Photographer's Note

One of the secluded oceanfront properties along almost 1000 km Azores Islands coast boasting 180+ frontage.
We're now halfway to Ireland after an outrageously great three weeks in the Azores. We didn't want to leave those wonderful islands and, in fact, are already planning the places we'll anchor at and visit when we return next November.

We visited five of the seven islands, and found that each one has a totally different feel, as the architecture and agriculture are unique, and each one was settled by people from different countries. Many new retirement and summer homes have been built by Azoreans who immigrated to the U.S. - Boston and California's Central Valley in particular - but have now returned home after having successful careers.

Few cruisers stop anywhere other than Horta, which is on the island of Faial. But since there is very little tourism on the other islands - just locals who moved to the States returning for the summer holidays, and a few German hikers - the prices are surprisingly low. That, along with very outgoing and friendly populations, and wonderful island histories, make them a dream for cruisers.

We attempted - and succeeded - in completing a three-day, 75-mile circumnavigation of Pico Island. Talk about getting sore butts! That's because we did it aboard our little Dahon Helios folding bikes. Every time that Amanda stopped to take a picture of anything - a cow, a vineyard, a field of corn, salted fish drying in the sun, whatever - locals would show up and want to visit. They are so proud of their little houses, farms, and villages, and therefore they wanted to show us everything. On our last day on Pico, we found a two-story house with two additional outbuildings across the street that was for sale - for just $40,000! And it was right above a cove. We were very tempted to buy it, especially when we met a guy down the street who had just opened a boat building museum in his family's boatyard. It turned out that he'd just retired - after 38 years of working at Alden Yachts in Rhode Island!

Our last stop was at the historic city of Angra do Heroismo on the island of Terceira. This stunning city was founded in 1474 and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The new 260-slip marina was hosting 47 sailboats that were competing in a race from Lisbon to Horta, with stops in Ponta Delgada and Angra. The marina was totally packed with people! We thought that we would just scope out the marina and then anchor outside, but the harbormaster wouldn't hear of it. Insisting that they never turned boats away, he shifted a few boats around and found us a slip for the night.

The new marina there is a showcase, as the building that's home to the showers, Internet, jacuzzi and laundry looks like part of a five-star hotel! When we asked if the marina was self-supporting, the harbormaster laughed - and then told us that it would only be $16/night for our 46-footer. He explained that the marina is owned by the Camara, or town council, and that the business leaders had decided that if they built the nicest marina around, it would attract lots of sailors and other visitors. Not content with just a marina, they are nearing completion of a $6 million euro - about $8 million U.S. - boatyard for their new 50-ton Travelift. The yard will be able to handle fiberglass, diesel, electronic, and sail repairs, and will also have a restaurant.

When we told the harbormaster that we had planned to leave Mahina Tiare at Ponta Delgada for the winter of '07, he started listing all the reasons why his new facility was better - and succeeded in convincing us! We later figured out that in the 1700s and 1800s, the different villages and towns used to compete to see who could build the biggest and most ornate Catholic churches. There are countless churches on the islands - even the tiny villages have them. Now it's the marinas, not the churches, that seem to be the showcases. This is especially true because the towns can apply for matching E.C. funds for construction. Horta, for example, just expanded their marina by 120 berths, Ponta Delgada is doing a major expansion, Praia do Vittoria just opened a new marina and boatyard, and even Pico is building a new breakwater for a marina. The beneficiaries are adventuresome cruisers, bars, restaurants, and other businesses.

We've had very mellow conditions on our trip from the Azores to Ireland so far, with southwest - following winds - averaging about 10 knots. We're near the center of the high pressure now and the wind has dropped off, but hopefully we'll get the chute back up tomorrow!

- john & amanda 08/15/06

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Additional Photos by Ilena Lo (NaturalLand) Silver Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 26 W: 0 N: 141] (639)
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