Passage to Malta and the Rolex Middle Sea Race | Distant Shores Sailing Newsletters

Passage to Malta and the Rolex Middle Sea Race

We finished off our last newsletter setting sail from Pylos, a small but protected harbour on the west coast of the Peloponnisos of Greece. It was the end of September and we had been waiting out a gale in our attempt to get west to the island republic of Malta, one of favourite places in the Med. At last the turbulent seas calmed down and we said goodbye to our friends Karen and Dan aboard Dakare who headed northwest towards their winter destination of Taranto, Italy, while we headed west to Malta. Finally, the winds had begun to blow in our favour. The voyage to Malta took three days and nights. The first night we charged along reaching under full main and jib. Although the first night of a passage can be trying as we get readjusted to our 3-hour night watches (4 hours during the day) this night was a joy with a fresh steady breeze, clear skies, and good visibility.

night shot of Paul with chart plotter
night shot of Paul with chart plotter

There was a lot of shipping and once again we were reassured of our decision to install the Raymarine C80 system with chartplotter and radar. Using the MARPA feature we could determine the speed and directions of oncoming ships and since the radar image overlays the chart it's easy to see right away where there is a moving ship. There is a good demonstration of how to use this feature in the Rhodes and Symi episode of Distant Shores which is featured on the Distant Shores Volume 5 - Greek Island and Turkey II DVD

We have the chartplotter installed right out in the cockpit so the person on watch can see it at all times and make calculations and changes to the route without leaving his or her post. Over the next couple of days we had light and variable winds so were forced to motorsail much of the time, such is the Med, but it was a comfortable relaxing trip. We read aloud to each other, cooked sumptuous meals with the fresh foods we'd stocked up on in Greece, watched displays of leaping fish and enjoyed visits from dolphins.

sheryl in galley
Sheryl in galley

We made landfall in Malta at around 0400 and after contacting Harbour Radio in Valletta we were given permission to go directly to Msida Marina to wait to clear in with customs there when they opened at 0800. Usually you are required to go first to the main customs dock in Grand Harbour and then move to the marina later after clearing in but since it was early morning and we had called ahead they told us to go directly to the marina which meant we could tie up and catch a few winks of sleep before clearing in later. Arriving in Malta in the dark is magical since the incredible fortresses and bastions built by the Knights of St. John are all lit up and seem even more impressive than in daylight, if that's possible. We arrived in the dark the last time we came to this special island in the year 2000 after a wild and stormy night at sea sailing from Sicily and felt such sanctuary when we entered the well-protected harbour. We filmed two episodes about Malta during that first visit which has aired many times on the Travel Channel across Europe and Canadian Learning Television at home.

By the way, Distant Shores is viewed in over 40 countries now in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. It is in its 5th season this year and has just been picked up by the Sailing Channel in Europe and Wealth TV, an HD channel, in the USA. In Malta, where the show has aired prime time on Sunday nights for several years and boating is a major family activity, we received a very warm welcome. During our stay we were stopped 4 or 5 times a day by fans of the show that recognize us. It's very gratifying to know that people of all ages, including kids who watch regularly with their parents, enjoy sharing in our sailing adventures so much!

Marina Manager Chris Schembri, Tony Camilleri skipper of Konica Minolta, and Paul aboard our boat Two-Step

On the day of our arrival we received an especially warm welcome from Msida Marina Manager, Chris Schembri, and good friend, Tony Camilleri, as well as from many local friends that we have kept in touch with over the years who came down to the marina to see us.

With friends at Viking sailing club with banner

So before we knew it the short stop-over we had planned began to grow longer. It wasn't just all the numerous enticing dinner parties with many friends and fellow sailors that kept us there, or that there are so many great chandleries which kept our list of boat projects growing. A big factor was that the Rolex Middle Sea Race was about to take place there and we thought it would be would be a great event to film for the TV show. (That's our story and we're sticking to it.)

Super Maxis sailing through harbour

The Rolex Middle Sea Race is a 608 nautical mile race (2 to 5-days depending on boat size) from Malta to Sicily, through the Strait of Messina, north around Sicily to the islands of Pantelleria and Lampedusa and finishing back in Malta.

It is an international event and our Maltese friend, Tony Camilleri, an excellent racing sailor and the local Bavaria dealer, was asked to skipper "Konica Minolta", an Austrian entry that Tony beat last year in his own boat, "Fear of Flying". The owner of "Konica Minolta" figured it was better to have Tony on his team this year :-) So I'm going to finish here and tell you about the outcome of the race and our visit to Malta in next month's newsletter. But before I do, here are a few photos from our recent appearances at the London and Toronto Boat Shows as well as some items of news including a fun Winter Weekend Cruising Seminar we'll be conducting in February.


Podcast #7 – Solo Ocean Passage-making
Paul and Sheryl with Drew Robertson and Dee Caffari

On our boat show tour we also got to meet some world class sailors who we introduce to you in the Distant Shores sailing podcasts which are our online talk shows.

This month we interviewed two solo ocean racers - Britain's Dee Caffari, the first woman to sail Alone around the World Westabout, and Canada's Derek Hatfield, both contenders for the 2008 Vendée Globe single-handed race around the world.

Cruising in the Middle East 3-disk DVD

– Now available in PAL format Our latest Distant Shores DVD, “Cruising in the Middle East” is now available in PAL format for our overseas viewers. This special 3-disk set contains all 13 episodes of Season 4 which takes you on a voyage from Turkey, to ports in North and South Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan and Egypt and has some very special features on “Dealing with Piracy”, an important issue when cruising in this region and many others around the world.

Winter Weekend Cruising Seminar February 23-25, 2007

Over the years we have had many requests to conduct a weekend of cruising seminars at a northern resort in Canada. This year we have made arrangements to do this and invite you to escape to the Harbour Inn & Resort Club in Lagoon City, an hour and half drive north of Toronto in ski country near Orillia, starting on the evening of Friday February 23 and concluding the afternoon of Sunday February 25, 2007. Over the course of the weekend we'll be discussing how to plan your cruise, equip your boat, design your route, create a budget, and much, much, more all while you relax in cozy accommodations and enjoy delicious fresh food prepared by the famous Chef Konstantine.

For information on costs, accommodations, directions and transportation from Toronto's Pearson International Airport, see the Shows/Seminar Page on our website.

Wishing you all the best for a Happy 2007!

Sheryl and Paul Shard
SV Two-Step
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