Just south of Comino (from our last blog) is the largest island of Malta. Although it is the largest, it is still rather small – the island is 27 km long and 14.5 km wide with a population of 460,000 on this the main island.
We anchored in the north east Mellieha Bay and set about looking around, actually first on the agenda was a trip to the local supermarket to satisfy Phil’s craving for bacon after spending 5 months in Muslim Tunisia where pork products are not found.
On the walk to the supermarket we passed the magnificent Church of Our Lady of Victory. During our short time in Malta we have to come understand that religion forms a great part of the islands history with many many grand churches and many Saints and shrines and religious inspired names, even religious statues on the beaches. The church here which is believed to have been blessed by St Paul himself was adorned with thousands of light bulbs which inspired us to take a walk back a few nights later to see it lit up, but after waiting for nightfall we were told by a local walking past that they only turn the lights on during fiesta.
We also visited the Red Tower, which is one of the 13 towers which run from north to south across the entire country (three islands) which formed part of the country’s defence strategy. The Red Tower is impressive with walls nearly 4.5 meters thick sitting high on the north end of the island in direct sight to the tower on Comino island which we had previously visited.
A short 30 minute walk from the east anchorage takes you across to the western bay of Anchor Bay where Popeye the Sailor Mans Village is located. It is a purpose built film set for the 1980 Popeye Movie (based on the earlier cartoons) staring Robin Williams. It took 165 workers 7 months to build the village consisting of 19 wooden buildings and the filming of the movie took just 4 months! It is now converted into a small attraction fun park. (Being cheap we didn’t go in but enjoyed the view from the road and even got a picture of Popeye himself!)
We scored a bonus on a day outing to Rabat, we had to change buses mid journey at Mosta which was a great surprise as the bus stop is right outside the Mosta Dome (The Parish Church of Santa Maria). This magnificent building was constructed between 1833 and 1860 using funds raised locally. The church is also famous as being the miracle of Mosta, as on the 9th June 1942 during World War II, while 300 parishioners were inside three enemy bombs struck Mosta Dome. Two bounced off and landed in the square without exploding. The third pierced the dome, smashed off a wall and rolled across the floor of the church. Miraculously, no one was hurt and the bomb failed to detonate. A replica of the bomb remains in the church sacristy next to the alter.
We continued on to visit the golden stone walled city of Mdina also known as the silent city. The citadel of Mdina was fortified from as long ago as 1000 BC. We thoroughly enjoyed this beautiful place and again felt very lucky that we only had to share it with a handful of other people (the upside of Covid). We spent the day wandering the beautiful streets, admiring the wonderful architecture and peacefulness. We also found a lovely mulberry tree to snack on!
Afterwards we also visited the Rabat Catacombs dating from the third century and used for burials for around 500 years.
Our next stop involved a change of anchorages and we spent a lovely few hours on the water sailing 20 nautical miles from the northern end of the island to the southern end anchoring in Hofra Zghira just next to St Peters Pool. Perfect wind and glorious sunshine to sail down under main sail with the wind at our backs and travelling with the residual swell so calm waters.
Arriving at the anchorage was breathtaking, high sandstone cliffs surrounding a gorgeous pool of aqua blue water, it took about 3 minutes for us to get in the water after we had anchored and packed up the boat from sailing. We stayed almost a week and you wouldn’t believe the difference between the week days and weekend. During our first three days (weekdays) there were just three yachts anchored in the bay, on the weekend Phil counted 80 boats (big and small) all enjoying the location!! We were relieved when Sunday night rolled around and they all started heading out.
Whilst anchored here we walked the cliffs and around to the next town picking more capers for pickling from along the rock walls by the tracks.
We also visited the fishing port of Marsaxlokk both on foot and again by dinghy for the Sunday market.
Whilst on anchor over the last two weeks we had been continually working on our problems with the wind instrument and excess power issue. It is true what they say about yachts, it’s just fixing boat problems in remote beautiful locations. Phil made 3 trips up the mast at anchor in the last few days, and we had been in contact with specialist technicians from Valetta (Maltas Capital) and it is finally time to bite the bullet and get our money out to go into the marina and get them all dealt with.