Horta and Pico

Summer 2022
John Andrews
Sat 11 Jun 2011 14:55

38:39.147N 27:13.033W

Horta and Pico

We have just arrived in Terceira after a day sail from Faial. Today has brought winds gusting to 40knots in the marina and sheeting rain, so we are not leaving the boat, which has given me the opportunity to write up a bit about our stay on Faial.

Because of a fairly typical problem with Chris and Fernande’s  ‘flexible’ tickets, they had to leave us on Saturday, giving them only 36 hours in Horta.










We were all pretty tired, so didn’t really hit the town hard, but we did manage a visit to the Cafe Sport or Pete’s Bar, a must for all arriving sailors. All the grizzled beardies are in there, and here are lots of them, exchanging tales of adventures on the high seas.












There were yachts of all shapes and sizes in the harbour, from the 90 foot super yacht, Aria, we were moored alongside, to rather ramshackle, gaff rigged, timber sparred 35 foot boats (French of course). All of them seemed to leave pictorial messages on the harbour walls, they were plastered with them and some were really accomplished.











We found a fairly eccentric place to eat in Porto Pim.  I had passed it in the morning, and it was in a beautiful location, overlooking the bay, but the builders still appeared to be in. By the evening however, the builders were out, and the restaurant was open, but the staff confessed it was their first night, so we just asked them for their recommendations. The food was passably good, but the atmosphere was tremendous, a good last night for Chris and Fernande.

Horta is a lovely old fashioned town with proper shops, butcher, baker and a good market for vegetables. 










There are some magnificent churches, including the truly spectacular Jesuit College which now houses a museum and council offices. The museum has limited itself to some examples of sacred art, some extraordinary detailed carvings made from the pith of fig trees and very delicate lace work which is in fact made by finely cutting paper.


























We visited the whaling museum over in Porto Pim, where we were shown a film about the whaling industry in the Azores, which ended only in the nineteen eighties. The men used to go out in small open boats, armed only with harpoons and spears. It looked extremely dangerous and was a very bloody process. The rest of the museum is largely the factory as it was left, with its boilers and cauldrons where the blubber was rendered down and the furnaces where the bones and meat were made into fish meal.  Outside the buildings you can see the ramp that the whales were dragged up out of the sea. All the winding tackle is still there. All very grim.























They still sail the whalers in the harbour in Horta. They are beautiful boats with big gaff rigged sails. There are about 8 of them there, so no doubt they have regattas from time to time which would be spectacular to watch.


We hired a car for the day, and drove up to the Caldeira, an almost completely circular volcanic crater  which we walked round, about 8 kilometres.












We then drove on to Capelinhos in the North of the island which is the site of a volcanic eruption that took place intermittently over a period of a year in 1957/8. The area is still covered in the finest grey volcanic ash. Of the buildings in the area, only the lighthouse is still visible, although the bottom floors have been covered in ash. They have built a fantastic visitor centre which describes the events by way of 3D film and holograms. It’s build entirely underground and feels a bit like entering a flying saucer.












Pico is an interesting  island just a 45 minute ferry ride away from Horta. The mountain of Pico itself dominates the island, and at 2451 metres high is the tallest mountain in Portugal. The mountain was never completely cloud free, but often you could see the top peeking over a lower cloud base.


We did not climb it as from the visitor centre it is a 7 hour expedition to the top and back, requiring a guide to lead the way. The view from the visitor centre was spectacular, however and the subsequent drive through the ‘Lake District’, along the ridge that runs west to east the length of the island was very wild, with fabulous views.

We visited another whaling museum in Lajes, which was beautifully presented and included a full scale whaler, partially completed so you could see the method of construction.














Pico is also famous for its Azorean wines. They make a really nice white wine, a bit like hock, which we have been enjoying since arriving here. A lot of the vines are grown in individual walled enclosures, built out of the black lava rock. It is an extraordinary sight, with acres of these walls and has been declared a UNESCO world heritage site.












On our last night in Horta, we had to rearrange all the boats around us so that we could make an early start in the morning. The neighbouring boat was really concerned that we hadn’t left a picture on the wall – it would bring us bad luck – they had painted their own and said we could use their paints. So there it was, I had to produce something. Attached photo shows the result, not very inspiring, but I was photographed as I was painting, like I was sort of local interest.