Once you are passing by Ta Xbiex Yacht Marina you can’t miss a Black Wooden Schooner sitting on her hard in the corner – BLACK PEARL. She was built in Pukavik, Sweden in 1909 and is one of the last surviving wooden trading schooners.
The BLACK PEARL , originally named the BLACK OPAL , has a hull constructed from two layers of thick seasoned oak and three stout ninety-foot masts, which rise from her deck. At one hundred and fifty feet in length she was made to penetrate the Baltic ice floes in the cold winters and survive the strong Scandinavian winds. Made for trading missions the BLACK PEARL carried loads of nearly four hundred tonnes, usually grain, coal and wood, to remote areas of Norway and Sweden.
Fifty years after her first voyage, the BLACK PEARL sailed to Ramsgate, UK to be re-rigged as a barquentine and re-engined with Dorman/Paxman . Also she was reconstructed with a luxuriously refurbished interior; modern equipment and nine thousand square feet of canvas.
Renamed AEOLUS she then set sail for Australia with a crew of six, sixteen guests who worked their own passage, and a parrot who answered to the name ‘HERMAN” On the voyage to Australia, she called at Lisbon, Martinique, the Virgin islands and the Galapagos Islands.
On Christmas Eve, 1973 she set sail for Australia to start a new life as a luxury passenger vessel. Her voyage to the southern hemisphere took her to Lisbon, Martinique, the Virgin Islands and the Galapagos before her arrival in Melbourne.
She never made it past the Mediterranean. After a fire broke out in the engine room in 1976 as she travelled through the Suez Canal, she was listed at Marsamxett Harbour in Malta, where she sank to the seabed seventy feet below.
In 1979, the schooner was refloated by local enthusiasts and restored to her former glory with her hull repaired at Bezzina Floating Dock at Marsa.
Later she was towed away to Anchor Bay of which she played a prominent part in the Musical Production POPEYE directed by Robert Altman and starring Robin Williams at POPEYE VILLAGE, also known as SWEETHAVEN VILLAGE of which it was a purpose built film set village, now converted into a small attraction fun park, consisting of a collection of rustic and ramshackle wooden buildings.
The BLACK PEARL ‘s adventures didn’t end there. She sank once again in a storm in 1981 and was brought back to the surface for the final time to the Ta’ Xbiex seafront in 1982, where she was perched on the quayside overlooking the bastions of Valletta and the ruins of Manoel Island. For six years volunteers and boat-lovers helped restore the beautiful boat to her former magnificence. She was turned into a restaurant and bar in 1987.
Today the BLACK PEARL is still elegantly towering over surrounding boats in the marina. She’s a high quality restaurant serving a variety of fresh dishes and excellent wines, the Black Pearl is a unique attraction on the Maltese islands.
Photos by Capt. Lawrence Dalli. Do not use these images without my permission. © All rights reserved. Malta Ship Photos & Action Photos – www.maltashipphotos.com