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.



Corvo on the small screen

Not that I feel Coca Cola needs any more advertising space…., but I thought I would post a link ( click the blue writing above)  to their recent advert filmed on the island of Corvo in the Azores, 10 miles north of Flores. We sailed up there 2 days ago, lovely little island! We are back on Flores at the moment, its the festival of sardines tonight…. Will write more soon .

Flores – the island of flowers

Well I am going to try to sum up just how beautiful it is here in Flores, but feel I won’t manage…
We arrived on Friday the 13th with a wet and windy arrival.image

We stumbled ashore in our full oilskins. Soon we found a bar; busy and steamy with young sailors drinking and celebrating Atlantic passages from various ports on the other side ( all drinks: wine or beer are 1 Euro here! ) : local men mutely watching the ‘world cup’ sitting on hard backed chairs, tiled yellow and green floor, white washed walls. The barman/ DJ was sellotaping blue cellophane to the strip light as the evening progressed. We played snooker with our fellow sailors (mostly french).
The following day the the rain clouds peeled back by late morning to reveal our new landfall. We moved into the tiny “marina” harbour where we can tie up for 12.50 Euro a day, inclusive of fresh lovely water on tap and electricity. ( first time we have been in a marina since November ) It is a gem of a place. There are lots of interesting boats, we have made friends with loads of folk here, and met old friends again, very social being on the pontoons! We had a lovely bonfire on the beach one night with folks from the boats.
The harbour is busy: with little motor boats, fishing boats and elegant traditional narrow -sailing-whaling- boats coming and going and ducks and cats padding about the pier. They have a static crane which locals use to launch their little boats daily instead of using the slipway, pick up trucks lap the pier, people paint their boat paintings on the wall- lots to watch. The village of Lajes sweeps up the hill from the harbour. The big church and gardens sit on one terrace and little streets twist up to, and past it , fields and houses sit between the ridges of hills. The buildings are white with tiled orange roofs, all extremely pretty. The grass is SO green, or is that just ‘cos we haven’t seen fields in such a long time?
There are several shops and cafes, one superb cafe for lunch, it seems to be a hub of the place, and a restaurant we went to the second night with a gaggle of folk from the boats. Its run by a German couple, they make every thing with local or home grown products, super good. There are absolutely delicious local cheeses , bread and wine, and – happily- its cool enough for us to buy butter again ( its been too hot for the past 9 months since we don’t have a fridge onboard ) so thats a delight.
The place feels old fashioned, and unspoilt. The buildings are traditional and farming seems to still be the main occupation. It is quiet and slow. The people are very friendly and welcoming. There are however some very new aspects like the modern mirrored-glass zig zag museum building, nestled amongst the village on the hill. It is a very attractive and satisfying building, with gallery space ( current exhibition : exhibition of religious art) , a theatre, little library, computers to use for internet and temporary cafe space.
We came across a party one evening in the street. Stings of lights and delicate pale bunting hung down either side of the little road. On one side was a decorated church hall and on the other a bar and a canopy over a square. A band was playing, a bar serving beer and the church hall selling white papers rolled tightly as raffle tickets. The little curled square tickets, blank without the winning numbers, lay like confetti on the church hall floor and street. Our friends Renzo and Edith won 3 prizes, even though the odds were low: a clock, a tea towel AND an oven glove! We danced barefoot in the street with the friends we met. Children ran in and out through the tent and the dancers with the blue flashing lights on the heels of their shoes beating at full pelt. A group of little girls set about demolishing a white flowering hydrangea with relish and carrying the flowers off. It was a great scene of life and goings-on after time at sea for so long.
We have explored on foot quite a lot, it’s so nice to get walking again after the passage. The hills are steep though so the thigh and calf muscles have been working! We walked up a hill (680 m) in the south one day. We found a brand new road which wasn’t on any map we had seen, steeply clawing its way up to the sky line crags. It was a double track tarmac road which we struggled to think of a reason to have been built, certainly no traffic on it. We heard later that it was the previous government who spent a huge of mount of money on pointless road building which no one seems to have relished. Anyway, great walk and superb view! We walked steeply back down a boggy, cow- hoof- pockmarked hillside on other side off the track and hitched back to the village.
The landscape is sectioned up into a patchwork of little fields in various shades of green. The patchwork is darned together with hedges of hydrangea which are just about in full flower, in a week or two the land will have rivers of blue and white frothy bloom. Dark green cedar trees form little forests. Bracken grows here and other familiar plants, palm trees are not uncommon however sometimes in a garden. The sound of bird song is thick in the air. There is a fresh chill in the breeze but hot in the sun. Really feels like Atlantic Europe. Its a joy to sea the place in this weather, we have been told its a completely different place in the winter: the highest recorded winds this past Feb were 143mph!!! Wow.
We had another walk one day on the west coast. We took the bus up and over and down the twisty roads to Lajedo and from there took the ‘old ways’ to Faja Grande, 13 km. The little track we took skirted along the hill side between fields and up and down over the shoulders of hill between tiny villages. The track was roughly cobbled. Horses, cows and calfs and a few sheep with bells around their necks were in the little fields along the way. We had a swim/ bath in a fresh water pool en route. Stopped at a water mill from 1860s( ?) which was still turning and grinding corn, worked by a stream which lazily ran its course into the cogs after having plummeted hundreds of feet down a waterfall from the cliffs in the distance.
We took the bus back to ‘our’ village, very friendly bus driver, we were his only customers .

We will spend a few more days here before setting off for Horta 130 NM away.

p.s. a few new drawings on the sketchbook page …

Wall painting

ImageWhat a joy Flores is! We are having such a good time here. I will write lots more soon, but for now here are some photos of last nights’ joint painting project : on the harbour wall. We had a very jolly evening along with some other friends Fred and Tina who were doing their painting too.

It is a tradition in the Azores particularly, but also in many other Harbours around the world, to paint a mark of your boat on the harbour wall. These are so colourfull and attractive . Its fun looking at the different boats who have passed through and to try to spot ones we know. – we have only done one other one, in Maderia. The famous place for this is Horta, the Capital of the Azores we will go in a few days.




Terra Firma : Flores , Azores


Terra Firma : Flores , Azores

We arrived this afternoon in Flores , the most westerly island in the Azores, 17 days since leaving Bermuda. Good crossing, a bit of everything, sun, rain, zig zaging between the Highs and Lows ( that’s pressure systems), one day of motoring and today a hell of a kick of wind to blast us in with heavy heavy rain, visability down to less than quarter mile as we aproached. Hestur is now anchored snugly behing the big break water, and we both snugly anchored in a little bar! Wet old afternoon!
We will spend some days here, looks like a REALLY lovley place, and low and behold, would you belive that on this coming Monday, its the Flores Festival day!!! What luck x cheers all

To sea they tolted …

We are heading off to sea again, leaveing in an hour or so from St. georges Bermuda and heading for the Azores.

We have had a great time here, a very nice mid atlantic pitstop! Its been great to catch up with friends on various boats and to meet new ones . Bermuda has been a super and  interesting landfall,  very attractive place ,colourful  limestone houses with white washed rooves, and very rich vegitation. We are starting to see more northern and european plants again, pine trees etc, but also lots of tropical things too, palms and beautiful flowers and Huge butterflies!

We have been to art galleries, museums,  forts, lighthouses, beaches,  shops and various lovely cafes, and experienced the spectical that was ‘Bermuda Day’!   What luck to arrive in time. we also had a cycle round on the Bromptoms, good to get their wheels turning again.

so now time to set off again. We are well stocked again for the passage, so here goes….

Well, Its a sunny day here in Bermuda

We arrived in BERMUDA last night, 10pm localImage time. 970 NM north of Barbuda. We  had a lovely few days in Barbuda after we left Antigua. We anchored off cocoa point on the south of the island, a huge stretch of pinky sand beach backed by palm trees compleatly unpopulated. we cycled 6 Miles up to the town of Codrington on sandy dust tracks. while we were there we had heavy rain and thunder and lightning, very dramatic. It was a beautiful island, wild and windswept.

We left on Monday the 12th May for the north, we were intending to either carry straight on for the Azores if we got good winds for that, or to stop in Bermuda if we got there. We had some fine wind at the start of the passage, and a stonking run yesterday but we had a few days of such light wind and no wind that we had to motor nearly 4 days just to push north. 10 and a half days later,  here we are . Will spend a few days here before pushing on for the Azores. What a nice place here, very friendly people, starting with the Bermuda Radio opperator, and the customs man last night. And attractive place.