In lots of ways being back in the Azores feels like we have come full circle. It has been just over a year since we started our sailing business in the West Country and in that year we have sailed 20 000 miles taken 250 new people sailing. We have visited Brittany, Spain, Portugal, the Canaries, the Cape Verdes, the Antilles and the Azores. We have crossed the Atlantic ocean East and West, our little boy is three and thriving and here we are back in the Azores, back in Peter Sport café where the whole entire idea began over a beer just 4 years ago. Sometimes we feel a little over whelmed by our achievements and the look of shock on peoples faces when we tell them the boat is only two years old is still hilarious !
The port of Horta is such an inviting place. It is so sociable at this time of year, it is really hard to leave again. Every day you bump into some fellow sailor that you have met over the Atlantic circuit year. The town is full of amazing shops and boutiques, markets and cafés. Portuguese cakes and coffee stops for me are outstanding and I never get sick of that day time treat !
Time just disappears, there is a party every night in Peters bar as new boats arrive every day and have their first making landfall celebration ashore. Boats of all shapes and sizes and budgets make land fall here. There is a unique feeling in Horta of equality amongst the marina we have all sailed a long distance to be here and we all drink the same beer in the same bar. Whether super yacht crew, their owners, humble on budget cruisers or traditional ships like us, as sailors we all have a healthy respect for each other it seems. We stayed here for 10 days just absorbing ourselves in all the above bliss. Great to be back in Europe, tantalisingly close to the UK and much loved friends and family. Azorians are renowned for their friendliness and hospitality and they sure make you feel welcome and wanted. It is tradition to paint on the harbour walls a mural for the boat so we set to doing that which was great fun.
After 10 days we thought we better move on so left the quay and sailed to Pico. It was surprisingly nice to be away from the crowds and in the peaceful quiet of Pico island life. The dark lava stone dominating the landscape, the earthy colours and greens set amongst the black stone with little white washed houses with red doors. A tour of the whaling museum was very interesting !
A friendly local bought us a blackberry liquor to taste at lunch in a café just an example of their hospitality, helped by Grayhound looking stunning in the bay intriguing all the residents. We sailed past our friends Jack and Monique’s place, they run a guest house in Piedade on the Eastern coast L’Escale de Atlantic is their place a must for those who need a get away haven in the Azores, their guest house is beauty and freedom in a place to stay with views of San Jorge and rich bountiful Pico all around. Hopefully they saw us from their balcony.Terciera bound a brisk sail, Grayhound doing 10 knots down waves. We arrived in Angra de Herisimo under night fall and awoke to another beautiful town much like Horta. Church bells ringing. Great lunch spot with menu of the day 5 Euros a big plate of potatoes and pork and sausage.
Off to San Miguel in light airs it turned into a bit of a motor. Good whale sightings. San Miguel is a very stunning island with a fantastic interior. Blue and green lakes, steep mountain gorges with green forests riding high up around the lake. Almost Alp like. Men walking with their bulls down roads, mobile milking units dotted around the fields. Lots of Geo thermal activity especially in the town of Furnas. Here we experienced bathing in 39 degree water in the public pools set in stunning botanical gardens followed by our lunch that was cooked under ground by the geo thermal heat. Always seems to be a Saints day holiday going on with free food being served in the town square to every body. Where does that ever happen ? Hydrangeas about to burst with bloom, spurts of blue and purple every where. The Azul islands we love you so ……..We picked up our guest crew in San Miguel Katherine from Canada and Helen from UK.. Old friends Helen was keen to introduce Catherine to sailing and lucky for them they had the boat and us all to them selves !We visited the Gorreana tea plantation on San Miguel and forged Cargo contacts for the future. Drank lots of tea , three types to sip on as you tour the factory. The smell of the factory is intense and quite heady too much even ! Crew member Ruth was so excited to be in a tea factory ( she is fond of a cuppa )
With Grayhound stocked with tea we set off from San Miguel and re traced our steps back to Terciera. An amazing day of Whale spotting followed. We must have seen 25 Fin and Sei Whales on our 100 mile passage. Big adults coming very close. Even on Grayhound we felt small, they were so black and long and shiny and powerfully graceful. Awesome day at sea with nature.
In Terciera some of the group went caving, not for me I really don’t like being under ground but the others loved it and said they were very impressive to see. Later on their return they went bull running in the port of Angra. Up in the top of town in narrow streets the bull running took place. Luckily the girls got taken in by locals and put in their gardens at a safe distance from the angry bull. They could view from the gardens while having a beer , just great hospitality once again ! Marcus on the other hand could not resist taking part on street level. Luckily Malachi and I were down town eating cake and finding wifi !
Bull running is a old tradition in the islands and especially on Terciera. It happens seasonally and the season is in full flow in June. The idea is as follows, the bull is on a long rope and about 6 men are trying to hang on to it while it trucks its way through a village. The professional bull runners taunt and run in-front of the bull provoking it into a fury so it runs around entertaining all the on lookers and nearly chasing down the bull runners who scuttle up lamp post to avoid it. It seems a relatively dangerous sport at ground level. But it has been going on for generations and the bulls are well looked after and do not get hurt. Gets your heart pumping though!
We stopped off on Pico heading North towards Faial. Pico’s distinct volcano mountain towering above us in the sun light. Lovely high pressure gave us settled weather and calm harbours to over night in. We ate fresh tuna and drank local white wine from Pico which is delicious.
A fantastic sail took us back to Horta, tacking up the channel Grayhound sailing at 8 knots up wind, loving it. We hired mountain bikes on Faial and toured the island before our crew left us the next day. So now sitting in Horta back with cruising friends drinking too much wine ( those Cornish Smugglers on Cariad are a bad influence…….) laughing and laughing as we folk tend to do quite a bit when we get together and all beginning to get very excited about our next land fall …..Cornwall.
Written by Freya sitting in the pilot house at anchor in Horta Faial.