Cruising Malta

Sailing away from Monastir, Tunisia on a still April morning, couldn’t have been more perfect for our first sail of the year. Even the dolphins happily escorted us out of the bay. The steady light winds lasted for the first 12 hours of our 190 nm passage to Malta, but by nightfall the seas became glassy calm and the wind just died, so we ended up motoring for the next 20 hours, all the way to our first anchorage, Dwejra Bay, on Gozo Island, Malta.

Malta, strategically situated right between North Africa and Europe, consists of 2 main islands, Malta and Gozo. It has been inhabited since the stone and bronze ages and then by the Carthaginians, Romans, Arabs and Normans, the Knights of St John, the French, the British, and is now part of the EU since 2004. Over the centuries, many different nations have fought to take over these two small islands, so we were keen to visit all the famous sites.

As we approached the small island of Gozo, we could barely make out the narrow entrance between huge rock faces, but once inside, it was magic, surrounded 360 degrees by sheer rocks. There was just one other boat there when we arrived and we dropped our anchor in 7 metres on a sandy bottom, perfect for a good night’s sleep.

We had heard about a dinghy trip you could take out through the pass, along the coast to a cave that opened into an inland sea. In the morning, we launched our dinghy to go and explore this cave, but could not get the outboard engine to start, so no cave exploring today. Instead, we weighed anchor to continue to the port of Mgarr, on Gozo, 13 miles further on, where we could check in to Malta with the port authorities. We even booked 2 nights at the small marina there.

The sea was calm but the wake from the dozens of large ferries coming and going from Malta into the port was a constant reminder of how popular this place is with tourists. Large buses await the disembarking passengers to take them to tourist sites around the island.

Once we were checked in, we took a city bus to Victoria, the capital of Gozo, to purchase our Maltese sim card for internet and to go shopping at a modern supermarket. We also took the opportunity to visit the Gozo Island landmark Citadel.

We were watching the weather carefully as strong winds come howling through these islands from all directions. A strong south-easterly was predicted in the next 24 hours, so we decided to head back to Dwejra Bay which offered perfect protection from the SE winds.

Several boats also came from other parts of Malta, which were exposed to the SE winds, to seek shelter in Dwejra Bay as well. While the winds were howling outside our protected little bay, we launched our dinghy to explore some of the deep caves around the shoreline, pulled it up an ancient boat ramp that lead to some storage caves, then we hiked up over the hill to see the famous Inland Sea.

After a 30-minute hike across the sand dunes we could see the famous Inland Sea and the open cave that can be accessed from the open sea.

Tourists are brought here by bus and taken out through the cave in small boats, before stopping by one of the many cafes.

A couple of days later, the winds were predicted to blow very strongly from the NW. Our beautiful bay would be reasonably well protected from the predicted 35 to 40 knot winds, but the heavy seas would cause a nasty swell to enter through the gaps between the rocks at the entrance, making the anchorage very uncomfortable. We chose to move on to another anchorage on the east side of Malta called St Pauls Bay. We were offered the use of a very large secure mooring deep in the bay, so we happily hung out there for a few days while the north-westerly blew.

St Pauls Island, so named after the Apostle, St Paul, who, in the year 60 AD, was being taken to Rome to be tried as a political rebel. The ship he was sailing on was caught in a violent storm and shipwrecked on these shores. This story has not been confirmed, but interesting nonetheless.

The strong winds at sea did not stop us exploring a Roman heritage Trail ashore.

Further down the East coast of Malta is the famous city of Valletta. Valletta is one of the smallest European capitals, and the whole city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was founded by the Knights of St John, in 1566 and built in just 15 years.
Sailing into Valletta on our own small boat is literally breath-taking, with the outer city walls lining the harbour and the skyline silhouette of some of the treasures we are keen to explore.

As you can imagine, this is also a very popular spot for thousands of tourists, many of whom arrive by cruise ships. sometimes there are 3 in port at any one time.

Valletta harbour is huge with several smaller cities surrounding the central city of Valletta itself. There are many very protected marinas and anchorages around the deep bays, and where hundreds of tour boats, both large and small, come to explore this fascinating, beautiful and unique part of the world.

We anchored in one of these bays called Rinella Creek, which offered good protection from winds from all directions, so we could leave Mai Tai on anchor while we went exploring by dinghy, visiting ports filled with tiny colourful fishing boats alongside huge superyachts,

Beautiful Victoria Gate entering the city of Valetta

Inside the walled city of Valletta there are museums, palaces and grand churches. One of the most visited sites in Valletta is the St Johns Co-Cathedral with its opulent interior. It is jaw droppingly beautiful and also houses the famous painting of Italian painter Caravaggio, “The Beheading of St John the Baptist”, painted in 1608.

The most recent Siege of Malta was by the German and Italian air forces in 1941 and 1942. Valetta was heavily bombed, but the Maltese and their allies fought hard to protect their treasures and it is amazing to see how much was saved and been successfully restored.

Sliema, once a small fishing village situated at the entrance to Valletta harbour, is now one of the top commercial districts of Malta, jammed with modern shopping malls and restaurants. Population 13,000. We found that you can get almost everything you want here in Malta, including parts for the boat. Fantastic.

On April 25th, we shared breakfast on Mai Tai, with our ANZAC friends, Jude and Richard off their yacht, Helios, to commemorate this day together. Very special. In fact, Malta was a British colony during WW2. So many ANZACS joined forces with the British during the siege in 1942, to help protect this island. There are 72 New Zealanders and 204 Australians buried here on the island.

During the same siege, the Cathedral in Mosta, a city 20 kms out of Valetta, also became a target at this time.
This Basilica, or Rotunda of Mosta is a Roman Catholic parish church built in the 1860s and features the 3rd largest unsupported rotunda dome in the world. In April 1942, a German bomb pierced the dome while hundreds were inside celebrating mass. The bomb fell to the floor and rolled but failed to explode. There were no casualties and the event is seen as a miracle by the Maltese.

The Maltese love their tradition of fireworks and often have firework displays. We witnessed one of these displays that continued over 3 nights. One thing I was fascinated to learn is that all the fireworks are made locally, using traditional materials and methods as it has been done over the centuries. There are 28 fireworks factories throughout the island. Each manufacturer will specialise in a particular design, then these are all put together to create huge displays.

What an incredible time this has been, and we can understand why people love it here and keep coming back. But we will soon be leaving for our next destination in Greece, the Ionian Islands.


  1. From no wind to super winds, you still manage well! Weather around the world
    Seems so unstable. Here, 3 houses in the neighborhood flooded out completely last month. Ours relatively unscathed (this time) but cars and appliances went wonky. Whatever. The sun is trying to come out now so we can see to buy more
    Stuff ha! Travel
    On amigos! Aloha Judy

  2. Hello you two,
    Amazing and Fascinating, all at the same time. So much history.
    Lane, I had sent a couple of text and not sure whether you received them.
    Thank you for your wonderful adventures. I have and continue to enjoy them immensely. Thank you too for the history lesson and great pictures.
    Safe travels and lots of hugs.

  3. Malta must be such a wonderful place to explore.thanks again for the update….I’m sure Greece will be equally as interesting,safe travels and enjoy your time there

  4. Another day, another wondrous stopping point! The sunny skies of Malta are stunning. And the history in its architecture breathtaking, even on a screen. No wonder my dear Dad waxed poetic about this beautiful place back in the early 1950’s. Your adventures are endlessly fabulous and it’s easy to see why you might be happy to sail on forever!!
    Go well dear Sis and Lane, and know that our thoughts are with you all the time.
    Dearest love,

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