Montag, 23. Juli 2012

back to Sao Jorge again and then Terceira

Late afternoon we said good bye to our friends one more time and then Taniwani weighed anchor at Corvo and sailed gently eastwards through the night. Our destination was again the lengthy island of Sao Jorge and the town of Velas with its friendly little marina. Only this time Velas was exceptionally popular, as some festivities were scheduled for the coming weekend. The marina was quite full and while we still could have managed to squeeze in somewhere, we decided to just anchor outside, as the weather was particularly calm. We were not the only ones with that thought as five other boats were already at anchor and the number of anchoring boats increased to eight the next day.

This time we just hung out near and around the town and didn't get a car again. We wanted to leave Saturday morning and sail to the island of Terceira. That seemed a good idea anyway, as a rib came out to us and told us that we would have to move on Saturday as the anchoring area would be turned into a jet-ski race track. Well, we thought leaving early Saturday would be just fine, but Friday afternoon they showed up again and told us that the jet-skies would want to do training now and we were asked to anchor closer to land. Now this is something Taniwani never does. We always want to swing through 360 degrees and stay well clear of shallow water. And the thought of being squeezed in between rocks and racing jet-skies wasn't so appealing. Not a real problem, we would just move on and anchor 12 miles further, in front of the next town called Calheta. And so we did. Had a short visit to the town by dinghy and an ok night at anchor before moving on to Angra do Heroismo on the island of Terceira.

Angra is one of our favorite places, ever since we first visited in 2002 when the new marina had just opened. Meanwhile the folks at the marina know us and so we usually get a place deep in the marina, where there is no surge to be noticed. Further out, at the visitor pontoon, it can get quite jerky. And as always, when we come in, we top up fuel at the reception dock, being the last convenient fuel dock before leaving the islands. Later it turned out that we were lucky taking fuel on the way in, as first the pump for regular petrol was broken, so that we couldn't get dinghy fuel, and later, after trying to fix it for a day, the mechanic had managed to break them both. Well, he said he had fixed it, but when they tried to pump diesel, severe smoke came from the pump and they had to stop.

Taking about smoke. The first thing the friendly man from the marina told us while we were taking fuel, was that a sister ship of ours, (another Najad 490 called Goodwin), had caught fire in the marina just a week ago. Apparently it happened at 4 in the morning and the marina security guards saw smoke coming from the boat on their CCTV monitors and ran there with fire extinguishers. They were able to put out the fire and helped the couple clamber out through a hatch. From what he told us, the fire started in the engine room and burned out through the steering column. Eventually it burned out the cockpit floor and surrounding parts. The boat was then taken out of the water and put up at the hard standing place opposite the marina. Actually a good place, as friends had their boat here over the winter and were quite pleased. At the moment it seems the best place in the Azores to leave a boat on the dry safely over the winter. But Santa Marian may soon become another very good option. The folks at the shipyard in Angra thought they would also be able to repair the fire damage, but it seems the insurance company decided to ship the boat back to Sweden for proper repair. We think that it was most likely an electric problem that caused the fire and knowing the installation on our boat very well, we do have some smart guess as to what may have started to burn and are relatively sure that we would not have the same problem, as we had already changed a few things very early on. But you never know for sure until you know the exact reason of the fire….

Back to normal cruiser life: We were prepared to spend at least a week in Angra and then maybe a few days in Praia before leaving the islands and sail to the mainland. We should be in Bayona no later than August 6, but that meant we could pick the best time for the passage depending on weather. And so we settled into Angra and started to enjoy the daily lunch at the very special restaurant right down town. Every workday they offer a quite creative and tasty lunch that includes soup, main course, a dessert and a glass of whine, all for 9 Euros. We also toured the island again by car and this time inspected the lava tubes, which they call Christmas Cave. Quite nice, but the other place on the island where you can walk into an old Volcano, climb deep down to a little lake and look up the chimney, is by far more interesting and unique.

In the end our stay was much shorter than we expected. We had to find an Austrian consulate to certify signatures and the nearest to our expected track was in Porto. In addition the weather looked quite reasonable for the 900 mile leg to Porto or Vigo. A stretch that is normally not ideal to sail in the summer months. With the Azores High over the Azores where it should be, there is no wind in the islands and strong North to Northeast when you get closer to the Iberian Peninsula. This time the high was well south of the Azores, causing westerly winds in the islands and out a third of the way. The prognosis was so, that the high would build a small finger towards Northeast, sort of pointing into the Biscay. For us it would mean starting with wind from almost behind, (not perfect, but better than nothing), then a short phase of no wind, and finally strong northerly to northeasterly wind. Well, it almost came about like predicted, only the high caught up with us a bit faster and wasn't a thin finger but pretty round. The effect was that the middle part, with no wind at all, grew from predicted 24 hours to 36 hours. And this means motoring, as the high got quite stationary. The last part was rougher, close hauled in strong wind (25kts) from NNE. 

We had hoped to make the 900 mile passge in just a little bit over 5 days and get in at daylight, but we are slow when motoring and so we arrived two hours after dark. Leixoes, the commercial harbor of Porto, is quite large and busy with cargo ships, but also one of the few places on this coast that can be safely approached in almost any weather and at night. At daylight we may have tried to enter the Douro river and check out the new marina that had just opened early this year, but at night this was out of the question. So we anchored inside Leixoes harbor for the night and moved into the marina next morning. More about Leixoes and Porto in the next episode.

Freitag, 6. Juli 2012

Flores & Corvo

We had a smooth overnight trip from Horta to Flores. We sailed north around Faial to come up a bit higher on the northerly wind. Last year the harbor in Lajes was all new to us and we had the big surprise to find our Chagos friends Anne and Phil with their kids on Abracadabra moored in the tiny new marina. They had fallen in love with Flores and bought some property there as a land base. This year we knew that Abracadabra was in the marina and that it had the innermost place on the long pontoon, the one we took last year. Now we found a place as the outermost boat on the long pontoon.

The marina is small, and doesn't have many spaces for larger boats. On the other end, the is in the middle of the Atlantic and smaller yachts are the exception. Still, the young marina manager told me that they had fitted 35 yachts into the marina at one point, but that it was normally not possible to have more than 20 visiting yachts.

Despite the decent number of visiting boats that the new marina has brought, no new local businesses have grown and there is really nothing but a pizzeria near the harbor. Of all the Azorean Islands, it is definitely Flores which has the most isolated feel to it. 

But the island is one of the most beautiful. Again we rented a car at the gas station up on the main road and toured the many lakes and the spectacular west coast with its Faja Grande.

Our friends are now very busy, hard working on their the old houses (our should I say ruins), but one can start to imagine how nice it will look once done. We will probably check it out next year again.

But we had a nice get together in the evening up at a beautiful picnic place overlooking the marina. In good old Chagos manner, everybody brought something to eat, drink and put on the barbecue. Visiting friends of Anne and Phil as well as nice folks from an American trawler joined in. It was a very nice evening.

As we had planned to leave for Sao Jorge he next afternoon, all of them dropped by next day to say good bye as they were on their way out of the harbor for a day trip to Corvo. They had made a quick decision to stop working on the house for a day and all to get on board of the trawler. Once they had left we thought we might well do the same, sail Taniwani to Corvo and leave from there in the evening.

The wind was still from the west, and while quite weak, enough to sail close hauled. We all anchored off Vila Nova on Corvo, we found excellent holding in about 18m on sand. Could easily have stayed there for a few days, as long as the wind is from West to Northeast and not too strong.

We enjoyed inspecting the cozy little town and a beer in the harbor pub. While maybe smaller than Lajes, Vila Nova is not so scattered out and more contained and has a nice flair to it.

When we weighed anchor in the evening, the wind was still from behind and we had to get the motor to help. But soon it followed the forecast and started turning clockwise, so that by the time we arrived at Sao Jorge, we were close hauled again. While clouds were hanging low, and there was an occasional drizzle, we had a rather smooth and nice sail to Velas.

In Velas the marina was full, at least for boats of our size and we joined four other boats anchoring outside. At this settled weather it is actually a rather nice alternative.