Wooden ferry boats owners are using this time to carry out maintenance works

Wooden ferry boats that normally adorn the Grand Harbor even just with their colourful hues as they slowly ride the waves, are been kept inside their owners’ warehouses for maintenance repairs now that the livelihoods of boat-owners (barklora) have also been threatened by the pandemic crisis. These boat-ownders are using this time to carry out maintenance works of their much prized traditional boats.

Back in the day these boats played an important part in trips made inside the Grand Harbor especially when the harbour was an important base for the British fleet.

The original boats which carried sailors from the ships to the docks have almost disappeared and only a few of these traditional Maltese boats remain belonging to two Senglea families who use them for scenic port trips for tourists.

Frankie Ahar, whose family takes care of these boats in Senglea, said that these boats require a lot of investment and maintenance and are in fierce competition with fibreglass boats, which, those in the business know, are just an inferior imitation of the traditional wooden boat.

“We don’t have a job at the moment so we have a chance to give them a good going over, but you have to get them out of the water every three months and clean them from underneath and varnish them.”

He said that although it would be easier for them to work with fibreglass boats, they did not want to lose another tradition which is linked and associated with other traditional crafts.

Joe Abela, whose family also looks after these traditional boats said that the construction and maintenance of these boats have become a rarity today.

“Nobody wanted to renovate the boats, I did it myself and it took me two years and five months. This is the oldest one around. I’ve changed everything.”

He said that had he not taken the renovations upon himself, a boat with a history which dates back to over 170 years – and part of the maritime history of Cottonera – would have been lost.