In the Azores

Chiscos - Atlantic Cruise
John Simpson
Tue 5 Jun 2012 16:10
38:31.880n 028:37.519w
Well, they didn't quite beat the weather but made it to Horta safely anyway.  John, Mikaela and Corinne had a tough end to the passage from Bermuda, arriving into Horta in winds gusting 48 knots and amongst gigantic waves.  The wind was so strong they thought they would wait until they were behind the marina breakwater to take the sails down, only to find that the wind was stronger there than it had been at sea!  Another yacht had arrived a few minutes before Chiscos and, whilst taking their sails down, had let a rope trail in the water, which fouled the propellor, stopped the engine, and the boat was quickly dashed on the rocks inside the harbour just as Chiscos was tying up alongside the quay.  All in all it was a dramatic end to a difficult passage but thankfully Chiscos and crew are safe and well.
There was the now familiar round of social events connected with the ARC rallies - meeting up with friends in the bars, playing music together, barbecues, group meals and the customary prize giving.  After what felt like a particularly slow journey from Bermuda, John was amazed to find that Chiscos actually won first prize in their category: Cruising Group B.  The places are awarded on times corrected to allow for boat size and hours motored.  With only 9 hours under engine since Bermuda, Chiscos was comfortably in first place by a whole day even though she was one of the smallest boats in the fleet.  So having won a cup and a hamper of rum in St Lucia, followed by a plastic tea tray in Bermuda, this time the prize was a whole local cheese and a bottle of port! 
John and Mikaela said farewell to Corinne on Saturday 2 June, just as Alex and I were arriving in Horta for a few days on board.  The weather was glorious as we arrived and we were congratulating ourselves on having left the rain in the UK for the Jubilee weekend and having brought the sunshine with us.  Sunday proved us wrong, however, as it lashed with rain and howled with wind all day.  The ARC Europe fleet was due to leave at 6.00 am for a tour of the Azorean islands so we were all woken by our alarms ready to help the boats leave.  We were all rafted up three deep along the quay so all the boats had to be ready to shuffle even if they weren't leaving.  There was a good deal of chatter on the radio at 6.00 am as people tried to decide whether it was safe for boats to be moving in the bad weather, but by 8.00 am those who were determined to go had made a move.  Eventually, after a couple of hours in the wind and rain, we finally tied up to the quayside again, changed into dry clothing and waited for the rain to stop.  We enjoyed a lovely evening on board Asteroid, where Brian had made a delicious fish stew - enough to serve an army - and we sat chatting in their covered cockpit into the night.
Monday dawned much brighter and we decided to hire a car to see the island. 
Horta from above the town, with the marina in the centre of the picture. 
We drove all the way round in a clockwise direction, stopping for a fantastic fish lunch at a 'snack bar' on the northern side.  We visited two of the island's volcanoes - this one, on the north of the island, had some impressive ash layers partly covering a lighthouse.
The Caldeira volcano, in the centre of the island was a bit of a challenge to reach as we had a map which gave an approximation of the island roads graded as red (primary), yellow (secondary) and white (track).  When they said track, they meant it literally.  At one point we were ascending the mountain in our 1.2 Vauxhall Corsa on a red cinder track with hairpin bends and not much between us and the valley below!  We decided this was definitely somewhere for a Top Gear vehicle test.  We took a wrong turn at one point and approached the brow of a hill to discover a gully too wide for the car wheels to cross.  The only way down again was in reverse.  All in a day's play for the Simpsons!
Tuesday has been spent in preparation for the final leg of the trip back to the UK.  Alex and I refreshed the Chiscos painting on the wall in Horta harbour - the last time Chiscos was here was in 2005 so the paint was quite faded.  We repainted it and added reference to the 2011-12 Atlantic Circuit.
  Before ........... and after
John and Mikaela went to the supermarket whilst we still had the car to carry the supplies.  Mikaela went shopping for trousers, having not needed any until now!  The plan for the evening is to meet Hugh, the banjo player from Wild Goose, to play a few songs in the bar at 6.00 pm, the trio seen here playing earlier in the week in Peters Sport Cafe - a famous yachties meeting place in Horta.
We're then planning our 'last evening dinner' at a restaurant in town where the food is cooked at the table on hot stones.  Should be interesting! 
John Barry joins Chiscos on Thursday (7 June) and the weather looks good for departure from Horta on 8 June bound for Falmouth.  All being well, Chiscos should complete the trip in 10 days, before making her way up the English Channel to Southampton for a Grand Finale arrival in Ocean Village on 23 June.