The harbour is always full of these type of boats, ranging from the luzzu (double-ended fishing boat), dghajsa (smaller boat) and kajjik (similar to the luzzu but has a square transom).
The world luzzu comes from the Sicilian word guzzu, which is still used today in parts of Italy and Sicily to refer to a common fishing or transport vessel.
The luzzu design is believed to have originated in Phoenician times, surviving through the annals of time due to its sturdy design even in rough weather. Luzzus were traditionally powered by the wind, and resultantly had sails. Nowadays, however, they usually tend to have small outboard engines slung over the back, with power outputs of about 10HP.
Characterised by shades of bright yellow, red, green and blue, luzzus usually have pointed bows with a pair of eyes at the front in order to ward off evil spirits and protect fishermen while out at sea.
Luzzus are found in their largest numbers in Marsaxlokk harbour in the south of Malta. The boats are considered national symbols of the archipelago.
Although the term dghajsa can refer to any kind of boat in Maltese, a real dghajsa is a type of traditional water taxi which was used to ferry passengers to and from different locations within the confines of Malta’s Grand Harbour.
A single oarsman used to row a dghajsa. While high bow and stern pieces appear to be for decorative purposes, they actually help with keeping the boat stable when passengers are boarding or disembarking. In addition, they also helped a dghajsa to handle better.
Not many dghajsas are left, with only about a dozen original ones remaining. These now feature outboard engines and are used as tourist attractions. The woodwork on dghajsas is expensive to maintain, and there are only a few carpenters left with the knowledge of how to build them.
Kajjiks are similar to luzzus, yet they are distinct from them as they have flat sterns and are usually smaller than luzzus are. They are believed to have been introduced to Malta by the Knights of St. John in the year 1530.
While they were previously made out of wood, kajjiks being built in the present day now tend to made out of fibreglass. When the Order of St. John presided over the islands in the Middle Ages, kajjiks were mounted with small guns in order to fire on attacking Ottoman vessels.
Kajjiks are the most prevalent kind of Maltese boat, numbering some two-and-a-half-times as many luzzus.
Gozo Boat (Dghajsa tal-Latin)
This now-extinct sailing boat ferried passengers between Malta and Gozo for centuries, with examples being built solely to fulfil that purpose. They had sails and were significantly larger than any of the other boars mentioned in this blog, allowing them to carry sizeable numbers of passengers and quantities of cargo.
They preceded the current Gozo Channel service which we all know today. Due to the onslaught of steam-powered vessels in the 1960s for the same purpose, it meant that the Gozo boat was doomed. The last one afloat in its original condition was deemed unseaworthy back in the 1970s, however it has been fully restored and is on permanent display after lying abandoned at Mgarr Harbour for the best part of three decades.
The only other known example, the Maryanne, is owned by Captain Morgan Cruises, however it does not feature sails and has added decking.