November 15, 2007, 0600 hrs, 36.32 N, 24.12 W, Log: 114,477 miles
On the hard, ashore, Praia du Vitoria, Terceira Island, Azores
Wow! Our 2007 season ended today when Paulo hauled Mahina Tiare
out setting her in stands for her winter storage. What another exceptionally
brilliant year of sailing, adventure and teaching.
Let’s first back up a little with the log update on Leg 8.
Our crew joined us in Ponta Delgada, San Miguel and on a sunny afternoon
and we soon set sail for the far western end of the island, practicing
setting sail, reefing, steering a compass course and covering part
of our safety orientation enroute. As strong easterlies were forecasted
we hoped to find some shelter in Jao Bao Bay under the high cliffs
for a few hours that night, ready to gain an early start the next
day to dash to the Island of Terceira.
After a rolly night with our chain grating in the rocky lava bottom
we set sail at 0400 on Friday, Nov. 2nd planning to cover the 80
miles until landfall at the town of Praia du Vitoria before dark.
The first part of the passage saw 20-24 kts from the ESE, making
for a great fast reach, but then we experienced a frontal passage
with rain and the wind eased allowing us to shake out the reefs.
Ilse and Patrick had bought many treats with them from a cake Isle
made, to Italian prosciutto and Belgium chocolates. What an instant
way to raise crew moral on a wet bumpy first passage!
Thanks Ilse for this yummy prosciutto!
Patrick gets ready to relive Elizabeth
Paulo, the manager of the town-owned marina met us on the guest
float and took our lines before handling our customs clearance.
Once the paperwork was completed I was eager to see the hard-stand
storage area, where we were hoping to leave MT for the winter. There
was only one spot left but Paulo assured me that he would save it
until we returned after completing Leg 8 in Horta on the island
of Faial. The only problem was they were out of jack stand/cradles
but this was taken care of by a call to Pedro Parreira who is the
local Beneteau dealer. Pedro, who also runs his families agricultural
supply company, said he would have a stands fabricated for us then
rent them to us. He could also handle pressure washing and later
anti-fouling MT, as well as looking after the boat over the winter.
Praia Beach and marina
Elizabeth hunted out an excellent seafood restaurant in the picturesque
town for dinner and we all enjoyed strolling about the town. The
next morning winds gusting to 45 knots pinned us to the dock so
we opted to focus on teaching with a break in the afternoon for
hiking and exploring the country side.
The winds had eased Sunday morning to 25 knots and after climbing
the hill shoreward of the marina to scout out sea conditions offshore
our crew made the decision to set sail. The winds never dropped
below 25, the seas were 10’-14’, but they were from
astern and we surfed our way along the coast to Angra do Herosima,
the largest town, really a city, on the island. Many of the docks
that had been there when we visited the previous summer had been
removed for the winter so the harbormaster directed us to the only
available slip, an end tie in a very tight corner. It was a one-try
slip as there was no going around for a second chance due to a large
squall bearing down on us and soaking us. Seconds after we were
safely tied up the clouds opened up drenching us as we scrambled
with our fenders. For the following 48 hours our fenders (and the
poor dock) squeaked and creaked as the winds peaked at 48 knots,
but rarely dropped below 30. The famous “Azores High Pressure”
had been displaced by a stationary and persistent 1004 low, and
the sunny weather and light winds the pilot charts had predicted
were no where to be seen!
Workmen cobbling Praia’s main street
Amanda and Ilse run the preventer
Ilse and Amanda taking a break before the next preventer run
We stayed two nights in Angra and were only able to get off the
dock thanks to our mighty foredeck crew of David, Ilse and Patrick
heaving on a pre-set anchor. At that moment I vowed to see if we
could get a bow thruster installed when we stop by Martinsson’s
boatyard next summer in Sweden.
With winds never less than 27 knots and gusting to 43 we set sail
in very impressive seas (15’+) for the small ex-whaling town
of Lages on the lee side of Pico Island. Everyone was ecstatic as
we encountered the largest seas (enhanced by the inter-island channels)
we had seen in a couple years. Dave was sitting (harness clipped
in and holding on tight!) enjoying the downwind surfing when a huge
wave broke onto the aft deck stunning us all.
Dave enjoying the surfing
MT screaming along
The large seas and strong winds continued to wrap around Pico and
followed us along the south coast. As we neared Lages we dropped
sail and carefully poked into the bay but decided it was far to
vulnerable if the wind shifted any further to the SE or S.
Taking a peek at Lages
Patrick concentrates on night helming
We reset sail for Madalena, the ferry port and largest harbor on
Pico, knowing it would be dark before we would arrive. Amanda and
I had taken the ferry from Horta to Madalena last year for our cycle
trip around Pico so felt it was OK to enter the harbor in the dark.
The late entry turned out fine; there were green range lights for
David to line up on and in addition to a flashing lighthouse on
the end of the breakwater. We anchored off the small swimming beach
and set anchor watch, although within a few hours the wind died.
The next morning nearly everyone dove into the surprisingly warm
and crystal clear water for a swim to view the anchor following
up with a hot shower on the swim step.
Following class the next day we set sail for Sao Jorge with the
idea that we might find some protection in the small ferry port
of Velas. After several hours of tacking against strong winds and
contrary current we realized that we would never make port before
dark and decided to turn back downwind and check out a small anchorage
back on Pico, further past Madalena. Minutes after we eased onto
a broad reach Ilse shouted “WHALES – RIGHT THERE!”.
A 60’ long blue whale, the largest mammal in the world, repeatedly
breeched completely out of the water in front and then behind us.
We were all excited but Ilse was extremely ecstatic, this was one
of her expedition goals.
Ahhhh quiet Madalena
We surfed past Madalena, to Porto Calhau, a small indent on the
chart, hoping to find some protection along the leeside of the island.
As we arrived at the picturesque little fishing village where all
the boats had been pulled up on shore we discovered no protected
anchorage as the swells and winds were wrapping around the island.
With sunset fast approaching, we dropped sails and put the pedal
down, reaching the now very familiar Madalena Bay before dark.
Elizabeth in her element
The unattainable Porto Calhau
On our final sail to Horta, the harbor on Faial Island, we practiced
tacking, heaving to and Lifesling overboard. Once we were moored
in Horta, Amanda had our crew practice running the preventer, rebuilding
winches and going aloft for rig inspection. With time to check out
Horta’s famous Café Sport, we then met for a farewell
dinner. Crew were jazzed after such a heavy weathered expedition,
Dave excited about setting sail for the South Pacific this summer
on his recently-purchased Amphitrite 43 and Ilse and Patrick chomping
at the bit with the idea of selling their powerboat and spending
time with their three teenage kids sailing.
‘I’m getting the hang of this”…. yells Ilse
Patrick works on the winches
“Swage, clevis pin, rigging screw”…chimes Ilse
Leg 8 Crew – John, Katie, Elizabeth, Patrick, Ilse & Dave
And just who were our Leg 8 crew?
John Stevenson, 57
Many years ago I flew sailplanes and I wanted to see if sailing
was related and if I might enjoy sailing as a new sport.
Katie Stevenson, 51
I do financial work in the high desert of Santa Fe, New Mexico but
have a great fascination of the sea. I chose this expedition to
experience blue water sailing and to see if I might enjoy sailing
as a sport. The Azores were an extra bonus.
I’m a granny of 71 from northern Ontario who enjoyed the challenge
of sailing in gale force winds with a crew a generation younger,
and of course, as before, Amanda’s cooking and John’s
endless patience. I became hooked on sailing when as a ten year
old in England I was given a copy of ‘Swallows and Amazons’.
Patrick Von Kerckhoven, 51
I’m drilling, pulling and fixing teeth of Belgians. In the
knowledge of the Azores High, I signed up for this sailing trip
expecting nice light conditions, to hopefully persuade my lovely
wife Ilse to let us sell our Boston Whaler Outrage (which we keep
in Sardinia) and buy a sailboat. It turned out we experienced an
Azores LOW of 1004 and winds to 43 knots, but the answer is YES!
We WILL become sailors and will sell our motorboat!
Ilse Oyen, 43
I am from Belgium and the mother of three children who had the opportunity
to join Amanda and John in the Azores. To top it all, I spotted
a blue whale! I have a box of plenty good memories and good feelings
to take home with me. I wanted to sail to see if sailing would offer
me an ongoing challenge, and it does. I love it!
David Gustafson, 61
Aboard Mahina Tiare a new definition of happiness emerges for me:
winds gusting to 43 knots, seas to 17’ and downwind screaming
boatspeed to 13 kts! The Roaring Azores were home to a low for two
weeks that taught us new dance steps. Blue whales looked and splashed
like flying locomotives. I learned a lot about sailing and even
more about myself. Mahina rocks!
The day following our 18th season Amanda
and I set sail from Horta at 0400, covering the 86 miles back to
Praia in just 12 hours. It was then a matter of putting our heads
down and bums in the air for the tedious and hectic process of cleaning
and organizing MT for her winter storage. We sorely missed the key
and project list drop off at Martinsson’s, along with their
quiet professionalism, especially when the travel lift here did
a couple of full tilt running starts to bunny hop the curb with
MT swinging precipitously in the slings to add momentum.
Let’s do the bunny hop hop!
MT’s winter home
We have a big thanks to say to: all of our amazing 2007 expedition
members, the crew at Martinsson’s in Sweden for the excellent
refit, the ever reliable Vickie and crew at HR Parts, Magnus Rassy
and Roland Olsson at Hallberg-Rassy for inviting us to Open House,
Tracy McClintock for running Mahina Expedition’s Friday Harbor
office more efficiently than we ever can, Melonie at Tif and Gif
Creative for doing an awesome job on www.mahina.com, and you, our
readers, for sharing the adventures.
We return to the Azores to relaunch Mahina Tiare for her 2008 expedition
season April 15th, so if you have any questions, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
or give us a ring on 1-360-378-6131.
Thanks – Amanda and John