After launching the boat, we waited a few days to get things straightened out and it was time to move on to our next destination, Malta, which is a small island nation about 60 miles due south of Sicily.
Our exit from Marina di Ragusa got complicated when we went to get money from an ATM in town. It was closed. All of them… We then went to recharge our phones and found that they could not do it. We then went to pay our bill at the marina by credit card and found that they could not do it either. We then went to the grocery store to buy food and they could not take our credit card….. Evidently, all the internet was down in the area because there was some construction going on involving digging a hole in the street and some local enterprising “businessmen” took the opportunity to steal the copper cable normally buried in the ground which carried all of the internet for the area! Finally, the office manager, who did not live in the area, was kind enough to do our billing from her home! Off we went…
Carol loves to read the various guides and books about our destination, so she does a VERY thorough study of everything to do with our destination. This is a good thing because I just hate reading the stuff myself. I get through about two pages and then I am bored. Don’t get me wrong…. I love our destinations….I just dislike reading about them before we get there.
Anyway, as you might guess, I knew little about Malta. I do recall as a child cheering for this guy pictured below. He was known as “Baron Mikel Sicluna From The Island Of Malta” who was a “Professional” wrestler on TV along the likes of Haystack Calhoun, George “the animal” Steele and Mr. Fuji.
Back to our Journey. We did our normal 6 ways from Sunday weather checks. We used Passageweather.com, Ocens Weather, seaweather.net and a few more. Sometimes it is hard to believe that you will be encountering 10 knot winds on your voyage when it is blowing 30 knots at the dock. None of the reports really conflicted and it looked like 10 kts on the beam with 2-3 foot swells. Fortunately, this time, they were right on target. It was a beautiful ride with no mechanical issues. Actually, my biggest worry was that the desalination system (watermaker), would not work properly. We were intentionally low on water when we left with the idea that we would be able to make a few hundred gallons during the trip. I had just de-winterized the system and you never know how it will run for the first time in the season. It worked flawlessly, which was a good omen for the trip itself.
We plugged on at about 8.5 kts and in about 7 hours we pulled into Gozo, the smaller island on Malta’s west side.
Mgarr marina is a small boat basin within the harbor at Gozo. upon entering, you are supposed to dock at the end of one of the T’s and check in with customs and immigration. It was one of the more pleasant check ins that we have had, because of the side tie docking and the very pleasant authorities. Check in took about 15 minutes. In the Med, a side tie floating dock is EXTREMELY rare and a pleasure for us. With only two of us on each boat, med mooring, while doable, is a bit of work, especially if there is little help at the dock. Anyway, we were on a side tie at the end of a T, with good electricity.
The first order of business was……you guessed it…….finding 3G internet SIM cards! Unfortunately, it was late when we arrived and the next day everything was closed by the time we got to town. Since we were only going to be there a few days, we decided to go the ancient route and use free wifi signals around the restaurant on our iPads.
We had done most of our touring in Malta last season so we didn’t do much touring other than our normal daily morning walks along the cliffs, which we loved. The views of the Blue lagoon across the channel and the spectacular crystal clear water was worth the trip.
We did this walk nearly every day along the coast of Gozo
The chief purpose of our visit was to fill up with cheap(er) fuel. As I mentioned in my previous blog entry, the original plan was to head from Malta to Tunisia and fill up with cheap fuel. I think the latest price there was around $1.50 per gallon and we needed about 1500 gallons. Because of the recent problems with security there, we decided to skip the place and fuel up in Malta.
It is more expensive there (about $4.65/gal) but cheaper than the rest of Europe and as a bonus we add another 30 years or so to our lives.
I hate adding fuel to the boat. Number one, it is expensive and time consuming as well as boring. The second thing is, while I love most things about our boat, the tank venting system is a bit undersized. If you add much more than 25 gallons per minute, it overwhelms the tiny vents and you end up with a geyser made of diesel fuel blowing 3 or 4 feet into the air, landing on me, the deck and, if I don’t move quickly, into the water, creating a potentially nasty situation with the authorities. To minimize the risk, I listen very closely to the gurgling in the tank as I fill it. When the noise changes, I stop.
Here was the problem in Malta: they really don’t have a fuel dock. You need to bring the boat to the side of a concrete pier and a truck pulls up with a tankful of diesel fuel and a very LOUD pump, making it difficult to hear the tank on board gurgling.
Actually, I did fine on the first three tanks. My problem happened on the fourth tank. Since I KNEW that tank was empty and it held 200 gallons, I told the fuel truck operator to stop at 190 gallons. Shortly after adding 100 gallons, that nasty diesel just burst out of the tank fill, all over me and all over the deck rapidly heading for the (gulp) overboard drain! Crap! I shut the hose off immediately and covered the drain with a small piece of absorbent cloth that I had nearby. Carol quickly ran to the engine room and got a bunch more and I was able to sop most of it up. The problem is that I actually had 100 gallons already in the tank when I started and had not verified it before refueling. The other thing was, with the loud pump on the truck running, I could not hear the gurgling sound when it was filling up.
I would probably write that up as one of my most miserable experiences on Seabird but I need to remind myself of the time the same sort of thing happened to me years ago in San Diego, but that time it was my sewage holding tank that blew up all over me and the deck…… Don’t ask……
I guess that is not a perfect segue into the subject of food, but anyway….we actually found a REAL Thai restaurant in Gozo. We had read that they served Thai food at this place up on the hill above the marina, but the big surprise came when we discovered that the chef was from Thailand. The food was so good that we asked to meet him and he came out to say hello. We had a nice conversation with him and he was very excited that we had spent two years in Thailand on the boat.
We stayed in Malta for a few more days and then headed back to Sicily for our next two stops which were Siracusa and Taormina.
A few more pictures of Malta……