We just got back from our great trip to Malta.
We had reserved a week-long live aboard course with Sailing School Malta. We found the school by checking the directory of services on the Malta Maritime Directory. There were four schools listed. I sent emails to all of them, and three of them got back to me. I replied by explaining what our situation was, and asked a series of specific questions related to what we were looking for. Stephen, at Sailing School Malta, was the only one who seemed to actually pay attention to our questions and get back to me with anything more than a templated response, which is why we picked them.
Most of the time we were moored at the Kalkara Marina. One of the many inlet marinas off Grand Harbour, right across the water from the very impressive infrastructure of Valletta, the Maltese capital. The marina is fairly new, only three years old, but the boat yard has been there for quite a while, and the area surrounding it is the village of Kalkara, a picturesque little community with all the services you’ll need while staying at the marina.
The boat we were staying on was the S/V Skiros, a 2006 Dufour 365. It was in fairly good shape for an 8 year old, well used charter boat. We stayed on board for the whole week, while another 2 people boarded for each day’s sailing and then returned home at night.
As you can see from the pictures, it had two small aft cabins, which ended up being our gear lockers during the week since we brought hard-shell suitcases (which you would not normally bring as they take up way too much space). The head was quite small, so we only used it for “quick visits” and used the shower/toilet facilities at the marina each morning. The faucet head did pull out of the sink to act as a pseudo-shower, but it would have been a real pain to use, so we never tried. We stayed in the v-berth at the bow of the boat, which is approximately the size of a double bed. We sleep on a queen at home, and wish we had bought a king…for context.
We wanted to spend the whole time on board the boat to experience what life would be like in general, see how the two of us would react to each other in such a small space, and learn about the day and night activity associated with a well-used marina. The two of us never really seemed to get on each others nerves (to our surprise) and we learned lots about lines, noises, and other interesting stuff about life on, and around a marina. Another thing we learned was that when it comes time to a charter, and hopefully sometime in the future when we buy our own boat, it will be much larger than a Dufour 365.
One of the statements we continually come across in various forums and blogs has been, “go small, go now” when describing when and what kind of boat to consider when you decide to go cruising. It gets repeated so much, it’s almost a bit of a punch-line by now. The best we can find online is that Lin and Larry Pardey were likely the first to say something similar with, “Go small. Go simple. Go now.” They are a world famous cruising couple that have logged hundreds of thousands of miles over the last 30 years. Well, with due respect and deference to such cruising royalty, we won’t be going small. Yes, small is a relative term – so how do we define small? Well, I have another punch-line (among many others) from my time spent living in austere locations that says, “any fool can be uncomfortable.”
If we are going to enjoy sailing while living aboard the boat for any real period of time (read: more than a weekend), we want a boat that is comfortable to live on, not just tolerable for short stints. There may be howls at the thought of such sacrilege to one of the supposed truisms of the cruising lifestyle, but the truth for us is that if we are not comfortable, we won’t enjoy it, and if we won’t enjoy it, what is the point?
We want a bed that is comfortable and large enough for us to actually want to sleep in it. There is a lot to think about in order to safely operate a sailboat, so ensure you set yourself up to be well-rested. This is something that people don’t think about, not only in their boats, but in their houses too. You spent almost 1/3 of your life in and on your bed, so why would you cheap out here, or skip considering what you actually need.
Also, we have decided want a proper bathroom on board (sorry, we’re supposed to call it a head on a boat). While we had access to a great shower/toilet facility at the marina, most of the time we will want to be at anchor or a mooring to avoid the crowds (and the costs) associated with a marina. A useable sink, a toilet you can sit on, and what may be the most difficult to find, a proper stand up shower you can actually take a shower in. Sinks and toilets come in all shapes and sizes as they would in a house, but to get close to a full-sized shower we will be forced to get into some fair sized monohulls and/or catamarans.
Another consideration that is hard to gauge until you’re there, is the temperature on board. Most of us will be sailing in the summer, or in the tropics. It’s great to enjoy that warmth when you’re outside and active, but when you go below to sleep or work, you’re essentially inside a plastic box with little-to-no air circulation, with the sun beating down on you continually. Small fans by the sleeping/working space is a must, if not actual air conditioning.
And the galley…
And the nav station…
Now that we have established that we need a luxury cruising mega yacht to keep us semi-comfortable, Part 2 will cover what we actually learned while living in such austere conditions as we had.
To be fair, our perspective may have been skewed a bit from rubbing fenders with the likes of little dinghies like these for most of the week…
Or how about this one…