Tuesday 6 June 2017

Flores 1 and my Top 10 Islands

The first thing to say is that Flores is a VERY beautiful island. It now holds 1st position in my favourite islands chart - just made up on the spur of the moment. The full chart will take a little more consideration but off the top of my head the top 10 in descending order are:

1) Flores - Azores
2) Santa Maria - Azores
3) Alderney - Channel Islands
4) Sao Jorge - Azores
5) Porto Santo - Madeira
6) Terceria - Azores
7) Fail - Azores
8) Dominica - Lesser Antilles
9) St Kitts - Lesser Antilles
10) Isle of Sheppy, Kent, UK

It does though need to be born in mind that I have not yet been to Pico in the Azores which I hope to do later during this trip. Also of course, I am only listing those that I have visited. There are thousands more out there which I have not.

The second thing to say is that the Portuguese/Azoreans really know how to look after their islands. Their public/civic amenities are exceptional. The smallest of villages - even bus stops on the edge of them have spotless and plentiful public Loos. Each village has at least one public square/garden stocked with delightful flowers. There are taps and drinking fountains/troughs everywhere. There's at least one museum in every small town. In fact I'd go so far as to say that the Azores are quite possibly the most civilised communities I have ever visited. I don't mean sophisticated or well-to-do, but civilised.

The third thing is that the people are wonderfully hospitable and friendly. No doubt that is a quality connected to both of the above.

Tom and I didn't get very far last Thursday - the day after our arrival, but we did manage to walk around Lajes.

The Harbour

Town Hall




Sea View 1

Sea View 2

We also discovered that there was a bus to Santa Cruz/the Airport at 0900 every weekday and so we decided to take it on Friday. That would give us a few hours to explore Santa Cruz before Tom had to get his flight from the Airport at 1545.

Santa Cruz is the capital of the island. It's an attractive small town with a very tricky little harbour; so tricky in fact that yachts are warned not to attempt entrance.

The Harbour

The Harbour at Lajes, extended a few years ago now provides a much safer port. Prior to it being built however, visiting yachts had no other port to chose from so if they wanted to visit Flores, Santa Cruz it had to be. In those days visiting yachts were escorted in by the local Harbour Master and or his son. Many have come to grief and others have tales of hair raising entrances.

However, work is underway at Santa Cruz to improve the harbour there so perhaps it will be viable for yachts at some future point.

Harbour Works
I had a personal mission to pursue in Santa Cruz - to find the Hotel where Timmy Hubbard, my Stepfather, Tim's,  old school friend now deceased, visited during his impromptu stopover on the island when sailing in the Observer Single Handed Transatlantic yacht race in 1962. His book "The Race" refers to his visit to the 'Hotel Santa Cruz'. However there is no longer a Hotel of that name in the town. After asking a few locals and exploring a couple of possible leads we concluded that the relatively new Hotel das Flores opened in 2009, now occupies the site of the old Hotel Santa Cruz. As far as one can tell from the sketch map in Timmy's book, it is in the same place. My goal to sit in the same Hotel bar as Timmy was therefore unfortunately thwarted. Final confirmation of the fate or whereabouts of the Hotel Santa Cruz is still awaited however. Unfortunately I neglected to take a photograph of the new Hotel.

Me overlooking the Harbour at Santa Cruz and the island of Corvo

After that first visit to Hotel Flores (which was before I had concluded it may be on the site of the old Hotel Santa Cruz) Tom and I headed back into the centre of town for lunch. Just as we were finishing, Barry and Kath from one of the other boats turned up and told us of their visit to the Whaling Museum near the end of the Airport runway. We thought we might just have time for a quick visit before Tom’s flight and so set off straightaway. By the time we got there however we only had 10 minutes to spare and so settled for buying a few gifts/mementos at the shop and then headed for the Airport – a 10 minute walk further on. I caught the bus back to Lajes shortly afterwards having resolved to return to try and solve the mystery of Hotel Santa Cruz and Timmy Hubbard and to visit the Whaling Museum.

I spent the evening on board ‘Bengt’ having drinks with William and Elizabeth a lovely Dutch/Swedish couple. ‘Bengt’ is a 40+ foot steel yacht named after her builder who having spent 30 years constructing her for his round the world dream trip, then tragically died. William and Elizabeth are living the dream having sold up and are now long term cruisers aboard their boat/home. Their main concern at present is where to head for next after the Azores!

I spent the evening on board ‘Bengt’ having drinks with William and Elizabeth a lovely Dutch/Swedish couple. ‘Bengt’ is 40+ foot steel yacht named after her builder who having spent 30 years constructing her for his round the world dream trip, then tragically died. William and Elizabeth are living the dream having sold up and are now long term cruisers aboard their boat/home. Their main concern at present is where to head for next after the Azores!

Saturday was spent sleeping in late and then pottering around doing odd jobs on the boat and generally tidying up. At 1800 I headed over to Barry and Kath’s boat. They had very kindly invited me for drinks and dinner which was a delicious Cottage Pie followed by Barry’s home made plum sponge pudding. I was in heaven!

On Sunday I got up early and headed out to walk one of the nearby trails, the start of which was a couple of miles away. The trail consisted of a very steep descent down the cliffs to a boulder beach and now deserted village about 2 miles from the start. The weather was grey and drizzly for the most part but every now and then the sun broke through. The scenery was spectacular despite the often restricted visibility, which like on our approach to the island, made it all the more dramatic as the cloud base lifted to reveal stunning vistas before shrouding them over once again.

Scenes from the walk....

Picnic area with Barbecue facility (another example of civic amenities)

Shrine 1 in the cliff

The Descent

Shrine 2 in the Cliff

View down from about half way!

View from nearly the bottom of the cliff!

Looking back up


Perhaps not, the top one is mine!

View to the North

From the beach

More Beach sculpture

A grounded Portuegese Man O' War

Zoom in for a wonderful caption

Looking back on the return ascent
Back at the harbour I had a late lunch at the Café before collecting my laundry which included all the cushion covers and headed back to the boat to (sort of) complete the tidying up. Getting the covers back on the cushions took most of the rest of the afternoon.

The rest of the afternoon was spent looking for crew on the internet – my family aren’t very happy at the prospect of me sailing the final leg back to the UK on my own - and other on-line stuff including posting some videos on Youtube which are now available from the blog – see recent blog postings.

In the evening, I was spoilt once again – this time it was dinner with William and Elizabeth on board Bengt. Another wonderful time was had by yours truly.

Monday was a public holiday which meant no buses so I spent the day doing more jobs around the boat the biggest of which was tightening up the fore-stay. Things went smoothly enough until it came to the point of re-assembling the furling mechanism on the bottom of the stay. At that point the tubular nylon bush that sits between the outer case and the inner foil slipped out of position and I could not get it back. It has four holes in it through which short bolts go through to hold the whole lot in place. I could not get the bolts through with the sleeve in the wrong place. Eventually with advice from William, I was able to drill new holes through the sleeve through which the bolts could now pass. I still need to make and insert a shallow plastic bush to sit on top of the existing one which is now lower than it should be. The only other option would have been to dismantle the whole fore-stay fitting which would have been a major job and one I would rather not do without at least access to professional riggers/facilities in case things went wrong. I want to get the fore and back stays replaced in Horta or Terceira anyway. They have taken quite a lot of punishment since leaving the UK.

In the evening, Barry and Kath hosted drinks on board their boat for me, William and Elizabeth and we met the intrepid Kiwi couple, Justin and Linda who seem to have spent their whole life-time sailing the world’s oceans. They had got to the Flores in their wooden Ketch via Cape Horn and the Falklands and were about to set off for Ireland which would be their first visit to Europe. Earlier in their voyaging they had brought up two children (now adults) at sea!

Tuesday – probably the day I post this, was another walking day. I set off with Barry and Kath to catch the 1000 bus to Lajedo, about 5 miles up the coast for the beginning of the 8 mile walk to Faja Grande further up the west coast. It was another stunning walk in mixed weather. The scenery was spectacular – hopefully I have managed to post photos below. 

To our astonishment we walked by locals ploughing a small field with a cow pulling a simple one bladed plough! This is in Europe in the 21st Century! 

We started the walk at 1030 and got to Faje Grande at 1500, just in time to grab a quick beer before catching the 1500 bus back to Lajes. I had lunch and wrote this up and will hopefully post it before I pass out!

Scenes from the walk...

Out of the mist

Silver Sea

Friendly locals




Gathering Clouds

Pink Daisies

The Church at Mosteiro (half way)

Inside the Church


Public Watering trough in Mosteiro

Look no wheels - wonderful

A small public garden

Storm Channel


Barry and Kath

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