The adventures of Yacht Flirtie

"Hi, we are sailing yacht Flirtie's crew, Bruce and Caroline. Welcome to our blog.

our brief 2023 sailing season in summary

With the reservation to replace our rigging with MMH (Malta Mediterranean hub) now in the diary we had no real sailing itinerary apart from the desire to take advantage of predicted winds greater than 10 knots. Flirtie sails well 10 knots or above, anything less and we need a lot of patience!

After picking up our new Highfield dinghy, we had to adjust both the dinghy and davit strops in order for it to sit correctly on the davits. We also ended up adjusting the bridal that we use to hoist the dinghy onto the deck. As usual, it took a lot longer than anticipated but it allowed us to settle back into the routine of being back on anchor.

From St Paul's Bay we departed mid-morning to head south, to our favourite anchorage, Il-hofra-z-Ghira, 15.26 nautical miles away where we arranged to meet up with Simon and Sally, fellow cruisers that we hadn't seen in many years. Unexpectedly the wind was actually stronger than the forecast so we spent a cracking few hours sailing with just the genoa out to arrive in the anchorage by mid afternoon. It was lovely to catch up with them both and to see their new yacht.

From Il-Hofra we chose to motor the 4.7 nautical miles to the commercial port of Marsaxlokk, located south-east of Malta to top up the batteries. Significant cloud cover over the previous few days meant that the solar panels were not keeping up with our demand.

A few days later the forecast presented us with ideal conditions to take us back to Sicily, Portopalo. A distance of 59.94 nautical miles. What started out as light breeze turned into a decent and sustained wind before we had to resort to the motor. We couldn't believe the amount of jellyfish around. Thousands of them, all gently drifting and being rolled around in the sea.

The following morning, we had exactly the same wind conditions so we departed from Portopalo using the asymmetric sail which took us to the port of Siracusa, 29.13 nautical miles away. We almost had heart failure when out of nowhere the Guardia di Finanza turned up at great speed (with horrendous wash) to check us. As they followed alongside all we could do was hope that they didn't want to board us because we were enjoying a fantastic sail and doing 6 knots. The last thing we wanted to do was to deflate the asymmetric. Fortunately, after 5 minutes we received a wave and big smile from one of the officers before they departed just as quickly as they arrived, once again producing a huge wash.

We remained in Siracusa for several days because of a gale. We took advantage of our stay with trips ashore before the next opportunity presented itself, a return trip to Portopalo and the potential to sail onwards to the Egadi Islands which lie just off Tripani, NW of Sicily. We departed Siracusa but the swell at the harbour entrance was huge. It took us by surprise and to be honest we weren't prepared so we turned back to re-anchor and stow a few extra items that we had forgotten to stow in the first place. A few hours later we tried again and this time the swell had significantly reduced but the sea was very confused. We found the seas to be far bigger than the actual wind strength. We tried every sail combination but ended up motor sailing instead in order to balance Flirtie as she rolled around in the slop. It wasn't the most enjoyable or comfortable ride but a brief visit by a pod of dolphins made up for it.

some friendly visitors

It was in Portopalo that we became aware of a storm trekking across the Ionian sea towards Sicily and Malta. It wasn't due to arrive for a few more days so we could continue onwards, this time to Marina di Ragusa, our home port. We had another cracking sail using the asymmetric and if the forecast hadn't changed the asymmetric would have taken us up to the Egadi Islands too.

Unfortunately though our plan changed. The latest forecast showed that the storm was to turn into a tropical storm. It was predicted to intensify and trek towards the Lybian coast. The forecast looked to deliver unfavourable sea conditions along the coastline of Sicily and Malta with strong winds and torrential rain. We decided therefore to sit in Marina di Ragusa and wait for it to pass.

tropical storm predicted

It was a wise decision as it became Storm Daniel, a Medicane (MEDIterranean HurriCANE) and was reported as one of the deadliest Mediterranean cyclones in recorded history. By the time the storm had passed we had missed the opportunity to visit the Egadi Islands as we had to return back to Malta for our rig replacement. Our return trip back to Malta started out with a disappointing morning with very little wind but eventually turned into a breezy day with a reefed main and another excellent sail exceeding 6 knots at times. We had planned to arrive at St Julian's however two additional buoys had been laid so there was less room to anchor in an already crowded anchorage so we ended up in St Paul's Bay again. We spent the night rolling due to swell and didn't sleep that well so motored around to Mellieha Bay instead where the swell was less.

A day or so later we broke our focus on trying to sail everywhere and instead took advantage of an unexpected opportunity to motor 8.76 nautical miles to anchor at Il-Ramla on the NE corner of Gozo. It was a new destination and fabulous to actually visit somewhere new. The Jellyfish had now drifted to the Maltese coastline. They were still in abundance albeit less bright, including shredded ones, presumably ripped to shreds by propellers from various vessels but still floating and drifting with the wind.

Thousands of "fried egg" jellyfish drifting with currents & wind.

Apparently Ramla is Gozo's largest beach where the sand is actually red. An 18th century fortification resides, built by the Knight's of Malta. To our surprise, at night we could see lights from Sicily. A natural cave could be seen in the cliff above, Calypso's Cave where the nymph Calypso reportedly kept Odysseus as a "prisoner of love" for several years until he escaped to return to his wife... yes, indeed! With stunning views from the cave no wonder Odysseus stayed so long ;-).

Calypso's cave in the cliff above

From our brief stay at Gozo we ended up motoring back down the Maltese coastline to anchor again in Mellieha Bay and St Julian's before sailing for MMH (Malta Mediterranean hub) in Valletta to prepare Flirtie for her rig replacement.

Total distance this season: 332.26 nautical miles