Starblazer - 12/06/2017 - Our mini cruise of the Azores
We made landfall in Horta on the island of Faial just before sunrise. The early arrival left us both short of sleep so that day was rather a non-event for us as one or the other was asleep! We did go for a walk and find a paint shop, useful because I wanted to paint our flag on the wall. In 2010 I painted a big one on the pavement close to where we were moored and a smaller one on a wall by some steps, alongside a number of other ARC Europe 2010 boats. I am pleased to say that they are still recognisable though the lettering has deteriorated. Sadly I didn't have enough time to refresh the paintwork. Starblazer's painting is much brighter than Fair Encounter's, I hope it lasts better though I doubt that we'll ever get back to check it!
One afternoon we went for a sail on a traditional whaling boat. These are amazing, a very shallow draught coupled with a very big mainsail. The boat is balanced by the crew hanging over the upwind side, but not as athletically as the Yoles we saw racing in Martinique. It is quite amazing to think that people hunted whales in these rather unstable craft.
The Azores are volcanic islands and Faial, like several others, has suffered in the fairly recent past. The Capelinhos volcano erupted for about 12 months in 1957/58, increasing the size of the island, destroying homes and causing about 6,000 people to emigrate to the USA. It was an underwater volcano which grew and grew, part of its crater still exists, joined on to the north western corner of the island. The rest of the crater has eroded away.
An early start and a fairly brisk sail, interspersed with motoring through areas of wind shadow from the peaks of Pico, saw us cover the 75 nM in good time to our next island, Terceira. The people of the island describe themselves as the fun island. For about five months there are bull runs almost every day in one village or another. This is quite a spectacle as four bulls, one after another, are set loose to run through the streets restrained by about 6 men holding on to a long rope. They don't actually have much control! It is important to find a safe place, whether it is someone's balcony, garden behind a high wall, house or fenced in stage it is not recommended to be in he road when the bull is loose. We watched three before finding a taxi back to the boat. The bull running is a celebration of history, the way the first Spanish invasion was thwarted when a woman suggested bringing the bulls down to the bay to chase off the invaders!
Angra do Heroismo, where we were moored, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It's a beautifully maintained town, dating from the late 1400's, and has acted as the capital of Portugal twice in its history. The island was shaken by an earthquake in about 1980 which damaged a lot of houses and caused severe damage to the main church where one complete tower was destroyed along with upto 50% of the building. It was rebuilt but, sadly, suffered a major fire just before completion, destroying a lot of the interior wood. It has now been finished in a simpler style.
Earthquakes, volcanoes and tectonic plates are all interlinked. A tour guide explained that the island sits astride two plates, with a minor fault line in between and the Goat Islands, remnants of a volcanic crater, are actually moving apart because of movement of the tectonic plates. Inland we visited the Algar do Carvao where we went inside an old volcano, right in to the magma chamber. It was stunning, the very dark walls contrasting with the pearly white amorphous silica stalactites which grow slowly but steadily.
We had an overnight sail to the third island of our mini cruise, Sao Miguel. This is an older island and I don't think there has been any violent volcanic activity here for a very long time, however there are numerous volcanic domes and a number of crater lakes. There are also some geysers and hot springs so the volcanoes might still come to life! This is probably the best island for reprovisioning as there is Continente hypermarket about a mile away from the marina in Ponta Delgada, as well as a well stocked Spar about half a mile away. There is also an excellent fruit and vegetable market with some butchery shops and a great cheese shop. We have stayed a few days longer than intended because we needed a part repaired which joins the top of the mainsail to a pair of cars on the sail track. It was supposed to be ready Friday afternoon but, in the event, we didn't get it until this afternoon so the plan is to leave about mid morning tomorrow, Tuesday. We'll see!
One lovely thing about cruising is meeting boats you have met elsewhere! In Horta we met our friends Annelise and Manfred on Tulasi (World ARC) whom we last saw in Martinique in January, then Pipistrelle came in. We first met Bob and Elaine in Gibraltar in 2009 before we both did the ARC, then met them again in St Martin and Bermuda this year. In Horta we met Roberta and Stephen on Luna of London whom we met in Cape Town in 2015 when they invited many of the World ARC fleet to the apartment they were renting. They kindly invited us on board in Ponta Delgada for a drink. It's a small world.
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