It feels like a long time ago, and at the same time like yesterday. Before baby #3 pops out, closing a chapter, I had to put together our last sailing video from the three years we spent in the Mediterranean. Looking at it, it sometimes feels like the last summer before my life started falling apart… and here we are, slowly putting the pieces together again, trying to make sense of that big jig-saw puzzle that is life – to embrace whatever, whenever and wherever adventures the future has on hold for us. Namaste and love from Sydney.
I’ve stopped counting how many months ago our supposed two day stop in Malta turned into a month which turned our lives around once again, confirmed a third pregnancy, put our boat and home of several years up for sale and sent us of searching for our new destiny. Skip Spain, Morocco, Tenerife and the UK and fast-forward to Sydney where we are now counting week seven since our unexpected return home. Just before Christmas I had bumped into a lovely South African lady who was minding her grand-child at the opening of the fabulous Flying Yogis in Bondi Junction. We got chatting as her daughter was about to leave on a three-year adventure to Malta with her family. This followed by a couple of weeks me trying to pass on the best of the best of that little rock in the Med which we called home for a whole winter of our journey – and to which we’ll always feel connected somewhat having left many beautiful friends and treasured memories behind.
This post is for Gia and her family – and anyone else who’ll be lucky enough to spend some time on the honey island of Melita – now better known as Malta. Google, facebook (it’s big on the island!) or contact us for more details on any of the below and more.
Connect with Nature
(This could go on and on and only includes our top favourites)
The Creativity Vortex – an almost utopia piece of land with veggie gardens for rent, regular holistic workshops and retreats and always a smile and someone to have a hug and a chat with.
Dinghli Cliffs hike
Trip to Gozo – different land!
Shop in a wheel-borrow: Pick your organic veggies up at a local farmer, like Louis on the most northern hammerhead Peninsula, and have a look around traditional buildings, bunkers and farms while you are at it.
While you are up there, visit Paradise Beach
Spend a day at Salmun Bay hiking and beaching away from the crowds
Ghajn Tuffieha – by far our favourite unspoiled beach on the island. Thanks to hundreds of deeps steps leading down to the bay, it kept most developers and some of the masses away. Spectacular Caribbean style views and swimming.
Hike starting at Mistral Bay, leading from St Paul’s to Mellieha Bay
St Peter’s Pool – amazing natural rock pool, not suitable in rough weather and with small kids, else exceptional and flabbergasting scenery, swim and snorkel.
Feeling the lack of green? Head to the place which most comes to resembling a forest on the otherwise barren island: Buskett Gardens.
Sail around and away… that must be a Sailing Family thing of our’s…
Connect with history
(Once again, the list could go on and on…)
Valetta – simply impressive and unique fort city and harbour
Rabat & Mdina – the walled city and its adjacent neighbour on an elevated plateau in the middle of Malta overlooking the whole island
Trip to Gozo
Marsaxloxx Sunday markets (go off season, else this picturesque small fishing town in Malta’s East gets too busy and best – if you enjoy movement – cycle or hike there from Kalkara!)
Megalithic temples overlooking the straight towards Africa – oldest standing temples in the world!
Good Earth – organic shop in Balluta Bay
Casa Natura – organic shop in Sliema
The Veg Box at Villa Bologna’s organic store – buy in or delivery
Organic House for home deliveries – sustainable shop in St Paul’s Bay
Twice-weekly local fresh produce markets in Ta’Qali
Delicious and wholesome eating
Grassy Hopper – Amazing little Raw Food Café in Gzira
Villa Bologna Café & Gardens, too picturesque – take your camera! Just down the road you’ll find the beautiful President’s kitchen with stunning gardens, cafe, playgrounds and little zoo which old and young alike usually adore.
Tea times with scones and cream at Palazzo Paraiso for special treats in English Gardens
The Mint Café – popular Sydney-style wholesome Café on Sliema’s seafront run by a bunch of kiwis
Theobroma – delicious cacao collective in Valletta
Good Thaimes, Gzira – most authentic Thai restaurant and German bar on the island. Sounds like a weird combo, but it absolutely works, at super fair prices also!
Treats for body, mind and soul
A massage with world’s best holistic massage therapist, Cat Moyle from Butterfly Therapies. At the same place in Tigne Point you’ll find life alignment session with the lovely Elisendra as well as many other holistic therapies.
A yoga class with Kundalini inspired Michelle Bartolo in the beautiful setting of Lily Agius’ Art Gallery
Sip a delicious Japanese green tea in company of fellow mums as your kids play with wooden toys and selected books or grow, enjoy and learn during one of the many music and motion classes at Ludi’s in Mosta
Last but not least, some of these secret tips which will help you get the absolute best out of your Malta experience come from my dear friend and fellow blogging mum, Nadine. Check out her SunshineLoveFood for the most up to date and inspiring recipes and reviews on all you need to know about staying wholesome and happy in Malta;)
Notice since the beginning of year I have changed the Sailing (via the Travelling) to the Sydney Yoga Family. On Facebook we have stayed the Travelling Yoga Family and on Twitter the original Sailing Yoga Family. What remains the same is the Yogaand the Family, my base pillars – and I guess, the undeniable fact that we are nomads who love and live the sea and the mountains, blue and green in all its shape and everything life has to offer – from the depth of our souls, past the doubts of our minds, to the highs of our hearts.
Here’s another recently published interview with us – the last which was done on Happy Dancer just before this third pregnancy threw all our cruising plans upside down and led us back home to Sydney (for now…). Thanks Hannah for another great piece and all the efforts you put into it – elephant journal or not, lol.
It’s been almost two months since we parked Happy Dancer on the dry in Malta to travel overland instead. In hindsight – and with only two days left till we fly back home to Sydney – for us boat-life worked well until we fell pregnant with number 3, whereas travelling overland long-term-ish hasn’t, mainly due to the lack of grounding and having, albeit little, but a home to fall asleep in every night. Here’s some reflections and comparison – hopefully helping the travel-dreamers of you to figure out what could work best for you.
Pros of travelling on a boat
No packing! You’ve got your home always with you. Nice grounding in between all the moving and travelling.
Arriving by sea to a new place is always more magical than being freighted in with hundreds of others by plane, train or ferry.
Being at one with Poseidon with the right wind and exactly the right angle in the sails under a star covered galaxy is just unbeatable. Having said that – all the perfect conditions combine rather rarely.
Your kitchen with you at all times. Whilst tasting local foods is a wonderful part of discovering the world in itself, if travelling is your life, it can also be exhausting. Sometimes I simply want a non-dairy, non-gluten, veg-filled day with Chia-Shake in the morning and simple green veg soup with lin-seeds for lunch. When living on a boat, you can get the best of both worlds/cuisines – your own, and the country you are travelling in.
Potty training made super easy. Most times of most days the boys are either naked or in their swimmers. Plus weeing over the reeling has always seemed much more appealing to our two year old than having to go to a bathroom, take off your pants and boringly sit down on a toilet with no view.
Pros of travelling overland
No need to worry about the weather. All you do if it rains or storms is change your plans to visit a history museum or old castle, instead of going for another hike.
No need to worry about the anchor. Whatever house you are renting is most likely not to drift away at night.
Enjoying local architecture. All the places we’ve lived in since parking the boat – from cosy country houses, over super luxurious modern apartments, to ancient fairy-tale riads or remote basic and cute mountain lodges – they’ve all given us, not only an additional insight into local cultures and traditions, but also provided bits and pieces of inspiration for the day we’ll build our own eco-friendly country house – somewhere, somehow, some day;)
Digging deeper into local culture. Not heading back to port every night somehow has given us the opportunity to dig deeper into local culture, whether that’s been by interacting with ancient folks from the most remote mountain villages, travelling further afield than most other visitors do or getting a glimpse into hotel staff’s lives.
No storms at sea. Weather on land is just so much more manageable.
I can’t believe how time has flown by since we sailed, once again, past Valetta’s impressive forts to drop the anchor for a little while. Catching up with friends. Laughing about old stories. Marveling at news. A new born baby (congrats again for little Zoe!) after pre-labour on the beach. Delicious BBQs. Uncountable fireworks (Maltese LOVE them at ANY time of the day). Divine yoga workshops (blessings to everyone who joined in!). Fun beach days. Delicious cream tea mornings at my favourite Palazzo. Hugs. Good times and more.
Unfortunately there’s also been another stolen bike (When will Pablo learn he has to lock them here?), vandalising local teenagers throwing stones at boats and setting off fire-alarms in the middle of the night and the usual frustrations when dealing with Maltese marinas.
Life is constant change.
On top of all that, the already forecasted winds of change have blown at storm force and turned out lives around 180 degrees. Many of these changes are still too big to fathom, and certainly too big to find the courage and words to put them out on the www screens. I can only tell you, for now, that the Atlantic won’t be seeing us this year. Instead, my old friends in Spain who I haven’t spent proper quality and quantity time with in ways too long, will. So will Morocco – a bucket list destination since I was 15 and of course Tenerife for my yoga retreat mid-November. And then, we can here Asia calling us for a while…
Lastly, don’t be surprised to see a For Sales sign up shortly. Sometimes some of the old must go to make space and embrace the fresh and new.
Our nomadic journey continues – just in a different way than expected. As sailors, we know that plans are just an illusionary game. A brief human notion that we can influence the Divine plan outlaid for our path, which, of course, is ridiculous. The only thing that matters is following life’s flow. Changing what you can, surrendering to what you can’t. This is what we are doing, and for now, it looks like it’s full of astonishing surprises – which, to be honest, I love and embrace. They are the salt and pepper (ok, admittedly also the spicy chilly) of my life and I feel so invigorated, privileged and lucky for being able to live a life as free as our’s.
The 20 knots plus wind gusting from behind the island canned our beach morning plans – as nice and uninhabited and uncluttered Gramvousa on Crete’s most Western point looked like. At 0820 we lifted the anchor one last time in Greek waters and were of ready to set our storm sail. Not only did we know that we’d get the tail end of a strong Meltemi, but we had actually planed on using it to give us a good sail for at least the first 24 hours. We didn’t wanna have another five day motoring run like when we came from Malta to Greece. And it did blow. 30 Knots and sometimes more which would have been fine had it not been for the ugly swell. Two to three metre waves consistent with the occasional five to six is definitely not my idea of fun sailing. The jib, while it was still up, regularly got soaked a third up and the boom end kissed the sea after every wave. Navionics noted close to 9 knots of boat speed when we surfed down the waves – with our supposed hull speed, ia max, speed being 8kts! The boom kissed the water after every surge and got regularly soaked in the cockpit by breakers that went over the boat – something never experienced before. Happy Dancer was literally dancing and the only thing that could keep me from losing it was the thought of selling this boat before we hit Gibraltar and moving into a nice stable house with backyard and veggie patch instead… Contrary to what I might have believed before, I’m not made of the same material as Bernard Moitessier, John Kretschmer and the like. I’m a mum. I’ve gone through pregnancies and given birth naturally without any chemical anesthetics twice. I don’t need to force myself into situations which make me feel sick. I don’t need to prove myself that I have endurance. I don’t need to test how long I can hold my breath… Can I hear the winds of change blowing?
Several hours into this ordeal we changed course to take the waves from our stern quarter which made it much more bearable, never mind the distance we’d lost on a direct course West to Malta as we were doing our record day anyway: Over 150 nm in the first 24 hrs! We were glad to feel the swell slowly subside after this.
Without a doubt, Crete has been our favourite part of Greece. It’s people seem friendlier, most food local, ancient history omnipresent and you don’t have to fight for mooring space with clueless charter boats. In fact, there’s so little sailing boats around that in the past 20 days we kept on bumping into the same people! We found the best marina in Greece in Ay Nikolao with free bbq facilities, laundry AND working shower (!); loved the local markets and Italian style town squares; never got tired of exploring more ruins; fell in love with funky university town and Crete’s capital Heraklion; had un unforgettable dinner at our sailmaker’s gorgeous garden place (Thanks again Korina & Gregoris!), strolled through picturesque Rethimnon and Xania and couldn’t get enough of arty cafes, toy-filled bars (yes, we travel with kids) and innumerable other loved and loving places.
If you need a sailmaker, handyguy, boat expert, mast climber or cave enthusiast in Crete, Gregoris in Heraklion is one of the few professionals who’s not only friendly and on-time, but really knows his stuff.
Crete is one of few Greek islands which is completely self-sufficient. A well and running economy based a lot around tourism unfortunately often means that bays which could be stunningly beautiful, like Bali or Elounda, are littered with sunbeds, ice cream vendors, ugly skyscraper hotels along the beach and boom boom teen beach parties till 5am (water indeed is a fabulous carrier of sound waves, grrr!), but Pablo shuts me up when complaining. Somehow Greece needs to get its economy back running. I guess he’s right and regrettably there seems to be a massive demand for this kind of holiday paradise en masse.
It’s been about a month since we took Happy Dancer out of the water to repaint the bottom and tackle another few things. Amazing how it affects the speed and fuel consumption in a positive way and so happy that this year’s anti-foul, contrary to the first one from the yard in Kilada seems to be doing its job properly without coming off at the touch of a finger. As such, we still cruise at around 5 knots, even with headwinds of 20 knots and more, typical for Crete summer when heading Westwards against the Meltemi.
We’ll leave for Malta later today and should arrive there on the weekend – maybe Friday eve if we don’t stop over at Gramvousa island. 435 nautical miles and hopefully a bit of wind ahead. We are hoping to catch the tail end of a meltemi for the first 24 hours and maybe a blow from the Ionina half way through the 4-5 day journey. The kids are so excited to go back to Malta for a couple of weeks, they’ve started painting pictures for each and everyone of their little and big friends!
One last time we lift the anchor in Greece. Thanks for your beautiful islands, the history you’ve shared, all your winds have taught us, the friendships we made and souvlakis, fetta cheese and olive oil we devoured.
I’ve pre-scheduled a few recipe and yoga posts. You’ll here back from us life when we arrive in Valletta and can track our progress here until then. Unless our SSB miraculously decides to work, we won’t have internet access until our next landfall;) And here’s to the romance and uninterrupted tranquility of the open sea!