Falmouth to Studland
04 August 2020
We spent two nights on a mooring buoy in Falmouth but wished we could have stayed longer and had a slow passage home to Poole. However we are getting Mirage lifted out of the water as soon as practicable and we do this near to where we live. To get to the boat yard we have to go up the local river that flow through our home village and we can only do this around spring tides and these were in three or fours days time!
One good thing with the mooring buoys was the used of the showers and we definitely made use of them (not that we smelt I hasten to add) having a nice long shower to relax after the sail! Not wanting to inflate the dinghy for the one trip ashore we used a local water taxi, A2B water taxi, after asking said he had obviously had a very bad year but still was required to pay for all his licences and landing fees. We were his first customers of the day and that was 10AM. He said the other water taxi company had not bothered this season and may not come back.
We only briefly visited Falmouth but did manage to have a cooked breakfast in a lovely cafe, Cafe Strand, on the high street owned by a couple of chefs. This cook breakfast was our first meal back in the UK and mirrored our last, again a cooked breakfast but that was with family on the day we left. Falmouth was extremely busy, especially as we are not use to big crowds, with minimal social distancing guidelines being followed. Something the other places we visited strongly adhered to.
We left Falmouth just after 9AM with the intention of sailing directly back to Poole to ensure we would meet the tide dates for getting up the river. The first was the Tuesday with the best on Wednesday and Thursday and the final one on the Friday. We hoped the sail would take around one and a half days allow us to go up the river on Wednesday.
We motored out of Falmouth and didn't actually turn directly for home as we wanted to get a bit offshore to find some wind. The wind was from the north east and the land was acting as a windbreak. We found the wind around 2NM offshore and launched the cruising chute to start our sail home. The winds were forecast to be getting better during the day but dying completely by two the following morning. The departure time also gave us the best use of the tides hopefully giving us a big push passed Salcombe and Dartmouth and then a second push passed Portland and onto Poole. Of course that was the plan but his would require us to probably motor when the wind dropped early in the morning.
We made great time from Falmouth and getting quicker as the wind built passing St Austell, Plymouth and getting to Salcombe to have the big helping hand into Lyme Bay earlier than hoped. We had plenty of groups of dolphins briefly playing with us but you get the feeling they think "oh another yacht' unlike the ones in the ocean that get excited to see an occasional yacht. One big surprise, literally, was the seeing a whale not long after leaving Falmouth whilst under sail. The sailing was almost perfect with ideal winds and flat sea allowing us to get ahead of where we had planned to be. What was even better was the expect wind drop didn't occur and we flew across Lyme Bay leaving the lighthuse at Start Point in out wake. Lyme bay is one of those places that seems to last forever as you can see where you came from and where you are going for along time and don't ever seem to make any progress even though the instruments tell you different.
However by daylight we were almost by Portland and had an almost perfect timing to catch the turn of the tide to race us across to the Purbecks and onto Poole. The wind however now decided to drop completely and we ended up having to motor to three hours before it returned. However during this time, and with the current we had made great progress with minimal speed on the engine due to the 4 knots of tide, remember it is close to springs!
What we were treated to a dawn was probably one of the best sun rises we have seen during this trip that came up from behind the Purbecks initially creating a silhouette of the Purbecks in the distance and Portland in the foreground. We have taken some photos but they do not really do it justice.
The wind did eventually return allowing us to sail the final few miles into the anchorage at Studland passing Durlestone Lighthouse, Swanage, the iconic Old Harry's and fianlly into Studland. This was a great home coming sail and Mirage had sailed the whole trip as though she knew she was heading home!
The only downer was the cruising chute split during the night, typically 2AM, but we had been talking about the change in colour during the trip due to the UV. Fatal every time we talk about a sail it goes wrong. However the sail is over 10 years old and we do use it a lot and probably this trip alone it had done 1000NM and is made from light weight nylon that is not the most UV resilient sail mater.
We arrived and dropped anchor in Studland almost 26 hours after leaving Falmouth expecting to take nearer 36 in time for a belated breakfast and cup of tea.
The plan is to stay here for the night before heading up the river for the lift out booked at 11:30AM
This isn't the last blog post as we will give an update for the lift out and the trip statistics as well as a 'thoughts' post by Sally.
AND OF COURSE THERE WILL BE GROWNUPSGAPYEAR part 2, part 3, part 4 etc!
Azores to Falmouth - the arrival
02 August 2020
With the final 400 NM we were typically doing 140 NM a day or better until the last night on the way to Lizard Point and the entry to Falmouth. The wind was around 20 knots for most of the time but the wave grew bigger during the first 200NM and became steeper once we had crossed the continental shelf.
These were putting plenty of spray all over Mirage stopping us from sitting in the cockpit unless we wanted a cold salt water shower!
On day 8 the wind started to drop below 20 knots and we had some very good sunshine but the waves stopped enjoying it. We were also joined by a small pod of four dolphins who played with Mirage for half an hour jumping and surfing the waves with us. We always cheer the dolphins as it seems to make them more inquisitive in us and they were definitely swimming on their sides to have a good look at us. We also ran out of gas during the period of the largest waves and we had to wait half a day for the waves to drop to swap in a full gas bottle. Bad news for the tea loving skipper!
We were excited as we are making good speed to Falmouth but also slightly sad to know the year away is coming to the end. Gitane (Moody Bunch) who left two days before us have arrived in Falmouth and we hope to see them whilst we are there at a suitable social distance allowed by the quarantine guidance.
Our penultimate day at sea was another good day with sunshine after the rain of the previous night. The good news about the rain is that it washed the salt from Mirage and the cockpit area. We were sailing under a poled out genoa to ensure went as far down wind as practical to keep the distance we have to sail to a minimum. We gybed a couple of times early on in the morning as we had a small high pressure to avoid.
We spent most day 8 enjoying the sun and making good progress. We slowed down towards the end of the day due a phenomena we had forgotten called tides! We ended the day with less than 100NM to sail.
On final day the wind became light which was not as forecast but did eventually fill in as swung to the North East as forecast.
We saw Land's End on the horizon just over 25NM away. Land Ho was at 11:25 UTC. but we still had nearly 60 NM to go! These felt the slowest 60 NM of the trip and the wind dropped as we got into the shelter of Cornwall to the north. Launching the cruising chute we sped back up hoping to arrive in the light.
As we approached Lizard Point, just west of Falmouth, we were boarded by three people from a Border Force Rib that had been launched from the large Cutter that had passed us earlier on in the day. They were on board for around 40 minutes as they chatted with us going through our log, where we had been, what we were carrying, looking at the receipt for the new sail as well as having an inspection around the boat. This added to the excitement of our arrival! All the time they were on board we continued sail to Falmouth and even made our final turn on to Falmouth. All this time we were being followed by the black rib and the Customs Cutter. From any casual onlooker we must have looked like international drugs runners. One of the Border Force personnel was in training which could have also been another reason for the visit.
After the final turn on to Falmouth the BF team left us with 5NM, approx. 1 hour, to Black Rock and the harbour entrance We dropped the sails at the harbour entrance to motor the 45 minutes to the mooring buoys as night was falling.
As we approached the mooring buoys we were welcomed to Falmouth by Chris and Frankie from Gitane who gave then gave us a helping hand to tie on to the mooring buoy and what a wonderful welcome from them. We were finally secure just before 2200 BST after less than 9 1/2 days. We had originally expected to take 10/11 days o were quicker than expected.
The data for the complete journey are as follows:
Point to Point distance 1169 NM
Distance Sailed 1233 NM
Time taken 9 days 11 hours
Engine Hours used 22 hours
Azores to Falmouth Update 2
29 July 2020 | Atlantic Ocean
Day 4 brought the strong winds we had been expecting but we had kept ourselves further south than the shortest route to help keep out the strongest. The day was a mix of drizzle and sunshine but still warm enough to keep the shorts on & we carried on sailing at a good pace crossing the 800NM to go point just after lunch.
Typically, as with all bad weather, the wind started to build late afternoon and would be with us all night. We reduced the sail to just the genoa & gradually reduced this overnight as the winds increased. With very little sail (less than 2nd reef) we were still getting speeds above 8 knots at times (and 11 when surfing) but at least the wind and the waves were in the same direction making the passage less uncomfortable than the other way around. We shared the watches over night keeping them short so as to not get too tired but actually we had very little to do other than the standard safety checks as 'Heidi' our wind steering system performed faultlessly. The night hid the size of the waves but looking at the foam around they were probably around 3m high. As dawn broke the wind and sea started to drop and continued to drop all day and veering slowly to the north as was forecast. We increased the sail area again during the day & went from the down wind sail we were doing overnight to eventually an upwind sail with the wind finished in the north. The upwind part stopped us from sailing directly to Falmouth and we were now heading to Brest the opposite side of the Channel. The wind and waves had shaken the south coast of the UK chalk in our water tanks into the pre-filter of our water tank so we needed to strip our 'at sea' bed down to get at the pump to clear the chalk out.
By the evening of day 5 the wind had completely gone, as expected with an area of still air between two weather systems. The sky partially cleared and we were able to see the stars again in all their splendour. However to stop the sails from shaking themselves to bits we furled the genoa, tighten the main and motored for 10 endless hours. The sky was clear at times but not enough to see the comet, however the cloud where the comet was bright to show us where it is. We motored at 020T to enable us to get into the next lot of wind. The system we were hoping would take us all the way to Falmouth.
Day 6 saw us cross the 600NM mark and find the new weather system and a big wind shift. The wind changed from the North to the South West and began to strengthen again. We launched the cruising chute just after dawn and flew with it until late morning when the wind became too strong for safety and we went to the genoa only enjoying the sunny day. As the day continued the wind increased to a nice consistent F5 and had us travelling at good speeds. We had a great sunny day and were sat enjoying the sun in the cockpit. However the highlight was when we had a magnificent whale swim around 60m from the stern. We saw it break the surface 4/5 times before it disappeared back to the deep. This day sums up why we love sailing so much.
These speeds have continued into day 7 where we have now crossed the 500NM and 400NM to go distances on the same day with Mirage making a noon-noon distance of 150NM. Speeds not seen since we crossed to Barbados last December. We are now hoping to make Falmouth at the weekend. We have one more night of these nice strong SW winds before the wind should ease and turning north for our last stage in to Falmouth. However the weather is wall-to-wall cloud so no sunbathing for us today.
Azores to Falmouth Update
25 July 2020 | Atlantic Ocean
We left just after 10am on Wed 23rd to sail the 1156NM to Falmouth. The weather did its best to give us a good send off but the wind was missing! We were waved goodbye by the boats from Praia do Vitoria and help with our lines by some friends we had met there. With the lack of wind we needed to motor to clear the island and actually ended up motoring nearly 9 hours before we found some consistent, but light wind. We were fortunate though to see several pods of pilot whales and dolphins. The dolphins didn't want to play and looked as though they were in a feeding frenzy as they were chasing and jumping and there were plenty of birds circling above picking up scraps. Even motoring we enjoyed the sun.
Once we found the wind we were creeping along at 2knots with the cruising chute but better than having the engine on and over the first night and following morning the wind gradually increased and our speeds became much better. The wind eventually became too strong for the cruising chute and we changed to the normal 'white sails'. The first night was magical as the sky was clear, the stars were out and even the comet was seen towards dawn.The temperatures remained warm enough to remain in shorts.
The second day had good consistent winds with us making good speeds roughly in the direction of Falmouth using way points calculated by Jim and his Course2steer software. With the initial motoring we had been put into more favourable winds and in the same day we had crossed the 1100 and 1000NM to go barriers. The second night saw some light drizzle but still we carried on making good progress but needed reef the genoa to stop 'Heidi' being over powered.
The third day started cloudy but when the sun came out we had a beautiful warm afternoon making good speed to Falmouth. Early evening we crossed the 900NM barrier. We are now back into the sea going watch system where we are flxible during the day and split the night but the nights are getting shorter and dark for around 9 hours. Much better than the 13 when we crossed to Barbados.
Whilst under way we have been receiving emails from the other Moody Bunch boats who had left before us so it is nice to know how and where they are.
Still no fish on the line yet!
22 July 2020
We did an overnight sail to Terceira Island (Ilha Terceira) from Sao Jorge to ensure we arrived in the daylight. Our destination was the marina at Praia da Vitória. This is known to be the cheapest in the Azores but is also a good departure place from the Azores to the UK. The sail took us initially north of Sao Jorge passing the lght house we had cycled to on Ponta da Rosais. From here we then had a good point of sail and better winds out of the wind shadow of Sao Jorge to Terceira passing the whole length of Soa Jorge on the Eastern side of the island having offshore views of some of the places we had visited.
As daylight arrived we reached Terceira taking until 11AM to arrive at the marina as we had light and fickle winds down the west coast in the wind shadow of the island however we did manage to see a fin whale which was surprisingly close inshore as we passed Angra do Heroísmo, the capital of the island. One thing we did notice was the larger number of houses in view as we sailed by shown by the fact the population for the island is approaching 60,000 for nearly Seven times Sao Jorge. Another wonderful thing on the sail was the fin whale that came within 50m of Mirage. Close enough to see but not too close to cause concern. The whale was only 300m off of the coast but the water here was still over 300m deep. We also saw a couple of pods of dolphins but they were not really interested in us as they had obviously detected a shoal of fish as there suddenly was a feeding frenzy with the dolphins jumping clear of the water to stun the fish. There was also an aerial attack on the fish from birds so they didn't stand a chance.
With a perfect final tack we sailed into the harbour before motoring to the marina and securing ourselves to the arrivals pontoon. We were met by friends we had last seen in Porto Santo (Wig and Caroline on Wayward) who came to give us a hand with our lines. We had hoped to surprise everybody we knew at the marina by coming unannounced however they spotted us moving on AIS. Once secure we visited the marina office for clearing in. We have to clear in and out of each of the individual islands in the Azores but fortunately at no cost.
Once booked in we moved to a finger pontoon and had a hand from our great friends from Zephyr who we had actually managed to surprise when turning up at the marina. The remainder of the day was spent organising Mirage and giving her a wash as well as a short nap to catch up on our missing sleep after we had caught up with all our other friends. The Moody Bunch were back together for one last time of Zephyr, Gitane and Mirage and along with Thom on Fathom and Wig and Caroline on Wayward who made up the full team.
Our first walk in Terceira was behind the marina and needed a climb up 286 steps to a monument that overlooked the harbour and marina. This was a very popular walk as there were many local families also up at the top, but some had driven to the car park near by! The monument was home to the local amateur radio club which unfortunately was closed due to COVID-19. We walked back down just in time to meet with Caroline and Wig, and their hire car for a whistle stop tour of the island on our second day with a circumnavigation of the island by road but stopping at plenty of places on our way around. One immediate thing we noticed was the more colourful churches and civic building that rather than just white with black trim more common in Sao Jorge now had many different colours of trim. The island is very green and the lower land is made of a patchwork of small fields either having cows in them or maize to feed the cattle. There are 6 main volcanoes on the island but throughout the island there are plenty of smaller vents in the fields. All of the volcanoes are covered in plants, either fields or forests, as there has been no volcanic activity on the island for a very long time. Angra was hit by a major earthquake on 1 January 1980 that did considerable damage to the city's historic centre as well as many other locations on the island of Terceira.
One of the hikes we did during the day took us to a small lake that sits in the crater of a volcano, however with lack of use this year the path was very overgrown and we didn't manage to walk all around it but the climb was as challenging, although shorter, than Pico. The lake was a very vibrant blue which could have been to do with chemicals leaching from the volcano lava.
Using the bus we spent a day in the capital Angra do Heroismo. Angra, as it is known, is a UNESCO world heritage site with narrow streets lined with old houses and shops and is one of the three capital cities of the Azores. Founded in 1478, it is the most historical city in the Azores and was once even the capital of Portugal. It gained World Heritage site status in 1983. Angra is based around the harbour and has a large extinct volcanic area to protect it from the sea called Monte Brasil. Monte Brasil was also used to build a fort and gun batteries right through to World War 2 (British guns) and provided a great walk to the top. With limited time in the city we didn't explore the nature trails but the views from the top were fantastic both out to sea and over the city. At the top of Monte Brasil there is a large pic-nic area complete with many BBQ stations all clean and very much in use. This is something the Portuguese do very well both on these islands and everywhere else in Portugal we have visited. As with Sao Jorge there was a small area with different animals in large runs such as deer, birds, macaws, pet rabbits etc. to keep young children entertained whilst there. We walked around the harbour and through the streets and had lunch with a couple we had met in Sao Jorge (Sanne and Jasper) in the botanical gardens. Unfortunately the majority of public cultural places are all closed due to COVID-19 stopping us visiting museums, the forts etc. The centre of the UNESCO area is a main street leading towards a square near to the bay and off of this main street were others all with the old properties. The majority of these are of course now shops, cafes or restaurants but there are houses in some of the roads. One house was bristling with aerials and whilst I was looking at them I was spotted by the owner and of course we both started talking amateur radio speak much to Sally's glee! The bus took 45 minutes each way and took us through different villages giving us a chance to see more of the island.
We have managed to cycle whilst in Terceira and followed the coast from Praia towards Angra but only about half of the way taking us to the most south easterly point of the island and where we had sailed passed. There are no beaches however every village we cycled through has an artificial beach with steps into the sea or a pool made using the local volcanic stone. Some of the villages we had gone through with the bus but other closer to the sea were all new. Most of the beaches were busy with children and families as I guess the schools have finished and many people who work in the tourist industry are probably still not working as places are closed by law or not opened due to lack of tourists. We cycled through different type of farm land and we have seen grape vines for the first time since Pico, but like Sao Jorge most of the fields are for cows or for growing maize for feed for the cows.
Our final full day on Terceira was spent getting Mirage ready for sea, cooking food and doing the final washing of the clothes however we did also manage to spend a bit of time on the beach and swimming in the sea. This was the third time in the water but the other two were Mirage related to clean the hull and propeller and shaft to remove any small trace of fouling to ensure Mirage flies home! We also of course had our final swim in the sea and the obligatory ice cream!
We have enjoyed our time in Terceira but we always knew it was going to be a short stay as we came here first of all to say goodbye to the other boats we had met during this adventure but also to get ourselves ready for the sail back. We barely scratched the surface of this island and could have easily spent a month here as the others nearly had. However that does give us an excuse to return to see the island again in the future.
We are hoping our passage will take us around 11/12 days to Falmouth so will be back to the UK early August. We will try to give short updates to the blog as we sail home as well as keeping our position updated daily.
15 July 2020
We left Horta for São Jorge at 08:30 to sail the 22NM. We knew it was going to be a slow sail as the wind was light and we also only had the genoa which when on its own isn't the ideal sail for an upwind sail. With her clean bottom however Mirage didn't disgrace herself and we managed the sail in just over 4 hours although we did have to motor the last 4NM as the wind died when we entered the lea of the island. We do now have our new main sail, delivered whilst in Velas, but due to the epic tail of the sails journey we gave that it's own blog update!
São Jorge is a long narrow island (54km x 7.5km) and almost all the coast consists of steep volcanic cliffs with relatively few places to gain access to the sea, but where it does these are known as Faja. Vila des Velas, our destination, is one of them. We decided to use the marina as we want to help give some income to the Azores wherever possible as this year it will be particularly hard on an economy that relies so heavily on tourism.
We radioed the marina and Jose, and as wonderfully helpful as everybody has said, replied he had a berth for us and would give us a hand getting in. Luckily for us that he did as we were right at the end of pontoon cul-de-sac tight between two local boats. However with little wind we successfully reversed into the berth with the help of Jose and another person on the dockside. This is definitely the tightest berth I have ever had to enter! The advantage of arriving early is that after a late lunch we had the opportunity to explore the town of Velas. Again in common with all the Portuguese Atlantic Islands, but not their mainland if you remember São Jacinto and our rubbish collecting, everywhere is very tidy and kept clean. The town is not particularly large but does have over 3000 of the 10000 islanders living here. The town is based around the central church and park and these lead down to the port and marina. The park had an aviary of budgies as well as typical flower planting of the area and seems to be the meeting place for all the local retired men of the town. Oh and everything is painted pillar box red!
One of the 'features' of the marina is every night at dusk there is are large numbers of Cory Shearwaters that return to roost in the cliffs behind the marina. These then chatter to each other for a couple of hours before going to sleep. Great to listen to but we are not sure how long it would take to become tiresome!
The second day was a cycling day with the aim of going to the Lighthouse of Rosais. This is located over spectacular cliffs, over 200 meters above sea level but a 15km each way cycle with some very steep climbs and descents. The final 4km was an almost straight dust track road starting at 492m ASL and ending at the lighthouse. The lighthouse of Rosaia is operational (LED, solar and batteries now) but surrounded by the derelict building that the lighthouse keepers lived and worked in to keep the original lighthouse operational. When built it was considered to be one of the most advanced in the world and consisted of the main tower and living quarters for the five families as well auxiliary buildings. These are all now abandoned and in ruins. There were also two large water collection and storage tanks that still partially function but are cracked due to the earthquakes.
Opened in 1964, it was temporarily abandoned by the keepers during a series of earthquakes and a submarine eruption which occurred nearby. After a repair it remained inhabited until 1980, when it was finally evacuated in the aftermath of landslides of the cliffs caused by an earthquake in 1980. The area forms part of the national nature park of Ponta dos Rosais due to the large number of breeding seabirds (roseate terns, common terns and Cory shearwater) and the indigenous plants such as Tree Heath (Erica Azorica) and the forget-me-not (Myosotis). We sat and had our lunch looking over the sea towards the islands of Pico and Faial hoping for a sight of a whale but no luck. On the cycle back up the track we stopped at a whale watching station, originally used for their hunting but now only used for spotting whales for the whale watching boats on the island. We saw nobody else during the whole cycle up and down the track other than a farmer in his tractor cutting a field.
After the climb back up the track we carried along the north-east coast towards towards an area known as "Parque Florestal das Sete Fontes". This area of the island contains what is left of the original forest that covered the island before the majority was turned into agricultural land. The Sete Fontes Forest Park covers an area of 12 hectares and is thickly wooded with trees and ferns and had many footpaths and trails leading to different areas such as the children's playground and a picnic area. Along the way are lakes, streams and various springs all having a resident duck or goose family. There is a great range of plants that are to be found here, such as cryptomerias, ferns, fuchsias, azaleas and climbers as well and many bird, some cheeky enough to come and almost steal your food! Strangely inside the park and a small zoo with deer, Vietnamese pigs, rabbits and parakeets all non-indigenous species. The cycle back to Velas was fast and almost down hill all the way right back to the marina for a shower and dinner.
Never one to fully rest the following day we went for a walk around the "Miradouro do Morro Das Velas" to the north of Velas. This has a small fort at the top overlooking the bays around Velas and into the crater of the volcano that formed this area of the island. The crater is another national park and the temperature significantly increased as we dropped down into it and the area appeared much drier and dustier. We also found the remnants of another whale watching station on the headland but now covered in foliage and tree heather. The area is actually 2 volcanoes, the original one has almost completely been destroyed by the sea and weather whilst the newer one formed the crater area to walk around and down into. The drops from the old volcano into the sea were several hundred meters and sheer cliff edges.
We have also produced another piece of wall art whilst in Velas on the harbour wall. We didn't do it in Horta as the wall are so full of motifs that we would have got lost in all the others. The harbour walls are not as full as other places so it was easier to find a space to paint. Lets hope it last along time so when we come back it is still here. We started by cleaning the wall of the algae then painted a white background using masking tape to create the edges for the square. We added a red border after a couple of coats of white before adding the motif in the middle giving the boats name, our names and a year. This was much simpler in design than our previous one in Porto Santo and may become our standard for the future. We have also met a couple of boats who remembered seeing our Porto Santo art work!
We hired a car for a couple of days to enable us to explore the island to the full. Using the car we did one of the main walks on the island from Serra do Topo to Santo Cristo. Starting at the top from a car park we did the walk with a couple of other couples from other boats. The disadvantage of parking at the top was the second half is all up hill! The road to the bottom of the hike is currently closed due to rock fall. The hike was well sign posted with a mixture of terrain ranging from fields, wooden paths, and rocky areas and even passing a couple of small waterfalls. However the views were not at there best as we had a low cloud base on the way down which only slightly lifted on the way back up. We still had great views of this area of São Jorge and the Atlantic Ocean. We took 2 hours to get down and as we dropped near the bottom we started to see the Caldeira do Santo Cristo in the distance as you walk the last section of the trail. We partially walked around sea water lake at the bottom in Santo Cristo famous for the clams that live in this sea water lake.
At the bottom is the small hamlet of Santo Cristo. This is not your ordinary town though - the only way to make it here is either by foot or by ATV. There are no roads and no cars throughout Santo Cristo. The sea-water lake is one of the highlights of the town but we didn't swim in it to cool down as we still had the Up. The town was empty and no open cafes due to lack of visitors and now has a very strong surfing influence with the waves on the beach.
The walk back up took us just over 1.5 hours with the first part being the steepest. We stopped at the waterfall on the way back up but we again didn't swim in it as there were actually other tourist there!
Having previously visited the light house at the north of Sao Jorge we also visited the one at Topo and whilst there we walked to the natural swimming pools and had a short dip to cool ourselves off along with the obligatory ice cream! The Topo lighthouse is manned by the team that perform all the maintenance on the navigation lights for the island including the lighthouse at Rosaia.
São Jorge is famous for cheese and we visited 3 different co-operative factories to sample and buy some cheese. Each factory has a slightly different taste and different maturity of cheese up to 36 months old could be sampled and bought. Cheese isn't good for the figure though so it was good we were doing lots of exercise. The only cheese manufacturer, the smallest single person operation, we didn't visit didn't want to let us in as I guess he was worried about COVID when phoned by the local shop we visited immediately afterwards he said there we too many of us.
One cheese factory we stopped at actually turned out to be an art gallery which was unfortunately closed. However the owner came out to us and welcomed us in to have a look around even though he was mid-refit. Pieter Adriaans, who is also a Professor at Amsterdam University, gave a wonderful guided tour around the converted building showing us the main gallery but also his own personal space where he had other paintings, a drum kit and a music room. We spent a good hour with Pieter whilst his poor brother was left alone outside doing the cleaning. Hopefully we weren't an excuse to get Pieter off of the cleaning!
We have spent our time on São Jorge generally doing plenty of walking as well as swimming in the natural pools near the marina. These pools replace beaches and aren't the most comfortable place to sit but are very popular all over the island. As this was our last of the bigger islands we also used it to provision for the return sail to the UK.
São Jorge has been a wonderful place to stay and visit and although broadly similar to Faial it has its' own charm and unique character and it is a place we shall return to.