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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Last day in Valletta

 Winds were strong again from the WNW to W so we delayed our departure from Malta for another day.  This provided us with an extra day for more sight-seeing at Valletta.  Maybe we would actually get to see the three main tourist sites -- St. John's Co-Cathedral, the National Museum of Archaeology and the Grand Master's Palace.


NOT the St. John's Co-Cathedral. Some other cathedral


By now we were familiar with the bus terminus at Valletta.  During our bus change for our trip to Mdina a few days earlier we had FINALLY seen the main entrance to old Valletta. Once we found it, it was impossible to imagine how we had managed to miss it the other times we were at the bus terminus.







Big wooden thing in unknown cathedral
But, being me, I still managed to mess up.  We had passed a cathedral several times on the bus and I thought it was St. John's Co-Cathedral.  It certainly was large enough!  So we got off the bus at that cathedral.  Only it turned out not to be St. John's.  I still am not certain of the name of this first cathedral we visited that day.  It was right next to the Piazza San Publiju.  Directly in front of the cathedral were the remnants of a very large plaza that belonged to a villa owned by someone named Publius back during Roman times.  At one time there had been dozens of enormous columns in that plaza.  The diameter of each column was about 5-ft., so those had to be some enormous columns. The cathedral was built on top of where the villa once stood. 
Should look very familiar to any
member of the Rouse family.
It was a pretty church inside (as they all are) and Bill noticed a large wooden structure that had exactly the same wooden ornamental trimming on top as what is on an antique armoire that has been in his family for quite some years and is currently in our younger son's home.  What a coincidence.


Interior of the cathedral that is NOT
St. John's Co-Cathedral


We quickly exited this cathedral because they were setting up for a funeral and mourners were starting to arrive.  It was less than 2 blocks walk to the main gate entrance to Valletta.

Just inside that gate on the right side stood the ruins of the Royal Opera House.  This building of 206-ft by 112-ft was constructed of stone and officially opened in October 1866.  But it did not last long.  In May 1873 the building was destroyed by fire.  The exterior remained undamaged but the intense heat caused the interior stonework to calcify.  It was rebuilt and reopened in October 1877.  Some 65 years later, tragedy struck the Royal Opera House again when on the evening of April 7, 1942 the theater was devastated by Luftwaffe bombers.  Malta was heavily bombed during WWII.  More about that later.  The remaining structure was levelled as a safety precaution.  All that remained of the Opera House were the terrace and parts of the columns.  After much discussion with various governmental departments over many years, an open-air theater was officially inaugurated in August 2013 on the same spot within those remaining partial columns.  The theater was named Pjazza Teatru Rjal (Royal Theater Square) after the original structure.  Concerts are held there frequently during warmer months.

A few blocks down the street we found St. John's Co-Cathedral.  It was so crowded that we decided not to bother.  It was jammed packed in there; we could see from the doorway where we stood in line to buy tickets.  No church is worth being packed in that tightly.  


Note jousting lance support on
right chest area



We walked farther down that main street and found the Grand Master's Palace.  The crowds has not yet arrived here, so we bought tickets and toured the armory.  That was interesting.  We learned that armor had supports built onto the chest area to hold the jousting lance.  Neither of us knew about this.  We always thought the knight had to hold that lance by sheer muscle power.  









An air gun from early 1700s



We also learned about the first air guns from the 1600s.  Had no idea that air guns were developed that long ago.  Apparently these were very popular and also quite powerful for guns of that period.









Powder flasks.  Made from cows' horns which are heated
and flattened.  Little valve on tip provided accurate
amount of powder needed for each shot.


Also learned about the rocket launchers used back in the 1200s by the Mongols.  The Knights of St. John regularly used rocket launchers for communication, especially at sea.  In 1799 the British experienced the effective use of rocket launchers in India.  (I assume used by the Indians, not by the British; but the literature in the armory was not specific on that point.)  Around 1790 a version was developed to be fired from the shoulder.  And that is still done today.
Rocket Launcher from 1700 A.D.







The crowds had arrived (tour groups) by the time we finished viewing the armory.  Rather than deal with the crowds to see the palace State Rooms, we walked over to the Saluting Battery for the noon canon salute.  Then enjoyed lunch at a sidewalk cafe before returning to the Grand Master's Palace.  By now the crowds had departed (probably at lunch since most people eat late lunches), so we had the State Rooms almost all to ourselves.  


A hallway inside the
Grand Master's Palace



Only a few rooms are available for public view.  These rooms are quite large.  The highlight of the public rooms are huge frescoes covering the unsuccessful siege of Malta by the Ottoman Empire from May to September 1565.  These frescoes were by Italian artist, Matteo Perez d'Aleccio around 1600.  We did not realize these were frescoes while we were viewing them.  These appeared to be cartoons -- large fabric panels mounted on walls in sequence which tell a story.  I was surprised when finally read the handout given to us with our tickets and learned that these actually are frescoes.  They sure appear to be fabric when standing right in front of them.  






Frescoes depicting the Great Siege by the Ottomans.
Sure look like tapestries / cartoons to me.
The Grand Master was the man in charge of the Knights Hospitaller, who also were known as the Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta, or the Knights of Malta, Knights of Rhodes, Knights of St. John, and the Chevaliers of Malta.  The Knights Hospitaller arrived in Malta after Suleiman the Magnificent of the Ottoman Empire defeated them at Rhodes and everywhere else the knights attempted to make a stand for Christianity during that period when Islam swept the region.  The Knights needed a new home it became Malta.  They had about 30 years to fortify Malta before the Great Siege occurred.

Entry door to Grand
Master's Palace. Bill's
height is 6-ft so that
provides scale as to
how tall these doors.


The story is that the Turks attacked Malta (Valletta) with a total of 48,000 soldiers in 1565 and were defeated after a prolonged battle by the 6,100 people on Malta.  The Turks fled with about 5,000 survivors and never attempted to take Malta again.


One of several courtyards at the
Grand Master's Palace


Because of its location in the center of the Mediterranean Sea, Malta has always been considered of importance.  Whether attempting to move an empire east to west or south to north, or vice versa, Malta is most important because of this central location.  As I stated earlier in this blog, Malta was heavily bombed during WWII.  One reason for this was the strategic geographic location, both for arms movement and sheltered harbor.  Another reason is that General Dwight Eisenhower had his war planning bunkers located here in Malta.  The Germans did all they could to destroy those bunkers but did not succeed.




Mock-up of the Hypogeum.  We
never made it to the actual site.


There was a line of visitors almost a block long for admittance to St. John's Co-Cathedral.  No way we were going to be able to see the interior.  It is supposed to be beautiful with gold covering almost every surface.  I'm sure there are plenty of photos and information online if anyone is interested. 


The Sleeping Lady of Malta



Next we visited the National Museum of Archaeology.  I had recently read a book written by an archaeologist about sites of interest here in Malta and this museum was mentioned numerous times, not always in a favorable tone.  There were some pieces on display that I wanted to see, especially The Sleeping Lady.  This tiny carving was found at the Hypogeum.  This archaeological site is very, very interesting.  More information can be found here:  http://www.ancient-wisdom.co.uk/malta.htm  Worth taking a look.  I have read too much about it to be able to write a description in just a few sentences.  I found it very, very interesting.  One thing to note, however, is that this museum had 2,000 skulls which were removed from the Hypogeum in the early 1930s.  By 1996 they had only 6 skulls left.  And no one has any idea what happened to the other 1,994 skulls.  This is just one example of what can only be called a history of mismanagement over decades.  According to the archaeologist author of the book I read, there are many more examples of significant losses of archaeology on Malta.  What a shame.


A Phoenician sarcophagus.  Very different than
any other sarcophagi that we have seen thus far. 
The other really interesting thing on Malta are the Cart Ruts.  Malta is the only place on earth where these have been found until recently.  With the help of the internet more have been found at other locations as people learned what to look for, but all are still a mystery. These parallel ruts cut into stone as much as three feet deep are found all over these islands.  It is known by carbon dating items found above the level of these ruts that the ruts were made long before man is known to have inhabited these island.  These parallel ruts run in straight lines and intersect with other parallel ruts.  Then there are curved parallel ruts that intersect over and among the straight lines.  It is really weird.  No one yet has conceived a plausible idea as to how these ruts were made or why or by whom or when.  Rock cannot be carbon dated so there is no way to know how old these are, except that carbon dating items found above the ruts indicates that these are very ancient.  It is a mystery.  More info and photos:  http://www.cartrutsmalta.com/

We cleared out of Malta for Tunisia and had our passports stamped out of the EU.  Then received an email from the air-conditioner repairman in Marina di Ragusa that our a/c unit had been received back from Climma and was ready to re-install.  So, off back to Marina di Ragusa we went.  That air conditioning unit is for the main saloon and summer will be here before we know it.




Monday, May 25, 2015

Mdina and Rabat

 
Main Gate entrance to Mdina as seen from
the outer wall.  Grass is in the old 'moat area.'
Mdina was the ancient walled capital of Malta. Today the capital is Valletta, which makes sense since that is by far the largest city on the islands.  But Mdina (or Medina if one prefers that spelling) is historic Malta at its most fairytale-like.  It makes a great day trip from the heavily touristed and heavily populated Valletta and adjoining municipalities.   We came to love the public bus system in Malta.  One pays 1.50 Euro and can ride any bus, anywhere, all day long, multiple destinations.  These tickets are not valid for the night bus routes but we would never be out running around after midnight anyway.  This is the least expensive public transportation we have enjoyed anywhere in the world.  Sometimes a bus will be too crowded to take on any more passengers and we must wait for another bus.  But the buses run so frequently that there is never more than a 15 minute delay regardless of your destination.  We only had to skip a crowded bus one time during our Malta visit.  On the other hand, normal caution should be observed being watchful for pickpockets.  One of our sailing friends had his wallet lifted on a bus ride here a couple of days ago.


A very wide and deep moat between outer
defensive wall and the actual city wall.


The citadel of Mdina was fortified circa 1000 B.C. when the Phoenicians built a protective wall here and called their settlement Malet, meaning 'place of shelter.'  Later, the Romans built a larger town here and called it Melita.  The town received its present name of Mdina when the Arabs arrived in the 9th century.  Mdina is the Arabic word for 'walled city.'  The Arabs built strong walls and dug a deep moat between Mdina and its surrounding suburbs, called rabat in Arabic.  Today, there is another town nearby named Rabat.  Those Arabic names stuck.



The 'Casino' about 1/2 mile outside walled city
In medieval times Mdina was called Città Vecchia or Città Notabile, which means the Noble City.  That explains the ruins of an old building that we noticed near the return bus stop as we were departing Mdina to return to Valletta.  This building obviously was hundreds of years old and carved into the stone near the top were the words 'Casino Notabile.'  We could not figure it out, because certainly there were not gambling casinos way back then.  







Then I learned that Notabile means noble, and the word casino has different meanings besides a gambling house.  Seems that in Italy in past years the word casino meant a small country house or a public room or building for entertainments.  


Casino Notable carved into stone
Does not necessarily mean gambling as casino means today.  

Città Notabile, or Mdina, was the favored residence of the Maltese aristocracy and the seat of the governing council, called the universita.  Then the Knights of St. John, who were largely a sea-based force, made Grand Harbour and Valletta their center of activity and Mdina sank into the background as a holiday destination for the nobility.  

Today Mdina is often referred to as the Silent City.  There are about 300 people still residing inside this ancient walled city.  Visitors are reminded to be mindful of making noise that might disturb the residents; try and be respectful of their home spaces.


Carriage ride through Mdina


We opted to take a quick horse carriage tour of the walled city; 30 minutes for 35 Euro.  This provided us with an idea of the basic layout of the city so that we could then explore by foot at our own pace.  There are only 3 gates accessing this walled city.  We entered through the Main Gate.  The carriage driver showed us the other 2 gates; one was called the Greek Gate but I do not remember what the third one was called.  It was located where the old horse stables were situated.





St. Paul's Cathedral in Mdina

We did not know it at the time, but if we had exited the Greek Gate and walked less than a mile we would have been able to explore St. Paul's Catacombs and St. Agatha's Crypt and Catacombs which are located in Rabat.  That would have been worth the walk!  As noted in a previous blog posting, the Apostle Paul was shipwrecked in 60 A.D. in what is known today as St. Paul's Bay (or San Pawl's Bay as it is known locally).  These catacombs are named for St. Paul but he did not reside there nor is he buried there.  These catacombs are named for their proximity to St. Paul's church nearby and were used for burials in the 3rd century A.D.  These catacombs were used as burial places and for worship for about 500 years.  It is a labyrinth of rock-cut tombs, narrow stairs and passageways.  On either side of the entry steps are small niches for the burial of children.  These are called loculi and indicate the high infant mortality rate of those years.  




Bill standing on city wall in front of
restaurant.  St. Paul's in background



The St. Agatha Catacombs are a different deal.  She actually lived down in those cave while hiding.  St. Agatha was a 3rd-century Christian martyr from Sicily.  She fled to Malta to escape the amorous advances of a Sicilian governor.  She lived in these caves or catacombs while hiding in Malta.  Upon returning to Sicily she was imprisoned and tortured. Her breasts were cut off with shears; then she was burned at the stake.  This horrific punishment of having her breasts cut off are gruesomely depicted in many paintings and statues in Malta.  We also saw paintings of this in Siracusa, Sicily last year.  One church there had a separate room dedicated to St. Agatha.  The wall paintings were pretty gruesome.
Sorry that we missed seeing these 2 places.






One of the less ostentatious alcoves
inside St. Paul's Cathedral.




Bill was not interested, so he went off in search of Wi-Fi to collect email while I visited the museum and St. Paul's Cathedral inside old Mdina.  No photos were allowed in the museum.  Did not much matter as there was not much there except tons and tons of silver and hundreds upon hundreds of ancient coins.  And the cathedral was beautiful inside but I am getting a bit jaded about cathedrals.  Such displays of wealth by religion is a tad distasteful to me.  How many people suffered who could have been helped with the money spent on that building and its interior splendor.


Lots of stone carvings around entrance
to museum.









Sign over Bill's head = 5' 6"
We assume it meant the minimum
width of that street farther past the curve.


















Street barely wide enough for horse











Nice little outdoor restaurant down
that narrow street.
















Fancy stonework atop buildings

























Oldest home in Mdina.  Over 1,000 years old.  Original hinges
and original door.  At least according to the carriage driver/guide.



































Windows on upper level of the 1,000 year old home.
Wonder if that glass is original.


















The Lonely Planet travel guide for Malta provides this short story about the Mdina Uprising:

After the French invasion of Malta in June 1798, Napoleon stayed on the island for only six days before continuing his journey to Egypt, where his fleet was defeated by the British Navy at Aboukir.  He left behind a garrison of only 4,000 troops on Malta.


The French retreated to the safety of Valletta, where the Maltese, under the command of Cana Caruana of St. Paul's Cathedral, besieged them.  Having learned of Napoleon's misfortune in Egypt, the Maltese asked for help from the British, who imposed a naval blockade on Malta.  The Maltese forces suffered two hard years of skirmishing and stand-off until the French finally capitulated on 5 September 1800.

With revolutionary fervour, the French tried to impose their ideas on Maltese society.  They abolished the nobility, defaced their escutcheons, persecuted the clergy and looted the churches.  But on 2 September 1798, when the French attempted -- on a Sunday -- to auction off the treasures of Mdina's Carmelite Church, the Maltese decided that enough was enough.  In a spontaneous uprising, the Maltese massacred the French garrison at Mdina, throwing its commander, Capitaine Masson, off a balcony to his death.

For what it is worth, the Maltese population remains staunchly Roman Catholic today.

Lastly, through Mdina there were doors painted bright red.  All doors had ornate and unique door knobs.   I particularly liked the red doors.


A slightly darker shade of red.
Guess he did not get the memo.
Red doors that looked a little
bit fancier than most.

























Interesting key must fit this!
Front door of St. Dorothy's Convent

Friday, May 22, 2015

Chief Engineer's Notes: Why Amel? Big things or small things?

Every so often I write on the subject of "why Amel" and I usually point out the small things.

OK, not every boat comes with a vanity table and vanity mirror, but some Amels do have these. BeBe, Super Maramu #387 does have these and one of BeBe's crew is constantly using them. Today, that crew member shouted from the aft cabin that "we have a problem."

When she pointed out that the vanity mirror was swinging loosely, I was somewhat relieved regarding the gravity of the situation and knew we were not sinking. Some Amel owners that have the vanity mirror, mounted inside a storage compartment door above the vanity, have noticed that that compartment door does not swing freely like the other compartment doors. Some may have noticed why. For everyone else reading our blog I will explain why with my usual photos with boxes and arrows that some of you like.

The upper hinge has a bolt thru it with a self-locking nut. This is the only door hinge on the boat made this way. By tightening the nut, the hinge tightens and the swing of the door is limited by the tightness of the nut.

Aft Cabin Vanity Mirror

To answer the subject line question, I will ask another question: Do you know any other production or custom boat made with this kind of detail of thought and experience? I do not.

Oh, and problem solved!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Catching up in St. Paul's Bay


Installing new bimini and clear side panels
while at boatyard pontoon


BeBe was lowered back into the water late Monday afternoon, 11 May 2015.  It was very windy and late in the day so we opted to move to the boatyard pontoon and dock, thinking we would depart the following morning after the surveyor delivered his hard copy of the survey report.  Ah...but then we decided to make good use of this full-service boatyard.







Just part of the stuff we removed from ONE-HALF of
the cockpit lazarette. It is huge! 
The aluminum frame of our swim ladder, which doubles as the frame for the passarelle when docked, was bent slightly back in 2006 when a go-fast motor boat caused a big wake in Puerto la Cruz, Venezuela, and whacked the passarelle against a large dock bollard.  The resulting warping was not a big deal and we have continued to use this frame for both swim ladder and passarelle without problem.  But the piece of wood that sits atop the frame when used as a passarelle has been a little loose since the frame bent.  The wooden piece would bend a bit when one stepped near the dock edge end because of the bent frame.  This bothered Bill much more than it bothered me.  
Removed that stuff to get to these.
Expired flares to dispose of at
the Maltese MMA
Since Manoel Island Yacht Yard has a metal workshop and a wood workshop on site, we figured this was the perfect opportunity to have this remedied.  Besides, our quote for this haul-out included 10 days in the boatyard and we had been in the yard for only 7 days.  We could stay at their dock for a few days for no additional cost except for electricity and water used.  A win-win for both yard and for us.  They get more work and we could shelter from the wind and enjoy the town for a few more days.  And get to wash the boatyard dust off the boat before departing.




All that stuff (plus more stacked on the mizzen deck)
came out of that section of the lazarette.  It goes all the

way to the hull. I love the storage capacity on this boat.


A couple more boats that had been docked over winter at Marina di Ragusa arrived in the following days and hauled out.  All 3 boats were some of the nice people who had wintered in MdR (not the 2 unpleasant people I hope never to see again) and it was a pleasure meeting up with them again.  Hope their experiences with this boatyard are as good as we have enjoyed.







Balancing act.
Doesn't this look safe!
Reattaching the SSB
antenna after haulout.
It might have been fortuitous that we decided to have the swim ladder/passarelle frame straightened here because it turned out to be cracked at a corner join that we had not noticed.  That required welding.  Eventually that crack could have caused someone to fall if it had broken loose while someone was walking on it.  I insisted that we also get a new piece of wood fabricated for the walkway part.  The old piece was 12-years old and that teak-laminated piece of plywood looked awful.  I told the guy in the woodworking shop that the new piece did not need to be laminated with teak.  Just marine plywood with the teak cross-strips would work fine.  However, the finished piece appears to also have the teak veneer on both sides.  Maybe the shop just happened to have a small piece of that type wood on hand.  It does not matter to me; as long as the wood is strong that is the only thing I care about.  Bill cares more about aesthetics; I care about utility.  


Anne and Keith of S/V Chuma and Bill at Royal
Maltese Yacht Club with Old Valletta in background
Keith and Anne Carter on sistership Amel S/V Chuma invited us to meet them for drinks and lunch at the Royal Maltese Yacht Club.  That was a fun few hours.  Drinks were unbelievably inexpensive (only 1.50 euro for vodka and soda!); lunch was good; and the view spectacular.  They are off to Greece so not likely we will see one another again.  We had ordered a new bimini from Amel and installed it that morning, so we gave our old bimini and clear side panels to Keith and Anne.  Theirs is in worse condition than the one we replaced.  This should tide them over for a year or two or more before having to buy a new one.



We walked from the yacht club back to the boatyard and
passed several of these.  Old cannons placed in
concrete and used as bollards today.


















Yep.  Get fatter every year.
Another view of part of Valletta
Several days later as we motored from Valletta towards St. Paul's Bay I heard a beeping sound while at the helm and looked down to see the message "No Pilot" displayed on our autopilot screen.  Uh-oh!  That is really bad!  So I hand-steered the remaining 7 miles to the bay.  
View of Valletta as we motored out
Once anchored, Bill removed the course computer and installed our spare.  Fixed that problem easily!  Now we either will have this old course computer repaired and use it for a spare or will buy a new course computer and use the one currently installed as a spare.  This boat left the Amel factory yard on 23 January 2013 so it is not surprising that the course computer failed after more than 12 years use.  Bill had purchased a rebuilt one off Ebay to have as a spare.  Glad he had thought to do this.  Always carry spares for things you cannot do without when cruising.



Kids learning how to sail and getting in the way as
Airstream attempted to anchor.  Winds were ~18 kts
and these kids handled those tiny boats quite well
While anchored in St. Paul's Bay for a few days we met up with fellow Americans, Bill and Janet Wickham on S/V Airstream.  What a joy!  They had arrived in Gozo several days earlier from Greece.  It was great to see them again and to catch up.  We last met in the Hai'Pai group of Tonga in October 2008.   Shortly after we anchored in Tonga one day Bill (Airstream) showed up next to our boat asking if we like tuna.  He had caught a huge tuna as they approached that island, way too much for them to refrigerate.  So he went through the anchorage and shared tuna with the other boats.  This was our introduction...along with the gift of a large quantity of the largest tuna we have ever seen.  Had to weigh well over 100 lbs. Bill (BeBe) kidded with them asking if they had brought fresh tuna this time too.   It was great fun catching up with them.  The next morning they left, moving on to Msida Creek Marina for a few days and to see Valletta.


Happy to see them again!!
Bill at the helm and Janet setting the anchor.
We stayed on anchor at St. Paul's Bay.  Winds were forecast to be extremely light (4 knots) from the SE for 2 hours and then backing to N and then NW and building to about 15 knots; then in 2 days changing to S at 20 knots.  We planned to stay in St. Paul's another day and then move to a small bay on the southern side of Melleiha Bay to shelter from the predicted higher winds from the S.  Well...that did not happen!  All day the wind continued to build from the SE to E. Bringing the sea rolling right into St. Paul's Bay.  Bill and I both began to feel a tiny bit queasy from all the motion and were worried that if conditions built any stronger overnight that this could be a bad location.  We called Msida Creek Marina and asked if they had room for us; got a positive response; upped anchor and motored out.  

We were making only 2.5 to 3 knots boat speed motoring at 2,000 rpm into the choppy waves and 20-knot winds right on the bow.  Water splashing all over the boat.  So much for having a clean boat fresh from that haulout. Things were tossed all over the inside of the boat because it was so rough.  Things that have never moved before when sailing. It was not pleasant.  After nearly an hour of motoring out of the bay we were able to turn and put out the sails.  We sailed close-hauled and double reefed at over 7 knots boat speed, much more comfortable than motoring straight into it.  The narrow entry next to the old walled city of Valletta was quite rolly but once inside that cut conditions smoothed out to flat seas and light winds.  We docked and will remain berthed here until our granddaughter arrives next week.  We are near the end of G dock so are berthed as far as one can possibly be from the marina office.  The office is a long walk completely around the bay from here.  But the MMA office to clear out of Malta is only a few hundred meters from us and there is a bus stop right at the end of our dock, very convenient.  
New wooden piece on straightened frame.
Makes for a nice passarelle.

Bill discovered a brace in the engine room that had broken loose and needs to be welded.  He removed it and was off first thing this morning taking it to the boatyard to have the welding repaired.  All fixed (at no charge!) and soon we will wash all the salt crystals off this boat and then figure out what sightseeing there is to occupy our days for the next week or so.  This evening we will meet up once again with Bill and Janet on Airstream for drinks at the Royal Maltese Yacht Club.  Guests at Msida Creek Marina are given a card (for 20 euro deposit) for admittance to the club.

Regardless of what the sailing guide books or pilot books state about anchoring here, Malta does not have any bays or coves that offer any protection from the winds and seas.  It is not just what is happening AT Malta that affects Malta.  Since this is a small archipelago situated in the center of the Mediterranean Sea, anything that happens anywhere in the Med affects local conditions here in Malta.  Winds here might be only 10 knots but the seas would be rolling in large waves because of stronger winds a few hundred miles from here in any direction.  And the land shapes provide no real protection from either wind or sea conditions.  So, if you plan to sail to Malta, also plan to spend the vast majority of your time in a marina.  And remember that any calm day in any anchorage here can rather quickly turn into untenable conditions that will force you to flee that anchorage seeking the safety and shelter of a marina.  

Cost be damned.  

In the marina now and darned glad to be here!