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 pastthe 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!
Video of This Experience:
Where in the World?
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.