The Azores is one of the places I have heard sailors talk about since I started sailing. People talk of it’s magic, it’s beauty and of the friendly people. I was so excited when I discovered this delivery would take me to a place where I could finally experience it for myself.
Sometimes people can big up a place a bit too much and I’m not sure if that happened with me, or if the weather and lack of time meant that I couldn’t appreciate her in her full beauty.
When I went on deck and saw land the Friday we arrived, it was magical. There was the huge volcanic peak of Pico sticking out in front of us. The sun was shining above us and some dark clouds over the island we were going to, Faial, gave us a clue that we were going to receive a free washdown upon or shortly after, our arrival. As we got closer and closer, it was a combination of volcanic landscape and the English countryside. The houses and their buildings in their beautiful white façades and red roof tiles were very dramatic against the dark and lush background.
As we pulled into the dock, I saw all of the paintings from boats that have been there. It was not only on the concrete dock in front of us, but along some rocks and the whole dock to the right as well. Probably about half a mile in total of boat and crew names. As I jumped off the boat onto steady land, I could feel the pride and sense of accomplishment as I walked over the stamps people from years back had made. Some had done around the world crossings, some were only two crew, others it looked like were ending their sailing journey there. It definitely felt like a powerful and special place to be. I was proud to be there.
We walked through the narrow streets made of cobblestone. The pavement/sidewalks are filled with individual mosaic tiles, each street having a different pattern of mosaics. There was clearly a lot of time and pride that went into building this beautiful town. The buildings and houses are well maintained and definitely have a Portuguese influence to them. Sometimes I wasn’t sure if I was in Portugal or in England!
The people were very interesting. Mind you, I didn’t chat with too many locals. The ones we did talk to didn’t speak a lot of English and it was great fun trying to have a conversation with hand gestures and pointing to things. It has been a while since I did that, and I forgot what a fun creative challenge it is! I just had this feeling that the people were a bit suspicious and cautious. When I mentioned my observations to the Deckhand, she agreed with me. Very nice and very friendly, but I definitely felt something a bit secretive about them. It would be interesting to know what that’s about. Maybe they have a lot of difficult experiences with drunken sailors or are shy because we don’t speak the other person’s language. Or maybe my observation is just full of shit. Who knows! I’m just sharing my experience of the town.
As we sat at anchor in the bay because there was too much swell to stay on the dock (two lines had broken and a piece of the metal cleat snapped off and fell next to a guy in the cockpit of the boat next to us), I saw boat after boat entering the bay. Depending on the weather, we knew that they would’ve had a rough journey and were probably relieved to be on land. It’s also incredible to know that every boat that comes in has done a 1000+ nautical mile journey. I felt a certain pride at being a sailor and being one of those few on earth who have done this magical journey.
On Saturday we wanted to rent a car and explore the island and visit the volcano, but a fog decided to make an appearance making this activity a bit pointless. The fog stayed the whole day along with rain and clouds, making it a good clean up and then watch movies day. Sunday morning was the same, except with gale force winds making outside jobs nearly impossible. We were getting blown around quite a bit. A few hours before we left, the sun made an appearance and some of the clouds moved to reveal that a giant volcano had been to the side of us the whole time, it was just blocked by the clouds. It wasn’t even that far! Maybe two land miles away, if that. We managed to take a few photos before the clouds came back, the winds picked up, the rain came and we pulled up anchor and pulled up our sails once again.
I will make this journey many more times in my life so when I get a chance to really explore the island, it will be interesting to see if my observations change. For now, the Azores is definitely somewhere I would recommend going to and want to visit again for a longer period of time. There is an intriguing magic about it that I would love to explore in more depth.