Archive for Faial

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..

If all roads lead to Rome, all sailing routes lead to Horta

Posted in Photographs, Sailing, the Azores, Walking with tags , , on September 15, 2011 by maidofmettle

Surprisingly, it’s proving rather harder to write blog entries in a regular fashion in England than while cruising remote islands. But then I’ve been spending a lot of time looking at possible job opportunities and places to keep the boat.

Hopefully this will have been the longest gap, and I’ll probably start alternating between catching up on the time in the Azores and trip back (which I know is what you’re all waiting for..) and what I’ve been doing lately.

Historically Angra do Heroismo on Terceira was probably the more important harbour in the Azores – it was the calling point for Vasco da Gama returning from the first rounding of the Cape of Storms (later to be renamed the Cape of Good Hope) and for vast numbers of trading ships following the same route.

But more recently Horta on Faial has taken over as the main cross-roads for sailing boats, with well over 1,000 passing through every year. I planned on going there myself, but first I thought I’d take a look at it from the far end of Sao Jorge. Faial is the island on the right; Pico is to the left.

That end of Sao Jorge is also home to a big lighthouse and numerous outbuildings, all now abandoned since it was damaged in an earthquake.

Quite eerie.

The first photo was taken from near an old whaling look-out point – here’s the view from inside it looking the other way, north towards Graciosa.

The road away from the lighthouse was remarkably straight..

Having got very used to winding my way around a volcanic landscape it came as quite a surprise. Perhaps a Roman ship got blown out into the Atlantic at some point? The locals seemed a bit bemused by that theory though.

The countryside is largely open pasture (Sao Jorge cheese is very well known…), but near the end of my walk I passed through a woodland recreation area – also very beautiful, and a pleasant change to have some shade.

I stopped off for a gal√£o

– a milky coffee similar to a latte, before getting the bus back down from Rosais to Velas.

After a bit of re-stocking the galley cupboards (definitely not forgetting some of the local cheese) I couldn’t help noticing there was still a rather nice wind blowing, though none was forecast for the next few days.

Having got rather frustrated in Angra I decided to take the opposite approach here and just go for it. Even if it did die before dark I ought to be able to get most of the way to Horta before then.

So, this is Velas disappearing into the background..

…and this is Faial appearing.

Horta is on the far left of the picture above, on the slightly lower ground just to the right of two hills. It was a beautiful sail, with the mainsail and one of the biggest jibs up..

… but the wind was dropping, and not long after I’d finished making a cheesecake (note – must check if this is unlucky at sea) it ded away fairly completely.

So I finished dinner (curry night, finishing off the final jar of mango chutney! and a raita made using wild mint I picked while out walking)..

..and then got the engine on to motor the last hour or so to Horta. It was taking a bit longer than I’d hoped as the tidal current in the channel between Horta and Pico didn’t seem to be changing as quickly as I’d expected, but it wasn’t too long past midnight when I got into the harbour and tied up alongside another boat with the help of the night watchmen.

Even at that hour I could see the paintings covering the breakwaters were impressive, but I thought I’d wait to take a photo till the morning. Time to help a Canadian couple who’d just arrived from the other side of the Atlantic tie their boat up, and then to go to bed.

I was looking forward to looking around in the morning, and hopefully finding at least one prior acquaintance. It’s nice to seek out isolated places like the beautiful anchorage off the Ilheu de Vila, but there’s definitely something exciting about being at a big crossroads as well.