07/14/2007, Praia da Vitoria, Terceira
We arose at 4:00am on Thursday, had breakfast and left the anchorage of Madelena, Pico at 6:00am. It was initially a brisk sail under double reefed main, staysail and Yankee, but as we reached further into the Sao Jorge channel the winds became light, in the lee of Pico. The sun came out, it was hot and we motor-sailed under main and staysail as the winds became even lighter and variable. As we rounded the eastern tip of Sao Jorge, away from the influence of Pico, the winds piped up. I went for a nap and Bonnie took watch. The winds continued to build to around 25-35 knots from the SW and we were screaming along at 7-10 knots over the water. Bonnie pulled in the jib and under just staysail and double-reefed main we were still making about 6-8 knots. We sailed in to Praia da Vitoria on Thursday evening, in the rain, at about 6:00pm. Not a bad passage time of 12 hours for 82 miles. We anchored in the harbour for the night with excellent holding in 25' of sand, but took a berth at the marina yesterday morning. We can already see that it would be easy to linger here- the marina is located beside a lovely beach, with crystal clear water, multicoloured fish swimming beside the breakwater, very hot showers (they even provide towels and soap) laundry facilities and... the best part of all...wireless internet access throughout the marina. The cost for all this luxury: less than 7 Euros a day! After getting settled at the dock, we both lunged for our laptops like starving men, signed on to the internet and didn't lift our heads for over three hours.
The Marina is quite large and has a travel lift. It would be a great place to leave a boat, as there are direct fights from here to Gatwick. We have already met people and seen boats from France, Sweden, Denmark, Holland and Brazil. The German boat we moored beside in Horta is here, as well as Dean and Sheree on Necessity from Owen Sound, Ontario. Sheree's boys are visiting from Canada for a week or so.
Bonnie's turn: I eventually decided I should do something productive and set out for a run. Since this was only my third run since leaving home a month ago, it was a bit of a slog. It's not only that I've been a tad unmotivated... running in the Azores has presented some real challenges. There are steep hills in all directions, uneven cobblestone sidewalks, drivers who make you fear for your life and large, fierce looking Azorean dogs behind low fences that I suspect even Buffy (dog, not Slayer) could scale in a single leap. But I eventually managed to find a decent route...down the beach, through the town, and along a rural road bordered by tall trees, fields of corn, cattle and the usual hydrangeas and wildflowers. It felt good, but stopping felt even better and the shower better still. My next task was a haircut for Rick: I feel sure you'd be impressed by how great he looks, but I don't think I will let him return the favour (can anyone tell me how to say "Not too short, please" in Portugese?)
We decided to eat out last night and wandered through the town searching for a restaurant. The town is very charming- about the size of Lunenburg, with narrow cobblestone streets and some lovely old buildings. As with many towns here, some buildings were damaged by major earthquakes during the 19th century and as recently as 1980, but they have been carefully restored. As we walked through the town square, we could hear traditional Portuguese music drifting down from the upstairs window of a graceful old building, and through the casement windows we could see a group of teenagers dancing in a very formal style. I felt as though we were time-travelers.
As we searched for a restaurant, we heard a young boy on the sidewalk say something about shipping a car back to Canada. I stopped to ask if he was Canadian, and he told us that he was from Montreal but was spending the summer with his father, who owned the Restaurante (La-Barca) that we were standing in front of. The obvious thing was to try the restaurant- a stroke of good luck, since the food was delicious and the prices were very reasonable. For 48 Euros we had an outstanding bottle of Lello Branco from DOC Duro, fried Calamari and a grilled white fish called Cherne (turbot, we think) with rice and salad. It was delicious- the best meal of the trip so far. At the end of the meal the owner, ("Luciano Antonio Cardoso de Oliveira") joined us at our table. He is a charming Azorean-born man who lived in Canada most of his life and had two successful restaurants in Montreal, but returned to Terceira two years ago to open his current restaurant and a pizza shop. He had tired of the fast pace in Montreal and a visit to his original home, with its beauty and laid-back lifestyle, inspired him to make a change. His days are clearly still busy, though- especially this summer, with two of his children visiting from Canada for seven weeks and another son having just left for home. He told us that it was significantly cheaper to run a restaurant here than in Canada, and overall the cost of living is much less. His restaurant seems to be very popular with the local Azoreans as well as the soldiers from the American base nearby. He regaled us with stories of restaurants and restaurateurs from Montreal and the contrast between life in Praia versus Montreal. Wally, you would have loved it!
We wandered back to the boat at about 10 p.m. as the bars and restaurants were just beginning to fill. We spent a few minutes enjoying the evening air in the cockpit before heading to bed. Next on our agenda is a visit to Angra Do Herismo, a city that dates back to the 15th century and is now a UNESCO world heritage site.
We've finally posted some photos on the blog gallery, as well as a lovely poem that Martha wrote for Aisling and crew during the trans-atlantic passage. Hope you enjoy them!
Rick and Bonnie
07/12/2007, Madelena, Pico
The entry below was missed on the blog so I've re-posted it- chronologically it should come before Bonnie's note of the 11th.
We sailed to Terceira Island from Pico yesterday- we'll update again when we've had a chance to look around!
Hello All: The day started hot and sunny. We had breakfast onboard and then I tried to get the outboard going..... no luck. I stripped off the carburetor and sure enough there had been some fuel left in the bottom of the float bowl. I cleaned it all up and put it back together. Still wouldn't start...... got frustrated and went ashore looking for a mecanico, found one , but it wasn't easy explaining the problem in Portuguese as you can imagine. I think my vocabulary is doing pretty well but I'm still just up to about 10 words. Anyway he drove off with the motor and I stared with my fingers crossed and hoped that he would come back. I think he told me he would have it back tomorrow, the day after or some other time which I did not recognize.
After rowing back to the boat Bon and I left for some exploring ashore. We landed and headed right for this cool little cafe' / bar overlooking the harbor and Horta off in the distance. As quite often happens with us we ended up there for much of the afternoon..... I think it was because the service was slow...... We had a burger with Pico beef and a beer and met a few of the locals. One of them had lived in Toronto for a few years but said it was just toooo busy for him and he longed for Pico. He came back and married a girl from the UK and they have set up a boat tourism business. They were very friendly as are all of the people we have met so far. The Portuguese are both friendly and very polite. It is a real pleasure meeting them and or just exchanging smiles.
After leaving the cafe we visited the local wine co-operative and tasted some local wines. Wally and John: they had a dessert wine there that certainly rivaled, Jost's ice wine..... that could be an opportunity for someone. We bought a couple of bottles, wandered through the town and then headed back to the boat. We were beat after a big day in the heat. Bonnie went for a snorkel and the phone rang..... it was the mecanico. He had returned to the dock with the motor and wanted to know if it was convenient for me to pick it up..... well, yes it was. I wondered who his compatriot was with the good English... I rowed in and he had fixed it (stuck float?!??!) it was working like a charm. The cost was 10 Euros, amazing service and I almost felt like giving him more money, but held back the urge. So our little speed demon is back in business. We then invited Chris and Karen from "Tradition" (the Albin Vega 27) next to us over for sundowners. They are a nice couple with interesting stories and experiences. It was a beautiful sunset overlooking Faial and just as the sun was coming down a French boat motored in, in front of this amazing picture. There are now 3 boats in here which is pretty well all it will take.
I'm heading ashore for some cafe in the square to watch the comings and goings.
Best wishes to all from Aisling I
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We are still at anchor in Madelena- one of the loveliest anchorages I've ever been in. The water is crystal clear, we can swim right off the boat and the snorkeling is great. When Rick woke me this morning with a delicious pain chocolate (I'm sure there is a portugese word for that but I have no idea...) I knew I had found heaven. Actually, when I look at the sky at sunset, heaven seems to be just off in the distance.. so maybe this is the Garden of Eden! Oh wait I'm sure the Garden of Eden didn't have these little biting insects, but never mind... We just got back from the most spectacular drive around Pico. It is hard to imagine that anything we will see in the Med will rival this for beauty. The initial part of the drive was through charming seaside villages with small (seemingly very old) stone houses, and then through an area that appeared to have been devastated by a volcanic eruption some time ago- in some places there was nothing but barren sheets of lava rock running down to the sea. In other areas volcanic rocks had been used to construct multi-sectioned vineyards, fields and orchards. Along the coast we could see lovely views of cliffs dropping down to blue blue water, with clear views of Faial (and then Sao Jorge) across the water. We were exclaiming each time we came round another curve. Unfortunately we weren't as prepared as we should have been and our camera started showing low battery after about an hour, so we had to be very selective with our photographs- but the mental images will be wonderful to recall. We stopped in at Lajes to visit the whaling museum-we watched an interesting but rather gruesome documentary film about the whale hunt (produced some time during the 70s) which made us feel very sorry for the whales and certainly dimmed any enthusiasm we might have felt about buying scrimshaw (although there were some lovely pieces on sale in an artisan's shop in the town). We finished the afternoon with a drive up the side of the volcano, along a very steep and narrow road, bordered by masses of hydrangeas and wild roses and fields of azorean heather, with hundreds of head of cattle pastured there- at times they were so close to the car I was a little worried about what might happen if one decided to charge! The views were spectacular- we were above several calderes, and could look down on the island of Pico, as well as Faial and Sao Jorge. There is a concert in the town square tonight so if we can stay motivated we might go in to hear some local folk music.
07/09/2007, Pico island
The past few days have held a few surprises. On Thursday evening we had drinks onboard a CCA boat Detente (Bill and Karen Foss)- and heard about a race leaving Saturday morning from Horta to Vilas on the island of Sao Jorge. Although Aisling is not exactly a greyhound in light winds, the post-race festivities sounded like fun so we signed up- thinking too, that if we did not find a good reason to leave the dock in Horta we could be there forever! The start was at 0900 but when we woke on Saturday morning we realized we were missing some essential items: money, wine, potato chips and an up-to-date chart of the area. Who knew when or where we would find another chandlery or a supermercado.. and in any event, it appeared we could not go anywhere is a hurry since there was no one in sight on the French boat tied outside us at the dock. We made the sensible decision to miss the start and do our shopping first, with our revised goal being to arrive in Sao Jorge on time to participate in the race festivities. Since our expectation had been to finish dead last in the race anyway, the outcome would not be significantly altered. Unfortunately, when we returned from our shopping expedition our French neighbours were still missing in action, and the marina staff said the boat could not be moved without them. After waiting until nearly 2 p.m. we decided to move them anyway, enlisted some help to re-tie their lines and slipped away.
Three and a half hours later we arrived in the harbour at Vilas to find that there was no room left in the inner anchorage- somewhat irrelevant though, since every boat there was rocking like a hobby horse. We had some difficulty getting the anchor set, then realized -just as we were launching the dinghy to go ashore- that we were dragging. As we reset, I joked that we would be having Kraft dinner for supper if we didn't get a move on. By the time we finished we had missed the race dinner, and it seemed the KD suggestion had struck a chord with Rick- so we ate Kraft dinner on deck with some fresh bread from the Horta market and a bottle of 2.29 Euro vinho verde (hmmm, not quite as tasty as the 1.29 variety) and were quite content with our lot in life in spite of the fact that the boat was rolling so much we wondered if we should have used tumblers instead of wine glasses for the wine! Shortly after dark, hundreds of Cory's shearwaters began swooping toward the cliff beside the boat- making the most incredible din- their cry is a sort of eee-ow-ow-ow- and although it eventually became a bit quieter we could still hear them calling on the numerous occasions through the night that we were awakened by the rolling of the boat.
On Sunday morning the wind seemed to be piping up, and was coming from the wrong direction to stay in the anchorage at Sao Jorge or to go to Terceira (our next planned stop) so we decided to backtrack to visit Pico. The sail from Sao Jorge to Pico was lovely- having dolphins ride the bow wave continues to be a delight no matter how many times it happens! We had sunset drinks with Chris and Karen on "Tradition" (a 27 foot Albin Vega that Chris sailed here single-handed from Brazil) and then ate the last of our Mahi Mahi in the cockpit while looking at an amazing view of the volcano at the bow of the boat and a rather bleak view of a concrete breakwater off the stern. It is still a bit rolly though...in fact, we had several days in the mid-atlantic where the boat was more comfortable than it is in these anchorages!
Today we hope to explore the island a bit, and perhaps go hiking. Stay tuned...all the best from Aisling I.
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