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October 2001

Dear Friends:

Disconnect - that is the word for the feeling I had as we crossed the Atlantic. Though we had fine winds for the first five days of our passage, days we had very light winds - some days making only 30 or 40 miles. But, since we had told no one of our destination, had no radio contact with anyone, no one was expecting us at any time or place. Therefore we were never pressured by feeling we were late for anything. That let us savour the slow but steady pace of our passage as we tried to make final decisions as to our destination.

The marina at Horta

What did we do while we drifted eastward? Indulged in reading some excellent books. (I'd highly recommend Carter Beats the Devil by a first time author named Gold. Both of us thought it was a real romp of a read.) Talked lots and lots about our adventures in the US, planned for our future, played cribbage, watched the ever-changing sea life. Dolphins were plentiful, we say a whale breach until its tail came clear of the water, not once but twice, counted dozens of small fish using our shadow as their special lounging area, even saw a large parrot fish speckled silver, gold and blue out in the deep blue, at least 800 miles from the nearest reef. Most special sight must have been the double moon bow that formed between two large rain showers on the night of the full moon. Silver, shading to almost black, with a hint of pink. Only the second time we've ever seen a moon bow. We took care of the boat, cooked grand meals, wrote letters to friends (some of the letters I finally answered had been waiting six months.) We had special evenings such as one when the boat was steering beautifully at about two knots, the sky was magnificent, the full moon was just rising and Larry set the pilot berth cushions out in the cockpit to form a double bunk and we stood (or more accurately laid) the first night watch together. It was tempting to spend the whole night together that way, but discipline got in the way and we separated, stored the cushions below and went back to our regular three on three off night watch routine.

Marima and Galileo on board Fragola

Shipping traffic was relatively light as we worked north to 35 degrees. But we did see at least one ship per 24 hours. We used the small VHF hand- held we carry to ask one ships crew if they could see our kerosene running lights. We could just make out their red light so knew they were within two miles. The ships officer answered almost immediately, "Can you give me your position please." I replied that we were due south of them, on their beam." Now I have you visually," the officer said. "You are exactly l.6 miles away and I have your red. But I can not see you on radar as the rain squall behind you has your echo obscured." That gave us food for thought, especially as a week previously we had requested confirmation of our radar return from another ship and been told we returned well from l2 miles, both from ahead and on the beam. Lesson: be reluctant to expect ships to see you in squally weather.

It's supposed to be good luck to paint your boats name on the sea wall.

By the time we reached our magical waypoint of 35 N and 45 W, we had decided we definitely wanted to go back to Brazil, to explore the area south of Rio and possibly down to Argentina. That meant if we waited until October we would have better winds and less chance of colliding with a tropical storm as we sailed toward the Cape Verde Islands, so why not go to another favourite stopping place, Horta in the Azores. "Always meet interesting cruisers there," Larry commented. "Besides, be nice to explore some of the other islands while we are at it." So we continued eastward to sight the islands l9 days out of Bermuda. We had fine sailing until we were about l0 miles from Horta. Then the wind swung to the north. I was on watch and decided it was time to take the big nylon drifter down at last (we had carried it for l4 days). It works very well on all points of the wind, even close hauled, as long as there is less than 6 knots of wind. It was blowing eight knots when change of watch came along at mid-night. As Larry was helping me pull the 560 square foot sail on deck, the wind began to increase. By the time we had reset the working jib, we had 20 knots. But the islands sheltered us from the building sea and by 8 AM we were anchored in Horta, surrounded by a lovely classic Portuguese fishing town that seems to have changed little from our first visit 30 years ago on board Seraffyn.

Before the whaler's regatta.


There is now a nice small marina where most of the international cruising boats, plus local yachts and whale watching boats moor. We were given the choice of lying at anchor for $l5 a week after the first week, or tying in a berth for $28 a week. Because of our smaller length we actually were offered a berth on a pontoon with water and electricity, so decided to take advantage of the chance. Boats longer than 38 feet must lie at the concrete seawall, and sometimes lay two to four boats deep. That means climbing over other boats to reach yours. Not only was our berth exceptionally luxurious but also within minutes of tying up, we met some of the local folks who run whale watching and sailing tours. We invited them for a cold drink on board and the social life of Horta began.

The port of Lazis


As most of you know, Horta is the hub of Atlantic cruising. This year 1100 boats have already come through here. At times as many as 200 foreign cruising boats line filled the harbor. But by Mid-August the season is over. When we arrived, a few days after Semana do Mar, a local festival, only 20 yachts remained. That meant it was easy to meet other sailors, and what an amazing bunch they are this year. Fragola, an Italian yacht designed by an Italian friend of ours, Carlo Sciarelli, and sailed by Galileo and Marina from Genoa, is just in from Antarctica. Then there is a group of Argentineans heading back home, German sailors on a 32 footer headed towards America, an international stew full of charts and ideas to trade. So we have just made photocopies of charts to take us through these islands and on to the Cape Verde's then south.

Lovely bows - you can see Pico covered in cloud.

Yes, we have spent the required evening sipping Azorean wine outside the Café Sport with other sailors while the moon rises over the volcano of Pico and reflects off the perfect flying saucer of a cloud that often caps this 7000-foot high cone. We have eaten the huge fishmeals served by the excellent cafes here for $6.00 per person. We've strolled the old cobbled streets of the church filled town and caught up with Azoreans we knew 30 years ago. And, I found a lovely seamstress who lived in Canada for 9 years before deciding the Azores was a better place to bring up her children, so returned home. She is making me new skirts from fabric I bring her and giving me language lessons at the same time. Her hourly rate, $6.00, a fine contrast from Bermuda and the balance we needed to feel fine about those high prices. By good fortune the small town of Lajes on Pico was hosting a sailing and rowing regatta for the 40-foot long boats that used to go out after whales.

Whaler's crew putting seezing on one of 6 oars used for each boat.

We learned that the Azorians always expected to be allowed to return to whaling once these mammals where off the endangered species list. So they never decommissioned these whaling boats, just kept them carefully maintained and stowed under cover just in case. Fourteen of these lovely boats, some of which are over l00 years old, showed up for the sailing race. Sporting huge rigs, they reached along at speeds of up to l4 knots on a 20 knot northerly. A grand sight, just off a lovely small village that has probably changed little in a hundred years. Strong red wine was being sold at every corner for 50 escudos (20 cents) for a tall glass. Music rang from a temporary stage right on the fish-boat landing. A grand day to add to the first lazy ten days we spent in these islands.

Last moments of the sailing regatta.


Now we're being lazy, doing just a bit of maintenance, getting ready to paint our name on the seawall, and maybe next week we'll sail on to explore some of the other islands.

A typical Azorian fishboat, now diesel powered.


Fair winds, and until the next newsletter, remember, always keep to windward.

Sincerely,
Lin and Larry Pardey



POSTCARDS FROM THE AZORES

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