WATCH: Elderly man who pulled the Black Pearl up from seabed 40 years ago
The schooner Black Pearl which has been on the shore at Ta’ Xbiex for almost 40 years, holds unforgettable memories for Vince Vella who, through his perseverance, managed to pull it up twice from the seabed.
The schooner was at sea for a long time, however it has not touched the water for the last 40 years and was beached on the rocks at Ta’ Xbiex where it became an attraction.
This schooner used to carry merchandise in the Swedish seas and later was used as a luxurious yacht. It entered Malta following an accident when its engines caught fire. Because of the expenses required to fix it, its owner abandoned it and as a result it sank 70 feet underwater at Marsamxett Harbour. Vince Vella, who today is 80 years old, remembers that he was mocked when he and his brother decided to pull the ship out of the water and fix it.
“We did not realise it was that big, when I dove for the first time to see it, it looked like an underwater garden”.
Mr Vella said that to pull the Black Pearl out of the sea it took them two months and they used 1880 tanks of oil. Together with his brother, he spent long months fixing the damage which this wooden schooner had sustained.
However, little did he imagine that it would also end up in the film Popeye which was made in Malta, after the film producer asked whether he could rent it from him.
Various scenes were filmed on the Black Pearl by the legendary actor, the late Robin Williams. Mr Vella said that during the filming the schooner was sunk again, and because he loves it so much, he again took the trouble of pulling it up from the seabed at Popeye Village and brought it back to Ta’ Xbiex.
Mr Vella said that despite the great deal of trouble he and his brother took, this schooner will always remain in his heart.
“It’s like my home, I still love it because everywhere I touch, I can feel the blood in my heart pumping with it, we did a lot of work on this ship and no one was injured and I hope it remains there.”
Vince spends months on a boat which he built himself which bears the original name of the Black Pearl, Aeolus. He says that there he find peace, he sees his schooner every day in front of him and he sleeps close to it so that he will never forget the memories of the journey which this schooner has taken; memories he will never forget.