Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Azores - Terciera & Graciosa

Azores – Terceira & Graciosa
We spent more time on Terceira than any of the other islands in the Azores. This island is the second largest with two major towns and the second largest population in the Azores.
Starlet at anchor in Angra do Heroismo
Angra do Heroismo – August 1 to 3, 2012
After an easy 52 nm run from Sao Jorge, we anchored in the harbor off the beach at Angra do Heroismo. This quickly became our favorite town in the Azores with busy cafés & shops and stunning views overlooking the harbor. Angra means cove in Portuguese; the town is built in the valley above the natural harbor created by the “tuft cone” of Monte Brasil projecting out from the main island.

The beach in Angra
With backpacks and good walking shoes we took off to explore the city.  Lunch out at a cafe, lots of nice shops, everyone busy with the days business. We found upscale homes with perfect gardens, churches and museums.
Looking up at Angra from the anchorage
Young love
We stumbled on a huge farmers market with good prices and high quality fruit and vegetables.  Next door there was a very clean meat market - we stocked up for the first time since leaving the States.  The fish market had all kinds of fish including whole octopus and moray eels.
Farmers market
Fish market

Overlooking the town, the Outeiro da Memoria has a pyramid erected to honor King Pedro IV’s visit to Terceira during the constitutional revolt of the mid 19th century. From the memorial, a beautiful park follows the hillside down into the town.

Overview of Angra

Praia da Vitoria - August 4 to 6, 2012
Starlet made the quick two hour run east from Angra to the second town on Terceira, Praia da Vitoria.  Sited on a natural cove, breakwaters were installed during WWII to create a large harbor to service the US air base nearby. Praia has become the party town in the Azores with vacationers drawn to the large beach.
Marina at Praia do Vitoria
After Rhett Barker arrived from Lisbon for a 9 day visit, we headed to an open house at the Lajes Air Force Base. Jennifer’s father was assigned here in 1951 during the Korean War.  He had a cushy job  - education coordinator for the troops. 
C5 at open house
Time to be scared!
Well behaved oxen
Our visit to Praia was during a major festival. A huge tent in the marina houses temporary restaurants from all over Portugal and the Azores. The park close to the marina is the music center. The entertainment starts at midnight and the DJ starts at 2:00 AM - way past our bed time!
A festival parade featured locals dressed in traditional clothing from several eras.  They brought along ox carts, cows, a hog and two donkeys. One group staged a picnic and dancing - both Rhett and Mark were invited to dance in the streets.
Time to dance!
Traditional clothing

Angra do Heroismo – August 7 to 10, 2012
We ran back to Angra to give Rhett a chance to see this city. Rhett is traveling before starting at the University of Florida this fall. He spent a week in Portugal before joining Starlet. In Angra on a hike to Monte Brasil, we saw the Castle of Sao Filipe. Built by the Spanish to protect ships returning from the New World, it includes 4 km of walls and gun placements ringing the bluffs.
Looking up at the Castile
Fortifications around Monte Brasil

Don't mind us...
 Rental cars were in high demand on Terceira. We ended up with a 4 door pickup truck with room for 5, so we were able to invite Bob and Janice from Tsamaya to join us for an island tour. We ran up the south and west coasts, past beach hotels and villages. In search of a cheese factory, we happened across an Azorean family transplanted to California that was back in Terceira for a visit. They dropped everything to escort us to our destination.

Later we made our way up the central peak to check out geological features of the island. Gruta do Algar do Carvao has a vertical lava tube leading down 125 m to two large rooms. 

Looking up at the entrance/exit?

Furnas do Enxofre is an area of fumaroles venting volcanic gasses. The Gruta do Natal is another cave system with hundreds of meters of passages winding through various structures created by lava flow.
Venting at Furnas
Wandering through Gruta do Natal

Graciosa – August 11 & 12, 2012
With Rhett on board, we made a side trip to Graciosa, a smaller and less populated island about 40 nm NW of Terceira. We anchored in the main harbor at Sao Mateus, and took off with the dogs to explore the quiet village.
How can I get up there?

Historic windmill
At anchor in Graciosa
The next day we found a cab to take us up to the calderia of the main volcano. If you look in the dictionary for calderia, there should be a picture of this place! A tunnel penetrates the sheer calderia wall providing access into the 1 km x 1 ½ km bowl. A cavern in the middle is accessed by a winding stairway leading down 100 m.

Stairway down
Below the opening

It opens up into a 130 m diameter room with an 80 m high dome ceiling - the most impressive cave we visited in the Azores.
Big room
Bubbling mud

The same taxi picked us up and drove us down to the main town, Santa Cruz. A large town square was being prepped for the procession at the end of their festival. This involved creating a walkway of multicolored wood chips and petals. 

Creating the design
Almost ready

Terceira – August 13 to 20, 2012
We made the 52 nm run back to Praia da Vitoria on Terceira in time for a final dinner out with Rhett. After he flew out on the 14th we ran Starlet back to Angra, the place Jennifer wanted to celebrate her birthday. Shopping, a mani/pedi – this town met the requirements! Before heading out for a birthday dinner, we had an impromptu gathering on Starlet with Bob and Janice from Tsamaya plus new friends Jim and Carole from Nepenthe. Those two are easing their way north through the Atlantic after spending 13 years going west from the US through the Pacific, Indian Ocean and Africa.
At anchor in Praia and ready for Gordon
The buzz around the docks was that TS Gordon was aiming for the Azores and predicted to become a hurricane. We had planned to leave on August 18th for Sao Miguel, 120 nm to the SE, but that would put us closer to the predicted path. Not wanting to face weather from the storm in Angra, we ran Starlet back to the protected anchorage inside the harbor at Praia.
We dropped the hook in 25 feet of water and 300+ feet from any other boat. Mark dove on the bottom and found the Rocna anchor nicely buried in firm sand. We had a day and a half for the storm to approach – so we went exploring!

Having missed the north side of Terceira on our driving tour, we took the bus to Biscoitos.  It was just under an hour away with stops through the villages along the way. In Biscoitos we walked to the harbor and found a crowd of beach lovers on the rocks and concrete platforms.  
Swimming hole
Concrete beach

Not a grain of sand anywhere.  The seas were very rough but rings of boulders break the waves and form channels for swimmers. After lunch by the swimming rocks, we visited the local wine museum.
Wine museum
Museum grounds

Gordon ended up no big deal!  The eye passed right over Santa Maria, coming at closest 120 nm from us. We felt some swell in the harbor but saw at most 25 kt winds. No major losses in the other islands. On the 21st, a day and a half after Gordon passed, Starlet left for the overnight run to Sao Miguel.

Photo album links:  
Angra do Heroismo
Praia da Vitoria 
Festival Parade 
Lajes Air Force Base 

View Starlet in the Azores in a larger map

1 comment:

  1. You did a great job with the blog!! Like the idea that you could add photo albums - didn't know you could do this - may have to check this site out more to move to as like the look of it better than ours, just not sure if I want to deal with the move to a new site