Becalmed 37:08.14N 23:34.44W

Tue 8 Jul 2014 17:16
Finally, just after 9.00 on our 7th day the wind veered 60' setting us free from its head-on trap and we can sail once more, albeit very slowly at 2.2 knots. The sky is covered in cloud and an obliging shower has just cleaned the salt off the spray hood windows. Sometimes back in the Force 6 a wave would hit the plastic windows so hard that it had the same effect.

At 14.46 our agreeable little wind finally died and the engine went back on at 4 knots. We notice it is becoming much warmer and very humid. Usually my hands are cold but I can feel the heat radiating off them now.

Zoonie is sliding over the smooth molten water, her only motion apart from forward is the gentlest occasional roll before she recovers her composure. For the last time this continual day of passage becomes dark, with no moon, no stars, no satellites, just all round grey, darkening from the just visible horizon downwards. The north to south time zone line for the Azores has been generously kinked so that the islands are in the same time zone as their parent country, Portugal.  However where Portugal's longitude is 7' to 10' and the Azores are 25', ie at least 15' further west (900 miles) it gets dark in the evening and light in the morning much later. This was quite relevant when making our landfall as we would prefer to do so in daylight and the almanac states that no attempt should be made to enter the harbour at night as the lights have not been repositioned with the new breakwaters. 

There is always a quiet air of excitement at times like this and when I came off watch at midnight I handed over to Rob with a little reluctance that I might miss the first sighting.

Well I did, but then it was nice for Rob. When I came back on at 3.00am I laughed because Rob was much more excited about the sparkling phosphorescence all around us in the sea, sparkling as if substituting the abscent stars. Shoals of fish were darting under Zoonie's hull,  and millions of pale orange jelly fish , captured in Zoonie's green starboard light, their canopies facing towards Santa Maria as they swam forwards. Ghostlike shearwater flew around us, lit by Zoonie's all round white steaming light and they were soon joined in the feeding frenzy by lots of dolphins. Rob showed me this spectacle by shining the powerful white light downwards and then, as an aside, commented "Oh yes and Santa Maria is visible ahead!"

It was with this memorable escort that we made our final approaches to the bejewelled island. Two distinct rows of lights, like diamond necklaces hung around the island, and the three main lights flashed their guiding messages to keep us safe. 

The lighthouse that smokes. Ponta do Castelo Fl(3)(every) 13.5s 113m(high) 25M range could clearly be seen as standing high on the south east corner of the island. We had slowed down to time our arrival with the first light of day. We were moving towards the light and its three flashes shone on the water and confirmed our way was clear. Mizzling rain cooled our faces and as the beam of the light passed through such a patch of rain it formed perfect smoke rings, hence the lighthouse that smokes.

The lighthouse passed by our starboard side and we made our way along the south side of the island towards the harbour and marina. Terraces rose up the steep volcanic cliffs held in place by substantial stone walls. We later learned from the maritime police officer, Borges, that vines were once farmed there but as the work was so hard and softer ways of earning money came along, the new generation declined the work and they have become neglected. The organic smell of the land mingled with the cigarette smoke from a lone fisherman in a tiny open boat sitting with his nets.

Our trusty almanac told us that the marina office opens at 8.00, so I called them on the VHF without success. Shortly after we tied up we went up to the very new (2010) offices with our ships papers and passports and Borges took all our details. I think he must have spoken to marina manager because a few minutes later Joao came down the pontoon and told us he started work at 9.00 or thereabouts and we'd be welcome to call on him when we were ready.

Well dear reader you might be thinking that after such a long trip we would want a break, but we surprised ourselves by working hard all day, draining the engine and gear box oil while still hot was the first job. We discovered that the diesel hatch has not leaked any more, so the residue in the bilge must be from some we missed in the clean up. The coolant has been leaking from an ill fitting pipe, we always thought it used rather a lot, and you were quite right Torsten.

I turned off the fridge as a frozen waterfall of ice had built up and boys did we have two fantastic G&Ts with ice that evening. We also managed to get two loads of washing done and thought we'd go and sup a beer in the Clube Nautical while the drum was turning only to be told the Clube is closed Mondays and Tuesdays. That and the fact the locks on the loo and laundry doors are very temperamental, you haven't got to be in a hurry, are the only negative points so far.