One of the joys at the end of an ocean crossing is making landfall in new places. When that island is a mere 8 miles long by 4 miles wide nestled mid Atlantic almost half way between Europe and America the sense of achievement when land is first sighted on the horizon is terrific.
Santa Maria, in the Azores was first discovered by the Portuguese somewhere between 1427 and 1432. As we set off from Madeira north westwards into the Atlantic, armed with our sextants, tables, books, GPS and chart plotter we had all the equipment to make sure we wouldn’t miss this tiny island. After 4 days at sea when we first spotted the land from 30 miles away (a distance confirmed by the GPS and radar) we couldn’t help but wonder how the sailors of years ago felt when they first sighted ‘new land’!!
We got our taste of what it might feel like to arrive somewhere totally new as we approached the anchorage at Vila do Porto and discovered that a new marina has been built at the north end of the old harbour. This was a pleasant surprise, and although not yet open for business we were allowed to spend a quite night alongside the pontoons.
We had arrived on Easter Sunday or Festival of Pascoa as it is called in Portuguese and so everywhere was quiet. The whole population of 6000 people seemed to be indoors as we walked along deserted streets to the centre of town. After spending a day in Santa Maria, the most southern of the Azores islands, we headed north to San Miguel and Ponta Delgada our destination for this trip. We could see both the island of San Miguel and Santa Maria for the duration of this trip so not too tricky on the navigation side.
The Azores are recognised as being a good spot for ‘whale watching’ and we were not to be disappointed. About half way between Santa Maria and San Miguel we spotted the tall thin spouts of whales ‘breathing’ and headed towards them. We found a group of 7 or 8 false killer whales (falsa orca) and spent an hour with them, one surfacing very near the boat! The tourist whale watching boats are lined along the quay in Ponta Delgada and during the past week they have seen the same group of falsa orca and also some sperm whales, blue whales, and humpback whales together with lots of dolphins. We seemed to have an escort of Atlantic white sided dolphins almost all the way across from Madeira who surfaced regularly and played in the bow waveThere is still chance to see the Azores as we now spend 3 weeks exploring the central islands of the Archipelago. The weather is forecast to be sunny and 19 degrees for next week with moderate winds, what could be better than sailing in the sunshine watching whales and making landfall at new islands!! Still a few spaces for you to be able to join us on Azores island hopping 2