The past 48 hours on board Firefly have been superb – we’ve seen the return
of the sun and some extremely favourable winds for sailing, meaning that we’ve
been able to relax and enjoy everything at our comparative ease. We’ve
been on a comfortable broad reach most of the time, sailing at between 7 and 9
knots directly towards the Azores. The swell has been around 2 metres from
behind, but rolling very gently giving us a lovely smooth ride. We’ve been
basking in the sun, we’ve seen plenty of dolphins, and we even managed an
afternoon tea with scones and jam – very civilised! Winds have just eased
slightly so 30 minutes ago we furled the jib and raised our gennaker, and we’re
hoping that should bring us most of the way to the Azores.
Speaking of which.....
During yesterday’s radio net we asked the crews of the various yachts to do
a little research and come back to us with various fun facts and trivia about
the Azores (and our first port of call Horta in particular), the results of
which were quite interesting. As might be expected for such an isolated
but strategic group of islands, there is quite a maritime history there, not
always peaceful. In 1597 (when under Spanish control) Sir Walter Raleigh
attacked Horta and razed it to the ground, however when Captain Cook visited in
1775 his intentions were far more benign, just using the stop to check his
navigational instruments before heading south on his voyage.
Azoreans themselves have a strong maritime tradition, as well as one of
emigration during times of hardship, and in the late 1800s, over the course of a
decade over 11,000 Azoreans left to work on the sugar fields of Hawaii, all of
them rounding Cape Horn in the process. The first ‘recreational’ yachtsman
to visit the Azores was Joshua Slocum in 1895, during the first solo
circumnavigation of the world, paving the way for hundreds of yachts today,
making the marina in Horta the fourth most visited in the world.
We also learned that “Cafe Sport” in Horta (which is a hub for all things
outdoor) was founded by an ex-whaler and is now in third generation
ownership. Upstairs is a scrimshaw museum (engravings of whale teeth and
ivory by seafarers, particularly whalers) which we’re looking forward to
visiting. We also found out that it’s possible to hire a mountain bike
from there and be driven to the highest point of the island (the 1043m volcanic
peak of Cabeco Gorda) from where it’s possible to look down into the extinct
crater before freewheeling all the way back down to sea level at Horta again –
that one’s on our list too.
One of the crews found out that 1st June is the Azorean ‘national’ holiday,
meaning that bars will be open late (could be dangerous) and there will be
fireworks etc.. On a slightly more sombre note, it was discovered that the
2351m summit of neighbouring island Pico is under continual monitoring by the
World Seismic Institute as the western part of it is considered unstable, and
any eruption/landslide could trigger a tsunami that would engulf the entire
eastern seaboard of the USA, destroying New York etc. in the process –
armageddon stuff! Hopefully the WSI are good at their job, although I’m
not sure they could do much to prevent it when it happens...
Signing off for now,
Paul, Peter & Mike.