On the voyage before ours, from Cape Verde to the Azores, Nelly was diverted to Las Palmas, in the Canaries, so LN943 became a one way trip to Ponta Delgada, the capital of the Azores, to catch up with the schedule. With about an hour to spare before the airport shut, and flying into Ponto Delgada to see Nelly already neatly berthed inside the massive new cruise liner quay. By boarding time, Nelly was dwarfed by the huge cruise liner that had moored on the other side of the quay. We were told she carried 4000 passengers and 500 crew, she made Nelly look very small and homely by comparison. Everyone was on board soon after the appointed time of 4pm, so we could crack on with finding our bunks, getting fitted for wet-weather suits, safety belts and climbing harnesses all in time for dinner at 18:30 and the first chance to get to know each other. Some then chose a night on the town while others turned in for an early night before the adventure ahead.
“Bing Bong!” Mate, Lesley, with our alarm call for breakfast at 8am. Then climbing practice for those who wanted to go aloft.
The cruise ship departed at 12:00, which opened up a huge vista that had previously been hidden by its bulk, and then, hot on its heels we sailed out for the overnight trip to Terceira.
At first the ”Azores High” meant the winds were not favourable for hoisting the sails so we motored westwards with just the staysails set, but as we got further west of San Miguel we were able to turn north and head for Terceira, brace the yards and hoist the square sails. We made steady progress through the night and got into the routine of watch changes. By afternoon “smoko” the next day we were sailing eastwards along the south coast of Terceira heading for the Unesco heritage town of Angra de Heriosma, a very sheltered harbour protected by the peninsula of Monte Brasil.
Coming into harbour we made a complete U-turn to port before edging astern to come alongside the modern quay.
Angra is a beautiful little town with many narrow cobbled streets radiating uphill from the harbour. There was a range of churches, the most prominent of which was a delicate shade of pastel blue. Once free to go ashore we went and explored the streets, cafes and bars.
Harbour watch from 2am to 4am was accompanied by heavy rain…..unnoticed by the sound sleepers below decks. With the air cleared the day dawned brightly and we had the chance of more shore leave until 5pm departure time. In bright sunshine some took a tour of the island and its volcanic landscape and others explored the town and the huge fortifications all around the peninsula.
1200 miles to Lisbon and 2000 more to North and South America, Angra de Heroisma had been a busy trading port and Terceira was the one-time capital of the Azores. One shore party returned with a pot-plant presented to Lord Nelson by the towns head gardener, now to be found in pride of place on the bridge. We bade a fond farewell to Angra, and sadly, to one of our voyage crew who was unable to continue through illness. We all hope she has a safe journey back to England and recovers her health.
Once again we had to motor. This time eastwards towards Sao Roque on the island of Pico. We did set the outer jib and two staysails to reduce the rolling motion. As the sun set, the island of Sao Jorge came into sight, and out of the hazy golden glow the astonishing conical shape of the volcano on Pico, which last erupted in 1718, gradually appeared. It was, apparently a very rare and unreliable sight to see the tip of Pico clear of cloud cover, so we all snapped away furiously.
We spent a peaceful night motoring into the wind between Sao Jorge and Pico and awoke the next morning to find the cone of Pico still visible, but by breakfast it had disappeared into the mist, never to be seen again. The sheltered waters between Sao Jorge and Pico were a renowned gathering spot for whales and a huge industry grew up around them. The competition was fierce between the whaling crews in their very sleek (and small) boats. The last whale was caught off Pico in 1987 when whaling ended. Now the islanders can concentrate on making delicious red wine in their Unesco heritage vineyards, which have lava rock walls surrounding almost every individual vine, and entertaining visitors like us.
En-route back to Ponta Delgado, and the end of the voyage, we had a very gentle sail in a light breeze and warm sunshine with almost every sail set. A fine end to the voyage.