Ilha Verde

Phil Pascoe
Thu 11 Jun 2009 10:32

38:24.7N 28:19.0W
Sao Joao, Pico.  8 June 2009.
Our stay in the Azores was an extremely busy one, in fact we were probably trying to achieve too much rather than chill out and soak up the peaceful way of life on Faial and Pico.  There was a sail to get repaired and plenty of chores and tidying up to be done on the boat. We also had the problem of moving the boat when either of the two boats inside needed to leave.  However, it was good to be land-based for a while - just to sit on a motionless boat (with a G & T of course) was bliss.

Pete and Dave explored both Faial and Pico for a day and a half and seemed very impressed (their comments to follow); they also checked and deliberated on their flight options.  On the 5 June, Pete flew home via Lisbon and I visited friends on Pico, returning to Faial in time to walk and then hitch-hike (no buses after 18.00h) to the airport just in time to meet Robin and Chris, the next victims for the odyssey.  They came from the East, bearing gifts (chocolate, nibbles and a Red Cross parcel from Paula) and newspapers and the spare bolt for George.  Dave had cooked for us that evening and the next two days passed as a blur – we ate, we drank, we chatted, we slept, and fitted in a half day touring Faial by hire car (no buses on Sunday).  The recently active (1957) volcanic area in the Northwest (Capelinhos) was impressive, as was the walk up to an older volcano.  However, the road signs and route to the Caldeira in the centre of the island was not so impressive – it took hours on dirt-track roads, almost taking us back to Horta before we finally reached it. Then a look at the North side of the island before stopping for a gargantuan meal on the way back.  The 'O Cagarro' (Cory's Shearwater) restaurant in Praia do Almoxarife was recommended – and they laid on an excellent feast of three fish dishes and one of mixed meats.  The Azoreans do seem to eat well, as two doggy-bags were required, there was easily enough for eight people.  To bed exhausted.

After much wrestling with flight options (or lack of) and our sailing plans, Dave had to fly to Sao Miguel on the 8 June and then onto Lisbon and home on the 9th.  The remaining three musketeers caught the early ferry to Pico and visited my ex-boss, the eminent Marine Biologist, Malcolm Clarke and his wife Dot, who now live on Pico and amongst other things, run a museum on Sperm whales and squids at their house in Sao Joao.  We enjoyed their hospitality and a fascinating tour of the museum – it brought back many fond memories for me, of times spent dissecting smelly cetacean carcasses and identifying squid beaks from their stomachs.  Although the weather was rather poor, Malcolm accompanied us on a drive around some of the interesting villages on the island.  A pleasant and busy day, only spoilt by me colliding with a parked car in the hire car – not enough sleep recently.  Damn, that’ll be expensive (it was) – but at least nobody was hurt, the 'half-full' view would be, it could have been much worse.  We just had time to return to Malcolm’s local restaurant for a meal, and then returned to Madelena to catch the last ferry.  To bed, exhausted again.  This land-based lifestyle is worse than being at sea.

The weather forecast and our diminishing appetite for more tourism dictated that we should leave as soon as possible, and head straight to Plymouth.  The 9 June was spent completing all the chores on the boat, washing clothes, more shopping for food, visiting a friend at the University (sorry it was such a short visit Helen), getting fuel and water, and then clearing out.  Whether I will visit the Azores again by boat is debatable, but I’ll certainly return for a more leisurely holiday.  After one false start due to one of the lazy-jacks breaking, we eventually sailed away from Horta at 21.30h, just before dusk. 
Now for the last leg of the nine month voyage, only another 1250 miles to home!

If you haven't visited the Azores (Ilha Verde), they're well worth a look.  Not exactly a sunshine and beaches destination, but a unique set of interesting, green (very green) Portuguese islands out in the middle of the Atlantic.  Nine islands with many differences and all with fascinating histories; a walk/climb up the volcano Ponta do Pico, which at 2351m is higher than anything on mainland Portugal, is a must, and the Azores have become one of the great whale and dolphin watching sites of the world.  Give it atry while it's still relatively undiscovered.

Pics:  Whitemeadow in Horta.  The recent volcanic area at Capelinhos.  Boat-building museum on Pico, scale model of whaling canoa.

        Malcolm explaining the diving physiology of a Sperm whale.