The around the harbour boat trip
It is not surprising that an island would provide so many different boat trips, ranging from around the island, to harbour cruises and boats that let you look at the bottom of the harbour, and we did the lot. To be honest they were all great and excellent value for money, the harbour cruise really allows you to get up close and see how Valletta would have looked to an invading navy centuries ago. The walls from sea level rise up as a smooth impregnable barrier and the thought of trying to find a niche or break in them, even hundreds of years after they were built, leaves you shaking your head in wonder. The day we decided to take the harbour cruise, the weather was perfect, the sky was clear blue, and shafts of sunlight penetrated a mirror like ocean, so that in places you could see clear to the bottom of the harbour. Even sitting at anchor, waiting for the boat to take on all of the passengers was restful and relaxing, apart from the cell phone calls made by a British tourist, who proceeded (in a loud voice) to give a a blow by blow description of where they were at this moment and where they were going and what they could see. This person actually did this for quite some time to the annoyance of other passengers, until they were asked to move. Pity, I was hoping to see how far a cell phone can be seen sinking to the bottom of the harbour.
We had noticed on other days when the boat left Marsamxett harbour and turned into the Grand Harbour. There is an area between the breakwater and Valletta, where it can be fairly choppy, but today was smooth, with hardly a ripple, other than the small wake left by our boat.
Prior to 1900, the breakwater did not exist and a heavy chain had been stretched across the harbour mouth, to keep out enemy ships, but in 1901, it was decided to construct a breakwater (at the time £1 million) and extend from the point of Valletta peninsula at St. Elmo, out across the waters of the Grand Harbour, thereby reducing the size of the entrance, while protecting the harbour and shipping from winter storms. As you glide by this huge project and turn into Grand Harbour, you suddenly realize that this was really nothing compared to the fortifications of Valletta, built in the 1500's.
I took very few photo's on this trip, having decided to shoot in digital HD movie, and make the most of the movement, sounds and colour, but there are numerous pictures available online, or better yet, I suggest you go to http://wwwcaptainmorgan.com.mt and see their online brochures. As I said in the opening paragraph, we went on just about all the trips available and enjoyed every one. We found the services to be very good and the staff very helpful.
The around the island boat trip
The around the island trip takes up most of the day, starting at 10:00 AM and returning at 16:30. But you should check the schedule because the times change depending upon the time of year. It is the perfect vantage point to see the varied coastline of the island as it moves along the North coast, passing by inlets and bays, where new hotel chains have built huge palaces catering to just about every taste and price, you also pass by some of the circular nets that make up salt water ponds where fresh fish are grown, such as sea bream.
The first port of call, so to speak, is in a sheltered lagoon, aptly named the Blue Lagoon on the island of Comino. Here they serve a buffet style lunch and you can go ashore and investigate the island or if you prefer take a ride in a high speed motor-boat.
visiting Europe, we fly
Up until now the weather had been a slightly overcast, with sunny spells, but warm and it was now that some clouds moved into the picture, threatening rain for the first time since we had arrived on the island and as we headed out of the shelter of the Blue Lagoon, we ran into a head wind and the sea got choppier with a fairly good sea swell. The photo below is one I took of the Gozo - Malta ferry and you can the ominous cloud in the distance, turning the usually blue ocean to a dark grey/blue.
The last leg of the trip was definitely interesting. The Captain did his best to keep the bow facing toward the rising swell, but from time to time even his skills of manipulating the throttle and the rudder were put to the test and we were broadsided by several large waves that sent spray all along the starboard side. Some passengers who were either, not very good in rough water or had perhaps had a little to much to drink with lunch, were obviously "uncomfortable" but as we headed past Dingli cliffs, we were soon out of the rough water and apart from a cool wind that had suddenly risen up, the sea trip was back to normal. Findings:- The trip was very enjoyable and for anyone who is cost conscious, I would say it was money well spent. Apart from the turn in the weather on the way home, well that's Mother Nature and there are no controls or guarantee's when it comes to that at any time of the year. Would we do it again, absolutely, once again the crew were very courteous and helpful and did their best to make everyone enjoy themselves.
The underwater boat trip
This is a small boat that stays inside Sliema creek and Marsamxett Harbour. I didn't get to look very closely at the hull configuration, but I think it is essentially something like a catamaran. It putters around at a fairly slow rate of knots and once you are into the trip by about 5 minutes the Captain invites everyone below to the observation area. You sit on hard wooden benches two abreast in fairly cramped quarters below the water line, so you are actually looking out into the harbour and can see for a distance of several yards directly out from the boat and most of the bottom. On our trip we saw sparsely populated schools of very small dark grey fish, looking like minnows lost in a large fish tank and thick power or phone lines submerged in the silt along the bottom. Here and there was the odd pop bottle and other junk that boaters had just heaved over the side. If you are claustrophobic or have trouble getting around, I would personally not recommend the trip and there is not a lot of point sitting topside because the around the harbour trip is far better. All in all I wouldn't do that again, the cramped area made it difficult to turn your body around, or look and peer into the distance. There were no big or colourful fish, and even though a young boy of about 10 or 11 kept chanting the theme from "Jaws", much to the horror of an older sister, even his optimistic attitude failed to conjure up anything more interesting or menacing than junk from recent boat trips and debris strewn along the harbour edge that looked like it might have been there since the war. The water was however fairly clean.
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