One of my most profound memories about Hawaii is the absolute lack of seasons the year we were there.
I mean, I (James) understand that “season” might mean a different thing in the middle of the Pacific flow at 18 degrees north, and I might not have been particularly attuned to Hawaiian seasonal change given the fact that I was all involved in survival of the wage-slave fittest the entire time I was there.
It was 80 degrees Fahrenheit every day we were there and seventy-something every night. I stopped giving a shit about the weather after a while which (I know) is a little weird for a sailor.
It’s not like that here on the other side of Earth in the Atlantic flow. We have some serious season-age here in the Azores for sure!
Change is dramatic and obvious on every level. The ocean rolls in with a vengeance some days like it was actually pissed off at you. The banshees in the marina cry and mourn with the modulation of the cyclonic winds spinning off into the Atlantic flow like a pair of googly-eyes.
The island of Terceira is an incredible environment with obvious active change going on around us constantly. It’s tiny and grand at the same time. It’s completely exposed to the angry winds from the northeast and the protection we get from the southwest is restricted to the shadow cast by a volcano (Pico) about 96km from us. That huge mountain shatters the winds that come over the Atlantic so by the time they get to us here in Praia da Vitoria they’re kicked up with a kind of confused fury. And then there’s the fact that this is an active volcanic zone. Yeah, that means earthquakes sometimes like the 5.6 quake we got the second week of January.
And then it got wet!
The temps have been in the 16-18 degrees Centigrade range, with our most extreme dip so far being 11C (better than 50F). That’s not bad, especially compared to two winters ago in Lynn (the city of sin), Massachusetts, or even Florida’s cold snaps (we got 34F [or 1.1C] in Cocoa Beach one year and one week ago). On the other hand, the air is so thick with the ocean around us that it’s nice to light up the wood stove every now and then just to dry things out.
And, holy-shit, the mold here in the middle of the Earth’s Ocean is feral as fuck! It has been a war of chemistry-vs-evolution aboard Cetacea since we came into the marina and we’re not entirely sure we can win it this time. Better move on before we have no more white flags to fly.
I (Dena) know that the Gulf Stream isn’t far away and that the ocean itself has a steadying influence on weather but damn! Watching storms twirl across the open waters like ballroom dancing done by meth heads gets a little old. The gale season started early and that’s not just our impression…the marina didn’t manage to haul most of the boats that were supposed to come out because you can’t put boats in the slings while it’s gusting to 40 knots.
And we have seen a lot of that kind of thing. The same way that the polar vortex being weak lets Arctic air sweep south over the continental US, the Azorean high being flighty out here leaves the islands vulnerable to a degree that’s unusual. It’s the climate change prognosis no one wants to hear and some of us can’t stop thinking about: the weakening of well-established systems introduces chaos and while, yes, I can dig me some chaotic generative periods, this is rather impressively unpredictable.
A recently seen headline trumpeted that the Azores are the Hawaii of the Atlantic. That’s ridiculous on the face of it…Hawaii is at 18 degrees north and the Azores are at 38 degrees north. It would be incredible for them to be too similar. Both volcanic and both active, both with lush growth (at least in some places), sure. But the Azores has a seasonality that roots me in the yearly cycle of change whereas Hawaii seemed like a place that could make you lose track of the passage of time. Seasonality also gives the local folks a break from tourists, something that Hawaiian servers and cashiers and guides and charter captains don’t get access to, which shows in the generally tense and grumpy feeling of the Hawaiian islands.
When it comes down to it, even with the maniacal, unpredictable weather here, I’m happy to be wintering in the Azores. It’s a good place to witness the here and now.