Horta to Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel
We spent four nights in Horta on the island of Faial in the end and left on Friday morning for the 150 mile passage to Ponta Delgada on the island of Sao Miguel. Horta is such an iconic landfall for yachties and it was good to have visited and experienced the buzz of so many different flagged boats jostling together after their long sea crossings. However, the marina is just too crowded these days and we didn’t really enjoy being rafted up 4 deep on the harbour wall. There is a limit too how much crossing of other people’s decks (and vice versa) you want to do and when someone on the inside of the raft wants to leave, it is a complicated and time-consuming business to shuffle boats around. The marina is famous for being completely covered in paintings done by visiting boats to leave their mark on the place and every day you could watch people busy at work on their designs. It is said to be bad luck if you don’t leave a picture, so in the end we thought we should too, although the high standard of some of the artwork is a bit intimidating. Luckily David came up with a brilliant idea; to create a set of stencils of a goldcrest from a picture off the computer and our old anchor marker spray paints were just about good enough for the colours involved. You can judge for yourselves! None of the paintings last very many seasons because of the weather and footfall etc. but it is great fun to walk along and have a good look at them all.
We didn’t explore very far afield at Horta, but did do one walk around to the next little fishing harbour where there is an attractive beach. Beyond it was a good hill to climb for views over the port and also over the seaward side where there is a sort of double collapsed volcanic caldera feature. We looked around the old whaling factory there which is now a museum and watched a very interesting film about whaling in the Azores which was made in the early 1960s. How things have changed since then, thank goodness. Now there are plenty of whale-watching trips to bring in business instead.
One of the loveliest trees in the Azores is an introduced species called the New Zealand Christmas Tree which has vivid red bottle-brush flowers and obviously thrives in the conditions here. The local park was full of them and quite stunning.
We are now in Ponta Delgada on the island of Sao Miguel and that little bit closer to mainland Europe. Only about another 900 miles to go! Our overnight passage was uneventful if rather tiring as the wind would not settle down to a steady speed or direction a lot of the time and we ended up motoring through most of the hours of darkness. We did spot what we think were pods of small whales (but may have been Risos dolphins) en route and lots of the Cory’s shearwaters you see everywhere here. We tied up in the marina around 10am and were delighted to have our own finger pontoon for the first time in ages. This is the biggest of the Azores nine islands and the town is quite substantial, so good for shopping, eating and stocking up. We will probably spend 3 nights here and start looking seriously at the weather maps for a window to make the last big crossing to Spain. We think we will make for the town of Ayamonte which is on the Portuguese/Spanish border as we can then take a flight directly to Bristol from nearby Faro in the Algarve. We will spend most of July seeing family in Britain and France.
Whaling boats now restored: