Azores 100: Sailing in the Azores

Each night, when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning when I wake up, I am reborn. — Mahatma Gandhi (October 2, 1869 – January 30, 1948)

Santa Maria Island, Azores, Portugal

(July 15 to September 20, 2017): A German cruiser once told us that “The Azores go by 100; the daily high temperature is around 25 Celsius (77 Fahrenheit), the daily low is 25 Celsius, the water temp is 25 Celsius, for 25 hours a day.” It is not exact but it really has some truth in it.

We stayed in the Azores for two months and could have stayed longer but our time is running out (90 Days Visa Permission in the European Union). After having been in the Azores, I tried to pick the best island. If I must pick one, it is Flores Island. John gave me a corporate office kind answer; each island is different and offers unique things he likes about so he likes all.

Carrying the memories from the Azores, I have something to smile more about if I am ever again stuck in a traffic jam in a hectic place.

Cooking Food Underground at Volcanic Site, Sao Miguel Island, Azores, Portugal

***Memories from Nine Azorean Islands

Flores Island: Less Traveled Remote Island, Nice Hiking Trails, when we were there, the blooming Hydrangea flowers were all over. Some sceneries reminded us of the movie ‘The Hobbit’.

Corvo Island: Hiking in the caldera on the top was like being in deep meditation, even though the cow poop was all over in the caldera.

Faial Island (Nick Name ‘Blue Island’): We painted the “Bunny Logo” on the wall which is a kind of a tradition for cruisers. The volcanic site and museum is a must place to visit.

Sao Jorge Island: The marina is in the middle of nature. Zig-zag up and down hill driving on the island was challenging but worth it. Sao Jorge has cheese factory tour, and the factory was bigger than I imagined. I really need to stop eating too much Sao Jorge cheese as snack (my new addiction).

Santa Maria Island, Azores, Portugal

Pico Island: The stone wall vineyards are very impressive. While hiking to the lava tunnel museum, seeing a versatile vegetation on the side of the road, was fun.

Graciosa Island: Crazy me! I had a goal to visit all nine Azorean islands. We didn’t sail to Graciosa Island so I took a ferry (Cost 64 Euros for Roundtrip Ferry) from Sao Jorge to visit this island. Brought three locally grown melons (well-recommended) with me. Wanted to buy more melons but I didn’t want to walk with too many of heavy melons with me.

Hospital, Terceira Island, Azores, Portugal

Terceira Island: A bit touristic. Sand-less natural pools/beaches are awesome. (Not messy) Medical facility is super. John visited a doctor’s office to check his skin from his head to toes. (Private Dermatologist Consultation Fee: 70 Euros) John also wanted to remove a black dot near his eye. Doctor did a small surgery in a hospital. (Cost: About 60 Euros) We later met some other US cruisers who visited a hospital in the Azores. It cost them only three to five Euros to see a doctor in the hospital.

One of the Hot Spring Pools, Sao Miguel Island, Azores, Portugal

Sao Miguel Island (Nick Name ‘Green Island’): Very touristic. The biggest island and capital city of the Azores. Arriving here, we immediately saw a Burger King and had “Double Whopper”, right after clearing the Customs and Immigrations.

Hot spring bath near the volcanic site, was relaxing. (Entrance Fee: 4 Euros/person) We saw some cooking food (underground) at the volcanic site but didn’t try the food. The church bell rings like crazy on this island. We could not figure it out why it rings loud and fast before it tells the actual time. My assumption is due to the hectic city life, that people in the capital city, are too busy to count the time correctly so it warns crazy fast and loud prior to ringing the actual time?

Vila Do Porto Marina, Santa Maria Island, Azores, Portugal

Santa Maria Island (Nick Name ‘Yellow Island’): All local people we met in Santa Maria spoke good English. English seems to be the universal communication language in the Azores, everyone speaks a bit of it. Ocean views from the island kept whispering for me to try SCUBA diving but sadly the water looked cold for an ex-Floridian.

We had a cruiser’s BBQ party at the marina before we left the Azores and shared our stories with each other.

Natural Pool, Terceira Island, Azores, Portugal

Lava Stone by Natural Pool

Beach Next to Angra Marina, Terceira Island, Azores, Portugal

Ashtray Holding Stand for Beach Goers

BBQ Grill at Picnic Area, Sao Miguel Island, Azores, Portugal

Sao Miguel Island, Azores, Portugal

Sao Miguel Island, Azores, Portugal

Sao Miguel Island, Azores, Portugal

Outdoor Gym, Terceira Island, Azores, Portugal

Gold Painted Bottles and Other Garbage, Terceira Island, Azores, Portugal

Sao Miguel Island, Azores, Portugal

Town Gate, Sao Miguel Island, Azores, Portugal

Main City of Terceira Island: Angra Do Heroismo, Azores, Portugal

Santa Maria Island, Azores, Portugal

Terceira Island, Azores, Portugal

Santa Maria Island, Azores, Portugal

Santa Maria Island, Azores, Portugal

Santa Maria Island, Azores, Portugal

Santa Maria Island, Azores, Portugal

Sao Miguel Island, Azores, Portugal

Santa Maria Island, Azores, Portugal

Ponta Delgada Marina, Sao Miguel Island, Azores, Portugal

S/V Bad Bunny (Green Sail Cover) at Angra Marina, Terceira Island, Azores, Portugal

At Terceira Island, Azores, Portugal

Posted in Atlantic Islands, Medical Service Experiences, Sailings

Velas Marina in Sao Jorge Island in the Azores

Bad Bunny (Front Boat) at Velas Marina, Sao Jorge, Azores, Portugal

*** (September 10, 2017) From the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, I have been monitoring Hurricane Irma. I am somewhat relieved that Irma didn’t directly go over South East Florida but extremely sad that it destroyed many islands in the Caribbean completely and more on the West Coast of Florida. My thoughts go out to the people who lost their lifetime accomplishments. I am praying for their swift recovery and hoping for the better without them losing their dreams.

Rock Cliff, Sao Jorge Island, Azores, Portugal

(August 11 – 30, 2017) As the Azorean islands are volcanic, there are hardly any anchorages. Finding one, it is unsure of good holding nor protection for visiting cruisers like us. We have been staying in the marinas in the Azores. The marina cost in the Azorean Islands, is reasonable and affordable. It was about US$20/night (about 16 Euros/night for 47 Foot = 14.24 Meter Boat) including tax, disposal fee, water, and electricity. Knowing some marinas in the USA that charge about US$15/night just for the electricity, staying in the marinas in the Azores, is a deal for us.

Lula: Underwater Research Submarine trying to get under her mother boat. This submarine goes down 1000 meters (about 3300 feet) under water.

Among the marinas in the Azores, I liked the Velas Marina the best (Sao Jorge Island in the Azores). It is located right by a cliff where lots of birds (Cory’s Shearwater) keep their nests. These birds come out at night and make a strange sound like that of children teasing other kids. At first, we wondered where the mysterious talking sound was coming from. As the days go by, I got used to the sound and felt happy and amazed by it. For me, staying in the Velas marina is almost like staying in a cabin in the middle of a national park.

Rebikoff: Marine Research Boat with Submarine Lula, Sao Jorge Island, Azores, Portugal

Velas Marina is small and not really built for big boats. It is also the first stop for most of the Azorean charter boat renters, as it is closely located to the main rental island (Faial). We took a cautious approach to get in and out of the marina; however, we watched some charter boats slightly hit other boats while losing control either because of poor seamanship or simply being over powered by wind speed and direction. It looked like some renters are not used to driving a charter boat on the first day in a marina with narrow access. Disputes between a boat owner and a charter boat renter may get complicated. However, we were told that there will be security cameras when the Velas Port is completed.

The memories we had in Velas Marina will be treasured for a long time; the sound of birds, watching fish in the aquarium clear water in the marina, very friendly and funny Harbor Master (Jose), and also two cute college student interns at that time we stayed. Velas Marina is the most beautiful marina I have ever visited.

Public Ramp for Local Boaters: A remote device controls the movement. Sao Jorge Island, Azores, Portugal

Lamborghini Tractor; John was surprised of finding a Lamborghini Tractor on Sao Jorge Island, Azores, Portugal

Local People Riding Horse on Sunday Gathering, Sao Jorge Island, Azores, Portugal

Horse with Hydrangea Flower, Sao Jorge Island, Azores, Portugal

Old and New Stone Houses, Sao Jorge Island, Azores, Portugal

Arabic Style Church Building, Sao Jorge, Azores, Portugal

Fig Fruits; we bought 2 kilograms of green fig fruits from a house on the street (4 Euros per Kilogram). They were soft, sweet, and just ready to eat.

Yellow Fennel Flowers (Bottom) by the Shore, Sao Jorge, Azores, Portugal

Pastures for Cows, Sao Jorge Island, Azores, Portugal; There are more cows (about 25,000) than people on this island. We took a Sao Jorge Cheese Factory tour. They told us their cheese (Sao Jorge Cheese) is available some places in the USA.

Small Island View from South of Sao Jorge Island, Azores, Portugal

Posted in Atlantic Islands, Sailings

Lava Stone Vineyards on Pico Island in the Azores

Grapevines in Pico Island, Azores, Portugal

When I first arrived in the Azores (total 9 islands), it seemed it was remote and less traveled. I have been in the Azores almost for six weeks, the longer I stay here the more tourists I see on the islands. There is a good transportation service between islands during the season. The other day, we took a ferry from Sao Jorge Island to Pico Island. Pico Island is well known for the highest peak (2,351 Meters = 7,700 Feet) in Portugal. We wanted to hike to the top. It allows only 200 people in the trail. For us to get a chance, we would have had to stay in a hotel to be one of the first 200 people to enter the park. Not happening! I decided to enjoy looking at the top from the bottom.

Top of Pico Island View from Sao Jorge Island, Azores, Portugal

Pico is a volcanic island. Black stones are all over. I was amazed by the lava stone-walled vineyards. The walls are a result of the centuries of human muscle and tons of sweat, moving and extracting stones from the ground, from the founders of the islands to the current generation. The grapevines grow on the cracks and holes of the lava fields. These stone walls protect the grapevines from the wind. I couldn’t imagine the amount of work necessary to build the walls to grow and harvest the grapes by jumping over and between the walls.

Wine is amazingly inexpensive here, especially Portuguese Wine. It looks like most of the wine price ranges under three Euros for a 750 ML bottle in grocery stores. For a few times, John bought a box of wine (1 liter) for 0.75 Euro. It was surprisingly good. He thinks the packing might be the most expensive cost of the box wine. I wonder how a box of wine could be less than a dollar. Grapes are not usually cheap.

One of the cruisers introduced me a local wine from Pico Island, Faria’s Vineyard Wine, a little more expensive than other kinds, I mean under five Euros instead of three Euros. I have tried Faria’s Rose. It tasted different, dry with grape juice flavor, but I liked it. I plan to buy some more to store on the boat, hoping to drink with old friends someday. First come first served! Someone told me one time, the quality of wine comes from the people whom we are drinking together. We meet new cruiser friends but I miss those times drinking wine with old friends.

Lava Stone Walls in Vineyards, Pico Island, Azores, Portugal

One by One, All by Hands, Lava Stone Walls and Vineyards, Pico Island, Azores, Portugal

A Tree in the Hiking Trail, Sao Jorge Island, Azores, Portugal

Trail Mark (White, Red, Yellow) and Gate (Advised to Keep it Closed) in the Trail, Sao Jorge, Azores, Portugal

Trees in Seven Fountains Park, Sao Jorge Island, Azores, Portugal

Strange Looking Plant, Sao Jorge, Azores, Portugal

Caldera in Sao Jorge Island, Azores

Cliff from Caldera, Sao Jorge Island, Azores, Portugal

Velas Town, Sao Jorge Island, Azores, Portugal. The Marina is located in the center of the picture.

City Auditorium and Library Building, Velas Town in Sao Jorge Island, Azores, Portugal

Buildings in Velas Village, Sao Jorge Island, Azores, Portugal

Unique Looking Building (Community Association?), Sao Jorge Island, Azores, Portugal

Judo Training Center in Sao Jorge Island, Azores, Portugal

Ferry Boat Transportation from Island to Island, Azores

Ferry (Average Speed About 23 Knots) Arrived at Graciosa Island, Azores, Portugal

Small Town by the Port in Graciosa Island, Azores, Portugal

Outdoor Exercise Facility in Graciosa Island, Portugal

Crochet Tree Cover in Graciosa Island, Azores, Portugal

Posted in Atlantic Islands, Sailings

Touristic Faial Island in the Azores: Clear the EU Immigration/Customs and Raft up at Horta Marina

Bad Bunny was in Horta, Faial Island in the Azores.

We officially cleared immigration and customs in Horta Marina in Faial Island. The process was simple and easy. To check-in at the marina, we provided the boat insurance policy along with other documents. The 90 day stay in European Union counts starting as we cleared customs by the officials here.

In Faial Island, there are many tourists. Some camp in tents at a park by the beach or other camp sites on the island. Others travel with backpacks and the majority stay in the hotels. In the first weekend in August in Faial Island, there is a well-known annual event called ‘Semana do Mar (Sea Week)’. This festival goes almost for two weeks but officially from the First Sunday to the Second Sunday in August. Different kinds of concerts start around 11 pm every night. One of the events during this festival, is giving the blue Hydrangea flower and a local produce gift to each yachtsman. The mayor of the city stopped by the yachts and handed the flower and a gift bag with a jar of honey, a box of lemongrass tea and a box of peppermint tea, and a loaf of cheese. He also shook my hand and spoke in Portuguese (I just smiled) then, later in English.

Sea Week Festival Gift from Faial Island, Azores

It seemed to me that the majority of the boats in the marina, are from France or the Netherlands. When it is crowded in the marina, it is common to raft up. There were no slips available to us. We are moored to the quay in the marina. We have two other sailboats rafted up next to us. A boat from France (with 8 people) and another from Netherlands (with 5 people). In order to access the land, they have to walk on our boat. Some are careful and others careless. When we are sleeping at night, some came from the party at 3 am walking on our boat to go to their boat. Coming from the USA, it is a little difficult to digest the rafting up.

Local Band Playing Music for the Sea Week Opening Ceremony in August 2017, Horta, Faial Island, Azores

One day, our neighboring French boat rushed out early in the morning in order to help (tow) another French sailboat at sea. I later found out, the guy from the other sailboat experienced pain in his chest at sea. They were able to communicate with the authorities and he was helicopter lifted from a nearby freighter to a hospital in the Azores, leaving his wife alone on their boat with a broken engine. It was six days ago. During this time, his wife sailed alone and was contacted/confirmed by the French Coast Guard every four hours via their satellite phone. After he was examined and released from the hospital (no heart attack), he had to go to his sailboat and his wife. He asked our neighboring French boat for help. They towed his boat to the marina. All worked out fine.

Bad Bunny, French Boat, and American Boat Rafting-Up

Our neighboring French boat (with Eight People) left yesterday, sailing back to the France. They were very nice to help the other sailor. I liked them but we were glad that we no longer have eight people walking on our boat at night. We now have American boat next to us. He is alone until his wife flies from the States. However, not long after, a new arrival French boat rafted to our neighboring boat. There are six people on that boat. John politely asked them to walk on our boat with concern, no shoes, do not step on the varnish, and don’t stand on the lifelines. (Yes, the previous French boat did all of this.) Communications seem to be working. We are getting used to this new boating culture. Rafting up in a marina is common in Europe, I was told. John swore he won’t visit Europe with his sailboat because he doesn’t like rafting up.

Pico Island View (Peak 7,700 feet = 2,351 meters) from Faial Island, Azores. We planned to hike to the top but cancelled it because John had back problems.

Main Street in Horta, Faial Island in Azores

Horta Bay in Faial Island, Azores

Kayak Race During the Sea Week in 2017, Faial Island, Azores

White Rocks (Castelo Branco) in Faial Island, Azores.

Volcano Site, Faial Island, Azores

Volcano Site, Faial Island, Azores

Hiking Trail at the Volcano Site, Faial Island, Azores

Volcano Site in Faial Island, Azores

Lighthouse at Volcano Park, Faial Island, Azores

Volcano Museum Underground, Faial Island, Azores

John Painting on the Wall in Horta Marina, Faial Island, Azores

We met Soren from ‘S/V Lady Elaine’ (Sweden) in August 2015 at Curacao.

We met Rick and Nancy from ‘S/V Sailing Diver’ (Canada) in September 2015 in Colombia.

We met Russell and Lynne from ‘S/V Blue Highway’ (Naples in Florida) in San Blas, Panama in January 2016.

We met Geoff & Susan from S/V Spent (England) in September 2015 in Colombia.

We met Rob and Hunter from ‘S/V Xcape’ (Fort Lauderdale) in Bermuda in June 2017.

Posted in Atlantic Islands, Sailings

Flores Island, Supreme Beauty and Nature, Not Yet Overly Touristed

Lake Rasa in Flores Island, Azores

(July 16 to 25, 2017): Friends and families, if you love hiking and seeing unspoiled nature and have time and money saved, visit Flores Island in the Azores, autonomous region of Portugal. We loved all the things in Flores Island . Just going up the hill for 30 minutes from the marina/anchorage, you are all alone with nature. We enjoyed hiking and walking around the town. One day, we took an all-day island tour. Another day, we took a fast boat ride to the next island Corvo and walked into the Caldera at the top. Walking the trails, I solely listened to the birds and dove myself into the forest of wild flowers, cedar woods, Hydrangea flowers, and various herb plants.

Ferry Boat Leaving Flores Island, Azores

Flores Island is my favorite island among all the others I have ever visited. It is different from Galapagos Islands and Easter Island. The main reason I liked this island is because it has not been so commercialized. It is not so touristic yet but it offers lots. There is a small airport on both Flores and Corvo islands. There are Ferry boats running from a bigger island. It does not offer many jobs to local people. It is easy to see well-built stone houses left abandoned. The young people leave the island for modern opportunity and the old people die.

Our tour guide (Silvio Medina/Fluent English Speaking, told us, a week in Flores is about the right amount of time to discover the island. Staying in winter is not so pleasant.

S/V Bad Bunny and Our Buddy Boat at the Flores Anchorage, Azores

PS: We were uncomfortable entering and leaving the marina with our boat size so we stayed in the anchorage. The anchorage in Flores Island was not our favor but we were anchored for 10 days. Staying on the boat at the anchorage is like doing balancing exercise all the time even while sleeping. Before I go to bed, I put many cushions by my side in bed so I don’t move from side to side. We rolled all the time like the pendulum on a clock. At the same time, we were concerned about the boat rigging damage possibly caused by ongoing rolling and pitching. During our stay, we never managed to rest on the boat because of the rolling. When we were on the shore, we worried about the anchor holding especially when it was windy. Despite our dislike of the anchorage, we liked truly the vivid nature and our lunch break time with Azorean cheese and bread, Portugal wine, and the sweetest and juicy fruits.

Welcome to the Most Western County of Europe, Flores Island, Azores

Flores Island, Azores

Flores Island, Azores

Flores Island, Azores

View of Corvo Island under Cloud from Flores Island, Azores

Flores Island, Azores

Flores Island, Azores

Flores Island, Azores

Flores Island, Azores

Flores Island, Azores

Flores Island, Azores

Flores Island, Azores

Thick Moss Bed in Flores Island, Azores

One of the Lakes in Flores Island, Azores

Hydrangea Flowers in Corvo Island, Azores

Caldera in Corvo Island, Azores

Rock Formation in Flores Island, Azores

Caldera in Corvo Island, Azores

Active Water Mill House in Flores Island, Azores

Flores Island, Azores

Natural Swimming Pool in Flores Island, Azores

Flores Island, Azores

Hiking with Other Boat People, Flores Island, Azores

Corvo Island, Azores

Port (bottom left corner) and Airport Runway in Corvo Island, Azores

Airport in Flores Island, Azores

S/V Bad Bunny Anchored near Flores Marina, Azores

Small Marina in Flores Island, Azores

Flores Marina (in the Middle) Viewing from Anchorage, Azores

Neighbor Yacht in Flores Island, Azores

Whale Museum in Flores Island, Azores

Book Exchange Place near Flores Marina, Azores

Limpets (Aquatic Snails with a Shell), Eat Raw or Grilled, Flores Island, Azores

Flowers on the Boat, Flores Island, Azores

Sign for Men’s Room

Sign for Ladies Room

Free WiFi Zone in Flores Island, Azores

Flores Island, Azores

Flores Island, Azores

Posted in Atlantic Islands, Sailings