"Cruising is hell. You wake up in the morning with nothing to do and by the time you go to bed at night, you've only got it half done."
So said Mary Baldwin, a favorite sailing friend. The first three weeks of our stay in Horta proved her right. We did a little bit of boat maintenance work, checking sails for chafe, having the local sail maker put seam kote on the mainsail, staysail, jib and drifter. (seam kote is a plastic liquid made by Hood that adds UV protection and chafe resistance over stitching. Cost us about $120 but could be well worth the price if it helps the sails last longer.) I went through every locker to inventory the provisions we'd used up and we sorted charts. There were two couples in the harbor who had just returned from Uruguay and Argentina. We borrowed their charts and had copies made for $3.00 each. But mostly we meandered the days away, exploring the lovely cobble stoned streets of the island, sharing dinners with people like Joao Frago who we'd met during our first visit here, 30 years ago. He took us to the best fish restaurant on the island, then joined us onboard when we invited Rika, a Japanese pianist and her partner Andrew, a British watercolorist who have cruised together for 4 years on 30 foot Brillag. They have earned their cruising funds by small art shows accompanied by music in places as diverse as West Africa and North Carolinas Intercoastal waterway ports. Rika manages to find pianos to use wherever she is to supplement her practice on a small electronic keyboard. I mentioned I'd love to go along when she went to practice at the local conservatory. This shy acting lady who is one of the few people over the age of 21 who is smaller than I, came by the next day to say she had arranged to give a small recital for us. Two days later we joined ten other cruisers for a wonderful two hours of Beethoven, Chopin and Scarletti played with pure passion on a perfectly toned grand piano in a 200 year old recital room, with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the Harbor.
Rika and Andrew, the wandering artists on Brillag|
Richie Roberts from Shellback, a 28-foot Bristol Channel Cutter was another interesting guest. There were seven of us on board Taleisin for a potluck dinner and Richie regaled us with stories of his time as owner of Mistral, the famous Herreshoff 63 foot schooner. "Decided to get a smaller boat now that I have time to cross oceans. I can set sail easily without all the complications of finding and taking care of crew, no need for big shipyards to take care of the boat. He told of being becalmed in the Azorean high. After the first day he launched his dinghy and set to work sanding and varnishing the bulwarks and trim. "By the time the wind filled in two days later I had her looking grand." (Our luck, the wind would have filled in just as we began to lay on the varnish.)
Horta's pride, the winning whaleboat and winning crew at Picos regatta, (see last months news letter.) |
We were ready to head further east on the 9th of September. I walked over to look at the forecast posted at the Port Captains office. I didn't like the look of a low just south of us and a big hurricane (Erin) over Bermuda. So we waited and by the next morning the low had become a tropical storm - and it was headed right for Horta. As Horta is, in our opinion, the best harbor of the island group, we stayed put. The 11th dawned stormy and wet. I walked over to Mid-Atlantic Yacht services to use the telephone booth and look at the ugly picture portrayed on the five day weather forecast. Minutes after I arrived, Ruth, the co-owner of the business said, "I don't believe this, hold the phone a minute." She turned to me and said her caller had just reported a plane flying right into the World Trade Center. For the next two days Horta seemed to come to a halt as everyone of every nationality walked around in a daze, or gathered in front of televisions in cafes and hotels to listen to the shocking damage caused by a minority of extremists who are trying to terrorize the whole world.
The public market at Horta is just a short walk from the harbor. The fresh vegetables were far better than at any other shop in town.|
To add to the depression, Hurricane Felix began to build, with winds to l05 knots forecast to hit the island in three days. For the first time in my life I saw harbor officials getting into work boats and helping set anchors from each of the l20 boats in the marina. Only 30 belonged to visiting yachts, the rest were local boats but the officials worked their tails off trying to make sure everyone came through unscathed. Then time began to drag as for a week we waited for the wind and listened to horrible accounts of the damage in New York and Washington. The weather was horrid as Felix stalled 300 miles south - winds 25 or 35 knots, rain or drizzle. Everyone seemed to be wandering around bored, depressed. After seven days I needed a diversion. I finally asked the manager of the marina bar if we could have a party there. Paulo immediately agreed to anything that would liven the atmosphere, and within a few minutes Rika said she would bring her keyboard. By 8 PM we had a potluck dinner for 40 sailors, sword fishing boat crews and another dozen locals with five guitars, a bongo drum and Rika creating an international array of music - some amazingly professional sounding. All joined in. We called it a Hurricane Party and Larry claims his singing was so bad it scared Felix away. Whatever the cause, by the next morning the hurricane was downgraded to a tropical depression. Two days later the process of extracting anchors began.
Emilio, one of the local sailors, invited us to the grand re-opening of his families restaurant, the Café Capitolia. What a feast.|
Our anchor had been the first ones set and our chain was under seven others. We solved the pick up problem by diving and bringing up the anchor, removing it from the chain, winching in the chain from under other everyone else's rode, then re-attaching the anchor. The drill was a good one for everyone. We all found ways to improve some aspect of our ground tackle and mooring lines should we again have to face a hurricane in a small marina. Larry and I are going to invest in new mooring lines now we have reviewed the state of some of our 20 year old ones.
Sunshine and a brisk beat to Terceira helped me forget the WTC for a few days. But the US has a military base with almost 2000 soldiers here. We met a few as we walked the lovely streets of Praia da Vitoria looking for the best ice cream parlour. It was obvious the soldiers were on full alert as none would say anything other than hello. As we listened to Forces Radio broadcast from the base, warnings were constantly being given, "remember anything you say could compromise the security of the base. Don't talk to strangers."
We have now sailed on to Punta Delgado, Sao Miguel where we are enjoying access to cinemas, fine cafes and big supermarkets to stock up for our voyage south as soon as the Hurricane season draws to a close. I am looking forward to the passage south as blustery, rainy weather is a clear harbinger of the winter storms that will soon rake these islands.
Best Wishes to you all,
Lin and Larry Pardey