Faial, Sao Jorge and Graciosa

Saturday 21st July

Having filled the freezer, Mo was keen to re-organise it, and in doing so to defrost it, as well as the fridge. I mixed up some epoxy, as my attempts to fix the morse control had not been entirely successful, then re-assembled it. The relevant bit is now solid epoxy, rather than cast aluminium. The next job on the list was to tackle the outboard, and I thought this would be simple. However the throttle control shaft was seized solidly in the carburettor. I was a bit anxious about disassembling this, but managed to get the circlip off and punched it out with a punch, not without difficulty. It cleaned and polished up quite easily after that, and slipped back in with no problem. The engine started first pull, with last season's old fuel. In between defrosting, Mo did some more cleaning and polishing.

Sunday 22nd July

We hiked up to Continente again, this time with haversacks. We were out of fruit, mainly, but came back with a full load. Once we reached the harbour, I left Mo with the shopping and fetched the dinghy certainly saving us some effort if not time.

We have still seen nothing of the island, and have a couple more jobs. The weather has changed, and it is going to be tricky to find favourable winds back to Brittany, our intended landfall. We plan to hire a car for a day, and will almost certainly stay for the Olympics opening on Friday. Our TV is up and running ok here.

Harrier of Down in which Julian Mustoe, now 79
has been circumnavigating in pursuiit of Darwin and HMS Beagle

The skipper of Harrier of Down had spoken to Mo while she was polishing the stainless, and so we asked him around for a drink. Julian Mustoe told us a little about his circumnavigation, which seems to have taken around 10 years. He called the boat Harrier, as he has been following the voyage of HMS Beagle (1831-36) during which Charles Darwin made many of the observations that led him to his 'Evolution of the Species'. The boat is only 26 feet, or 8.5 metres in length. We will look out for his book.

Monday 23rd July

It was very hot. I went out in the dinghy to take some photographs, and the outboard hicupped probably with old fuel blocking the slow running jet. Mo insisted on writing a list of jobs, and planning out the next few days. Internet via Vodafone dongle and marina seemed to be down for a while, frustrating my attempt to respond to the latest 'don't worry us, we are only the help desk' e-mail from HMRC. I went off to pay the bill at MAYS, and came back with a downhaul and some snap shackles in order to rig the spinnaker pole. If there is no wind and from behind we might need to try to use it. The plungers on the pole end fittings were fairly seized up and took some time to free. Mo spent the day cleaning and polishing the stainless steel until quite late in the evening. We watched various comings and goings: it is still quite busy here.

Tuesday 24th July

A low had developed to the north and west, and had spent a spat of rain across during the night, and we were expecting more. It didn't turn out too badly though, except for the fresh wind and occasional light shower. Just before lunch, I went up the mast to have a look at the spreaders that I hoped to have fixed in Lagos. Once again they were on the droop, so the rigging will need slacking off so that I can fit the new clips MAYS have sold me. Rather at the last minute we went out to try to find a car hire outfit painted on the wall. Mo pointed out that the sign was rather old, and they might not be there: she was right.

Wednesday 25th July

We set the alarm early, in order to catch the 0900 ferry from Horta to Madalena, on Pico. We wanted to visit Lajes, on the south coast, where there is now a small marina, but the customs guy at Horta had suggested the ferry as there was little room there. We had spoken to Bob and Janice, whom we had met at Flores, and they told us that they had hired a car on Pico, as pre-booking from Horta was expensive. We decided that for our purposes the bus would probably do.

When we arrived at Madelena, the tourist office at the quayside gave us the bus time table, and we then realised that the bus was quite restrictive: one left at 1000 hrs, and we would have to catch the only bus back from Lajes at 1355! This gave us time to visit the whaling museum, and to have some lunch, however.

The bus worked its way along the south coast, through a series of small villages set up on the lower slopes of the highest volcanic mountain, Pico, from which the island of course gets its name. Pico was originally famous for its wines, the vines being grown in small stone enclosures as we had seen on Terceira. There is now said to be something of a resurgence with new varieties being grown, although the methods used must be too labour intensive to compete on the world market? After an hour and a half, we eventually arrived at Lajes, and got off.

The best part of the whaling museum, housed in an old boathouse, was a grainy, scratched old film from the 70's, describing the whaling that was still at that time being carried on from small boats. The main exhibit was a long sailing whaler, complete with its oars, harpoons, and lances. In addition they had examples of scrimshaw, tools and other exhibits. We were disappointed not to find the sculpture of a whaler poised with harpoon in the bows of a boat. Julian had asked us to take a photograph of it, and on enquiry we learnt this was outside the whaling museum on the north coast, at Sao Roque!

We had lunch at a small hotel on the waterfront. It was not busy when we arrived, but filled up, and we waited a long time for our very good toasties and cold plate of chips. It seemed a bit expensive, and I realised later we had paid for a whole bottle of Mo's wine, not simply a glass.

On returning to Madalena, we found a shop that actually sold T-shirts to Mo's liking at a price she was prepared to pay, so bought one each. We now at long last have the T-shirt to go with the Azores!

Thursday 26th July

We got up with some enthusiasm to pack up ready to go. I printed some Sudokus for Mo to entertain her on passage, so that the printer could go away. Mo extracted the cruising chute from the locker under the bunk forward where it has rested since its repair in 2003! I rigged the downhaul that we have just purchased. This was the missing link, and apart from sheer funk, has been the main reason why we have never tried using it. It has come out now in anticipation of a light downwind passage making it almost a necessity, as we only carry fuel for 350 miles, and our route is around 1350 miles. Let's hope we have wind, and we don't need it, as I am a little apprehensive about using such a large light wind sail, given what happened with the gorillas on board during our delivery trip.

Our solicitor sent an email with some long forms that needed to be filled in. I printed them out, filled them in and scanned them back in and sent them off to her. The wonders of the internet and technology!

Friday 27th July

The first job of the day was to sort out the drooping spreaders. For this, the upper shrouds had to be let right off. I went up and had a go at clearing the unsuccessful self amalgamating tape and jubilee clips, but had trouble with my left handedness on the port side. I also realised it was highly unlikely that I would be able to assemble the U-clamps onto the shrouds without dropping anything. So in the end I gave up and came down for a rest. I tied the U-bolts to the clamp using cotton through the hole in the clamp and tied onto one of the nuts. In this way I only had one thing to hold on to. I also took the ratchet handled box spanner bit up with me also with a lanyard, better able to tackle the jubilee clip left handed at arms length, while I held on with my other arm. We used the 'safety' spinnaker halyard so that Mo could gently winch the spreaders up for me to what we judged what a more appropriate, perky, angle. Assembling the clamps was then relatively a doddle, and hopefully these will keep the spreaders in place against the heave in the rigging and the downward pull of the lazyjacks. After that it was a case of tightening the shrouds, making sure that the mast remained straight.

My next job was to take a look at the outboard again. I removed the slow running screw, and gave it a blast through, so that the problem appeared to clear. Some fresh fuel will be good. I went out to test it, and in the process found a British flagged boat, Caitlin, and made contact. We had more papers from the solicitor, and we now needed a witness to our signatures, so Bryan and Dorothy were volunteered.

We had planned to watch the Olympic opening ceremony on board, but I wasn't too clear what the timing was. I had half-mentioned it to Julian, but we had not got ourselves organised at all when he arrived, bottle in hand, a little to my embarassment as I had not told Mo! It seemed that the Portugese time-shifted the Olympics by an hour to accomodate a football match. When it didn't seem to be materialising on our TV when expected, we decided to try the marina bar that has more channels. Bryan from Caitlin was there, and we were soon joined by his wife Dorothy. We five Brits sat in front of the television watching the show, with the locals giving support behind. The highlights were the Queen jumping out of the helicopter with Bond, Mr Bean dreaming of winning the race during Charriots of Fire, and the forging of the rings. We all thought the NHS and Mary Poppins bit was over the top and far too long.

Saturday 28th July

It was a nice fine day. After breakfast we went over to Caitlin to get Bryan to witness our signatures on a transfer deed, and then I went off to find the post office. It was closed. We had always been planning to hire a car for one day, to do our heavy shopping and go and see the lighthouse and museum at the western end of Faial, that was partially buried in lava during an eruption in 1957. We knew that cars were relatively hard to get hold of, and I walked around all the firms, drawing a blank. In the end there had been one possibility, if there was a no-show to a reservation, but that did not transpire. The taxis quoted 65 euros to go up there, and wait while we visited, and we felt that was too much. There is a bus, but you can only get there, and have to get a taxi back, which is almost as bad. It does seem odd to have a tourist facility that only a limited number of people can conveniently get to?

After lunch, we set off up the hill to the Continente/Modelo. We were obviously limited by our capacity to carry stuff, but managed to return with much of the essentials on Mo's list, plus two boxes of wine. The rest we could get more conveniently in Velas.

I raised the dinghy ready for our departure the next day.

Sunday 29th July Velas, Sao Jorge 24nm

I got up to help Julian let his lines go. Mo set off up to the supermarket again, while I checked out with the marina, and then immigration and customs. When I returned to the boat, I filled up our water and did a little preparation to leave. Mo arrived back with more wine in her haversack, so hot that she needed a shower, so I followed through and we topped up again.

There was a little bit of northerly breeze when we set out eventually, around midday. We managed to sail across towards Pico, and then the wind headed us, so that the engine had to go on.

Velas was fairly busy, but we managed to squeeze into a berth behind pontoon A, next to Harrier, although we projected well out across the 'channel' between the pontoons. Fortunately with no wind, Fuga was reasonably stable.

Julian announced that it was his birthday, and asked us to come over to Harrier for a drink. Mo was proposing to provide chicken curry, so instead we asked Julian to join us, and she got out another portion from the freezer. We had a pleasant supper in the cockpit. I told Julian that I had learnt from the internet that he had in fact lost his first Harrier in Argentina, so he smiled and said that we would have to buy the book!

Velas marina is in a beautiful setting, tucked under high wooded cliffs that offer shelter to hundreds of birds. During the evening, and in the morning, the bird song is wonderful to listen to. Around 10 in the evening, as it goes dark, the beautiful bird song dies down and is replaced by the call of the Cory Shearwaters, circling around and discussing loudly between them where to nest for the night. All again goes quiet, but at an indecent hour, before the regular dawn chorus, they are waking up again and deciding where to go fishing. Sleep, under these circumstances, can be difficult!

Monday 30th July Praia, Graciosa 38nm

I was up early to let go a spring to allow Fuga to slew across the berth, in order to let out a small motorboat. Her skipper had approached us last evening, rather worried that we would block his planned exit at 0700 hrs. I thought motorboats were manoeverable! Fortunately none of our other neighbours wanted out.

The early start stood us in good stead. I went to see Jose to book in and out, and pay the bill: this took some time as he is very sociable. We then set off up the hill to the supermarket, dropping in to post the signed papers to the solicitors. We loaded our trolley with milk, water, beer, and yes, some more cartons of wine, plus some other items that we had not managed to get or carry in Horta. Fortunately, outside the supermarket, is a taxi rank, so the goods were all loaded and he dropped us right by the bridge down onto our pontoon. Having loaded the stuff, we slipped our lines and wriggled ourselves out of the berth with the help of various of our neighbours. Fortunately there was no wind. We then went onto the fuelling berth. Jose phoned the guys, and after a bit of a delay they appeared and we took on diesel and some petrol for the dinghy.

So we got away just before midday, and then motored around to the western end of the island. The sight of small fins sticking out of the water prompted us to turn around and deploy the fishing line, and we slacked down to a more modest pace as we chuntered north in the flat calm. We had no joy at all, and as time was getting on resumed cruising speed after some while. Mo decided to get some beauty sleep, as we had both had a somewhat disturbed night with the shearwaters. I was able to send a few emails and pick up the internet using our Vodafone dongle all the way across between Sao Jorge and Graciosa.

Express Santorini had obviously been to Graciosa, as we met her on a reciprocal course, and I switched on the radar to check clearances. As we cut inside the island and close in along the shore of Graciosa, I noticed a discrepancy between the radar echo and the chart: maybe here the charting is a bit dubious. We arrived to find a Marimu anchored outside the channel buoys off the quay, but worked our way in towards the beach and dropped in 8m, enabling us to stay clear of buoys in the approaches to the quay. As we did so, a breeze had begun to fill in from the south west, blowing us offshore.

Tuesday 31st July, Graciosa

As expected the wind picked up overnight, it sounded as if it was well into 5's and 6's. As usual, the anchor chain found rocks to graunch on. In the morning the front arrived, alternating heavier rain with scotch mist, and lasting most of the day. Not ideal for going ashore, but absolutely ideal for making up this narrative. We expect a shift to the north when the front passes, which will not be ideal for us. If we can bash through that we will get some more westerly stream as the associated low tracks east towards the UK. After that, it looks as if it will become more light and variable. We plan to try heading as close to north as possible until around 46N, then make towards southern Brittany.

We had filled a large but suspect jerrycan with diesel at Velas, and sure enough diesel managed to get out of it somehow, so we kept it out in the cockpit. It was still blowing as I went to decant it into the tank, and my filter funnel blew overboard. I tried to reach it as it passed under the stern, failed, and stripped off quickly to swim after it. Getting to it was no problem, but my lifesaving backstroke is non-existant, and trying to return to the boat using breast stroke was simply not working. I shouted to Mo to put out a line, and having thrown a warp that sank, she got out the MOB recovery sling. The line snagged, so it was good practice. What I had failed to notice before I jumped in was that the water was full of small brown jelly fish, and of course by the time I emerged these had found me. I seemed to have just one irritating sting, on my right little finger, and we tried vinegar, then hydrocortisone cream, following advice on the internet.

Just before 6 in the evening, the front at last cleared and we launched the dinghy to go ashore. We wandered through the village, finding little of interest. There were harbour works going on, extending the inner breakwater, and possibly putting in foundations for a roro ramp similar to that just opened in Velas.