Sunday 25 June 2017

Horta and Faial and Pico

Arctic Smoke in Horta - on the outside

One of the more impressive wall paintings

Well I’ve been here in Horta 7 days now and goodness knows where the time has gone because I’ve hardly been out of the Marina! [That was written a few days ago. I ended up staying 12 nights in Horta]

Wim and Elizabeth on board Bengt arrived from Flores the day after I arrived and Barry and Kath arrived the day after them. I decided to celebrate by cooking for us all on board Arctic Smoke t that evening which I think was last Tuesday the 13th June. It was a bit of a squeeze but we managed it and we had a very enjoyable time.

From left to right - Wim, Elizabeth, Barry and Kath

I’ve had two principal pre-occupations since arriving. Finding someone to crew the next leg with me back to the UK and getting the fore and back stays replaced. On the former, I had left Flores thinking the issue was resolved but shortly after my arrival in Horta discovered that Chris, a previous owner of Arctic Smoke had to pull out due to family issues. A shame, Chris is both very experienced, having previously circumnavigated and he was looking forward to it; but his withdrawal was entirely understandable. As of today (Monday 19th June) it looks as if I have a replacement, my youngest brother Isaac. He will hopefully be flying out to join me at the weekend or early the following week. Isaac’s not an experienced sailor but is very much looking forward to the trip and I’m sure he’ll get stuck into the sailing and will appreciate the experience.

On the second. I’d been concerned about the punishment that the fore-stay has taken during the course of the cruise to date – particularly during the long west bound passage to the Caribbean, when with the wind behind us and enormous seas, the genoa imposed great stresses on the stay whenever there was insufficient wind to keep the sail full during the often, violent rolling we experienced. As the boat rolled the sail would empty during the roll, only to be suddenly filled again. This cause the sail to shake the whole stay which could be felt throughout the boat. When Mick was off-watch sleeping in the for-peak, he experienced the snapping even more. Similar conditions prevailed during some of the passage from Bermuda to Flores. I therefore decided that even though the stay was only 5 years old I should get it replaced and whilst I was at it the back-stay too – given that it too would have taken a fair bit of the punishment.

On arrival, I therefore contacted Mid Atlantic Yacht Services established by Duncan Sweet in 1990. Duncan had stopped off on a sailing passage a few years earlier and vowed to return. He bought a house and one evening after a hard day’s renovating, he was having a coffee at the Café by the harbour with his tool box at his feet when approached by a Yachty who needed some work done… and so Mid Atlantic Yacht Services was born! In Duncan’s words, in those days “.. you couldn’t even buy a stainless steel screw on the island”. Now Mid Atlantic provide a comprehensive and essential service to the hundreds of yachts that visit the island every year. As of today, Duncan and Joul have almost finished the job. The old forestay had four broken strands and the foil around the stay onto which the genoa is rolled up when reefed, needed attention. The stay would undoubtedly have broken sooner or later and so I was very glad I decided to get the work done. I was a bit optimistic with that assessment of the work being almost finished; it was eventually completed on Wednesday 21st June. We had some last minute problems with the furling swivel – again. On trying to furl the genoa it kept snagging – as it did before we changed the swivel in Antigua. Thankfully on this occasion all that was required was a thorough wash out with warm water and washing up liquid in order to get rid of the salt that had built up in the swivel mechanism. The bill was rather a shock – 2000 Euros. That did include new fittings at both ends of both stay and some remedial work on the foils but it was still a shock. However, it would have been even more  expensive and worse if the rigging had failed mid passage!

I’ve also been working through the ever-present list of jobs (in addition to assisting with the rigging work). The jobs included reinforcing the fixing of the Port-hand solar panel (I discovered the  aluminium frame of the starboard panel had split when in Flores and repaired that there); checking Angus’s various nuts and bolts and oiling him and the cockpit sole and repairing the steaming light that I noticed had packed up whilst in Flores. That involved a number of hours up the mast and an email consultation with Mick. It turned out that the wire ends entering the mast fitting had corroded through. It was a devil of a job though because I couldn’t shift the screws holding the light fitting to the mast. In the end I had to resort to cutting the plastic case of the fitting in order to get access to the wires. The inbuilt connection terminals were of the most ridiculous design being very small diameter pins through the plastic housing. The wires from the mast were soldered onto the pins on one side and the wires to the bulb on the other. However, there was no way of being able to re-solder the wires in place without melting the plastic and so I installed standard cable connectors that used screws rather than solder to make the connections. They’ll last until I can get a new light fitting. After making the new connections I taped the light fitting to the mast using Gorilla tape. That too should last until we get back to the UK.

Wim and Elizabeth have fed me twice and so I returned the favour "last" night – I managed to cook a stir fry reasonably successfully despite not having a Wok. Yesterday being a Sunday also provided me with an excuse to take a day off boat jobs and after getting up late and passing by Bengt where I got a second breakfast, I went for a walk around one of the local trails and enjoyed some wonderful views.

‘Today’ (Monday 19th June) was taken up by more jobs on the boat – checking the engine oil, filling the stern-gland greaser and re-applying sealant around the locker in the Loo. I also did a little shopping and started on the more pleasant task of leaving an Arctic Smoke painting on the Marina walls amongst the hundreds of others. So far, I’ve only applied a base primer coat of paint to a patch of wall on which a now very faded previous painting had existed. One couldn’t make out any details of the previous painting and so I think it was OK to replace it.  

Arctic Smoke's Wall Painting

I also helped Duncan and Roul remove the backstay.
The rest of this post was written on arrival at Pria do Vitoria on 25th June and I cannot account for Tuesday at all, other than I must have done some more jobs on the boat! Wednesday was taken up with helping Duncan and Roul fit the new backstay and in sorting out the problem with the furling swivel.

I got fed by Wim and Elizabeth again one evening. Oh, and I also added Arctic Smoke’s mark on the Marina walls amongst the many hundred others. My artistic skills leave a lot to be desired but at least I managed something.

On Thursday, I did a tour of the island by bus with Wim and Elizabeth. It was on the public bus system not a tourist excursion and so we had no commentary or guide but it was nevertheless a fascinating trip and served to the emphasise the need to spend more time on Horta and the other islands. That’s the problem with sailing around in an old boat – you have to spend so much time getting ready for the next leg that you miss out on the sight-seeing!

On Thursday night Barry, Kath, Wim, Elizabeth and I went out for a meal to mark our various forth-coming departures for different shores. The Restaurant - "Genuino" is run by an Azorean two fold circumnavigater, is full of his memorabilia and made a fitting location for our get-together.

However, Friday was a proper tourist day. Wim, Elizabeth and I took the ferry over to Pico and hired a car to explore the island for the day. The volcanic landscape is most obvious on Pico with the most striking feature - apart from the main volcano cone itself – being the acres of volcanic stone walls that cover much of the island. These are built to enclose thousands of very small patches in which the wine vines are grown. The walls provide shelter from the wind, rain and sea. 

Madalena, Pico




Volcanic coastline

One of the many public and free sea-water swimming pools
Me by Wim  - sea view by the pool

Views South

Views East to Sao Jorge

Lajes is the centre of Whale Watching on Pico. A large Whale Watching Centre/Museum was under construction. There is a small marina into which a few visiting yachts can be squeezed.
Traditional Motor Launches in Lajes

Fishing boats in Lajes (Marina out of shot to the left)

The wine is very good and at least when bought locally in the islands is also very good value. 3.50 euros buys one a very good bottle of Pico wine in a local super market. It was a great day but once again I was left feeling that I could easily spend more time on Pico. Barry and Kath will be renting a cottage there for three days when their friends visit them and I’m sure they will have no problem finding things to do whilst they are there. They very kindly fed be that evening. They will be staying in the Azores for a few more weeks before heading for Ireland and will then over-winter in St Catherine’s Dock in London before heading for the Baltic next year. I will therefore see them again later this year.

Wim and Elizabeth are wintering in the Azores before heading south to Patagonia next summer. They are due to arrive in Pria this evening and so I will see them again before we leave for the UK. Maybe Sharon and I will manage to fly out here next spring to see them and more of the islands before they leave. I say “we” here because after several false starts I now have crew organised for the passage back to the UK. My brother Isaac flies into Pria this evening. There’s not much wind around and so we may spend a few days here before setting off.

Thursday 15 June 2017

Flores 2 – Return to Santa Cruz

The main Harbour at Santa Cruz

Artist's impression of Harbour after works are completed

I started writing this on the 14th June on a grey drizzly day. It’s now the 15th June and the sun is out. Writing was interrupted due to the riggers arriving to commence work on replacing the fore and back stays. More on that in a later post.

My final days in Flores just seemed to rush by and apart from my return to Santa Cruz I’m not sure where the days went.

Last Friday I took the 0900 bus from Larjes into Santa Cruz on a mission to find the Hotel where Timmy Hubbard (now deceased long term school friend of my Stepfather, Tim Hunt) took refuge in 1984 during his participation in the OSTAR (Observer Single Handed Transatlantic Race).

On my earlier visit I had failed to find the Hotel that Timmy named as the Hotel Santa Cruz in his book “The Race”. First stop was the local library – I hoped that I might be able to turn up some helpful information in their local history section. 

Ariel view of Santa Cruz from a library book - The Hotel Santa Cruz should be over looking the Old Harbour on r/h 

Views of the Old Harbour

However, after 2 hours of scanning various texts on the town I was none the wiser. I therefore set off on yet another wander around the town and attempted to marry up Timmy’s description of his visit to the Hotel and his sketch map, with what I could actually see. Frustratingly however after another couple of hours all I had to show for my efforts were two or three older buildings that looked like they may have once been hotels with the characteristics mentioned my Timmy. My favourite was actually a Municipal building and so I went in to ask the locals. I received directions to what I was assured was the oldest Hotel in the town, from a helpful lady who spoke good English. Unfortunately, either her ability to give directions was poor or I completely misunderstood what she said because once back out in the streets I could make no sense of the details of what I was told. A couple of buildings – one very well restored and one very derelict -  in the general area referred to, might have been Hotels in the past but were certainly not now.

A possible Candidate

The Municipal Building
Timmy’s text of his visit to Santa Cruz describes a quite nail biting entrance to the Harbour – he was towed in by the Harbour Master’s son I recall. He then describes his walk “back up the hill” across the Cathedral Piazza” … “into the oldest part of the town”. Once in the Hotel he had … “a view across the terrace over-looking the sea”.

After juggling with this information and what I could see after repeated walks around the town I had to settle for three possibilities that more or less concurred with his description and with that I called it a day as far as my Timmy Hubbard mission was concerned.

Next on my itinerary was a visit to the Whale Museum. Exceptionally well preserved, the Museum told the story of the Islanders’ and the Azoreans more generally, participation in the Whaling trade, both locally (the Azores being a particularly favourite area for many Whales) and as crew members of ocean going (mainly American) Whale ships; an occupation at which the islanders apparently excelled. A truly gruesome trade it was and thank goodness it is over but my goodness it was a tough life for the Whalers – a truly exceptional body of men.

An Azorean Whale Boat

Tools used for constructing the local Whale Boats

Part of the old factory interior

Ramp up which the slaughtered Whales were dragged for processing

After the museum, I headed for the Airport Café for a light lunch and then waited for the 1545 bus to return to Larjes. At the Tourist Information Office, I had previously queried which of the two bus time-tables was currently in operation and was re-assured that it was the school term time-table. The 1545 never materialised however, (it had the previous week). I therefore decided to walk back into town to await the 1645. Just as I arrived in the centre at 1600, an un-scheduled bus to Larjes arrived. A number of school children were waiting for it and so it was clearly a known entity. Anyway I jumped on and returned to Larjes. The following day Saturday I intended to leave for Horta (see previous post).