Bus Tour of São Miguel

“Azorean legend has it that long ago a beautiful Princess with piercing blue eyes used to roam the countryside because she was in love with land. One day she came across a humble shepherd tending to his flock on a nearby hillside. She and the shepherd began talking about their shared love of the flora and fauna all around. They returned to the same spot day after day to meet and quickly fell into love. When the King found out his daughter was in love in a lowly shepherd, he was displeased and told his daughter she had to marry a foreign prince and she was no longer allowed to see the shepherd. The Princess knew she must oblige her father, but asked the King if she could see her love one more time. She and the shepherd met a final time, at the same spot on the hillside, and she shared the sad news. They both cried endless tears, and it’s said that her flowing blue tears filled the Blue Lake and tears from his emerald colored eyes filled the Green Lake. While they were separated from that moment on, they were still together forever in those two connecting lakes.” from http://compassandtwine.com/kayaking-around-the-green-blue-lakes-of-sete-cidades-in-the-azores/ 

From this perspective, it looks like the lake in the foreground is as large as the one behind it.  However, the Blue lake in the background is much bigger.  It is a Blue Lake because it reflects the blue of the sky.  In contrast, the smaller Green lake reflects the green color of the vegetation sourrounding the lake.  The lakes formed in a large volcanic crater.

I enjoyed a Coke with ice and lemon at the above resturant.  If you ask for a coke with ice, they normally a slice of lemon.  This little town is on the banks of the Blue Lake.  Our guide mentioned that the houses are small and very expensive, 2 million Euros ($2.300,000).

Even small towns have large churches.  The lichens covered the trees on the path to the church.

Where the Azorean pineapples are grown.  The roof is painted white.
When the paints are this big, they fill the hot house with smoke.  This puts the plants on the same timetable.

Overnight Sail to Ponta Delgada

Last night, we left Terceira at 1800.  As we motored out of the harbor, we stowed the dock lines and the fenders.   We had daylight for a couple of hours, so were able to see the sails and trim properly.  Before departing, I was not sure about an evening departure.  I questioned voluntarily submitting to a night of interrupted sleep.  I was on for the 2200 shift.  Roy had trimmed the sails well and we were cruising at a comfortable 7-8 kts, very pleasant.  Himmel was .2 nm behind us and Principal Interest was about the same in front of us.  During my shift the wind picked up to 14-16 and we were doing a solid 8 – 8.5 kts.  During the next two hours we passed Principal Interest and put more than a 1 nm between us and both boots.

Carlos took over after my shift.  About an hour into his shift there was a gust of wind that suddenly heeled us over, not to the point of putting the sails in the water.  It was enough to shut off the autopilot.  Carlos was teethed to the table and unable to get to the helm in time to avert a 360.  I slept through it, while Roy emerged from his cabin to help.  It turned out the gusting winds returned to a steady 14-15 kts.  My morning shift started at 0600 and the wind had dropped to 6-8 kts.  Eventually, we dropped the sails and I steered us to Ponta Delgada.  Carlos parked us in a slip.  While Kathy and Carlos went to customs to check us in, I had granola and several cups of English Breakfast tea.  Very tranquil start of the day.  After the experience of the 90 nm night sail, I decided I liked it.  Something worth doing in the future.

This is the cafe were I had a Coke (with ice and lemon) and used the wifi to upload this post. We are in the marina in Ponta Delgada.
I am looking at this church while writing this caption.
This is just to the left of the church.  I walked down this alley to arrive at the cafe.
The crew of Silkie, the only ARC sailors with kids.  Four kids from 2 to 11.  
There are gardeners employed to take care of the flowers along most of the roads.  If we had been here a couple of weeks later, the Hydrangeas would have been incredible.

On the way to meet Carlos and Kathy, and the Migaloo and Prinicpal Interest crews, Roy and I came across an 585 Oyster that was rafted up to us in Bermuda.  Back in Bermuda on board of North Wind, we shared a number of drinks with Louie and his crew.  Louie had mentioned his dad woul be taking the boat from the Azores.  Sure enough, we introduced ourselves to John, Louie’s dad, and were invited aboard.   He welcomed us by giving us an indepth tour of the boat; electronics, galley, thruhulls, cabins, and hydraulics for winches, furling genoa, backstay, etc.  Burled wood on the table was worthy of a photo, but I did not have my camera.  Oysters are build in Great Britton and if you think of a parellel to autos, it would be comparable to a Rolls Royce.  John insisted on gin and tonics, so that delayed enough that we missed dinner with the other crews.



Strolling around Angra on the Island of Terceiro

ARC sailors are on a walking tour of Angra Heroismo


Notice the tiled walkway.
This is the look of sidewalks across the entire town of Angra.
Town Hall
It is no wonder that Angra has the designation of a World Heritage Site.  Amazing!  It is the  people who are incredibly friendly and helpful that make the Azores a wonderful place to visit.
The view of the town from a castle on a hill.
Returned to the marina to get ready for running of the bulls.

We Depart Horta for Terceira

It is a tradition to record your passage through Horta on the dock.  Kathy and Carlos painted the North Wind mark on the dock.  The tradition is based on the belief that the painting will result in a successful passage to the next distant port. 
Many sailors have left their mark.
The crew of Himmel, my Mt Pico buddies.

The ARC was scheduled for a 0700 departure.  In the Horta Marina, five boats were rafted off the dock.   We were the third boat from the dock.   The outside two boats were efficient in untying their lines and were off at about 0645.  We were ready, so in two minutes we were free and headed out of the marina.  Since it wasn’t a timed start, we set the sails.  Because our generator was not working and we had not connected to shore power, we had to run the engine to charge the batteries.  And run the engine we did.  With the aid of the engine we led the pack and put some distance between us and others.

A last look at Mt Pico
It is hard to tell from the picture, but the waterfall is quite tall. This was a view off our port beam.

When we emerged from the lee of Pico, the engine was off and we cruised with a 12-14 kt wind that put us between a close reach and beam reach.  Very pleasant sailing at 7 kts, occasionally seeing 8 kts.  I took two naps on the 9-hour trip to the impressive Angra do Heroismo marina on the island of Terceira.

Safely docked in the marina at Angra do Heroismo, Terceira.

In the evening, we enjoyed a group meal at the sailing club.  Everything I sampled off the buffet was tasty.  After the meal, a band came on and did American/British rock and roll.

Mt Pico

I awoke at 5:30 searched for my passport, packed 2 liters of water, a cliff bar and some nut bars.  The crew of Himmel and I took the 7:30 ferry to Pico, met our guide, Mateo, and headed off to the Casa da Montanha.  The mountainside house is at 1,200 meters, I was under the mistaken impression that hiking Mt Pico was be a walk in the park.  I apparently had not read the following website.

https://www.geekyexplorer.com/climbing-mount-pico-azores/ “Pico is basically a very steep uphill hike. In some parts it feels dangerous. The wide range of hard rock formations and different types of soil are quite a challenge to your feet, ankles and knees.”  Steep, yes, almost vertical.  Dangerous, yes.  My fear was I would lose my footing and bounce off sharp volcanic rocks. Mateo did a great job with motivation and when I feel behind he encouraged me to move to the position directly behind him.  This was immensely helpful because he modeled the best footholds and baby steps.  He frequently reminded us to breathe and use small steps and to traverse rather attempt to climb straight up.  At least 200 times he must have said, “We are almost there.”  I was reminded of a mountain hike with Marcia.  Climbing up a winding trail, we were hiking with my former student, Melinda. Over the course of 90 minutes or so, she repeatedly said, ‘It is just around the bend.”

The greatest challenge on Pico was reaching what looked like the summit, only to realize the steepest climb was still ahead.  The below picture is not the summit.

We had to cross a crater before reaching the incredibly steep peak.  As I was approaching the peak, my legs were jello and my left leg started to cramp.  At that point I would have put the odds of me standing on the summit at about .01%.  I yelled to the group that I my legs were cramping.  They kindly let me rest for several minutes and then we pushed ahead. By taking it one step at a time, I got across the crater.

On the way up, I thought this point was the summit.  Once we reached this point, we saw the real summit off in the distance.  Much more climbing to go.
Here we are climbing the last stretch to the summit.
The vertical got to the point that it was hands rather than poles that were needed.
The dropoff was scary, especially with weak legs.

When we approached the steepest part of the climb, it was time to stow the trekking poles and use our hands and feet to ascend.  While climbing, I worried whether I would have the strength to descend.  At multiple points, I thought I was making a poor decision to continue upward.  If I had not been with the Himmel crew, I am sure I would have quit. The last 30 or so ft the rock were quite water.  Steam was emerging from cracks.  Even though I was unsteady on my feet, it was a good feeling to reach the top. We had a lunch of bread, cheese and ham/salami.  We sat there and enjoyed being above the clouds.  The descent was not a difficult as I feared.  Lunch provided some energy and going down required a different set of muscles.

At the summit.  Mateo, our guide, a great person. Notice the climber on the bottom right.  He depicts how I felt.

First Full Day in Horta

Took a long walk south. It was pleasant to exercise the legs and explore the adjacent town.  I saw two groups of locals heading up steps to a restaurant.  I tend to select restaurants that are crowded and avoid those that are empty.  The waiter told me today’s fish would arrive in a 15 minutes.  Sure enough, a man came in with two baskets of fish.  There were at least ten different types of fish.  The waiter sensed I had no clue which to order.  He recommended the big fish and indicated it was the best in the Azores.  Uncharacteristic of me, I said yes without knowing the price.  I still don’t know what it cost, but whatever it turns out to be, it will be a bargain.  The fish was firm, not to the degree of swordfish, but a bit firmer than grouper.  It was grilled over a wood fire. It was incredibly moist.  I don’t know what the clear sauce was, but it added to experience.  Bottom line, a very memorable meal.  It ended up costing 27 Euros, not cheap at $31, but worth every cent.

Went to Peter Sport Café and met up with the Migaloo and Himmel crews. After a .5 liter Super Bock (Portuguese beer), then I joined Himmel for dinner.  I learned that the Himmel crew had arranged a guide for to go to the summit of Pico the next day.  I asked if I could join them. Mike sent a text to the guide and he immediately replied affirmatively.  Great meal at Peter Sport Café. We laughed a lot and replayed parts of the sail from Bermuda.


Off in the distance, 20 nm, appears Mt Pico.  At least that is what thought.  Pico is a Off in the distance, 20 nm, appears Pico.  At least that is what thought.  Pico is a off in the distance, 20 nm, appears Pico.  At least that is what thought.  We assumed it was Pico with the peak covered by a thick layer of clouds.  As it turned out, we were mistaken.  Eventually, we saw a peak emerge off our starboard bow.  It is a serious mountain that goes up from sea level. Pico is a 7,713 volcanic mountain.

Last night FireFly showed up on our Chartplotter.  They were 8-9 nm ahead of us.  We slowly closed the gap, until the wind came up to about 15 kts on a beam reach.  Then we were averaging 8 kts, was 1 kt greater than FireFly.  For the next 12 hours the gap closed.  About 2 nm from the Horta harbor, we had FireFly on the starboard beam.  It was a great opportunity to take pictures of their boat.

Seeing the Faial and Pico was exhilarating.  For 12 days and 2005 nm, we saw nothing except blue water.  Suddenly, we are looking at rocky outcroppings surrounded by verdant hills.  The hills were terraced with crops.  From the distance I could not determine what the crops were.  They did not look like corn or soybeans.  It was a beautiful sight. I learned later the fields were grass that feed cows, sheep and goats.

Set among the fields were communities.  It was a rare house that was not white with red tile roof.  The effect was stunning.  It is something thing that Disney would copy.  It was the real deal.

Arriving in Horta was all that it was billed to be.  A marina jampacked with ocean bred sailboats.

Peter Sport Café is a legendary bar/pub that is celebrating its 100th anniversary.  Bungees from yacht clubs around the world adorn the walls and ceiling.  The place has the character you would expect in 100-year-old pub.  At 6:30 pm, Peter’s was the site of the first gathering in the Azores of ARC participants.  I arrived at 6:00 and found Roy enjoying a beer and salad.  We talked about how impressed we were with Horta, surely one of the best sailing marinas in the world.  The fact that everyone had responded to various winds and shared sunshine and storms created a strong bond.  After much time with only text messages to the outside world, the opportunity to converse with other crews and relive parts of the passage was fascinating.  It was also interesting to learn sail setups that worked well.  We also commiserated about what broke.  It was rare to speak with another crew whose equipment performed flawlessly.   Chaffed lines were common, and failed autopilots were taken in stride.

Diner at Peter’s was salad and couple of hours later and more glasses of local beer, I had meat chili.  If I had been in the U.S., I would have inquired as to what kind of meat.  It could have been the beer, but I really didn’t care.  The dish came with a large scoop of white rice in the middle of the plate.  The meat chili surrounded the rice and extended to the outside edge of the plate.  It had a pleasant, spicy flavor.  The only thing left on my plate was about half the original portion of the rice.

It is a Blue Planet

On the cognitive level, I have seen the pictures from space and agreed that there was a lot of blue on the earth.  On different international flights, I saw the plane icon on the screen travel over big expanses of blue.  As a kid, I spent time along the New Jersey shoreline, the water was never a deep blue.  The water was tinted brown, probably as a function of pollution.  It is sad to think barrages of trash and industrial pollution have changed the color of the shoreline sea water.  Even in Longboat Key where the water is often that beautiful shade of Caribbean blue, there are days that it has a green-brown tint to it.  It could also be that the many miles I have traveled in a car, seeing green and browns of forests, farm land and prairies, would cause me to question the characterization of earth as the blue planet.

Sailing for three weeks and seeing thousands of miles of blue seas, the idea of the blue planet is not an abstract concept.  It is real.  When I look around all I see is clean, blue water.  (We are still about 200 nm from Horta in the Azores.)  At various points I would see the water depth as 16,404 ft.  That means there is three miles of water between the bottom and me.  That thought makes me want to go for a swim, but man over board is a serious situation.  I am reminded of swim lessons as a kid, once you can swim it doesn’t matter how deep the water is.  No way to touch bottom.

Back to the point, blue planet…  Mile after mile, the water color has not changed.  It remains a deep, rich blue.  On a very emotional level, I now buy into the idea that we live on a blue planet.  I hope future generations will be able to experience the incredible blue water of the ocean.  I fear that their experience will be different.  Forty-five years ago, I snorkeled along the Plankar reef near Cozumel reef near Cozumel, Mexico.  The reef was alive with schools of various fish, and brilliantly colored corals.  Three years ago, in the British Virgin Islands, it was clear that the corals were dying and the diversity of fishes was less.  Hopefully, society will learn the lesson that our reefs are the canaries in the coal mine.

If we continue to operate with a “me first” mindset, collectively we all will lose. Hopefully, we will move beyond a “nation first” mentality to one where we cooperate on global issues.

Dolphin Day

Dolphins made multiple visits to the boat today.  The first five times there were 2-4 dolphins that would appear 40 or so feet off the side of the boat.  Then they would move quickly to the bow.  The water is so clear it is easy to follow them when they dive after surfacing for a breath of air.  They seem to play at the bow, but only briefly, maybe 15 seconds.  Then they are gone.

The grand finale came late in the afternoon.  It was my watch and everyone else was below.  Off the port about 50 ft was an 8 ft wave that was coming toward us at a 45 degree angle.  Suddenly there were 12-15 dolphins leaping out the wave.  They  emerged from the wave a couple of feet below the crest and smashed down.  My best estimate is that there were 30 or more in the pod.  My thought was that my camera was safely stowed below in my cabin, safe from getting splashed.  It took me several seconds to realize that my cell phone was out of the rice bag and in my pocket.  By the time the phone was unlocked and the camera was rolling, the vast majority of the pod had vanished.  The video below shows a few of the stragglers.

(video will be added once the phone starts working again.