Throwback Thursday: From Dock to Shining Dock

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

This throwback doesn’t leave us very far from our last one, just enough time for us to finally get ourselves off Horta (Faial) and moving to the next island.  If I haven’t mentioned yet in throwbacks, because I know it will probably be the next big one to come, one of the reasons we had been sitting for so long in this area was because we were looking at purchasing a boat back in the States.  Not the one we did end up getting, but a 48 ft aluminum boat in Rhode Island.

As you’ll probably see in a future post, things didn’t work out with that particular boat, but it was enough to keep us by an internet connection (and an airport if need be), day and night.  So until we made the decision to move on, we sat in Horta and decided where our eventual destination would be: Europe, or the US.  Still debating, and with some bad weather in the not to distant forecast, we opted to move 150 miles east to Sao Miguel.  Here’s the post on our ride over, the first sailing we had done in a month, and since crossing 3,000 miles to arrive in the Azores.

You can find the original post here.

Saturday September 6, 2014

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Just as planned, we left Horta on late Thursday after trying to time it just right that we wouldn’t arrive to Ponta Delgada before sunrise a day and a half later. All the laundry had gotten one final wash, last minute e-mails were sent out as if two days were going to be a terribly long time to be away from civilization, and all the last of the provisions that we had purchased for a two week crossing were shoved into every little nook and cranny of Serendipity. All morning I had been watching the barometer, my new favorite hobby, and became increasingly worried as the winds sounded like they were howling outside the marina in the early afternoon. Four weeks of sailing in winds rarely over ten knots still makes me queasy to think of going out in anything over fifteen now. Forget that we cruised the whole Caribbean in 25-30, apparently it’s still taking me awhile to build back up to that.

At 5:00 we tossed off the lines and headed back into open water. Both of us were hoping for a whale spotting out in the channel since we still see tour boats take tourists there every day for just this thing, but we were only left with a slight chop and dramatic views of Pico while nearing golden hour. The pharmacy brand Dramamine I had just purchased during our stay in Portugal seemed to be doing it’s job, and as we carried swiftly along at five knots under a reefed main and partial jib, I was able to reheat some pasta for dinner without getting sick from the motion down below.

All morning I had been worried that I’d slept in too late and wouldn’t be anywhere close to sleeping when 8 pm came along, but just like Matt says, something about being on a boat instantly wants to lull you to sleep. Just after the sun went down and I had finished cleaning the dishes I was happily falling asleep in my bunk. The rocking was fairly gentle and there was no trouble falling back into old habits.

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Sometime during my four hours of sleep I heard the wind pick up and Matt roll in the headsail. From what I could tell we were still moving along at a decent pace and since there was no cursing or frantic movements I assumed whatever storm might be coming up on us wasn’t too bad and I quickly drifted back off. When I got up for my shift at midnight I found out that what felt like moving swiftly along to me was us only powering along at 2.5 knots. Our old friend. After getting a rundown from Matt he told me that while we were in the lee of Pico the wind had been a little schizophrenic and was not only constantly changing direction, but changing speed as well. He had just gone from 15 to 30 down to ten all within an hour. When I came up they were hovering around 12 and the wind was coming from our beam.

Just as Matt was settled into bed and I was left on my own the winds decided to shift yet again to begin to come more on our nose and forcing me to point closer and closer to Pico. It was fine for awhile, but we wanted to stay at least five miles offshore, if just for the katabatic winds alone, and finally I had to point us directly south just so we could put some distance between us once more. During the rest of my shift the winds finally started to back more to our port side and I was able to put on on a course toward Sao Miguel. The winds had also picked up to the 25-30 range, with wild thunderstorms off in the distance, but as it looked like they were headed away from us and we were only working under a reefed main, I didn’t put too much worry into it. The constant drizzle of rain we did get though was a bit annoying and by 4 am I was more than happy to take my place back in my bunk.

By morning the skies had cleared of storm clouds and we were just left with puffy cumulus balls and winds hanging around 20-25 knots. Our pace was pathetic, holding at just over 3 knots, and I began to wonder if instead of getting to Ponta Delgada by sunrise the next day, if we’d even get there before sunset. If there’s one thing I can not stand (ok, there’s actually a lot, but this is a major one), it’s getting within just a few miles of port when the sun sets and having to wait it out until the next morning to get in. Nope. That was not going to fly with me this time. When Matt woke up from his shift I let him know that winds had died down to 20-22 knots, and I know we’d been super cautious since our storms off Florida, but maybe we could think about putting out the headsail to gain ourselves some speed. We used to sail in this kind of weather all the time, right?

When I asked I thought we’d just be putting it partially out, I still felt like being a little cautious, but Matt was fine with letting the whole thing out. He didn’t see any more storm on the horizon and since it was day we should see any new ones coming from far away. As soon as the sail was let out and trimmed in we set off like a rocket. Our speed jumped from 3.2 knots up to 6.5 as the ‘Dip heeled over at a nice 10-15°. For a moment I sucked in my breath. We hadn’t seen speeds like this in a long time and I don’t even remember the last time we had a nice heel. But then I realized…we’re fine. This is what the ‘Dip is meant to do. This is what she used to do all the time before we became too scared to let her get into her groove after one too many squalls on our crossing.

For the rest of the day she stayed in her groove, speeding along at 6.5-7 knots, and even though we’d definitely made up the lost time we wondered if we might still get to our destination a little too early. When the sun was going down we rolled the headsail back in and went to cover the last 50 miles at a steady 4 knots. With the nights getting colder I spent my 12am-4am shift comfortably settled into the settee below while running up for checks every 15 minutes. Being less than 40 miles from the island at the time I spent my shift using my MP3 player to scan for decent radio stations, delighted when I found them although each station seemed to have quite an eclectic mix ranging from brand new Coldplay to 90′s Mariah Carey to turn of the millenium techno.

It was me who was in the cockpit once again as we approached the island just after sunrise. The last 10 miles seemed to take forever, not bringing us to the harbor until 11 am, but the sights as I watched us come in were well worth the wait. The SW side of the island is edged with sheer cliffs while rolling green hills followed, turning into the white buildings with coral colored roofs that we’ve come to know so well. For the last hour into the harbor I was treated to one of the best and longest dolphin shows I think I’ve ever had in my life. Plus this was a completely new species that we hadn’t come across before! Pods and pods of saddle back dolphins swam alongside the boat and tried to get views of it’s newest visitors. The whole thing actually went on for so long that I went from excited jumping, to snapping about a hundred photos, to peeking my head over the side while I enjoyed my coffee, to completely ignoring them. They just would not go away.

Once we were about two miles away from the entrance to the inner harbor I finally woke Matt up and we tried to find this elusive entrance in the massive bay. Eventually locating the itty bitty red marker that stood on the breakwater we fired up the engine and began to head in. It was strange when we pulled up to the fuel dock that there was no one working it, but we just tied up and headed inside the building. After talking to the local authorities that have an office inside we found out that we’d just crossed into low season and the marina is not open on Saturdays and Sundays. They told us just to grab any open slip and come back Monday morning to check in. Parking Serendipity in the new part of the marina (anchoring is banned here too, argh!!), we took a slip that’s probably meant for a 60 ft boat, but as they’re currently at about 20% capacity, we didn’t think it would matter.

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Throwback Thursday: Land Ho!

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

28 days after leaving Bermuda, and 48 days at sea since leaving Miami, we finally made landfall in Horta.  All of the nights of terror I been experiencing in the Bahamas and Miami earlier in the year prior to leaving were all for naught.  We did not get stuck in the 2-3 expected gales that one has on an ocean crossing (or so we read), and the storms we did encounter (other than our first night out of course), were nothing that us and the ‘Dip couldn’t handle. The few storms that had sent cannonballs of water against our hull only proved how strong all of us were.

Mostly the passage consisted of drifting along in winds under 5 knots and in glass calms seas.  It may have been an extremely long journey, but it was a comfortable one.  If we did one thing wrong I’d say that we may have provisioned a little light on food (mostly snacks) and are now arriving to our destination about 10-15 pounds lighter than when we left the US, but hey, a little fatigue and weakness is easily curable once you reach a land of plenty again.  And I was beyond ready for land, internet, and a full nights sleep again.

You can find the original post  here.

Wednesday August 6, 2014

Faial, Azores

When I woke up this morning there were only 45 miles separating us from Horta. A very dangerous distance because it gives you just enough hope that you will in fact be there before the sun goes down, but also allows you enough leeway to completely eff it up and leave yourself at sea for another night. We had 10 hours of daylight left and would have to average 4.5 knots to make it in time. Not normally hard, but the king of ‘I won’t turn on the engine, what’s another few days out here’ has seemed to move on board sometime since the Bahamas.

Luckily for me the winds have shifted behind us and built up enough, near 20 knots, that we were just holding that 4.5 average when I came up on watch. Through my whole four hours I watched the spedometer like a hawk, and even a momentary dip down to 4.3 would result in a sharp intake of breath. I was not going to lose landfall tonight.

Just as I was beginning to go crazy near the end of my shift since the winds were now almost completely downwind of us which was causing the headsail to flop around a bit (and drop into the low 4s..gasp!), Matt woke up from his sleep shift and I quickly ordered that we raise the spinnaker pole to get our speed back. That did the trick and we were comfortably coasting at 5 knots.

All afternoon I kept my eyes glued to the horizon in front of us for any sign of land or life. Directly across from the island we’re landing at, Faial, is another island, Pico, with a volcanic peak of 2350m high. It’s said that on a clear day you can spot it from 50 M away. This unfortunately, was not a clear day. After thousands of miles of nothing but sun and clear skies, our welcome back to terra firma was presented with low lying clouds and mist ahead of us. I had been burning holes into my eyeballs staring into the reflected light, trying to be the first one to yell ‘Land ho!’ while Matt napped below, but I couldn’t make anything out through the haze.

It wasn’t until hours later when I had given up and begun my showering routine to make myself presentable to people again after a month at sea that Matt was able to pick out a shadow through the clouds. After lots of pointing and references I was able to see it too, honestly a little disappointed that this barely visible outline was my welcome back to humanity. It was land though, and we were quickly approaching it with just enough time to eek in before sunset. Although I think it’s high time we finally update our clocks to the proper time zone, a full two hours ahead of what they’re currently reading.

If anyone was even going to be there to check us in at the now revised hour of 8:30, I wanted to make sure I looked very nice and hopefully distract them from the fact that I was handing over veterinary papers for our cat, just in case we didn’t have all the right ones. Plus I was just excited to have any reason to wear something different than the pajamas I’ve been living in for the past four weeks. Now came the very important decision of what to wear for my first night in Europe. Khakis and a cable knit sweater? My llama skirt from Peru?…there were just so many choices! I had finally settled on a pair of skinny jeans, a tank and a cardigan, but Matt stared with disappointed eyes. “I thought you were going to wear a dress?” he asked. “Have you looked around?”, I replied, “It’s cold out here”. I guess a drop down into the low to mid 70′s now makes freezing weather for us, and it was more than my Caribbean geared attire could handle.

Finally I changed into a somewhat nautical themed sweater dress and applied some eyeliner before joining Matt out on deck again to watch that shadow on the horizon grow larger. We were finally getting to the point now where we could make out features on land and spot little houses and villages on the hilltop. The nearly setting sun was throwing rosy glows off the clouds, and even though I had imagined coming in to the crystal clear images splayed throughout our guidebooks, the view of Faial as we sailed in was indelible. It was just as beautiful as I could ever have imagined, and I stood there slack jawed until I remembered that we actually had to begin taking steps to get ourselves in the harbor.

Bringing down the spinnaker pole, we rolled in the genoa and coasted along with just the main for a little bit, until we were well into the channel between the two islands. As the engine was turned on and sputtered to life, we brought down the main and began running dock lines and hanging fenders. I swear, Matt and I can sail a whole ocean together and not have any arguments or communication issues until we’re landing. As I was trying to run the dock line at the bow it kept getting tangled in the wrachet straps for the dinghy, and since it wasn’t being done in a timely matter, a very impatient and agitated person was yelling at me from the cockpit until I became so flustered that I couldn’t touch anything and went to switch places instead. Since it was the only boat related spat we’d had since coming into Bermuda though, I think I’ll still consider our overall travel a success.

Faial, Azores, Portugal

Monte da Guia, Faial, Azores

Matt & Georgie coming in to Horta

Horta, Faial, Azores

Monte da Guia, Faial, Azores

Getting all the lines squared away we pulled up to the reception desk and music blasted from the main road. Unbeknownst to us, we arrived in the middle of Semana do Mar, or Sea Week. Horta’s biggest yearly event. Having read about it in our guidebook we knew that it was at the beginning of August, but we thought it only spanned one weekend and that we had already missed it. But from the sights and sounds on shore, it was still in full swing, lasting ten days instead of 3, and we could not wait to get out and partake.

Before we could go party though, ourselves and the boat needed to be checked in to Portugal. Having called many times on the radio prior to arriving and getting no response, I went to scour the office of the marina but could find no sign of life there either. Getting ourselves tied up to the fuel dock at 8:05, it looks as if we had just missed them. Our passports wouldn’t be stamped until tomorrow, allowing us one more day in a Schengen country. Darn.

We used up our last remaining hour of daylight talking to other sailors that had just come in within the past two days, many of them not faring as well as us. While we had taken a more southerly route and became trapped in the stillness of high pressure systems, most others took the northerly trade wind route and got a little bashed up along the way. We talked with one boat that had their autopilot crap out their second day out, meaning the crew of 4 had to hand steer the whole way. And to make matters worse, the halyard for their headsail broke not too long after, meaning they completed the rest of the journey with just the mainsail. Stories like that make me extremely happy we took the route we did, even if it means it took us twice as long to get there. Time we have. Money for fixing boat issues…not so much. Or at least, not that we’d be wiling to part with.

Bidding adieu to our new friends as our stomachs growled with the recognition that it had been about 8 hours since we’d last eaten, we pulled some Euros out of an ATM and went to join the throngs of people milling in the streets. One small section of park was set up with a stage playing what I’m guessing was traditional Portuguese music, and small food stands were set up all around it. Our noses guided us toward a mini doughnut stand where we happily handed over a few Euro for our first taste of fried sweet goodness in months. Continuing up the road we wandered into a tent filled with other food stands and restaurants.

Getting an eye full of this one stand that was selling huge sandwiches filled with sausage or presunto, we were sold. As Matt grabbed his sausage filled baguette and I asked for my presunto to be slathered in a creamy cheese, we ordered a few cans of Coke and went to sit with our new treasures on a wall overlooking the harbor.

Taking everything in as we enjoyed the food and the sights, I turned to Matt after about ten minutes and asked, “Does it feel strange to you to be sitting here, finally on land after 30 days, surrounded by people, and drinking a can of Coke? Do you feel as excited as you thought you would to be back on land after so long? Like this is what’s been missing from your life?”

He thought about it a second and observed, “No, not really. This is definitely nice, but it just feel like ‘Today we were at sea, now we’re on land’, easy transition, not as big of a deal as I thought it would be.” I pondered on it for a second, kind of surprised to hear myself say, “Yeah me too.” Smirking he looked over at me and asked, “So then you think you could go back out to sea for another month?” Laughing I looked back and him and replied with a resounding “Absolutely not!”.

Horta Harbor, Azores

Horta fuel dock, Azores

Horta insignia

Horta harbor at dusk, Azores

 

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Early Morning Walks

Wednesday August 27, 2014

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Insomnia…kind of sucks. There are two things though that make it infinitely better. One is when you realized that you have no job to wake up early for and nothing planned for the next day, so it doesn’t really matter if you’re in bed until one in the afternoon making up that sleep. The second thing that makes it better is when your partner happens to be suffering from it on the same night as you. No worries of tossing and turning restlessly in bed with hopes of not waking them when your mind is still racing at 3 am and you’re pretty sure you’d be much more productive on your computer at the moment instead of trying every sleeping position known to man.

This was the case for Matt and I two nights ago. If you can believe it, our sleep schedules are still a little messed up from our crossing. For the first two weeks we were in Horta I was honestly worried that I might be pregnant because I’d sleep from 11 to 11 Every.Day. If it wasn’t for Matt following mostly the same schedule I probably would have been running to the nearest pharmacy for an at home test and started calculating health care expenses in Europe while wondering what it would be like to have a Turkish baby. But then all I hear is Fat Bastard in my head saying ‘Turkish behbeh…it’s what’s for dinner’. No one wants that. Eventually I settled into a 12 am to 10 am nightly routine where Matt’s still been stuck in a 2 am to 12 pm. (TMI side note: I did take a test just to be safe and it came up negative. Looks like my IUD is still doing it’s job).

Anyway…back to the story…when 4 am rolled around and we realized that we were both still wide awake we decided to have a night time matinee. Or whatever you might call a middle of the night movie instead a middle of the day one. When the credits began rolling on James Bond as he caught the bad guy but realized the next assignment was right around the corner, I took a peak out the companionway to watch the sun coming up across the harbor by Pico. It was the perfect golden hour of light where the sun was illuminating the town of Horta instead of shadowing the area as it does when the sun goes down. It made me think that one of these mornings I need to get my butt out of bed and capture more parts of this town with my camera in nature’s best lighting. I thought it would be days away if at all, I mean, I had just screwed up my sleep schedule even more by having a 6:15 am bed time, but I did actually listen to my alarm when it went off this morning and got myself off the boat just before 9 am.

The best vantage point of Horta has to be from the water itself, but since our dinghy is still secured safely on deck I knew I wouldn’t be puttering out into the bay for those views and would have to settle for the far breakwater leading into the harbor. I walked out there with my camera only to find out that it was blocked off to me and after getting to an area that housed a few local fishing boats I had to turn around. I still managed to snap a few good photos before heading back toward town. Since I figured Matt wouldn’t be up for a few hours and a cafe con leche was sounding really good, I rounded my morning off with a stop at Calrsberg for a way overpriced, 1,60€ coffee with milk. Ouch. I think Matt and I paid that for us each to have one on a side street cafe.

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Spindrift

Monday August 25, 2014

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Being, as we were, the 1,000th boat to Horta this year, it’s kind of put us at the back of the pack as far as the majority of cruisers passing through this area goes. Not only will a mass of sailors pass on Sea Week at the beginning of August because it’s just too late in the year for them, but now sitting here ourselves well after it has ended, even the people who managed to eek that into their itinerary before moving on to the Med have now long gone. The marina is basically a ghost town, transient cruiser population: Serendipity.

That is why whenever I see a new boat coming into the harbor, I get very very excited. Nevermind the fact that I’m too shy to go talk to these newcomers or strike up any kind of conversation that might lead to sundowners, it just makes me feel better knowing we’re not the only ones left still passing through the area. So yesterday when we were headed out for my birthday dinner and I saw a new mast by the fuel dock, we decided we needed to check it out.

This was not just any mast however. It wasn’t only 60 ft tall and attached to a fiberglass boat full of German’s who will pass through a November gale and say ‘It iz nothing’. What drew us over to the fuel dock was a mast that surged over everything. This large black tower had to be close to 200 ft and was so tall it required a red light at the top so air crafts could avoid it. When we rounded the bend to see what it was attached to we were almost stopped dead in our tracks at the sight of this monolithic sea vessel. It was apparent as soon as we laid eyes on it. This boat was built for speed. Major speed.

Having done just a little more research on it now I’ve found out that this is the Genes-X Spindrift racing boat. It is a 33 meter racing trimaran that can reach speeds of up to 40 knots. It pulled into Horta just the other night to have work done to it’s rudder, but from what I can see of that bright orange bit sticking out of the water, they must have that project almost completed and be ready to be on their way again.
Most of the crew looked a little too busy with projects to be able to stop and chat them up at all, but according to their website it looks as if their next stop is France. I’m thinking that if I ask them really nicely, maybe they’ll let us tie a tow line between their boat and Serendipity and bring us along for the ride. Bring our average as of late from 3 knots to 12 or so. I think I can live with that. Heck, maybe they’ll even be up for switching a few crew members that will bring the ‘Dip the rest of the way in for us as Matt and I crew on Genes-X. I’m really good at being rail meat.  You can just drop us in mainland Portugal, we’re not picky.

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Some Things Never Change

Sunday August 24, 2014

8.24.14

I have to say, there is some good that has come of us being stuck in Horta while we figure out what we want to do with this aluminum boat in Rhode Island. Had we not started looking at it we would have left for Gibraltar about 8 days ago, the weather window was perfect and we were otherwise ready to go. The downside about leaving then, however, is it would have put us at sea on my birthday. And even if it isn’t much, I like to celebrate my birthday.

Trying to make the best of what would have been a crappy situation had we gone, I was ready to kick back and enjoy the day with a bag of Skittles and a 2 liter of Publix Black Cherry soda, had we been on the water. I know, really big measures to take in the way of celebrations, but you only turn 32 once, and I figured, Why not live a little?

Since we are still in Horta though, I’m tucking those little treasures away and doing the best I can to celebrate on dry land. The earlier part of my birthday didn’t go so great when Matt and I decided to tackle the project of varnishing the galley. If we do get this new boat, Serendipity is going to be sold and that means she needs to be in tip top shape. And it also means this project we’ve been putting off should probably be completed sooner rather than later. I was left with the easy job of taping off everything next to the teak, it was my birthday after all, but somewhere along the way a few wakes were thrown our way when I was bent in positions with my head upside down, and I immediately went from zero to sick. Seeking refuge in the v-berth, I napped the next few hours away and swore I wouldn’t get out of bed the rest of the night.

Not being one to make a big fanfare for birthdays himself though, as you probably read on his own birthday, Matt was not going to let me put a rain check on this day and cash in my celebrating another night. If I was not up for going out tonight, I would not be going out at all. These marina charges are digging into our pocketbook and extra fanfare has to be kept to a minimum. Dragging myself out of bed I enjoyed a hot shower at the marina and put on one of my finest dresses to go out.

Knowing that we would actually be around for my birthday now, I had stalked a few of the restaurants in the area this past week to see which one looked most appealing. What I had settled on was a little place that didn’t look like they catered the best food, or even a Caipirinha, a local drink I’ve been dying to try, but it offer beautiful views of Porto Pim from their outdoor seating just next to the bay. Over the next hour or so, even though the weather was not on it’s best behavior, we enjoyed our table along with some beer and bread and cheese until our food came out. Both of us having ordered sandwiches, we were a little surprised when they came out open-faced. Eating my stacked tuna sandwich with garlic mayo proved….challenging. Poor Matt’s open-faced supposed pork sandwich turned out to be nothing more than packaged deli meat and cheese that we’d been buying ourselves at the local supermarket, thrown on a piece of bread. As I mentioned, we pretty much only came here for the views.

Porto Pim, Horta, Faial, Azores

Porto Pim, Horta, Azores

eating dinner by Porto Pim, Horta

bread and cheese appetizer

open faced tuna sandwich

eating my birthday dinner

dog on beach, Porto Pim, Horta

What beautiful views they were though. After our meal we went to wander the waterfront a little, this time from a vantage point we hadn’t seen yet. Off to our right there was what looked to be part of an old fort that sat on the water, complete with a few small towers and a large archway that led right out to a small beach. Stone slabs paved the way down to sand and water and we followed the side that was high and dry out to the sandy beach, unfortunately strewn with bits of garbage. Deciding that this was not the cleanest place to walk and wasn’t giving me the best views to look back to where we had been sitting and eating, I followed the stones out toward the bay where I waded in ankle deep water to be able to photograph the spot we had just been sitting.

Not the smartest idea, as Matt had already warned, since this area of stone and water was also covered with a slippery moss. I paid no mind to his warnings as there were important photographs to be taken. Two steps further out into the water and it didn’t matter how careful I was trying to be, there was no traction here. My feet went out from under me and before I even knew what was happening, I was face down in two inches of water after hearing a loud smack on my way down. Matt came running over as fast as he could, probably assuming the loud noise was my hip bone cracking on the stone, but that would have been a welcome scenario since I knew what actually caused it. What broke my fall on the way down was my brand new camera.

An older couple that had been sitting on a bench by the entrance to the area had also scurried over after they had seen me go down. Once I had righted myself and began walking back to dry land, the woman hurried over to me. ‘Oh honey, are you ok?’. Silence. ‘Do you speak English?’. More silence. I stood there completely mute and dumbfounded, disconcerted over the damage I might have just caused my camera. I couldn’t live with the fact that I might have just broken it. I’ve already gone through that torment once this year, and if it was not working anymore, I truly was shit out of luck. There would be no more replacement cameras in my future.

Matt wasn’t going to buy it for me. When I got my first Sony NEX in St. Augustine he told me to take good care of it because it was the only one I’d be getting. My current body was purchased for me by my parents after I threw a reverse psychology tantrum about having to shoot JPEG photos throughout Europe. ‘I’ll just have to photograph the world’s most amazing places with a point and shoot. It’s ok. Don’t worry about me. Photography was only turning into my biggest hobby’. Ok, truth be told, I wasn’t trying to get them to buy me a new camera, and when they offered, I told them they must absolutely make it a birthday and Christmas present combined. They didn’t listen. Just another random act of kindness from them because they love me and want me to be happy. Which simultaneously makes them terrible direction followers and the world’s best parents.

When I finally gained my voice back I let the woman know I was alright and assured Matt that I hadn’t broken any bones on the way down, and surprisingly nothing hurt. Or maybe that’s what I thought I said when the only thing that was actually coming out of my mouth was “My camera….oh god, my camera”. I took a few deep breaths as we moved to leave the place, trying to hold my tears back until we were at least on the street again.

Once we were out there it was time for the moment of truth. I slid the switch from Off to On and watched my display light up. I sucked in my breath. There was hope. I pressed the shutter button and heard a clicked and saw the image pop up on the display. Matt grabbed it out of my hands to look it over himself and also snapped a few photos. Everything looked to be in working order. Maybe I hadn’t just ruined my life after all. Time to let out a few tears of joy and then head back to the boat for an outfit change before hunting down that karaoke bar to properly finish out my birthday.

walking beach of Porto Pim, Horta

buildings overlooking Porto Pim

wet dress after falling in water

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Picturesque Horta & Faial, Azores

Monday August 18, 2014

Capelinhos, Faial, Azores

Wow.  I still can not get over how gorgeous everything here is.  Every time you turn around there is something beautiful or charming or captivating.  It really is something out of a storybook.  If you ever want your life to look like it came out of a fairy tale, move to the Azores.  If I had friends here to keep me company, I don’t think I’d ever leave.  Any takers to come out?  Here, let me show you some more photos of how fascinating this island is to entice you a little more.

Horta, Faial, Azores

harbor of Horta, Faial, Azores

harbor of Horta, Faial, Azores

harbor of Horta, Faial, Azores

Matt on the breakwater in Horta, Azores

Horta's breakwater and Pico in the distance

Grassy fields and Pico in the distance.  Azores

Farmlands north of Horta, Faial, Azores

Caldeira, Faial, Azores

blue hydrangeas on road in Faial, Azores

oceanic pools, Faial, Azores

Capelinhos, Faial, Azores

Capelinhos, Faial, Azores

Capelinhos, Faial, Azores

Capelinhos, Faial, Azores

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Lazy Days & Porto Pim

Saturday August 16, 2014

Porto Pim, Horta, Faial, Azores

After our scooter rental on Tuesday, things have really slowed down for us and we’re just enjoying being on land, milling around with our days and doing as we please.  It is a bit sad not having the scooter at our disposal anymore, or any kind of motorized vehicle actually, knowing how much beauty there is on the island now and only experiencing a small part of it.  Not to say that we aren’t loving our time in the town of Horta.  It is a dream come true to be here.  But knowing those Capelinhos are sitting just a 30 minute ride away…..

I digress.  We really are loving it here.  Taking things slow, easing ourselves into the European culture, and just enjoying life.  I’ve taken it upon myself to turn my afternoons into cooking lessons.  With mostly constant internet at my disposal and a Continente supermarket just up the hill for ingredients (and maybe a few beers when Matt isn’t looking), I’ve been trying some new recipes that have been coming out great.  Even if it is just trying to make items that I love at home but can’t seem to find here, like my very own homemade tortillas for tacos and even homemade sour cream (thanks Boat Galley!).  Whip up a little homemade salsa (see how all of it is homemade?) and the only thing I’m missing for perfect tacos is cheddar cheese.  If I can sneak up one of the cows here, milk it, throw in some bacteria and other things I’m sure the internet can tell me to find, I might be able to knock that out too.

There’s also been the general wandering about town. We may not have the scooter anymore, but we did manage to eek one more trip out of it before returning it on Wednesday morning.  We turned what was originally going to be a hike up to the top of Monte de Guia into a lovely early morning scooter ride, and took in the bird’s eye view of Porto Pim below us.  A nice little bay with golden sand beaches, possibly one of the only sandy beaches on the island.  At the top there was a pretty church and pulchritudinous views to all the sights below. (I just thought it would be fun to use that word. And maybe I just expanded your vocabulary. Lesson of the day. You’re welcome.)

Another perfect place to sit and watch the world go by.  Maybe one of these days I’ll have to get off my butt and make the actual hike to the top to do just that, but honestly, walking across the street to the park is really so much easier.

Matt next to church on Monte de Guia

Porto Pim, Horta, Faial, Azores

bay next to Monte de Guia, Horta, Faial, Azores

Porto Pim, Horta, Faial, Azores

overlooking Porto Pim, Horta, Azores

 Matt also found an aluminum boat in Rhode Island that he’s really, really into and trying to get more information on, so at night here when East Coast business is still going strong but our internet at the marina is flat lined, we’ve taken to the town in search of a signal.  Just as beautiful as Paris in the rain, right?  I would assume.  Since I’ve never been.

Horta at night, Faial, Azores

Horta at night, Faial, Azores

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Touring Faial by Scooter

Tuesday August 12, 2014

Capelinhos, Faial, Azores

Today we decided to splurge on a little treat for ourselves and rent a scooter to tour the island of Faial. Having done a bit of research the previous day and then visiting a few of the rental shops this morning, we found that prices were basically the same whether you were on the main strip or off on a little side street. 18€ for a half day, or 25€ for 24 hours. We chose the latter. As we found in Key West, provisioning trips to the store are much more fun with a scooter at your disposal.

With having done the research on getting the scooter itself, I had kind of forgotten to do research on what to see with it at our disposal. I had no idea how long it would take to drive around the whole island, if that’s what we decided to do, or how long we’d want to be out before we tired of joy riding, so I only picked one sightseeing stop and left it at that. From our 19 year old Imray guidebook, which I’m ashamed to admit is the only placed I looked for things to do in Faial, one item had stood out to me while reading it over and over again on our crossing, and that was the caldeira. The sunken crater left behind by Faials volcanic cone. Our guide book touted it with the best views on the island and a perfect place to hike, stroll, or even enjoy a picnic lunch. Should we only have time to fit one big sightseeing stop in, I wanted that to be it.

Gathering information from the tourist information office that morning, along with multiple maps and directions, as soon as we had the keys to our scooter, we were off on the road that would take us there. Little did I know that the views taking us there would be almost better than what we found at our destination. Taking the well paved and well traveled road that led east on the island, we wound and rose up hills while breathtaking views of the harbor and town unfolded below us and I was pestering and poking Matt to pull over to the side of the road so I could get photos. Pulling over to one grassy spot and standing in awe for five minutes while other motorist made way for us, we found an even better spot another mile or two up the road. This one even came equipped with statues and an overlook. I guess I’m not the only person who thought this view was worth taking in.

Matt renting scooter in Faial

overlooking Horta, Azores

scenic overlook to Horta, Azores

Now that we were beginning to climb in altitude and were no longer blocked by the hills surrounding us, the winds began to pick up to something fierce as we rode along. The light and airy tank that I had been sweating through down in town was now doing little to keep me warm, and my helmet, although securely attached, was now starting to blow back off my head, forcing me to hold on to the scooter with one hand and constantly readjust with the other. Passing out of the farmlands and green fields, we entered the forest part of Faial where large ceder trees sprouted around us and fresh earthy scents filled the air. Both of us were dumbstruck by this sudden change and diversity and beauty. Simultaneously our thoughts suddenly changed to, ‘Do you see any property for sale, because I think we need to move here’.

overlooking Pico, Azores

hydrangea filled road on Faial, Azores

The ceder forests gave way to more winding roads with stunning views of Sao Jorge and Pico, with green hillsides and blue hydrangeas leading the way. It was almost too much beauty to handle, it seemed like something out of a fairy tale. On we pressed though, closer to the caldeira, and further on in altitude and dropping temperatures. As we pulled into the parking lot full of tourists for the caldera I doubt it took me two seconds to grab my windbreaker out of my backpack and put it on. From there we wandered through a small tunnel that brought us out to a viewing platform for the caldera, full of plaques listing the history and different kinds of flora and fauna to be found in the area. It was a nice view, although a little crowded, and even though we were clad in flip-flops, we decided we wanted to walk the rim to the highest point for even better views.

Trotting down the dirt path and occasionally stepping over rocks and up sometimes muddy slopes, we made it to the top of the caldeira just in time to enjoy 60 seconds of a remarkable view before the clouds rolled in and draped us in fog. Taking in as much of the 360 degree view as possible, we noticed that we were quickly the only people left there and wondered if something nasty was moving in since all the other hikers had already made a hasty decent back down to the parking lot. We quickly joined them, bathed in sunshine once more at the bottom, and hopped back on the scooter to see what else we could gawk at that day.

The caldera sits right in the middle of the island and we chose to take a route north and then drive the remaining circle around the island back to Horta. For the most part we were on paved roads, although we did take one dirt path just off from the caldeira that would lead us out to civilization again. Of course it had to be an area that we were taking a somewhat steep decent, a blast in a rally car I’m sure, but not the best thing for rental scooters. Inching carefully forward it wasn’t until we were about 100 feet from level ground that we wiped out in the reddish soil. Luckily neither of us were badly hurt, although Matt did end up with a few new scrapes, and we’re pretty sure the ones on the bike had already been there. Soon enough though, we were back out on a main road, one that completed a higher elevated circumnavigation of the island.

caldera, Faial, Azores

caldera, Faial, Azores

As we were winding up the hill, passing under leafy green trees and gorgeous ocean views off to our side, I figured this was the perfect time to blurt out ‘Happy Anniversary!!’. I knew Matt wouldn’t have remembered this date. No, it’s not our wedding anniversary (although our 10 year is coming up this December, woohoo!), that one I’ve ingrained in his mind long ago. This was our two year cruising anniversary. It hadn’t even hit me until we had been out for an hour or two that morning, and even though it happened accidentally, what a perfect way to celebrate. Wow, to think of how far we’ve come in the past two years. From our familiar stomping grounds of Lake Michigan, all the way down the East Coast, touring the northern part of the Caribbean, and now all the way over here. And to think I had been ready to throw in the towel at 10 months. To keep going is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

seaside town in Faial, Azores

 

While making our gorgeous drive back to Horta through small villages and sea side towns, we passed a sign on the road that had a set of binoculars, meaning there was some kind of overlook or sightseeing attraction, and we thought, ‘Why not?, let’s check it out’. Just like on our way up to the caldeira, the road leading to this new spot almost looked better than what could have been waiting for us at the end. Resort buildings that were alluring but not over the top, more cedar lined streets, and old world stone buildings with bright blue shutters. What we found waiting for us at the end of the road was just icing on the cake.

If the cedar forest was varied from the quaint towns on the coast, we had just stepped on to Mars. The area the signs had been leading us to was the Vulcão dos Capelinhos or ‘Little Cape’, a monogenetic volcano (so Wikipedia tells me). I didn’t really know what it all meant at the time, all I knew is that it was one of the most incredible things I’d ever seen and completely not at all what I was expecting. This area is part of a volcanic eruption that lasted from September 1957 until October 1958 that enlarged the area by 2.4km with volcanic ash. Over 2,000 people had to be evacuated, many moving to the US or Canada.

What’s left of the area now is desert and sand with backdrops of large sandy and rocky cliffs that range from golden beige to espresso brown to burnt red. There’s a lighthouse that overlooks all of it, and at the bottom of the road leading to the coast is a portioned off swimming area between large jagged rocks. Following the other groups of loiterers, we trekked up the steep sandy hill to the top of the barren landscape. The views only got better the higher we climbed, and we marched through the dust and stones to find one spot that looks north over the coast and a staggering colorful cave with lush green hills just behind it. I could have stared at that view all day without it ever getting old.

Lighthouse do Capelinhos, Faial, Azores

Capelinhos, Faial, Azores

Lighthouse at Capelinhos, Faial, Azores

Capelinhos, Faial, Azores

 If it wasn’t for the fact that it was turning into late afternoon and we still hadn’t eaten yet, our lunch still packed inside the scooter sitting in the parking lot, I probably would have. Back down the hot and dusty hills we went, the lack of food and water so far for the day finally catching up with me. Stumbling back to the scooter I kept repeating to myself ‘I’m going to die. Holy crap, I’m going to die. Feet don’t fail me now.’ I made it back to the scooter without collapsing and we rode the half mile down to the natural oceanic pools where we dug into our sandwiches and watched the families on holiday. Matt was lucky enough to have worn swim trunks out for the day and even took a dip in the refreshing water.

I think it’s safe to say that even having the highest of expectation of Faial, it continues to blow them all way. Around every corner is something new and unexpected and stunning. I’m not lying when I say I think I could put roots down here. Turn that scooter around I think I saw a place for sale next to the stone house with the blue shutters!

*I’ve only used a small portion of the photos from today in this post, make sure to stay tuned for Picturesque Faial to see more!

Matt diving into natural pool in Azores

family at natural pools, Faial, Azores

natural swimming areas, Faial, Azores

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Full Moon & Fireworks

Sunday August 12, 2014

moon rising over Pico, Azores

Wow, Semana do Mar has kept us out every single night this week.  Since forced into a marina though (they don’t allow anchoring in the harbor here, we were a little disppointed about that), there’s no reason not to step off the boat every night and check out the festivities.  Plus I can usually talk Matt into buying us at least one round of those incredibly delicious 1€ sangrias, which are almost worth getting off the boat for themselves.  With equally incredibly low wine prices here, I’ve found 1 liter boxes at the supermarket for 1,25€, I’ve actually tried to make my own sangria but have come nowhere close.  I may have to spend much of my time in Europe perfecting this and possibly buying some brandy or Triple Sec.

While sitting around this evening drinking one of my own not-so-perfect sangrias while making dinner, and momentarily running up the companion way to take some photos of the sunset reflecting off the volcano of Pico, I heard a friendly ‘Hello!’ off the dock next to me.  It looks as if someone else had the same idea as I did, and happened to be another American who was quite surprised to see another vessel in the marina carrying stars and stripes on it’s stern.  He introduced himself as Richard, a New Yorker that had just arrived in his 44 ft Katy Krogan, the exact same boat that our friend Luis owns in Guatemala.  After talking for a few moments about our trips over from the States, he informed me that not only was tonight going to be a full moon, something I’m not sure I’d been paying attention to, but that this moon was going to rise right over the peak of Pico.

An awesome photo opportunity it sounded like, and while thanking him I let him know of the fireworks show that was supposed to be going on that night, a piece of information I’d gathered from the local OCC Port Officer when he came to greet us a day or two after our arrival.  (João, an extremely nice gentleman that gave us so much great information on the town and on Sea Week).  I let Richard know that I didn’t know exactly what time these fireworks would be put on, but if they followed suit of the late night beginnings of most other events, it would probably be sometime between 10:30 and midnight.

After my nice chat with Richard I went back to making dinner and almost forgot to keep an eye on the time for when the sun was setting and the moon was rising.  I had barley cleared the plates from the table when I remembered, and I grabbed Matt’s arm and rushed him out the door with me as I ran down the docks to the breakwater to try and get the best spot for a photo op.  We were just in time to get a few shots of the full moon hovering right over the cap of the volcano, although I am a little sad I didn’t get there just a few minutes before to watch it peaking out from behind.

sunset over Horta Marina

sunset over Pico, Azores

full moon over Pico, Azores

full moon over Pico, Azores

After going back to the ‘Dip for a bit, honestly after going out every night since we’ve been here can be a little exhausting after our recent laid back lifestyle, we waited a little bit before going back out for the fireworks.  We knew they must be starting soon since the walls overlooking the harbor were quickly lining up with people.  Snagging one of the last available spots we sat down and waited for the bright explosions of light to begin.

There must have been a lost in translation moment somewhere along the way, or fireworks in Europe are completely different than they are back home, but we never got the big bangs and fizzles.  What the show was instead was a bunch of sky lanterns.  Over by the quilt-work patterns of the breakwater, glowing lights began floating into the sky, a few at a time.  We oooh’ed and awwww’ed, still not aware this was their ‘fireworks’ show.  Soon the sky was full of tiny glowing dots, drifting off toward the dark horizon, and then it hit us.  Ohhhhh, this is the fireworks display.  We weren’t let down though.  How could you be?  Watching those soft lights float over the harbor, past the volcanic cone of Pico, and out into the darkness of the Atlantic was one of the most beautiful sights either of us have ever seen.

fire lanterns at Horta's Semana do Mar

fire lanterns over Horta's harbor

fire lanterns over Horta's harbor, Azores

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Horta’s Sea Week

Saturday August 9, 2014

view of Horta from marina

Did you know that when we checked into Horta this week, we were the 1,000th boat to pass through? They decided to throw a party in our honor, Semana do Mar, or Sea Week.  Eight days of celebrating just for lil’ ol’ Serenipity’s crossing.  No, I’m just playing.  Yes, there is something called Sea Week, and yes, it did happen to be going on when we got here, but it was no way in honor of us.  (Although we truly were the 1,000th boat of the year….so the man at the marina told me.)

The tradition of Sea Week began back in 1975 geared towards yachtman, but is now a big tourist draw between all the Azorean islands and even folks from the mainland.  It is always held between the first and second Sundays of August, which is great news for us because we thought it was soley the first weekend of August and that we’d just missed it.  Luckily that was not the case, and even after we pulled in after our multiple weeks at sea after leaving Bermuda, things were in full swing, current American music blasting from speakers lining the street as we covered the mainsail and began throwing out fenders.  Let’s just hope that everyone was already tipsy enough that they didn’t notice our dock line debacle as we were just hundreds of feet from the marina office.

I am just a little bit disappointed that we weren’t here to experience the whole thing, because the open ceremonies sound pretty cool.  Here’s a little description taken from The Azores Islands Blog.  Following the official opening of the event, a Mass is celebrated in the chapel of Our Lady of Guia, on top of the hill of the same name and the image is then transported by boats in the Nautical Procession, passing through Porto Pim Beach, entering the Horta Harbour and disembarking in the Santa Cruz quay. The image is then carried in procession to the Church of Angústias under the alert gaze of the people with houses along the route, who exhibit their valuable mattresses out of the windows of the upper floors.  Sounds pretty cool, right?

There was still plenty to keep us entertained though, even though we’d arrived half way through the celebrations.  Most of our interest was focused on the nightly events, although all the nautical competitions are held during the day. This includes a full list of things ranging from the typical yacht races (Regattas of the Channel; of the Mermaids; of the Former Participants; and of the Horta trophy) down to things like a Horta to Porto Pim canoe race, swimming across the harbor competition, and even water polo.  I um, may not have researched these awesome sounding events until they were already over.  Ooops.  Now you can see why we were focused on the evening activities.

Each night so far we’ve wandered out, still on East Coast time, which seems to be perfect because it fits perfectly into European lifestyles.  Music groups start at at the big stage around 10 pm, and last until 3 in the morning.  Even little kids are wandering the streets with their parents until well after midnight.

During these nights we break up our time between watching shows of traditional music and dance at the little park situated across from the marina, browsing the crafts sold by locals and gypsies, although honestly, half of it looks like the $1 junk made in China and breaks after three uses.  Loooots of cheap plastic toys for kids.  There are also tables set up with jewelry and knickknacks made from whale bones and other stones and jems.  Then we’ll usually grab a 1sangria and sit on the sea wall, doing a bit of people watching until something starts on the main stage, or we find ourselves in bed a little too early because we still haven’t gotten over our exhaustion of 29 days of sleeping in 4 hour shifts.

Last night though, the best thing in the world happened.  Not only had we met up with two other young cruisers to wander around with, always fun to hang out with people around our age, but after milling around the large stage and listening to a band that I think is popular in mainland Portugal, they brought a DJ up on stage to start playing electronic music for the rest of the night.  We l-o-v-e electronic music.  We’ve been listening to DJ Tiesto since he first came on the scene over a decade ago.  One of the best parts of being in Miami was getting an electronic station on the radio, something that is very hard to do, and we’re normally left trying to download new music through A State of Trance.

Breaking to the front of the crowd, we literally rushed the gate as we began jumping up and down and pumping our hands in the air.  Being outside, a light rainy mist fell on us and caught the lights that pulsed out through the crowds.  It was honestly like a scene out of a music video, and possibly one that we looked ten years too old to be a part of. Behind us I’m sure the adolescent crowd wondered what these old people were doing, but we couldn’t have cared less.  At least we weren’t as bad as the guy next to us.  Late 30′s, semi bald, bearded face, wearing glasses and a skin tight leotard and doing the robot.  Does seeing that mean that we’ve officially arrived in Europe?

8.9.14 (1)

Horta Sea Week

Pico, Azores, at sunset

Horta, Azores, breakwater at dusk

Horta's marina at dusk

musical performance Horta Sea Week

musical performance Horta Sea Week

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