Waiting in Faial to leave for home by JoJo

Horta on the Island of Faial, Azores, June 2016

The weather in the Azores was not quite what we expected. It was cold, misty, damp and...well, not the Carribbean! But it was also exhilarating, and satisfying and we were very happy to arrive, not least because another frontal system was about to hit the islands. We were happy to have got into harbour in time to be anchored snugly when this wind arrived. Weather was not normal for this time of year, the harbour master told me: "We never get NE wind! It's almost always from the South." All the talk with other yachtsmen was about the weather - how everyone's passage had gone, and the outlook for the next passage onward and home.

Island Swift (left of picture) at anchor in Horta with Pico volcano behind.

Island Swift at anchor at Horta
Many vessels were heading towards South Portugal and the Mediterranean for which the weather was fine, but the tricky passage North to the UK was more probalmatic! In the end we spent three and a half weeks in Horta waiting to leave! Many people left on marginal weather windows but our departure was delayed because I was unwell. I had a horrible cold with a nasty cough. When we did finally leave I was still not 100% which was not ideal. Sadly, because I was not feeling very well, we did not get to see any of the other islands. I think we must go back again sometime in the future, we particularly would like to visit Flores.

Horta whaling boat under sail.
Whaling boat under full sail in Horta
Those who have read my mum's book will remember the 'bath trauma' (when my mum cut herself deeply with a razor blade) well, the same shower block was still there, available for visiting sailors. They provided clean towels and hot water, washing machines, free internet and a place to charge  computers. What luxury! Because of the inclement weather the boys spent many hours here talking to friends and playing computer games (yes,we finally lost our battle against the dreaded computer games) and Simon spent some happy evenings watching the European football champioships with an eclectic mix of sailors of all nationalities.
In many places that we have been, particularly Madeira and the Canaries, there is a tradition of leaving a painting on the harbour wall to celebrate your arrival.  The port of Horta is completely covered with paintings, some very good.  We had not done this in Madeira or the Canaries, but decided that we should mark our passing in Horta. So one sunny day, we walked across to the South East pier and found a secluded spot to make our painting. Lochlann's help was very important as you can see from the photo!

Simon and I, painting our (very small) offering to the amazing wall art in Horta.
Lochlann helping to design our wall painting
Our little painting on the harbour wall in Horta.
Early on the morning of Friday 24th June, Simon rowed ashore to get internet access and returned with some shocking news - the UK had voted to leave the EU! This is very bad for us. We have a house in a France, my family live in Spain and our main work is on mainland Europe. The people of the Azores were kind in their commiserations, but it did make us ask ourselves, did we really want to go home
Ten days after our arrival in Horta the sun eventually came out, and we could see the spectacular sight of the active volcano on Pico. At 7000ft high it's astonishing that we had not seen it sooner. This was a challenge for Simon. So on one amazingly clear day, just before we left, Simon took the ferry across to Pico and climbed to the top. Sadly I was not well enough to join him.
Pico Volcano dominating the whole bay.
Pico Volcano dominating the whole bay.
Lochlann with the Pico Volcano behind.
Pico Volcano dominating the whole bay.
Simon walked and ran all over Faial while we were there. It is a beautiful island with many wonderful walking routes. One day we hired a car and had a family day out.  We walked around the Caldera, the stunning 8km rim of the volcano in the centre of the island, and we also went to visit the site of the 1958 eruption on the NW of the island. All the Azores are volcanic islands formed as the oceanic crust passes over a hot spot in the earth's mantle. The new land formed in 1958 left a lighthouse stranded inland and no longer able to warn passing vessels. The moonscape landscape was breathtaking, and we walked and explored, openly amazed by the the power of the Earth to change the area in such a short time. 
We loved the Azores, and we hope one day to go back and spend more time exploring.

Walking round the Caldera.
NW Faial and the new headland formed by the 1958 eruption.
NW Faial and the 1958 eruption.
Saying goodby to other sailing freinds.

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