Rick, Helen, Sue, John
Mon 20 Jun 2011 11:13
The email seems to be taking ages for some reason – if you have all the old addressess please can you forward this on ....
Hello from 40:08.0N, 26:53.9W (17th June)
Those of our readers who are able to see this position either on Google Earth via the Mailasail website or plotting it on a chart will see that (given that I’m writing this on 17th) we have not made as much progress as might have been envisaged. There is, of course, a perfectly reasonable and logical explanation for this which I shall divulge in due course.
First, Angra do Heroismo. This was a fabulous place (I suppose it still is) to park the boat. Once it was the capital of the Azores. You’re going along the southern coast of Terceira, a fairly regular piece of coastline – mostly cliffs – when suddenly, in the middle of it, they stuck a damn great, now extinct, volcano. A giant, wart-like appendage (as it were), right on the shoreline. This creates two pretty significant ‘bay’s and in the crook of the right hand one they built this small city with steep, cobbled streets, brightly painted churches and cathedrals with patterned tiled roofs. The other buildings,mostly white rendered under terracotta tiles, have their windows and doors picked out in blues, a sort of mustardy yellow or a rusty pink. The overall impression you get is that the boys in the paint store had the motif, ‘Bright Is The Word’ hung outside the despatch office. From all over the town, through the gaps between buildings and down steep streets leading to the harbour there are views across the wide, still Atlantic. There’s a huge fort tucked up into bay which not only faces out to sea but also over the town. During the Spanish occupation Drake came here once or twice and on each occasion was generally unpleasant so they built the fort as a sort of giant ‘no callers, thanks’ sign. But the fort had a secondary purpose, that of keeping the Portuguese townspeople in a submissive frame of mind with its cannon pointing not exactly at the town but also, not entirely away . Funnily enough, good restaurants are few. D and I went out to lunch on the day we arrived. Just up the street from the marina we found a nice-looking ‘local’ restaurant offering amongst other things a plat du jour. The rest of the clear plastic-encapsulated menu would require translation so we plumped for what we reasonably anticipated as something local, humble but delicious. In fact we felt very slightly adventurous. Not for us the touristy thing of trawling through a menu to find something we might recognise. No, we’d go for the dish of the day and the hell with it. The first course was a vegetable soup. Unbelievably the potatoes were tinned. (You'd be forever tripping over piles of potatoes if you try to walk across Terceira.) The main course in this little local, Terceirian restaurant was shepherd's pie. 3,000 miles of ocean sailing for a bloody shepherds pie. I very nearly wept
With the soup we’d ordered a half bottle. This was a touch-it-and-see-if-it-bites foray into Azorean wines. It passed muster so with the pie we opened the throttle and got a whole bottle of red which came from Pico. Truly excellent. We only finished about half so we shoved the cork back in, paid the bill, and hoofed it off round the town. Let me say that to hoick a half-empty bottle of wine around a pretty religious town on a weekday isn’t a task to be undertaken on a whim. You walk along narrow, unevenly cobbled pavements and pedestrians in your path become suddenly immersed in the contents of shop windows, or, if they see you in time, just cross the street. Shopkeepers take more than usual care over counting your cash, checking each note. Drunks, sprawled on benches, wave a envious hand. D said he wanted to visit the cathedral. I left the bottle propped up outside as it seemed a little crass to take a non-communion wine into the house of God (although I suspect God would say, ‘thank the lord – well he probably wouldn’t say that – this is a whole lot better than that usual crap they serve in here.)
D and I left Terceira by air. Our trip back to Blighty was very nearly without incident. We boarded the Airbus at Lajes. We dismounted at Lisbon. We found our way to a nice little bar at the airport for Champagne and Sushi. We read The Times. We chatted on this and that. And we entirely missed our flight to Heathrow. The conversation with The Boss (who was already driving down to meet me) was a little strained but, as they say, absence enhances the will to overlook middle-age stupidity and forgetfulness.
15th June (a couple of weeks later)
S and I met R from his flight (incredibly the Toronto and Lisbon flights land within 10 minutes of each other (well arranged, that). S’s and my connection at Lisbon had been on the tight side of almost damned impossible it so quite naturally our luggage was placed in the ‘to follow soon’ category. DDL was very much as D and I had left her except that someone had helped themselves to one of our fenders. We took a cab to the supermarket. S shot off with a list and a trolley. R and I mooched over to the wine aisles and played a sort of Russian Roulette, making our choice from about 600 different types of Portuguese vinos.
We popped into the market and got our fruit, vegetables and fish. Lunch was at a small family cafe on a pavement overlooking the harbour and we finished stowing, fuelled up and finally pushed off at about tea time into a useful westerly and rolled off eastwards, with just the main showing, along the southern coast of Terceira. It was a lovely afternoon with the steep-sided, stone-walled hills vividly green in the sunshine. The mountains behind throwing off their usual train of cloud. In fact, all was well in our world until we reached the SE corner when there occurred a tiny, minor hiccup in the smooth untroubled passage-making which has so typified our voyage thus far. S had just boiled a kettle when the cooker quit. Now, we carry 3 gas cylinders. One was empty, one was full and one was a bit of an unknown but somewhere between these two states. This was the one that had now given its all. I must confess to not being the entirely innocent party here. I had left the question of ‘was it nearly full/half full/damn nearly empty’ to the God of Small Things trusting that either He might be away or, if on duty and looking after business, not of a mind to throw a crow-bar into the chain-drive. Well, anyway, here we were, about to embark on a 10 – 14 day passage with just one gas cylinder and a mountain of chicken, beef, lamb and fish in our freezer. We turned in towards Praia da Vitoria on Terceira’s east coast and tied up at 2145 to the one remaining berth in the marina there.
Having your gas cylinders refilled in the Azores is not the entirely straightforward process one first might imagine it to be. First one entertains the marina-manager to the task. He calls a mate with an armoured truck (such is the required transport for gas cylinders here). The mate takes the cylinders off to a mysterious place and negotiates with those therein. Their response can either be ‘Si’ and they fill them there and then or, ‘Nah’ which is code for ‘try again tomorrow/after the weekend/next week/next month’.
The town itself is like a miniature Angra and we found a pretty good spot for a restoring spontino before spending the afternoon traipsing around for camping gas – just in case. Clearly the God of Small Things had either gone off for golf or was actually giving a helping hand because by tea time we had 3 full cylinders on board and were, once again, ‘ready in all respects’. We pushed off at 1725. Yesterday’s westerly had take a day off so with The Shrek making its noisy contribution, we cleared the gap in the outer breakwater and basically, turned left.
more soon, love the crew