Atlantic crossing from Bermuda. 16

Sun 17 Jun 2007 17:31
Alors....The Azores.
First sight of the islands is the dramatic cone of Pico Alto, the 2351 ft volcano some 15 miles beyond the town of  Horta on the island of Faial which is our destination, the first landfall from the west. Faial has its own cone, the  Cabeco Gordo, 1043ft high but not yet visible as I write at 9am,  still 18 miles off.
A quite good run of 150 miles was achieved last night thanks to a consistent wind.
The wind died towards dawn and we are now motoring, the propeller problem having solved itself, probably a plastic bag or something.
The whole scene is quite forbidding, in sharp contrast to the approach to St Lucia after our first crossing. The lush green of the Caribbean replaced with black rocks rearing out of a grey and cold sea. These island are formed by the fault line where the Eurasian and African plates meet, and have a history of volcanic activity, the most recent  being an earthquake in 1998 which killed three people, flattened three villages and made three thousand people homeless.. Reading the history of the area belies the first impression, the ash and lava having provided very fertile conditions which has made the islands rich in plant life. Time will not permit us  to explore the other eight islands which is a shame after coming all this way. Its not that far from England so maybe we could come here again in Thisbe sometime in the future.
During the last 24 hours we have been visited by schools of Dolphin and birds of all kinds which take a great interest in us, following the boat for miles, swooping and turning, skimming inches above the waves.
While I have been writing this, the  sky has cleared a little more and Cabeco Gordo can now be seen. A sprinkling of white buildings and green fields which seem to begin where the steep cliffs end. Its not easy to see the join, where the islands overlap, the huge cone of Pico Alto seeming to rise up out of the island immediately in front of us,  not 15 miles beyond. I am hoping to see some of the boats taking part in this years Azores and back race from Falmouth, they are here until Tuesday 19th I'm told, but based on another island. Its a pleasure to see spirits rising as we approach land, The discomfitures of  the crossing, small though they were, but not very pleasant  at the time, all but forgotten. A shower, change of clothes, nice cuppa tea, promise of solid ground underfoot.   Come on ! !
Arrived and tied up alongside in Horta harbour at 12.15. The place is packed with boats from all over the place rafted up to five deep. Did the formalities which were very laid back,  and are now free to do whatever. The trip along the island was the usual delight. Very dramatic rock formations rearing up out of the sea, tidy looking houses all along the shore and like necklaces around the necks of the numerous volcanoes (?) jutting up everywhere.  Plants which we cant identify yet, obviously planted as windbreaks, running this way and that beside the fields, some seem to be up to 15ft high, the plant also grows wild on the cliff slopes.   All the fields look well tended, we tried to figure out how it was done but soon came across big herds of livestock which answered the question. The harbour is a picture, well protected on all sides and by a breakwater from the sea, all around the concrete jetties and edges are covered in street art all done by visiting yachtsmen, some of it very artistic indeed. It is considered good luck to contribute to it before departure, always assuming a space can be found.
We plan on hiring a scooter to do a little tour around, after the boat work is done of course. Arc Europe, the return leg, has already passed through and it was great to get news of people we know from the outward leg.  The customs man looked up the details of some other, non arc boats that have passed through which was much appreciated. It sounds as though some people had a rough time of it, one was dismasted. The last boat in is still here and I know the owner quite well, they took 22 days from St Martins.  Joel and Richard are ashore to do another couple of hundred 'card postales' and were last seen scoffing egg and chips in a local eaterie.
Nice to be here.         Manny