07/17/2007, Praia da Vitoria, Terceira
After a couple of relaxing days at the marina and in the town, we were ready to do some exploring. On Sunday, we set out to find a bullfight. This was easier said than done- the "festivals" are held in the streets-no one seemed quite sure where or when the one that day would be- and our Portugese vocabulary is still pretty sketchy. After asking many people... "Fala English? Nao? Se faz favour, onde es touros?" ...we finally found a taxi driver who knew the time and the place, and he dropped us off at the appropriate corner about 45 minutes before the planned start of 6.30 p.m.
The events are nothing like Spanish bullfighting-perhaps closer to running with the bulls- although in this case it seems to involve teasing the bull and running away before he can get you with his horns (or hoofs). The bull is tied to a rope manned by "pastores", but since the rope is hundreds of feet long, the pastores can't fully control the bull. This makes finding a safe observation point an important consideration. We were fortunate to be taken under the wing of a local Azorean gentleman (Domingo Reise) who spoke perfect English. He invited us to join him at what he considered to be the best vantage point, and explained all the nuances of the event to us. The highlight of the evening was a (reputedly dangerous) bull with undescended testicles known as "Marialise" (apparently the name of a well-known female Portugese politician- they have a good sense of humour here in the Azores, and hopefully the real Marialise does too!) In actuality Marialise did not seem to be as fierce as the first bull, who even knocked over a fence! Portugal has laws that prohibit killing or harming the bull, so all the bulls were eventually returned safe to their pens - but although all of them had looked pretty jaunty when they came trotting down the road, they seemed quite tired after rampaging for 20-30 minutes, and I'm pretty sure they weren't having fun.
Yesterday morning we went for a run and then rented a car to drive to Angra da Heroismo, a UNESCO World Heritage site about 50 km from here. The city was founded in the 15th century, and the grand buildings, churches and manor houses are three to four centuries old., reflecting Angra's prominence as a strategic stop for trading ships during the 16th ,17th and 18th centuries. We were charmed by the gracious architecture, narrow cobblestone streets and beautiful setting. There is a marina located just steps from the cathedral, which looked well protected (although some say there is a surge in South winds). There were also three boats anchored out and although they seemed to be holding they were pitching violently in the NE wind and waves. We visited a number of the local grand churches, the town hall, library and a few of the shops. While walking around downtown we ran into Luciano from La Barca restaurant, sitting outside in one of the caf�'s. He does get around...but this is truly a very small place. After buying some Italian-style glass wine glasses for "special occasions", we stopped at an outdoor caf� for an ice cream and coke and met Bill and Carolyn who had sailed to Horta from Annapolis in 14 days on their Swan 41,Quicksilver. They had a great trip, with moderate to light winds all the way.
As we were leaving the city we saw an extraordinary religious procession, accompanied by a full marching band- and finished the day with a drive up to the top of Monte Brasil, originally developed as a fortification and now a well maintained nature preserve with beautiful views of the city. If we had known how beautiful Angra is, we might have chosen to stay at the marina there, since we could happily have continued exploring the city for several more days.
This morning we decided to use the remaining time with the rental care to drive across the island to Serra de Santa Barbara, the highest point on the island. We stopped to see the fuming fumeroles (mini volcanos?) at Furnas and tried to visit the grottos, but they were closed. Once again, the scenery during the drive was spectacular, with winding roads at times bordered by the usual hydrangeas, stone fences and fields, but at other times giving way to tall stands of cedar overshadowing the road on either side, or volcanic cliffs plunging to the ocean.
We continue to be amazed by the Azores and it is impossible to capture the magic in words or photographs. We now have only four days left before Al and Rob meet us on Sao Miguel for the passage to Spain. All the Azoreans we have met seem certain that Sao Miguel is the best island, so we need to get moving. We will leave tonight for the passage to Ponta Del Gada- over 90 miles so we will be on the water for 15-16 hours. So you see, our lives are not all fun and games! More to come from Sao Miguel...
Just wanted to let you know we have now posted some pictures in the Gallery.
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
---------- radio email processed by SailMail for information see: http://www.sailmail.com