On 10th May at 13:00 we turned on our motor, hoisted our sails and bid our farewells at Porto Santo, our port for the last month. The sea was very calm and the winds were light, around 7 knots, so we decided to kill the engine and hoist our spinnaker. What a great decision! Libra was going strong with 4.5 to 5 knots of speed, the sea smoother than ever and a bunch of dolphins were jumping and swimming around us. One of the best sailing days ever! We continued with the spinnaker during the night and the following morning, where the wind picked up and Libra was flying with 7 and 8 knots of speed! We took the spinnaker down around 5 pm and continued sailing with the main sail and our jib. We had to steer more by hand as our batteries were running low, but the sea was still calm and we were going strong. The second night was as beautiful as the first, albeit the sea a bit more wavy. Nonetheless, the stars were bright and occasionally falling stars would shoot golden lines in the dark sky, and us making wishes hoping they would come true. Occasionally you could hear the gentle ruffling of the sea and some florescent lights flashing, and you would know that dolphins were close, swimming in the bow or the stern. You are never really alone in the sea. Even during the night shifts, and even when no ship is visible, you always have company. Dolphins, seagulls, hawks, other sea birds would break the night silence and make you feel less alone and part of something bigger, a part of the natural chain.
After 48 hours we had sailed 319 nautical miles! We broke our personal record (325 miles in 50 hours when crossing the Biscay Bay) and we couldn’t be happier. After that, the wind changed, coming from the NW, so we were sent off course. We continued sailing upwind with good speed and entered the night with little less wind and less speed. The next afternoon the wind completely died out so we motored for a few hours, which was a good charge for our batteries but also for Jelle’s fishing as he managed to catch an Albacore tuna! It was impressive, a huge fish hanging from the rod and Jelle trying to bring it fast in the boat before it swam away! Jelle cut generous steaks and threw away the rest of the fish and we could not wait to arrive to the island to enjoy this delicacy! The rest of the trip was uneventful, we sailed upwind with a calm-ish sea and dolphins joined us on and off in our sailing. On 14th May, at 09:00, we moored at Santa Maria, the easternmost island of Azores. 500 miles in 92 hours and one of the most beautiful and relaxed sailing trips so far. We made it and the smiles in our faces told the tale.
Santa Maria’s marina, Villa do Porto is a very well-sheltered marina with big finger pontoons, friendly staff, and a relaxed atmosphere. We spent the first two days exploring the small, uphill town and cleaning Libra inside and out. On the 16th May we rented a 50cc scooter and drove around the whole island! Santa Maria is a very green island, with long meadows, tall trees and a variety of animals; cows, goats, horses, donkeys, frogs, lambs, you name it! The houses are white with blue or green or brown stripes around the corners , the windows and the doors and simple.
We started our road trip from the north of the island and our first stop was in Anjos, a traditional seaside village with a known church. Then we continued to Sao Pedro, Santa Barbara and Sao Lourenco. We stopped in Santo Espirito and bought some delicious fresh bread and baked goods. We continued until “Baia de Maia”, a scenic place with a beautiful waterfall, a lake and numerous ducks! After a stroll closer to the waterfall, we sat nearby and enjoyed our lunch. Next stop was “”Ponta de Castelo”, the south lighthouse of the island overlooking an old whaling station. Whaling industry was huge in Azores and although it is finally illegal, the stories, the ruins and the photos are still present reminding the history of whaling business. Nonetheless, the views were breathtaking and the hiking down to the viewpoint worth it.
Next we wanted to visit “Poco de Pedreira”, a highlight of Santa Maria and we stopped where we though the entrance would be, only to discover it was someone’s house. That someone was a sweet old lady, who smiling and talking non-stop Portuguese she walked down the road and took us to the place. Although I speak no word of Portuguese and she spoke no word of English, somehow we managed to reach an understanding. Sometimes, a smile and a friendly face can go a long way, when words cannot. It was well worth it, though, as “Poco de Pedreira” is a scenic quarry, with red, vertical stones overlooking a lake and a home to various frogs, birds and insects. An oasis of tranquillity! Our last stop was “Pico Alto” at 587meters high, which gave us spectacular views of the island and probably some mild radiation, as it is was home for many antennae and radio pillars. We returned a bit before 4 in the afternoon in Libra and relaxed the rest of the day.
On the 18th May we decided to explore Santa Maria on foot, so we set on a hike on the south side of the island. The sun was shining and our route was covered in wild yellow, purple, and pink flowers. The path was not paved but not difficult and we had magnificent views over the Atlantic ocean. We passed cows and green meadows, stone caves and small ponds. We managed to reach the “Forte da Prainha” and we were well on our way until we met in our path a bull who escaped its electric fence and was lying in front of us. As we were unsure of its condition, we decided to return and not continue further our hike. It was a wise decision, as not much later we got tired from the sun and the heat and we were glad to be back in the town and enjoy a strong coffee under shade.
On the 19th May and our last day at Santa Maria we met our neighbours, Josep from Barcelona and Maggie from Peru who sailed for years in the Caribbean and shared with us their stories and their advice while cruising those blue waters.
Don’t miss our next post, where we arrive in Ponta Delgada, the capital of Azores and engage in exploring all the magnificent lakes, thermal baths and volcanic cooking!