Our first day on Flores we were all a bit tired and so didn't plan much. I checked in with the harbourmaster who was very laid back, and friendly, reminding me how I'd liked the Portuguese people I'd met on the mainland last Autumn. We walked around and explored the village around the harbour. It's very green after the Caribbean islands............. obviously they get a bit of rain here ! It was a steep hill from the harbour to the village and we tried out a few cafes, buying a coffee here , ..... a beer there. Everything was cheap. They don't get much tourism here as it's so far from mainland europe. Most of their visitors are the sailors who pass through on their way back across the Atlantic. And the season for this is only 6 to 8 weeks. We asked around to see if we could find a cafe or restaurant who'd be prepare to cook the tuna that we'd caught the day before. They all said no, except a restaurant a mile or two up the hill, which was run by a German couple, so that was where we spent the evening. After that, back at the harbour we visited some Swedish friends of Fred's, on a neighbouring boat, and were up until 5 in the morning cleaning up a few litres of rum left over from the Caribbean. Theirs, not mine which I am still hiding in the bilges for a party when I get home !

The next day the british boat CHAOS, that we'd met mid Atlantic, came in and we met Jim and Sally who'd been kind enough to give us the weather info. Lovely couple, but a strange name for a boat ! They are musicians, and apparently after meeting us and then losing contact, Sally wrote a song about Holly Mae........... along the lines of ....... "where are you now Holly Mae ?" We look forward to hearing it when Jim has put the lyrics to music.

Later on we took a taxi tour of the island. We were all a bit hungover, and the driver took us around all the miradors (viewpoints) on the island and made us get out and take photos. On top of the mountain, the temperature was 12 degrees and with a strong wind chill factor ! We weren't expecting this and were only wearing tee shirts and shorts. Brrrrrr, I hadn't felt this cold since the winter before I left home. We saw all the volcanic lakes, and the driver was kind enough to tell us the depth of each one.. This one is 108 metres deep, this one is 22 metres, and this one is only 2 metres ! But actually the island was very beautiful.

Friday 6th June
Yesterday from the top of the hills we could see that there was a lot of wind, and the sea was covered in whitecaps. Today it was a little better and we had decided to check out and move on to the next island, Faial, about 125M east. We motored out of the harbour and started to put up the sails. We were going for No1 jib and 2 reefs in the main, but in a fit of enthusiasm, with everything happening at once there was a nasty sound of ripping sail cloth. The reefing pendant had been hardened on the winch putting too much strain on the aft reefing point which tore, opening up a tear about 9" long. Short of going back into the harbour, all we could do was put in the 3rd reef and carry on.
We followed a group of half a dozen other boats, who'd also chosen to move on that day. Out of the lee of the island, we were going well enough, despite having in the extra, unplanned reef. The sea state was pretty rough from the wind of the day before, and with a F5-6 wind from behind we were rolling uncomfortably again, but at least we weren't taking in any water in the cockpit.

Saturday 7th June
When I came on watch at 2 in the morning I could see the stern lights of 3 boats ahead. We passed one within an hour , and a little later could see the lights of a settlement on Faial. The wind eased a bit overnight and in the morning we could have done with a bit more sail, but there wasn't much we could do about it, and so the last few hours of our approach were a bit slow. We sailed along the south coast of the island, looking at all the fields of pasture which looked very neat and tidy, and then about an hour before we got in, Gerry had a text from Heather (his wife) who was on the island and had spotted us. There aren't many tan gaff sails arouind these parts, so we're easy to identify. We were tied up alongside the reception berth in Horta by 11 ish, and as the marina was full we were told to stay put. We hadn't been there long before we were visited by MIke from Nostramus, and Vicky and Eliot from Swallow. Jim and Sally on Chaos were also there. We spent the first night alongside, but the frequent surge was snatching at our lines and threatening to pop our fenders, so the next day we went out to the anchorage.
Heather had been staying in a B&B, and Gerry took the opportunity to spend a couple of nights ashore

Sunday 8th June
Heather had also hired a car so we had a quick tour around a couple of sights of the island; some natural swimming pools, and a lighthouse now obscured and half buried by a recent volcanic eruption.
Unfortunately, Fred's time was up. He'd managed to wangle a second month off in one winter, to join us for the transatlantic crossing from Antigua, but now he had to get back to his work in Stokholm. So we took him to the airport and talked of Holly Mae's Baltic adventure, to take place in a couple of years...................................

There were a couple of jobs to do on Holly Mae. I had to stitch a patch onto the mains'l and reinforce a couple of the eyelets which were showing some signs of strain and Giles spent some time searching the bilges for leaks after we'd been pumping out twice a day in the heavy weather on the crossing to Flores. The amount we'd had to pump out wasn't huge........................... we pumped when the water reached the level of the automatic electric bilge pump, maybe 8 to 10 gallons, but I wanted to be reassured before our final passage. What he found were a number of tiny trickles around the garboard (bottom plank) which suggest that the hull had been 'working' when the going was toughest. Now, in harbour, the rate of leaking had slowed right down again, and I was confident that it could be left until haul out, next winter.

We were all feeling very at home in the Azores. And it wasn't just the friendly islanders....................... we also had Cornish weather. Low cloud, cold and drizzle ! Not very encouraging for making the most of the island, but eating and drinking ashore was cheap. And we had a musical evening aboard with Jim and Sally from Chaos.
Horta is one of the great crossroads of sailing boats where most of those doing the west to east crossing stop, and it is traditional to leave a momento of the boat painted on one of the quays. We spent a while looking at those of boats gone before us, and recognised Greyhound, Peel Castle and Rosa amongst the rest. In fact it was difficult to find space to leave our mark without going out of town. There was a new marina office , and we considered being the first to decorate the clean white walls, but in the end chose a spot near the end of a pontoon. Using the few paints we had plus a small pot of red acrylic that we'd bought Giles left our mark in style, which he had to do in the rain for the most part.

At this stage, our plan had been to visit the islands of Sao Jorge and Teceira before moving on to Sao Miguel to pick up John, our last crew member for the return home, but despite repeated study of the weather forecast we couldn't find a cooperative wind. Thursday's wind was Southerly F3 which was OK, but not ideal, and after that virtually no wind before we had to be in Sao Miguel on 19th. To visit those other islands would have probably meant a lot of motoring later, so we chose to go straight to Sao Miguel on the Thurs.

Thurs 12th June.
With Heather aboard making up our crew of four, we set off with 2 reefs in the main and the No1 jib at about 2 in the afternoon. Heather was looking forward to all the whales and dolphins we'd led her to expect.
The wind in the harbour was quite gusty and much more than forecast. I put this down to local conditions. Pico the island 4M to the east has on it the highest mountain in Portugal, and this was funnelling the wind down the channel between it and Faial. It was also kicking up quite a steep chop which we had to beat into for the first four or five hours. Progress was slow and uncomfortable, and as we came around south of the mountain, the wind almost disappeared...................... something to do with back pressure from the mountain I was thinking. So we started the motor to get clear of the island.
Half an hour later when the motion of the boat had steadied a bit, Heather thought she'd risk a visit to the heads. And then, there was a cry of ...................."Thar she blows !", from Giles. I rushed up on deck to see two whales 30 yds off the port beam, our closest and best sighting yet. I could clearly see the pair of blowholes, which identify them as toothed whales (as opposed to a baleen, plankton eating whales), and then as they dived, a tail fin lifted out of the water in classic sperm whale style. In all it lasted perhaps a minute.................. Heathers visit to the heads lasted about two !!! An unfortunate coincidence, but she did get to see a school of dolphins a bit later.
Half an hour after sunset as we'd almost cleared the island, the wind returned. A southerly F3, just as forecast, and with a gentle swell on the starboard quarter, we had a comfortable and quiet night, slipping along at 5 or 6 K.
By sunrise we'd left the overcast weather behind and it was the start of a beautiful sunny and warm day. The western tip of Sao Miguel was spotted just after 11, still 30M away. The almost ideal conditions held throughout the afternoon although the wind was slowly weakening and backing , pushing us a bit too far to the north. During the night we had been working our way further south than the direct line to Sao MIguel because the forecast was for the wind to back to the SE, but we still couldn't lay the course for Ponta Delgada.
By 5pm, within a couple of miles of the island, we'd slowed right down and decided to start the motor for the last bit along the coast. Then ahead we could see three masts and lots of sail. It was Grayhound motoring in the opposite direction, on their way to Teceira. We stopped for a 10 min chat, before motoring on and tying up in Ponta Delgada around 8pm.