Fairwinds Goes South . . .
Adventures in a small boat on a big sea

Albin Vega 27
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Weds June 27th - Horta to Velas, Sao Jorge

As I went to the office to check out from Horta I had a premonition that I was about to meet Will from Aluffe - and there he was coming out of the door as I went in . Even more remarkably. moored just ahead of Aluffe on the reception pontoon was Albin Vega Tradition with skipper Chris who we last met in Porto Santo. Departrue was delayed for an hour while we had a gam and caught up with each others' news.

Farewell to Horta
Farewell to Horta

Chris had been to Brazil and made a 33 day non stop passage back to Flores, one of the two Westernmost Azores, where he had met up with Will who was 19 days out of Bermuda. They had then sailed over to Horta in company. Will is planning to head for to La Coruna or Camarinas from Terceira, so there is a possibility that we could leave in company for the trip back.

Sadly we were now committed to leaving to get to Terceira before Friday's forecast strong winds, so at ten thirty we made our farewells to Will, Chris, John from Tanna (who had turned up the day before) and Val and headed out into the Canal do Faial heading for Velas, the capital of the island of Sao Jorge. There was very little wind - we managed to sail for a bit less than an hour, but by midday we were motoring again in a flat calm. The liquid metal autohelm repair seemed to have been a success.

At three o'clock we rafted up against a German boat who told us they had permission to be there and were happy to have us alongside. We were delighted as the anchorage didn't look very promising in the forecast SW winds - particularly as the most sheltered part is now obstructed by a marina under construction. However, just after we had checked in some woman from the Club Navale took exception, and the Germans were told they couldn't stay there by the Policia Maritima. We cast off and dropped the hook near the new marina breakwater in about seven metres. The holding seemed fine.

We blew the dinghy up and went ashore for a wander round. It was a quiet but not unattractive little town, with a couple of pretty streets, some handsome buildings and a collection of natural swimming pools on the seafront. We had a meal in the Club Navale restaurant, where barbecued chicken, chips, salad, local bread and cheese, a litre of Vinho do Mesa and two coffees came to just 17 Euros.

Apart from a colony of some kind of seabird with a particularly mad, demented cry and the engines of a ferry running all night the anchorage was peaceful, and we slept reasonably well with the alarm set for five for a dawn start for Terceira.

Velas, Sao Jorge
Velas, Sao Jorge

Thurs June 28th - Velas to Angro do Heroismo, Terceira

We got the anchor and left Velas at six o'clock, by which time it was quite light. We sailed for a while, but the wind was very unreliable and by eight o'clock we were motoring in a flat calm along the SW coast of Sao Jorge.

We saw lots of what we think were Risso's Dolphins, 3-4m long, just moseying along at three or four knots with their fins occasionally breaking the surface. Rounding the bottom of the island we passed three spectacular waterfalls plunging from high wooded cliffs into the sea, with small communities perched above the precipice in a patchwork of small green fields and hedges. This island will be well worth a longer visit when the new marina is open.

Patchwork fields,Sao Jorge
Patchwork fields, Sao Jorge

By midday the promised wind looked as though it had arrived, and we hove to to drop the Navik. This was not entirely successful as the fishing line became caught somewhere under the boat, but after trying to drop it by attaching the leadline and breaking the end off the boathook it came free as mysteriously as it had become entangled. Soon we were poled out and prevented and flying downwind at between five and six knots. The wind began to come round onto he beam so the headsail wouldn't draw, so we dropped the pole and gybed the headsail. Fifteen minutes later the wind picked up to well over 20 knots and seemed set to stay strong with the seas getting bigger, so we dropped the main and ran under headsail with no loss of speed. Of course fifteen minutes after that it dropped back to consistently under 20 knots, but we were fed up with sail changes by now and ran in the remaining ten miles in peace under headsail with the Navik steering while we enjoyed a G&T.

We motored the last two miles into the marina in rolly seas and tied up at the reception quay. A large crowd was gathering at , around and above the harbour slipway, and we were told that there was to be a tourada de corda at six o'clock. This is a local tradition where young bulls are allowed to career through the streets while local people so inclined try to provoke the animal into charging them, waving umbrelas at it, trying to touch its horns and running in circles round it. The bulls get tired and perhaps frustrated, but are not harmed - which is more than can be said for some of the macho participants. We signed in, got ourselves secured safely to a sheltered pontoon well into the marina and strolled up to watch the entertainment.

Tourada a Corda
Tourada a Corda

Everyone was out to watch the bull running, with crowds thronging the slopes above the harbour for a good view with dozens of stalls selling snacks and beer. We grazed instead of eating - corn on the cob, hard boiled eggs, potatoes with mojo and a couple of beers as we watched the bulls chasing the crowds about from a safe vantage point.

Later we met up with Declan and Debbie from Kephri - we haven't seen them since Madeira in November, although we have just missed them at several ports in the Canaries. With them were Richard and Ailish from Granuaille, a Wylo from Bangor recently returned from the Caribbean. Both boats have been here for several weeks, and have been partying hard during Angra's ten day festival . . . they were now into day 7, although it was only day 1 for us. Being Irish they know how to party, and more importantly where to do it. We went to a wine tasting with free wine and sardines, then to a concert featuring a band called Pedro who are apparently big in Portugal. They were good, and quite unusual - Declan described then as 'Heavy Reggae' - with really good sound and spectacular lighting. After that we ended up in a temporary festival bar someone had set up in their garage, drinking beer and eating black pudding while chatting with the locals, many of whom speak excellent English. It was four o'clock when we got back to Fairwinds.

Pedro Concert
Deland and Debbie
Garage Bar Party
Festival time in Angra do Heroismo - Partying with Kephri and Granuaille

Friday June 29th - Angro do Heroismo, Terceira

A late and somewhat ragged start to the day saw us doing nothing very much. Kathy found her way to the supermarket, but I didn't get out of the marina.

I managed to get connected to the city's free but not totally reliable wireless network and spent some time online - some of it even work related - then we had showers and went over to Granuaille later in the afternoon for tea and a look at the boat. Richard spent eight years building her, and showed us pictures of her during various stages of her construction. Wylos are quite unique - check this website if you want to find out more about them.


After tea we went back to Granuaille. Pedro and Paula - who we had fallen in with in the Garage Bar the previous night - came on board, and we all chatted and partied until the wee small hours again. He and Paula are two of the nicest, most genuine people we have ever met. Pedro speaks perfect colloquial English, and talking with him gave us all some fascinating insights into Azorean and Terceiran culture and attitudes. They invited us to a barbecue tomorrow evening at their house, saying they would come and pick us up. It seems incredible to invite nine strangers (including the three kids off Kephri and Granuaille) to a meal at your house . . . but that is the sort of place this seems to be.

Looking across the marina
Looking across the marina

Sat June 30th - Angro do Heroismo, Terceira

It was another late and slightly shell-shocked start. I went for a short walk up the town just before lunch. Everywhere things were happening - music blaring from speakers strung up on street corners and from lampposts, a large collection of Noddy characters milling around in one of the squares, banners, flags and decorations everywhere, while the streets were thronged with citizens winding themselves up for another hard day and night of fiesta.

Back at the marina a camera crew were filming some sort of cultural event involving eating, dancing and handicrafts, making getting onto the pontoon without also getting on the television tricky.

Traditional dancing
Traditional dancing

After lunch Kathy and I went in search of beer to take out to Pedro and Paula's in the evening. Kathy claimed she remembered the way to the Supermarket, but instead we ended up at the Memoria, a monument to one of the Emporers of Brazil situated almost at the highest point in the city with wonderful views and beautiful gardens laid out on the steep slope beneath it.

View over Angra
Street decorations for the Fiesta
Angra do Heroismo
Angra do Heroisma - a street at fiesta time plus two views from the Memoria

Shortly after six Pedro turned up and we made our way out to his house in his car and a taxi. Pedro and Paula live in a detached house maybe four miles outside the city with a good sized garden where a barbcue was being stoked. We all sat around a table in the garden while Paula bought us a seemingly endless selection of local cheese, sausage and morcelo (the deliciously moist and fragrant local black pudding). We had already been nibbling steadily for a couple of hours when the main course of barbecued chicken and sardines arrived. When no-one could eat any more Pedro produced his guitar, and he and Declan took it in turns to play and sing. Meanwhile in the house Saorse, Donneka and Matthew entertained Pedro and Paula's four year old Rodriguo while they enjoyed the luxury of a real sofa and DVDs watched on a 'proper' television instead of a laptop screen.

Nine guests invited for dinner!
Paula and Pedro
Well fed . . .
Barbecue at Pedro and Paula's house

The music and chat continued until past two o'clock, when taxis were reluctantly summoned. We swapped email addresses and promised to keep in touch with Paula and Pedro. It had been one of the best evenings and quite the most fantastic hospitality we had enjoyed on the whole trip.

Sun July 1st - Angro do Heroismo, Terceira

Got up far too early and spent most of the day shattered. Got the blog up to date and a new calendar up o n BlueMoment.

We went for a short walk up to the fort, then I tried to sleep before the fireworks but without success - someone was testing a generator truck and two banks of loudspeakers on the breakwater just behind us. We went over to Kephri at about ten o'clock, then watched the fireworks from the deck of Granuaille. The fireworks were spectacular, set off from the middle of the bay with musical accompaniment and huge crowds gathered on every high point around to watch this climactic end to their ten day party.

Traditional dancing
Sao Joaninas fireworks

Mon July 2nd - Angro do Heroismo, Terceira

A much quieter day today as the city gets back to normal.

After checking the weather it looks as though we either leave by Thursday or stay until the beginning of next week - there is a low pressure developing right over Terceira at the weekend. We decided to store up for departure anyway and did a big shopping at the supermarket, taking a taxi back to the marina. We also topped off the tank with diesel and filled all the cans, so we have enough diesel for maybe four hundred miles in all. We will have another look at the weather tomorrow and maybe make a decision . . . it is a bit of a nuisance, as we would have really preferred to leave at the weekend when we had seen some more of the island.

Marina and beach, Angra
Marina and beach, Angra

In the evening we went out for a meal with Kephri and Granuaille . . . they have a long trip ahead of them to Dingle, nine or ten days anyway, and they have been in port for a month, so they were a little more subdued tonight with their thoughts focussed on the voyage ahead. It was a pleasant evening. Kathy and I shared a bowl of alcantra, or 'regional meat' as it is translated. It appears to consist of half a cow cooked in a big earthenware pot full of garlicky soup. I thought it was good, very tender and tasty mature meat on the bone from some unidentified part of the cow - possibly the tail - but Kathy said she probably wouldn't order it again.

Nearly in bed before midnight tonight - things are getting back to what passes for normal on this voyage.

Tues July 3rd - Angro do Heroismo, Terceira

The weather is looking promising now for a Sunday departure, so I think we will be staying here a few more days. Kephri and Granuaille postponed their departure as their projected track to Ireland looked likely to encouter a gale 600 miles North of here in four or five days time - they are maybe going to go to Graciosa tomorrow for a couple of days. Will turned up from Horta in Aluffe today, so we still have some company here.

The other highlights of the day included scrubbing some of the hull from the dinghy - I need to go in the water to get it as clean as possible before we set off from here - and getting a new pair of trainers for E7.50 and a badly needed haircut for slightly more. We have hired a car for tomorrow to see some more of the island. Will, brave man, is going to hire a scooter.

Went over for a drink on Granuaille in the evening. Declan has discovered there is no internet access anywhere near the anchorage on Graciosa, so Kephri and Granuaille are going to go to Praia do Vitoria tomorrow instead and wait for a good weather window there.

Debbie and Richard on Granuaille
Drinks on Granuaille

Weds July 4th - Car Tour, Terceira

The car arrived slightly late, but we found ourselves upgraded to a brand new Renault Modus and set off into the interior shortly after ten o'clock. We drove for half an hour through a succession of tidy, attractive villages then headed up the hydrangea-lined road towards Serra de Santa Barbara, the highest mountain on the island. From the rim of the caldeira we had good views down to Angra and the wooded and farmed slopes on the South coast of the island.

Coming back down from the mountain we headed East and stopped at Lagoas da Falca, a small hydrangea-lined lake with lillies on the surface, hidden in the middle of beautiful pine woods. Like all the Azorean picnic and recreation areas we have seen it is immaculately kept by the Florestal service, with barbecues, tables, shelters and even a kids play area. We watched some newly hatched ducklings getting swimming lessons then headed off just ahead of a group of five or six families arriving at the Lagoon for a day out.

We wanted to visit a couple of caves Debbie had told us about, but she had warned us that they were not open until the afternoon, so we drove down to the North coast and had coffee and donuts down by the natural swimming pools at Biscoitos before heading back up into the hills for lunch at another picnic area, this one already in use by a rumbustious group of about twenty people enjoying a full-on barbecue with a mountain of food and gallons of wine. We looked on and ate our bead and cheese under the pine trees, then headed a couple of miles further East for a short after lunch stroll round some fumaroles - gently smoking vents in the heather, interesting, but nothing like as impressive as the vents and boiling springs on Sao Miguel.

It was just before two now, so we backtracked three or four miles to the Grute Natal, or Christmas Cave. This is a series of lava tubes, and a bit of an adventure. The caverns are well lit and the main route is signposted, but you are given a helmet and left to your own devices to explore. A certain amount of crouching is involved and the helmets proved very necessary. Little signs placed here and there name the different types of lava for you - 'ropy' lava, 'aa' lava and a dozen others. At the end of the main tunnels - beyond which the cave is still lit but marked 'for the more adventurous' - is a manmade structure, the 'altar' - whose raison d'etre was not clear.

Emerging into the sunlight we travelled East again looking for the other cave, the Algar do Carvao. Kathy was not completely sure if she wanted to go down into the bowels of the earth for a second time in one day, but decided to take the plunge and was glad she did. It was completely different - the spacious cathedral-like space inside an now empty volcanic cone. Emerging from a man-made tunnel through the crater wall you descend inside the green well of the vent, the circle of trees and sky growing smaller above you. You then have the choice of descending further (for a total descent of 100 metres) to the underground lake in a vast arched chamber, or ascending to another chamber above which is in fact known as the Cathedral due to its excellent accoustics. This cavern was spectacular, and if you only visit one cave on Terceira you should make it this one.

Leaving the cave we headed for Terceira's second city, Praia da Vitoria, by way of the Serra do Cume. This is a narrow hill road along a ridge, reaching a height of 500m with great views over Praia. It runs through an area of small stone walled fields where farmers were out milking their cattle, either by hand or with small machines mounted on the ubiquitous pick-up.

Arriving in Praia we headed for the marina, where we met up with Declan and Richard on their way to the beach, which is right beside the marina. Praia looks like a nice marina, and is much cheaper than Angra, so if we don't get away in the next two or three days we may go there ourselves - it is ten miles nearer home so is on the way. We drove back into town and parked the car ten wandered around for a bit to get the feel of the place. Praia is much smaller than Angra, and I think it would be an easy town to get to know after a week or so in the marina. We had a beer and a coffee then headed back to the car. Declan had mentioned that there was a bull run that evening in a village a couple of kilometres out of town, so we went for a random drive round the surrounding countryside in search of it.

Road, Terceira
Hydrangeas and fields
View from Serra Barbara
View from Serra Barbara
Lagoa da Falca
Lagoa da Falca
Altar, Christmas Cave
Altar, Christmas Cave
Algar do Carvao
Algar do Carvao
Tourada a Corda
Tourada a Corda

We were about to give up when we met an ambulance coming the other way, which was our first hint that we might be heading in the right direction. Soon we came into a village with its streets choked with parked cars, and were stopped by a policeman who pointed to two white lines on the road and said we couldn't cross them, not even to turn the car round. These seem to mark the limits to which the animal will be allowed to go - beyond them is bull territory and entered at your own risk. We managed to reverse back and park in a field, then walked nervously up the village street stopping to buy some delicious chunks of cooked pork from a trailer beside the road. We were between bulls, and anxious to find a reasonably safe spot before the next one appeared. We found a suitable wall, and I hoisted Kathy up onto it. A firework rose into the air and exploded with a single loud bang - a five minute warning that the next bull was about to be released. The Corderos - the guys who hold the very long rope, dressed in white shirts and black hats - appeared, then the bull was out and heading for the first person it saw. A couple of guys challenged it, then bull, corderos and mob were off in a wild stampede down the street . We met up with Declan and Richard, and also Will - who had scootered over to Praia - and the guys off the Dutch boat that had been opposite us in Angra. They were drinking beer and getting quite brave, but Kathy and I stayed well out of the way. It was interesting to note that Kathy was the only woman on the street - all the others were watching from behind elaborately constructed barricades. People with houses fronting the street board up their gates, doors and windows when a bull run is on, and shout encouragement to those in the line of fire from a safe vantage point. A highlight of the evening was when the last bull chased a group of its tormentors back inside the pub they thought was a safe haven, spinning right round inside before hurtling out onto the street again.

As the last bull was put away and the street turned back into a normal village street it was safe to walk down we made our way back to retrieve the car from the field and headed back to Angra via the Rapida for a burger and chips at the marina before retiring after an amazingly varied and interesting day out.

Thurs July 5th - Angro do Heroismo, Terceira

We have decided to follow the Irish to Praia tomorrow and to probably leave on Monday. Will is taking Aluffe round to Praia today.

In the afternoon we walked up Monte Brasil, the big hill/peninsula overlooking Angra. It was a beautiful but hot afternoon, but most of the walk was through the woods in the shade with excellent views over Angra and the countryside beyond.

It was a quiet evening. Many of the boats that were here for the festival have left in the last few days.

On Monte Brasil
On Monte Brasil

Fri July 6th - Angra do Heroismo to Praia da Vitoria (14nm)

Before leaving Angra we purchased a new boathook and I walked up town to get a new gas cylinder from a shop opposite the cathedral. We left the pontoon just after eleven, and spent about an hour trying to sail along the S. coast of Terceira in light and variable winds, eventually giving up and putting the engine on. Once round the corner a breeze sprung up from the SW, and we had a short-lived goosewinged run before dropping the main and beating into Angra in a F6 at six knots plus under genoa. We were directed to a downwind berth alongside Aluffe, and came in at two knots under bare poles with the engine going slow astern! Will took our lines and told us of Declan's latest exploits at last night's bull run. He is getting too brave, and should probably leave soon!

Praia da Vitoria
Praia da Vitoria

During our brief goosewinged run I had decided that we must have a new dedicated easily identified preventer line - since our last one got destroyed after using it a a mooring line in La Palma I have been tying random lengths of green rope together, which is fundamentally unsatisfactory. The very helpful guy in the marina office marked a likely spot on the map, just opposite the big Modelo supermarket, and I bought 20m of 10mm line (not green) for 16 euros while Kathy did some food shopping. We also discovered the municipal market - we plan to stock up with fresh fruit and veg on Monday morning before leaving.

When we got back to the marina I went for a swim off the beach then met Kathy and Debbie and Declan at the cafe beside the steps into the water. After that it was off for a shower, where I discovered to my delight that there was a bath and so had the first hot soak in over eleven months.

The evening saw a big gathering on Granuaille featuring us, Kephri, Aluffe and two young Kiwis who set off across the Atlantic from the US with 100 cases of beer. Declan played guitar and sang, and Debbie was persuaded to go and fetch her fiddle. It was another late night I am afraid.

Debbie playing the fiddle
Debbie playing the fiddle

Sat July 7th - Praia da Vitoria

A quiet day . . . all partied out.

Sun July 8th - Praia da Vitoria

We are planning to leave tomorrow, as is Will on Aluffe. Will is taking two young kiwis on as crew for the next leg to La Coruna, so Aluffe will be quite full - but not as full as tonight, when Will is holding an Origami party on board.

The cockpit drains are working backwards . . .
Aluffe's new crew taking it easy
Squeezebox and fiddle on an Achilles 24
A few scenes from the origami party on Aluffe, an Achilles 24

The origami party did actually involve origami, with everyone being given a square of paper and some more or less understandable instructions. Judging was by Donnacha Connelly, who tactfully managed to find a way of giving a prize to everyone.

With the serious business out of the way the partying began in earnest. The guest list included Shane of Atlas Deliveries, John and Paul the two Kiwis who were now Will's new crew, Declan, Debbie, Saoirse & Donnacha, Richard and Ailish from Granuaile and son Matthew, Kathy and I and some bloke who turned up with a squeezebox - 14 people on an Achilles 24. The cockpit drains went into reverse but we paddled happily and a great time was had by all. Hard to believe we are leaving here tomorrow for an 850 mile passage.