Archive for Sao Jorge

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.

Looking back in Angra

Posted in Photographs, Sailing, the Azores, Walking with tags , , , on September 1, 2011 by maidofmettle

since that’s where we left off in the Azores, and we wouldn’t want to miss anything, would we?

I didn’t actually leave the capital while I was on Terceira, but Angra is well worth exploring. It’s a beautiful city, and especially so considering that it was devastated by an earthquake in 1983, causing many casualties and severe damage to nearly three-quarters of the buildings in some of the central parishes. If a roof looks shiny and new, it was probably replaced..

The title of World Heritage Site was actually granted a little later, while the city was being rebuilt, and presumably the effort towards and achievement of guided the restoration of the many old buildings – there’s certainly not much sign of the destruction now. This is the main street leading up from the harbour…

…and this one of the streets leading off it, clearly in festival mode for something or other.

It’s quite impressive by night as well.

There are some attractive gardens as well as beautiful old buildings..

….yet more mosaic pavements and paths…

..and an unusual drinking fountain.

I also went to one of the main museums on the island, and attempted to get my head around Terceira’s role in Portugal’s long and complicated history. It’s certainly featured quite often – the island was the last part of Portugal to be conquered by the Spanish, and was prominent in later internal Portuguese conflicts. The appellations of Angra do Heroismo (of heroism) and Praia da Vitoria (of victory) were granted after one of these.

It’s claimed the local touradas a corda, or bull-running events, date back to a skirmish when an invading force was repelled from the island by the poorly armed but determined inhabitants driving their cattle down from the hills at the landing party. Whether that’s true or not, it’s an exceedingly popular spectator sport today, with a few events being held in remote villages while I was there.

Rather than a dedicated arena, they take place in the streets , squares or beaches, with the bull being somewhat restrained by a team of men pulling on ropes attached to a harness.

I suspect I’d have gone if one had been handy, to see what it was like, though you can get a fair idea from the videos which are on sale and on display in many shops. And I did like this drawing in the museum, which rather reminded me of a Hogarth print – I’d have been very tempted to label it something like The evils of bull-running in the middle classes.

That and the videos certainly show the best and the worst of it – it’s obviously a popular event with a great atmosphere, but while there’s certainly bravery I couldn’t really say there’s sport in a man lying in one end of an inflatable dinghy tapping a bull on the head with a paddle, while the ropes stop it doing anything more than shoving it’s head into the near end – more depressing than exciting.

And the man who managed to get his foot caught in one of the ropes at the same time as the handlers lost control of the bull got rather more excitement than he bargained for, and I’d guess several broken ribs…ouch.

In between looking around ashore I was also getting a few jobs done on the boat, in particular a routine servicing of the winches. This one has just been cleaned and very lightly greased and oiled again.

And I was spending a while looking at weather forecasts, and at what seemed to be happening locally. There generally was quite a difference – no wind forecast, but a fair amount in the harbour – quite frustrating for trying to work out when to leave for Sao Jorge with the best chance of a good sail, rather than it dying away after a few hours or a mile or two away from the coast.

In the end with no wind forecast for some time I decided to just go for it.

It was a beautiful sail away from Angra at first…

…continuing into the evening.

But unfortunately the wind kept dropping… and dropping…

At least it was a very peaceful night. Even though it was frustrating, it was probably better than more waiting in Angra wondering if there was wind out to sea or not. And it was so calm I could hear dolphins breathing, even if I couldn’t see them. Or they might even have been whales. It’s a nice thought, since I never saw any!

The next morning Sao Jorge wasn’t looking much closer than it had the previous night.

Because it wasn’t. Time to get the engine on then. At least with the sea this flat I had very little steering to do, more just a matter of keeping an eye on things.

This was great, because I could spend most of my time watching dolphins – there were often some around the boat, but even when there weren’t the flat sea meant I could see several different schools within a few hundred yards.

The ones playing under the bow are always the most fun to watch though.

With them to watch, it didn’t actually seem all that long till I was passing down the channel between Sao Jorge and Pico.

I took a glance at Calheta, the first possible place to stop on Sao Jorge, but it looked a very small space to anchor in with some jet skis buzzing around, and there was suddenly a nice breeze.

I decided to continue on to Velas, nearer the western end. The breeze died about 5 minutes later, but I decided to continue. I motored around the anchorage checking depths, but it was very deep – I had enough chain if I combined the lengths for both the main and second anchors, but I didn’t really feel like doing that after the overnight trip and motoring for most of the day, so I headed in and got a very warm welcome in the marina.

By this time the sun had come out – you can see Pico, the highest mountain in Portugal, in the background on the island of the same name.