Aisling I

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21 June 2015

Adios Azores!

26 July 2007 | Ponta Delgada
Today (Thursday) we are preparing for our departure with some excitement, but a great deal of regret. Our time in the Azores has been magical, and the past few days have been the high point of the trip, with Al and Rob joining us to explore Sao Miguel.

Yesterday, after an early morning training session on Aisling's lines and reefing system, we set out for Furnas, an area known for its beautiful lake set beside fuming hot springs. To reach the lake, we first had to drive up a winding road to a height of about 2000 feet : the view overlooking the lake and the village of Furnas was breathtaking. At the lake (an intense green colour) we watched meals being cooked in covered buckets using the volcanic heat of the caldeires. Next, on to the village of Furnas where we picked up a picnic lunch and visited the incredible gardens in Terra Nostra park. After three weeks of experiencing the incredible scenery of the Azores, my supply of adjectives and superlatives is almost exhausted, but the time we spent wandering through the garden was truly a lovely end to our last sightseeing expedition in the Azores.

Back in Ponta Delagada, we provisioned the boat for the passage and had delicious pasta for dinner (cooked by Rob, who apparently will be challenging Wally for the best-on-board-chef title). We then headed to the marina bar/caf�, where we had arranged to meet Bill and Caroline from Quicksilver for drinks, and had a great evening socializing with them and with Bernard from Lotus. Fortunately, Rob's French is excellent, and his translation efforts helped to keep Bernard included in the conversation.

This entry has to be brief, because we hope to throw off the docklines at 3 p.m. today. The weather forecast looks promising- reasonably flat seas and 10-15 knot winds from the southwest- so we are hoping for a good start to our passage to Bayona in Spain. We will try to update the blog as often as possible along the way

All the best from Rick, Bonnie, Al and Rob on Aisling I


Waiting for Weather (2)

24 July 2007 | Ponta Delgada
Rob
Sorry for the delayed update, we have had a busy few days here. Al and Rob arrived at Ponta Delgada as scheduled on Saturday night with some much appreciated Canadian newspapers, and after drinks all around spent a restful night in the foc'sle bunks. They passed the first test by not getting seasick at the Marina! Sunday morning dawned with the rain, drizzle and fog familiar to you Newfies out there, but about 20 degrees warmer.

The day was spent on a full equipment and safety briefing from Captain Rick. At 43 feet, the Aisling I has an incredible amount of cubbies, hideaways and sea-shelves, and is crammed to the gunwales with food, sails, tools, spare-parts and odds and ends of every kind. Even after the initial passage, there is still enough food on board for 400 meals (more or less). We are eating well.

Captain Rick is a thorough and benevolent skipper, and made sure to take us through man-overboard and abandon-ship procedures, complete with survival suits. There is a plethora of safety equipment on board, including life raft, survival suits (6), flares, full medical supplies, GPS, EPERB, watermaker, etc. Not that there is anything to worry about of course!

The real concern is the low pressure system off Ireland, which is moving south and generating 4-6 meter swells off the Bay of Biscay. That's a bit much for untrained hands, so we are waiting to see which way it turns. Commanders Weather out of Maryland (?) gives us a customized weather forecast on demand, and also advises us to wait a bit. So we wait.

On Sunday night Lee and Sue joined us for cocktails on board. They had made the 3.5 hour flight from the UK for a week's Azorean whale-watching. After a wander through town we found a restaurant serving Bacalao (salt cod with olive oil, garlic and potatoes). Salty, but not bad with a bit of Azorean vino tinto, blanco or verde. Bacalao is a Portuguese (and now Brazilian) staple ever since the Portuguese first fished off Newfoundland in the 1400's. A lot of those fishermen came from the Azores, and there is speculation that they discovered North America long before Columbus. But who's to say. Certainly the Azores have been on the sailing charts since the 1100's or so.

On Monday we checked and re-checked the gear, wrapped up the outboard motor and windlass, and checked most of the things off the get-ready list, but there was no improvement to the forecast. So we rented a car to explore the island. It was difficult to see sometimes through the continuing rain, drizzle and fog, but during the periodic clear spells it was evident that San Miguel (largest of the Azorean Islands) was lush, fertile and prosperous. After zig-zagging up and down for an hour or so, we spent some time splashing in small pool fed by a volcano-warmed waterfall A great antidote to the drizzle! We stopped on the far side of the island in Ribera Grande for a first class fish dinner and Ocean view. The swells were gentle, and we were anxious to get out amongst them.

Before leaving for Ribera Grande, we were visited on board by Bernard Klin;.a lively French sailor from La Rochelle. Through Rob and Bonnie's translation, he told us amazing stories of his 5 voyages to the Canadian north on his sailboat the Lotus, including a few winters locked in the ice with only his wife and black cat amongst the Inuit. He brought along some books and photos, and a video of his first voyage that had aired on Canadian (French) TV. We bought his book "Le Bateau-Igloo", as yet not translated into English, and are sure that it would be a best-seller if it ever was. Equally interesting was his story of the new crew member with psychopathic tendencies. A little hair-raising to say the least.

Tuesday: no change to the forecast. Rob has a return flight from Porto, Portugal on Aug 3, and had hoped to return even earlier, but that now looks unlikely. In the meantime we explored the northern part of the island, this time with Bernard for company, and it is indeed beautiful; verdant and unspoiled. The views were spectacular, particularly when we reached the viewpoint at Sete Cidades, which overlooks twin lakes (one blue and one green)) within a caldera. En route, our way was blocked by some very slow traffic- a herd of cattle accompanied by a "cowboy" on horseback- talking on a cellphone!

Now we're back on board taking advantage of the spotty marina wireless connection, checking more things off the list, and anxiously waiting to weigh anchor!

The boys are on the plane

21 July 2007 | Ponta Delgada
We have been in Ponta Delgada for three days now, but have spent most of our time preparing Aisling for the passage to Spain. Although this is one of the more mundane aspects of cruising life, it has been pleasant to take a break from the touring. We are looking forward to seeing Rob and Al tonight and catching up on all the family news.

Ponta Delgada is an attractive city- as the largest city in the Azores it has a more cosmopolitan atmosphere, but retains the old-world architecture that we have seen on other islands. There are some impressive formal gardens, lots of little cafes, and great shopping. We already miss the friendliness and small-town advantages of the more rural islands though. Thursday morning, we finally took a walk to have the lattes we have grown so fond of (caf� galao here- pronounced something like "gallong" with the emphasis on the last syllable) but knew we were in new territory when it cost double what we had been paying in the other islands.

The Azoreans we have met along the way have assured us that Sao Miguel is the best island- but warned us that things would be more expensive and "people talk with a funny accent." The latter made us chuckle- as if we'd notice! But unfortunately it is already clear that some words are, in fact, pronounced quite differently here. Portuguese is a challenging language and to our untrained ears it is difficult to even identify the unique sounds within the language, let alone pronounce them. Since our entire Portuguese vocabulary is limited to about thirty words between the two of us (and Rick and I can't seem to agree on the correct pronunciation for most of those) imagine how disconcerting it is to have to re-learn everything! But we are comforted by the knowledge that we are providing a great source of entertainment for the Azoreans, who tend to break into giggles whenever we attempt to communicate in Portuguese. When we get to the other side, it will be Spanish, then back to Portuguese, and then back to Spanish again. It's a humbling experience!

We hope to rent a car and do a bit of touring around the island with Al and Rob before we head out to sea again early next week. Commander's Weather says depart for Bayona on Tuesday.... we will wait and see what tomorrow brings.

The Picture is of an Azorean whaling boat here in the marina. Boy did he have trouble docking!

We will post again before we leave. In the meantime, we have added another album to the gallery with a few pictures of Terceira. When we find a faster internet connection, we will add a short video clip of the bullfight- hope you enjoy it as much as we did!



A Rigorous Passage

19 July 2007 | Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel
Rick
Hello All:

The sun was setting after a lazy afternoon as we prepared to depart for Sao Miguel. We had just finished a supper of one of Sharon's delicious meat loafs (leftover in the freezer from our first passage- thank you Sharon!) with fresh beans, potatoes and some unknown local root vegetable. The weather reports looked OK, with NOAA, Germany and Portugal weather services all calling for NE winds at 5-10 knots. Sao Miguel is SE of Terceira. After squeezing our of the Praia marina, the swell inside the harbour started us rolling so badly it was hard to raise the main. Unknown to us, this was a precursor of what was to come.

With all sails set (double reefed main, staysail and yankee) we headed for Sao Miguel. Outside the harbour, the wind was from the NE at about 15knots and there was quite a chop. After the sun set, the stars came out. They were brilliant. I took the first watch and Bonnie went for a sleep. As the evening progressed, the waves built to around ten feet and the wind came up to 25 knots. It stayed this way for the next 12 hours. We were heading SE so it was a close reach and the boat was screaming along at 7-8 knots but we were rolling and pitching in a cross swell, so much it was hard to stay seated. During the first four hours there were two ships that passed reasonably close to us, but with the AIS system I was able to call them by name and avoid any potential problems.

When Bonnie came up around at 3:00am she said she wasn't feeling well but agreed to let me get some rest. I wasn't feeling all that well myself. No sooner was I lying down than three ships came into sight heading, directly for us on our reciprocal course. They must have been steaming from Sao Miguel for Terceira. Each time we took evasive action when they were about 6 miles away, but in each case were unable to raise them on the radio so this made for a pretty stressful time, especially in the dark. I finally got down to rest at about 4 a.m. and woke intermittently hearing Bonnie getting sick up top. She is a trooper though and kept her watch to allow me a couple of hours sleep.

The light house on Sao Miguel was visible from about 35 miles away and it was now cloudy and still blowing, rolling and pitching. To borrow a phrase from Hans, this was a rigorous sail- and about to get even more rigorous. As we closed Sao Miguel and got into what should have been its lee, the winds and seas continued to build. I think it must have been a catabatic(?) effect from the wind coming over the mountains. We were traveling parallel to the shore, off about 3-4 miles and I could see funny looking clouds (or something that appeared to be clouds) rising from the surface. With about 15 miles to go, the seas and winds continued to build, with vicious gusts that made it hard to control the boat and forced us to sail further off the wind. Although our boat speeds were 8-10 knots, it was difficult to make the course, so I pulled in the jib and went with just staysail and double-reefed main. We could see the cranes from Ponta Delgada, but they weren't getting much closer. It blew like stink all the way into the harbour. (Our wind instrument is on the fritz, but we know when the wind gets over 34 knots because the brakes on the wind generator come on.)

Finally, we crawled ahead into the harbour to a point where it was calm enough to get the sails down and we motored the last mile or so dead into the wind. Thank God for the new engine- we would have been dead in the water with the old Perkins. With the stiff wind, it was challenging even in the marina. There was also quite a surge to contend with, even though we were now behind two separate breakwaters. We were exhausted, but getting some sleep would have to wait- I had to check in, but they were leaving for lunch so I was told to come back at 2:00 p.m. On my return I had my first taste of the famous Portuguese bureaucracy. First the marina office for check in, then the Customs office, then the Immigration office and then a fourth office that I never did determine the purpose of, so I just smiled and nodded pleasantly! Anyway they were all very nice and it went smoothly but my hand as sore from all the forms that had to be filled out. I hadn't used those muscles in a while! Back at the boat we both went to bed for five hours and then had a steak, beans and salad for supper a la Bonnie, with a beautiful bottle of Gazela, Vinho Verde ('2.20).

So to sum it up, it was a challenging passage. The Azores are beautiful, but the fact is the islands are spread apart and travelling between them is true ocean sailing, with the wind and waves coming from a long way away. It's not like cruising on our Nova Scotia coast, but is beautiful none the less. We are glad to be here and we are ready to explore Sao Miguel and get the boat ready for the passage to Spain. As usual, we have a long to-do list to deal with. My brothers Al and Rob arrive on the 21st and we will leave shortly after, once we get the blessing of a good weather window from Commander's Weather. The adventure continues.

All the best from Aisling I

---------- radio email processed by SailMail for information see: http://www.sailmail.com
Vessel Name: Aisling I
Vessel Make/Model: Slocum 43
Hailing Port: Halifax, NS, Canada
Crew: Rick and Bonnie Salsman
About:
Crew from Halifax to Horta: Bonnie and Rick Salsman, Dave Morse, Wally Fraser Crew from Horta to Spain: Bonnie and Rick Salsman, Al Salsman, Rob Salsman We left Halifax, N.S. in June 2007, sailed to Horta, and explored the Azores for a month. [...]
Extra:
The info below is a copy and paste from some literature about the Slocum 43. Please excuse the platitudes. Although I may like them , they are not truly mine. Aisling I is a 1987 Slocum 43, designed by Stan Huntingford. She has been designed to satisfy the sailor who wants the blue water, "get [...]
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South coast of France looking West from La Ciotat
La bec d
Aisling leaving RNSYS for Europe 2007 -1 (2)
DSCF2584: In St Georges, Bermuda after our first Ocean Passage 2002.....
Memories............. the Beach. From the front door of my parents cottage at Evangeline Beach, Nova Scotia, looking towards Cape Blomidon. The highest tides of the year. 43 feet twice a day. It
P4022273b: The Mary B Brooks
214 Tons. Built 1926 at Plympton, N.S., Canada. LOA 99
 
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