SAILING IN THE AZORES

I am lucky not to be in a hurry.
This lets me take the time to discover the places.
What I did in the Azores.
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September 2018 – September 2019

 

I arrived late in the season in Flores. I still didn’t know what to do next and spent some days in Flores. All the tensions of the preparation and the trip came out once at my friend’s house. I needed a rest, and was glad to have my magical family around to take care of me but what I was fearing happened, a cyclone was forecasted to come over Flores. I had to leave. It seemed too soon for me, talking with Camille, I realized I could bring Giulia to safety and come back. 

With the cyclone Helena at ours heels, we casted off with a friend from Flores. I was so stressed I didn’t want to be alone on that trip, and was glad to have a good crew onboard. Unfortunately, after trying to sail, we realised it would take us too long and had to start the engine. The seas were dreadful, banging on Giulia from all sides. I had a terrible headache and felt seasick from the stress. I was glad my crew – who actually had much more experience than me – took over. At sunset I felt better and took the night watch over. I could still see Flores in the sunset, followed by a glorious night. Thunderstorms enlightened the sky from far away without reaching us. A meteor flashed through the dark with its magnificent green tail. We just had difficulties opening the diesel lid but at last we succeeded. We arrived in the late afternoon. The Policia maritima came closer, asking if all was right, probably conscious we were escaping the cyclone. It was a great relief to moor alongside a friend’s boat, and have a good party to celebrate. 

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Helena as seen from the shore

Even though Helena was downgraded to a Tropical storm, it was good we had left the small marina of Lajes, that would be destroyed a year later by the cyclone Lorenzo.

The friend of the boat alongside helped me find the problem with the diesel. The hose that brings air to the tank was stuck. This was probably the reason the hose came loose during the passage… and thinking afterwards it was the best that could have happened. If another one, closer to the engine, had loosened, the engine would have stopped. And I would probably not have found the problem. I thanked my guardian angel.

A week later I had regained confidence to bring Giulia alone to Angra do Heroismo where I had found a place for Giulia in the marina. I stopped by Velas to take it easy, and enjoyed a lot the sailing in the autumn light with a good breeze.

Follow Giulia's wake in this video from Horta to Velas  >>
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São Jorge
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Arriving
in Angra do Heroismo

In Angra I could also solve a problem with the anchor windlass: the connection had corroded and needed to be replaced. The technician worked properly and changed the electrical box from place.

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Flores waited for more rest and painting. I prepared to leave Giulia unattended for a while, and found friends to look after her while I was away.

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The magic of Flores!

The next trip was with friends around Terceira in November. It was a double challenge: sailing with crew and in autumn, when the Ocean can be rougher in the Azores. We decided to test with a short trip from Angra to Praia, with just one crew, we would pick the other up in Praia that is closer to the airport. It went well, until we reached the Head of Contendas where the waves were steeper. My friend got seasick but I took over and decided to go further at sea. I thought the waves would be smoother. And I was right. My friend felt directly better and we had nice last miles to the marina. 

We had to wait for a gale to pass, and left with still a heavy sea, to Velas in São Jorge. I experienced something new as my other friend didn’t always listen to me when I gave a command. The channel between Terceira and São Jorge was rough, with close-hauled winds. My friends wanted to go on when I proposed them to return to Angra. And reached the islet of Topo with difficulty at sunset. I wanted to switch the engine on for the last 10 miles against the tide and the wind. They preferred to go on sailing. In a bad mood, I went to sleep. They were surprised that I still was very alert and woke up when something had changed. After hours fighting and not making way, I woke up, rested, it was 2:00 am. I was glad my friends accepted to switch the engine on. We arrived after 20 hours underway, instead of 10, at dawn, and silently, not to bother our neighbor. The next day we had a good talk that dissolved all tensions, and had a lovely day afterwards.

Our talk helped a lot for the return, the atmosphere was relaxed. The weather conditions were still strong, but easier with down winds. We arrived in the late afternoon and enjoyed the city. For me it was a good – even though confronting – experience to learn to take command, and not give up. It reinforced our friendship too. 

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First day to Praia
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Splashing Ocean!
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Sunset on the volcano of Pico
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Arriving
in Angra do Heroismo
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A happy Captain!

Picture : Xavier

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I took the opportunity of the winter to make some changes to Giulia, and take a break on the mainland. Unfortunately, I had to undergo a surgery that weakened me a lot. I had to start the sailing all over, what depressed me. I had the feeling to be at the same level as the one I had been after the treatments of breast cancer. Physically and psychologically diminished, I was afraid to sail solo again. I even thought of selling Giulia.

In one of my dark days, I heard my little voice calling me faintly. “Do you really want to sell Giulia? Really, really?” “No, I just feel so weak” was my answer. “Just do it step by step, as you did when you bought Giulia. If you succeeded once, you will succeed again!” I allowed me more rest and then asked a friend to sail with me. I wanted to try the Code S – a light wind Gennaker- that I had bought, to avoid the use of the engine. I was glad he took the time to think how to set that powerful sail properly. We went out, with quite a breeze, but I could manage the sail with the furling system. I was back on track. The next days when the wind was light I trained to open and close the Code S on my own, until I felt confident to leave for a few hours.

Praia da Vittoria was the perfect destination. I knew the way by now and it was a short sail. Back in Angra, I regained strength, and prepared to sail back to Flores, stopping by São Jorge to visit this island too. I enjoyed my birthday party – and goodbye too – with the friends I made In Angra, and supported me through this difficult time.

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JOY

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Pictures : Sara

My joy was great after so much doubts

With the Code S I could sail through the light winds until the islet of Topo. I had to gybe a few times in the channel between São Jorge and Pico. I felt very proud to sail until the bay of Velas where the harbormaster was waiting for me. 

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Arriving in São Jorge under Code S
Did you say there was no space for Giulia?
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Walking is my best therapy with sailing & painting!

After two nice weeks, walking and visiting, I left early morning to Flores. The wind filled in once the Rosais’s Head passed. Giulia was speeding on the water, to my great joy. I had managed to come back to the shape I had before the surgery. I was daring to do more. And was off for a 24 hours trip with my first night since almost a year. It took me 27 hours to arrive, which was quite a fast trip.

Arriving on my own in Flores was even emotional as the last time. We could celebrate this little victory again.

This time I could stay longer with Giulia and invited my friends for day sailing, around the island. It was special to discover the island I knew from land, now from the sea, and even more in good company. With Camille we trained to anchor. It was important but I didn’t feel confident enough to do it alone. I was glad with the repair, the windlass worked again properly.  

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Flores feels like being back home!
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Sailing around Flores
Ilheu de Monchique
Ponta Delgada
Faro de Albanaz
Lomba
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Sailing to the anchorage of Pedro Vieira
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Along the East Coast, seeing Corvo

After a month I left, going west again. The departure was emotional. It would take a few years to come back now, as I had decided to sail further. I left my heart there and know I will come back some day. 

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Emotional departure!

Pictures : Bruna

I wanted to train for a longer sail and set course to Angra do Heroismo directly, 180M away. I had lights wind but felt comfortable with the Code S. I found difficult to decide when to gybe though because the current would push us more to the West than I thought, and the wind change direction. In the evening of the next day I was worried I didn’t see Faial I was approaching. Suddenly I saw a whale jumping out the Ocean and splashing, and Faial appeared behind. Glad, I decided to sail to the North of São Jorge to have more constant winds. The night was bright. I could see the island and decide when to gybe quite easily. I found it exciting. At the side of the Islet of Topo the next morning I could do a long leg towards Terceira, and enjoy the sun and beautiful lights. The wind died a few miles before destination. I was glad I had sailed almost all the way though, and felt good.

In Angra, I had a friend verify the mast and shrouds.

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Ready for the night !
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When the wind came from the South West, I left for Santa Maria the most eastern island of the Azores. I felt even more confident and could sail in one leg.

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Dolphins greeted me at Santa Maria.

Santa Maria was the sixth island I was to discover. 

I was there for the Feast of São Pedro – the saint that protects the men and women of the sea. It felt special to me as my next passage was going to be long again after a year of landing in the Azores.

 

It took me some time to decide what to do next, and chose to go back to the mainland to have maintenance work done on Giulia. 

It had been a physically and psychologically tough year... but the Guerrera that I am, had recovered
and Giulia was longing to be longer at sea.