Azores Islands


The final fifty miles to Praia da Vitória on the eastern side of the Azores island of Terceira took quite a while as we decided not to use the motor in the calm conditions. However, so as to arrive before the customs and immigration offices closed for the day, we eventually used the engine to cover the remaining few miles and docked at 1610 Thu 18 June 2015.

Next to us was the colourful Capt’n Bob Burns on Roamer, a steel junk-rigged 12m yacht. Capt’n Bob (75) is a former oil executive who has been sailing the high seas for the past 30 years and had published a book titled “Roamer Round the World” in 2010 outlining his exploits.

We checked in with the authorities, showered, washed clothes and set about a checklist of things to do. One was to repair the mainsail’s clew as ultra-violet degradation had weakened and unraveled the stitching. We inquired at the marina offices and were informed of a chap with a boat in the marina who was in possession of a sail cloth sewing machine who would most likely be prepared to do the job. We were told he frequented his boat often and so we would have to keep a lookout for him.

That evening Len took the opportunity to renew old acquaintances from his visit during the Jester Challenge the previous year and invited Pedro Pinto, a yachtsman, dentist and politician, aboard for dinner. We learned a lot more about the island and decided to hire a car sometime during our stay for a day trip for a closer look.

The following day, the yacht No Limit with German nationals Antonio and Silvia (a mathematician/oceanographer!) aboard arrived and rafted next to us. They had come from mainland Portugal and were in transit to the Canary Islands to participate in the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) with the Caribbean as their destination. Another dinner invitation on board followed with Pedro included, all dining in part on the tuna and bonito fish I had caught a few days earlier.

A few days passed when our sail-maker contact eventually came over, inspected the clew and pronounced that it would need to be hand stitched as it was not possible by machine. It was then that Len volunteered his services and offered to repair the sail.

On our whistle-stop day tour around the island we visited the island’s highest point (Reserva Florestal Parcial da Serra de S. Barbara e dos Misterios Negros) and were able to see, above the clouds, the volcanic peak on the Island of Pico some 100 km away to the southwest. The fumeroles at the island’s centre was also visited after which we made way to Angra do Heriosmo, the island’s capital, where an annual week-long festival was underway. Street processions of dancers and musicians began at about 2100 and went on to the wee hours of the morning, long after we’d left. Thanks to the invitation of Pedro we were able to view the procession from a first floor balcony overlooking the main street.

We planned to depart Terceira the next day, Wed 24 June. As time was limited – we all had to be back in the UK by mid-July – a decision had to be made as to what islands to next visit. The wind forecast for the next two days was from the southwest so we decided to head southeast towards São Miguel. This would provide a more comfortable sail with the wind on the starboard quarter.

Praia da Vitória to Ponta Delgada Passage

We were farewelled by Pedro as we departed Praia da Vitória marina at 1550. Winds SSW F6 soon strengthened to F7 before abating during the night. The passage plan was for an overnight journey covering the 90nm so as to arrive at São Miguel island’s westernmost Cape Ferraria at dawn and then to be able to enjoy the coastal scenery as we sailed along the island’s southern coast to Ponta Delgada.

Cape Ferraria, Sao Miguel Island, in early morning.
Cape Ferraria in early morning.

The passage went according to plan pretty well. We arrived at the reception quay at Ponta Delgada 0920 and were subject to the usual formalities of Customs, Immigration and Police, a reasonably quick procedure taking about 15 minutes. We planned to briefly look over the town and wait for a window of opportunity in the 10-day weather forecasts for the return sail home. After a day, the weather forecast look promising so, rather than risking a further delay, we made the decision to leave the following day, Sat 27 June. Our stay in the Azores was brief – a total of 8 days, six days at Praia da Vitória and two at Ponta Delgada.

The next post: “Azores to Southampton” shows how we negotiated comfortably a Force 8, gusting Force 9 gale despite attempts to avoid it!

Note: For those of you reading the posts, you might like to know that the previous post ‘Plymouth to the Azores’ has been updated with images and videos.