Malta’s location, at the center of the Mediterranean, has been coveted by many throughout the years as a base from which to control trade in the Med. And it has been under the rule of numerous groups through those years.
Malta was first inhabited around 3800 BC by the Phoenicians and Greeks. They were under Carthaginian rule from the 6th century BC until 218 BC when the Romans took over. They were subsequently ruled by the Byzantine Empire until the 9th century, the Arabs until the 11th century, the Normans until the 16th century, and the Knights of Malta from 1530 until 1798. These are the same knights that were driven out of Rhodes by Suleiman the Magnificent.
During the rule of the Knights of St. John, the Turks sought to finally oust the Knights from the Mediterranean. In 1565, the Turks sent a fleet of 138 ships and 38,000 men to attack 600 Knights with 9,000 troops. In what has become known as the Great Siege, the Knights defended Malta, and the Turks retreated.
Napolean’s forces ruled until the end of the 18th century, then Britain assumed power. The Brits returned power to the Knights of Malta in 1802, but the Maltese protested, and the Brits returned in 1814.
Malta became self-governing in 1921, but they reverted to a colonial regime in 1936. They were used as a British naval base during World War II, and they were heavily bombed. They gained their independence in 1964 and became a republic in 1974.
Malta joined the EU in 2004. They adopted use of the Euro as their currency in 2008.
Malta is 60 miles south of Sicily, Italy. It is comprised of three islands – Malta, Gozo, and Comino. Malta is the largest island and the administrative center for the country. Gozo is a small picturesque island, and Comino is an uninhabited island used primarily as a tourist day trip. Those islands include 122 square miles.
One of many ornate churches on Gozo
Malta’s government is a multiparty republic with one legislative house. They have a president (head of state) and prime minister (head of government). The capital is Valletta. Their national emblem is the Maltese Cross which was brought to Malta by the Knights of St. John.
Malta’s main income sources are tourism, agriculture, light industry, and ship building. Their currency is the euro.
Malta’s population is approximately 414,000. They are 97% Maltese, and 95% Catholic. The primary languages are Maltese and English, and 92.8% are literate.
Fishing harbor on Gozo
We arrived in Malta on Gozo Island where we spent a few days. We sailed by Comino Island on our way to Malta Island where we spent another few days. Then we returned to Sicily.
The entrance to the marina in Gozo is tight, and there are frequent ferries passing through. And once inside, the fairways between the docks are narrow, and it is difficult to maneuver. We were directed to a berth in a particularly tight spot, but fortunately someone on the boat to port came on deck and helped warp us in.
This marina is undergoing some major construction, and it is very dirty and dusty. We cleaned the boat above and below decks, and it was visibly dirty again within eight hours. Oh well…
We checked in to Malta (the country) on Gozo, and it was very quick and simple. This is surely far better than dealing with the commercial harbor on Malta (the island).
It was over 100 degrees when we were in Gozo, so we limited our exploring. We went out more in the evenings when the heat abated. We did wander around the local old village which is charming in a unique way. There are beautiful old churches in all directions. We enjoyed the architecture, and we ate excellent food. We wanted to take a day tour of the island, but we left after only two days so that we could get to Malta before the weekend.
It would have been nice to have another day or two to see more of this island. But we were on a mission to get our AIS repaired on Malta Island, so off we went.
We left Gozo and sailed by Comino Island on our way to Malta. We motorsailed 17 miles in 4 hours.
Entering Marsamxett Harbor
There are two nearly parallel harbors entering Malta with the town of Valletta on the peninsula between them. The northernmost harbor is Marsamxett Harbour, and the southernmost harbor is Grand Harbour. We were headed for Manoel Island Marina which is in Marsamxett Harbour.
All ships and boats entering or leaving either harbor must get permission from Valletta Port Control. We spent 45 minutes rolling around in sloppy seas outside the harbor waiting for them to give us permission to enter. Although there was some activity in Grand Harbor, we could see no reason for the delay to enter Marsamxett Harbour.
We quickly got over being grumpy when we finally entered. The views of Valletta are spectacular. And we have since been told that the views in Marsamxett Harbour are nothing compared to those in Grand Harbour. A very beautiful city.
We stopped at a fuel barge inside the harbor and took on another 77 gallons of fuel. We paid the equivalent of $6.80 per gallon for a total of $523.26.
There are many marinas on Malta, and we did not know where we should go, so we had asked the person whom was helping us with our AIS. He recommended Manoel Island Marina, and that is where we had reserved a berth. This was not one of our prettier med mooring efforts, but we got in without any damage.
We had an odd experience with the office there. There was a pleasant receptionist who seemed a bit unsure of herself, and she asked her office manager before making most decisions. The office manager was not pleasant, and she gave us inaccurate information. The receptionist asked us if we would like to pay in advance for our three reserved nights, and we agreed – a mistake we would have to deal with later.
The following day a technician from Medcomms came to our boat and replaced the front panel on our AIS. All was well again within half an hour of him stepping onboard. Now we had time to go see more of the island.
It was very hot, so we did some exploring by day and most in the evenings. The architecture on Malta is beautiful. The streets are lively with local life. We were pleased to see how much social life is outdoors on warm summer evenings. And we were surprised to see the variety of ethnic foods available – Turkish, Indian, even TexMex.
But increased winds were forecast, and we had to decide to either leave a bit sooner or stay a bit longer than planned. We decided to leave one day sooner than planned. We wanted to get back to Sicily before the weather deteriorated.
We went to the marina office and advised them of our change of plans. They did not plan to refund our payment for the unused night. The office manager gave Nita all sorts of excuses why, but Nita persisted. Finally we got the refund amid much grumbling.
We walked over to the customs and immigrations offices in Msidra Marina to ask if we could check out there rather than going to Valletta. It took some time, but we got it done. We were pleased to have gotten in and out of Malta without going through the Valletta offices.
Like in Gozo, we felt like we were leaving one day too soon. We would have liked one or two more days to explore a bit further. But the weather often dictates our schedules, and it said that it was time to go. We left to return to Sicily.