This blog was posted from Faial Island, Azores; called the Blue Island because of its rampant hydrangeas. And we’re feeling a bit blue because it’s our last overseas destination before sailing back to the UK.
For the last nine nights we’ve been berthed in a vibrant Blue Flag marina in Horta; the only city on this 174 square kilometre volcanic island.
The marina is buzzing with sailors and foreign accents. And Horta is unspoilt and charming.
It’s all narrow, cobbled streets; pavements with stone patterns; local shops; old buildings with wrought-iron balconies. Not a chain store in sight.
Inland it’s green, flowery, fertile and mountainous and the Portuguese locals are super friendly and welcoming.
We arrived here after a 37 day passage from Ascension Island so our first few days were a blur of comatose sleep. Paul attempted to drink the local bar dry and I staggered around eating lettuce.
By the third day we’d mostly stopped swaying like old drunks (well, I’m not sure about Paul), and had satiated our vegetable obsession.
There were then all manner of jobs to be done after such a long passage, before we allowed ourselves any fun and exploration!
We set to work:
• Replenishing our water, diesel and gas supplies
• Cleaning off barnacles and checking the rigging
• Tackling the stack of laundry, boat cleaning and airing
• Fresh food shopping, stores audit and restocking
• Book swap swapping
• Online catch ups, admin, research and weather watching
The marina is strategically located in the Atlantic for the visit of 1000s of international sailors – cruisers, racers and holiday makers.
While we were there many were making pit stops on the return leg of an Atlantic Circuit.
They’d left Europe from the Canaries, or Cape Verde, to sail to the Caribbean last November, to escape the European winter. Having enjoyed a season of tropical sunshine they’d then left the Caribbean to escape the hurricane season. What a wonderful lifestyle!
If not passing through the Panama Canal, they headed to the Azores and from here they were heading to Northern Europe, or Gibraltar and into the Mediterranean.
Anyway, after five days we’d picked off most jobs and started exploring our new country.
Four Faial Highlights
1 Horta Marina Yachtie Art
Legend has it that the single -handed sailor, Joshua Slocum, declared that whoever arrives in Horta and does not ‘mark his passage’ with a painting will not be lucky at sea.
The result? Thousands and thousands of boat murals! Every path, wall, bench is filled with a colourful guest book from boats from all over the world.
We recognised many, particularly the Tall Ships. We’ve posted a montage of 33 of them on the Sail Training International public group!
Baggy left her own small paw print, which we hope to come back and see some day.
2 Volcano Action
There’s an epic underground Volcano Interpretation Centre in Capelinhos, scene of a massive eruption here in 1957/58.
We hired a car and drove to the islands highest point – 1043 metres – with the intention of walking around a 2km wide collapsed volcanic cone.
A bit chillier and murkier than we’re used to (I know, we’re TOTALLY spoilt) there are some awesome volcanic caverns!
We’ll let a few photos do the talking.
4 Runnin’, Walkin’, Snorkellin’ and Swimmin’
We were in desperate need of cardio exercise.
Avoiding the Portuguese Man o War (they can cause you some serious damage) there were stunning places to swim and snorkel around the coast. However, the fishing nets provided to scoop them out of sea didn’t offer a lot of reassurance.
Pointing Baggy’s Bow to Blighty
But, lovely as it is here, we’ve got a voyage to complete and autumnal gales to avoid.
We slip Horta on Thursday 21 July for the 10-14 day sail back to the UK; land fall St Mary’s in the Scilly Isles.
Though a ‘short hop’ of only 1250 miles (compared to recent passages), it’s not without its own challenges. So, we’ve reminded ourselves that although the finish line is tantalisingly in sight we mustn’t become complacent.
The typical approach is to head north away from the Azores high; then, at around longitude 45 degrees north, turn onto the great circle course for the Scillies.
We’re expecting light winds at the start. But, further north, low pressure systems tracking across the Atlantic can bring unpredictable weather, despite it being the English summer.
Trusty Yellow Brick will be tracking our passage every six hours.
We hope to spend a few days in the Scillies, as a last hoorah before heading back along the south coast to Gosport. And then ….
Our planned arrival date and time for turning left into Portsmouth Harbour and making our way to Gosport Marina is ETA 2pm, Saturday 13 August. Subject to final confirmation, when we arrive back in the UK.
Look out for us if you’re in the area!
We’ll have all our flags flying and our Bagheera dodgers tied to the guard rails. We’ll have an open boat for visitors all afternoon, so come and say hello!
It’s surreal to think our next destination is ‘ol Blighty 🇬🇧 and that our grand Baggy Round the World adventure is coming to an end.
But, before all that, let’s get there safely first.
We’re already wondering if we’ll smell British soil before we see it, and if so, what that smell will be. Hopefully summer meadows and not fish and chips!