The Black Pearl
The Black Pearl has an interesting and chequered history which dates as far back as 1909. Built at Pukavik in Sweden, and destined to be one of the last serviciers of the wooden trading schooners, she was originally named the "Black Opal".
Fashioned on strength, so that she could penetrate the Baltic ice floes in the cold winters, and sail in the strong Nordic winds of Scandinavia, the Black Schooner was constructed with a hull of two layers of thick seasoned oak. Over one hundred and fifty feet long, and with three stout masts rising ninety feet from the deck, the "Black Opal" must have made a majestic sight indeed as she sailed the high seas on her trading missions carrying a net weight of nearly four hundred tonnes.
During her lifespan, the black schooner has faced many vicissitudes. For sixty-nine years she navigated under sail with cargoes of grain, coke and wood on voyages to the remotest areas of the Swedish scurries.
In 1969, she arrived in Ramsgate where she was converted into a barquentine with a luxuriously refurbished interior, modern equipment and nine thousand square feet of canvas. This re-construction work was completed on Christmas Eve in 1973.
Re-named "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 of "Herman". On the voyage to Australia, she called at Lisbon, Martinique, the Virgin Islands, and the Galapagos Islands.
From the cold Nordic temperatures of Scandinavia and the North Seas, the Black Schooner found herself in the warm climate of Australia and the South Pacific, in the year 1974. Her owners employed a crew of sixteen professional seamen, provided accommodation for forty pampered guests and used her for holiday cruises from Australia and the Pacific Islands.
Eventually she developed weevil worm in the hull and had to be sent back to the United Kingdom for repairs. En route, misfortune struck as when passing through the Suez Canal a fire broke out in the engine room. She sailed into Maltese waters for repairs in 1976, and was abandoned by her owners in Marsamxett harbour where she sank, settling on the seabed at a depth of 70 feet.
In 1979 she was refloated by the Vella brothers. Her hull was repaired in the Marsa floating dock, and she was towed to Anchor Bay to be used in the filming of the motion-picture 'Popeye', in which she played a prominent part. She sank once again during a freak storm in 1981 and was later towed back to the Grand Harbour for repairs.
Now called the "Black Pearl" the schooner remains a majestic sight, reminiscent of days gone by, when sails ruled the waves. She no longer has to face the battering seas and high winds, as she lies safely in the sanctuary of the Ta`Xbiex Yacht Marina, for a well deserved rest.
Her present owner Vincent Vella has with foresight and entrepreneurship, converted the Black Pearl into a de luxe Bar and Restaurant, where guests are again pampered on board with lavish up-market cuisine and a first class service.
This major operation was completed in six years, with the help of family members, friends and volunteers. Now a unique attraction in the Maltese Islands, the Black Pearl is again at the service of Ladies and Gentlemen with a sense of adventure who like to enjoy a first class lunch or dinner, and a drink in a truly magnificent atmosphere.
Picture added on 28 February 2011 at 07:52