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The Azores and Atlantic crossing 5.6. - 19.7.2005

5.6.   15.6.   21.6.   28.6.  2.7.    5.7.   19.7.  

The Azores lie 900 nautical miles (1800 km) west of Portugal and consist of nine islands. 
Population is appx. 240.000. Capital, Ponta Delgada, is located on Sao Miguel 
130 miles from Faial. Between the islands of Faial and Pico lies the town of Horta, 
which is very popular among the sailors. About 1000 pleasure boats visit the Azores each year.

5.6.2005 The Atlantic Ocean 33 N  46 W
We left Bermuda on Saturday, 28.5., after we met a Finnish yacht, Sarema, that arrived on Friday. Riitta and Pekka came over for a drink on Friday evening, and we went to Sarema on Saturday morning to swap books and dvd movies. What a joy! Pile of new books! At least that demand of the long sailing is taken care of. And we have read. A book in a day, some days even two. There is not much more to do than sleep, eat and read. Especially during the past week, which has been rather windy. When the boat is rocking and rolling it's best to seek to a safe corner with a book. Not very active or exciting, but that's the reality of long passages. The three routines are interrupted by occasional sail manouvers and of course following the weather.
The reason for the high winds was an exceptionally deep low (990 mba), which tracked more south than the usual summer lows, to the 35. latitude. It was tight and nasty, in the centre the winds gained hurricane force. We headed south well in advance, all the way to the 31 N. There we got 25-30 knot winds, best sailing weather. Between us and the low were 4 degrees, which is 240 nautical miles. Wave hight was 4-5 metres (12-15 ft). Just imagine how the conditions have been further north. Not a place to be. Without weather information - fax via SSB and Herbie's forecasts - we would have been just in the middle of the storm, because it moved along the route that is a recommened sailing route from Bermuda to Azores.
Now it's calm, but another low is approaching from west, also classified as a storm. It will move east along latitude 40, so this time we don't have to go south, we should have 5-6 degrees, i.e. over 300 miles, distance when the centre passes by.
The easing conditions brought a very welcome break. Although we hadn't been in a storm, it had been uncomfortably rolly. Preparing food, washing the dishes and taking a shower were difficult. We hadn't even thought about fishing. Yesterday, after the wind settled down, we enjoyed a heavy meal: pork fillet, potatoes, and green salad with a glas of red wine. Today's menu is fresh fish: in morning we catch a 8.5 kg mahi-mahi. Homemade chocholate cake for dessert.
We are waiting for the winds take up again along the approaching low. We have 900 miles to Azores, and we have sailed one thousand, so also this passage will be a couple of hundred miles longer than measured. We expect to arrive to Horta on Saturday or Sunday (13.6.).

15.6.2005 Horta, Faial, Azores, Portugal

We arrived to Horta harbour on the island of Faial early on Monday morning. The passage from Bermuda totalled 1995 miles and took 15 days 18 hours, which is pretty good for Kristiina. Average was 126 miles per day, max 145 nm, min 108 nm. Average speed was 5.3 knots. We had wind all the way except in two days, when we had to motor in calm.
It's high season and the harbour is packfull. We got a place along the breakwall, where boats are rafted in lines of four. The 10 euro daily fee includes water and electricity.
Again we were very lucky with the timing: yesterday night it started to blow. Two 985 mb lows are passing north of Azores causing 40-50 knot winds. Nice to be in harbour.

The breakwater of Horta is famous for painted visitcards.

We are in Europe now! Euros are odd, same with the Portuguese language. It's related to Spanish, and it's possible to understand something of written text, but spoken Portuguese sounds like Czech or Russian with lot of ssss.
More photos will come later, because presently the weather is rainy (and cold, "only" 18 C!). We have time to take photos, we are staying here for three weeks. On the 5th of July arrives our friend Jukka Kuosmanen, who will sail with us to continental Europe.

21.6.2005 Angra do Heroismo, Terceira, Azores, Portugal
A week on Faial went quickly. Three days it was blowing and raining, after that sunny again. We rented a car and drove around the island. It is really beautiful, lush and green. We saw similar vegetation than in New Zealand, red-flowered tree called pohutukawa in Maori and giant heathers. There are also seder trees and flowers everywhere. Faial is a small island, about 100 km around. Sights include already green Caldera and a new piece of land, Ponta dos Capelinhos, which formed in an eruption in 1957.

Horta's sights include Peter's Sport Cafe and 
a scrimshaw museum above the bar.

Whale teeth are harder than bone and therefore suitable material for scrimshaw. A exihibition of sailing heroes.

The land is like a quilt made of bush fences to reduce the power of wind.

Pico is the neighbour island of Faial and the highest mountain (2351 m).

You can hike around the caldera, it takes 2.5 hours.

Ponta dos Capelinhos was formed in an eruption in 1957.

On Monday we headed for the island of Terceira 70 miles away. The city, Angra do Heroismo, is bigger than Horta, but the harbour is smaller. The brand new marina looks nice, but swell comes in even in calm weather. After one restless night we got an inner slip, which should be better, especially because there is a front approaching. There is a festival going on, called the Sanjoaninas Festival, with music and bullfight, so we are going to stay to the end of the week.

28.6.2005 Velas, Sao Jorge, Azores, Portugal
San Joaninas festival in Angra do Herosimo was rather exhausting experience, because most of the happenings occured during late evening and night. An exception was Tourada Corda - bulls running free on the streets in the middle of the town, a kind of amateur bullfight. Anyone (read: men!) can tease the bulls while audience is sitting high in trees and on roofs. Although the sharp horns were covered with rounded metal endings, accidents do happen. That's also expected and almost wanted, people long for dramatic. Videotapes made of street bullfights show only people who have been caught by bull's horns or feet. The Touradas Corda is especially Azorean tradition and fights are arranged during the summer on various locations. The animals are provided by local cattle farmers.

Tourada Corda in Angra on the Terceira island. 
Five bulls were let free on a fenched area 
in the middle of the town. 

We went also to see a real bullfight. The Portugese tradition differs from the Spanish in that the bull is not killed at the end (fortunately!). In addition to the matador, also a cavaleiro, bullfighter on a horse, and  a ganadero are starring. The latter is grazy sport: ganadero teases the bull to attack straight on, taking the full blast of a 400 kg animal, trying to hang between the horns.  Ganaderia is typical Azorean. The horns of the bulls are covered with leather, but still the whole thing is very dangerous.

Praca de Toros - bullfight arena

Matadores (two on the left) with their assistants 

Cavaleiro targeting a spear to bull's neck.

Cavaleiro has to control his horse.

An assistant is getting bull's attention while the big stars are preparing for the next number.

 Assistant's movements are not as smooth 
and grand than  matador's.

Ganadero makes the bull attack...

...right on himself...

...and the assistants hurry to stop the animal.

Matador is meeting the bull also without the muleta, pink cloth. Sharp sticks are stabbed to bull's neck muskles.

The main event of the San Joaninas festival was a parade, where various groups marched along the streets singing songs made for the occasion.

Angra, baa de encanto (Marcha Oficial)

Angra, baa de encanto
verso tecido ao luar
mesa de gua onde janto
ondas vadias do mar
sonho por mim navegado
em noite de So Joo.
Anda, vem pr-te a meu lado!
Tu no me digas que no!

(First lines of the official parade song.)

The festival would have continued until Sunday, but we left for the island of Sao Jorge, located 20 miles east of Faial. There is no sheltered harbour, but the weather is so calm that it's possible to anchor in front of the village of Velas.

The return day has been selected. After two months, on the 27th of August, we will arrive to our home harbour in Lauttasaari, Helsinki!!

2.7.2005 Horta, Faial, Azores, Portugal
Sao Jorge is really beautiful island. Roses and hortensias border the narrow roads winding through the green and lush scenery. The north shore is very deep, but at some places there is a flat by the sea and every one of them has a small settlement, called faj on Portugese.

Faj, a small village by the sea.

The main livelihood of Sao Jorge is cheese, no doubt the milk comes from local cows.

Nice and quiet after the noisy Terceira.

After our tour around the island we have to leave very suddenly, because wind started to blow from west and the open harbour was uncomfortable. We motored the 20 miles to Horta and anchored in dark behind the breakwater. Next morning we moved into the marina, next to Miss Sophie. Meeting our German friends in Horta was no coincidence, we had been in constant radio contact with Harald and Verena. Their passage from Bermuda took 20 days because of light and head winds. They made 600 extra miles by tacking! It was great to meet Harald and Verena again. Our last meeting was in Mexico in January. The rendezvous in Azores was decided long time ago, in San Diego, and it should have included also Patago, but Jean and Sylvie sold their boat in St. Martin and are presently back home in Noirnoutier, France.

5.7.2005 Horta, Faial, Azores, Portugal
Time has flied in the company of Verena and Harald. On Sunday we made a trip to the island of Pico. The tourist attractions are - in addition to the mountain of Pico - the history of whaling. There are two museums, one a former whaling factory, which was made to a museum after whaling stopped in 1984. Azoreans hunted spermwhales (cachalots), the biggest of toothed whales. Besides oil, also ambra, used for perfumes, and spermaceti, vax from whale's head, were the valuable products. Presently, the teeth are the most valuable items. A tooth with scrimshaw costs around 1300 euros. In addition to teeth, only the jaw bone is hard enough for carving. Spermwhale has 36-50 teeth, all in the lower jaw.

Vitamines, oil, flour... advertises the former whale factory. One whale weighting about 30 tons had a lot of valuables. Bones were grinded for animal food. 

The town of Madalena on Pico. 
The mountain itself is covered with clouds.

Spermwhale was easier to hunt than the other whales because it didn't sink after dying. Azoreans hunted the whales from small open wooden boats by hand harpoons. Boats were equipped with oars and sails, without an engine. A flag was put on the killed whale so that a bigger motorvessel could find it and drag it to the shore.

On Monday arrived Jukka Kuosmanen, and on Wednesday, the 6th of July, we will head to England. There will be some motoring  for the start because a stationary high lies over the Azores. Hopefully we get some wind further north.

19.7.2005 Falmouth, England
The passage from Azores to England went in very light winds except the last day. Our intention was to stop on the Scilly Isles, but it started to blow and rain when we were approaching. The low islands vanished in grey fog, and we decided to continue to Falmouth 70 miles away. It has an all-weather harbour. Thanks to these last miles we made the 24-hour record, modest 130 miles, because the whole passage had been either calm or light winds. Before the last day, we didn't have to reef, cockpit stayed dry except after shower, and Auli was able to sleep in the bow cabin. We made only around one hundred miles per day. The total mileage from the Azores to Falmouth was 1393 nm which took 12 days. An average of 116 nm per 24 hours, really slow.
We were already worried that our crew Jukka will get a very onesided image of offshore sailing, but the last day corrected the picture. At best it was blowing 35-40 knots and we were surfing 10 knots in tail wind. Jukka was good company, eager to do and learn. Seasickness lied waiting for the first-timer, especially inside, so Jukka preferred staying outside keeping watch, late into night letting us sleep. It was also fun to talk with a new person.

Ready for the Atlantic.

Was it the light weather or what, but we saw a lot of whales. Almost every day we saw a blow or a fin. Once we almost hit a spermwhale. One of the best moments was when a spermwhale with a calf came near the boat. It had a big half-moon shaped blowhole (toothed whales have one, baleen whales two "nostrils"), and the blow directs forward - a special feature for identifying the spermwhale. In addition to spermwhales, we saw sei whales, which are 15-metres long baleenwhales, and pilot whales. Every day we saw dolphins, and once the flock that swam in front of the bow had three small babies with them.

The blow of the spermwhale directs forward.

In addition to the general birds - storm petrels and gannets - we got a special passanger aboard. With the help of a guide book we indentified it as a crossbill. And yes, we also saw a couple of turtles and one shark - fortunately after Jukka had had a swim. 

No shore in sight and even the bottom lies 4 km underneath.

We feel a bit sad. This was the last ocean passage on our four-year trip. The Atlantic Ocean has showed its nicer side, what a perfect end. Pleasant passage leaves good memories. Althought we still have 1200 miles to Finland, our thoughts are more and more at home. We feel nervous. How we adapt to the everyday life, to the world of cameraphones, tight schedules and tax reports.


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