Flores and Corvo, the islands in the west

We spent a few more days exploring the island, making the most of the calm weather which allowed us to visit some frequently untenable anchorages. We have been really lucky to have glorious weather to see it all in (well mostly).

As I said in my last post we sailed up to the island of Corvo 12 NM north of Flores for a night. The island is a little green bump in the big Atlantic. It has a population of fewer than 400 people, cows out number people 3 to 1. We arrived in the tiny harbour just as the weekly delivery coaster the ‘Lustiana’ (which had passed us at sea) was tying up and starting to unload. First the little red Pugeot 106 which was balanced on top, was lifted off, then the mini containers then the gas bottles. It was enthralling to watch the goings on, and the busy scene of pick-up trucks and spectators who had wandered down the hill to watch the weekly arrival. The swell however was sweeping in to the harbour and tossing the Lustiana up and down the pier wall, straining her lines and flashing the water from them in stripes as they stretched taught. It did not look good for a dingy landing so we gave it some time before braving the turbulent swell on the harbour wall: we reached the ladder, timed it right and skipped up. It wasn’t as bad as it looked.
The Villa Nova du Corvo is the only inhabited part of Corvo, its tiny, and boasts the title of Portugal’s smallest and most westerly town, but its like a little village. We wandered through the quiet narrow old streets and climbed the road trailing up the hill behind to get a view down on the cluster of orange roofs and the harbour. We found a couple of little bars.
The following day -Mid Summers day – we walked and hitched a lift in the back of a farmers pick-up on one of the only two roads on the island: up to the rim of the Volcano where we could look down on to the two lochs 300 m below us in the bottom of the crater. Cows grazed. The mist at this height, ( 600 or 700m )swept in over us and allowed the view in glimpses.
After lunch in ‘The’ cafe in town we set off for the island of Flores again, this time to anchor on the west coast at a bay by the village of Faja Grande where we had walked to a few days before. On route Dan caught a monster mackerel! A beautiful big fish, so that was dinner. A few days before a fisherman had given us one a similar size, they are bigger than the ones we get at home, and very tasty. We BBQed it that evening on board when we anchored, it fed us both and the was still left overs! We watched the sun sink over the horizon on this: the shortest night. I put some peat (which we still had on board from home) on the BBQ fire and we drank hot chocolate.
The anchorage in Faja Grande is one of the most spectacular we have ever been in. The cliffs rise vertically behind the beach, streamed by waterfalls, a ribbon of road skirts along below them to the tiny village at the end, visible only by a few prominent white low houses and the little church, white and stark against the green enormity of the cliffs behind. The sea was a clear and deep aqua-blue, black lava fields jut out from the flat land where Faja Grande is built, into the water, and are fringed by white waves. It reminded us a lot of Iceland. The water is beautiful and clear but there are unfortunately a lot of stingy jellyfish to be seen. They are fairly small but nasty looking with long tentacles. There are some ‘Portuguese men of war’ jellyfish amongst them which we had been seeing also on the Atlantic crossing. These are strange looking things, they are inflated transparent sacks of air with purple ribs and lines, they have a keel in the water and a ridge curving up with the air sack, as a sail, they too have long streaming tentacles. I have had a couple if swims here, though keeping a good look out for the stingers. The water is refreshingly cool after the Caribbean, but so beautifully clear. It has a very different quality. We both ( separately) also had a swim mid Atlantic from Hestur ( in fact on route to Bermuda). The chart guessed that it was 4000m deep. The colour of blue was so intense and it was so incredibly clear that shafts of sun light sank deep into it. We swam in oily calmness.

So that giant Mackerel… while Dan was cooking the delicious fish in the seemingly calm anchorage , a miss timed wave toppled the carefully propped BBQ lid into the drink! (Only 6 m deep) It was getting dark and the sea, at that point was swarming with jellyfish, so we took transit fixes so we ( Ahhem, that is Dan: the one who allowed the mishap) could look for it tomorrow. The following morning however as if by magic, low and behold- a free diver with full wetsuit, fins, face mask , hood, gloves and spear gun appeared on the scene. He swam close enough for us to indicate what had been dropped and its position, he ducked down and emerged with it on his 3rd attempt, we exchanged it with him for a bottle of wine and he swam off.
Swimming has not been confined just to the sea: we found a beautiful fresh water pool at the foot of a huge waterfall just near the boat. A little path lead up to it from the road. It was deep and large enough for a proper swim about, and a powerful ‘power-shower’ under the falling water. We went there after a long hot walk one day, very nice indeed!
We did lots more walking while in Flores. Several of the the old agricultural paths are maintained and marked as routes. They are a pure joy to follow. We walked from Faja Grande to the neighbouring village of Fajazinha one day. The path we followed out of Faja Grande took a route between little fields, encapsulated by stone walls. The path, cobbled, was flanked by two walls either side. It was like the main vain of a leaf, with the cells of fields branching off it, nuclei of cows stood grazing in several. It lead up and over little hills, we then entered forests, thick and dark with cedars, before entering the out skirts of the next village – which took the form of more stonewalls and mini fields. As we walked down into Fajazinha we could hear the sound of a brass band bubbling up from the church in the village. the church hall was open as we passed, busy with people. Cakes were being auctioned and port pored for the band. We took an old route back to Faja Grande which we had been told had washed away. The bridge across the Ribeira Grande had indeed gone, and points along the top of the sea cliffs had given way to landslides, but we managed to pick our way on and off the old paths back to Faja Grande.
The landscape and vegetation on the island is so varied. I wrote about the green fields and hydrangea hedges in a previous post. They are now more fully in bloom, along with a profusion of pink and white wild roses tangeling in the hedges. These incredibly sweet, well maintained patches of land which somehow fill me with total delight, give way suddenly and often to wild and exposed cliffs, forests, and rivers, raw and awesome. The cultivated landscape worked by people for centuries and the untameable, side by side. There is such a diversity of vegetation. In one little patch, being picked over by hens and their handsome cockerels were; figs, cabbage, bamboo, bananas and grapes. Sphagnum moss grows in fluorescent green mounds and facades on the hills and low wind-swept trees cling to the sky line of the misty summits.
We walked with our friends Fred and Tina one day along the costal path to the north of the island. We picked our way along the exposed and dramatic path above the sea to Ponta Delgada in the north of the island and walked back over the island skirting the highest point. We hitched a lift in the back of the bread van on the strait smooth roads over the high moorland, then walked down the incredibly steep old path down back to the village of Faja Grande. Steps built into the cliff zig zagged down. By the time we got to the bottom and looked back for our route, it was invisible, consumed by trees and rolling mist over the edge of the cliff wall. I could feel the pace picking up through the afternoon. We were nearly running into Faje Grande. Tonight was the night for the Festival of St Jaoa (?) and there was to be a feast of sardines in celebration. Fred was Very excited and determined not to miss out on a single fish. ‘ Sardinas ‘are a thing in France apparently, on the beaches in summertime. The bar which was hosting the feast was set up with long tables, white paper table cloths, big bowls of salad were on the table with bread and wine and when we were seated we were brought platters of whole freshly grilled salty sardines. Fred instructed us how best to tackle them: by hand. It was a busy bar, fish kept coming in on silver trays and the whole village ate. This was all incredibly and generously all for free! We met and ate with a German and Nepalese couple who we had met walking one day. We had lent them our fishing line while we were walking that day and they had caught 4 fish, one of which they had left for us in our dingy.
After a really rolly night at anchor ( the swell now was rolling in as predicted from the west) I got up and tackled this fish… I didn’t recognise it and it wasn’t till later I saw it on a fish identification chart in a bar: a Grey Triggerfish- know it? A funny looking thing and tricky to dissect. By the time I had chopped and cut all the meat from its thick skin and bones, I had a lot. Not knowing really what to do with it, and first thing in the morning as it was, I concocted a soup as we got the anchor up and sailed off.


Triggerfish Chowder

You will need:
One large Grey Triggerfish ( or what ever else happens to have bitten the hook)
Half a big onion chopped
Garlic chopped
Some bullion
A sprig of Rosemary, chopped ( I found some on a walk)
Glug of water
And few spoonfuls of ground corn ( so this I discovered is what makes chowder! I never knew)

Fry up the onion and fish with oil, add water, bullion, salt, pepper, garlic, and rosemary, bubble. Then stir in the ground corn, and let it cook in for a while adding more water as needed.

It was really delicious!


While we were anchored in the Faja Grande anchorage several other boats were there also, we had a BBQ one evening with the guys we had gotten to know from the boats at the BBQ / picnic places provided which over look the bay. There were tables and benches, and fire places all set up for the use of. Very civilised. We saw ( and used )several of these BBQ places across the island during our stay. There was also a nice cafe there where we would have coffee each day, and Pastel de Nata (very typical Portuguese egg custard tarts) hot out the oven in the morning. On the weekend this place was busy with locals,there was a little swimming pool for kids and a concrete slip-way where people spread out their beach towels and dipped in the sea.

We lapped the island by sailing south back round to Lajes where we anchored for the night while waiting for wind to head to Horta on the island of Faial. We left for the 130 NM passage on Wed the 25. I am currently writing this on route. Its 10 am on the 26th , Faial is in sight now off our port bow.
…. Sitting in the famous Peter Cafe Sport  ( http://www.petercafesport.com ) on  the High Street of Horta now,gentle rain outside.



3 thoughts on “Flores and Corvo, the islands in the west

  1. Dear Dan and Charlotte,
    Thanks yet again for such a wonderfully descriptive account of your time on the Azores, these blogs just get better and better!! It certainly looks the most beautiful place to hike, yet another destination on the wish list!!!
    So pleased you are enjoying the Azores, it was always one of Grandad’s favorites although they did’t explore as much as you have, he says that Ghida is definitely on a harbour wall somewhere there!
    Fancy you enjoying so much fish Dan!
    Continue to enjoy yourselves,
    Lots of love
    Mum J xx

  2. Dear Charlotte
    Your writings and images are immensely inspiring, joyful, free
    Thanks for sharing it all
    As you’re in the Azores, I can’t resist sharing a special video, from a special band:

    Thanks for that chowder tip !
    …and please put me on the list for a tee-shirt when you next visit these shores !
    lots of love

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