Into the Blue: A Mediterranean Sailing Trip from Malta to Comino

sailing-day-charter-malta-comino

As the sailing yacht, the Moon Song, gracefully cut through the glittering water of the Mediterranean, I tried to recall some of the peoples who had made the islands of Malta their stopping point the last few thousand years. Whether aspiring conquerers, merchants, or explorers, they had all traveled on this maritime superhighway on which Malta is strategically located. Some, like the Phoenicians, Romans and Arabs had successfully established themselves here for a time, while others, like the Ottomans, had famously failed.

Having lived in Malta’s diminutive capital, Valletta, for seven months by this time, I thought I had already uncovered most of the city’s varied vistas. However, from the waters below this UNESCO World Heritage Site, Shawn and I were now seeing the city with new eyes. From our starting point in the Grand Harbour, Valletta landmarks like the Victoria Gate and Siege Bell Memorial looked dollhouse-sized, while the city’s fortifications, which we regularly stroll through at sunset, appeared formidable and unbreachable.

Now that the boat’s white sail had been raised, our hosts for the day charter, the members of the Gatt family (who own Sailing Charters Malta), took on an even more relaxed stance. At one of the two helms, father David navigated the boat with a confidence that comes from nearly four decades of sailing. On the second helm wheel, younger David, the nine-year-old son, mirrored him, his eyes wide with interest. Mother Glorianne and daughter Maria emitted a contagious blend of laughter while making jokes. This put me at ease as I tried to fend off a slight case of motion sickness, something I hadn’t experienced since my maiden sailing voyage in 2013 with a Croatian team training for a regatta.

Fortifications and Film Sets

Our trip along Malta’s rugged northern coast to the island of Comino would take us past centuries-old watchtowers and fortifications harking back to the time of the Knights of Malta. These structures have been given new life as film sets for moviemakers. As a newcomer to the country, the Maltese Archipelago’s geography can be a bit confusing; the locals often compare Malta’s shape to a fish. Using that analogy, we would travel from the fish’s ‘head’ toward its ‘tail’ during this day-trip. Along the way, we’d parallel a tuna fish farm whose fish are auctioned online and mostly sold to customers in Japan, and we’d also glimpse Malta’s ubiquitous honey-colored limestone villages, dramatic cliffs, and inviting lagoons swirling with intoxicating shades of blue. Sometimes a school of tiny fish would make an appearance too.

A Family Tradition of Sailing

“When I was a child, this is how I spent the summers of my youth,” said the elder David, as he steered the Moon Song past the modern development of Sliema, which was once a picturesque fishing town. “My father was a civil servant, and back in the day, employees only worked half days because of Malta’s heat and the lack of air conditioning in offices. We went on the sea every single day,” he added with a twinkle in his eye. “I got my passion for sailing from him.”

His family, David explained, once made boats. “There is old family video of Nina, our family’s boat, getting launched for the first time. I’m in the footage, being held in my mother’s arms, next to the boat named after my grandmother.”

Gesturing to his son, David, he continued, “I was already sailing by the time I was his age and I was racing by age 14. I used to enjoy capsizing the boat, then getting it back the right way.”

When Glorianne and David married in the 1990s, David said that he drifted away from sailing for a while. Realizing how much he missed it, he purchased his first sailing yacht, the Moon Song, to satisfy this passion, realizing shortly thereafter that he could start a business offering charters to help offset expenses.

Today, Sailing Charters Malta has grown from one to six yacht charter boats, and all four Gatt family members help out. They do everything from client correspondence and cooking Mediterranean cuisine for guests, to cleaning the yachts and filling the vessels’ water tanks.

And despite life’s hectic pace, David and Glorianne make it a priority to regularly take to the water as a family, echoing the anecdotes David shared earlier on during our adventure.

“We try to sail together once a week,” Glorianne said, explaining why all four family members exuded such a confidence and easy rhythm while at sea. How lucky they are to have an incredible ‘blue backyard’ in which to spend quality time together!

Kalkara Marina Fishing Boat

Scenes from Kalkara’s marina. On the left, a cheery blue luzzu, which is a traditional Maltese fishing boat, and the dome of a church (right).

Senglea Malta Watchtower Vedette Grand Harbour

The photogenic lookout in Senglea’s Gardjola Gardens overlooks the Grand Harbour and Valletta. This oft-photographed guard tower has ear, eye and bird symbols carved on it. Senglea is one of the so-called ‘Three Cities’.

Valletta View from Grand Harbour Victoria Gate Lower Barrakka Gardens Siege Bell

Valletta, looking pretty splendid from the Grand Harbour. The Victoria Gate (left), and the Lower Barrakka Gardens and Siege Bell Memorial (right).

Sailing Charter Malta Grand Harbour Valletta

We sailed in a caravan of two vessels – the Moon Song was our yacht-home-for-the-day, and the Farfalla, pictured here, accompanied us. Farfalla means ‘butterfly’ in Italian – a fitting name to describe an elegant vessel which gracefully dances on the sea’s waves.

Winch with Rope Yacht Charter Malta Grand Harbour

Malta Yacht Charter Lifting Sail Grand Harbour

Our host and skipper, David, lifts Moon Song‘s sail in the Grand Harbour, while his son, David, carefully takes note. Shawn and I think this little guy is going to be a swell sailor someday!

Setting Sail Malta Yacht Charter Day Trip

David and Glorianne’s daughter, Maria, tightens the rope, just after the sail was lifted.

Lower Barrakka Gardens Siege Bell Valletta

The Siege Bell Memorial, which was built to remember those who died in Malta during World War II. It was unveiled by Queen Elizabeth in 1992.

Valletta Breakwater Watchtowers

World War II-era watchtowers (far left), and a section of the breakwater. Look carefully underneath the bridge and you can see sailboats getting ready to participate in a short-distance race.

Valletta Skyline Yacht Sailing Charter Malta

Seeing Malta from the sea, I now appreciate why it’s nicknamed ‘the Rock’. In this capture of Valletta, you can see the dome of the Basilica of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and the steeple of St Paul’s Pro-Cathedral.

Malta Sailing Race

Colorful Luzzu Fishing Boat Malta

Men take a traditional colorful fishing boat – a luzzu – out to sea.

Sailing Malta Knights of Malta Watchtower

Saint Mark’s Tower (right) is a coastal watchtower built by the Knights of Malta. In all, there are approximately 25 Knights-era watchtowers on the islands of Malta, Comino, and Gozo. This one was built in 1658 and like its counterparts, would’ve allowed the guard on duty to sound the alarm to neighboring guard towers if any incoming threats were spotted.

St. Paul Island Malta 2

During our sail, David regaled us with tales from his youth – days when he and his friends would pile onto a crammed boat and sail to St. Paul’s Island (left). On the right, David shares a vintage photograph from one of these excursions nearly four decades ago. He’s one of the little guys in the lower left of this image, which is displayed on his mobile. “I know the area around St. Paul’s Island by heart because I spent so much time there. Those were really great days,” David said. It’s believed that the island was the site of St. Paul’s shipwreck, hence the island’s name and the statue of St. Paul that stands there. St. Paul is a beloved figure in Malta, as it’s believed that he brought Christianity to the island.

Tricia Shawn Malta Sailing

Shawn and me “getting our sea legs” as we head to the island of Comino.

Malta Sailing

David and Glorianne, and their children, Maria and David. When asked the ‘formula’ for an ideal day at sea, David exclaimed, “great company, at least 12 knots of wind, a good plate of pasta and peaceful swimming spots.”

Malta Sailing Trip

Sailing Day Trip Malta Blue Water

David navigates us through gemstone-like water halfway between Valletta and Comino. “Because sailing can be both relaxing and exciting, it offers you the best of both worlds,” David said. “While it’s peaceful, sailing keeps your mind going because you need to ensure that everything is working well, that you are getting the best winds and that the sails are best trimmed for the wind you are in.”

Sailing Malta Blue Water

The Maltese flag catches the breeze on the back of the Moon Song (left) and Shawn and young David (right).

Comino Malta Sailing Knight Watchtower

One of Malta’s sister islands, Comino, only has 4 permanent inhabitants and it’s named after the cumin spice that once thrived there. The island is a nature reserve and bird sanctuary, and its most iconic structure is St. Mary’s Tower. The 17th-century tower was featured in the 2002 film, The Count of Monte Cristo. There is also a hotel on Comino, and because of its gorgeous Blue Lagoon, it’s a popular spot for day-trippers.

Comino Malta St. Mary Watchtower Count of Monte Cristo

St. Mary’s Watchtower served as the prison, the Château d’If, in The Count of Monte Cristo.

Crystal Lagoon Comino Sailing Day Trip

The clear water of the Crystal Lagoon was undeniably alluring during our late-May trip, but because it was a tad chilly early in the season, I made a promise to the lagoon that I would return to swim a few weeks later.

Maltese Food Nibbles Sailing Snack

A Mediterranean-inspired snack of various types of cheese (including one of my favorites, Buffalo Mozzarella), plus prosciutto, enjoyed with gluten-free breadsticks, and crispy Maltese galletti crackers. Not pictured here but deserving of mention were two hearty and traditional Maltese dips: Bigilla (made with broad beans) and Arjoli (a blend of tuna, tomatoes, and herbs).

Maltese Seafood Mediterranean Pasta

Lunch: Mediterranean pasta with clams, tomatoes, sautéed garlic and onions, and fresh basil.

Sailing Charters Malta Crystal Lagoon

Shawn and me (left), David our host family (right), and drone photographer, Constantin (far left). Though the views of the Crystal Lagoon were undeniably incredible, they had a bit of competition because everyone on board was wowed by Constantin’s drone and the incredible aerial images it was capturing.

Malta Comino Sailing Crystal Lagoon

Formations in the Crystal Lagoon.

Sailing Day Trip Malta

Maria, David and Glorianne.

Sailing Day Trip Malta Gozo Comino

Cliffs of the island of Cominotto in the foreground, and the Madonna ta’ Lourdes Church in the city of Mġarr, on the island of Gozo.

Sailing Crystal Lagoon Malta

Soaking up the splendor of the Crystal Lagoon.

Sailing Day Trip Malta

Glorianne and young David navigate through the waves on the way back home to the Kalkara Marina.

Gozo Malta from the Sea Sailboat

Malta’s sister island, Gozo, shows itself off in silhouette form.

Sailing Yacht Charter View of Valletta Sliema Malta from the Sea

A clash of old and new architecture – Valletta and Sliema, from left to right.

Valletta Malta Skyline from the Sea

The Valletta skyline.

Sailing Malta Grand Harbour Lighthouses Breakwater

Safe inside Valletta’s breakwater.

Malta Sailing Kalkara Marina

Back to where we started earlier in the day, the Kalkara Marina.

Sunset Boats Kalkara Marina Malta

The silhouettes of Kalkara at sunset.

Video of This Experience:

Malta Sailing Charter Trip

Where in the World?

Planning Pointers:

  • Malta has held a strategic position on the Mediterranean’s maritime crossroads for thousands of years, and to see the island nation from the sea is both relaxing and insightful! To explore chartering options, contact David and Glorianne via their website, Sailing Charters Malta. During our May trip, it was already starting to get a bit crowded out on the water (and August is said to be the busiest month), so be sure to plan accordingly.
  • Having only been sailing twice, I haven’t yet conquered my mild battles with seasickness. :) On this excursion, Glorianne thoughtfully lent me some Dramamine and an acupressure wrist-band to help. Here are additional seasickness avoidance tips.
  • The Mediterranean’s UV Index can get high and Malta is renowned for its 300+ days of sunshine, so pack sunscreen, sunglasses and perhaps a hat to stay sunburn free.
  • Need more inspiration? This link contains an index of all my posts from Malta.

Disclosure & Thanks:

Many thanks – Grazzi ħafna – to David, Glorianne, Maria, and David of Sailing Charters Malta for hosting me and Shawn!

Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved. The video is a creation of my husband, Shawn.

37 Comments on “Into the Blue: A Mediterranean Sailing Trip from Malta to Comino

    • John, Malta’s Grand Harbour is often described as being one of the most beautiful in the world, and I can’t disagree with that accolade. Seeing that you have family ties in San Marino and Le Marche, I wonder if you’ve had the chance to take a side trip to Malta?

  1. Hi Tricia and Shawn,

    great work on the post, just thought I’d say I find Shawn’s commentary slightly slow paced making it sound a little stilted, appreciate you’re both probably trying to make sure you don’t speak too quickly but I think you may be over correcting. Otherwise lovely and clear though so no doubt easier for people without English as a first language to translate as they go.

    We loved Malta last Christmas and New Years.

    Regards

    Grant.

    • Hello Grant, I’m glad to hear that you and your family had an enjoyable time ringing in the new year and celebrating Christmas in Malta. We were here then too, and loved Valletta’s decorations, the marching bands’ processions, and the general merriment. Appreciate your feedback on the video as well. Indeed, we try to keep readers and viewers worldwide in mind when crafting our content. :) Do you think you’ll make a return visit to Malta?

  2. Tricia and Shawn, you have captured an incredible sailing trip showing us around Malta. When I see your posts my travel desires are being tickled, so I added Malta on my travel wish list. You do such great work.

    • Cornelia, thanks for your thoughtful words! We are set to leave Malta in the next few months, but when you eventually decide to visit here, I’d be happy to answer any questions you have. From the prehistoric temples, fortifications and grand churches, to colorful festivals and water sports, I can see that you’d be in your element with your camera here. :)

    • Hi again Carol, despite my tiny bout of motion sickness, it was an extraordinary day! Having grown up in the American Midwest – far from the sea – maritime trips are still a novelty to me. Are you able to spend much time out on the water in Australia?

      • No, we live two hours inland so I’m not a water sports person either. I haven’t been sailing much, except for whale watching and the cruise we just did to the Great Barrier Reef.

      • No, I went with my parents when I was 11 and last year we were there as well. It’s changed over that time and the coral is not as colourful any more.

      • Carol, it’s disheartening to hear that it’s changed so rapidly! Here’s hoping that conservation efforts will be able to help reverse some of the damage. Having lived by the sea for about a year now, I have a much greater appreciation for the challenges the world’s oceans face. The other day, we just pulled a television out of the Mediterranean near Malta’s capital city! We were shocked to see it bobbing in the water.

      • It was a very long time ago that I was 11 but the change is sad, I agree. I recently heard that it was because of El Nino, which is not connected to climate change and was first recorded in the 18th century. But the increase in water temperature has been much more rapid recently. The reef is still beautiful.

    • Hi Divya, thank you for dropping by and taking the time to comment. Malta (sort of the ‘mainland island’ in the archipelago, if that makes sense) is pretty, but Malta’s sister islands (Gozo and Comino) are perhaps even more relaxing, due to them being less developed. Despite having been here for nearly 10 months, I still delight in the chance to island-hop, whether by ferry, or by sailboat. The latter route, of course, is extra special!

  3. What a fabulous day out! We did see Malta from the water as our cruise ship entered the harbour and it was incredible. Hope to spend more time there one day soon. Great pictures and video.

    • Darlene, ah, then you know how dramatic the approach is! A few mornings ago, Shawn and I tapped into our inner ‘early bird’ to see the sunrise over Valletta’s breakwater. As we got closer to our viewing spot, we saw a mammoth-sized cruise ship navigating through the breakwater. It blocked the rising sun for a few moments as it was trying to get turned around, then continued on its way. Are you contemplating doing another cruise in the near future?

      • We are thinking about it. Our cruise ship came in with the sunrise which was a dramatic introduction to Malta.

  4. Hello Tricia,
    Can you give us future Maltese visitors ideas on how much it costs to live and eat in Malta? Is it true that one has “residency” for as long as one rents?

    • Hi Merrill, I’m glad to provide some insight, based upon our experience in Malta. My husband is here on a student visa, and as a spouse, I was allowed to join him as well. I cannot say for sure whether or not one would have ‘residency’ for as long as one rents, but you might find some helpful details specific to your situation on the Identity Malta website: https://identitymalta.com/visas/ (Identity Malta is the government organization we, as non-EU citizens, went through to obtain our year-long visas.) I’ve only lived in one other foreign country as a non-tourist (Germany), but I think requirements to obtain a visa are similar throughout much of the world – Have proof of: a. residence b. health insurance c. income (either employment/pension/savings).

      As for costs, we do find prices in Malta higher than other European spots we’ve spent weeks or months in. We’ve estimated that grocery prices are about 20-25% higher than they are in grocery stores in Croatia, Germany, Italy, or Greece, for example (and that’s even when shopping at the same grocery store chain). I have not lived in the United States for 15 years, so I can’t give you a comparison to American prices. I think $100-150/week is a fair amount for 2 people for groceries here.

      We have a furnished apartment, so haven’t really had the need to buy any household items, but when we’ve looked at the prices for furniture, the prices seemed higher. Perhaps this is due to extra transport costs needed to get to an island nation, or maybe it’s because there is less competition, I am not sure. Rents vary, of course, with Valletta or Sliema being higher right now, and towns in more rural areas (or on Malta’s sister island of Gozo) being lower. For something simple in a more remote town, you could probably pay around $500, but if you want a larger place or more popular location the rents could easily be $1,500 and more. We use public transportation and that is quite reasonable (only €.75 each way if you have a resident’s pass). In short, we’ve found that one can get better rental value for their money in countries other than Malta.

      Hope this helps! I’m in the midst of writing a more in-depth guide to visiting in / living in Valletta, Malta’s capital city. I’m hoping to publish that in the coming weeks, so stay tuned. :)

      • Thanks for sharing. I figured it would be more expensive that mainland Southern Europe. I’ll look forward to your future post.

    • Merci, dear Virginia! It’s getting increasingly sizzling hot here, so I think we’ll have to pop into that pretty blue water for a dip in the coming days. :) How is summer treating you in Canada?

      • Tricia we are having another glorious summer. Today temperature heading for 30C. Our home is close to the Fraser River so a cooling breeze almost slips across the fields and threw our windows. Our gardens love the sun! XXX virginia

      • With the breeze, that sounds perfect, Virginia. I recall you mentioning your bees last time and I suppose they’re quite content as well! Enjoy the rest of the weekend.

  5. What a glorious adventure! Your photos are great, and I love the look of the delicious food, especially the cheese and prosciutto platter. Gorgeous sightings from the boat, especially the lighthouses and the memorial.

    • Sylvia, as they’d say here in Malta – grazzi ħafna – thanks so much for your kind words! Since seasickness can be more pronounced when you’re below deck, I was impressed that our hosts were still able to whip up such tasty treats in the sailboat’s kitchen. Their feast was indeed delicious – a perfect accompaniment to the Mediterranean environment.

  6. What an adventure in history and in living the modern life :-) Malta seems to be calling ~ a wonderful way to live.

    • To explore Malta by sea is the best way, Randall: the wind in your hair, and no gridlocked roads. Land is at such a premium here that much of Malta has unfortunately been overdeveloped. (Malta is only about 17 miles long and 9 miles wide.) But when you’re on the water, you feel free. I’m guessing you can relate, since you’ve lived in densely-populated places yourself! Here’s hoping you had a splendid weekend.

      • There is nothing better than seeing any place by sea…the feel of the boat, wind and waves is something else. Wish you both a great finish to the great summer :-)

      • It’s hard to believe that autumn is just around the corner, but even here in Malta, there is a feeling in the air that summer is winding down. I hope it’s been a good one for you as well, Randall!

  7. What a lovely trip with so many interesting things to see along the way….. great company too!

    • Roslyn, we’ve almost been in Malta for a year now, but I’m still amazed by how much there is to visit in this tiny country. Glimpsing some of the island’s coastal landmarks from afar reinforced that idea! Do you spend much time out on the water near the California coast?

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