We set off in some rougher weather, 3m large swell and up to 20 knots of wind. Due to this Kathryn wasn’t feeling great, but at least we saw lots of dolphins and were going nice and fast.
The general plan was to set off in this worse weather and have it drop down to something nice within a day or two. Sail most of the way, and as we approach the UK have a lull, before the subsequent low pressure would start to catch us, and then boost our way into the English channel.
All of this weather planning ended up being fairly accurate and we mostly sailed as planned with a couple of days of motoring in the middle and made it into the UK after 9 days.
On the way we saw these interesting cluster-type things that at the time we thought were some kind of jellyfish, but it turns out were Gooseneck Barnacles in a little cluster.
The blender that we bought in Velas came in handy once again. We still had leftover frozen fruit from our last smoothies to blend along with some fresh stuff, so we had mid-crossing smoothies!
We ended up watching quite a number of films in the cockpit during this passage, so popcorn was also needed.
We came toward England quite close to the Isles of Scilly, and this was the first land we saw, we were almost home. One more night sailing along the English coast and we came in for our approach to Falmouth in very light winds the following morning.
We anchored in the corner of the inner anchorage area, and were the closest boat to shore. It turns out that it was “Armed forces day” and there were quite some celebrations going on, including a flyover of the red arrows just after we anchored, and a parade through the streets of Falmouth. This started to explain the presence of 3 naval boats in the harbour too.
Our friends Tom and Nat arrived in Falmouth shortly after to whisk us away for brunch, and evening BBQ on the beach, and a nice evening in a land bed, which was absolutely great!
Just a few more hops along the English coastline till Hannah is back in her home port of Dartmouth.
Off we set to Horta in the morning. When first getting out of the marina it felt like the wind was really going to work in our favor, and we were making good progress to Horta. The forecast was for the wind to totally swing around and come from Horta, and for it to drop quite some before we were scheduled to arrive.
In reality, the wind swing happened much earlier, and there was no real period of light winds, so after a few minutes of sailing, we found ourselves tacking to Horta through changeable wind directions and choppy swell. This turned into one of the wobbliest curvey tracks we have sailed to date (see below and don’t judge!).
On our journey to Horta, we also crossed paths with Artemis, who was heading from Horta to Velas. We managed to come quite close to each other as they were gull-winging downwind and both got some good snaps of each other.
Artemis gullwinging to VelasHannah Penn from Artemis
Arriving in Horta we anchored on the edge of the anchor field. We counted another 30 or so boats at anchor, and it’s crazy to think a week before during the low pressure that passed over the Azores there were around 80 boats at anchor, things must have been tight!
After checking into the Azores finally, we headed to Peter Sport Cafe, a rather iconic and long-standing (104 years) cafe/bar in Horta that has been frequented by many a sailor over the years.
For people sailing the Atlantic, Café Peter is more of an institution than a café. With its bright blue facade and orange sign, it serves as a currency exchange, yachting club, hobby, post office, tourist attraction and even as a charity on many occasions. (…) “
in Travel Section of “El Monde” San Juan, Puerto Rico, 1982
Upstairs they have a small whaling museum with a large focus on whale teeth, bones, and also the history of the cafe. Of course, not just whale teeth, but rather art on and with the teeth and bones of whales that has been performed for many years, a tradition called Scrimshaw.
Sperm Whale jaw bonesWhale made of whale boneAlex Thompson on a toothCollection of whale tooth and bone carvings and sculptures
Our next job was to explore the area around the harbor a little, and we were recommended a hike up to the closest point which was also next to a local Caldera. Here we also walked past some old whaling factories, now turned museums, and you can see the ramps that they would have used to winch whales onto land from the sea.
Whale factory rampCaldera near Horta
We wanted to explore as much of the Azores as possible but were also aware that we needed to be back in the UK for July, and time was starting to feel tight. So rather than sail to Pico (the island next to Horta), we got a rather cheap ferry one morning to bus around and explore with Saga.
Here we went to another whaling museum that included a short film we could watch as well as quite a few rather graphic pictures from the time of whaling still in the Azores, which only came to an end in the mid 1980’s.
Small boats being towed out to catch a whaleA whale on shore about to be cut up
Originally we wanted to also sail to Terceira, but as the weather continued evolving, we decided we had better head back to the UK sooner rather than later to avoid more motoring and arrive with plenty of time so as not to rush the last few days of our adventures.
This meant leaving directly from Horta early on the morning of 15th June. But before departing we wanted to partake in the tradition of painting the harbor wall with a small mural for our crossing ahead. This is something we have seen in many other ports, but haven’t found the time to get painting to date.
We managed to have one more night of food, drinks, fun, and conversation before really starting to prep for the crossing back to the UK.
As part of this night, Sam from Blue Note was going around Peter Sport Cafe trying to get people to dance. In doing so, he found someone else in the bar from Devon, UK, and brought them over to our table, as we are also both from Devon. The world is a small place, and this turned out to be someone Kathryn personally knew through horse-related living arrangements!
We will gloss over our winch fix the evening before leaving, as well as restocking the boat with fuel and food, as you readers must be bored of this by now.
Needless to say, the Azores was great fun, but the next step is the rest of the Atlantic crossing West to East, back to the South coast of the UK.
Flores, the easternmost island of the Azores archipelago, is a captivating destination known for its stunning natural beauty. With lush valleys, dramatic cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and secluded beaches
In 2019 the Port of Lajes das Flores was partially destroyed by Hurricane Lorenzo, and efforts to rebuild are still underway. A result of this means that the harbor was not fully protected by a breakwater, and inside the harbor, there are only minimal pontoons for use. You can find some images of the destruction and plan for the future in this article.
Escapade and Saga, 2 Dutch boats we know, were already moored in the harbor and had the situation all figured out. We were not able to moor in the main body of the harbor, but were able to use the inside quay wall and also optionally the outside quay wall. Anchoring was also an option, but we really wanted to be moored!
We started off rafted up in 4 columns, and over the next few days, 3 of these rafts would be 3 boats deep, with the outermost raft being 2 deep. So 11 boats on the inside harbor quay wall. Upon leaving there were 2 boats also rafted on the quay wall next to the anchorage, and 3 more boats in the anchorage itself.
The harbor master is lovely, and after a few days of being on the quay wall, we were informed that a new rule would be in place for future boats visiting, where they would only be able to stay on the quay wall for 48 hours before needing to move on. The quay wall is high, so expect to used your dinghy to get to the ladders!
Step one for us being back on land, food (that we didn’t have to cook), and bed (that isn’t rocking around or leaning over)!
We tidied the boat, did laundry (5EUR wash and 5EUR dry), and had a lovely free warm shower.
Boats we knew continued to arrive the day after us, bringing the full list to include us, Blue Note, Extress, Saga, Escapade and Atlas.
Walking up the hill to the small supermarket we got a little taste of what the other Azorean islands were likely to look like. Rather beautiful.
Unfortunately, as we spent our first days exploring the area around the harbor, the weather forecast looked like it was going to turn and push a large low-pressure system over right over the Azores, and sending swell straight toward and probably into the Flores harbor.
Most of us decided that we wanted to leave the harbor before this weather in a few day’s time, so started planning a departure, but also a quick tour and hike around some of the most beautiful nearby locations.
We found a tour and taxi number on the wall which lead us to Sílvio Medina who is easily contactable via WhatsApp, Email, Telephone etc. After some negotiations for hike length and pickup time our Friday plan had formed. Starting with an early morning boat shuffle as some people in the rafts wanted to leave, followed by a 9:30 am pickup, driving tour of the 4 large lakes, hike to a waterfall, and back down to a town for pickup. And then, head off to the other islands overnight.
Firstly from Miradouro Lagoas Rasa e Funda we could see Lagoa Funda das Lajes and Lagoa Rasa, two lakes that are at dramatically different heights.
Next, we had another 2 large lakes, right next to each other. These were Lagoa Funda and Lagoa Comprida which are very different depths and also very different colors!
We were dropped in a car park where we could both start our main hike down into Fajã Grande, but first, hike up to a waterfall called Poço Ribeira do Ferreiro (Alagoinha). There was a beautifully maintained path to the fall, and a large still lake just beneath it.
The hike then took us through some of the greenest lands we have seen since being in the mountains of Santo Antão in Cape Verde. So many green fields, cows, European wildlife, water, and high green cliffs.
We continued down toward Fajã Grande, where we could see one boat at anchor and another that was just leaving to avoid some swell.
Just before reaching the town we stopped at one final waterfall.
Overwhelmed with our first “long” walk of the month, we headed into town to our pickup point for a burger and drink right next to the ocean.
We stopped in at the shop again on the way to the harbor, picking up some frozen pizzas for our night sail, and arrived back at the harbor at around 3pm and started getting ready to leave. We topped up our water tanks with a few jerry cans full of water, had a final on-land shower, and cast our lines to start heading on to the other islands.
After 30 minutes the lines and fenders were stowed, pizzas were in the oven, and the dolphins were back, escorting us on our night motor sail (not much wind at all).
And at the time of writing this, we are roughly 3 hours from our next port of call 🙂
We set off in the afternoon of the 8th May from the BVIs, and arrival in Flores, Azores was to happen in the afternoon of the 30th May, so a 22-day crossing in total!
Wildlife sightings were on the increase, with more and more dolphins and birds appearing every day.
One little bird even came and had a little rest on board for half a day.
The air temperature was getting noticeably colder still, and we had to dig around in our deep storage to find a wooly hat and a nice blanket for our night shifts in the cockpit.
On day 21 (the day before we arrived) we had our biggest lull in the wind for the whole trip, which latest around 12 hours. But this was a lovely opportunity to each have a nice long shower inside Hannah as we knew we were close to land and could spare the water, and the boat was nice and stable.
After the lull the wind picked up, as an area of low pressure was passing by the Azores.
We didn’t have the best approach to the island, needing to tack multiple times in the final half a day, on the southwestern corner, which is also where most of the chop and swell was building up and crossing over.
The tacking angles were annoying, and every time we tacked, after 5-20 minuites, the wind will have shifted (probably as it comes off the land) and we would find ourselves needing to tack once more to actually get closer to the island.
But, Land Ho!
What a wonderful sight!
And once within 1 mile of the island, the swell and chop really decreased!
Escapade had come into the port of Flores a few days prior and had tried out figure out where we were all going to moor as there is no marina, only a concrete harbor. Saga were a few hours ahead of us and already moored up.
They managed to take some pretty nice pictures of us approaching the harbor with our sails still up, before then helping us moor in the harbor. Here is our favorite.
We moored up alongside Sweet Life, and once secured and happy, we could head to land!
Having been cooking and cleaning for 22 days straight, job 1 was to find a local restaurant and eat some food prepared by someone else.
Steak and fish time, and of course a beer (for Adam).