Thursday, August 2, 2012

Azores - Pico

Harbor view from Lajes do Pico
Pico beckons
From the harbor at Horta, Pico dominates the horizon. Sunrise over Pico, sunset lighting Pico up. When we went whalewatching from Horta, we found them just south of Pico. Wine from Pico is featured on the menus throughout the Azores. So visiting Pico became a natural thing to do...

Ferry to Madalena - July 17, 2012
Madalena is the major town to the NW on Pico. Starlet wasn't welcome - the harbor isn't ready for yachts. So we grabbed the ferry from Horta for the half hour run over. The town was bustling with groups of noticeably younger tourists wandering around. Lots of cafes sprawling out on the sidewalk overlooking the whalewatching and dive boats in the harbor. The harbor itself is being improved with an additional breakwater under construction and rumors of a yacht marina in a couple of years.

We lucked out on our visit to the wine cooperative, just south in town. The first person we met was Maria, the enologist for the operation (we had to ask too - it means winemaker). She took the time to give us a personal tour. Owned by local vineyards, they pool the grapes to be processed into about 8 different wines. Red and white, upper end and mid grade, Maria directs the fermenting, ageing in American oak casks and bottling for distribution. The personal attention and relaxed pace made this our best winery visit ever.

When asked for a lunch recommendation, Maria suggested Marisqueira Ancoradouro, on the water a couple of blocks down. Hard to find since there isn't a sign and it is hidden behind a house, but a very nice place. We enjoyed one of our best meals so far in the Azores.

Heading back to the Madalena harbor, we passed by a campground provided for backpackers. This was a very nice facility with showers and a picnic area with grill. Apparently the Azores are a popular place for European students to spend their summers. In addition to the harbor, there is a lot of construction in town. Roads and sidewalks are being rebuilt, and buildings refurbished.

Downtown Madalena was a flurry of activity. A major festival was starting the next day. Blocks of tents were being set up for all kind of booths. No problem going thirsty - there will be a beer tap about every 15 feet!

Starlet to Lajes do Pico - June 21 -  26, 2012

It was time to leave Horta behind. Chuck, our neighbor in the Horta marina came along for the boat ride to Lajes do Pico, the major town on the SE of Pico. The day was sunny and calm - perfect for whale watching. On the way we purposefully eased out south of Pico to the area we had seen sperm whales during last week's whalewatching trip. We had a nice encounter with a pod of Risso's dolphin, but it seems the larger whales (and whalewatching boats) have moved on.

We anchored in the bay outside the Lajes marina, dropped the dink, then Chuck and Mark checked out the marina. This one is similar to the marina at Flores: small and in nice condition with modern floating docks. But no room for Starlet! Chuck caught the bus to Madalena. From there he'll take the ferry back to Horta.

The historic whaling town has re-created itself as a center of whale watching. Six large RIB's make as many as 3 whale watching trips each day. There's the Museu do Baleeiros and whale mosaics in the stone sidewalks. The large number of tourists support more outdoor cafes than the much larger town of Horta.

A fast (and free) WIFI connection gave us a chance to catch up with friends and family through Skype.

After a long Sunday morning walk through town with the dogs, the calm seas brought on by the Azores high tempted us to run out and search for the sperm whales.  In a fourteen mile loop we just saw two more dolphins.  Back in the harbor we noticed that a slip was available (but after anchoring and dropping the dink...), so we moved Starlet to the slip and plugged in.  With the light wind and sunny skies, this was the first time since we've been in the Azores that it was warm enough to make us want A/C.

We ran into four Danish divers over dinner who have been diving around the world together since 2002.  From Pico they had been diving on the Princess Alice Bank 42 miles offshore focusing on sharks and Mobula rays, a close relative of Manta rays.  We shared stories about favorite dive locations for close to two hours. They were curious about Bermuda, we filled them in. We were curious about the Red Sea and Malta, they filled us in.

A low pressure system was came through bringing more wind & rain. So with a fast internet connection in Lajes, we decided it was time to set up a real blog for Starlet's journeys. It took a couple of days to get organized, but you're looking at the results!

The morning we left for the next island to the north, Sao Jorge, we were passed by a couple of whalewatching boats heading out. We eased Starlet out to see if we could use them to guide us to the sperm whales. We did see some spouts, but the whales were soon covered with up to 5 of the commercial boats. No room for Starlet in that mix!

Link to Azores - Pico photo album

View Starlet in the Azores in a larger map


  1. Congratulations - a very nice blog! Annemarie and Silvio with Teli the dog

  2. great to see you two are having a wonderful trip. Be safe and keep us posted. Lance Pratt

  3. Hello
    very nice Blog easy to read

    Daniel from France (Fouesnant in Brittany)