Leg 16: Sao Jorge - Faial - Pico

The main reason for coming to Terceira was our pitstop to Belgium to attend the christening of DEME’s new TSHD Breydel. As we plan to come to Terceira before leaving for Europe, we did not rent a car to get to the inland. We only covered the area close enough for walks, which basically meant the city of Praia da Vittoria. It seems an improved version of Graciosa in the Canary islands, with similar low marina fares, but the added advantage of running water and electricity on the pontoons. You can also sail and surf inside the protected bay area much like the conditions in the Channel between Graciosa and Lanzarote. The only minor note is the limited choice of restaurants, so we ended up eating aboard after various fruitless searches.

The day before travelling to Belgium Leen took the kids to the beach, while Wouter  planned to travel to Angra do Heroismo. Taking down the furling Genoa, Wouter hurt his foot on the pontoon when running barefoot, and thus the plans to travel to Angra were shredded. Returning to Aspro, we saw a local yacht being put back into the water, which ended up to be our front neighbour which was sinking upon arrival to his box. His French nextdoor neighbour came to his aid, but without tools. We quickly tore one of our wooden plugs from his corresponding throughput and lent it to the unfortunate sailor. Later we also offered our emergency bilge pump, which, despite its considerable capacity, still needed about 15 minutes to empty the boat.

Upon returning to Terceira we put Aspro back in sailing mode and stayed an extra day at Terceira to recover from a rather heavy program of the christening ceremony. For our trip to Sao Jorge we left way too early, as our mobile was still on Belgian time. The trip itself was boring, flying Main and IG for the whole distance. The views were marvellous, though the rain always is only an eye blink away in the Azores. We arrived in Velas after 65 nM and very carefully entered the new Marine from which we did not even have charts.

Our traditional evening stroll showed a picturesque and, not always obvious in the Azores, inhabited little village around the marina. Even the new buildings fit in well. It also has quite a height difference, but much less than in Santa Maria. This certainly makes the village more inviting. Again, and this time due to a non operative computer, our stay was free of charge. We can’t really complain about the port costs in the Azores. The local Clube Naval again has nothing to do with what we usually associate with nautical clubs. The Club mainly consists of a restaurant bar and a few dinghies. Nevertheless, the food was splendid.

Our traditional car rental episode only lasted one day, due to the smaller size of the island. The island proved green, sloping and very, very tranquil. The east side was sunny and hot, while the other half remained cloudy, rainy and fresh. Many people say every island in the Azores is a world of its own, but to us many look a bit similar. All green, beautiful, sloping and filled with cows. Maybe we nearing our quorum of islands and are getting a tad too.

After a sparse 4 days at Velas, we continued to Horta. It should have been a nice 20 knots breeze, we were even considering of putting in 2 reefs in the main to keep it relaxed as the children were suffering of a cold and gut infection, but once outside we found out it was only a mere 14 knots. We sailed half the way, and motored the other half. 5 miles away from Horta we experienced a mini acceleration zone between Faial and Pico, where the wind increased to the early twenties. Upon arrival the harbour master summoned us to berth in a 15 m stretch of quay wall, between a 47.7 and a catamaran. Our typical dredging captain’s rebuke of “You really think we are driving a car?” was acknowledged with a smile after we did park Aspro fluently in the indicated spot. Cleared by customs, immigration and maritime police we first moored next to a Sun Odessey 45.2. Later that afternoon, we got a finger berth because of our numerous family…

After sleeping in, we wanted to visit Horta, but a lazy morning got us late to the laundry service where the “operator” had gone away for lunch. When we returned at 13:15, the operator was back, but all machines were occupied. As we would have to wait about an hour for the next machine to become available, we decided to handwash our sleeping linen. We did visit Horta afterwards, a nice little village, though the quay front is by far the most beautiful part of it. We did pass the world famous “Peter – Café Sport”, and certainly will have a drink there when we visit it while it is open.

We had planned our car hire for day two, but woke up late and therefore just spent the day on board doing more laundry.  Yesterday we bought the children a little windmill as their own “wind generator”.  Unfortunately Lotte launched it into the sea so, to stop the shedding of tears, daddy had to put on his wetsuit again. Being in the water, he decided to clean Aspro’s bottom, something really overdue. On top of that, our favourite Scott dropped by, as Ocean Blue had arrived yesterday evening from the Caribbean.

Once we did have our car day, we took off early. Fajal is very nice and full of flowers, again more then worth a visit. The kids excelled at finding all the playgrounds on the island, so we did spend some time there… However, due to its size, we were back in Horta around three o’clock in the afternoon, in time to visit the supermarket and have Aspro loaded for her last month of sailing with us. We also filled the fuel tanks, and little by little are preparing our last crossing home, waiting for a good weather window, or at least a depression free weather window to England.

After the car day came the obligatory paint day. To ensure a safe crossing home, tradition wants it that you need to make a wall painting at Horta. Lotte and Kwint helped with filling the colours of the Belgian flag, while Hannelien did a great job correcting other people’s paintings with one of our used brushes. Luckily no harm was done to herself or the paintings.  After the painting, Wouter again dove under Aspro to continue cleaning her bottom, using a fresh bottle of oxygen. The first one was finished well before Aspro was clean.

Due to the lack of sheltered anchorages at Pico, and also due to the cosy atmosphere of Horta, we decided to visit Pico by ferry. We got up way to early, to catch the 07:45 ferry together with Luuk and Anneloes. Once arrived 09:00, we rented two cars and started our “American type” run over Pico. The scenery was very different from Faial, looking more rugged. We took the main road to the east, a description which might needs some clarification for correct interpretation. The main roads, red on the chart, consist of battered two lane roads with potholes. The “secondary roads”, yellow on the chart, are battered one lane asphalt roads, many covered with moss or deteriorated into gravel roads. The lowest type, white on the chart, is the surprise type. They can be anything varying from dust roads to wide gravel beddings for future asphalt roads.

Halfway over the island we noticed we were on the wrong track, and decided to switch to the correct “main road” over a “secondary” road. Chronologically we went over asphalt, mossed asphalt, gravel bedding, cobble stones and back on asphalt. After about half an hour we reached Sao Roque do Pico, an ancient whaling station. Unfortunately the whaling museum was closed for repairs. It was an impressive site, with a slipway and winches to bring the monumental beasts out of the water…

From there we drove into the centre of the island, to visit the various “lagoas”. The scenery was hilly, covered with low bushes, and we drove over secondary roads running through various cow fields closed of by “cow traps”. The scenery was once again wonderfull and green, though the earth looked much younger than on the other islands, something also reflected on the crops. The next stop was supposed to be Lajes do Pico, but due to the Portuguese quality of signalisation (read “the lack thereof”), we ended up too far east and decided to look for the east lighthouse. We reached it after 10km of dust roads, and found some 4 lucky families inhabiting its accommodations. Upon our return we saw we could have spared us the dust roads, had we gone right about 1km before getting on them.

We continued to Lajes do Pico, a sleepy ancient whaling centre which is now being converted into a picturesque town and marina, and lunched at a very beautiful place. The service was awfully slow and stuttering however, with the second portion of soup being delivered about 20 minutes after the first one just to name one flaw. Off course our luck had that the local whaling museum was also closed for maintenance.

Further down the road we did however find a private whaling museum in Sao Joao, and much to our astonishment this one was open. It proved to be very informative and funny, even for the kids. By the time we were through, it was 4:25 pm and we only had precious little time left to air Luuk on the Pico of Pico. Luuk would have liked to climb the hill as high as possible and without fog. Time and fog restricted this exercise, though we tried to get as far as possible in true rally style.

By 5:30 pm we returned our rental cars and strolled back to the ferry. 1 day does not really do justice to the island of Pico, which clearly used to be the heart of the Azorean whaling operations until 1987. However, we do not really plan to go back for another day, as no decent marinas are available and as we do not feel up to getting up early again to catch the first ferry…

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