June 7, 2015
Although we really wanted to stay longer and explore Flores more, we had to leave the next evening as the winds were going to be favorable and then turn against us for the following week. Also, Rich needed to catch a flight back to Charleston so we sailed overnight the 130 miles to the port of Horta.
We arrived Sunday around noon, checked in with the authorities and were provided a berth along the concrete quay. The boats were rafted up so one boat tied to the quay and then 3 others tied up along side. Horta is the most popular landfall for yachts arriving from Trans atlantic passages.
Horta is a little town pretty much inhabited by the international sailing community. There are boats from all over the world. Some have come from the Caribbean, east coast of North America, Bermuda, Northern Europe and this is the convenient port of choice to stop mid atlantic. There is definitely a buzz in the air in this little town with great energy.
There is one bar that is a must for the sailors who stop here, Peters Sport Bar. It was littered with burgees from passing yachts and filled with international ocean voyagers. And the price is right, large beers are about $1 or so. A good bottle of wine is $3 and you can get a decent meal for $5.
On the quay every boat that arrives has crew that paints a little momento of their boat. There are thousands of these all over the area on the water. Apparently it is bad luck to leave without painting something. Some are simple and some put significant thought and work into their little painting.
Being that Jessica is an artist we had high standards and wanted to leave behind something that would be appreciated and stand out. We took a couple of days bantering ideas back and forth and settled on the Octopus holding a flag and Cadence sailing down one of its legs. It came out great and was definitely one of the best in all of the town. Some folks did some very elaborate creative stuff and the Octopus was right up there.
One of the boats tied up alongside of us was Sikkum. Three young guys from Spain, Pol Bruno and Enake had just completed a 3 year circumnavigation. They were sadly on their last leg heading back to Spain where they would continue their careers, Pol went to Spain's premier maritime academy and Inake was an architect.
They decided to buy a barbecue at the hardware store and throw a little party on the quay for anyone to join. It turned into a really great shin dig with folks from all over joining in and bringing food to the fiesta. There was another boat that had 6 young college somethings from France that had rented a boat in the Caribbean and were sailing to the Med where they would all be resuming their studies. They had met Pol and Inake in St. Martin and were glad to be meeting up again with these two funny characters. The night turned into a late one and all had a really great time.
Jess and I explored the little town as much as we could and then decided we would take a ferry to another island, Pico, where we would camp for a night and hike the volcano to its summit of 7000 feet. We rented a car while we were there and explored the entire island.
The Azores are pretty much all agriculture and cows. Very lush green fields with cows and some vineyards. There is definitely a tourist element but certainly not over run with them and the little towns are unspoiled. We found a small camp site across from the beach in a seaside village and set up our tent. We were the only campers there. That night we went out for a nice dinner and made our back to our tent not too late as we were planning a big climb the next morning.
As we both laid down to sleep and then birds started some weird kind of mating ritual. There were hundreds of birds circling above the campground and making a strange calling sound that resembled a kazoo. It was super annoying. At 3 am we were still awake from the kazoo fest going on above us so we got up and moved our tent across the park to get as far away from the birds as we could.
We woke early after little sleep and had a nice breakfast and then started out towards the base of the hike. Pico last erupted________. Pico is much higher than any other island and really stands out compared to its neighbors. It is most often hidden in the clouds so getting a clear day to hike is the exception here. The hike was probably one of the most difficult we have done. It was at times straight up and all of it was over volcanic rock that sometimes was solid and other times loose and easy to slide on. The terrain was very difficult to say the least.
The hike took us two and half hours up and the reward of the summit was amazing. We were high above the clouds and at one point saw a jet liner flying below us. The hike down was even more difficult as you had to carefully place every step as to not slide or fall down the steep loose terrain. Coming down took another two and half hours. After the hike we made our way back to the ferry and across to Horta.
After 5 days in Horta we were ready to move on and find something a little more low key and also not have 3 other boats tied to us with their crews coming and going at all times of the day. We sailed the 45 miles to Graciosa, a small very rural island. We did some hiking here and hitch hiked across the island to another little town. I think we were the only foreigners on this little island with the exception of the one other boat in the anchorage. We spent two days here and then made another 45 mile hop to Terceira. We went into the fort city of Angra de Herismo. This was certainly the highlight of our trip in the Azores. We took a marina berth in Angra, the harbor is surrounded on both sides by a large fort. The town behind us is all up hill with windy streets and small portugese homes and businesses. They were gearing up for their largest celebration of the year, “ “?.
This is a 10 day festival of music, food, a big parade and bull fights in the street, but the bull is never hurt and never killed. Only the people are in danger of getting run down. At the parade i think every person who lived on the island was in attendance. The place was packed but very orderly. They put together some amazing floats had great dancers and marching bands. The people in this town seem to live at a very relaxed pace and really enjoy life. They keep their island very clean, have no crime, and are all able to find employment. This is the type of island i could move back to and live.
We were invited by the local yacht club to join in on their annual regatta race. We decided to enter the race and were told it was a very relaxed non competitive race that was all for fun. When several of the local boats were emptying their boats of all non necessary weight and bending on their race sails we realized there was definitely a competitive element to this and we needed to gear up and be ready. There were two young crew members of a boat berthed next to us that wanted join and go with us on our boat so we gladly took them aboard as we could use the extra hands. A young German man and Australian lady who were sailing around the world as crew on a steel sailboat owned by an older British gentlemen. They proved to be great help. Edward has a lot of experience and was great help. At first we thought the race would be a bust as there was little wind but once we got started the wind picked up to 10-15 knots. We got off to slow start but caught up to the pack and managed to pass several boats and placed 7 out of 12 in our class. Not bad for our first race I suppose. We all had a great day and joined the club for the award dinner that night. We felt very welcome in this little town and wish we could have stayed longer.
We needed to make the 90 mile trip to Ponta Delgada on Sao Miguel Island as we were picking up my cousin Ryan who would join us for the last 800 miles to Portugal. This island is the most touristy of the Azores with the largest population.
Our marina was in the largest town that was really not too special. Unfortunately we did not have much time to spend here as we had a quick weather window in front of us to make for mainland Portugal. We did a few maintenance things and prepared for departure the next day. Ryan had never been on a sailboat and this being 800 offshore miles was a great way to make an intro to sailing, or maybe not. We would see.The first 3 days we had a nice following wind of about 15 knots. The boat was flat and we moved along very nicely. No one was sick, we never changed tacks and we made easy miles. Ryan caught a small yellowfin tuna that would turn into a few nice meals for the trip.
Then we had dead wind for a day so we motored for about 20 hours until we found wind again. This time however we were in bigger seas, bigger wind and it was on the beam. This gives the boat a lot more motion and Ryan had removed his sea sickness patch. Unfortunately for Ryan he would remain sea sick for most of the remainder of the trip. Nevertheless we made good time towards Lagos Portugal and arrived at night after 6 days of sailing. For an inaugural sail, Ryan did great and proved to be a good deckhand.
When we arrived Lagos at midnight, Ryan jumped ship and went into town. He quickly made friends with a bunch of kids in Lagos and did his own thing. He was out with the young crowd going to discos well into the night. I think this was a great experience for this young guy and we look forward to having him back. Hopefully we can talk David and Russell, his cousins, into all joining for a few weeks somewhere in Europe.