Sunday, January 24, 2010

About that Mason's Robbie Burns Night

Unlike the famous Edith Piaf who had No Regrets, I have many, and to add to the list is that I did not take my camera to the Robbie Burns celebration at the Scottish Masonic Hall in Paola last night. This is a fairly small chapter of the Masons who share their venue with the Irish and the english Chapter. There are actually about 7 separate chapters of Masons in Malta all with about 30 members. One does wonder why they don't pool their membership into fewer venues, but they seem to like it the way it is. We actually had a really nice evening.
We were invited by Sean who is a partner in a little neighbourhood bar called Ta Linda. Linda is the other partner. Ta means 'of' in Maltese. So the bar is of Linda. We have got to know a group of people who frequent this bar, and we found out last night that most of them are also Masons in the Scottish/Irish/English chapter, which makes perfect sense as that is where these people are all from.
We were made to feel very welcome, enjoyed a very good meal which started with scotch broth, 2nd course was haggis with turnip and potato (we were both prepared not to like haggis, but were delightfully surprised to find that we did). The main course was prime rib with really nice veggies and then a trifle like cake.
BUT what really made the whole evening very special for me was being shown into the museum where we looked through ledgers and minutes books dating back to 1921 and forward. These ledgers were kept with perfect penmanship and were written up in beautifully bound books.
Then, because I am not a non-member male I was allowed into the temple. Carol, the past Grand Master's wife invited me to see the temple. No men who are not members of the Masons are allowed into the temple, but women are. I was of course sworn to secrecy as to what I saw and will honour that. I was very please to be in this historic building and felt priveleged to be looking through their past so close up.
BUT that wasn't all - the reason I am so mad at myself for not taking the camer is that after dinner we were entertained by a Scottish Bagpipe Band, who were not actually Scottish. They were in fact mostly Maltese and the music they played was absolutely gob-smackingly incredible. Usually I would shy away from bag pipes and was prepared to sit through it gritting my teeth. But this band, the Wallace Pipe Band were quite different. They were made up of bag pipes and drums and created music which sometimes sounded like traditional Scottish music and sometimes like a mixture of Scottish and Far Eastern music. Sometimes like Indy Celtic. I took some video on my cell phone, but cannot save that into my computer, so you'll have to take my word for it until I get the Video which was being recorded during the evening.
Malta is so full of surprises.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

January 23rd, and auspicious day for those of us born this day

I haven't really got much to say at all, except that today is my birthday, and I thought I should post something. Its a gorgeous morning, have lazed around in bed reading while Tony made coffee, have tinkered around on the computer and am thinking about going out into the sunshine. Tonight we are going to a Mason's function to celebrate Robbie Burns night which I'm looking forward to. Except for the diminished dress-up wardrobe. And as we are not sure how long we'll be here I'm not inclined to do much about that.
Yesterday I had my unruly hair cut off. I'm now sporting a fairly short, curly haircut which seems to be more attractive, and if its not, it'll grow pretty quick.

I feel like I should say something profound about being this age - I can't. All I can say is that I wish I were younger.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Hope I never have to get in a liferaft

As we plod through the RYA Yachtmaster syllabus we are also ticking off the other requisites for a commercial endorsement to the RYA Offshore Certificate. For this endorsement we have had a medical stating that we are capable of being the skipper/mate/deckhand of a vessel up to 200 tons (200 tons, jeezz). We have been attending a St. John's Ambulance First Aid course at the main hospital here. The course material and the diligence with which the instructor works through it (all for 33 Euros per head) makes the course that I did before leaving Canada for $80 look very weak. Yesterday Tony and I went to Melieha Bay to do an RYA sanctioned Sea Survival Course. Basically other than watching a few videos which covered the use of various radio and automatic safety responders we experienced trying, and succeeding to get in a liferaft which is in the water. This was very difficult to do, many of us struggled very much to get in. If I've learned anything from that experience its - STAY ON YOUR BOAT - almost no matter what.
Out of 8 people in the course, Tony and 2 other buff men from the Malta Harbour Police did manage to get in wearing an inflated life jacket. The rest of us could not do it with the lifejacket on. From this attached video you'll see how hard it was for me to get in. I really wanted to pull the girl card and give up and flop back into the water - but that's not usually my style, plus as you can hear I was gettings lots of verbal encouragement. Tomorrow we finish the First Aid course and will continue with the rest of our plod. When we first committed to this we were a bit peeved that people with as much sailing experience as ourselves had not earned the credibility we were seeking. However now that we've actually got a handle on how much we have forgotten about manual navigation, plus some that we (or I should say I) don't think ever learned in the Power Squadron course, we are glad that we are doing this. RYA or not, we should know this.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Windy Malta

Just had to share this video with you all. Mostly our mooring is protected from the majority of the winds we get in Msida, even the North Easters which happen more often in the winter than summer. But, though we are pretty sure we're safe it certainly has not been comfortable on the boat for the past couple of days. Sleeping (or more accurately, not sleeping) with 40 knot wind howling around us outside, and because we are at the end of our dock we really do move around alot.

The mediterranean mooring method of bow or stern into the pontoon works well to protect the boats that are on the inside,(they just get jostled from side to side a bit, being well fendered against each other), but the boats at the end get to move around alot,sometimes we are swung out at about 45 degrees to the pontoon. As the mouth to the harbour is open to the North East, the swells also make their way into the marina, but as I say, we do not feel that we are not safe, but yesterday we had to get off the boat for a few hours, even though we were going to study all day - we were actually feeling a bit seasick. So here's a video of what we saw when we walked around the Sliema waterfront.

Studying is coming along quite well, we are getting a handle on interpolation, extrapalation, and really look forward to putting our new-found (or re-found) knowledge into practice. And I learned yesterday from an old Irish salt what Variation and Deviation really mean, Variation means tickling your lover with a chicken feather, Deviation means using the whole chicken. All this really useful information we are learning.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Almost a month later - its amazing how time has flown by. And we still have not really done much sight seeing in Malta. Our Christmas was really nice - some of it spent with my Maltese family, some with our Msida Liveaboard friends, and Christmas Day alone just as we wanted it. Opening presents which we pretended to be surprised at (though mostly we bought things for each other that we jointly need). I cooked a traditional Christmas dinner of Turkey, stuffing etc. etc., we ate whatever we wanted all day, chocolates and cookies, etc. etc. etc. A group of our Msida Liveaboard friends (who from now on will be referred to as MLF's) crashed our cosy little nest at about 8.00pm, just when I was trying to get through to my children on skype, which was neat. Johnny and Josie got to see some of them, and hear our raucous carol singing. Attached is a bit of video showing us trying to sing along with Abba. Our friends Phil and Wendy took us in their car to Gozo to a village whose name I can't remember, where they created 'Bethlehem', a live creche/crib around which they built a village as we could imagine Bethlehem would be. The carpenters and bakers and the holy family were all played by Maltese people who were very convincing as the Maltese look alot like the jewish people of that day would. It was very well done. Its nice to include some of the historic reality of Christmas in with the material festivities. New Year's eve we spent at the Royal Malta Yacht Club. It was a very good party, about 200 people, all really up for the event. The Club served gallons of champagne and hor'doevres all night. The music was great, we danced until we dropped, and fortunately did not drink ourselves into comas, just merry all night. As it should be. The next day we had to start all over again being Tony's birthday, so champagne for breakfast and as the weather was gorgeous the MLF's had a big group for a New Year's Day BBQ. Tony had a good time at 'his' birthday party, and by early evening when it started to cool down we were happy to retire to our own home again, putting another festive season to bed.
And that's exactly what we have done - we've made a commitment to take our Royal Yachting Association Yachtmaster Offshore exam the first week of February, and now that we actually have the syllabus and are working through it we know what we have let ourselves in for. We study every day, almost all day, and now that some days the weather is quite nasty we don't mind being inside working away. We do hope that it won't be too nasty when the examiner arrives and we have to prove our sailing skills/boat handling. Like many sailors, we use electronic navigation and have done almost ever since we started sailing. For myself, ever since I have sailed my own boat I have used GPS for all navigation. What a shame we did not keep using what we learned when we first started, because it is very hard going now to re-learn it. We have also started a first aid course (4 sessions over the next 2 weeks) and next Monday we do a 1 day Sea Survival course, these things we need as a Commercial Endorsement to our RYA qualification The reason we want these qualifications is that we intend to find work sailing/managing/skippering other people's boats. We have been looking at many jobs (and there is lots of work in this industry), and have registered with a few agencies who place people like us, and we have been told that we need this certification for insurance reasons. So we are confident that when we get our 'ticket' we'll find what we need to keep us going financially for the next few years, wherever that will be.