Apologies for the delay in completing our sailing blog. It is August now, and we are back home with boxes unpacked. It has taken us a while to sort through our photos and find the time to finish the story.
So, back to mid-June. We had a calm and uneventful overnight sail/motor straight from Faial to São Miguel with my parents on board. It was a shame to bypass islands like Pico, Terceira and São Jorge, which we had hoped to visit. But sailing straight to São Miguel enabled Rob to fly home to be with his mother (following the news of his father’s death) leaving all of us and Rafiki in the right place for our various journeys home.
With Rob home, my parents and I hired a car to tour the island with the children. Once again we saw some wonderful scenery:
The scenery included a very beautiful spot called the Lake of the Seven Cities, which is filling in the caldera of a large extinct volcano. According to legend, 7 cities are buried under these 2 interconnected lakes. The lakes are very pretty, one being greener than the other, due to the different algae growing in them. However there are several more imaginative explanations offered by various local legends, my favourite of which involves unfulfilled love between a princess and a shepherd. She shed tears from her green eyes (hence the green lake) and he from his blue eyes (hence the blue lake). I thought it might make a good assignment for the children to write their own legend about how this unusual scenery acquired its strange name, but we never quite got round to it.
We also came across a rather splendid religious festival. We started to drive past various young bullocks, decorated with flowers. As we approached one particular village, the road was cordoned off and there appeared to be a group of about 8 male singers dressed in cloaks made from thick red curtain material. This was the festival before (!) the festival of John the Baptist and the singers were processing to particular houses in the village to thank the occupants for feeding up a bullock in the course of the last year. Meanwhile, the bullocks were being rounded up, one by one, until there was large procession of animals moving along with the singers. The following week there was to be a very large feast in which plenty of beef would be consumed…
The children and my parents flew home a couple of days before me, so I could prepare the boat for our friend Peter to sail Rafiki back to Falmouth for us. I gave the boat a thorough clean, in between catching up with friends on Peat Smoke and Mad Fish.
Peter and his crew were delayed by a day, which gave me the chance to go on a professional whale-watching tour from Ponta Delgada. Although we saw plenty of dolphins and a number of whales whilst sailing, it was wonderful to have the opportunity to go out with an experienced local guide and a marine biologist. I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of seeing dolphins or whales in the wild and the Azores is one of the best places in the world to see them.
Finally, having handed the boat over to Peter, I flew home on 14th June to join the rest of the family at my parents’ house for a hectic 2-week spell at home before returning to the boat in Falmouth.
We didn’t quite have the family holiday we had planned in the Azores, but we had a good taster. The scenery is stunning and Rob and I would love to return there one day with some sturdy walking boots. Although the islands feel (and are) remote, the Azoreans speak fabulous English, are well used to international travellers passing through and certainly know a thing or two about ocean life!