Saturday, November 15, 2014

Praia da Vitoria, Terciera, Azores

Praia streets
Nomad has been in the Azores for over a month now, most of the time in Praia da Vitoria on the Island of Terciera. I caught up on some much needed maintenance as this is the first time I have really stopped to work on the boat since leaving the Dominican Republic. I had sailed here with the intention of anchoring in the harbor, but the surge in the anchorage made launching the dinghy a hazardous operation. The marina transient rates here for 12 to 15 meter boats is about $10 USD per day including water, electric and wifi. Stay for a month and get 2 free days. This is a bit of a boat trap, as people stop in for a week or two and end up staying months or years! Walking around the marina one day, I noticed a familiar boat, it was a couple I had met in the Caribbean earlier this year and they are planning to settle here permanently. Everything in town is within walking distance and the is bus service all over the island including to Angra do Heroismo, on the south coast. 
Old church in Praia
The Azores are an intriguing place with a lot of European history , having been settled since the early 1400's although is is thought that the islands were know of much earlier. The Azores has been a stopping place  for sailors from the time of Columbus, Labrador and Cabot through Slocum and  is still the stop of choice for cruisnig sailors crossing the Atlantic.
 It is mid November and the weather is beginning to change into the winter pattern here so it is time to get back to sailing again and head a little further south.
Very narrow entrance into the marina

Waterfront walk, Praia da Vitoria

Streets of Angra do Heroismo

Town square, Angra

Marina with anchorage space outside, Angra

Old church, Angra

Garden in Angra

Angra, more gardens

Looking up the stairs to the monument behind the Marina

Looking down, halfway to the top

Sunset over Praia from the monument

Praia da Vitoria

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Horta, Faial,Azores

Away from the cold green waters of the Grand Banks at last!
 The 15 day trip from St Pierre to Horta was uneventful thanks to a good break in the late season weather. The sea state crossing the Grand Banks was a bit rough with shallow water waves similar to the Gulf of Mexico with the added benefit of a 2-3 meter swell rolling down from the big storm to the north crossing the wind waves at a right angle. The windvane's water paddle hit something on the last bit of the Grand Banks and broke the safety tube.  While I replaced it and the chafed line that keeps the paddle attached to the boat if the tube breaks, the boat continued on course as if nothing happened. She balances very well with the right sail combination. Five days out
Beating into a stiff headwind
 and just off the Grand Banks I met another sailboat from Boston also enroute to Horta. They tacked across ahead of me and I did not see them again until they arrived in Horta about 15 hours after me. Also talked with a longliner working in the area at the same time, three boats meeting in mid ocean seems a bit crowded. There was a fair bit of traffic along 41N with many ships south of the great circle route avoiding the large storm just to the north.
I spent two days beating into headwinds before the wind changed , could only go SW(wrong direction) or NE(towards the large storm). I had wanted to stop Flores, but the two conditions that the guidebook said to avoid
The famed seawall in Horta with sailor's artwork
were both present, so I altered course for Faial. The forecast N wind veered to the NE, driving me S of Faial, so I motorbeat into it for the last 30 miles in order to make a daylight arrival. Cleared customs the next morning and was assigned a slip. I was told no anchoring in the harbor unless the marina was full. My mail was not to arrive for another four days, leaving me impressed that I could cross the Atlantic under sail faster than Express mail could! The swell from the storm up north caused quite a surge in the harbor for the first few days that I was here, breaking one dockline when the chafing gear slipped out of position overnight. That huge storm east of Greenland had been a feature on the weather fax for most of the trip and dwarfed the hurricanes that were coming north from the tropics. Ilda and Duncan at Mid Atlantic Yacht Service were a
 Horta city center
great help, receiving mail for me and getting replacement parts for the motor and windvane.
Horta streets
After eight days in Horta, there was a slight break in the weather, giving me just enough time to sail to Terciera.
City park  with good wifi for Skype calls

Saturday, November 1, 2014


Entrance to the inner harbor
 The island of St Pierre with 6000 people is the population center of St.Pierre et Miquelon. This is mainly due to the large natural harbor on the island, while Miquelon, although much larger, has only a small man made basin.The children from Miquelon come here to finish their education and then they all go to France for for college. There is quite a bit of history here,from settelment times and the various wars to the rise and fall of the fishing industry. The largest boost to the local economy was during the USA Prohibition era when St Pierre was a major port for smuggling alcohol into the USA. It was far more profitable than fishing. I was anchored here for several days, but was
French wine
 unable to row ashore a few times due to high winds. When the forecast for the next storm went from 35 knots to 55 knots overnight, I decided it was time to find a dock. With the help of the local tourist office I received permission fro the Captain of the Port to tie up on the dock below his office on a Sunday afternoon, and remained there until I sailed for the Azores. I took a guided tour of the island that was very worthwhile learning about the place from a local resident who also speaks english. I explored most of the town on foot as it is not very large. There was a gas station near the docks, but it had been closed due to a fire. The other gas station was across town, but it was next to the fish market, so I came home with fresh fish and diesel on the refueling days. I had
Around town
refueled in Miquelon, but I was running the heater quite a bit in addition to the fuel I used motorsailing down from Miquelon. I looked around carefully but I could find no berries to pick, the season for them was over. There is an abundance of roses around St Pierre, so the big juicy rosehips became the fruit of the day with breakfast.  Grocery shopping was quite the adventure. Besides the linguistic challenge, there were many French and European foods I had never tasted before. There is a yacht club here, but their docks were very expensive.They also had the only public laundry in town that I could pay a small fee to use. I met one of the sailors from Miquelon who sailed here the day
St Pierre
after I arrived. After cold front associated with the storm that had just passed, there was a nice break in the weather clear across North America. Since it was getting late in the season in this area, I decided to forego anymore stops in Newfoundland and sail directly to the Azores while the weather was quiet.
Docked for approaching storm

Post office and Dounes on the docks

Waterfront walk


Local History
The approach to the tiny man made harbor in Miquelon  requires careful navigation to avoid the extensive aquaculture operations in the surrounding bay. Miquelon, along with the island of of St Pierre, are a small bit of France just off of Newfoundland's Burin Peninsula. Miquelon is the larger of the two islands, but it has a small population and has a rural agriculutral/ fishing lifestyle. The island  used to be two separate island with a sandbar joining Langlade to Miquelon. Over the last couple hundred of years the sandbar built up joining the islands with dry land. This was reputedly aided by the vast number of wrecked ship that tried to cut between the islands.There is a
Local history part two
visitors center with a small museum next door. Wifi and a bilingual staff were very helpful here. there are two grocery stores and a gas station with diesel within a short walk of the harbor . There is a local bank here that can exchange dollars to euros but there is a $13 service charge. The French culture is very different form Canada, with the mid day meal being the main one. Everything except the restaurants is closed from 1200 to 1330 or 1400. The food is great here and groceries are less expensive than Canada even though a lot of it comes from France. There is also good selection of wine and cheeses  in all the stores.
A short walk from the harbor is a bakery with
Nomad in the very small harbor
 fresh bread and croissants. I hiked up to the top of Cap Miquelon to check out the views of the island, which is geologically very different from Newfoundland. It was very "civilized" hiking after being out in the wilderness of Newfoundland. Maintained trails, signs, and even boardwalks over the bogs made it a very pleasant afternoon. I stayed here several days enjoying the small town ambiance and meeting the few local sailboat people, one of whom I met again in St Pierre.
The center of town

Hiking on Cap Miquelon

Suburban Miquelon

Facheux Bay Newfoundland

Allens Cove
 The mile wide entrance to Facheux Bay leads into the largest fjord on the south coast of Newfoundland. Although it is very open, good protection can be found by anchoring in either of the two coves or the head of the bay where depths decrease. The main body of the bay is too deep to anchor in except for a few ledges scattered along the edge, usually indicated by a small beach. The shore is very steep through most of the area, making it possible to lay alongside the cliffs with the boat.There are a few small hunting cabins scattered around the area, but I saw no people other than  small fishing boat that was working in the area.I anchored at first in Allen's cove as the wind
Allens Cove with less fog
was from that side of the bay. I explored the area in the dinghy and located the waterfall that I could hear from the boat. It had easy access from the water and several small pools in the rocks leading down to bay. This was a great opportunity for laundry with unlimited fresh running water. Washing a huge pile of laundry can actually be fun sometimes! I rowed upstream as far as I could and hiked some distance further using the streambed as a wilderness highway into the interior. This route is popular with wildlife too. I met a black bear headed downstream and after checking each other out, we both headed in opposite directions quickly.If you zoom in on the picture
The stream at the end of Allens Cove
 the bears rear end can be seen disappearing into the woods on the right. That was close enough. The next morning the wind shifted leaving me with my stern heading to the very shallow end of the cove, so I picked up the anchor and moved three miles across the bay to Brent's cove in very dense fog. There was an abandoned hunting lodge and another streambed to explore. As is typical here the bottom goes from deep to shoal very quickly, so I had to anchor quite a ways out from the end. It was challenging even in the dinghy to get to the stream as there were many large boulders just below the surface. Exploring the old lodge was fun, the inside still in great shape
Waterfall in Allens Cove
even though the stairs up to the lodge and the boardwalk were disintegrating. There was a generator in an outbuilding that looked like it would run with a new starting battery. I relaxed in the lodge for awhile reading hunting magazines from the '90s and noted that the food remaining in the kitchen had use by dates from 2006.It looks as though the only people that have been here since then have been a few visiting sailors. I could find no blueberries here, but the entire lodge area was overgrown with blackberry bushes. I collected a large tub of them while keeping a good lookout for bears and talking to myself loudly so they would not be surprised by my presence. Judging from the                                                                                       
Abandoned hunting lodge in Brent's cove
 large quantity of bear droppings , this is a very popular spot for bears. This was to be my last stop in Newfoundland. The weather was clearing and it was time to turn south and head for the French island of Miquelon.
Brent's Cove

Inside the lodge

Anchored in Brent's Cove

The lodge
The stream and waterfall at the end of Brent's Cove