Monday 20 July 2015

Hallo, sad goodbyes, carry on sailing, dolphins and other stuff

I flew back out  out to Praia da Vitoria with Sharon and the boys on the 15th July and we met up with my sister Stella and her husband Peter who were holidaying in the Azores for another couple of days. We should have overlapped for much longer but I screwed up the dates.

We hired a Renault van with 6 seats for a couple of days and had a wonderful time.

On Thursday we drove round the coast to Santa Barbara and found a great swimming spot despite the drizzly rain. Sharon was behind the camera but did provide a pose after our dip ...

We stopped off at Angra on the way back and had the first of a number of large meals that pleased Vincent no end.

On Friday we explored the island some more, the highlights of which were a visit to a couple of the island's mysteriously termed "volcanic phenomena". The first of which was an area in the hills where steam was still escaping from deep below ground. Didn't succeed in capturing any of it on camera though...

Next stop was a local snack bar for lunch that served up the most amazingly good value pork steak sandwiches which we all devoured with relish. Indeed, Peter, Vincent and Stephen had seconds. They were only 1.5 euros each!

Next was a drive up to the highest point on the island to enjoy the view......

Then a drive down some narrow lanes to caves (the second volcanic phenomenon) formed my a complex interaction between two volcanic eruptions many years apart which preserved the interior of the volcanic core for us to walk around thousands of years later. Amazing......

 Then back to the local beach bar for drinks.....

.... before the worst dinner of the holiday in a local restaurant. Unfortunately we battled on through the meal like typical English folk and only complained after we had "finished". Very unusually in our experience to date, the management were not at all interested and refused to make any concession on the price so we eventually paid up and left and then the boys used the restaurant's internet connection to post their reviews on "Trip Advisor". Afterwards we had drinks at a very friendly and very cheap local bar before retiring late to bed only to be serenaded by the worst rock band in the world until about 3 am!

The next day, Saturday, I drove Peter and Stella to the Airport for 0700 and we then prepared to sail to Angra. The forecast was not good for poor Sharon - Force 3 to 5 on the nose, but if we didn't sail the boys would get no sailing in as the next day looked worse. So we dosed Sharon up with Stugeron and hoped for the best, which from her point of view might as well have been the worst. We had a fresh beat of 20 or so miles around the coast to Angra. The boys enjoyed it but Sharon was miserable and wanted to die, although she did not actually throw up! We saw dolphins on the way which was great for the boys. We motor sailed the last 5 miles to get in as quickly as possible so as to minimise Sharon's misery.

Unfortunately Sharon was so knocked out by the Stugeron that she was not up to coming out and so the boys and I ended up having probably the best meal of the week without her. Great Fillet Mignon steaks all round.

On Sunday we took a crew "selfie"

and wandered around Angra's delightful public gardens .....

We planned to take Sharon back to the restaurant where we had enjoyed our steaks but unfortunately it was closed and so we had to make do with a nearby steak house which was fine but not as good.

This morning the boys and I went whale watching on one of the local boats. I had tried to convince Sharon to come with us but she wisely declined. Whilst it was much calmer than during our short passage from Angra, a fast boat going through a swell is no place for a delicate constitution.

We had a couple of wonderful periods with firstly common dolphins including mums with babies which was a real treat, and then a pod of spotted dolphins. The photos below do not do justice to the experience which was truly memorable - even more so because it was our last day together as Dad and sons before the boys had to fly home....

Stephen and Vincent both managed to capture some pretty good video footage on their phones however. Stephen also did a pretty good impression of David Attenborough. Hopefully I have been able to upload a copy of his video to the Video page of this blog.

Then it was back to boat for lunch prepared by Sharon followed by packing, a taxi to the Airport and the most difficult of good byes. We'd had a wonderful time together including the first couple of days with Stella and Peter and I think living together in such a small space made our parting even more intense. Also, my recent decision, coinciding with the boys graduations,(Stephen in Medicine and Vincent with a 1st in Physics with Computer Science) to carry on sailing with the intention of crossing the Atlantic in November, emphasises something of a watershed in our lives. Sharon will have to cope with me being a long distance husband for much of the next 12 months while the boys start the next stages of their lives.

Vincent (the 1st) Fisher with proud Mum and Dad

Dr Stephen Fisher with proud Mum and Dad

Over the next few days I've got various jobs to do on the boat including fixing a leaking water tank. I'm hoping it's just a poor connection but it might be that the new flexible water tank installed just before we left Chatham has ruptured. It that's the case I might have to get a replacement shipped out.

I'm hoping to then explore the islands a bit more; specifically I want to get to Flores where my stepfather's old school friend, Timmy Hubbard (recently deceased), a key participant in an early OSTAR (Observer Singlehanded Trans Atlantic Race) made his Corinthian stop over. I then have a new crew joining me in August, David, a very experienced ocean sailor with a circumnavigation to his credit, who contacted me via the Cruising Association and Bernie who sailed with Tony in the Med a couple of years ago. Bernie's an ex Merchant Mariner so he certainly knows his stuff too. I'll be the least experienced of the three of us!

The plan is sail to the Canaries where I'll leave the boat for September and October while I return home for our wedding anniversary and to spend time with the family. Then in November, cross to Antigua before going on to rendezvous with Sharon and hopefully the rest of the family and her mum for Christmas in Jamaica. Sharon was born in Jamaica and has elderly relatives there and this may be the last chance she and her Mum and I will have to see them. After Jamaica, a cruise eastward to the Virgin Islands, before the return crossing home via Bermuda and the Azores.

That all sounds quite daunting given that the longest passage so far has been six days and the passage to Antigua could be around thirty!

I'm looking for crew so if any one is interested let me know via

Before that however, there is the not insignificant matter of a leaky water tank to resolve!

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