Two nights and three days, or precisely 62 hours after dropping our lines early morning in Pilos, Greece, we were setting anchor in the darkness off old-town Valletta, Malta. Crossing the southern Ionian Sea from east to west was our longest passage to date, and likely the last until finally my darling departs the Mediterranean via Gibraltar later this year.
Already somewhat behind schedule due to weather delays and boat damage suffered a few weeks prior, we welcomed a break in the prevailing westerlies to make our move west. Any useful sailing winds we met were light and sporadic, resulting in plenty of motoring and motor-sailing.
At sea the world is two-tone. Where the steel-blue water and cloud-less blue sky is divided by an uninterrupted horizon. And the blazing setting sun glows neon, in the last moments before being swallowed by the ocean.
The prospect of night at sea – and a long way from land – for this newbie cruise-by-day-anchor-by-night sailor quickly became a reality. My only previous overnight trip was last summer, following the coast of Albania on a bright full-moon evening. Once the twilight faded, we waited next for the moonrise, which surprisingly did not occur until several hours later. In the meantime the inky darkness wrapped around us, so intense we could barely distinguish the horizon. Apart from navigation lights on the bow, the dull glow of the Raymarine instruments and a sky bursting with stars, there was otherwise nothing tangible for the eyes to adjust on. With faith in our instruments and trust that the ocean was a vast and empty expanse – we pushed on.
On the second morning as the wind disappeared completely, the wave chop dissolved until the ocean surface resembled velvety glass. It was a surreal and tranquil day at sea to say the least – many rays were soaked and a bevvie or three consumed. The third morning a sizeable pod of dolphins appeared in the distance off the port bow. Sensing our approach they altered their course and for several minutes blessed us with a fine show, as a dozen sleek beauties played and surfed the bow pressure wave. Forgive the shaky camera footage and wrong lens for the scenario (no time to change it), though we hope the few moments captured convey our delight! Already this past month alone we’ve been joined by dolphins on four occasions, yet between this season and last, the experience that morning was easily the best.
Initially tracking towards the southern-most tip of Sicily, when the main leg of the passage had been comfortable, the weather was still in our favour and the crew were set for an additional 12 or so hours travel, we veered southwest on toward the isolated trio of Maltese islands. There we’d find one courageous little country with an astounding story. More to follow soon!
Do hope you enjoy the first video edit experiment from the new camera. Be sure to watch in HD.
And just a few more snaps…