Leg 15: Sao Miguel

First thing at Ponta Delgado was to get to the marina office at 09:00:05 in the morning to try and get a better mooring spot. Strangely enough a Portuguese guy was working on a Sunday, and got a berth further inside but downwind. As the wind had started to rise, it took quite a bit of planning to get of our night spot and try for the new berth. However, upon leaving our night spot the marinero took pity on us and our kids and motioned us into a nice upwind box, which we immediately complied without asking further questions. Our Norwegian friends from Lunna ended up in original, downwind berth, and Hans readily admitted it was a difficult manoeuvre to get the boat in.

 We then went to discover downtown Ponta Delgada, under a pooring rain, as it should be in the Azores. We tried to find rubber boots for Kwint and Lotte, but didn’t succeed as the rainy season is finishing. Ponta Delgada is a nice town, with cosy little streets and ditto houses. However, a restaurant is hard to find. The next day we went to run some errands and to prepare ourselves for the Christening ceremony of “Breydel”. We got a family haircut, without the group discount, and afterwards went looking for a business outfit for Leen’s job interviews.

Tuesday we started with our rental car ritual to visit Sao Miguel. The scenery was breath taking, with very green slopes and spectacular coastal views, the other side of the abundant rain. We halted at Ribeira Grande, which we later discovered was not all that spectacular. Next we drove into the hills to visit Lagoa de Fogo, one of the many crater lakes. A path descended from the view point to the lake, about 100m below. Though few people were walking down, Lotte and Kwint insisted to try. To our surprise we reached the bottom in about 20 minutes, despite some very high steps which Kwinten and Lotte jumped each time. Even the climb up was covered in about 20 minutes. Lotte covered about half way on her own legs, but Kwinten, once encouraged, flew up the stairs at an incredible rate. He really has an outstanding physical condition, as well as a firm determination to reach the goal he put his mind on…

Next came the Northern coastline, skimming some cows on the way down which were enjoying the afternoon sun, on the warm asphalt, thoughtfully reminating this morning’s breakfast. We took lunch at Ponta Santa Iria, enjoying another spectacular view of two lagoons. The afternoon brought Furnas, where we again wanted to descend to a crater lake. Just when we were to take off the heaven opened and poured cats and dogs… Back into the car and down over the road, to visit the natural boiling water springs. The view of these was not so breath taking, and the smell of rotten eggs made thing even worse. As we didn’t find the place to bathe in the warm water, we decided to return to Ponta Delgado. On the road we encountered yet another crater lake, indicated by a big signpost. After entering the indicated road we ended up on a farmer’s track after about 50 meters. We passed the crater without noticing, and when we finally located it were unable to visit, as the place was private property. A stop at a local supermarket, to top up our provisions disappointed by the lack of choice and high prices.

The second day took us to the East side. The visit from our Norwegian friends yesterday had learned us where to find the warm bath in Furnas. We stopped there first, and spent about an hour in brown, oxidated water of some 40 degrees. The kids enjoyed themselves thoroughly, and had great difficulty keeping awake once underway again. The rest of the day we mainly drove along the coastline, stopping at some beautiful scenery views. In Nordeste we visited the local lighthouse, where a signpost indicated a 2,5% descent, or was it 25%. We ended up much more inclined than we had bargained for, and decided to turn around wherever we could. Once around the car was battling to get up the slope again…

In one of the 3.000 bends of the day we discovered the natural park of Archadinha, with a beautiful waterfall and three water mills. None of the mills were open however, but the stop was still more than worth the effort…

Day three was dedicated to the West Side. First stop was “Sete Cidades” with Logoa Azul and Lagoa Verde. Again two beautiful crater lakes, more then worth a long walk. From there we went back to the omnipresent coastline, though we encountered no further breath taking views. We were back at Ponta Delgado at around 4 pm, so we decided to go for further provisioning. This time we visited the well hidden “Centro Comercial Atlantico”, and found another supermarket. The Portuguese seem specialists to make a finding game of their road indications. On one crossing they indicate the direction, while on the next 3 they don’t. By the time you find the next signpost, you were either lucky to have followed the correct road or, more likely, got lost… The choice in this other supermarket was reasonably ample, but the prices remained the highest we encountered on our trip so far.

The last day of our car intermezzo we made it a slow day. We went to Furnas again, to give the kids some more oxidation time, which they greatly enjoyed. Once we were brown enough we returned to Ponta Delgado to call it an early night.

Saturday 10th of May we could have left for Terceira with a southerly wind, meaning beam on. A few factors were however conspiring heavily against such decision: rain, a skipper who finished his book in the late hours of the night, and the fact we would be encountering 30+ winds on our beam during the night. We did not feel much for going for an uncomfortable 90 nM, even less knowing we could go for an easier trip one or two days later. We thus stayed on board, fumbled around a bit and made pancakes, one of our favourite WWW pastimes….

The next day the rain was still there, but the forecast gave only intermittent patches, so we decided to leave. Funny enough the rain seems to have a strong preference for land. Sailing along the coast we went through the edge of some rain zones, but once well clear of Sao Miguel the sun started showing itself. While in the sunny patches we could see Terceira, some 5 nM away, remained hidden under a heavy cloud cover and even with cats and dogs falling out of the sky. Each cloud did bring his own wind, stronger when  raining then while remaining dry.

The crossing was not much to write home about. We stared under main and Genoa, but after two hours the wind faded quicker than forecasted, and also veered quicker than forecasted, leaving us with 10 knots dead on the nose in a choppy sea… We therefore hoisted Mr. IG to keep 6 knots on the log and arrived at 2:00 am at Praia de Vittoria, making for an interesting, with the moon nearly gone. Entering the commercial part of the port was a piece of cake, but getting into the marina was more of a challenge. The local contractor was “dredging” the entrance with a Toyo pump, a kind of a crossing between a big Moulinex kitchen robot and a fireman’s pump. The entrance channel had been reduced to about 8 m, delimited on one side by a pontoon and on the other by unlit, small, plastic buoys. No need to say we entered at low speed, with one eye on the depth gauge and the other on the buoys. Al went well, and at 2:30 we were happily moored in a near empty marina which holds the promise of being the cheapest we came across on our entire trip: 3 Euros per day. There will surely be increments for taxes and other follies, but I doubt the total will surpass the 5 Euros per day… Tomorrow being official holiday we will have to wait until Tuesday to know for sure.

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