Freitag, 23. September 2011

Madeira: End of this sailing season

We left Santa Maria on Wednesday Sep. 14 early morning and sailed along the western end of Madeira still in the dark on Saturday morning Sep. 17. Given we had to take what we get, the wind situation wasn't so bad. At the beginning a solid northerly pushed us some 100 miles in the first 12 hours, before it started to die out. The middle day was virtually no wind and motoring at slow speed, but for our last sailing day, Neptun had chosen to spoil the crew with a light north-easterly, so that we were gliding along silently, not even heeling. Not fast, but at around 6 kts, faster than we usually run under engine on long distances.

Finally a sight seeing trip along our beloved Madeira to the marina at Quinta do Lorde on the eastern end of the isalnd. An the work, work, work, to get the boat ready for the haul out on Monday. It was a bit tricky to get the sails off and folded, with the permanently strong wind out in that marina, but we managed.

On Monday we had a last 3 mile trip to the airport and into the little harbor owned by the sea rescue. Several folks from the new shipyard were already waiting to take our lines, and after we had removed the two fore stays, a careful and skilled travel-lift operator lifted us out of the water. Now Taniwani rests under the huge runway with some protection from sun and rain. And we now have the possibility to look after the boat and do some maintenance work when we are in Madeira in the winter months.

Santa Maria

From Terceira we sailed straight to the island of Santa Maria, leaving the big island of San Miguel with its bustling town of Ponta Delgada to port. We have been there many times and a another visit would only make sense when touring the island for a few days. The vast harbor and marina of Ponta Delgada as such isn't so attractive and we rather thought of spending a bit more time in Santa Maria. Yet, at this point we didn't know that it would be a rather extended stay of 16 days!
The very new marina isn't very busy, and far from filling up. Busy however, is the fishing side of the harbor, with tuna boats going in and out all day, unloading tons of Bonitos. We were wondering what actually happens with these as they all seemed to just disappear in a big building right in the harbor. Why was there now smell of fish or anything like that? A few days later, when we strolled by and found a big door open, we got the answer. The fresh Bonitos are all shock frozen and then transferred into deep-freeze containers. Apparently they get shipped to Spain for further processing. It is all Bonitos of almost the same size. If they 'accidently' catch something different, it will likely end up on the local fish market. One day we found a 6.5 kg Yellow Fin Tuna there, that they sold us for €2.20 a kilo! We filled our freezer and had many great meals from it.
We got a rental car for a day, but the second half of that day was a bit rainy, so we had to skip the great view from the biggest mountain top, but otherwise had a nice trip to the lighthouse at the south-east corner and the little village on the eastern coast where we had lunch at our usual place.
From then on we were looking for a decent weather situation to sail to Madeira. It was a bit late in the season for the permanent north-easterly, so typical in the summer. Especially this year, the standard situation with the Azores High and a thermal Low over the Iberian Peninsula, had been spoiled already in late August, by numerous depressions, remnants of serious hurricanes that eventually track back towards Europe. And while the nasty part of this is much further north, it does mess up the weather down here as well.
Eventually we saw our opportunity coming with the westerly winds of such a depression. They would carry us for half the distance and then quickly clock towards the north-east as we get closer to Madeira. When we started to get ready for an early departure the next morning, Harald was feeling worse by the minute and late in the evening found it impossible to urinate. A serious infection, obviously caught while swimming in the bay just outside the harbor. In the second picture, taken from the new library of Vila do Porto, one can see the bay and the dirty water caused by the river, which probably carries sewer from the town. With the southerly winds all the good stuff was trapped in the bay.
As things deteriorated in the night, the kind harbor master and his son, drove us up the hill to the local hospital. Harald was quickly helped by inserting a catheter, and since he had fever and a serious infection, he was kept in the nice little hospital for five days. The very friendly staff there took good care of him and so it was possible to consider the trip to Madeira two days after leaving the hospital. Off course not without taking emergency equipment from the hospital, and now, that our scheduled lift-out in Madeira was just five days away, we couldn't be too picky with the weather.

Dienstag, 30. August 2011


Pictures 1-5 Angra, 6-8 Praia

Back to Angra do Heroismo for the fourth time and still our favorite town in the Azores. With more and more of the old houses restored every year, it is getting ever prettier, wasn't it for the gigantic, ugly and always under construction hotel building at the harbor entrance, it would be perfect.

This time we didn't rent a car and just enjoyed the town and what we think is the best restaurant in all of Portugal. Otherwise it was quiet, as fiestas and fireworks were over. Being here a month later than last year, it does feel a bit late in the season, despite the fact that it is hotter than we ever experienced it here.

For sailors the island of Terceira does not only offer the new (2002) marina in Angra, but also he very economic (still) marina at Prais da Victoria. The later has always been very popular with sailors who want to stay in the islands for the winter. At a third of the price of other marinas in the Azores, this is no surprise. Those used to prices in the Med would actually consider it close to free. Add to this that the marina is deep inside a huge bay that is protected by long breakwaters and is one of the few safe place to keep a boat in the water for stormy winter season. A big Travellift and a large area to lay up boats on land was another bonus, but that looks like it is now a business they don't want to continue.

Anyway, in settled weather the large bay offers a nice anchorage, where you can swim right off the boat, dive if you like and even catch an octopus from your anchor. We did all of that and enjoyed an excellent octopus salad.

Dienstag, 23. August 2011

Sao Jorge

All the islands in the Azores are different and maybe hard to compare. There are favorite towns, favorite islands and until we saw Flores this year for the first time, we thought maybe Sao Jorge is the most beautiful, when looking at the largely unspoiled green landscape.

Now it is hard to tell, further into the late summer, the lush green starts to show brownish tones, the Hortensia are fading, but still it offers breathtaking views.

Again we checked into the little marina at Velas and found one T-finger empty and waiting for us. Jose, the very friendly harbor master, was seemingly home for lunch, but dropped by later to give us a warm welcome back. And when I checked with the police (GNR), they just looked up from whatever they were discussing and asked: 'Welcome back, same crew as last year?" "OK, just let us know when you move on."

And so we rented a car again for a day, a must to see this island, and toured around the north coast with its picturesque Fajas, via the highland to the east end and back along the south coast.

Eventually we left for the island of Terceira, a course that leads along most of the south coast of Sao Jorge and is yet another fine sight seeing tour.


It is said that about 1000 sailing yachts pass through Horta every year, the main bulk arriving from the Caribbean or the US East Coast from mid May on. Now, in early August, the big rush seemed over when we arrived late in the night and tied up to an otherwise empty reception pier.

But it wasn't to stay that way, as Horta just started the big "Week of the Sea Event" with all sorts of regattas, even of remote controlled model sail boats, to cruisers or old whaling boats. In the evenings food stands opened all along the promenade and every night various bands, more or less famous, performed on stages erected on the sea front. Even our favorite rock band, Bild Zero, was here on one evening.

Otherwise Horta remained what it is, a cross-roads of long distance sailors of all flavors. It is certainly all different from the rest of the Azores, but also different from other yachting Meccas, and still a place we like to visit. Now it isn't the much commercialized Cafe Sport that we like to drop by for a small meal, but the simple, local Clube Nautico, where they serve quite a nice lunch, including drinks and coffee for 5 Euros.

So six days passed by quickly, before we moved on to another old favorite, Velas on Sao Jorge.

Mittwoch, 10. August 2011


Many of the Canary Islands are pretty and they are certainly all different. From the black lava fields of Lanzarote to the spectacular mountain range of Gran Canary on to a Gomera that shows two faces one might think to have seen most of the imaginable spectrum. But nothing prepares you for the difference of sailing a few days to a completely different world. This is Taniwani's fourth time in the Azores, and so we should have been prepared for a small surprise, yet picking the one island we had not yet seen made all the difference.

Like the Canaries, all Azores islands are different, but in its consistent beauty, Flores beats them all. Wherever you turn your eyes it is just a pleasure that one cannot describe, so we will let some of the many pictures we took try to convey our impressions.

Green is dominating, but there are so many flavors of it. The bands of Hortensia hedges from the far look like silver streaks, and then the many lakes, all of different color. Or the the steep walls of Faja Grande, again green and only disrupted by a hundred waterfalls.

That is one side of the island equation, that other is that is is still quite remote with only around 3000 inhabitants. There is simply not much going on, provisioning is basic and fresh supplies rare, as the small super markets get their stuff from the weekly ferry, the rest people get from their own gardens. The tiny new marina has brought some new life into town and probably extended the season that yachts visit by a month. Previously only yachts coming from the west, typically returning from the Caribbean, would stop by, weather providing. Now several boats come from the middle group, like us on summer trips to the Azores. Add to this that the marina is still not officially open and that it is for free this year, one can easily see why several boats have been staying for 6 or 7 weeks.

Studying the weather patterns one can eventually see the down sides: The islands of Flores and Corvo are so far to the north west, that they get much earlier effected by low pressure systems tracking towards east-northeast and so the good season is probably a month shorter than at the islands in the middle group, whereas Santa Maria, some 300 miles east-southeast would have an even longer nice period.

The first such depression was moving in and prompted us to leave to leave a day before the worst, providing us with a fast spinnaker run to Horta. Several other boats did the same and so it emptied out quite a bit in Lajes.

But Flores will now definitely be on our list of places to return to.

Freitag, 5. August 2011

The average weather

Pictures: Sunrise near Faial and Pico. Dolphins dropping by. Our destination Flores and the village of Lajes. In the small marina.

The forecast was tempting, it looked like a chance to not have too much down south at the Canaries and none near the Azores. A situation quite typical in the summer. Now it looked like Saturday, July 23, is the right day to depart from Gomera. Wind was predicted for almost all the way to be NNE to NE between 11 and 18 kts. The routing software predicted exactly 5 days for the 966 miles to Flores -with the wind on the beam we would be running at good speed all the time.

But we knew that this was unlikely and calculated with our usual 175 miles a day and a difficult last day when we would reach the center of the Azores high and so we left Gomera very early to get at least half a day of extra daylight. We raised our anchor at 5 am and quietly sailed out of Valle Gran Rey and quickly picked up the strong accelerated wind around the corner of Gomera. It was a fast ride to the south end of La Palma, where the wind picked up even more and then suddenly switched to nothing behind the island.

After motoring for three hours the full blow came back for some time and eventually we were clear of the islands and in the sort of wind we had hoped for. Blue skies and nice sailing for the rest of the day.

Given the forecast one would think it would go on like this for most of the rest of the journey, but the next day was all overcast with many low rain clouds and while the wind maintained the predicted average, we saw it pick up to 22 kts approaching a cloud, and drop back down to 8 kts afterwards. To make things worse, the stronger wind backed so that we always found ourselves 60 degrees to the true wind, moving to 110 degrees as it dropped.

Practically this means our sail surface needed to be constantly changes. Being an old an lazy couple, we left the main double reefed and tried to regulate things with the genoa. On average this means we didn't carry enough sail to keep optimal speed. And it was a bit annoying to work the sails every 20 minutes. This sort of went on for over two days.

We had more luck near the Azores: The High had moved to the SE of Flores and formed a ridge in NNE to SSW direction, with Northeasterly winds on one side and Southwesterlies on the other. We reached the top of the high shortly after sunrise on the last day, passing well south of the island of Pico and Faial. (See sunrise pictures with the silhouette of two islands).

The void going over the top turned out short and we only motored for half a day, before we had a fast motorsail into Lajes on Flores where we arrived Thursday, July 28 at 8 pm.

The marina in Flores is new, and had just opened a month ago. Still not really open and therefore still for free. It has been well accepted and quickly filled with many of the boats returning from the Caribbean, but now beginning of August it should slowly clear out. Our friend Anne Hammick inspected the webcam and gave us an update via e-mail on our last day. So we had an idea where to go. We had picked out a yacht in the middle of the long pontoon to go alongside.

Looking into the marina, that yacht turned out to be AbraCadabra with Phil and Anne and their two kids. We first met them in Chagos, and we have been together many times there, In Seychelles, In Madagascar and South Africa. Very nice surprise!

Phil pointed out that there was enough space behind them towards the corner of the marina and so we backed into this cozy corner and tied up.

Looks like we will stay in this nice place for some time.