The Mayor of Horta came by the foreign yachts in the marina, including us. He gave us a package which contained a hydrangea blossom (symbolic of Faial), a round of local cheese, a poster and a schedule, welcoming us to their equivalent of Burlington's "Sound of Music", which they called their "Sea Week Festival". We were asked to dress up our boat with colourful flags, so we did for the first time (see photo). We wanted to check out the whaleboat racing event, but were told that it was postponed a week, so we will miss it, unfortunately. Loud music nearby lasted into the wee hours of the morning (at least until 3:00 am, local time) but our earplugs allowed us to sleep through it.
Lattitude I and Noa noa II left yesterday and the British sailing vessel, Flinesse rafted to us awhile later. Terry and Nickola sail about 3 to 4 months per year and keep their boat in Spain.
Uwe and Anne walked up Monte da Guia, just south of Horta, a small volcano with twin calderas open to the sea on the south side (see photo), and saw the beach for the first time. If Anne had known about the beach, she would have gone swimming every day! The views of Horta, the marina and the surrounding countryside, the ocean vistas, were spectacular! We had beer, fries, mango yogurt smoothies at a small restaurant at the bottom of the mountain, and then we walked barefoot along the beach.
Believe it or not, we did a touristy thing! We were driven up to the top of Faial Island at the caldera and then we coasted down on bikes back to Horta: a four-hour bike ride with virtually no pedalling! The island is gorgeous. We loved the blue of the non-native hydrangea bushes, the reds and the yellows of other flowers and the trees planted along the winding road (see photo). We stopped in at the Botanical Gardens where we learned that the Azorians are trying to control the invasive species and propagate the indigenous ones.
Day 65. "Jam Session"
Ola and Turin wanted to see the electronic piano about which Uwe had told them, so we had a "Jam Session" on our boat, inviting Benoit and Nancy as well. Ola played her guitar and sweetly sang Swedish and Norwegian ballads; Ola surprised us by playing and singing Simon & Garfunkel's "Cecelia" and Leonard Cohen's "So Long, Mary Ann", two of Anne's favourites; Benoit and Nancy heartily sang French Canadian songs, including Mireille Mathieu's "Mon Pays"; Uwe beautifully played some Spanish Flamenco on his guitar, his fingers flying, his two "Allegrias"; and Anne played "Music Box Dancer", "Theme from Romeo and Juliet", and the melodies of a couple of ABBA songs. Everyone seemed to have a lot of fun.
We went to the Continente Grocery Store uphill from the marina. We were amazed by the narrow cobblestone roads and the speed at which the Azorians travel them in their small cars. The houses are painted lovely colours and most have red clay tiles (see photo, taken by Uwe from Monte da Guia).
We have been unable to hook up to the power, so Uwe installed our second solar panel. With this and the wind generator, we have enough electricity for all our needs. We use less electricity at dock than underway since our navigational instruments are turned off. For WiFi we connected to e-mail while having a beer/coke at the Horta Yacht Club.
We washed the salt off the boat with fresh water and used special conditioners on the windshield before covering it up with the canvas.
Three small loads of laundry cost $30.00 CDN at the Marina laundromat. But now we have clean clothes and linens! We had too much laundry to do by hand.
We had lunch at Peter's Sports Cafe. This cafe is well-known among cruisers, but it has been too well publicized so that people who fly into Horta also frequent the bar, making it a very crowded place.
At the invitation of Ola and Turin, we again went to the Peter's Sports Cafe for an evening beer/wine. I met a lovely, slim, pretty Swedish girl there named Stina. She had caught a 400-kilogram blue marlin earlier that day! She had to let the fish go, though, because of angling restrictions.
Uwe installed a second, tubular, radar reflector on a shroud (as a backup to the large one that had fallen from the mast) using the ATN Top-Climber. We also checked the mast collar to find out why so much water had been coursing down the mast when waves washed over the deck during squalls. The wooden spacer blocks around the mast had shifted, probably during some of the gales, and the plastic mast collar had been pierced. Uwe used a hammer to knock the wooden blocks back into place and we installed new plastic mast wrap after Uwe secured hose clamps around the wooden blocks.
After remaining hove-to outside of Horta Harbour overnight, at daybreak we docked at the visitors' dock just behind Greg and Marie's American 45-foot sailing vessel, "Second Sally". We had heard Greg calling in on SSB for weather information while we were making our trip across the ocean, so it was interesting to put a face to a voice. They had had an easier trip than us, crossing the Atlantic from Bermuda, although they told us that their trip to Bermuda from Florida had been stressful.
The Harbour Master directed us to dock on the outside wall and then we learned, first hand over the next several days, all about rafting. The first to raft to us was Benoit's 37-foot Dufour, "Lattitude I", from Montreal. Nancy and their boys, Julien and Brandon, joined him (they flew to Horta to meet up with Benoit). Soft-spoken, very considerate, Benoit and Nancy reminded me of our long-time friends, Jean and Carol. We became quick friends and visited back and forth, along with Ola and Turin ("Noa noa II" = "A Taste of Paradise", a Hallberg-Rassy, 36), who rafted to "Lattitude I" (see photo). Benoit and Nancy offered hospitality on their boat - wow, they barbecued pork chops!!!
Days 47 to 55.
From day 47 onwards we had mild to modest winds from SW and much better sailing, wing-on-wing using just the jibs and whisker poles. In fact, it has been quite a treat the whole week. The sky has been mostly blue, with fluffy clouds here and there, and a 360-degree horizon. Usually there is nothing else in sight. We have only encountered two other sailboats approaching the Azores (and we were faster than both, surprisingly).
Day 47 was not only our first calm day, but we were also visited by a pod of spirited, speedy, Spotted Dolphins. Because it was calmer, we were able to see them quite clearly underwater and racing each other just inches in front of Stonefire's bow. Another special treat for all our effort so far!
Early in the morning we were also visited by a very tired little bird (see photo). He shivered at first, perhaps worried about what we might do to him. However, we let him sleep, undisturbed, in the starboard cubby of the cockpit, and by the end of the day he hopped out, hopped onto Uwe's hand, and then flew away.
We have found ocean passage making to be more tiring than expected. We take turns on watch (four hours on and four off in the middle of the night), so each of us only gets a half night's sleep. This necessitates sleeping during the day, greatly reducing the number of waking hours available for other things.
The constant rocking of the boat is also very tiring. It is particularly hard on the abdominal and midriff muscles. These are used constantly to balance the upper body and counteract the momentum of being tossed about. These hurt after awhile and you need to lie down to rest your stomach. Add a little seasickness from time to time and it's all the worse. It is amazing, but a motion which is quite comfortable and indicative of a seaworthy boat while sitting in the cockpit can be quite hard to handle when inside the cabin, cooking or doing any other tasks. Anne compares Stonefire to a spirited thoroughbred horse, gracefully slicing through the waves. However, she sometimes thinks a boat more like a workhorse would have been easier on old bods!
Uwe believes that sailing at night is a bit like sailing a submarine. We spend most of the time inside, looking at the chartplotter and wind monitor. This shows our direction, speed, wind direction (and hence sail set), and any approaching ships via AIS. Ships appear on the chartplotter when up to 20 miles away. We cannot see them visually unless they are ten miles away or less. We do look outside for lights every 20 or 30 minutes in case there are small vessels not using AIS, such as sailboats and fishing trawlers. Everything is black outside, unless the moon is really bright. So our world at night revolves around the navigation table - totally electronic, almost as if in a submarine.
Overall, our ocean passage from Nova Scotia to the Azores has been more difficult than expected, but very rewarding, quite enjoyable the last week, and definitely provided a great sense of accomplishment.