After we had departed Mykonos. the weather had looked grim. A storm was developing off the coast of Libya and was predicted to be over the island of Malta on our day of arrival. Even our weather programmes were forecasting 40 knot winds from the east-north-east, straight into the harbour.
I had never been to Malta before, although I knew a great deal about it; I had been brought up on its history, its role in WW ll as the keystone to the Mediterranean, “he who held Malta, held the entire Mediterranean”. Several convoys of merchant ships sailed from U.K. in an attempt to provide food, munitions and fuel to the beleaguered island and it cost many ships and many lives. One of the ships i sailed on as a cadet which had run a convoy to Malta, had the cannon dents of a strafing aircraft across the metal of its Bridge-front.
Back to the weather; the following day and the day before our arrival, it appeared that the storm had slowed its progression north and I may catch a break from the stronger winds.
Sure enough, as dawn broke and we approached Malta, wind was down to around 23 knots, manageable for the Amsterdam. Rough seas though and we had to turn through 90° to provide a lee for the pilot boat and its pilot. As soon as he was on, it was ‘hard to port’ and the approach for the very narrow harbour, scarily narrow in fact. Once inside 1 breakwater it required a hard turn to port around the inner breakwater and then avoid drifting in the turn towards the rather large lump of ramparts to starboard, before trying to come to an abrupt halt, swing through 180° and dock.
The day was special, my daughter Samantha, her husband Ant and 2 of my grandchildren joined here; I’ve been grinning from ear-to-ear ever since 🙂 We also had one our Fleet Captain’s join; the position, which is usually for about 2 years, is held by a few sea-going Captains who are tasked with visiting the Group’s vessels and assisting in refining our Bridge practices. All-in-all a busy day and I didn’t have the opportunity to explore. Karen did though and some of her photographs are posted, along with some of mine.
Departure was something else. The wind had picked up and, as we experienced later, was blowing 38 kts outside the breakwaters. Inside the harbour it was gusting up to 27 and off on our starboard side. It was a matter of getting enough speed to reduce the amount of effect from the wind. In good British vernacular, we “took off like a robber’s dog” 🙂 and were up to 7 knots in 3 ship’s lengths, by the time the breakwaters came into the equation, up to 10 and we threw her around like a destroyer. The sight of the open sea, albeit with rough seas was most welcome and, having done another hard turn to port to provide a lee for the pilot, we set courses for Palma de Mallorca, Spain.