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Horta, Azores: A Quick Explore and Paint

Horta, Azores: A Quick Explore and Paint

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.

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!

We had already talked to Saga on Whatsapp who were in the marina already, so we took the dinghy over to see them. They were in a raft against the harbor wall that was already 3 deep, also alongside the German boat Beagle who we actually met in Cape Verde just before our East to West crossing.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Velas, Azores: Hiking, Friends & Food

Velas, Azores: Hiking, Friends & Food

We were once again in the land of cheaper food, so decided to have another meat-filled BBQ with Blue Note, Atlas, Extress, and Escapade (who just arrived in time for the BBQ anchored outside). We fetched Escapade from the anchorage in our dinghy which was still inflated from used in Flores, and ended up leaving it with them for most of a week until they found space in the marina.

This was the first of 2 BBQs, but before the second we needed to wear off some of that food. On the morning of the scheduled low pressure, we headed up the nearest hill to a little viewpoint overlooking the harbor and town.

We used roads to get to the top, which were very steep and had many switchbacks, but as we walked along the top of the hill we found there was a nature trail and fruit tree path that we could use to walk back down to the town. And along the way, we saw many a Maderia lizard (why they are all Maderia Lizards here we don’t know).

Up next Atlas had organized 2 rental cars for us to take around the island and do some further exploring and longer hikes. The weather didn’t start off perfectly, with fog at the top of the island, so we headed to a small coffee plantation and cafe for a coffee and mini tour, before exploring the coast of the north side of the island (with the swell rolling in), and finally heading for our hike in the afternoon followed by a quick drink, and a steak dinner out in the town.

Getting into the Portuguese cake spirit once again, we set off one morning in search of a cake, however, found ourselves eating a Crème brûlée for breakfast (at noon!) with a coffee/juice.

For the next two evenings on the trot, we met with Tomas and Lindy of Extress on their boat for games night, on night 1 we played Dutch Dominion and Port Royal both of which were fun card games, and along with it, we made hot chocolate with a shot of rum and tasty homemade caramelised popcorn, then on night 2 we brought over Azul, a Portuguese coloured tile game and Werewords which is a guessing game, this night we also took marshmallows over for more hot chocolate and tried an orange liqueur which Lindy had picked up from the shop earlier.

We also hiked up the hill to the west of Velas which provided another view over the town, as well as a view further west along the island over a sheer cliff edge. The hill itself was a very green caldera (a large cauldron-like hollow that forms shortly after the emptying of a magma chamber in a volcano eruption), so once at the “top” you would descend further into this cauldron.

We finished off our time in Velas with a final BBQ with at least 7 or 8 boats from the marina and anchorage. This time with 3 BBQs in attendance, and in the boat park area instead of the breakwater to protect us from the wind a little, lots of great food was eaten!

Just before this final BBQ we had also decided to sail to Horta the following day, so this also acted as a farewell BBQ, as we would be speeding along for 1 more week through the Azores before heading in the general direction of the UK with another ~10-day crossing.

But before ending this post, another highlight of this food-filled week would be the purchase of 2 packets of frozen pastel de natas for cooking onboard, and also the purchase of a blender for smoothie making!

Flores, Azores: Everything is green!

Flores, Azores: Everything is green!

Our first destination after our west-to-east Atlantic crossing was Flores, Azores.

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 🙂

Atlantic Day 22: Arrival in Flores

Atlantic Day 22: Arrival in Flores

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).

Faro exploration

Faro exploration

We arrived late to Faro, after dark and our chosen anchorage was a little way up river so instead of motoring through shallow unknown waters in the dark we found the first suitable spot and dropped anchor for the first night, we were well out of the way of the main channel although later we found out that the shallow draft of many of the ferries meant that they can take a short cut right past us

In the morning we made our way further into the river system where we found maybe 50 boats anchored, still the area was very large and we found ourselves a nice spot in Calutra

I decided that I wanted to see the Benagil Caves now that we were on the south coast but unfortunately, we had passed them earlier in our sail to Faro, after a quick look at the winds we decided the best thing was to get a train there instead of sailing back again!

Getting to the train turned out to be a bit of a feat in itself, as we first had to take the dinghy to the nearest harbour, Calutra, and then a Ferry, which we couldn’t get a ticket for (due to a language misunderstanding!) We then got on the wrong ferry thinking it was the only way so we stayed on it for over an hour whilst it took us to another port first, then we finally made it to a place with a train station but the next train to Faro wasn’t for over an hour again! And all that was before getting the actual train from Faro to the caves. You can see the crazy route we took below.

Anyway, a few hours later we finally made it to the caves to find out the swell was a bit bigger than expected and they had stopped running the boat tours inside the caves, we did, however, get to see them from above and had a great cliff top walk which included seeing ‘Elephant Rock’ and a number of other cool caves and rocky outcrops before ending up at a beach surrounded by big cliffs and sea stacks.

Getting back we thought was going to be more straightforward now that we knew what ferries ran to where, however, we were too late to get the last one back!! Oops

So stuck in Faro our choice was to find somewhere to stay there or get a €60 water taxi, we decided why not make the most of it and get a room in Faro! The place we found had a pool too so we spent some time relaxing before getting the ferry back the next day

Little Han (the dinghy) and Hannah were just as we’d left them, luckily we’d thought we might be back after dark so had left the anchor light on anyway and as we had been at anchor there for a couple of nights already, without budging we didn’t feel too uncomfortable leaving the boat on its own at anchor overnight for the first time

Day 82-83: Sesimbra to Sines, well actually let’s carry on to Faro

Day 82-83: Sesimbra to Sines, well actually let’s carry on to Faro

A standard day sail or so we thought when we left Sesimbra, the sail started off fairly slow with less than 10knots of wind, a gorgeous day for sailing and relatively flat calm seas.

We made lots of Instagram stories of this adventure, so you can watch the complication below which includes spoilers, or come back to it at the end.

As the sea was so flat and we wanted to make good time we thought it would be a great opportunity to try hoisting the dinghy on a halyard to sit alongside the hull of the boat instead of being either dragged along behind (slowing us down a little) or deflating it, which is effort!

So I got in ‘Little Han’ whilst we sailed along and fashioned a bridle so we could hoist her up with relatively even pressure

And a little while later we had a nicely working hoist with fenders and support lines so it didn’t move around.

As we carried on through our sail we checked the weather (again) this usually occurs about 6 times a day especially when we don’t write down what the forecast actually said! But this time it was in response to a message received from Adam’s Mum with a link to an approaching storm, one which we knew would be hitting us within a couple of days.

According to Público, Hurricane Danielle changed its course and will hit Portugal on 11 and 12 September, bringing rain and strong wind. The hurricane proved to have an uncertain route and has now included Portugal in the route; however, its classification will change once it reaches Portugal.

Storm coming to Portugal –

So after discussing in detail if the anchorage we were approaching would give us appropriate protection, we did agree that it would be fine.. however, it would leave us trapped there for probably 3 days as leaving it soon after the storm passed over would have meant sailing through an unwelcome sea state (3-meter swell!.. no thanks!)

As we were sailing along pretty nicely now we looked at alternatives and getting to Faro sprang to mind, about 120 miles further than the 30 we expected to be sailing that day! The overall track was rather long and varied.

The afternoon wind picked up and we were cruising along on our fastest point of sail, a Beam Reach at 7-8knots, it was really the first time in at least a month we have had really fast sailing conditions, so thought may as well carry on as we should have good wind all night!

As night drew in so did the swell, it wasn’t too bad as the wind picked up a little more too which is actually a good thing when there’s swell as it stops the boat from rolling into the wind as much when you come down off a swell wave

My night watch started at about 2am and everything had been going smoothly, about half an hour in we were getting faster and faster, and I shone a light at the anemometer, it said 33knots, I thought that’s rather a lot to have no reefs in, but being still on a beam reach means the boat doesn’t heal as much as close hauled so it’s more comfortable in stronger winds, still I needed to choose to do something as the wind waves were picking up too the options were to reef the sails (had already taken the mizzen down earlier) which is hard work in the night, or turn down wind further, away from our destination but as we were going so fast a few extra miles didn’t make much difference

Adam had woken up by this point saying he felt the vibrations in the hull and asked if we were going faster!

We decided the best action would just be to turn down wind a little which makes it seem like there’s less wind as your going more in the same direction as it

At that point there was a crack and the sound of metal running over the fiberglass deck, I shone the torch outside trying to see what had broken, Adam got out of bed to help, luckily all it turned out to be was the jib forestay which is usually lashed down out of the way when not in use had worn through the lashing, but now was wildly swing around in the wind from the top of the mast, it hit the windscreen and got caught on the windscreen wiper.. just long enough to grab it so it couldn’t cause any more damage, this time I took something more substantial to hold it down, a couple of shackles will do the trick.

I donned my lifejacket and went out into what was turning into a bit of a stormy night to secure it to the deck whilst Adam shone a torch on me all the time!

So with that minor inconvenience sorted out he went back to bed and I carried on with my watch

5am came around and it was almost time for me to have a snooze but not before a wave hit us a bit differently to all the others and knocked the dinghy half out of its bridle, it was now half dragging in the water. We had to put a lasso of rope around the far back tip of the dinghy, turns out our Little Han is not so little when your trying to lean out over the side of the boat to throw a rope around its far side, so with some boat hooking and heaving it up higher it was finally back on and well supported.. time for a sleep 💤

As we rounded the southern corner of Portugal and got into the Lee of the land in the morning the wind subsided as did the swell and we quickly slowed down to a crawl, so time to change the sails again! It was cruising chute weather. (This also looked pretty cool due to the shadow cast by the mast)

We love using our cruising chute now it’s got a sock to be hoisted in, it means you can hoist it without it filling with wind so much less likely to damage the delicate light airs sail

By midday we had both snoozed enough to catch up on the sleep, we’d just missed out on!

The water looked so inviting and knowing it had to be at least be a little warmer than where we were previously I decided it would be a good idea to jump in whilst we sailed along!

We threw one our big fenders out the back on a long line to grab hold of and I threw myself in, the cool water was not as freezing as it was in Spain where I couldn’t even stand it even in a winter wetsuit so we jumped in and out a few times and as the boat was going slowly we could even have a swim next to the boat and not be left behind!

We even took some underwater pics and a video of the hull.. which we are due to clean now that the water is more barrable! Looks at all that gunge 😱

So with all the day’s excitement over we eventually made it to our anchorage not long after sunset and with a few hours of lovely calm sailing before getting there we had the boat all wrapped up in sail covers and tidied up before we anchored, even teeth cleaned so all we had to do was drop anchor, set an anchor drag alarm and get into a well-deserved bed

Day 81: Sesimbra

Day 81: Sesimbra

Our pre planning of heading to Cascais rather than heading further into the Lisboa river served us well on day 81, as the 27nm journey took us 10.5 hours due to light winds (we only adveraged 2.5 knots).

We managed to get the fishing rod out due to our mostly slow sailing. We tried a mixture of single deep diving lures, and also the paravane with feathers and a spinner.

As Adam was making dinner Kathryn started to reel the rod in, but is felt suspisciously heavy. Upon getting the paravane up to the surface Adam walkd away thinking that job was done., before Kathryn said “wait we caught something”.

Normally the paravane should come to the surface when it catches a fish, but either there was something wrong with this fish, the paravane, or perhaps it just bit at the last second?

We caught our first Mackerel scad (thanks Mark for helping us identify).

Anchoring in Sesimbra wasn’t ideal, we arrived just after the sun had set, and the anchorage remained rockey for most of the night, but there were not many alternatives.

Day 79-80: Cascais (again)

Day 79-80: Cascais (again)

Andrew left the boat heading to Lisbon airport on the morning of day 79.

The marina had a quite noisy collection of little crabs that seemed to come out as the tide dropped. They would just sit on the rocks, clicking their little claws together, we assume eating things.

We spent the rest of the morning restocking the boat from a nearby supermarket, doing some last-minute laundry, general cleaning and unexpected boat maintenance (the shower pump out pump ceased up and we needed to take it apart).

Wanting to get out of the marina to avoid spending too much more money, but also not wanting to make our next hop down the coast any longer we decided to head back to Cascais.

The sail was in familiar water and rather short, with only the initial exit out of the river mouth leading us into some slightly lumpy more unprotected water.

We were once again a boat of 2 and spent some time relaxing in the quiet, with no real pressure to be getting anywhere on a timeline (at least not a timeline of a few weeks).

We had been talking of making pastel de natas aboard at some point and decided to give it a go (despite not having any sort of try that would make them pastel de nata sized.

We mostly followed a recipe from, but opted for a rather large dish and made something like a pastel de nata tart.

With the burnt bits trimmed off, and a nice background in place, it looked and tasted delicious!

Day 77: Lisbon (ish)

Day 77: Lisbon (ish)

From Cascais it was only a 5nm sail to our chosen marina near Lisbon, we hoisted the mainsail whilst still at anchor and sailed like a pro out through the other anchored boats quickly unfurling the genoa too

The sea and sky were kind and with lake-like seas, we sped toward Lisbon, this was Andrews’s final day of sailing and it was going to be a fun one, early that morning we had seen a pirate ship approach our anchorage and drop the hook a little way offshore, the ship was huge and could have easily been taken right out of Pirates of the Caribbean! We looked it up online to find that it likely had around 75 people on board, what was funny was that it also had two washing machines and dryers on board too, the luxuries of pirate living!

As we sailed out towards it we tried to get as close as possible to get a good look at it and take some pictures, we waved at everyone on deck.. sadly not a single one waved back! 

But anyway we did get some great pics of it

As we carried on we decided the conditions were perfect for Andrew to do some single-handed sailing, with and without the use of the autopilot, so first I demonstrated how to tack the boat and change the sails without using the autopilot to hold the wheel and then we handed the boat over to Andrew to have a go doing everything himself, he did a very good job at being quick enough to not let the boat tack back again after transferring the headsail to the other side whilst not holding the wheel!

We also tried to sail a circle which obviously had some tacking included but really not a bad effort! You can look at our track on the map

After we had had enough of that Andrew announced that he hadn’t been in the water the entire time he’d been on board!! A whole month on board and he hadn’t dipped his toes in! We had completely forgotten about that as the water before this point had been pretty cold oh and he did get covid for a little bit too :0, so we sailed a little further from shore and decided to ‘heave to’ (stall the boat under sail, like anchoring with no anchor) and drift whilst we all had fun jumping in.

However, not long before we were going to jump in we spotted something in the water that stopped any of us from getting in the water!.. jellyfish and lots of them.

I wanted to get a good picture of the interestingly shaped jellyfish so I jumped in the dinghy with the underwater camera and snapped a few of these, apparently, this is a very common jellyfish found off the coast of Portugal with a moderate sting. We think it is a Catostylus tagi.

We probably spent 40mins admiring the jellyfish before we stopped seeing them.. no time like the present we thought so got into a swimming costume and we all jumped in the sea, Adam and I even tried to halyard swing into the water with some pretty funny results… (you can judge who is best)

So 11.5nm later we arrived at the marina, radioed in, and got a space, luckily the conditions were good as the space they had given us was very tight! With lots of fenders out on both sides, we edged our way into the slip and had a nice little relax before going to check in and find the shower block!

We headed into Lisbon via taxi in the evening to have a final meal with Andrew.

On the way back, we did some much-needed exercise after a big meal and lots to drink!

Day 75-76: Cascais

Day 75-76: Cascais

Day 75 saw us heading to Cascais. This was the moment we turned the first “corner” on the west coast of Portugal.

The anchorage was large and there was plenty of room for us right in the middle.

That evening we headed to shore to explore what Cascais had to offer and to find some food.

Once again, as keeps happening at many of our ports of call, there was a festival happening.

We stayed in Cascais for 2 days, as long ago during the planning of the trip Kathryn had seen a place called Quinta de Regaleria that looked rather awesome, and we had to check it out.

This meant a short taxi to Sintra and a day spent surrounded by more tourists than any of us have seen in a while.