Monthly Archives: November 2009

The “Ruta de la Sal” to the Knight Templars of Malta

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From April 1st to the 4th I will be participating in the Spanish sailing race “Ruta de la Sal“. A regata from Barcelona to Ibiza over a distance of circa 140 nautical Miles and about 300 yachts participating. We will be sailing the race with a Swan 441 R from 1979 and a crew of 10. For sure you will read more about the race in time but today I bought my airplane ticket to Barcelona and had a look at the site.

Some Background

In 1989 the first race was held based on this historic event. The origins of this regata seem to go back to May 1846. At that time Barcelona was under siege by the Carlists armies which led to a disastrous shortage of salt. To end the peril a race was set up. The first ship to arrive with a good load of salt would be paid in gold. The winner was a 30 meter schooner called “Maltese Falcon” from Baltimore with a Greek skipper called Andreas Portus.

The Maltese Falcon? I heard that name before…

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The Maltese Falcon

Every time I read something about a ship called “The Maltese Falcon“, I have to think of the 290 feet high-tech ship built by venture capitalist Tom Perkins for about US$ 130 million. A square rigged ship with 3 free standing carbon fiber masts and more then 75 motors to control the 15 sails. With its three 20-story masts fully rigged the yacht can cross the Atlantic in 10 days. The ship was sold recently (August 2009) by Tom Perkins for “only” US$ 100 million, after he had to reduce the ask price with more then US$ 40 million. Yep, it is a buying market these days.

For more about this ship you could read the the book “Mine’s Bigger: Tom Perkins and the Making of the Greatest Sailing Machine Ever Built” by David A. Kaplan (Amazon.com).


But as as my research went further, this ship’s name can be referred back to the movie “The Maltese Falcon” with Humphrey Bogart. A movie from 1941 and one that many film historians consider as the first of the “film noir” genre in Hollywood. In the IMDB ranking it can be found as number 7 in the list of the best movies ever made.

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The story, based on the book by Dashiell Hammett, tells about three adventurers who want to steal the Maltese Falcon and a detective (Humphrey Bogart) trying to prevent it.

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But my research didn’t end here. Because the “Maltese Falcon” itself is reportedly based on the “Kniphausen Hawk” a ceremonial pouring vessel made in 1697 for George William von Kniphausen, Count of the Holy Roman. It is modeled after a hawk perched on a rock and is encrusted with red garnets, amethysts, emeralds and blue sapphires. The vessel is currently owned by the Duke of Devonshire and is an integral piece of the Chatsworth House collection.






Knight Templars of Malta

But it goes on, this is still not the ealiest mentioning of the “Maltese Falcon”. In 1539, the Knight Templars of Malta, paid tribute to Charles V of Spain, by sending him a Golden Falcon encrusted from beak to claw with the rarest jewels. But pirates seized the galley carrying the priceless token and the fate of the [original] Maltese Falcon remains a mystery to this day…

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Final words about the Maltese Falcon I am glad to leave to Adam Savage, a longtime special effects artist and host of “MythBusters” on the Discovery Channel. His fascination for Dodo’s lead to… the Maltese Falcon.