Archive for the Fun Category

Carry On 2011

Posted in Cornwall, Fun, Photographs, Sailing, Unfortunate events, Walking with tags , , on February 23, 2014 by maidofmettle

It took me a while to figure out that the blog actually leaves 2011 high and dry. Oops. Or to express those concepts in picture form:

2011-09-27 #01

I’d had no problems anchored in that spot for a several days, but had evidently got complacent about increasing tidal range getting towards springs. Walking across the Roseland to meet up with Si and Cat in Portscatho got delayed for a few hours to wait for low water and make sure nothing dramatic happened. Happily the mud was clearly quite soft and with little current, no wind and the tide to come back in it wasn’t really a problem, unlike other incidents I can think of (chiefly https://maidofmettle.wordpress.com/2009/12/05/oops/).

I’m clearly playing rather loose with the timing of events here, as the original reason I’d anchored up the Percuil a few days previously was to be able to leave Maid anchored safely (no problems with lack of water with neap tides) in a sheltered spot while I travelled up to Redhill for a job interview. It was a rather early start, but a very beautiful one.

2011-09-23 #02 Percuil

2011-09-23 #03 Percuil

The journey involved one dinghy, two feet, and one bus to get to Truro, where the early morning haze seemed to have set in to stay..

2011-09-23 #05 Truro

..and then feet again and a couple of trains to get to Redhill. It’s fair to say it was quite a long journey. Plenty of time to think what to say though. Having worked there for several years it seems I didn’t take any photos of that bit, and it would be a rather strange activity at an interview even if you do already know the people there.

It was very good to get the prospect of a job confirmed and catch up with people, but I must confess that with Maid down in Cornwall the fact an imminent start date wasn’t likely did not seem like too much of a problem.

Especially as despite everyone saying that summer had been terrible, the autumn was turning out to be rather splendid.

2011-09-28 #04

In fact I did a lot more swimming in Cornwall in the autumn than I’d done in the Azores in summer. It wasn’t as deliciously warm as the volcanic spring-fed waters on Sao Miguel, but left you feeling splendid after a quick dip.

2011-09-28 #06

It helps that the water is beautifully clear as well:

2011-10-02 #17 (Custom)

I also got to catch up with Si and Cat again – this is them sailing past off St Mawes with Planet looking splendid.

2011-09-30 #01 Planet

When the wind was very light in the east I also took the opportunity to spend some time anchored off St Just in Roseland; a beautiful spot though often quite exposed.

2011-10-01 #14 (Custom)

This is the local church, occupying a beautiful spot down by the water.

2011-10-01 #05

The scenery around is every bit as splendid – this is looking out over the anchorage again

2011-10-01 #17 (Custom)

and this is from a walk further up the Roseland, looking across fields to Carrick Roads (the slightly curious name for the Fal estuary) and Penarrow Point, with Falmouth (left) & Mylor (right) in the distance.

2011-10-01 #04

Another bonus of sailing at this time of year is that the crowds have gone you do tend to meet some interesting people – it turned out the chap with the beautiful boat in the foreground here used to skipper one of the Brixham trawlers.

2011-10-01 #02 (Custom)

Speaking of intersting people, as well as enjoying Cornwall I did make one brief dash up to Reading to meet up with Claire before she left the country. Well, I say dash – not sure term really applies when you’ve rowed ashore to get a train at half six only to find it’s been cancelled and there’s not another one for an hour. Well worth it though 🙂

2011-10-03 #04

Back in Cornwall again I made sure I was in Falmouth for Charter Day – more to come on that, and why a regiment of bicycle cavalry featured..

The internet is very very strange. Or rather, it is used by strange people.

Posted in Fun on November 11, 2011 by maidofmettle

Getting there on Part II of the way back, but it’s going to be a little while. In the meantime, we have something completely different.

As well as providing the basic tools to make a very easy-to-write blog (well, once Caroline had set it all up anyway), WordPress provide various features that I generally don’t really use.

One of these is the option to look at what terms people who’ve found the blog via search engines like google or yahoo had typed in.

After reading them, I think that the puzzledometer Sarah made me at university needs recalibrating slightly. Something like this…

puzzled

kittens. Surely that’s a bit nonspecific?

going through the mistiness and less poetic, but even more general, windy and raining, windy in cloud and frosty morning. No-one seems to have found the blog looking for nice weather.. Which is remarkable, given the prevailing climate for most of the trip.

fuerteventura girl. What, the Fuerteventura girl? Actually, I can’t remember being introduced, and I’m sure I would..

bemused

3 hits from soda machine ballast well, I guess it could work, especially with a remote control. Good for cleaning bilges too.

diving and guinness. Doesn’t sound a good idea.

don’t look down at the mud. Why not?

tenerife +the pirate and the nun 1) in which monastery does the nun ‘sleep’ today – they seem to have had something very specific in mind, but I have no idea whatsoever as to what it might be

intrigued

homemade madeira wine (twice). Now that sounds like a project!

cocoa crater erupted (twice). Mmmm. Pyroclastic flow here I come!

bolo do pico (twice)- assuming Pico refers to the island in the Azores there may be more exciting posts about bread to come.

– mount teides shadow longest uninterrupted in the world – that does sound possible.

horrified

– 2 hits from mouse being eaten by terrapin. I guess that also sounds possible, but that’s not the first thing that comes to mind. Ugh.

i feel my waist is aching travelling towards my legs there’s a discharge like cheese. Um. On the off-chance typing this attracts you back again, I’d go and see a doctor, whether that’s a description of physical symptoms or random rambling.

amused

– 1 hit from definition arjee bargie. And argee bargee. And arjee bhajee (that one sounds like it might be tasty). Well, I guess Caroline did provide a few, but I don’t think they’re the originals.. Bit confused that they kept coming back..

madeira scary. That cake can be vicious. Though I think they probably meant the steep drops alongside the levadas..

horrible hilly hundreds ?

how to handle maid quit impromptu I’ve

generally worried about me/us, not Maid. Can’t help you I’m afraid..

seasick maid. Similarly, she’s the only one that’s never suffered.

– on that note, all the variations on biodramina. I think Caroline may be the internet authority. She and Chris probably share that title for bolo do caco too.

queen christmas dinner. Maybe next year.

sailing euphemisms. Unless she hears some of those anyway.

– 1 hit from one step forward two steps back. Not something I or we tend to intentionally look for. Unlike..

– 2 hits from huge roast dinner, 1 for roast dinner, 1 for carvery, 1 for huge carvery, 1 for roast dinner, carvery, 1 for huge carvery dinner

– Carvery and roast good, pizza variable: 1 for pizza hut buffet versus 1 for nasty pizza buffet

baffled

– 2 hits from throwing tin of beans. I guess it’s a step away from the gluttony entries.

– And 1 for tin of beans cakes. Probably a bit strange, but probably less dangerous and wasteful than throwing it.

– 1 for eating tin beans. Hurrah, someone with a normal relationship with tins of beans! Although hang on, what are they hoping to find by searching for that on the internet? If you’re looking for reassurance, yes, that is a common activity.

– 4 hits from tank hone. I may need to search for ‘tank hone’ now to see if I can find what they were looking

for. Not interested enough for it to qualify as intrigued though.

how much for bread in porto santo? How much were they planning on buying?

what is mt teide’s fuel (?) ? indeed..

Some of them I understood, but still look pretty funny in the context of the blog, or just generally. How about a little quiz?

What could rouse reign mean? (click here for answer)

and why on earth could hermione granger knitting bring our blog up? (click here for answer)

back to amused again

1 search for lovely confusion. I think that says it all really. Ah, recursion..

Have A Nikita M’Dear: the non-eponymous drinks of Madeira

Posted in Fun, Photographs, the Madeira archipelago with tags on October 15, 2011 by maidofmettle

(This is a bit of a jump in time, but it is going to take me a while to sort out videos etc. to write the full colour version of the sail back from the Azores – so here’s something I started writing in Madeira but didn’t get around to finishing at the time..)
Not that madeira wine isn’t very nice, but there are plenty of other options…

Although poncha is now very much associated with Madeira, some guides will admit that this was originally an English import from India in the mid eighteenth century, which was adapted to local ingredients and became extremely popular. The most common version comprises sugar cane spirit, honey, lemon juice and lemon zest.

(with carne de vinho e alho – beautifully tender pork marinated in wine and garlic)

Freshly made it is delicious, albeit with quite a kick, and is served hot or cold depending on the season. Some bars make a vast number of variations, from pescador (fisherman’s) to maracuja (passion fruit) and a rather lethal sounding verde (with absinthe as the spirit).

Bottled you mostly get the kick – or you did when I tried it once, and probably won’t again.

If you’re ordering a niquita, or nikita, that’s not really an issue since it contains ice cream. I might have had a bit more trepidation about drinking it if I hadn’t mistakenly though the alcohol content was just white wine, rather than white wine and beer, with vanilla ice cream and chunks of pineapple. It makes for a very refreshing long drink, especially on a hot day.

Having tried these, I was left with the one that definitely didn’t sound drinkable, or even edible, in whatever language. The Pe da Cabra, or the Goat’s Foot. I was rather expecting it to be a Regional Specialty very much in accord with the Pratchett usage of the term.

I knew it was a little strange, but I’d actually forgotten the full details of the ingredients list the day I tried it, so watching the barman make it was fascinating but tinged with revelatory horror at nearly every step.

He began with a small bottle of beer from the fridge.
Then he poured a small glass of dry Madeira wine, and mixed them.
Then he added some sugar.
Then he added a big heaped teaspoon of drinking chocolate powder and mixed that in too.
Then he cut some big chunks of rind off a lemon and added that in.

It was actually very good.

Now we go from the traditional to what’s apparently quite a modern idea – sugar cane juice (rum is of course very traditional). It’s unsurprisingly sweet, but not excessively so, and wonderful chilled in warm weather.

This cherry liqueur was unsurprisingly served up at the cherry festival in Jardim da Serra – a gorgeous colour and quite tasty as well, though actually a bit too sweet for me – rather surprising in comparison to the sugar cane juice!

And this is cidra (or sidra) – similar to English cider, this was quite a sweet version, but quite a few different versions are available.

I never actually got around to having a caipirinha, more famously associated with Brazil but unsurprisingly popular in Madeira and Portugal as well. They’re considerably easier to find elsewhere though..

P.S. I’ll be impressed if anyone figures out the reference in the title..

Going to Graciosa, and further on. Or should I say further back?

Posted in Fun, Photographs, Sailing, the Atlantic Ocean, the Azores, Walking with tags on October 6, 2011 by maidofmettle

After the tour of Faial my thoughts turned to leaving the island again. I had been hoping to travel a couple of hundred miles further west to Flores and Corvo, but after spending nearly a week in Horta it still wasn’t looking like it was going to happen, with either calms or wind from the west.

It was looking quite a good forecast for heading home, though I did want to make a stop at Graciosa first, and it looked like that might even be an advantage for the trip back.

Again it was a bit frustrating leaving, with the choice between either leaving in the day and probably arriving in the dark, or leaving in the evening and quite possibly getting becalmed by the wind dropping at night. I nearly left one evening, but I stopped by Harry’s boat to say goodbye, and got invited to share dinner with him and Reiner, by which time the wind had died.

Early the next morning was beautifully still

but the wind started picking up, so off I went.

The first hour or so sailing away from Horta were beautiful, but as I turned towards Graciosa the wind died, and I ended up rolling around while the catamaran I’d been more or less keeping pace with shot away to the east. I was starting to think that while I’d be sorry to leave the islands I was rather fed up of sailing between them.

The wind kept reappearing in bursts, sending Maid hurtling in one direction, then stopping, and then off in another.

Eventually I decided that on average, sailing straight downwind with one of the largest jibs up would probably work, and was rather surprised when it did!

You can see the end of Sao Jorge in the background. It’s a very long, narrow island, and the view of the western tip with the lighthouse I’d walked to and along the coast was quite something, especially with the thick layer of cloud above it.

Here’s the view from the other side of the point, where you can see further along the north coast.

The wind got slightly stronger and steadier and it turned into a superb sail until I eventually dropped the anchor off the little fishing harbour at Vila da Praia on Graciosa at about 4 am. Any doubts about the plan to stop had been firmly quashed when I realised I was considering starting a voyage that would probably take 2-3 weeks without any garlic aboard.

Besides the obvious, I was also looking forward to following in Prince Albert of Monaco’s path and visiting the ‘Furnas do Enxhofre’ caves in one of the largest craters on the island.

So at 8 or 9 in the morning I nosed my way into the fishing harbour to try and find a berth. It was pretty windy, so initially I just went in for a look before going alongside the easiest looking pontoon on the second go, though I was guessing I’d probably have to move… once I could find someone to tell me.

Or as it ended up being, someone who would tell me the right answer. I didn’t really understand the first bloke I asked, but he didn’t seem very encouraging. Happily I could understand the second man I found much better, and he seemed to think Maid would be fine just where she was.

Handily there was a bus due to go into the capital where I could change to go to the crater, though I ended up going a bit earlier as the man I’d been checking directions with and I were both offered a lift in another local’s truck.

I had a little time to look around Santa Cruz, the not-particularly-bustling capital,

before getting a bus towards the Caldeira. From the nearest village it was quite a nice walk to the crater’s edge

though I was glad there was a tunnel through the rim rather than having to climb up it – maybe later..

I got as far as the entrance to the caves and accompanying visitor’s centre

but unfortunately no further. Carbon dioxide emissions within the caves are monitored continually as they can build up to dangerous levels at times, especially when the temperature difference between inside and outside is relatively small.

The readouts definitely didn’t look good today, in fact promising unconsciousness or death within a matter of seconds in the area of the subterranean lake. Here are a couple of pictures from the visitors centre to show you what I’d been hoping to see – the 7 storey entrance tower (strongly resembling Orthanc, I’m sure Saruman could have bred some hideous orcs down there)

and the underground lake.

Maybe another time, if there is one.

I got talking to Manny and Bea, an emigrant couple returning to the Azores on holiday from their home in America, on the way back up and accepted their kind offer of a lift up to and around the crater rim. We couldn’t always see very much due to low clouds, but it was still relatively clear over the east coast and Vila da Praia.

As the weather improved slightly I said my goodbyes and hopped out to continue on foot and visit a couple of lava tubes before returning to the boat.

The most impressive one was a big pear-drop shaped (as the lava tend to pool downwards) tunnel

going right through the top of the crater wall

The weather got better still as I descended the crater side, and in the end I was quite glad of the shade of an old tree-lined path once used by ox-carts hauling goods inland from the harbour.

There were lots of abandoned buildings along the route. Several waves of people have emigrated from many of the Azores in times of economic hardship or poor harvests, leaving a number of the islands still relatively sparsely populated today.

It was also time for me to head off once I’d done a final restocking of the galley and check out the weather forecast in Vila da Praia, in a little bar with the locals noisily watching bull-running videos inside and football outside.

That said, there was nearly a last-minute hiccup – just as I was stowing the food below another sailing boat which had temporarily moored alongside me during the day moved to another berth which had become free. In the process of very nearly executing an impressively slick turning manoeuvre they motored straight into the back of Horace.

Leaving for England with a damaged self-steering gear did not appeal – though nor did sailing the 40 miles or so back to Horta and the probable nearest machine shop if anything needed fixing. Fortunately Hydrovanes are very strongly built and he seemed fine, though I would now need to check the adjustable vane wouldn’t rub as it’s upright position appeared to have been shifted forwards slightly.

After that it was a bit of a relief to get out of the harbour and past the little island just offshore.

Normally I’ve had a strange kind of sense of unreality, of feeling almost like I’ll come to my senses and change my mind any moment, while leaving places, but though this would be easily the longest passage so far it was also very much the clearest good forecast.

Waiting would mean sitting out another few days of calms before rather strong westerlies, which might have tempted me to delay further, and that would get me uncomfortably close to the time I wanted to have gone by, with the likelihood of rough weather increasing as August wore on. Sooner definitely looked better than later.

Faial (out of imaginative titles at the moment)

Posted in Fun, Photographs, the Azores, Walking with tags on October 1, 2011 by maidofmettle

From the moment I stepped ashore to go and show my passport and papers I was walking across the paintings which cover pretty much every flat surface around the harbour of Horta.

Here are a few (!) of them with a bit more light, and Pico towering in the background.

It’s a long-standing tradition that the crew of visiting boats should make their mark somewhere or risk bad luck for the coming voyage away from the islands.

Since the nearest other land is hundreds of miles away, the result is that the harbour is very colourful indeed, although old designs get painted over as they become illegible.

It looks like this chap may have expired part-way through working on his…perhaps he was in a bit of a rush?

I think this is my favourite, managing to make rough concrete look like the natural surface for an impressionistic painting – I wonder if Monet ever tried it?

I was hoping to head off to Flores within a few days, so my painting was one of the first things I did. It took a fair bit of walking round to find a free space, but I eventually managed it. I was surprised by the number of paintings I recognised even with the huge number of them.

As I started I realised just why it was free, and had to go back to the boat to get a bucket to stand on so I could actually reach it! Still, it worked out reasonably..

This is another icon of Horta – the Peter Cafe Sport, which has been a harbourside institution for years.

I went there for a drink with Harry, who we first met in Madeira and had sailed up from Las Palmas a month or two before me. I’m glad I left later and didn’t share his experience of tacking into a gale..

The walls and ceiling are covered with nautical memorabilia, and even this late in the season it was bustling. It’s still within the good season for cruising in the Azores, but many boats that have been away for a year doing a circuit across the Atlantic and back had been and gone already as it doesn’t allow so much time for stopping in the Azores.

Another tradition is the board of messages tacked up above the bar – I was delighted to find one from Trycha, Alice and Jilly who we’d met on Triple D on Porto Santo and Madeira the previous year, with another note from Mick who I’d met in Las Palmas.

There’s definitely more to Faial than the harbour and it’s surroundings though – in fact there’s a magnificent half-a-crater easily within walking distance

with a great view back over Horta

You can see most of the town there – it’s a bit surprising that it’s only home to about 15,000 people considering the fame of the harbour, but then these are quite remote islands. It is very pretty though.

The beach at Porto Pim was an unexpected delight, though sadly anchoring is forbidden to protect submarine data cables. It’s still a beautiful, gently shelving beach for a swim though, feeling really pretty warm.

Once it would have been rather different – the building on the far side of the bay is the old whale processing factory – now a museum, with a lot of the equipment still in situ, including the giant furnaces

and various machinery for grinding etc. – meal and oil were the main outputs.

I was surprised to learn that whaling was actually introduced here from North America rather than the other way round. Many Azorean men joined North American whalers as crew, and after a couple of decades they had more or less taken over most of the whaling ships in the north Atlantic until it became uneconomic in the 20’s. There are still large expatriate communities in American east coast ports today – in fact I think about as many Azoreans live abroad as in the islands.

Whaling from the islands continued until the 80’s – I’d imagine that the Portuguese economy wasn’t rich enough to enable it to be continued as ‘research’. A lot of the entries in the guestbook took a surprisingly moralising tone about whaling having been carried out here at all, though I’d imagine they weren’t all vegan. Apparently size matters.

It certainly does make an impression, even in photographic form.

It is quite strange to see the film clips from the 70’s and 80’s, with men still using hand harpoons in small boats towed out from the islands by motor launches – Herman Melville would probably have found it quite familiar. This is one of the whaling boats in the harbour

and here are a few more under sail

A lot of the locals interviewed were somewhat nostalgic for that way of life, but it’s also clear it was hard, dangerous and poorly paid work, and probably only continued after it had ceased in America because there were less alternative means of employment in the islands.

Happily whale and dolphin-watching trips are now proving very popular, though having arrived by boat I wasn’t really tempted!

I was keen to see more of the interior a few days later, thanks to the friends I’d made on Pen Duick II, who were there as part of a classic boat rally from France to Horta and back. The skipper David had stopped by to say hello and ask something about Maid, and after a few minutes of chatting and offering him a drink I found myself on Pen Duick enjoying some Pico wine and cheese with the rest of the very hospitable crew (thanks to Bernard for most of the following photos).

She’s quite some boat – much longer than Maid but less headroom inside- but then she was designed as a racing boat, most famously competing in an early singlehanded transatlantic race sailed by Eric Tabarly.

Having seen a bit more of each other over the next few days, including a very nice dinner cooked up by Bernard, I jumped at the chance to join them for a tour of the island.

We first went up to the main crater in the centre

– an opportunity to check roughly how far there was left to go –

– and then on a bit of a coastal tour, before stopping for a very nice barbecued buffet lunch in a woodland picnic similar to the one I’d walked through on Sao Jorge. Even with our coachload there were vast amounts of space free- it must be quite something if they ever get fully used. Probably half a village could picnic in one!

After lunch we carried on to the western end and another abandoned lighthouse, this one due to a volcanic eruption sometime in the 60’s or 70’s that filled it’s ground floor with sand

and created a large area of new land beyond it, presumably meaning it could be rather misleading. Most of that has been eroded away now but there’s an awful lot left!

Although the morning had been quite misty the afternoon was beautiful, and quite a few of us went for a quick swim when the coach stopped for a coffee break on the way back – a lovely end to a very nice day.

And being the start of August, time to think about moving on again..

Kernow a’gas Dynnergh

Posted in Fun, Music, Photographs, Sailing, the English Channel, Walking with tags , , on September 26, 2011 by maidofmettle

Or welcome to Cornwall. Just when I thought I’d run out of tricky foreign languages to try and learn..

I did say I’d try and catch up on what I’ve been up to since I got back as well as carrying on with the story through the Azores and back to here. You can use the tags and categories to get things to appear in a more sensible order if it gets too confusing.

So, my first stop in England, sorry, Cornwall – many would say there’s definitely a difference – was Mullion Cove. It’s a little bay to the west of the Lizard, looking back across Mount’s Bay to Penzance and Mousehole, provided with a very little shelter by Mullion Island just offshore.

It was idyllic in the afternoon – I paddled ashore to the beach visible just astern of Maid..

and also said hello to some locals out for a days fishing, who very kindly provided me with a very fresh fish for dinner.

Unfortunately it didn’t stay this idyllic – the wind got up rather more than forecast and when the tide was going the opposite way to it the shelter of the island wasn’t really enough to make it all that uncomfortable. I’d been just about to enjoy a celebratory drink of honey rum & lemon juice but decided I’d better leave it for the next day in case I had to make a hasty exit.

The next morning was much less pleasant – grey and wet, and the sea still quite lumpy. I left straight after the early morning forecast with the aim of tacking around the Lizard while the tide was still favourable.

At this point, the wind promptly dropped away to nothing, so I ended up motor-sailing for an hour or so into a rather lumpy sea, in the rain..

Happily, that only lasted an hour or so – then the wind returned, I was able to turn eastwards and ride the waves rather than plunging into them, and the tide was helping to rush Maid eastwards around the point rather than trying to take her northwards into the bay.

Time for the sushi I’d made with some of the fish yesterday…

The sun even came out later, providing a lovely sail around to the Helford River on the opposite side of the peninsula, just south of Falmouth. The wind got lighter again, but with some additional sail and flat water it wasn’t a problem this time.

In fact the opposite was the case when the wind suddenly increased again just as I was approaching a lot of moored boats – cue a rapid removal as all sail as I didn’t fancy storming through them at that speed since I’d only visited the river by land before..

I did at least have verbal instructions, as there was a good anchorage just upstream from Mike & Carolyn’s Phantom Lady – I’d been planning on on stopping here since saying goodbye to them several months before in Las Palmas on Gran Canaria.

This is the view looking downstream from there. It’s certainly a beautiful and sheltered spot, and it was great to see them both again over the next few days.

I ended up staying a bit longer than I’d planned to see the Helford regatta, and did quite a bit of exploring round the local area in the portabote, the kayak and on foot.

The banks of the Helford are home to some lovely woodland

– and some very nice little villages.

and have inspired at least one novel – Daphne du Maurier’s Frenchmans Creek, the bottom of which you can see below.

A lot of people seem to have been grumbling about the summer weather this year, but it was mostly pretty nice there, though some mornings were rather misty, almost like those French canals…

Definitely porridge weather..

Fortunately the evening before the regatta was beautiful, as the village stores in Helford was hosting a paella night. Didn’t I leave Spain a while ago? I think about 300 people were there, and very well catered for – below you can see just one of the three dishes…

I think this is pretty much the final fling of the village social calendar before all the second-home owners disappear for the winter – it was certainly a good party

and an excellent adventure finding my way back out of the village and through the woods to the dinghy afterwards, with a long line of us winding our way down muddy paths having forgotten to take torches..

The regatta day itself looked like it might turn out rather wet, but fortunately it cleared again by the time the tide had risen enough to allow all the races to be held in the creek in front of the pub. The one-oar paddling race and backwards rowing competitions were definite highlights.

The most gruelling event was probably a two-man effort – rowing to one place, dropping off a runner who had to go up a steep hill and back through Helford to get to another landing spot in the other direction before being rowed back to the finish.

Afterwards most people moved up to a cafe near the sailing club for refreshments and music before the fireworks display.

Mike had said the fireworks would probably be very good, and he was definitely right. It might not have been quite on the scale of some of the Portuguese displays, but for a spectacular 8 or 9 minutes it was pretty close.

The next day I went ashore to pick a few more blackberries and then set sail about an hour before low water. That meant I had the tide with me to get down to the bottom of the Helford River, and slack water and then tide with me to take me up Carrick Roads and the Truro River to an Ocean Cruising Club gathering.

I did make a bit of a spectacle of myself on arrival with a couple of aborted approaches to the pontoon before deciding I definitely needed to approach from the other direction, at which point Maid pretty much berthed herself while I moved the fenders around.

I was also decidedly late, so it was a dramatic entrance all round! It had been a very nice sail though, and all the people I knew (Liz, Mark & Chloe on Lone Rival, the boat ahead of Maid) or knew by association and occasional correspondence about pilot book revisions (Anne on Wrestler, moored outside Lone Rival) were planning on staying overnight.

Although they’d pretty much finished lunch this did have it’s advantages, as the food and drinks tables were moved down alongside Maid a few minutes after tying up.

Everyone staying for the night met up again later on for dinner with some additional guests helping themselves to Chloe’s very tasty punch.

Mum made all of these three at various times, and they’ve done a fair bit of sailing between them – Scubus (left) racing across the Atlantic with Liz and Anne, and lots more cruising since, Cornelius going all round Africa in Lone Rival, and Josh having accompanied me down to the Canaries and back.

The next day I rather remarkably managed to establish mobile contact with Si & Cat who we’d met last year in France, and sailed back down the Fal and went past St Mawes to a beautifully peaceful and sheltered anchorage at Percuil

before joining them for a trip to the famous ‘Plume of Feathers’ in Portscatho. It was quite strange to see them again on land, with both our boats having their masts up and everything, but another very good evening.

The next day I dropped down to St Mawes in the evening to catch up with Nick on Wylo II, who I’d last seen in the Canaries (and before that in Penryn not long after we’d bought the boat), and marvel at his photos of classic boats racing in Antigua this summer. He designed the boat himself, and has since sailed her around the world three or four times at least. Falmouth harbour is another crossroads similar to Horta – I’d seen one of the boats in the last photo there as well though I’d never spoken to the owners.

St Mawes itself is a very picturesque little town, still with a couple of working fishing boats though it is largely a rather genteel seaside resort now.

From the other side of the Percuil it’s a short and very scenic walk around the coast

to St Antony’s Head, which eighties kids’ TV aficionados may be excited to learn was the home of the Fraggles.

The water is beautifully clear, if a little chilly. In fact the first time I went swimming it felt like I’d imagine rolling in broken glass would be, but much nicer once you stopped, though after that it’s seemed much more pleasant.

Brrrrrrr!

The cliffs are also a great place for watching boats racing in the harbour, especially the traditional working boats which set a huge area of sail.

I sailed across and anchored off Falmouth for a few days (Maid is on the left). It was quite strange approaching Custom House Quay from the sea when I could really only remember it from the land – it is tucked right round the corner near the docks, almost in the shadow of the warhips. I suspect anchoring there would have been banned by now if it wasn’t such a long-standing tradition.

From there I got a rather early bus to Helston to see the Cornish Gorsedh, or ‘Gathering of the Bards’ – hence my use of Cornish in the title. This is the equivalent of the Welsh Eisteddfod, and was attended by guests from Wales and Brittany as well as the surprisingly numerous Cornish bards.

The weather was unfortunately living up to Celtic tradition, with some additions to the ceremonies required – well done for your poem in Cornish, efforts in schools or promoting Cornish culture, we’ll just tip the rainwater out of your cup; sit down here, I’ll just tip the water off it..

The music and singing was unsurprisingly very good, though it did come as something of a relief to enjoy it indoors out of the drizzle after the main ceremony had ended.

Thankfully the weather didn’t stay like that… This is Gyllngvase beach on the southern side of Falmouth after a walk around the castle.

It’s not all that cheap to stay off Falmouth even anchoring, but it was handy to have hot showers and things, and I did a lot of washing and a little shopping before sailing back to Percuil to check it would be a good place to leave the boat for a few days. It was certainly a good test of it, with near gale force winds roaring up the river. It was certainly noisy, but not really rough, and none of the four of us anchored there shifted.

I felt pretty happy things would be fine with the weather calming down as I left to go for a job interview and meet up with friends from my old office, before before meeting Mum in London and coming back down again. I did get a bit more tense on the way back to the boat, but she was still happily just where I’d left her when we got back.

It was another very misty morning the next day when we’d planned to sail to Falmouth…

We dropped the anchor off St Mawes first for lunch in the hope it would clear, but ended up going for a very slow and gentle sail with lots of practice on the foghorn (not sure it’ll help much with the harmonica though). It was quite strange as being able to see something would’ve been the only sense that really told you the boat was moving!

Still, we made it across to Falmouth, and tied up ahead of the boat I’d crossed paths with in mid-ocean on the way back from the Azores. Having chatted with Richard via VHF radio and satellite phone it was nice to finally see him at closer range than half a mile!

We had a lovely meal with Liz, Chloe and Anne, and a few days later welcomed Mark, Liz and Chloe onto Maid for an evening.

Mum and I also did some walking – both on the Roseland peninsula

along St Just creek

to the beautiful little waterside (well, at high tide anyway..) church

and around Pendennis Point at the entrance to the harbour

as well as having a look in the impressive National Maritime Museum.

When Mum went back home I went with her a few stops up the branch line to visit Penryn, where Chris & I had first bought Maid several years ago. It looked fairly similar

though most of the people who’d been there had moved on, though I did find one of our further neighbours, and further down the bank another acquaintance I’d made in the Canaries.

Back in Falmouth I met up with Si and Cat again, who’d sailed over in Planet for a quick stop

before we both sailed back over to St Mawes. Since this was the first time we’d actually seen each others’ boats under sail after meeting a couple of years ago we obviously took a few photos..

Here are Maid just leaving Falmouth…

and Planet setting out across Carrick Roads.

We met up again a few days later for lunch after I’d walked over to Portscatho – a slightly odd experience as it’s not that long after leaving the banks of the Percuil that you can see the sea on the other side of the high ground –

and then again for dinner on Maid the following day. I’d made a bit of an expedition of getting blackberries for dessert, walking up over the fields around the Percuil

to Place Creek

and along to St Anthony’s Head before taking the other path along the coast back to the dinghy via Towan Beach.

It’s not that convenient a place to keep the boat, which is something I’ve been spending a while considering, but it’s a very nice place to holiday.

So long Sao Miguel

Posted in Fun, Photographs, Sailing, the Azores, Walking with tags , , on July 31, 2011 by maidofmettle

Oops, thought I’d posted this but it was only saved as a draft, so now to really confuse the order of things by slotting it in where it should have been. Mind you, no-one spotted me saying we’d left off hearing about the Azores on Sao Miguel rather than Terceira..

I seem to have managed to write several blog entries about the island without really ever saying much about Ponta Delgada, where I’d been staying for most of the time.

The island and the Azores were in fact originally governed from Vila Franca do Campo, where I’d spent the night at anchor, but various disputes prompted the residents of Ponta Delgada to make a secret appeal to the Portuguese King to grant it it’s own village status, and so some degree of independence, in 1507. From there it went from strength to strength, becoming the capital of Sao Miguel after Vila Franca was devastated by an earthquake, and growing to become the 3rd largest town in Portugal in the nineteenth century.

Today it’s easily the biggest city in the Azores – in fact more people live here than on most of the other islands. It’s home to about 45,000 people (similar to Canterbury), the main campus of the University of the Azores, and nearly half the businesses in the islands. Needless to say, it was quite a big change arriving there from Santa Maria and the anchorage off the Ilheu de Vila.

The arches of the ‘Portas da Cidade’ gateway are the main icon of the city, and make quite a first impression having crossed the road from the harbour.

Here they are again at night-time.

There are inlaid pavements in much of the city centre, and windows and doors are commonly edged with the same volcanic rock, creating a striking black-and-white effect.

Being a big harbour, it’s got plenty of places to buy exciting things for boats. I was actually rather excited that the prices for courtesy flags were about half what they were in Madeira, as my Portuguese one had become more of a national insult half-flag.

I’d been looking around for somewhere to buy red fabric to patch it for ages, but without success, so I decided I’d better splash out and get a new one, and for good measure an Azorean one to go with it.

The food market wasn’t bad either, though for me it was eclipsed by the excitement of the Rei dos Queijos next door. The King of Cheeses might have a small shop, but it’s well stocked in quantity

and in quality – this was tangy but not too sharp or sour, really delicious.

I also got a box of these Queijadas da Vila, made exclusively in Vila Franca do Campo. This was somewhat ironic as I’d assumed from the name that they were small cheeses until I was offered one on a French boat in Santa Maria. A surprise, but no disappointment.

All this talk of food seems to have got me some way away from what I was talking about…

There are some very nice parks just north of the centre of Ponta Delgada – these photos were taken in the Parque Jose do Canto, which has a wide selection of local and foreign plants

including some very large bamboo

and a rainbow, accompanied by a small waterfall.

As well as a park Senhor do Canto also has a street named after him – I mention this partly to illustrate the fact that nearly every street in the city seems to have been renamed at some point, presumably creating a lot of confusion!

Between the old name and the mini-biography of the person honoured, they may be the most verbose street signs I’ve ever seen, but at least they’re rather attractive.

There is another fortuitous link from this though – Jose do Canto pioneered the introduction of many new agricultural practices and crops to the island, including the introduction of tea. Along with pineapples this remains one of the most famous crops grown here – in fact the two tea plantations on Sao Miguel are the only ones in Europe.

So I went to the north coast to take a look. Both plantations are open to the public, but the Porto Formoso one appeared easier to get to by bus than the larger establishment at Gorreana.

It still nearly went a bit wrong as the bus surprisingly went along the road above the village rather than through it – in fact straight past the tea plantation but since I wasn’t expecting that it was some way to the next stop where I could get out! Thankfully not too far though – below you can see some of the tea crop in the foreground and the village of Porto Formoso below.

Tea was first grown here in the late eighteenth century on a very small scale, which increased a hundred years or so late when the local agricultural association brought experts from China to help improve the local crop.

As well as the history of the plantation there’s a little museum displaying a selection of the machinery used to dry, separate and bag the tea.
And then there’s a tasting room, with a lovely view over the fields to the coast, and some very nice refreshments.

And now finally the promised move on – after a very nice week on Sao Miguel I planned to head around 90 miles west-north-west to Terceira, very appropriately my third landfall in the Azores, as it’s named for being the third island to have been ‘discovered’ by the Portuguese.

It was a nice change to be able to leave Ponta Delgada with no likely prospect of running out of wind for an extended period, save a possible wind shadow of the Caldeira de Sete Cidades. That did happen, but I was able to motor-sail for about half an hour and then got a nice wind again. And there was a good distraction, with dolphins everywhere!

I started off sailing to windward, aiming for Praia da Vitoria on the east coast of the island, where there’s a sheltered anchorage and a very cheap marina. The island’s capital of Angra do Heroismo on the south coast was the backup option.

Maid was sailing very well through most of the day and overnight, but early the next morning I decided Angra was going to be the better option. Being able to steer slightly further away from where the wind was coming from made for a very quick sail the rest of the way, though I did lose all sight of the island at one point, as it disappeared entirely within a cloud.

Happily it reappeared again well before I approached the coast near Angra, and I had a nice view of the coast while I ate lunch.

Entry went well, though the water in the harbour was so clear I was a bit nervous about some of the big rocks visible on the bottom! None were a problem though, and I was soon moored up, tucked away in the very sheltered far end of the harbour.

First impressions were very good – after all, the centre of Angra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The harbour is dominated by the beautiful Church of Misericordia.

The area defined by UNESCO also includes Monte Brasil, the remains of a volcanic crater that shelters the harbour from the west. It was a very nice afternoon, so I decided to go for a walk up to the top. I started off along the road, looking back north towards the city on my left…

…and then went up a rather steeper footpath…

….until I could see the sea to the south as well.

It looks remote, but on a Sunday afternoon it’s actually picnic and barbecue central – a really nice atmosphere with lots of families gathered around the numerous picnic tables.

The top is around 200m high, plenty enough to look back down over Angra, and beyond to the woods and farmland in the hills beyond.

So my second impressions of this third island were definitely good as well…