Lovely anchorage at Capelas

Thu 16 Jul 2009 12:08

Wind directions didn’t favour our anticipated 60M trip to Santa Maria, the other island of the eastern group of the Azores. However, we found a probably better by visiting a fair-weather anchorage at Capelas on the north coast of São Miguel. This took us past some impressive rock scenery near Mosteiros on the west end of the island.



As we turned into the broad bay that is the main feature of the north coast, we picked up an improbable-looking slot in the cliff (just to the right of the prominent headland in the photo).

 We crept close to the cliff along the east wall to avoid a nasty-looking outlier rock, then anchored in about 7m off a tiny quay at the bottom of the cliff. The situation was spectacular but gave excellent shelter with very little swell creeping into our narrow niche.

 We rigged the snubber and frapping lines (landsmen should refer to the “Jackspeak” dictionary), hoisted the anchor ball and prepared the lantern, then sat back with wine or beers in hand to watch the wildlife. The numerous terns zooming past us proved to be the rare roseate tern with a faint pink blush on the chest while closer inspection showed that the smaller “birds” above the trees at the cliff-top were Azores bats. The final entertainment was that the upper part of the cliff held a large population of nesting Cory’s shearwater so, as at Velas, darkness brought the “Punch and Judy” sound effects of their strange calls.


Early next morning we saw a large open boat rowing into the bay. The photo shows clearly the long fishing poles that identified it as a local tuna boat.


Evidently they had come to have a look at us – they returned our greetings, started their engine and headed back out to their fishing. Our return trip to São Miguel after breakfast included a couple of hours of enjoyable but fairly unprofitable beating up wind and tide in F4-5 followed by motoring as the wind dropped.


We had the usual boring hour of checking in again with the marina, immigration, GNR and customs, the moored back to our previous berth. Ponta Delgada was getting into full swing with the Divina Espirito Santo festival; the main square featured a huge illuminated silver crown the size of a bandstand; next door to this was a structure like a round, multi-tiered wedding cake draped in white gauze. The layers of this structure functioned as shelves that were stocked with large, ornamental loaves coming from each of the “freguesias” (local community associations) of the island. A local explained that these would be auctioned for charity adding that, at lunchtime on the following day (Saturday), there would be free meat stew and wine for all comers. We missed the meat stew but spent most of Saturday afternoon watching a procession of carts pulled by goats, bull-calves or pairs of enormous oxen, decorated in a variety of styles representing farm products or religious or cultural traditions. Again, these floats were organised by individual freguesias, as were the other components of the parade such as bands, troupes of dancers and wagons giving away bread, wine and grilled horse-mackerel. The scale of this was such that, moving at a slow amble with occasional pauses, the procession took well over four hours to pass through. The Espirito Santo cult has died out in mainland Portugal but is definitely alive and very well in the Azores. We felt very lucky to have seen this impressive event, which is clearly an _expression_ of the cultural identity and charitable activity of the local communities as well as a religious festival.