging a 100' line off his stern that was secured to the boat at both ends - basically a loop in the water dragging behind him. When his boat was 3 boat lengths dead ahead of us, and the loop in the water only 2 boat lengths - or about an arm's length!! - two guys in the back of the boat start dropping fishing nets over the stern!!
What is up with that? I was dumbfounded. In fact, I was a deer in the headlights watching all of this unravel. I could not believe my eyes! It took about 15 seconds before Will snapped me out of it and said "We'd better get outta here." By this time his boat was starting to slow down as the drag from the nets was kicking in and our boat was gaining on him. I dove for the helm, took over steering from Otto, and swerved to avoid running over his nets.
I have seen fishermen do some pretty bizarre and unexplainable things in my day. But this incident is far and away the weirdest. It was totally unprovoked - we had steered well clear of all boats up to that point. Why he chose to drop his nets directly in front of us remains a mystery to me.
We were about 5-6 boat lengths to weather of him with me taking pictures and looking though the binoculars at him in total awe and surprise. As he slowed down we pulled ahead of him. Just then the wind backed such that we could start sailing. So we unfurled the jib, turned off the engine, and came down ten degrees so we could sail. Of course, that meant we were going to close laterally with him again!
Fortunately, though, our speed was still up there owing to the 18k breeze and by the time we were directly upwind of him we were 7-8 boat lengths ahead as his speed had dropped dramatically. It was then - right when we were directly upwind of him - I got the grand idea that now might be a good time to discharge our holding tanks!!
Unfortunately, Ruth and Will pleaded with me not to and I listened to their pleas. As much as I wanted to, I figured that if I escalated this little confrontation, and he retaliated, well, the advantage would go to him being a heavier and larger boat with more horsepower. So I humbly sucked down my adrenalin/testosterone pill, bit the bullet, and put the hammer down to get away from this creep as fast as possible.
So here is a warning...if you are on a sailboat in the waters off Marsala, keep an eye out for this guy and STAY AWAY! He is one crazy mother!!
So we've made it to Trapani, which is at the westernmost end of Sicily. We'll take a day or so to check out this town before we move on. Hopefully when we turn the corner and head east towards Palermo and the Aeolian Islands we will be able to run with the wind (for a change).
In other breaking news, our friends Michael, Joyce, and Alexandria have made arrangements to come visit us for a week or so at the end of this month. We made friends with them many years ago when Alexandria and Will were in the same class together at Bright Water Waldorf School in Seattle. Ruth and Joyce are making the final arrangements, but I think we pick them up around Isola Elba, north of Rome, and deposit them in Sardinia somewhere close to an airport for their return back to the States. It is really all quite exciting for us! I guess that means we'll have to clean the boat! (Note: I used to kid Ruth that the only reason we and everyone else has house parties is to clean the house because we don't want our friends to see the filth that we really live in!!)
We are pretty excited...and nervous. We are excited because we haven't had anyone visit us yet and because we really enjoy being with this family. We are a little nervous because we aren't sure if our home will be satisfactory for our guests for a week or more, and all of us living in close quarters like that. But I am sure that after the first 24 hours all the excitement and nervousness will be gone and we can just concentrate on having fun and enjoying each other's company! Yahoo!
07/03/2010, Monastir, Tunisia
By the time we got our act together yesterday in Marina Cap Monastir it was too late to rent a car for Carthage (aka Tunis, the capital of Tunisia). So we decided to walk into town and check out the local action. Quite the experience. I'll try to do my best to share 'life in Tunisia' with you.
We gravitate to the open air market where the vendors are usually selling the produce. I asked a Tunisian man where that was and he said he would show me. I instantly figured this was going to cost. He led us outside the wall of the old fortified city to a large building. Inside it sounded like the Chicago Board of Trade! Produce and meat sellers were hawking their wares to anyone who would hear them while 2,000 conversations were going on - some in person and some on the cell phone.
You see, on thing I have noticed in Tunisia is that people yell into their cell phones. Why they just don't yell across town and save money on the cell phone, I don't know. But the conversation they have is open to anyone within earshot who understands Arabic.
Anyhow, back at the market the tin roof over the small market was keeping all the sound in such that we had to yell if we wanted to hear each other. I guess that is why everyone else was yelling! In any case, the produce was rather limited. There were a few fruits and vegetables we could not figure out, but the ones we could were not nearly of the quality or variety we were used to in Malta (imported) or Italy (grown). And then there was the meat.
Butcher stands were almost as prevalent as the produce stands. Only these were way grosser, in my opinion. You see, I am not a big carnivore in the first place. And to see all this hanging, bloody flesh was, well, not the best thing for a guy who had a big breakfast! There were body parts to animals I didn't know existed. I could not pass up a photo of a cow's head - the whole head - hanging proudly from some support I was too shocked to notice. The whole scene was rather gross, but I survived.
We scored some dates (since this is the desert we figured they ought to be pretty good) and the grapes are in season here --- a full month before they will be in the rest of the Med. We also got a bag of tortillas. Only they really aren't tortillas; they just look like them. We have noticed a lot of cultures have tortilla-like breads. The eggs are too funny. There are no egg cartons - just huge flats of eggs that come from the egg ranch. We bought 15 of them at 0.36 dinar ($0.24 USD) each and all 15 got thrown into a bag. Of course, only 14 made it home from the rough cobblestone streets of Monastir!
On the way home we stopped and had fresh-squeezed orange juice. We figure they grow oranges here year-round. And why not? It is so bloody hot! I don't believe they have a 'quiet period' during the heat of the afternoon like the other Med nations. Too bad, because they need one! Turkey - another Islamic country - did not have one either. So maybe it is a religious thing, dunno.
We scored some shorts and swimming shorts for Will at 20 and 15 dinar ($13 and $10 USD), respectively. Nearly all the shopkeepers aggressively pursue you to come in and check their shops out. I guess with the World Cup in South Africa this year a bunch of tourists have decided to go there instead of Tunisia and the shopkeepers are having Grecian kind of year! You can barter on the price in most shops, and we did a little bit. But most of the time I would just hold out my hand full of change and offer them to make change.
The money is confusing me here, and it doesn't help that they price everything to the thousandth of a dinar. I am not sure what that is all about. But eggs were 360, or 0.36 dinar. The coins are also confusing. But I think there are 1000 cents to a dinar. Ah! That must be it! I just figured it out. It is all pretty weird.
Tunisia is mostly a French province. French is the second language here and English the third. Supposedly you can get some good, cheap wine in Tunisia because the French have shown the Tunisians how to make it. But I am going to hold out for Italian wines - and maybe French wines if/when we get to France - later on. As Americans we are more of a novelty here. No one from here has ever been to Tunisia, as best as we can tell, and their geography of America is limited to New York City, Washington DC, and Florida. But we have been warmly received (probably because of our money!), and made to feel as comfortable as possible in this humid heat.
That is about all for now. Today we will head up the coast a bit. I am thinking of staying here an extra day to get more favorable wind. The idea of going 'uphill' on our way back to Sicily does not sound all that appealing. But I'll make that decision after I look at a weather forecast.
07/01/2010, Monastir, Tunisia
Our last day in Gozo/Malta was quite enjoyable. I wanted to leave midday for the trip across to Tunisia, so we only had a 1/2 day to check out the island. We rowed ashore and found a cab to take us to the megalithic ruins.
These ruins are over 5,000 years old -- older than the pyramids of Egypt! The ruins consist of two temples, side-by-side, that were supposedly used for life and fertility rituals. The 10-foot walls were mostly of large rocks piled on top of each other with the voids filled with smaller rocks. Some of the rocks were shaped so the sides of the walls were more or less flat. An interesting aspect of the walls is that the tops of them were wider than the bases. This was so the roof of timberss/mud/grass could be more easily supported. So the walls had a curve to them as they ascended from the ground.
After seeing the ruins the cabbie took us to the town cathedral. What made this church interesting was that it wasn't a 500-year-old church like all the other ones we have seen. It was built over 20 years and was finished in 1971. This modern cathedral -- the co-cathedral to the one in Valetta -- is much lighter than the dark, Middle Ages cathedrals we saw. The outer facade looks like it could be 500 years old. But step inside and the limestone walls and fresh marble tell a much more modern, clean story.
We got back to our boat midday and headed out for the long crossing to Tunisia. At 160 nm, this would be the longest overnight passage all three of us had undertaken by a fairly large margin. We have done 100 and 120 nm passages. But adding 40 nm is equivalent to adding an extra day passage. That is why we needed to leave midday rather than later in the evening -- to make sure we made port the following day before the sun went down.
I am going to describe our strategy for the crossing in detail for those who might have interest in this sort of thing. So if you have little interest in this, you might want to skip the rest of this.
The wind was forecast 10-20 from the WNW. We were headed slightly south of west, which meant we were going to be hard on the wind...for most of 160 nm! The prospect was not encouraging.
We took off around noon on starboard tack in a 17k breeze and started sailing immediately. We were sailing 20-30 deg. below our rhumb line, but it was early in the passage and knowing how the wind can change I wasn't too bothered. I opted to sail 'fast', so we had the bow down. We could have been hard on the wind and gained another maybe 10 deg. towards our destination. But I knew a lot could happen with the wind and so I wasn't that concerned about the direction at this juncture of the passage. Also -- and this was important in my decision -- I had noticed that the wind veered (went clockwise) the closer you got to Tunisia. So I figured I might be able to get lifted up to our target as we approached the coast.
Around 1900 I went down to take a nap to rest up for the night watch. At that point we had covered about 49 nm, for a 7k average. Not bad. I was thinking we were looking pretty good. The wind was holding in the 16-19k range and we were doing 7s close hauled. Life was good.
When I took my watch at midnight I checked our progress and we had only gained 10 nm on our target in 5 hours! I was livid! I knew Will and Ruth had sailed the boat well enough to put more distance than that on the boat. So it had to be me, and I was upset that I had screwed up on my calculations.
As it turned out, I had failed to take into account distance made good. Sure we were doing 7s. But we were also going away from our target at a 20-30 deg. angle. So our 'effective' speed wasn't 7k, but more like 5k. This is a pretty fundamental geometry problem and I was quite disappointed that my navigation tools clouded me from seeing this.
Anyway, as soon as Ruth and Will went below at midnight, I furled the jib, turned on the motor and turned the boat straight for the barn and started motoring straight into the wind to try to make up for some of the lost distance through my miscalculation. About one hour into my watch (0100) I noticed the main was pulling. So I unfurled the jib and kept the motor on.
Now I was bombing upwind! Instead of a steady 6.5k, we were motorsailing at 7.5 and 8 knots. Downwind that is a good speed. Upwind it is bloody scary for this boat...especially at night. But I kept it there to make up time.
About 0300 the wind picked up to 20-22k and now we were simply going too fast -- even for me! I started looking for ways to slow the boat down. Everything I did to the sails only made us go faster! Then I remembered the engine was still on! (You obviously don't have to be a rocket scientist to sail around the world!)
Anyhow, I shut off the engine and now we were beating at a more tepid 7.25k. Still quick enough, but under control. And, even more importantly, we were headed for Monastir! Sure enough, the wind had veered so we could sail in.
The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful. We eventually had to start the motor in the morning as the wind died off, only to refill as a sea breeze (coming onto shore) later in the afternoon. So the last 10 nm we were able to run with the breeze and made our port well before sunset.
So overall, we got lucky when the wind veered to the right for us, allowing us to do the last half of the trip headed directly for Monastir. Early on the strategy to not worry about direction so much paid off as well. There are times on long passages when 5 or 10 degrees can make a big difference. That is when you expect the wind to be very steady. But if you think the wind might be variable in direction, then speed becomes the overriding factor.
But I (re)learned that if you aren't headed directly in the direction you want to go then you had better take that into account when calculating distance made good. Laura also told me that motorsailing can be bad on the motor because the tilting of the boat doesn't allow engine oil to fully lubricate the engine. Ooops! Makes sense. I guess we'll be more careful about motorsailing.
06/29/2010, Comino Island, Malta
We finally left Marsamxett Harbor in Valletta yesterday after a short tour of the town and St. John's Co-Cathedral. This latter experience added a bit of a twist to the usual "Oh, here's another 500-year-old church with intense, priceless paintings and incredible architecture." I mean, there are so many of these simply incredible structures around that after a few of them - and especially after St. Peter's Basilica in The Vatican - you start to get numbed by it all.
But this cathedral had a twist. First of all it was the "party headquarters" for The Order of the Knights of St. John the Baptist. This religious/military unit was made up of young aristocrats who weren't noble enough to be in the line of succession, but who were strong and rich (and probably smart) enough to put on a suit of armor and battle the infidels who were disrupting the pilgrimages (most notably the Ottomans, but I am sure it wasn't just restricted to fighting the Turks). In addition to that, this church was commissioned entirely for St. John the Baptist, as opposed to all the other churches we have visited which, naturally, featured the big guy himself, Jesus Christ.
So that kept my rapt attention as I studied the incredible, over-the-top, baroque-style, wall engravings and altar and everything. The baroque style is just so intense, it is hard to describe. I will post a picture to show it off. It would surely keep anyone from falling asleep during the sermon! The "jewel" of the tour was seeing Caravaggio's famous 'Beheading of St. John'. Intense painting. Caravaggio was an interesting story. Here was a guy who was a very talented painter during the Renaissance. But I guess he must have had a bit of a temper because he ended up killing a guy in Rome and after fleeing to Naples, boarded a galley to Malta. His talent was roundly accepted in Malta and, after providing many pieces of art to the cathedral, was accepted into The Order of the Knights.
A few weeks after being sworn in he ends up killing another knight, getting imprisoned on the island, escaping confinement, fleeing Malta, and getting expelled from the Order. The story is an artistic twist to our modern-day example where highly talented sports figures end up screwing the pooch and getting thrown in the clinker!
After a short, nearly windless sail we ended up at the Blue Lagoon on (mostly uninhabited) Comino island between the big island of Malta and the smaller island of Gozo to the west. This is a rather unique experience because the Blue Lagoon is certainly blue. But which marketing genius named it a 'lagoon'? It is about as much of a lagoon as American football involves feet! I mean, I know a lagoon when I see one, and this is definitely NOT a lagoon!
But never mind. It is still rather unique. We will find out today if the snorkeling is really as good as they say...or another marketing veil!. They really tout the beaches, but so far all we have seen are two beaches, each of them about 45' long!! Then you have probably 50 boats (mostly small sport boats) anchored out. Add in continual taxis from Gozo bringing hordes of tourists to this spot, and you have the makings for a circus! As I write this I can look over at one of the beaches and I swear there is not a ray of sunlight hitting that beach because of all the blue sun umbrellas pasting a roof over the sand! Seriously! I don't know how long we will last here - we are still adjusting to "high season" in the Med.
What is most impressive in Malta is their use of fireworks. Every weekend throughout the summer one city or more will be firing them off to celebrate the patron saint adorning and protecting that particular city. And this weekend is one of their big weekends. So every night, no matter where you are on Malta, there is a fireworks show you can see. And get this - fireworks are apparently illegal in Malta!
06/26/2010, Valletta, Malta
I am seeing this bumper sticker "Sail Now; Work Later" all over the marina and it pretty much epitomizes my being here. I figured it would do no good waiting and sailing around the world with a walker and oxygen tank, so get on it with it now, baby!!! I am missing out on making a ton of money since I used to buy and fix up foreclosures and I hear there are just a few of those around the U.S. these days. But you know what? When I get to the end of this here path I seriously doubt I'll be saying "Dang. I wish I had bought just one more home!" No way, baby. In fact, I'll probably be kicking myself for not taking a bit longer on this trip.
This whole approach towards life started pretty early on for me. I can remember in my early 20s thinking "Hmmm. I can either work in my 20s and play in my 60s. or play in my 20s and work in my 60s." I chose the latter...and am I glad I did. I had more time and energy than money back then and I went for the gusto in life. And if you are thinking that strategy was just an excuse for me to avoid having to deal with the harsh realities of life, you are exactly right! And I haven't looked back. Once in awhile I catch myself looking in the rear view mirror. As soon as I do I snap my neck forward and put the pedal to the metal!!
That 'work thing' is way overrated, in my opinion. Too many people are out there chasing that almighty dollar and missing out on life. Life, my friends, is what happens when you are busy making other plans! I hope this compassionate butt-kicking gets one or two of you off your butts and into gear into pursuing whatever it is that is scratching the back of your skull!!
As for Malta, first impressions are spectacular. I expected the backwater country of Croatia to be too cool and it did not disappoint. Nor has Malta. This is a tiny island nation stuck out in the middle of this sea. There is no reason to come here. And yet it is way cool and I am so glad we got here.
We got into a marina yesterday. 22 euro = $25/nite. So ole cheapo 'splurged' for a couple of nights. We got a few errands done yesterday (groceries, cooking gas, etc.) and then had a chance to go into town later in the evening. The bus took us to the Valletta central bus terminal, and that happened to be at the front entrance to the walled city. So we walked across the (dry) moat and through the main gate which has been rebuilt in the last couple hundred years and looked around. I guess the British Navy staged a lot of WWII stuff out of Malta and that, of course, attracted the ire of the Axis powers who bombed the daylights out of this city. So everywhere you go you see these ancient brick walls with repairs done to them that are about 60 years old.
We had a very nice dinner at a small restaurant in town. (I had lamb, Will chicken and Ruth sea bass). There is/was a wine festival happening next door (somewhere in the castle) with live music and big-screen football (soccer). With the World Cup going on right now all of Europe (and the rest of the world) is keeping tabs with keen interest. Flags fly from balconies and buses. Whenever the 'home' team scores a goal you know about it with fireworks and cars honking their horns. It's nuts. Tonight USA plays Ghana. I plan to go to a restaurant/bar and take it in. Anyhow, the live outdoor music from the wine festival kinda got me a-shakin' and a-jivin' and wanting to dance. What I really ought to do is go back to that wine festival, dance, and watch the Americans play on big screen.
On the way back home from town we weren't sure where to get off on the bus, missed our stop, and did the full tour. The bus was packed with young people going out on a Friday night. It was fun seeing all the young folk going out on the town (especially the girls! :-)). It harkened me back a few decades. Only back then we weren't taking buses...we were 'cruising the boulevard' in whatever cars we had.
When the bus stopped everyone got off and we were the only ones still seated on the bus. So I went up to the driver and asked him what was going on and he told me this was the end of the line. Hmmm.
This might be a good time to exit the bus! We had to cross the street and take another bus back into town. That was our "big night on the town". Pretty exciting, eh?
June 29th is a huge festival and holiday in Malta and everyone gears up and gets started early for it. So the town is in full party mode right now. It's kinda fun...unless you are moored about 25 yards from the Black Pearl disco! No worries, though. I slept right through it. I guess Ruth wasn't so lucky.
You can't go more than a couple of blocks around here without seeing a building that is at least 200 years or more old. In fact, some of the ruins and structures are 2-3 THOUSAND years old!! Malta seems to have an odd influence of English, Italian, and some strange dialect I have yet to figure out. Malta has very close ties to Great Britain - so strong that they even decided to start driving on the wrong side of the road. Given the way Europeans drive, it makes crossing a busy street nothing short of a full-on adventure!
Like most Mediterranean nations, Malta has a 'quiet period' from 1 to about 4 or 5. Shops close around 7 p.m. and the bars and restaurants crank it up about 7:30 p.m. and go till about 1 a.m. (or Ruth tells me, in the case of the Black Pearl, 2 a.m.!)
The roads here are not made of marble, like we have seen in most other seaside towns. There is a ton of garbage on the streets. The garbage trucks drive around and two runners will throw as much as they can into the back of the truck. But they don't get it all for some reason so the rest just sits on the street. One thing Valletta has is a ton of is chandleries! I went into so many chandleries yesterday that I even started to pass up a few! Usually when I see one I go rushing in hoping they will have that odd part I have been looking for for so long. But no more. My plate is full. My list is checked off. Actually, I was feeling bummed that I was in a place with so many available parts and I didn't have more things broken on the boat! I just know I will leave here and the first thing that breaks will bring me mentally back to Valletta and I'll be wishing I had gotten a spare while I was here! Actually, I was thinking of buying another Jeanneau 45 and towing it behind as a "parts" boat!
We'll do one more day at the marina, then head off on Sunday to check out the islands (there are only 2 and a half) for the next few days before pushing off to Tunisia. Tunisia I am expecting to be kind of a dump. But curiosity says I gotta go see it. We will only be there 2 days. We will check out of the EU at the same time so I am hoping that will 'reset' the visa clocks. But these clocks vary with country, city, and customs office. So it is really difficult to know what is going on with that.
06/25/2010, Valletta, Malta
Well, we missed SailStice - a worldwide effort to get sailors to sail on the Summer Solstice. I feel bad. I guess I must not be getting enough sailing in! :-)
We had a pretty leisurely said from Siracusa down to the southern tip of Sicily, Portapalo. Portapalo was to be our jumping off point for the 60 nm ride to Malta. While in Siracusa we had a French boat anchor right next to us (the French seem to like to do that). I mean, he has this entire bay to anchor in and he has to anchor close enough to where I can hear him change his mind!
The boat was named 'Thales', after the Greek philosopher famous for measuring the height of the Great Pyramid (using shadow lengths and ratios), and for cornering the olive oil market. He accurately predicted a bumper olive crop after several years of drought and so he went out and bought all the olive oil presses in Greece. When his weather prediction came true all the olive farmers had to go to Thales to get their olives pressed into oil. But I digress.
Going to Portapalo we had a boat catching up to us from about 20 nm behind. He was either motorsailing or bringing breeze. We were in no hurry cuz we had all day to do 30 nm. And this time of year the days are long. So we just let this boat gain. But as we got to within a half mile of the anchorage this boat was getting too close. I mean, we had to beat him to the anchorage! But we were too busy checking out the wrong side of the anchorage and this other boat snuck in there and dropped their hook first. It turned out to be Thales! Grrrr.
They must have left Siracusa well after us and motored I.e. cheated), I dunno. In any case, I knew they were headed to Malta (like us) and I was strategizing all night how best to beat them! But my plans went awry when I awoke the next morning to find that Thales was a premature starter -- she had already left the anchorage! More grrrrr! Once Will and Ruth awoke we upped the hook and took off - focused on only one thing - catch and beat Thales! At least it made for some fun kidding aboard. (Or was I kidding?!!)
As you may recall, our engine would not engage into forward - at least not until after about 30 sec. of cajoling, swearing, threatening, dancing, and otherwise looking and feeling like a goon. Like when we left the anchorage in Siracusa and I had to back out of the anchorage cuz I couldn't get the fool engine into forward and I was afraid of blowing down onto, who else? My good friends on Thales, of course!
So that night in Portapalo I pumped the oil out of the transmission (once again) only this time to fill it with regular 15-40W engine oil. By this time the transmission has seen everything from Caro syrup to BBQ starter in it as we tried to figure out how to help it find forward gear. I am pleased to report the 15-40W worked great and our tranny has returned to us! Yeah
The wind filled in on our way to Malta and we had a nice beam reach, but with big waves, which makes for some uncomfortable - but quick - sailing. We were pulling 7.5-8k in 15-20k. But the up and down yaw as the waves pass under the boat made it rather uncomfortable. But 15 nm out of Malta it kicked up to 25k, so we tucked a reef in both sails. Malta is unique in that they want you to check in 10 nm outside the harbor, and again at 1 nm. We did as we were instructed, and so do not need to visit customs.
Coming into Valletta has to be one of the most dramatic port entrances yet for us. Malta is, and has been, a major shipping center for millennia. And it shows. A huge, developed walled city with 4,000 years of construction. Simply incredible!! All of the buildings are a tan color from the brick, except for the churches that have red domes with white stripes running from the top down. I would highly recommend a visit to this small, remote island nation. Malta is made up of 3 islands - the main island of Malta, Gozo, and the small island of Comino in between the two which doesn't have anything other than a beautiful blue lagoon.
We'll give you a full scouting report of Malta after we have had a chance to fully check it out.