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Friday, 22 July 2022

Praia da Vitoria and return passage

I wasn’t particularly looking forward to going to Praia do Vitoria for a couple of reasons: I had hoped that my visit would be part of the Jester Azores Challenge and I had had such a great visit to both Velas and Angra that I didn’t want to leave the Azores with anything but positive memories. Praia looked like a tourist destination with little of the history of Angra or rural beauty of Velas. This was unfair and when I sailed round from Velas on Sao Jorge I arrived at day break to find a great harbour, sheltered from most directions and with only a couple of anchored yachts. I motored into the marina and despite a bit of confusion with a speeding motor boat I settled into a secure berth. One of the long term berth holders came over to say hi, we had a mutual friend from a previous jester challenge, and he invited me over to the local bar for a drink. While the town was OK, it wasn’t much more than a tourist destination, the people were great. They were friendly, helpful, fun and accommodating. I met up with several other longer term berth holders including an Aussie who was getting his catamaran ready for a passage to Portugal and then the USA. He was trying to beat the deadline for all boats to be off the hard standing area so I gave him a hand with setting his boat up. 

After a couple of days the couple I had met in Sao Jorge arrived after a few days in Angra and like me, they were waiting for a weather window to return to the UK. It was great to meet them again and we had a couple of meals together and continued earlier conversations. Praia is a key destination for trans-Atlantic yachties and some were staying there long term including a few who had moved there and still had their boats in the marina. It was easy to see how this could suit me but I wanted to get home. I had a look round the town and the main church was very beautiful.


 

A weather window was opening after a week at Praia and so I provisioned the boat with some perishable items: fruit and bread. The marina started to thin out and around 15 boats left for North Europe. A very wise sailor who had been a commercial skipper summed up my feelings very well ‘when boredom outweighs fear, you’ll be off’. He was the owner of a beautifully set up Rustler and was in the process of gaining residency status. After some minor border exit confusion I got my passport stamped and determined to set off that evening. Over a week in the marina and the bill was just over £50.

The passage home could not have been more straight forward or different to the passage to reach the Azores. 13 days of which 9 were a beam reach on port tack which is the most comfortable for sleeping and cooking. The course was an almost perfect great circle towards Ireland and then turn into the Western Approaches where the continental shelf gradient is at its least steep. This is where any sea state should be least affected by the depth changes from 4000m depth to 200m. I had to rig the spare main sail as it has a slot in it where the kicker can be rigged. The boom attachment broke again and will need a proper repair or even boom replacement when I get home.


Maximum wind speed on the way home was force 7 and it would have been nice to have had use of my newer main sail as it has a deeper third reef. At no point did the sea state become an issue and the rigging repairs held up very well and my confidence grew. By the end of the trip I was sailing under full canvas during the day and only reefed at night to avoid having to go forward in the dark. With the wind on the beam or abaft I rigged a preventer on the boom and this worked well even though I didn’t have any uncontrolled gybes. I did have to gybe when the wind moved round to the south for a couple of days but I had spotted that this was going to be necessary on the weatherfax charts.

 

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Celestial navigation worked well and dead reckoning was much improved as the course and speed was a lot more predictable on this passage. To overcome the negative effect on morale of not closing in on a distant waypoint I set intermediate waypoints for approximately 200nm intervals. These made course setting and progress monitoring much simpler. This combined with the astonishing reliability of my Sea Feather self-steering was a delight. I set the sails for the course I wanted, with no steering compass this relied on my hand bearing compass. Then trimmed the self-steering and engaged the chain on the tiller. After this I monitored progress on the chart plotter for 10 minutes. My chart plotter is only Navionics on my iPhone but this worked really well. 9 times out of 10 I was within a few degrees of my desired course and things stayed like that for up to 48 hours. I christened my self-steering Ron, as in Ronseal, does what is says on the tin. Apart from a couple of drops of oil and brushing the salt off, it worked brilliantly on both the passage out to the Azores and on the way home. 

I still had supplies for 40 days and did my best to consume them on the way home, I put back on the weight I had lost on the way out and still had around 20 days supplies when I got back. At about 200nm out I tried tuning in to Radio 4 LW and the first broadcast I heard was Jonny Bairstow scoring his second century and England winning their test match. If I had waited a day I would have heard the nonsense of the UK government imploding. At this point I was equidistant between Ireland and UK port of entry. I would have been tempted to head for Ireland!

Day run distances were 90nm on average and on one day I managed 105nm, the only time I had exceeded 100nm in a midday to midday run. The final day would have been longer but I arrived at Plymouth at 7AM with 90nm clocked. I hung around in Cawsand bay and then went straight into Mayflower Marina without anchoring. I completed port of entry process relatively efficiently and had a rest. A lovely chap on a Wing 25 popped over to say hi and ask about boat handling. I met a couple of youtubers and had a great evening meal and catch up with George from the Jester Helm. After filling up with diesel I left on the midday tide and motored in windless conditions to the Solent.

I anchored off Hurst Point and had a good rest before leaving to catch the end of the tide back to the needles and the fair tide heading East. Again it was windless and so with the engine on at 1400 rpm I was making 3.5 knots through the water and up to 7 knots over the ground. I held the tide until after Dungeness. It was swelteringly hot and so I gave the engine and myself a rest for a couple of hours to ensure I had the tide with me to pass Dover. After 46 hours I was back on my mooring at HNYC. A couple of boats came out to say hi. It was great to see Triassic and be given an enthusiastic welcome. After a meet up with the captain and crew on Bonny and a night’s sleep I left Louisa for the first time in 78 days. A quick a shower and lift to the station and I was on my way home to see our newest family member.


 

 

 





Tuesday, 21 June 2022

São Jorge

After 10 days in Angra do Heroismo I was ready to test my sailing confidence so decided on a gentle run over to Velas on São Jorge Island. It was 55nm and should take a full day. I set off early after paying for my time in the Angra marina, 110 Euros for 10 days including extras (showers). The wind was from the NW and light so as soon as I passed the peninsula that forms a natural breakwater around Angra I had the sails up and the engine off. I made reasonable progress but about hallway between Terceira and Sao Jorge I was hit by the acceleration zone, F7 for a couple of hours was a good wake up call. Under a small head sail I crossed the gap but ended up further north than I had hoped and was in Martha’s Anguish, an area where the south going current is forced up by the underwater sea mounts off the SW tip of Sao Jorge. I quickly headed south until things calmed down. 

It had rained pretty much non-stop since leaving Angra but on the way up the channel between Pico and Sao Jorge the rain stopped, the sun came out and the wind died. I motored for 20 miles up the coast past Manadas (see photo below) Riberia Seca, Calheta and the airport until I reach Velas.


 

The villages are built on rock outflows from past volcanic activity and all have beautiful churches and appear to cling on to the island. A couple have small ports.

 

In Velas harbour I tried to anchor but wasn’t happy with the set so I moved into the marina. It had been a long day, 16 hours, but it felt great to be in this beautiful little marina. At night there was a very strange noise, initially I thought it was children messing around in the marina with cazoos but I later found out that the noise was nesting Cory Shearwaters. 

 

The next day a lovely couple who have been cruising the world for 13 years came over to say hi. It was obvious from the first chat that we shared similar views about a lot of things and we got on very well. The next day they hired a car and the three of us toured the island. We went to several Fajas (villages built on rock out flows by the coast) and to the main towns of Topo and Calheta where we had a very nice lunch by the harbour. We visited a cheese factory, they only make one type of cheese and sell it by age. The three year old cheese was wonderful and we bought some.

 

Back in Velas we went for dinner to a local restaurant and had a fabulous meal, we querried the bill, wine was 1Euro for a large glass! The bill was correct but seemed far too small.

 

I visited the church in Velas and another in Riberia Seca. They are of a similar style with amazing interiors.

 


 

The museum in Velas was interesting and I was the only person there. As cheese plays a significant role in island life, much of the infrastructure and facilities are set up around its production. The island is extensively farmed and apart from some small fruit and veg production is given over to dairy. There are about 6 cheese co-operatives on the island and each area has an unmanned miniature cheese museum. These have large windows through which the local cheese production history is visible.

 


 

Sao Jorge was an excellent alternative to Terceira, much quieter with beautiful rolling countryside and a sense of purpose around cheese production. It would be worth visiting Sao Jorge with walking boots and a bit more time to explore the coastal paths.

 

Angra do Heroismo

I reached Terceira after 25 days at sea and was so grateful to be on shore. The trip over had been a challenge! I was aiming for Praia do Vitoria but due to the wind direction in the final 24 hours ended up in Angra. 

 

Angra do Heroismo is the capital of Terceira and, as I was to find out, had been the capital of Portugal twice in its history. For a capital city, it is the size of a medium sized town in the UK and was a great combination of old and new. The marina is situated at the bottom of one of the main streets in the city so access to all areas is a 2 minute walk. There are churches, shops, museums and walks around the area within 10 minutes of the marina. I fell in love with the area almost immediately. Having travelled all over the world I often have a feeling that it might be interesting to live in some of the places I visit but usually discount this thought when the practicalities become obvious. This was different, I could see a life in Angra, albeit I’d need to speak Portuguese. 




 

First night ashore I treated myself to a steak. 

 


 

It took almost a week before I could sleep properly after the trip over. I regularly woke up poised for action just because the wind had changed or the rigging made a noise.

 

I visited the Jesuit College that became the Captain General’s palace and had a guided tour, just me. It was excellent and was the best way to find out more of the history of the island. The palace is beautiful and very well maintained. There are some items of very high quality furniture and the decoration and ceilings were of a very high standard. 

 

I also visited the main museum, this was not a guided tour but gave glimpses into several eras of Terceira’s past. The first and second world wars featured as did Jesuit and Royal influence. Adjoining the museum is a church which was quite large and incredibly well decorated.


 

 

I also walked around quite a bit and enjoyed the peninsula which forms a natural harbour for the city. Angra suffered a sever earthquake about 40 years ago, every building with a bright orange roof was badly damaged. The geography is determined by volcanic action and the peninsula is an extinct volcano. 

 

While I was in Angra marina I met a great couple from Ireland on their fabulous catamaran. They were on their way to Portugal for the winter and had been in the Caribbean prior to the Azores.

 

I didn’t go in but at the centre of the city is a cathedral which is lit up at night. All of the pavements in the centre area are made from black or white volcanic rock and set out in geometric patterns. Some shops have their signs set out in the stonework. 

 


 

Angra deserves another visit, they were getting ready for a large festival just as I was leaving to go to Velas on São Jorge. I had been there 10 days, recovered from my trip over from the UK and was looking forward to seeing another island.


The best thing about Angra was the people, without exception they were friendly, helpful, patient and fun. A local politician and friend of the Jester Challenge came over to Angra to take me out for a drink and a local cake, a German singlehanded sailor, Hans on Snowball, help me sort out the rigging, Alex from Sailtours was all round fun and local shop keepers helped me find what I wanted. Just for the people alone I'd come back.



Monday, 13 June 2022

New Page

 Check out the new page in the link above for my Jester Challenge 2022 write up. This will be an ongoing write up so come back for updates. As of today, 13/6/22, it includes: Weather, Preparations and Navigation.

Thursday, 9 June 2022

Halfway

I have made it to Terciera in the Azores and retired from this year's Jester Challenge. It feels great, I have been in Angra do Heroismo for a week now and loving island life. The people have been so helpful, patient with my attempts at Portuguese (trying to order beer, wine and food). The cost of living out here suits me very nicely and it will be a wrench to leave. Also, I am not particularly looking forward to a repeat of what I went through to get here. As this is now the halfway point in this year's adventure I thought I'd write up the passage to reach this point. It was 25 days of saturation experiences so rather than a cruise report style write up I am going to break it down into sub headings such as weather, problems, navigation, motivation etc.



At the recommendation of a friend I visited the Palace of the Capitanes General and former Jesuit College. Probably the best history lesson for anyone visiting Terciera I could have had. By the way, the entrance is round the corner, this is the entrance to the Azores deputy president's administration offices!

Thursday, 2 June 2022

I did it!

I arrived in Angra do Heroismo, Terceira in the Azores on Wednesday 1st June after three and a half weeks of hard, tough and occasionally frustrating sailing. It was my birthday yesterday and this is what came to mind.


Azores Count Down

60 year old man

50 year old boat

40 North under sail

30 foot rule

20 days, plus, at sea

10 books just enough

0 ENERGY LEFT


It is bizarre what the mind comes up with when stressed! I am going to have a few days R&R here, it is all I had hoped it would be, before going to Praia da Vitória in the North East of Terceira. 

Friday, 6 May 2022

Ready to go

 After a couple of weeks of sailing and motoring I have made it to the start in Plymouth. I've met up with the other skippers and so far no significant problems.


After 48 hours of sailing from the River Medway I reached Langstone Harbour where I spent a couple of nights before going to Gosport. At Gosport I stayed a night and included a visit to my mother. Then on Sunday I set off for Plymouth with no discernible breeze so I motored. The engine held up well and I reach Dartmouth within 24 hours where I picked up a mooring for the night. There were even more moorings than I remember and not as off the beaten track as I had remembered. On Tuesday I motored round to the Tamar and anchored for a couple of nights in the Lynher River. That was very rural and secluded. On Thursday I motored up to Cargreen to see who was around and saw Tom's old boat, Arctic Smoke. On the high tide I turned round and motored to the Mayflower Marina. There I met a couple of the skippers, both of whom I knew from previous events. So all settled in, laundry done, diesel topped off, a final shopping trip for fresh food and I'll be ready for the start. Tonight is the social event so it will be good to meet challengers and invitees.