Over the last few days, traditional boats which were left abandoned in Marsaxlokk were going to be thrown away with other waste in a cleaning operation which is being carried out around Malta’s coastline.
An organisation which protects the cultural heritage of this village has managed to save three of these boats in order to restore them so they can be continued to be enjoyed by the public.
The luzzu (fishing boat), the kayak and the firilla (small rowing boat) are traditional Maltese boats which are gradually disappearing. The art of boat-building is also dying along with them.
Many fishermen today are making boats made out of fibre, and as a result the traditional boats are being abandoned on the shore when their owners pass away.
“You won’t find these type of boats anywhere else in the world, so they are part of our identity as Marsaxlokk residents and as Maltese and Gozitans,” explained Ryan Abela from the group Marsaxlokk Heritage.
Ryan Abela explained how because of the cleaning operation carried out over the last few days, these boats were going to be thrown away. “Some of the abandoned boats were already broken but fortunately we managed to save three of them, thanks to the council which gave us a temporary premises.”
Fisherman Carmelo Cassar, known as Handy, was born and raised in this village, and remembers these three boats when they used to be out at sea. He calculates that they are around 100 years old. “I remember when they renovated them and they still worked well. I recall that time well but now their owners have died, some did not have children, some were not married, and the boats remained here.”
Mr Cassar believes that these type of boats should also qualify for financial assistance to remain in good condition.
He explained that the firilla is lighter and moves faster than the luzzu, because it is built to be used in harbours, while the luzzu is more robust for it to go out into the open sea. “If you do not know anything about boats you would not be able to tell them apart.”
The NGO is appealing for help so that the boats it has collected can be restored to their former glory and can be taken down to sea again or else exhibited in public places. “Obviously, we need funds for this to pay the people who are restoring them, and another problem is to find premises to carry out the work.”
Meanwhile, Mr Abela is hoping that there will be more awareness for these boats to be protected as an important cultural heritage.