Sonntag, 13. Juli 2014

More Acores: Flores, Sao Jorge and Terceira

Soon after sending our previous report, we left Pico bound for Flores, exactly like already indicated. The weather was as forecast and we had a nice over night trip to the western end of the Acores. Aside of its tiny neighbour Corvo, Flores feels a lot more remote, than any other Acorean island. Not much own produce, aside of some dairy products, fish and meat can be found, most other things, like vegetables and fruits come by freighter every fortnight and so the best day to get something is later on the same day the freighter came in. 

But that's just one side. The other is that Flores is probably the most beautiful one. The landscape, especially around the western side is stunning, with a huge and almost endless cliff over which a number of big waterfalls roar down to Faja Grande. Up on top are numerous lakes, all different, embedded between soft sloping and very green hills with patterns of steel blue lines, painted by endless rows of Hortensia hedges.

This time we spent three days on Flores, touring all the island. And we would have stayed longer, especially since friends were due to return to their house on Flores, and we would have loved to meet them, but the weather is always a factor. The phase of westerlies was quite short and longer easterlies were forecast after a short break with no wind. So we decided to turn east and sail back to the middle group after just three days in the very crowded tiny harbour of Lajes das Flores.

Apparently more and more boats, returning from the Caribbean via Bermuda, decide to make their first landfall in Flores rather than Horta. And then many stay for a longer time, so that only a handful of berths gets some turn over. We found a practical spot, with the bow into a very small berth and some other part of us alongside another boat that had no desire to leave anyway. So we were actually fine.

Our decision to leave in time was a good one and we had a nice downwind cruise to Sao Jorge, going wing-wing with all three white sails. The Spi might have been a slightly faster alternative, but we left late afternoon and were mostly sailing through the night and with just the two of us, wee were not so keen on Spinnaker manoeuvres  in the dark. And even without this extra half knot we kept going a touch faster than two cats under Spi that left around the same time.

Given the fill level in Flores, we contacted the nice harbour master in Velas and asked about the situation. Knowing Taniwani for a long time, he was very sorry to tell us that his little place was also overfilled and bursting with a weekend regatta from Horta. But the next day, he was sure he would find space for us. But Velas also has a really good anchorage, which is quite tenable most of the summer months so we just anchored when we arrived.  It is actually almost as good as being in the marina, or better, as one can swim right from the boat and taking the dinghy to town is easy and convenient.

Nevertheless, looking at the weather it was clear that we would have stronger easterly winds for at least 10 days and after that it would be time for us to look for a decent weather window to sail 5 to 6 days to the main land. It seemed like this opportunity would be right after this longer period of easterlies. The question now was, where to spende these days waiting, in Velas or Angra. We decided for Angra, as this wonderful and bigger town, has more to offer than Velas, and so we moved on the next day and skipped touring Sao Jorge this year. It was the last day with northwest wind and we gain had a good trip for the 50 miles to Terceira.

Now we have been in Angra for exactly a week, enjoyed the lovely town and toured the island of Terceira for two days. We had a wonderful hike up in the higher regions between volcano cones and deep in what almost seems like a rainforest, just beautiful. And always worth a visit is the Gruta do Algar do Carvao, a unique cave in a collapsed volcano.

As anticipated, the weather will change soon, with 3 lows tracking over the Atlantic north of us, which should provide us with light westerlies to sail to the mainland. A much better alternative, than the usual northeast winds that get stronger and stronger as you approach the continent. At our age we try to avoid sailing close hauled in strong wind. So, we will see.. The next report will most likely come from the mainland.