The weather in November 2002 was quite tumultous throughout all of Europe and North Africa, with flash floods in Morocco and in many parts of Italy. To make matters worse, earthquakes tragically hit Southern Italy and Etna erupted most violently, sending ashes as far as Malta and the sea literally boiled in the Eolian islands.
With a certain amount of apprehension I planned my boat transfer from Marsala in Sicily to Malta and kept a sharp eye on the weather forecasts. Finally a sufficient break was foreseen for the end of November, so I set off with wife Mabi and young nephew Marco by plane to Palermo and car over to Marsala.
We filled the tanks on Friday at 7.30 and set sail, or rather motored off at 8 am and proceed in a calm sea directly for Malta. I would have preferred stopping at Porto Empedocle and visiting the Greek ruins in the Valley of the Temples, but the next depression was quickly descending over Corsica and Sardinia, so we had to go on Malta without delay.
The sea continued to stay calm with a light southern breeze and we picked up a 1.5 kilo fish on the way. In the evening the wind shifted to west and strengthened, so that we managed to sail at a healthy 7 knots.
As predicted, the first part of the depression arrived during the night, bringing a series of localised storms, with showers and squalls, causing havoc for a while. The wind turned to north-west Mistral and the seas rose, but from the stern, so we managed quite well. As we got close to Malta the shipping increased and we had several very close encounters with cargoes.
A pan pan emergency notice advised of a rib adrift with two persons aboard in our area, so we kept a sharp lookout, using the night infrared scope, and we also were approached by the local coast guard asking for assistance in the search. The seas were heavy and gusts were of 25 knots. At first light a plane was in the air joining the search.
We approached Malta from the north-west and first sited the island of Gozo, which we had to circumvent in order to reach the south-east of the main island of Malta and sailed into La Valletta at 8 am, exactly 24 hours after our departure from Marsala.
At a mile out we were met by Adrian in a rib, a local yacht broker, who kindly accompanied us to the Customs berth, where formalities were taken care of very quickly by the friendly and polite local officials. Needless to say a long sleep was enjoyed by the crew on board and in the evening, an excellent fish dinner.
From my research at the Maltese Embassy in Rome, I had chosen the Msida Marina for its central position and was happy with the choice. From a tourist point of view Malta proved to be quite a revelation, a most fascinating place to visit, with an incredible history, going back fully 5000 years. There are temples built long before the pyramids in Egypt and so Malta could well be considered the birthplace of Western Civilisation.