April 19, 2012
Hey ! When you are sailing the Azores you cannot leave without having stood on top of Pico. Could you ? At least you should not.
If the Azores high has established, the forecast is for a day sunny with low winds and Pico has greeted you already the day before, you should take your chance. You won´t regret.
Mine was on 15th April, almost no wind down in Horta and a fabulous sunrise as motivation.
The first ferry on Sunday at 0815 brought me to Madalena at 0845.
Then up by taxi to the Casa Montanha, € 20. There some instructions, I register as the area is a natural reserve and off I am.
I was the first on this sunday and met 6 others during the day. One guy went up on Saturday and spend the night up there. So if you are up for a romantic night… tough I would not like to be alone.
Not as for fear ;-)
In summer you might get a GPS-phone where you can be tracked and be able to ask for help in case of an Emergeny. Strange that I did not get one, I was told it only works in summer. Luckily my GPS on the boat is an all year version ;-) . I was also informed about the costs of a rescue, € 1.500, so better not plan to have one. Who does anyway ?
The trail is 3,5 km and the estimated time3 hrs up and 4 hrs down.
Its marked with numbered wooden poles (frustrating sometimes) which can be seen from one to another, almost everywhere.
It took me 3 hrs to the border of the caldeira, pole number 45.
The trail is in some parts “challenging”. You are walking on old Lava, rain has eroded the soil and you feel on a stairway with high steps. At least at the beginning. But wait. Down is the real challenge. At least it was for me, and under time pressure.
The last part gets easier, a narrow footpath easy to walk. And then. Pop. You are on the caldeira with a free look to your immediate goal. The pinnacle how it is called.
Now there is time to take a good rest, enjoying the view and take in your meal.
Then up! No path, so signs, no marks. You will have to find your way.
Leave the backpacks in your “camp”. You are climbing most of the time. The gravel gives no hold, but the rocks are good steps and rough enough to be not slippery. But where start, where to go ?
I was lucky and met a local couple, already a veteran here on Mt. Pico and knowing the way. I climbed with them, around half an hour and I was on top. In the middle of the of the Atlantic Ocean. 2.351 meter above sea lever. Imagine the part thats below water line and you get the dimensions of this vulcano.
Its worth it. On my day there was a level of low clouds to the south, but the view to Sao Jorge, Velas and Sáo Roque on Pico was spectacular.
It took me another half an hour down again to the caldeira and then 2 hrs down the track to the Casa Montanha. The 4 hrs down are exaggerated, 3 hrs would do easily I think. I had to hurry as my goal was to be at the Casa by 1700 to be able to catch the last ferry at 1800 back to Horta.
I would do it again, preferably in May when the Casa Montanha is also open during weekdays, that allows for more time as the first ferry is at 0700 ex Horta and last return on 2200 from Madalena.
Looking now up to Pico now feels different.
3,5 km walk, steep “steps” in parts. Allow 3 hrs up, 4 hrs down and another for up and down the “pinnacle”.The Casa Montanha is open in April on Saturday and Sundays only, from May on also during weekdays. The Ferry to/from Madalena on Pico takes 40 mins and costs € 3.40 each way. A Taxi up to the Casas Montanha from the port in Madalena, € 20. You may be able to get a ride with other hikers, more likely on the way back. Take the offer at the Casa Montanha for stick as a support.
My special thanks to Maria and her husband who showed me the way up to the very top, have been very patient with me on the way back as my knees made me fall behind and then gave me a ride back with them to the ferry.
April 12, 2012
Vila do Porto / Sta. Maria
Straight forward, restricted space to manouvre inside the marina.
When I arrived there have been a “welcome-team” on the pontoon that directed me and took the lines.
Free Wifi in the marina
I arrived at the end of the day from Madeira and decided to anchor for the night off the beach at Praia Formosa. Be aware that there runs a underwater cable from there and the prohibited area is marked with a white blinking (day and night) sector light. I anchored on the east border of the sector at 10m. The bottom is sand with good holding.
Its advertised as the best beach in the azores, but from my experience this goes to Porto Pim in Horta. Hands down.
The local Club Naval is a nice place to eat and drink. Other places are up-town, meaning up !
There is not suitable public bus service. I took a kind of roundtrip with the bus going around the island and immediately back to get my bearings first.
I then rented a scooter which was perfect.
Supermarket on the main street, uptown after you passed the church.
A must stop if you arrive from the south. Lovely, remote. Good to get used to civilisation again. If you like this kind of places.
April 12, 2012
PontaDelgada / Sáo Miguel
June, July 2011
Straight forward, no problems.
Tie up on the welcome kai in the old part (right side) where there is also the fuel dock. You have to visit the officials and they are all in the same building close by.
Usually you are then directed to the new part. Floating pontoons there. I was told that I can pick any free dock in the area dedicated to my boat size.
Be sure you have flexible lines as there seems to be always some swell and the boat moves slightly. Even without any visible reason or wind.
I left the boat there unattended for a month in June without problems.
For wintering you would like to move to Horta.
Free WiFi at the restaurant/bar
In summer visit the natural pools in Lagoa. There is a convenient public bus connection just from in front of the marina.
There is a nice sandy beach at Sáo Roque with a small buffet/restaurant, perfect for chilling out.
Just for cooling down there is a swimmingarea, free of charge, directly at the marina.
Sete Cidades is pictured all over, but to my taste Lagoa das Fogo is much more beautiful and should not be missed.
In summer 2011 there have been roadworks in place for a new highway along the north coast to the east. While I don’t like highways this will definitely shorten the driving time to the east town of Nordeste. It takes ages as you have to do every big and small valley along the way. If you just want to go east, driving on the south side is much quicker and more comfortable.
Big supermarket outside the center. You may walk there, 20 mins and then take a taxi back.
Small market just opposite the marina, good for bread and small bits.
Nice town, the capital anyway. The island is lovely and, like all azoren islands, worth a visit. Good acces as the airport is very close.
April 12, 2012
September 2011. My yacht wintered here in the water from
end of October till end of March.
No problems at all.
Welcome kai in front of the marina office with security in charge after office hours. Try to be there before the office closes as the place there is prone to swell.
I was in the “old” marina, that´s the one North. Floating Pontoons as usual.
In very windy conditions I tied up alongside the breakwater which
was much easier in these conditions. Move to your appointed place when conditions are easier, but ask the marina staff for permission.
These places are usually for super yachts and a local tug also ties up there.
I high season this place will be crowded and the situation completely different. Boats are tied up in packs starting April.
Free WiFi in the marina and at the Club Naval.
Free WiFi also in the Cafe International, green building opposite the street in the Marina.
Daily cheap menu at the Club Naval.
If you miss it on a day you get the chance again next week…
Definitely take a walk to “Porto Pim” either for the excellent beach and swimming there. Yes, I did until the end of October in 2011. Or for the “Café Porto Pim” with there outstanding Almond cake.
Peter´s Cafe is a mixed bag for me. Not really a cafe and not bar, just a standing area there. Square tables like a restaurant, but I would not go there for food. A rarity in the azores is the service who did not understand english at all. The burgers, a speciality in all the azores, not worth an order here. Peter´s just lives from the image, but this will soon be destroyed. Tough a place to meet other sailors.
Visit the Theatro Faialense for a movie, usually originals with portuguese subtitles. This is in multiuse and cinema usually friday and sundays. The architecture is worth the visit anyway and a visit will also help to protect this place.
Continente supermarket up the main street, 15 min walk.
The center of yachting in the azores and the only place for wintering the yacht in the water.
Wintering on the hard maybe available in Angra, place there is rare.
April 12, 2012
Angra do Heroismo
July 2011, September 2011, April 2012
Straight forward day and night. There is a security person on watch at night that points out a place and helps with the lines. During summer there is a welcome kai just in front of the marina building.
The floating pontoon near the entry is prone the swell, strechy lines are good. No problems further in, but space is limited during high season.
Free WiFi in the marina, just get a free code, valid for 3 days on checking in. The code works for one computer after activation.
Don´t miss the restaurant “O chico”. In my opinion the best place to eat all over the azores, as far as sailors go. Excellent fish. They offer also meat which I never tried. Make sure you get in there early as it is fully booked during summer.
Take a coffee and good burgers at the kiosk on the main square. It belongs to the small Cafe Alianca on the main street behind it.
Public bus stop at the main square also for interurban services.
Take a bus to Praia da Vittoria for a change in style and ambiente.
Best supermarket (Garita) a 10 min walk up the main street to the east from the main square.
Market up the main street to the west, just to the right one block before you reach the top of the hill.
A must if you are sailing in the azores. A World heritage site.
April 12, 2012
Lajes do Pico
Its said to be difficult and dangerous. It´s NOT, not any more. If you fit in with your draught ist no problem at all.
Entry is straight forward with caution by day and night in a buoyed channel. Aproach to the end of the breakwater by 90 degrees, turn right into the channel. Not all of the buoys are lit.
Attention: The last buoy in the row on port is unlit an is, surprise, the port side buoy of the channel. So you have to take a sharp left turn after the last lit red port side buoy. Process between a rock to the left and the kai on the right. On the right side there is a floating pontoon where you can tie up on arrival.
There is place for one yacht around 14 meters and enough space in front to turn the boat “on the plate”. The depth there is around 3.0 at low water.
I arrived at midnight in calm weather and there was someone waiting in his car to help and take the lines. Thanks very much. Whalers are always on outlook, are they ?
The next morning the always friendly GNR asked for the papers and shortly after the harbour master came for a welcome, it was easter sunday (!), and presented the access card to the pontoon and pointed out the last place on the first, most outside pontoon. This is important as the harbour is very shallow and there around 3 m on low tide only on the outside places. Just enough for me with a draft of 2.1 m.
Be prepared that the harbour maybe full as there is very limit space (3-4) for boats like mine with a draft of 2.10 and a length of 14 m.
Wifi in the hotel/restaurant Talassa with good food and cakes.
Wifi also at “Moby Dick” when the kiosk is open.
The village is friendly and has a relaxed but touristic flair.
It´s reported that in the bay off Lajes do Pico there are whales and dolphines. I was able to watch on both of my two visits.
With north winds on the island there is a sever wind down from pico and into the harbour. This will hit you straight stern or bow depending on your mooring preferences.
As I had to move the boat in strong winds I chooses the outside of the hammerhead, bow in and feeled safe all the time.
Its a very nice place worth a visit. The center of whaling in the past and worth for whale watching today.
April 12, 2012
Velas on Sao Jorge
July, October 2011, April 2012
Straight forward. Very limited space to manouvre inside. Go directly to your proposed berth directed by the very friendly harbourmaster.
Shallow harbor, places with enough depth on the most outside pontoon.
In offseason and outside office hours you may moore in a free space or on the hammerhead, the kai at the reception has limited protection. The harbormaster is very friendly and helpful.
Free WiFi in the marina.
Eat at the Club Naval restaurant and don´t get derailed by the “cool” look of the room. You can´t get better fish in Velas.
For a break and small food visit the Cafe on the side of the small, pitoresk public park.
Anchoring !!! One of the rare places where you are able to anchor. I did, like others on the coastline east to the marina on 10 m (my preferred depth). Bottom is sand, some rocks further in, and good holding. There are some buoys for local boats, so take care.
It is good practice to visit the marina office by dinghy, they need your papers anyway. The harbormaster is very friendly and points out a place to land and tie up your dinghy.
I spent 3 days at anchor and 2 days in the marina which makes everyone happy.
Everything from Velas is uphill, meaning “up mountain”.
I visited Calheta by hitchhiking and bus. This is not suitable for yachts. I wouldn´t try to tie up there.
Surprisingly big supermarket straight uphill.
Nice place, a daysail from Horta and worth just for the anchoring.
April 12, 2012
Praia / Graciosa
Straight forward. You can pass between the small island and the mainland without hassle.
This is not yacht harbor nor a marina. Keep in mind that this was built for the fisherman who rely on it for making a living. You are a guest and should ask for permission before tieing up.
As always happened to me on the azores the people are friendly and helpful.
I anchored outside the harbor within the protection of the long breakwater on the edge to the marked fairway. Bottom is sand with good holding. I checked by dinghy as the harbnor is shallow
for my draft of 2.1m. I tied up at the outer space of the pontoon as directed by some local.
There is limited space for manouvring inside.
Free public WiFi on the main street behind the harbor.
Good restaurant there.
Nice walk on the old road to the capital on Graciosa. Rental cars only there, at least in off season.
During my visit the wind shifted to E-NE with makes the harbor, and the anchoring outside, untenable. I secured all fours in the pontoon-box and experienced heavy rock and roll for 2 days.
My 14 tons stretched the lines and I was happy that no pontoon cleat broke. If you are not up to this just leave with the forecast of winds from the east quarter.
Graciosa is a nice island, a different feeling at it is the driest of all the azores and reported the only one where crop is grown.
Worth a visit if you can grab a space and the wind is in your favor.
April 12, 2012
Lajes das Flores
Approach: Straight forward. Very small harbour, have fenders and lines ready before enter the inner harbour.
Mooring: This is not a yacht harbour nor a marina. People are friendly and helpful but keep in mind that this was built for the fisherman who rely on it to make a living. We are only guests, arrangewith locals. Floating pontoons. When I arrived in October the harbour was almost empty an mine was the only sailing vessel there. Yachts of my size moore alongside the pontoon on the outer breakwater, maybe 3-4 and on the small inner breakwater, one only. The other places will be to small and/or too shallow.
During “crossing season” the harbour wil be full, anchoring outside should be possible, but patches of rocks.
When I arrived late at night there came someone on the pontoon for help.
WiFi: Free Public WiFi area around the harbour.
Tips: You can´t miss Paula´s kiosk. Everything could/will be arranged there.
Notes: Very nice small beach just behind the harbour. The only place on Flores suitable for yachts. There maybe some nice anchor places on the coast stretch north of the harbour, but up to now I did not have the balls to check them out. Volunteers welcome…
Arrange a visit to Corvo from here. Its not worth to risk your yacht there.
If you arrive from the west and in the need for repair process to Horta. For all others its worth a stop. You may not get there anytime soon and regret it later.
All uphill, 30 mins. the bigger one is the one to the right.
A gem for the ones like me who like remote places.
June 12, 2011
I was sailing up from the Canaries in Mai 2011 I fell in love with the Azores.
While I did not manage to visit all of the Canaries in 4 Years, I did all 9 Azorean islands in just one summer. Why ? You don´t have to beat the prevailing wind all the time like in the Canaries. Waiting a view days does the trick and all is in your favour.
I wintered my boat in Horta Marina 2011-12.
I like to discover new crusing grounds on my own, but a few tips are always welcomed. So I wrote down a short description for all the harbors I´ve been in for those who might find it usesful. It is my point of view and will and should not replace any guide or “common sense”.
“Discovering” is part of the game, isn´t it !