Saturday, July 16, 2016

Touring around Faial in the Azores.

We have been climbing every hill and mountain we have been able to get too. This first picture is of Horta from the west and the other from the east. As you can tell it is a very long bay with all the sailboats at one end and the ferry terminal at the other. 
Those are two shots of Pico mountain.  We took a ferry over a couple of days ago and climbed up.  It is the highest mountain in Portugal at 2351m. but we started climbing about halfway up the slope. It was a gorgeous day on the mountain, but down below everything was covered in clouds. It was an interesting sensation to think we were above the clouds. It looked as if you could jump on to the clouds and just laze about on them, as if they would hold you up. 

Barry scrambled to the very top. There are 47 markers and at about marker 26 I told Barry to go on alone as I was getting light headed, dizzy and nauseous.  After resting for about 10 minutes, I figured I could continue on and going at my own pace I managed to make it to the plain before the final peak which was my goal. 
It was a tough climb and I am going to treasure the certificate we got at the bottom to signify we climbed Pico mountain.  If you check out the footing you will see that there is a lot of twirly lava flow to contend with. The climb down was very treacherous because of the uncertain footing and the fact that the muscles in our legs were rebelling with overuse. It took be over 45 minutes to inch my way down the last bit and Barry missed his footing twice ending up with a very grass stained shirt and shorts the first time but was fortunately unhurt. Three days later and are legs are just starting to feel normal again. I guess if we want to do that again we will have to take long walks up hills on a regular basis! 

Friday, July 15, 2016

Horta, the island of Faial, Azores.

As you can see it is a tradition to leave your mark in Horta.  We have spent time wandering up and down the quay reading the signs and hoping to find ones from one boats that we know.  We have found only four other boats that we know personally. Here I am in the middle of painting ours and the finished product is below. 
Just about every surface is covered with signs, the ideal on would be on the wall because this way it would last longer. We figured this space wasn't bad because at least it was on place where you would be seated and not be walked on all the time. I had to wait a few days between painting the blue and putting on the lettering because it has been pretty wet here, lots of high humidity and rain. 
I particularly liked the sentiment of this one. Still in great shape after 14 years. 

Portugal Wins

The European Championships in Football were played the other day. Football is know as soccer in North America, and most Europeans are nuts about the sport.  It just happened that Portugal made the final against France in the Champinship. Everything I had read on the internet predicted that France would win. We decided to join in and went to the bar at the end of the pier to watch. My gosh, what a ruckus was going on.  It was crowded with crazed Portugese fans.  They were wearing the red and green, the team colours, they had noise makers, their cheeks were decorated, it was all out.  
It was a very good game at the end of regulation time it was still 0 - 0.  There had been a number of good chances for the French, one hitting the inside of the goal post, but it popped out.  There were two fifteen minutes overtime periods.  With  just over five minutes left Portugal scored, it was a beautiful goal curving just away from the goalie's hand to catch the corner of the goal.  The place went nuts, screaming, yelling and chanting went on for the rest of regulation time.  When the super fan starts pounding on a metal serving tray with her spoon I had to cover my ears occaisionally to stop the ringing in them.  France was unable to score and for the first time ever, Portugal won the European Cup.  
The people of Horta celebrated late into the night.  There means of showing their joy was to drive around the road along the harbour honking their horns.  We went up and stolled along he sidewalk shouting along with the revellers in their cars.  I am sure the same cars just going around again and again, it was a grid lock on the roads but they were all having the best time. It was great that we could be in the Azores, which belongs to Portugal when this happened, FUN!! 

Thursday, July 07, 2016

The Island of Flores

We spent three days at Flores and then we sailed to the main stopping point in the Azores for yachties, Horta on the island of Faial. While we were on Flores we took a half day tour.  It was foggy out so we did not get the true grandeur of the island but the guide knew his stuff and took us to the spots where we could see quite a bit. 
The hydrengas line the roads and the fields, they are everywhere.  They are the beautiful lavender colour because of the volcanic soil of the island. 
This is the most westerly anchorage in Europe and the rock out at sea is the most westerly point of land in Europe. We did not stop here as there is no protection from winds from the west or north.
Flores was a volcanic island so there are calderas everywhere, with high steep hills surrounding plains where centuries of farmers have toiled.  Flores was settled in the early 1500's. Thus there are waterfalls    with cool fresh water coursing off the hillsides. 
These two lakes were side by side up at the top of the islands.  The difference in the colours was quite astonishing.  
There are only 3,500 people on the whole island. This is the main town with the airport.
Traditional homes are made out of stones. Someone bought up a bunch of houses that were no longer lived in and fixed them up as rental cottages.  Hiking is a big tourist attraction in Flores and lots of Germans and Scandanavians holiday here and go hiking.  There is a network of trails throughout the island that used to be the traditional way to get around. They are well maintained as are most of the homes and public places.  There are lovely picnic areas with clean washrooms available. 

Saturday, July 02, 2016

At sea, Bermuda to Azores

It has been awhile since we crossed an ocean, the last time being in February of 2013 when we crossed the South Atlantic from Namibia to Brazil. It was a only a short jaunt from the Bahamas to Bermuda, just  seven days so during that time it seemed we just left and then I was anxious to arrive.  This voyage it seems to be more about the journey than the getting there. 
We are settled into our pattern of basically four hours on, fours hours off at night and then snoozing during the day as needed.  The first part of the trip felt frantic, big winds and bashing about making great distances everyday.  Then the weather calmed and we turned north to avoid the high. The sailing was easier, long days of beautiful sunny skies and decent winds.  Then heading east, the wind coming around to on our nose and having to tack, making around fifty miles per day in distance towards our destination while actually sailng over a hundred. The only other option was to turn on the engine, but we still had too far to go and we were making decent progress. Then the wind petered out, we desperately headed two degrees of latitude or about one hundred and twenty miles north of our course on the strength of one weather fax which promised winds from the north west which would send us along beautifully, blowing from behind us.  They never appeared and the wind just died. We had about 400 miles to go on a supposed 1680 mile journey, time for the iron genny. We motored for about 36 hours straight down the rhumb line towards  the island of Flores our landfall in the Azores. (The Azores belong to Portugal and are considered part of the EU) The winds have picked up from the north just two hours ago and we are now making about  4 knots under sail in a straight line, with 190 miles to go.  Adding it all up we will have sailed over 2030 miles when we arrive, the extra 350  miles being generated by tacking and also at the beginning we went straight east instead of northeast to avoid a nasty weather system to the north and then heading straight north to avoid the high to the east instead of angling northeast on the rhumb line. All in all, not bad though, considering boats in front of us got caught in that high and have taken three weeks to do the journey which we will complete in 16 days. 
A selfie at sea on Canada Day, just after sunrise. 

We have been honing our Scrabble skills, or should I say word game skills because the electronic version does not allow for a challenge when someone puts down what is considered a questionable word, so I don't figure it should be called Scrabble, but I digress. Barry loves to say "I am going to kick your ass" when we start playing  so I had come up with a definition, if one of us beats the other by more than 100 points you are then allowed to say that you have "kicked ass". 
I really wanted to be ashore for Canada Day but we will spend this one at sea.  I will put up our really large Canadian flag tomorrow and think of all of you back home watching parades, fireworks, celebrations on TV, having a BBQ and some beers and enjoying one of the finest countries in the world.  Here's remembering some of the super celebrations we have had on our journeys, the great party in Raiitea, in French Polynesia, aboard Cat's-Paw IV, sailing away from the caves in Fiji in the Yasawa group, the pot luck on Cat Mousses in Mauritius and the triumphant return home to Canada two years ago when we spent the day with our daughter Jennifer and her family in Cape Breton. I think my brother may be in Muaritius four years to the day since we were there, who would have thought, good on you bro, I hope you are celebrating. Have a great day all my fellow Canadians wherever you may be. 

Finally a fish


This one is for real folks! It is 2000 hours UTC, June 27, 2016 and Barry caught a fish.  It is a 10 pound mahi mahi and we are having fresh fish for dinner,  it was day 6 of dragging a line on this trip and it finally paid off.  We are at approx. 40 degrees north and 40 degrees west, just in case you wanted to get to the spot where the fish must congregate in the North Atlantic! He pulled a Heather and dragged it until it got tired.  She perfected that technique in the Hearne Channel on Great Slave Lake with a lovely 20 pound trout when she was fourteen. 

Oh just to let you know we had a five course meal for lunch the other day. 
Course 1.    Apple juice
Course 2.    Crackers and cheese with Kalamata olives
Course 3.    Reheated tuna casserole with green beans and mushrooms
Course 4.    Daily ration of chocolate bar, 4 squares
Course 5.    Diet Coke
Anything for a bit of fun. 
We have been having lots of porpoises visiting the boat.  Before today they have been smaller and spotted. Today these beauties showed up. They must have played in the bow wave for a half an hour. We had a blast trying to get some good pics. I always said that you aren't really a sailor girl until you could paint your nails while underway!! 

On passage - Bermuda to Azores

Our new main, on the left, our new genoa, on the right, the repaired staysail, in the middle. doing their thing on the way to the Azores. We have both agreed that it was worth waiting for them.  On Day 3 of the passage we ran into an ugly system that had high winds, thunder and lightning and buckets of rain. Our thoughts were that our old main may have not survived that onslaught, it was pretty vicious. 
We have been downloading weather faxes every day and thought that we were past the system that was just north of us and started inching our way northward. We were wrong and got whomped.  Once the initial winds hit we were in the middle of the storm with the blinding rain and confused seas it was ugly.  I turned on the motor and headed southeast to get away from the weather.  Four hours later, Barry was on shift and we once again found the favourable south westerlies and began sailing again. 
Since then we have been following a rather odd course trying to avoid the big Azores high pressure system that has boats in front of us motoring for days. (We are in touch with five other boats on an informal net once a day) We headed straight east for four days, then turned ninety degrees once the low pressure system went by and headed almost due north to get around the high.  We are once again on an easterly course to stay under the high which has moved northward. We have 700nm miles to go, we started out with 1684 so we are well over halfway. If you are still with me you must have some sailorly blood in you because that was a lot of weather talk!
We have had dolphins visit the boat on three occaisions, frolicking in our bow wave. Barry has been trailing a fishing line for five days and he got a bite today but no luck.  You may have to be a Lange to enjoy this humour. As a set up comment I will say that growing up Barry and his twin brother were known for eating just about anything and eating it very quickly, before the other guy could get it all. Barry has never been known for his restraint when it comes to food. He bought five packages of black licorice for the passage and in an effort to stretch out the consumption of the sought after treat, I labeled them with the date when they could be opened.  We consumed the first and second packages within the suggested parameters but when I went looking for the next package, the June 22 one, it was nowhere to be found. On June 24 I inquired whether Barry had seen it, yes he had, it was eaten by him and him alone well before the suggested date!  HORRORS! I am on shift, it is 0005 hours on June 25 and I opened and chewed up some of the licorice scheduled to be eaten today.  I have learned my own coping strategies in 42 years of eating with Barry. 
On the same topic Barry bought a bottle of prune juice before we left Bermuda.  He told me it was opened in the fridge and I should have some if I wanted any as he had guzzled his share.  Yup, you guessed it, over a half of a large bottle of prune juice at one time. Moderation is just not in his vocabulary, he was suffering the consequences of his actions earlier this evening. 😳
When a sailor arrives in a new country with his boat he is required to fly the "q" or quarantine flag. We have a whole alphabet of flags as well as numbers. The q flag is all yellow.  As soon as you check into the country you have to take down the q flag and raise the flag of the country you have just entered. As you can see I am having to repair our q flag.  The end that flaps is unravelling. We have been to 46 countries, I am surprised that it is in such bad shape because it is usually not up for long.  I will admit that sometimes I am a bit anxious to arrive and jump the gun and put the flag up too soon.  I will have to curtail that feeling if I want that flag to last until we are finished cruising. I don't think It will get much of a workout in the Mediterranean because now that the EU is in existence we will only have to check in once. I think if we wanted we could just get an EU flag and fly it all around the Mediterranean.  What fun is that!! I really like having all the flags of the countries we have been in so I am sure I will continue to purchase them. 
Two summers ago when we took our grandsons to the Bras D'Or Lake, I made up flags that spelled out their names and I hung them from the spreaders. Then I made them up out of barker board and had them laminated for their doors at home. William the oldest, at 7, was fascinated by them.