33 Flores and Horta

Tue 6 Jun 2023 17:42

The strong north westerly wind we thought would take us to Horta never materialised and the best we could do was to continue to the northeast.  According to the forecasts there was no wind to the east of us and, with little diesel, we had to keep sailing -somewhere.  The present track was going to take us well north and to the west of Horta and, in 24-36 hours, it looked as though the wind evaporated, which would make it tricky getting back to Horta on Faial.  However, the freshening south-easterly breeze was now taking us in the direction of Flores, the most westerly of the Azores.  I emailed the harbour office to give an ETA and say that we needed diesel and some food supplies.    We arrived off the harbour of Flores 39:22.74N 31:09.94W around 7pm on June 1st and were asked to anchor in a tiny bay just outside the inner harbour but reasonably protected from the south-easterly weather and swell by the outer breakwater.  The inner harbour, still recovering from storm damage in 2019 was packed with yachts three-deep on the walls.  The outer breakwater, by the way, was a shattered mess of jumbled concrete blocks -some the size and weight of houses - which had borne the brunt of the 2019 storm.  We anchored overnight and Brian produced his egg-fried rice dish -which he had been promising- with our last three eggs – almost the last food that wasn’t rice.  When I said ‘tiny bay’, I was not exaggerating, there was just room to swing one yacht around an anchor with appropriate chain scope.  In the evening, lying head to wind, our stern seemed very close to the beach, and it was a good job the tidal rise and fall was less than a meter.  There were vast cliffs opposite the inner harbour and sea birds nesting there squabbled and chattered all night but we had no problem sleeping.  In the morning, with no wind, we had swung 180o and our stern seemed, to me, very close to the rock armour boulders on the end of the inner harbour mole. 

After breakfast we got the working jib out of the sail locker where it had been crudely stuffed the previous evening, and folded and rolled into a sensible size, so that we could extricate the inflatable dingy.  Before inflating the dinghy to get ashore, I radioed the harbour office to ask if there were any developments that would allow us to berth along-side for diesel, and the harbour master asked us to wait 30 minutes as a couple boats were leaving and he was going rearrange things to make us a space.   The man was a hero: we moved in and tied up; meanwhile he had ordered 80 litres of diesel to be delivered in cans and, while we waited for this to arrive, a charming lady police officer, seemingly not older than about 12 years (we are getting old) checked our passports.  The police officer was impressed that I could give the boat dimensions in Portuguese numerals which are about the limit of my Portugese.  With fuel and formalities completed, the harbour master, a retired yacht delivery skipper, drove us to the supermarket to shop.  On the way back to the harbour we could take in our surroundings – a beautiful, unspoilt island very reminiscent of some of the remote Hebrides.  Walking down the hill we found a restaurant/bar for a late second breakfast followed by an early lunch. Everyone, from the harbour staff to the police and other customers in the bar/restaurant, were so genuinely friendly and helpful.

Leaving at around 3:30 pm on the 2nd, we motor-sailed for 30 hours to Horta 38:32.03N 28:37.28W in next to no wind, arriving late in the evening on the 3rd to find the marinas full and about 80 yachts at anchor inside the breakwater.  We joined the anchored yachts. The harbour master here was overwhelmed by the number of yachts descending on Horta, and completely unable to give me any idea when we might get an along-side berth to enable us to lower our forestay and replace the furler.  On Sunday morning, the 4th, we went ashore to deal with the harbour formalities and immigration and take showers.  Then we found our way to the legendary Peter’s Bar for a (slightly) early pint of beer followed by a large, cooked breakfast each.  We walked out to the nearby whaling station museum (closed on Sundays) in the afternoon and climbed a good way up a volcanic mound to a church with great views over the port.   We ate ashore in the evening in the most soulless, inefficient, hotel restaurant imaginable and reflected on how fish of the day in Flores is a substantial meal, comprising a whole fish, whereas fish of the day in this restaurant was a sad little fillet of some small, indeterminate fish perched on a bed of ratatouille with three small boiled potatoes along-side – and felt cheated.

On Monday morning I was waiting outside the shop for MAYS (Mid Atlantic yacht Services) to open and to contact Duncan, the proprietor, who had a new furler available for me.  Unfortunately, the weather was due to freshening up on Tuesday/Wednesday, and would be no good for rigging work, and besides, because of the weather, no one was leaving so there was no berth available anyway.  We did do some exploring, made further enquiries with the port office about a berth on the harbour wall – but they directed me back to the marina office who said, ‘come back on Wednesday’.  We ate on board on Monday night and then set anchor watches through the night as the wind gusted up into the 20s.

At the moment, Tuesday 6th, I’m watching us, and other yachts, swing around our anchors to varying degrees in 20-30 knots of wind.  We moved anchorage this morning to get more space and succeeded in extricating our anchor without clatting any of the anchored boats close up wind.  I’m more relaxed now with a bit more space and tonight the wind is due to go lighter.  I’m pleased not be at sea but I guess we would deal with it if we had to.  I’m hoping to prevail on the harbour authorities for an alongside berth on Thursday and Friday to replace the furling gear.

All best,    Tony, Brian and Keith


My best yet
The harbour at Horta packed with anchored yachts
The little harbour on Flores where we were able to get diesel.
The co-pilots enjoy a beer before breakfast at Peter's Bar