Gale force wind lashes Malta’s Marsamxett Harbour. Photo: © Jeffrey Cardenas

There is a Maltese expression: bahar jibla’ l-art, which translates as an event “when the sea wants to swallow the land.” It is a perfect description of the Mediterranean gregale that is sweeping over Malta this morning. Weather warnings for gale force winds reaching 40 knots from the northeast add an exclamation point to what has already been a winter of unstable Mediterranean weather.

The wind in Malta should abate by tomorrow, but a gregale is never taken lightly on this island with a rich maritime history. In February 2019, gregale winds in Malta reached Force 8 and 9 (50 knots), flooding streets and uprooting trees. The sea did “swallow the land” in Malta’s worst recorded gregale in 1555, causing waves that inundated the city of Valletta, drowning 600 people.

Today’s wind map for Malta and the Central Mediterranean Sea, with a future course line to Sardinia. Image Credit: PredictWind Offshore

Weather and religion frequently coincide, especially in this part of the world. The gregale is also known as euroclydon, meaning “a violent action.” Euroclydon was the Biblical cyclonic wind that wrecked the ship of St. Paul on the coast of Malta. “…About midnight the shipmen deemed that they drew near to some country; And sounded, and found it twenty fathoms: and when they had gone a little further, they sounded again, and found it fifteen fathoms. Then fearing lest we should have fallen upon rocks, they cast four anchors out of the stern, and wished for the day.

“And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away.

Aboard Flying Fish, I have underestimated the severity of winter (now spring) Mediterranean weather. In Turkey and Greece, there was the Meltemi. Ahead lay the easterly Levante that funnels through the Straits of Gibraltar, the summer Sirocco is filled with Saharan sand, the Libeccio raises high seas in Corsica, the violent Mistral of southern France shoots cold air out of the Rhône Valley, and the northerly Tramontane is generally defined as “anything seen as foreign, strange, or even barbarous.”

With all of its idiosyncrasies, the weather is one of the most captivating aspects of sailing across the world’s oceans and seas. Weather can be fascinating (like a cobra coming out of a basket), it can be frustrating, or it can be otherworldly glorious. Weather always reminds me that I am human and that there exists a higher power than me.

Not even a gregale will move this canon embedded in Valletta’s shoreline. Photo: © Jeffrey Cardenas

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You can follow the daily progress of Flying Fish, boat speed (or lack thereof), and current weather as I sail into the Mediterranean by clicking this satellite uplink: the “Legends and Blogs” box on the right side of the tracking page for en route Passage Notes. 

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Text and Photography © Jeffrey Cardenas 2021

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

13 thoughts on “Gregale

  1. Jeffrey, you are writing literature. God bless you. John Baker

    *From:* Flying Fish *Sent:* Friday, April 16, 2021 12:50 PM *To:* *Subject:* [New post] Gregale

    flyingfishsail posted: ” Gale force wind lashes Malta’s Marsamxett, Harbour. Photo: © Jeffrey Cardenas There is a Maltese expression: bahar jibla’ l-art, which translates as “when the sea wants to swallow the land.” It is a perfect description of the Mediterranean gregale tha”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So very true Jeffrey stay safe. Nothing like the weather will spill over heaven and earth. Excellent once again I love your writing. Vanessa Linsley


  3. KEY WEST AWAits YOU AT SOME POINT.It wouldn’t surprise me if a 10 piece band and a large crowd welcomes you.I know Mom and Dad will be there.I might even attend if it’s the right time of year. stay safe.

    Liked by 1 person

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