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.