Jetstream Chronicles - Part 4

andromeda of plymouth
Susan and Andrew Wilson
Thu 30 Jun 2016 10:25

A long post today, so a cup of tea or what you fancy may be in order................So here we are, once again, back in Horta, a lovely small town on the island of Faial and one of the most visited ports in the world and after a trip, so far of some 1,300 nautical miles since leaving Lagos – hurrah!! The day and half trip from Santa Maria was about 206 nautical miles which was mostly undertaken with the engine on – the winds, alas, failing us, unfortunately. Horta is still fairly full – both the anchorage and the marina have a wide range of nations represented, most returning from the Caribbean or venturing across from North America and Canada – we are moored against the wall not far from where we were when last here in 2014 on our way back to Europe. The marina reception berth itself has boats rafted 4 out and the wall has boats rafted 2-3 out, so really, still quite busy. Anyway we  had to complete a wall painting for Paul and Jackie before we move on – it is considered unlucky to leave Horta without painting a picture of your boat before sailing away, a tradition that dates back to the 60’s/70’s when folks started crossing the Atlantic in small boats. Horta was always particularly welcoming to these pioneering sailors, and from whence Peter’s Bar gained its reputation, and so the entire marina – walls and walkways – is covered in hundreds of amazing paintings. And our painting survives from 2014! Which is kind of cool and very satisfying!


On the trip from Santa Maria we saw:-

  • huge numbers of the Portguese Men of War sea creatures
  • two pods of dolphins (Atlantic)
  • quite a few Shearwaters (Manx and Cory’s)
  • two Hawksbill turtles
  • two mooring buoys (no idea from where)
  • two whale spouts (probably Fin whales)
  • 2 yachts heading east
  • one plane
  • one very large cargo ship


After re-fueling (we have got through a lot of diesel on this trip it must be said), registration, berthing against the wall and a walk around the town, we had a meal in the local Chinese restaurant to celebrate Jackie and Paul’s birthday (they share the same date) – Susan had managed to create some amazing cards for them both, and we had some mugs and T-Shirts made up which we gave them on passage, much to their surprise - there was also homemade bunting and a cake, with a candle especially for Paul’s 60th.


The trip from Santa Maria exposed a problem with the Engine Battery alternator; it was over-charging, which is not good as it could “fry” the batteries. On arrival in Horta, Paul sought out the folks from MAYS – after investigation under Duncan’s supervision, it seems the alternator needed replacing, which meant a longer stay in Horta than planned – ho hum, such is cruising. Several days will be needed to get the new alternator from the mainland (Holland). Anyway, we had plans!! So we decided to head over to Pico, famous for the striking extinct (?) volcano that greets sailors arriving from the west, most often with a halo of cloud around the summit.


Well, to be fair, it wasn’t the best of days to see Pico. We had an early start for the ferry and arrived in Madelena in cloud and a cool breeze. After hiring a car - the bus service would not work for us as there are only a couple of buses per day, so hopping off and on wasn’t viable - we set off around the island, and quickly realized how quiet it was and how relatively small the island actually was. It seemed mostly closed with few if any shops in any of the villages and little sign of life either – very strange for a Saturday. We had lots of cloud and a fair amount of rain for most of the day, so there was little chance of seeing the summit of Pico itself. It takes 8 hours to walk up and down to the summit of the volcano in good conditions from the last practical road, so we left that until another visit. We drove around the whole island (and a bit more) and found a few cul-de-sacs to entertain ourselves, saw some great views, including Sao George to the north, and had a nice lunch in a hotel in Lajes do Pico while waiting for the rain to clear.  We’re glad to have made the effort to visit the island, but it wasn’t as dramatic or as fascinating as we were led to believe, never mind. However it does have two whaling museums, two supermarkets, one airport, two small ports, one very small marina, lots of greenery and cattle, one or two mini-mercados, a great many churches and convents, lava flows, a nice hotel, quite a few bars, the largest mountain peak in Portugal and some interesting roads, in case of interest. Apparently the island is good for hunting – rabbits, grouse and such – we didn’t take up the offer. We didn’t see any whales or dolphins either.


Sunday was a day of laundry and shopping followed – yes the mundane and pragmatic things are always somewhere to be found in the cruising life – and a really nice call from Jen (and some brilliant cards from Shayla, Amaya and Misha) for Father’s day, and later, calls from the boys – meant a slow and relaxing sort of day while we waited for confirmation from MAYS that the new alternator was on its way. There is a reasonable turnaround of yachts in Horta at the moment, from the small “single handers” to the giant “gin palaces”, so there are always new boats to see and new paintings to admire – ours is done and painted by the way. We have also found paintings by friends who have visited Horta in the past on Piano, Scarlet, Soul Mates and Kodiak among others. Excellent.


Alas it was to be several days before the alternator would be on it’s way from Holland, so a few more days here to fill – unfortunately it has rained quite a bit, not very conducive to site seeing, walking or even touring Horta by car. Even whale watching had to be curtailed – no-one could see the whales! So reading, crosswords, soduku, listening to the radio, catching up with Game of Thrones (yup, we have seen the latest episodes), playing cards, playing Dog Royale, conversations and other pastimes became the order of the day, along with eating of course, until the weather improved and we could get about without getting completely soaked – the facilities are a good ten minute walk away – such a change from when we were here in 2014 at this time of the year, on our way back from the Caribbean and we had glorious sunshine!


We did venture out to the local Whaling Museum when the rain had ceased for a while – whaling is something to understand in the context of the history and culture of the Azores, even if you can’t really come to terms with the way it was practiced – the last whale hunt was in 1984. A sobering experience of an industry that employed hundreds of folks across the 9 islands of the Azores, complete with colour film, that for many years and put the Azores on the map of the business and resources world. Indeed it could be said that whale oil “lit the lamp” of the industrial revolution. Many Azoreans have now emigrated to the US; this came about from the time of the US whalers in the late 1800’s who could offer US residency to crew who sailed for two seasons on their whaling ships. Not entirely surprisingly, there are more folks from the Azores and of Azorean descent in the US than reside now in the Azores themselves. However as a “biker” from Teceira said, who we met in Santa Maria, the real “Portuguese” are in Teceira, having withstood the Spanish invaders the longest – well said perhaps. Today the ocean, including whales which are magnificent creatures to observe - is a far better place for having them around we feel (yes, we are left wing pinko environmental renewable greenies by and large), and since the 1980’s, whale and dolphin watching has become very popular around the islands. Yup, we like whales. And dolphins, and all sorts of jellyfish and siphonophores (which is what a Portuguese Man of War actually is), but not too close though.


The high winds and rain did eventually calm down and some 6 or 7 yachts immediately took the opportunity to leave the island. Our lines and fenders did take something of a battering for some 36 hours or so of strong winds and swell, particularly as we were the inside boat with a larger Amel (aluminium boat – 54 footer )outside us, and a steel yacht outside him – not ideal by any stretch of the imagination, but there you go. We were still waiting for the alternator, though by now in glorious sunshine for a while; until the next day which was rainy, grey, windy and damp! Tough times it seems in Horta!


Friday was a sombre day – overcast with misty rain and it reflected to a large extent the results of the ludicrous referendum – we are part of the 48% and are proud to be associated with the sensible, outward looking, engaging, pragmatic and enlightened. The 52% will rue the day and indeed are possibly already doing so.


However Carlos the cat, from a German boat, called round and cheered us up. He is an unusual cat, happy to wander around the pontoons, yet returns to his yacht when called, quite unusual in a moggy we think; there is another cat on the same yacht, but it is rarely seen. Carlos is very friendly and he avoided putting his paws in our painting despite investigating it while I was painting – a fine fellow to be sure; he is black with a white tip on his tail, so perhaps, somewhere, his tail has been in some white paint, but not ours we can, however, confidently report. We encounter ships cats very rarely – so we hope Carlos enjoys his next adventure.


Saturday afternoon finally saw the arrival of the alternator, in sunshine and mostly blue skies (hurrah!), and thus our impending departure to Teceira. After swapping places with the yacht outside us we were ready for an early departure to our next island and then, early the following morning, we were off............


More in due course...........


(We are proud to be part of the 48%)

Susan, Andrew, Jackie, Paul  

Horta, Faial, Azores