July 1996 - Azores to UK

1 July  1996   Horta, Azores
We hired a car first thing and went on a tour.  The first stop was up to the Caldeira, the volcano rim.  Unfortunately, it was low cloud and we couldn’t see anything.  We went down to a seaside town called Ponta Do Varaduro where there was a nice area amongst the volcanic rock by the shore which had been tastefully concreted (like Yugoslavia).  There was a swimming pool with a diving springboard – the boys loved it, we declined - it was freezing.  

We then went to Capelinhos where there had been an underwater eruption in 1957 which created an island that gradually joined to the main island to create a new headland.  It’s a weird place with an abandoned lighthouse on the old headland.  The new headland is mostly ash and there is no vegetation.  The wind sweeps across with huge gusts causing sand storms.  Glenys couldn’t handle the dust because of her contact lenses and retreated to the car.  We visited a photographic museum which shows the various stages of the eruption – very interesting.  We then completed our circumnavigation and found a restaurant for the evening in Fetiera.  Nice, filling meal – good day!

2 July 1996   Horta, Azores
Another hangover – too much port last night.  I went to the garage, filled up three diesel containers, then filled up our tanks.  Glenys and I then went to the supermarket and bought six cases of Superbock and two cases of red wine.  We got the heavy stuff before we dropped the car back (£67 for a day inc. petrol – gasp!)  We all had a quiet day doing our own thing.  Glenys and I went for a walk along the old breakwater.  Goulash for dinner – nice weather at last so we ate upstairs in the cockpit.

3 July 1996   Horta, Azores
We got up at half past six and caught a ferry across to Pico.  When we arrived, we caught the bus to Lajes.  We went to a Whaler’s Museum which was very interesting. They had a good video of the Whalers catching a sperm whale in their rowing boats and the process of slaughtering it at Lajes.  We had a good meal at Lajes and then caught a bus back to Madalena, where, after a quick stroll, we caught the ferry back to Horta.  Pizza for dinner on Glencora – nice day.

4 July 1996   Horta, Azores
Job day.  I decided to go up the mast and found cracks in the T-ball fitting plate for the baby stay.  I discussed it with the rigger at Mid Atlantic Supplies and he suggested I remove it and he would re-weld it.  I drilled out the rivets and extracted the 4” long 1” wide plate from its 1” hole – keyhole surgery.  It was a “sweaty palm” job because if I slipped, the plate would disappear down the inside of the mast!  I managed to get it out OK and dropped it off for welding.  

Clarinet practice for an hour and I then looked at our Magellan GPS.  The NiCad batteries had leaked and destroyed two tracks on the circuit board.  I threw the batteries away and patched in two wires and miracle of miracles, it works!  We had a Mexican dinner and went for a drink with Michael, Liz and Jonathan (11) on “Crystal Star” (UK).

5 July 1996   Horta, Azores
There was a big party last night, so at half past nine this morning, the Mid Atlantic Supplies shop hadn’t opened. I managed to get the fitting off him at ten o’clock and I then had to file it smooth.  I asked about borrowing his riveter, but he said he hadn’t got one!  “What!!”  He then said that he would try to borrow one – could I come back at lunchtime?  While waiting, we extracted ourselves from the raft.  I went back at lunchtime and thankfully he had the rivetter.  One hour later, the job was done.  

The afternoon was spent tidying up for the local sailing club’s annual race to Sao Jorge tomorrow.  In the evening, we went to the Clube Do Navale and had snacks with free beer and wine while the race briefing and admin went on.  There was local folk dancing in the square by the marina with brass bands – interesting.

6 July 1996   Horta to Vila das Velas, Sao Jorge, Azores
Up at seven o’clock, to get the boat ready for the nine o’clock start.  We motored out into the light NE10 winds and put up the sails.  We had a good approach to the starting line and crossed either first or second.  We kept away from the chaos of the favoured upwind end of the starting line.  We started sailing towards Pico, but the wind was very light and we struggled against the strong current.  

We did OK at first and then I made a tactical mistake and decided to sail close to Pico instead of heading more north.  We lost the wind and the other 75% of the fleet of 28 boats picked up a favourable current - local knowledge always wins...

At one o’clock, with very little wind, I decided to motor.  After an hour’s motoring, the wind picked up to NW15 and we had a good sail for the last two hours.  I did the honourable thing and dropped the sails to motor through the finish line.  

We were directed against the town quay, where they rafted all the yachts.  The square next to the quay had a big sound stage set up with a local group playing Azorean folk music, restaurants and bars in big shipping containers and hundreds of people having a good time.  Dazed by it all, we had a beer and went for a stroll.  First stop was an 85 metre Portuguese Navy Frigate, which we had a quick tour of.  A beer in a bar, a stroll around town (boring) and back to the square.  

In the evening, we went to a dinner given by the Velas Yacht Club, with prizes.  Then back to the square for more bands, drinking etc.  I couldn’t keep up the pace and went to bed at eight o’clock for a nap.  I got up again at eleven pm and watched a very amusing group of priests singing folk songs and generally getting the crowd excited.  A rock band came on at midnight – pretty crap so I went to bed at one o’clock.  My Dad stayed up until four o’clock and ended up in the mess of the frigate, having a beer with the crew.  Dirty stop out!

7 July 1996   Vila das Velas to Horta, Azores
We managed to drag ourselves out of bed at nine o’clock this morning.  Chris from “Crisden” (UK) said that some coaches had arrived to take us to breakfast.  With visions of eggs and bacon, Dad, the boys and I jumped on board only to be taken to the local Milk Cooperative.  We then had to stand outside in the cobbled yard and watch two folk groups dance in traditional costumes.  It was very good but we were cold and hungry!  Eventually they dished out hunks of bread, cheese and glasses of fresh milk – a very rich breakfast with our delicate dispositions!  It was amazing to see the local farmers arriving on donkeys, each with two 5 gallon churns of milk to be processed.  (They also arrived on horses, motor bikes and tractors). 

The start of the race back was due to be at half past eleven, but was delayed because most of the competitors didn’t arrive back from breakfast until ten past eleven and the majority of yachts were still tied alongside at half past eleven!  It was a very small area inside the port with 28 yachts milling about behind the starting line, so we stayed out of the way.  We had a beautiful sail back to Horta.  (Well, everyone that is apart from Dad who was a “bit delicate”!)  

Tactically I was brilliant coming in 5th, well ahead of all the other cruising boats.  (Actually, I just followed one of the local Horta yachts, who were leading the smaller race class!).  When we arrived back against the wall, we had a quick celebration beer and a nap.  

I got up at seven pm and we went off to the prize giving ceremony and dinner.  Short speeches (thank God), loads of food and drink provided by the Portuguese Navy.  Good Dao and Barraida wine as well!  The problem with the food was that we weren’t sure what we were going to get, so I stuffed myself with bread and cheese and two bowls of soup - then they brought out the Bacalau!  I managed to force down a plateful of the “Bacalau a Bras” which was wonderful.  What a fantastic weekend for $2000 escudos (£8)!

8 July 1996   Horta, Azores
We all had a quiet morning.  I rang Gillian and asked her to get Tony and Andrew’s house key before they leave to go on holiday, then we can go and pick up our stuff, before they get back!  After lunch, the boys and I stayed on the boat while Glenys, Mum and Dad took a taxi up to the top of the volcano and then walked back.  

I worked out our route back to Southampton, all 1379 miles of it.  It was very odd to be studying charts of the Solent again.  I was amazed to find out that the English Channel is only about 60 metres deep!  The hikers didn’t get back until half past eight, so we went out for a meal and ended up drinking until half past one...

9 July 1996   Horta, Azores
Hangovers all around.  We had a quiet day.  The hikers were stiff and aching after their exertions yesterday. Glenys finished off touching up the painting of “Beatrice of D”.  

Craig finally managed to ride his bike without stabilisers.  He was so proud!  The bike is a complete mess – it wobbles and shakes and the back tyre has disintegrated.  It was a solid tyre and had become very brittle.  It developed a split and then big lumps kept falling off.  It was making life very difficult for him especially as the tyre had flat bits on it!  I cut the tyre off and left a very thin ¼” strip of rubber on the rim.  He reminds me of the little boy in Nazare with his bike without tyres.  I wish we could buy him a decent bike right now, but it’s better to wait until we get back to Tamworth.  

We went out for a meal to a restaurant where they provide you with hot blocks of granite and you cook your own fish, pork, squid and chicken.  Great fun.  Another late night – stayed up until half past one again.

10 July 1996   Horta, Azores
Mum and Dad caught a taxi to the airport at half past eight.  We now have to get ready to sail again.  I expect to leave within the next few days.  A hurricane, “Bernina”, has just passed over Antigua, St Martin and the BVI.  It’s heading towards the Bahamas and Florida.  We would like to know that it’s not going to swing north and give us gales.  We had a quiet day tidying up and recovering from two weeks of hard drinking!