Malta

 Up Tunisia

 

wpe29.jpg (37932 bytes)

Now Malta had never been on our list of places to visit, and has an ambient daytime temperature of 40C in August, but  there's no denying that Valletta is an impressive sight as you approach it from the sea at dawn.  It also has a couple of large boat yards and when we arrived at Manoel Island it certainly looked the sort of place that should be able to complete almost any boat related job.  You can probably guess though that this would not prove to be the case.  But first the paint. 

As we left Sicilia,  Richard had undertaken to e-mail us the bill of lading for the paint (we would need this to get it released by the shipping agent).  We rely on 2.5 or 3G mobile for our internet access and so once we were out of range of Italian transmitters we no longer had e-mail.  It took a couple of days to sort out internet access in Malta and once we did - surprise, surprise no bill of lading. 

So - Phone Richard. (actually "Phone Richard" always means "Phone Richard several times".  I've never actually met Richard in the flesh, but I assume he has some curious physical disability which makes him incapable of operating the dialing buttons on a phone.)  Richard says that the shipper has not yet sent him the bill of lading, but does give us some delivery details and the name of Maltese agent.  Given this information we arrange to have the boat lifted so as to be ready to paint immediately it arrives.  Send bill to Richard asking for payment - no reply.  (In fact we are never to have any contact with Richard ever again, but we don't know that yet.)

We wait until the berthing date, Richard is proving more elusive than normal so we contact the Maltese agent direct - Kevin who will ultimately prove to be a real star.  Yes, CGM Berlioz had indeed docked yesterday;  yes, it had discharged its cargo and yes they had a  container aboard.  But no, there was no package for us and yes, of course he was sure.

Phone Richard!  He's not there so speak to Sammy, Richard's secretary and as far as we know the only employee of Permanent Coatings.  I think by now I have spoken to Sammy about 100 times and she still doesn't know who I am!  She also remains irritatingly cheerful no matter how annoyed I get.  On this occasion though, she also turns out to be a bit of a gem and as Richard isn't there (though I have a sneaking suspicion I can hear his voice in the background) she gives me the contact details of the UK shipping agent so that I can make contact directly.  The mobile phone charges in Malta are also irritatingly high.

Owen at Embassy Freight will also prove to be a gem.  No, the package didn't ship, he'd told Richard that it had been sent to them much too late to catch the ship.  It would be on the next ship - name, date, reference number, copy of bill of lading - all supplied.  It would arrive in time for a public holiday and we'd have another week and a half delay, but at least we were making progress.... Richard has just forgotten to tell us this.

The ship duly arrives, is unloaded and our package is located.  All the Maltese agent now needs is a copy of the UK customs declaration which is not with the package, and we can have the paint.  Customs declaration??  Aren't we in the EU?  Yes, but apparently there has to be a form that confirms the goods have had VAT paid in an EU country.  Phone Richard, not there.  Sammy knows nothing about it.  Phone Owen.  "That's right, we generally complete this documentation, but on this occasion Richard wanted to do it himself because we charge 12 (sic).  If Richard or Sammy haven't got it doesn't exist."  

 

Album022.jpg (45970 bytes) Phone Kevin.  How can I get this released without the paperwork?  Simple, you can't.  What if I pay the VAT?  You can't pay the VAT, its come from an EU country.  So release it then.  Can't, hasn't got the declaration.  Circular argument.

In the end Owen agreed (free of charge - and I did offer to pay the 12) to talk Sammy through filling out a replacement form, sending it to UK Customs and getting a duplicate stamped.  At the same time Kevin (our local hero - seen left) finds some miraculous way of getting the paint out of customs before the paperwork arrives and personally delivers the paint to us in the yard.  The kindness and helpfulness of strangers sometimes leaves me speechless.

Still no word (or money) from Richard!  We have been on the hard in 40 now for 2 weeks.

 

Whilst we're pursuing the paint we're also learning more about Manoel Island Yacht Yard and in some ways we would come to consider the delayed paint fortunate (see below), but also we get to meet "The Boys" without whom Malta would have been a much more depressing place.

Jeff and Ray are the joint owners of White Star, a 60 ft motor yacht that once belonged to the chairman of Cunard, which I think makes it the last living relative of Titanic.  Jeff also owns the only remaining coal-fired chip shop in the UK - it's true!

The boat has been in Malta for 15 years, but now they've decided it's time to move on, so they'd flown out to take her to her new home. They just needed to get one of White Star's heads skimmed  before they left and had brought her into Manoel Island for a couple of days to get this done.  That was a month ago!  But were they depressed?  Well actually yes, just a bit  - though we think that Jeff's Karaoke machine also has to take some of the blame.  Persistent nocturnal spearing and eating of harbour fish must also have taken its toll (see pic).

 

wpe5.jpg (21594 bytes)

wpe2D.jpg (29226 bytes)

Anyway, as we were delayed we got to know more about the yard and watch the way work was carried out, and alarm bells really started to ring - We already knew that at 300 euros per day (a very short day) was amongst the most expensive in Europe, so for this we expected excellence in every way.  But, we met unhappy customers (actually we met no happy ones), watched the working practices (think British Leyland in the seventies) and became familiar with the management (think "The Office").  

Well if you want to read a full critique of MIYY you can go HERE.

Suffice it to say, in the end, with no cash forthcoming from Permanent Coatings and deep unease about the quality of work at MIYY , we did the work ourselves with the help of The Boys (fortunately we had previously obtained written permission to work on the boat ourselves whilst in the yard).  The Boys helped us in spite of the fact that Jeff and Ray had been threatened by the yard General Manager, Mr Victor White  (that's how he introduced himself!), that if they helped us life would become difficult for them.  Another Dutch cruiser was also advised not to help us.  Well:

 1. Jeff & Ray are Geordies - so even if they hadn't been going to help us before they certainly would now, and 

2.  How much more difficult could it be -  waiting 5 weeks for a 2 day job to be completed?

And really we couldn't have done the job without them.  1 full coat of epoxy sealant, wait 4 hours then 2 full coats of copper epoxy one after the other - we'd still have been working at midnight and wouldn't have been able to take Jeff & Ray to dinner!

 

wpe7.jpg (26829 bytes)

But what about Malta?  Well, it's a bit dirty, it's expensive and it's where British tourists (who aren't really comfortable with "abroad") go for a foreign holiday.  On the plus side,  there are some places like the old capital of Mdina are well worth a visit and if you make a little effort to get away from the burger bars and Irish bars there are some good places to eat:

We were taken to Rabat by Joe one of the security guards to eat garlic rabbit off formica tables, surrounded by hundreds of photos of the same trotting pony - presumably once owned by the same family as the restaurant.  In Valletta  we were served "what I think you might like" by the Maitre D at the excellent Rubino's  where we were also given a bottle of desert wine  - "because there's no culture here of drinking it".  

And we should mention Snoopy's, just a British pub transported to Malta really, and not normally our sort of place, but upstairs in the tiny dinning room, for pub grub prices, you are fed by the owner's daughter who trained with Mossiman in London!  But she was only back for the summer and won't be there next year - Sorry!

Also, once outside the yard we met good people, who did good work for reasonable prices - though this often involved us ferrying them, or parts, across the bay in the rib under cover of darkness.  'Freddy the fridge' charged our newly acquired freezer with illegal R12 - thus matching our other system.  And yet another Kevin did all our stainless work.  To give you a feel - he polished our davits for 50 Maltese pounds as opposed to the 380 quoted by the yard - it was done in two days and was excellent quality.

 

So back to the paint.  Well, we never did hear from Permanent coatings ever again, and of course we never did receive a penny.  The delays caused meant that we missed what we considered our sensible window of opportunity to leave the Med, so Brazil would have to wait and we decided to head for Barcelona for the winter instead - and there are a lot of worse places than Barcelona!

We did endeavour to pursue Permanent Coating via the offices of Trading Standards, but they weren't interested.  Apparently pursuing traders who manufacture and promote products that don't work does not fall within their remit.  You can read the full story as we presented it to them HERE.  If what's written is untrue, then of course it's libelous and so Permanent Coating would be at liberty to sue us.  We wait with bated breath!

Up Tunisia

 

http://www.samarang.com
Page design by Barry Bullen
Send comments to sam1@samarang.com

Last updated 5th June 2017