Published on 26 january 2009 at 0h00
A cruise in the tracks of Corto Maltese, in the heart of the Mediterranean, for an original stopover in a catamaran - are you tempted? Welcome to Malta, an island between the East and the West, with British, Arab and Italian influences…
Cruising around and from Malta is above all a real adventure through the centuries, in the very cradle of our culture. Situated approximately 60 miles from Sicily, Malta and its neighbouring islands Gozo (the green island) and Comino, charm people through their good wind conditions and pleasant temperatures, even in the off-season. You will find picturesque little fishing villages, superb bays in which to drop your anchor, sheer cliffs with many caves and small, modern marinas, not to mention the legendary Maltese cordiality. An island which will appeal to history lovers, who can literally bathe in more than 7000 years of history.
Since time immemorial, Malta has occupied a strategic position in the centre of the Mediterranean basin. A land of adventure and legends, where you can discover the megalithic temples, Calypso’s cave and mediaeval citadels, still haunted by the memories of the Knights of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem… And then, there is a unique atmosphere everywhere, just like in the capital Valetta, (classified by Unesco as a world heritage site), where you expect to meet the shadow of Corto Maltese in each alleyway…
Soothed by the winds in the very heart of the Mediterranean, mid-way between old Europe and the African coasts, Malta, Gozo and Comino offer a real treat, as much through the beauty of the scenery as their culinary specialities.
At the helm of the Mahé 36, you can imagine yourself as the Red Corsair, tacking under fire from the cannons. But of course, the latter have been silent for a long time now, and you are aboard an 11-metre catamaran, chartered from Bestsail. It is midday in Malta, time for lunch, to the sound of the traditional salute fired from the walls of Valetta, the island’s capital. A good breeze is filling the 77mÇ of canvas and the Mahé accelerates quickly to reach its cruising speed. At this rate, you will reach the African coast at dawn! But the couscous and dates are not for today, and you prefer to drink a ‘Cisk’ lager, Malta’s local beer, settled comfortably in the cockpit in the anchorage at Gozo, Malta’s neighbouring island. After a good hour’s sailing, you arrive in Marsaxlokk bay, with its colourful market stalls on the seashore. Here you find a whole range of fresh fish, fruit and vegetables, not forgetting the stalls selling local crafts. To the west of Malta, you are bound to sail past the ‘Blue Cave’, easily recognisable by the number of boats and tourists it attracts.
You want to go swimming today? Well, continue in a north-easterly direction for 20 minutes to ‘Paradise Bay’. You can go ashore in the dinghy to the small sandy beach and enjoy sipping the famous ‘Kinnie’, a drink based on bitter oranges and vermouth, a kind of local lemonade made of sweetness tinged with bitterness. It is so good that you will never forget the name!
The fish restaurant in Gozo, your next stopover, is called ‘Il-Kcina tal Barrakka’, also known as ‘Sammy’s’ – much simpler. Here you can taste grilled dolphin fish, ‘Lampuki’ accompanied by one or several glasses of cool Bajtra, a liqueur made from Barbary figs, whilst enjoying the splendid view over the port of Mgarr.
After 10 miles to the south-west, you will arrive in the anchorage at Dweijra bay, and will hear a curious moaning sound. “It is easy to take these noises for a young baby’s crying,” the charter base manager warned us when we took over the boat. It is actually the cry of Malta’s star bird…
The beauty of the scenery on Malta and its neighbours needs no further praise, but don’t miss the sunset over the ‘Fundus Rock’ – AWE-INSPIRING!
From a cruising point of view, the island of Malta offers numerous remote creeks, where even in the high season, there will only be a few boats at anchor. Privacy which has become rare, as much in the Mediterranean as in the West Indies.
: 320 km2
: 392,000 inhabitants
: Valetta (92,000 inhabitants)
- People: Arabs, Sicilians, Normans, Spanish
: Maltese and English
- Religion: catholicism (98%)
- Political regime: parliamentary
: Malta’s climate is strongly influenced by the sea and is typically Mediterranean. The islands enjoy a very sunny climate with a daily average of from 5 to 6 hours of sun in the middle of winter to more than 12 hours in summer. The winters are mild, with a few short cooler periods due to the north-north-easterly winds blowing from Central Europe. The summers are hot, dry and very sunny. The daily temperatures in summer are often moderated thanks to a pleasant sea breeze, whilst in spring and autumn, the hot wind from Africa sometimes brings exceptional heat and humidity. Known as the Sirocco, or Xlokk in Maltese, this wind also affects Greece and Italy. On Malta, the air is nevertheless generally dryer, as the stretch of water separating the archipelago from the African coasts is narrower. Annual rainfall is low, and you can often still swim at the end of October…
: an international airport links the island of Malta with the main European towns, at very reasonable prices. You can sail there all the year round, but especially from April to October. Note that it can be really very hot in summer…
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