07 September 2009



So we are on our dream cruise, we are seeing our "newer world " in the Mediterranean, but let's face it, certain elements pertain to all cruisers everywhere, what I call the nitty gritty. If you are on an owner operated boat, the same tasks face you, shopping, cooking, cleaning, fixing and fussing, that face you what ever your boat and where ever you cruise. The big difference is, doing them in another language, another culture, and always in another strange port. We tend to do only the immediately important things on days we are passage making, or on days we go off touring, or when we have guests aboard. Sooner or later, we must pause and play catch-up, such as we are doing here in Malta. It is all part of the cruising package. If you are a boat owner, you know how things fail. If you are thinking of becoming a boat owner, be prepared to find fun in the fixing, or get a boat with a captain, or learn to utilize the shore support, in the form of specific boat yards, or agents, who will find the help you need, and see that the jobs get done.
Using an agent is new for us and in a country where English is the second language, like Malta, maybe not as essential. But oh how much he, Darius Goodwin, took the burden of organizing, of hours we would have spent on the phone, or running here and there by foot, bus or taxi, away from us. We got his name from a cruiser we met in Italy, who explained, that for a price, usually a percentage of what you spend, the agent will save you a lot of time, and a lot of hustling. How right he was. We called Darius at RLR Ltd., while still in Sicily, for information on how and where to ship spare parts. He said DHL was the best in Malta, and they were hugely efficient. The parts arrived before we did, almost overnight. He arranged for berthing, and was in the harbor by dinghy to lead us to our spot along the wall on Manoel Island, when we arrived. He then whisked Dave off to customs, helped with the clearing, delivered Dave back to the boat, and made a date in the morning to go through our list of what we wanted to accomplish. He arranged our fueling, by tanker truck right at our slip, that next day, duty free, with the customs man standing by, and took both of us on our shopping forays, me to an excellent grocery store, and Dave for pumps, fittings, nuts and bolts. We could have left the next day, certainly a tremendous time savings, but we took two extra days, one for fixing the stabilizer fin with the broken fitting, and one for a tour of Malta, which he also arranged. Tomorrow he will deliver our jerry cans of gas for the dinghy, saving Dave some heavy carrying, clear us out, and we will be on our way, quickest, easiest turnaround we've ever had. With the great savings in fuel prices, about a quarter of what we would have paid in Italy for the thousand gallons we needed, well worth the passage down here.
So now we have discovered a way to simplify our lives when time is short, or we don't want to struggle with a foreign language, and I am sure we will use the services of agents in the future. There are agents in Italy who own or control a lot of the marina space, and also have men who will help you find what you need from taxis to spares. Using their services will allow you to reserve space in marinas that are always tight, you will know ahead of time that you have the space, and you don't have to make all the phone calls, or faxes yourself. I am thinking specifically of J. Luise and Sons of Naples, and next time we pass through middle Italy, I would use their services. Then we could probably have had space at Sannazzaro Marina, instead of rocking and rolling at anchor outside. They also have an office at Porto Touristico de Roma. Not necessary for all, certainly not necessary if the budget is tight and the time frame is not, but it sure worked for us.
As an addendum, without an agent in Athens, we never would have got space in a well located marina, when our generator failed. We didn't need his help for the fixing, but he was Johnny on the spot when we needed a diver to find our anchor when another yacht tore it loose. We also used Gino Marine for all our arrangements in Turkey, from clearing in, berthing, to getting plane tickets home, (over the phone while we were still in Greece), to arraigning tours, and doing cosmetics. We have since discovered that agents, maybe called by another name, are there to help you in ports in the U.S. also. If you are a stranger, in a strange place, and pressed for time, and uncertain as to where to go for what you need, getting an agent can be very good solution.

Late summer, 2003