Horta, the Azores 18th June

After a couple of days resting and exploring Santa Maria Island, we set off with a forecast for no wind for Horta. Initially we had some wind from dead astern. While we had it, Ronnie and I set up the spinnaker pole to hold out the genoa headsail to force it to stay open. It was something Ronnie hadn't done in ages but at least it gave him the opportunity to relearn something. Soon enough the winds died as they were just thermal winds created by the heat of the island. It was over 25 degrees and we were looking for shade where we could on board.

Ronnie then suggested that we think of altering course to take in another island. Since we would be motoring and not dependent on wind direction, he said we could go where we liked so we decided to go to Angra Do Herosimo on Terceira island. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site so worth a visit. So we motored through the night on slightly rolly seas. When I got up for my 6am watch, the wind had risen a little so I set the genoa which helped settle the boat. When Ronnie got up we put it back on the pole again and we were sailing well at 4 knots dead downwind. This lasted for the remaining 9 hours into Angra. The view of Angra from the water is impressive. Lots of colonial buildings clustered around the natural harbour. But we had to leave off the exploring for now as it started to rain heavily. So we had dinner and a bit of craic onboard.

The following morning it was sunny and we set off to explore the town. We were recommended in particular to view the convent which is open to visits. It was of a cloistered order the, St Claires, and gave a view of the life they lived in an enclosed order where even visits by parents were tightly controlled with no physical contact allowed. From there Anne and I set off the explore Monte Brazil, the pinnacle overlooking the harbour. It has been used as a garrison for centuries and signs of fortifications lay everywhere. We had a pleasant walk along forest paths to the summit and a lookout before heading back. That evening we went to a more working class barrio where they had an annual bull run in the street. We got there early and found a perch on a wall to view proceedings. A bull was released which had a 100 metre rope tied around its neck. The people taunted the bull and the bull charged up the street, causing people to hop over any wall available. All the houses had barracades on doors and windows and the power of the animal showed why. Afterwards we headed back to the harbour where we dined out on some really good grub.

The following morning we were up and gone at 6am for the 70 mile spin past Sao Jorge island to Horta. The forecast was for north or northwest winds which should give good sailing. There was a slightly lumpy sea but as we cleared the island, the wind came in and we were off and sailing in 15 knots of breeze. Rounding Sao Jorge island, we know that we would be close to the wind, hoping we would be able to maintain a course to round Pico island to approach Faial island. But the wind got up and became gusty and more on the nose than we would like. After trying a number of tactics, we ended up motorsailing in gusts up to 30 knots across to Pico. Nearing the island it seemed to ease a bit and we were able to sail the last hour and a half into the famous harbour of Horta. It had been an uncomfortable bumpy trip, but all were well on board and we celebrated with a dinner of pork and figs and a nice bottle of wine.

The next day would be our last on board so there were tickets to print off, laundry to do and Horta to see. I had a few things to do for the skipper but mostly our last day was one of pottering around and relaxing as much as possible. It also gave Anne and I the opportunity to begin evaluating the experience of the last weeks. We had sailed almost 900 miles in 3 trips, learning much about ourselves and how to set up a boat along the way. We were very honoured to be invited and like to think we brought something useful to the boat. Many thanks Ronnie and Glenis, you are stars (pole dancers as well... )