270 miles into Malta we stumbled across an island. It even had a lighthouse on top and was fairly big. After double checking electronic and paper charts we were sure that it has been completely forgotten. Still not believing we checked Jimmy Cornellís World Cruising Routes and there was no mention of this island.
With prevailing westerly winds and current, heading West in the Med is not much fun. The engine has been heavily used and tested, the only way to progress westward. The good news is that the engine is behaving well, the bad news is that if we get in before running out of fuel ,it will be pure luck. As we approach Malta the traffic of cargo ships is intensifying, but the ships are considerate, unlike in other parts of the world , where at places we have been almost run over.
14 miles out of Malta the westerly winds straightened to 20 knots, which left us wondering why we cannot for once have an easy passage. Bashing against rough seas stirred all the dirt in the almost empty fuel tank, now we are worried that it will block the filters, which would stop the engine working. So sails came out and we tacked until the entrance of Marsamxett Bay. Somehow the engine worked all the way to the fuel barge where we bought the so needed diesel. The barge staff told us that we will be in big trouble for stopping prior to checking in. But who cares, we need fuel. After that we were directed to Grand Harbour for checking in. Took us some time to find out that the only way to check in is via a marina acting as an agent, but when we found out the price of Grand Harbour Marina we almost collapsed. We are still getting used with European prices. Customs, however did not bother us for stopping prior to checking in
Valetta is magnificent, bearing in mind that the city has been heavily bombarded by neighboring Italy and then the Germans in 1941, the city still has a lot of old buildings, and what it was rebuilt blends in well with the old ,making a very charming place. During WWII the Maltese were reduced to living in rubbles and near starvation until an oil tanker broke through the blitz bringing much needed oil to the island. The Maltese were collectively awarded the George Cross for their bravery.
Now we are suffering from severe hangover, after catching up on a 3 years gap with Kai. He took part on our first trips of the journey. Now he is joining for the last leg, until Gibraltar.
According to the weather forecast , tomorrow Friday, is a good day to leave to Spain. Despite the hangover we did the provisioning and then it was an early night.
What started as a nice trip with light winds gradually changed approaching the narrow passage between Sicily and Tunisia. It is only 60 miles wide and depths go from 2000 metres to 100 very quickly. It got quite rough at night with running seas and 25 knots of winds, but at least it was coming from behind. Once through Skerri Channel it all settled a bit, but it was a sleepless night due to the motion.
Another sleepless night, this time with thunderstorms as wide as 10 miles long, according to the radar. The lightening was something we haven't seen before, the whole sky lit up in a flash. Then it was followed by a heavy rain and an abrupt wind shift of 180 degrees. Med sailing hasn't been fun at all. After the wind shift the seas settled a little and we were motoring against light headwinds. The barometer dropped almost 5 bars, so we knew we are in for some more bad weather.
As morning came up a dark cloud approached from ahead, I only thought that it will bring more rain. I was wrong, from nowhere like if someone had switched the lights on the wind picked up to 35 knots and pretty horrible seas. It was time to bail out, all of us were tired and the only course we could steer was to Sardinia, unfortunately it was 35 miles away, another 6 hours of quite rough conditions. Finally we settled into a nice secluded bay in Teulada, South Sardinia.
We rowed ashore to find information about the weather and to stock up on the dangerously low levels of beer. The harbour around the corner is a military base and not much else around, besides a camping ground. All the Italians could tell us about the weather was that the Mistral was in full blow but it was settling in the evening. The Mistral can arrive and reach gale force in as little as 15 minutes, on a calm sunny day with no warning. Very relieved, we found a little supermarket and bought beer and also found a nice beach bar. After dinner we left for the 250 miles to Porto Colom, in Mallorca.