Mittwoch, 9. September 2015

On to Galicia

We could have spent one more week in the Azores before making the 900 mile crossing to the mainland, but the weather forecast did seem quite favourable at the time. And so we left Ponta Delgada expecting a series of westerly and south-westerly winds strong enough to push us swiftly across.

Before setting course for the north-western end of the Iberian peninsula, one has to sail along the rather nice southern coast of the island of San Miguel. Particularly beautiful is the little island of Ilha, not far off the main shore at Villa Franco do Campo. It is actually a flooded volcano and has an almost circular lake inside and a tiny entrance pointed at the main island. Some years ago we visited a number of times by dinghy but had to anchor the dinghy outside and snorkel in as the island is a nature preserve and no boats are allowed to enter.

When we sailed by this year we saw the preparations for a figure jumping contest.

Unfortunately the favourable forecast didn't materialise. Yes, we got southwesterly winds, but at 5 knots instead of at least 15. 

And so we had calm seas with a huge 4-5m swell from northwest.

At some point we had no wind and the sea was clear like a lake.

And so we could at least enjoy the great artistic performance of a school of dolphins.

Eventually, after burning a lot of diesel, some wind set in for the last run to La Coruña.

Where we arrived in the middle of the night, led by the light of the Hercules Tower. An ancient light tower already built by the romans and restored and modified a number of times since.

Again we tied up in the down town marina of A Coruña and enjoyed the nice town as well as a visit to the famous light house.

Great view from up there.

Now that we were in Galicia a bit too early for the centenary rally of Alfredo Logs' shipyard, we decide to sail one step further east to the Ria de Cedeira.

It turned out a beautiful anchorage and very safe in almost any weather, once around the corner through a possibly spectacular entrance.

We really enjoyed the little town with good shopping, many nice restaurants and wonderful beaches.

When we finally left Cedeira for Caraminãs we had some great sailing in decent north easterly wind.

Anchored at Caramiñas we waited out another south-westerly front before moving south further and rounding Finisterre.

We rounded Finisterre in calm weather and...

.. sailed to the anchorage at Sarninero, just around the corner. Another one of our favourite places. Unfortunately we had to leave the next morning as another wave of southerlies set in and made the anchorage untenable.

So we sailed on along a magnificent landscape to anchor shattered at Muros.

After a night at anchor and some shopping, we tried to go on to another of our favourites, the nature preserve island of Salver. 
We end up in thick fog and choose the safer track around all reefs and the island itself.

We didn't see the island even when passing along in 200m distance.
But as soon as we turned into the anchorage it cleared and we could see the masttop of another boat in the same fog that we had been in a few minutes earlier.

When we finally went ashore and toured the island, the fog had cleared and we could hike along in bright sunshine.

We were a little worried about the unsheltered anchorage and pending more wind, so that we decide to sail over to another anchorage at San Vicente on the mainland, just before sunset.

The onward trip down to the Islas Cies was swift with strong northerly wind. Just the genoa was enough to make us at good speed.

The Cies were as spectacular as ever and of course we did the standard hike to the lighthouse.

The second night we spent at anchor at to southern most Cies, San Martin.

And then we were in time to sail to Bayona for the start of the centenary rally of Lagos Shipyard.

Sonntag, 23. August 2015

In the Azores:  

In mid June we left the Canaries heading for the Azores. As always we try to assure Neptun's friendship by sharing a decent drink on departure.

It was the 5th time for us to sail from the Canaries to the Azores and no trip was ever similar. This time we were confronted with an unusual strong southeast setting current that slowed us by some 25 miles a day. This meant we would not arrive at daylight in Santa Maria, but Vila do Porto is an easy to approach harbour with plenty of light once in. So, arriving at 3 in the morning was no problem for us and we went straight for the same berth we were in a year ago.

The island appeared greener than we ever saw it. Of the Azores, Santa Maria is probably the driest island and by end of June it was always looking a bit brownish. Not this year, which meant it must have rained a lot more.

We did our usual touring of the island and it was pleasant as ever. While there is nothing particularly exciting to be found on Santa Maria, the island remains high on our favourites list. It is to some part the contrast when you come from the Canaries and tidiness is immediately apparent.

Having a fixed date to meet our son Felix and his friend Floortje on Terceira, we seemed to have a choice of dropping through either Lajes on Pico or Ponta Delgada on the way there. The wind made the decision for us and it became Ponta Delgada.

Ponta Delgada wasn't on our list of favourites, but after spending a month there for health reasons, the town grew on us and we now quite like it. 

Again it was the wind forecast that decided when we would move on. This year depression after depression seemed to pass by close to the Azores and one of them would initially give us southerly winds, fine for our course to the northwest.

Again we recorded a strong southeast setting current, as can be seen by the red and green speed curves on our plotter. There is almost a two knot difference between speed through the water and speed over ground. The frontal weather also brought rain squalls and a nice rainbow.

Expecting the southwesterly swell to make the marina in Angra rather unpleasant, we aimed for Praia do Vitoria on the east side of the island, a big bay sheltered by two long breakwaters and good anchoring inside. Just as we attempted to enter, a battleship took off from the pier right across the entrance.

Praia da Vitoria is a nice little town and could easily be a proper island capital, wasn't it for the larger and even prettier Angra do Heroismo.

Yet, from a sailors perspective the availability of a sheltered anchorage has much to go for it. The small marina is very friendly and allows crews of anchored boats free access to their facilities. And if you prefer the marina and space is available, it offers berthing at the far best price in the islands.

We moved on to Angra already before Felix and Floortje arrived, so that we have a better starting position for a 10 day round trip with them.

There is a nice view onto Angra from a little hilltop in the middle of town. 

F & F arrived as planned and we used the next day for some island touring including a wonderful hike through the underwood.

And we did of course visit the Algar do Carvão, an extinct volcano into which lava flowed back leaving a beautiful cave beneath its opening. A small access tunnel leads right into the cave and stairs lead down to a small lake at the bottom. 

The next day was a sailing day with numerous dolphin sightings.

And our next stop was in Lajes do Pico.

Two days of exploring pico followed and amongst other things, our guests explored the big lava cave that has been unchanged and without light. We had taken that interesting guided tour last year and since the maximum group size had been reached, just Felix and Floortje went in this time.

View from Pico towards Horta

Wineyards on Pico

Old whale boat.

Next stop was Horta...

where we anchored in the harbour.

F&F rented a scooter to explore the island.

And on we sailed to Velas on Sao Jorge...

Felix enjoyed a nice beam reach along Pico

Jose, the friendly chief of the tiny marina in Velas had kindly found a space for Taniwani.

Second boat in, on the long pontoon.

Exploring the wonderful island of Sao Jorge.

Down at the Faja

And up at the western end of the island.

F & F left memories of Taniwani on the harbour wall. So far Taniwani only had painting in Horta and Funchal, both done in 2002 by Markus and Felix. 

We finally left Velas for an overnight sail to Ponta Delgada, from where F & F took off to Madeira the next day.

Shortly after that, the remaining crew set sail for La Coruña.  It was a somewhat shorter visit of our beloved Azores, but the weather forecasts were showing favourable winds and we didn't have an infinite amount of time to wait, as we had committed to be on Alfredo Lagos 100 year shipyard anniversary, something we really didn't want to miss.