Underway Again

Heading due west. The joy of being underway again is beyond words. Photograph: © Jeffrey Cardenas / Flying Fish file photo

It has been 181 days, 12 hours, 17 minutes since Flying Fish was last underway. But who’s counting? What matters is that I am sailing today. I am departing Turkey where, despite the struggle of the pandemic, I was warmly welcomed. My destination today is Malta, 680 nautical miles due west.

I will transit the Greek Dodecanese islands. These ragged nuggets of rock piercing the sea are the tops of mountains that once stood upon the great plain of the Aegean. The Cyclades come next. I hope to sail inside the crater of the drowned volcano at Santorini. Sadly, I will only be able to see the storied whitewashed villages of Santorini at a distance from the deck of Flying Fish. Greece is still in COVID lockdown and entry is not permitted to those holding U.S. passports.

Peloponnesos will pass to starboard, its forbidding coastline hanging from the southern tip of Greece like the roots of a wisdom tooth. The people here are descended from Spartans, warriors who successfully defended this ancient trading route of silk, pearls, and opium from both the Ottomans and Romans. Weather in the Southern Ionian Sea can be equally fierce. Authors Rod and Lucinda Heikell write that the twin capes here, Tainaron and Maléas, “have acquired a reputation as minor Cape Horns.”

What follows is 425 miles of open water to the geographical center of the Mediterranean–Malta. Although the European Union is still closed to Americans, Malta (a member state of the EU) is currently admitting travelers holding U.S. passports, if they meet certain conditions. Flying Fish, because of an extended time spent in the “corridor country” of Turkey, meets Malta’s entry conditions.

Malta is located about 200 miles north of Libya and 200 miles east of Tunisia. It is one of the world’s smallest and most densely populated countries with a population of nearly 500,000 people living on 122 square miles. The ancient Greeks called the island Μελίτη (Melitē) meaning “honey-sweet”, probably for the endemic subspecies of black bees living on the island. There is a unique natural history in Malta. Pleistocene fossil deposits reveal the existence and extinction of dwarf hippos, giant swans, and pygmy elephants. With creatures like that maybe mythology was closer to real life than we imagine.

Mythology and region have always been conjoined in this part of the world, and Malta has a long-standing relationship with both folklore and the Catholic faith. Christianity came to Malta in the form of a shipwreck. In 60 AD, St. Paul the Apostle had been arrested for his religious teachings and was being transported to Rome by ship. A Mediterranean storm overwhelmed the vessel. New Testament Acts 27:41 describes the wreck: “But striking a reef, they ran the ship aground; the bow stuck and remained immovable, but the stern was being broken up by the force of the waves.” St. Paul survived by swimming ashore in Malta where he continued to preach the euaggelion, the “good news,” of the gospel.

“But striking a reef, they ran the ship aground; the bow stuck and remained immovable, but the stern was being broken up by the force of the waves.”

–New Testament Acts 27:41

Religion and art are also integrated into the culture of Malta. There are no fewer than 359 churches in Malta and many of them feature the works of Old Masters. The St. John’s Cathedral in Valletta is a Baroque crown jewel with “intricately carved stone walls and a floor that is an iridescent patchwork quilt of marble tomb slabs.” (A sign reads: “Stiletto Heels Not Permitted.”) Painted ceilings and side altars chronicle the life of the namesake of the cathedral. In the Oratory is displayed the Caravaggio masterpiece, The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist. I hope to celebrate Easter Sunday Mass here.

When I am asked why I leave the comfort of home on these extended journeys, I can only respond that I am moved by a sense of place. I want the see the headlands where Spartan warriors defended the Spice Routes. I want to touch the earth that supported dwarf hippos and giant swans. I want to immerse my body into the water where an Apostle of Jesus Christ swam ashore after a shipwreck. These are the things that motivate me to raise the sails today and press onward.

Flying Fish in the deep cerulean blue of the Eastern Mediterannean. © Jeffrey Cardenas

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You can follow the daily progress of Flying Fish, my speed (or lack thereof), and current weather as I sail into the Mediterranean by clicking this satellite uplink: https://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/Flyingfish. Look for en route notes and log excerpts on the right side of the tracking page.

To see where Flying Fish has sailed since leaving Key West in 2017, click here: https://cruisersat.net/track/Flying%20Fish

Instagram: FlyingFishSail
Facebook: Jeffrey Cardenas

Text and Photography © Jeffrey Cardenas 2021

Let this be a time of grace and peace in our lives   –Fr. John Baker

22 thoughts on “Underway Again

  1. The poetry of your description of “why” is comforting to all kindred souls who seek. Fair winds and following seas, Jeff, and dip twice in that blue, blue water of St. Paul. Once for you and once for us!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I fear that if I am not paying attention to the world around me then I am wasting precious time. I can see by your note that you understand this, too. I’ll think of your words when I swim in the Malta blue sea.

      Like

  2. Jeff I found your latest blog incredible.Once you return to the US you could easily land a job lecturing at some university on world history and culture.In that you love to travel you and Jenny could travel the US from University to another.What a life you are leading.Only an unattainable dream for most people.The old expression FOLLOW YOUR DREAM.You certainly have.God Bless and safe travels.Keep the wind at your back.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love your enthusiasm, Phil, and I appreciate your kind words, but I’m not thinking about job hunting just now. I’m having too much fun! I worked for 51 years and now it’s time to follow the wind. Thank you so much for always sharing your thoughts.

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  3. This is so awesome Jeff! Can’t believe 181 days! Woa! How wonderful it would be to attend Easter Mass at the Cathedral! I would love that but would have to leave the heels 👠behind!! Safe sailing Jeff. Prayers to you always!
    Leanne 🤗

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chris, It is wonderful to be back out here but despite thousands of miles sailed in the past three years it is amazing how quickly a sailor loses his sea legs and equilibrium after an extended time on land.

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  4. Captain, I am so excited to be under sail with you at the helm! Adventures ahead await us all as we sail from our homes through your magic. Be safe, Jeffrey. I long to see dwarf hippos and giant swans through your heart.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your comment is so uplifting on this blustery day at sea. Thank you Debbi. You and Tom make your own magic, for so many people. The dwarf hippos and giant swans of Malta may be long gone but I cannot wait to be among their spirits.

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  5. Jeff, Malta changed its rules March 29th w/o a test within 72 hrs. You will need to quarantine for 14 days, even if you are coming from an Amber country i.e. Turkey.

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    • Thank you, Buddy, but everything is good aboard Flying Fish. I’m officially cleared in by Malta Port Health Medical. Fortunately, the COVID numbers are beginning to drop after a frightening spike two weeks ago. Still, the country is taking the pandemic seriously. Nearly every person I have seen here, even those on boats, are wearing masks. Gatherings of more than two people will be prohibited beginning tomorrow. Of course, restaurants and bars are closed. Sadly, most in-person Easter services will be canceled.

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  6. Jeff, Malta is like a giant Key West. I have been to both, prefer Malta for a lot of reasons. I am new to your channel I stumbled across looking to buy an Island Packet. If you want to sell in the future put a reply here and I will forward my Tel. number, I don’t use my email much.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Buddy. I am so happy to be in Malta. There is history in every footstep. And in the harbor, when you think about those who have also made this landfall (Napolean!) the feeling of sailing through the breakwater is humbling.
      I should be back in Key West at the end of the year and I’ll have a better idea of my future with Flying Fish after then.

      Like

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