Autumn in the Azores is a fantastical experience!
The weather is the rockstar and you are only there to watch and survive if you can.
Our last post glossed over something we hoped wouldn’t be a big deal. When we anchored and went ashore on day one, right after the sail from Angra, the weather was already starting to get a bit overwhelming. As I (James) was getting in the dinghy, I got a gust that blew me hard into the portside solar panel corner and cracked another rib on my body…my 8th as an adult and, believe me, this one really hurt! I’ve done this enough to know that the first day is actually the best for the pain so we continued with our plans and I rowed us in to the marina. We checked in with officialdom and walked up the hill to the grocery store for a much-needed provisioning run. We were back on the boat less than an hour after making landfall.
Two days later, we rowed back to the marina from across the bay (about a nautical mile each way), which proved that we hadn’t been doing that kind of rowing for a while. Even the downwind row to the marina kicked my (James’) ass but then again, I do have a broken rib.
Dena rowed back against the wind and the fetch and it was kind of a huge deal. But she rocks like that and made it look easy.
Really, I (Dena) just kept on keeping on. I’m pretty good at the endurance game when I’m not wearing the wrong (i.e. knitted) gloves.
The gales roll through like trains every other day or so, meaning one day you’re in paradise and the next you’re in Dante’s seventh circle with the hounds of hell howling through the rigging. We slept well through one storm on the south end of the bay on 60m of chain, pulled up the hook, and e-motored back over to the north side for the next few days of perfection.
A few nights ago, our weather apps flat out lied to us, revising the forecasts hours after they were being proved wrong. We got our asses handed to us by the wind and waves on the wrong side of the bay. A gale that started off from the south and clocked around to the north throughout a day and a night hit us hard from every direction. It filled the dinghy to the gunwales then flipped her over and we lost our oars in the struggle to right the boat in the storm.
So what did we do? Without oars, we were forced to dock Cetacea in the marina while we went on the Great Oar Hunt. One had washed onto the beach and was leaning jauntily alongside the (closed for the season) snack bar. The other? Good question.
We blew past the Portuguese language signs that were clearly telling us we weren’t allowed inside to inspect the rocks along the waste-water treatment plant…which smelled quite a bit better than the one in Portland, Maine…and then backtracked and followed the waterline all the way past where we’d anchored on the south end of the bay.
Down to the fishing harbor and around the sheds and garbage areas we went, but it was all for naught. A little achy (too much time spent on board to keep the legs hardened), we stopped for pizza with azeitones and cogumelos, our usual. The unusual is that vinho de casa, tinta, is so ordinary and inexpensive an option that we have begun drinking red wine with meals. Surprise, surprise!
Heading back didn’t give us any new insight into where our second oar was, but it was a beautiful day and we were glad not to be anchored at the south end where folks were surfing.
As we worked on sourcing a replacement, it dawned on us that we might have to make one. The last couple beautiful days haven’t tortured us any but today’s rains dissuaded us from the several-kilometer walk to get raw lumber we’re going to want to epoxy-laminate.
We’ve long been shoulder-season sailors and so changeable weather is no big shock. As we get the rhythm of this part of the World Ocean, we’re starting to think that we’ll wait out the worst of the October gales and then head toward Madeira to get south of the marching lows. From there, the Moroccan coast is less than a week’s good weather away.
Meanwhile, there’s a lot to enjoy here and a big anniversary coming up next week. We’ll get some sightseeing in, do some projects, make sure we’re ready when our weather window flies open and we sail away like we do.