Utterly Becalmed

L. Moore photo credit

L. Moore photo credit

Utterly Becalmed 


We are a painted ship on a painted ocean as the saying goes. Not a breath of wind. The good news is that we are among the leaders who at this point should be miles and miles ahead like Wild Joe, Varuna and Mascalzone Latina. We can see the mini maxi Momo. All of us are parked up underneath the breathtakingly beautiful Mt Etna as we claw our way towards the straights of Messina. So the scenery and the company is good and it’s not even really hot yet. 

But I have leapt ahead. 

All of us arrived in Malta in good form and Thursday was spent getting used to Valletta. We had two fabulous local chefs who prepared a fantastic crew dinner at our flat (see we are already talking Euro). We all then decamped to the Royal Malta Yacht Club for the crew party which turned out to probably the best regatta party your correspondent has ever attended. When we arrived at about 10pm the band was just winding down and we all hopped around and shouted for them to continue a bit sad the party was winding up. What we didn’t know, us innocents abroad from New York and New England, was this was the Med and the party was just getting going! Little more than 10 minutes later a new, better, louder band complete with dry ice jumped on the stage and started pumping out the music. The place filled up with incredibly stylish Europeans and it felt like it was going to go all night. And maybe it did but discretion being the better part of valor, we withdrew before we could do something stupid.

The next day was predictably a bit slow in the morning. We got out sailing about midday Friday and were lucky to get Claire and Toni to come with us. While the wind was light, it was spectacular to motor out and around the ancient walled city of Valletta with its soaring fortress walls spilling down to the impossibly blue sea. We are a long way from Dering Harbor. 

Coming back to the quay which is actually pronounced key but really means dock, Tery shifted into reverse and revved the engine which produced a lot of noise but no visible propulsion. A quick look through the window in the hull revealed that the prop had spun off. Not a good thing. With the benefit of a little zephyr and Tery’s skilled driving, we managed to make it back to the quay. Now the treasure hunt began for a new propeller at 4pm, on a Friday, in Europe.  Panic, or at least mild concern had set in, as we had 19 hours to our start and no prop, no race.  Rules are rules.

Undaunted, Team Prospector, as always, rose to the occasion.  Divers were dispatched to hunt for the old one, phone calls were made to Italy, England and even the US to see if could get one flown over. Our rattle trap rental car made the rounds of the ship chandlers. We toured the boat yard looking for potential donors and began to consider liberating one from a boat in the boatyard. 

In stepped the kindness of strangers. In short order we had not one prop but four.  A three bladed version that fit, was installed.  But it would slow us down. Meanwhile at the YC for the skippers meeting, Larry worked the crowd like a politician hunting for votes and voila!   Just after we got the jury to agree to give us ratings relief if we had to go with the fixed prop, a lovely member of the Malta YC told us we could have the folding prop off of her boat which was out of the water. Told her husband had already declined to lend it to us, she airly waved her hand and said: “I own half the boat, you can have the prop.”   Mille Grazi Amata!!!.  Taking yes for an answer, the prop was procured and fitted early Saturday just in time for the race.

The start was a scene in the narrow confines of Valletta harbor with thousand (and no you didn’t read that wrong) of spectators lining the fort walls to watch us depart. For once we were glad for light winds as the maneuvering was tight with boats from Malta, France, England, Croatia, Italy, Hungary and Russia to name a few vying with us few Americans for space. Pictures are the only thing that can do it justice.  

Spurred on by the load cheers from our shore team on the Valetta Saluting Battery, we got a decent start and were on our way to Sicily. Shortly after we cleared we began to pass the slower boats who had started earlier. As we ground above a Croatian entry and threatened to block his wind, the driver began gesticulating wildly for us to go below so he could block our wind. That didn’t seem to be a great idea and we declined. That only seemed to incense him more and he began shouting. Your correspondent politely, but firmly, told him “we are not going below you”. This evidently shocked him and he shouted “F**** You”. Being from New York we weren’t too offended as we often use the phrase with deep affection as in “I F***ing love you bro.”

We had a good first night in light but at least present wind. The weather was beautiful and we seem to have the old girl both moving well and with Larry’s help, in the right spot. But now what? We sit and we wait for the wind…and it’s starting to get hotter.

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