If love within family is the greatest gift one can receive in life, then friendship must be the next greatest. My Swiss friends Rony and Katrine had kept in touch with me during my journey and had arranged a little arrival reception party. Totally exhausted, relieved it was over but with a little glow of achievement growing inside me, I was overwhelmed by the welcome from these lovely people as I have described. These pictures (from Rony and Katrine) tell the story of my arrival and the magnificent welcome I was given. I cannot thank them enough, then and now.
Gradually the Jesters left, one or two to visit other islands, others heading straight for home. I kept in touch with Justin via Garmin Inreach, sending weather reports, which I hope will help him on his way. Christian came over to my boat, which is a fair distance from his, to give me a hug and say how much he had enjoyed meeting me and asked to stay in touch, which of course I will. He is one of those people whom a yacht club bar ‘commodore’ would dismiss as a scruffy eccentric; indeed he would probably bar access to him! In so doing he would of course miss the whole point of this great, kind tough man who could sail the pants off any bar hugging yacht club type.
Which reminds me of another typical Christian story. He has a 1955 175 cc motorbike, with a little side car and he used to have a Labrador, which travelled in the sidecar, each of them wearing ancient Biggles type goggles as they rode slowly and smokily along, the dog loving the whole experience. Christian’s problem was that they made such an amazing sight, he was constantly being flagged down by people wanting photographs and of course Christian being Christian, he always obliged! Christian has a home and I think a partner, but spends most of his time living aboard when not crossing oceans; a true sea gypsy.
I received messages from Brian the mad caver, who described how they had sailed along the island’s south coast to Angra, where they anchored. Being Brian, he was towing an inflatable catamaran and being Brian, he and his crew mate Colin paddled off on the catamaran round a headland for a beer.
Being Brian they encountered contrary tide and weather and could barely make way, which was worrying as they were being pushed out to sea. Assisted by 2 swimmers, they finally made shore, completely unfazed by their experiences, and enjoyed their well earned beers – before they mounted up and paddled back out to sea, and round the headland to their boat Sylvia. Bonkers, but then I guess you have to be to dive down into deep caves, something I regard to be as terrifying as running out of Gentleman’s Relish. Brian plans to cruise a while before laying Sylvia up in Terceira for the winter.
Things happen in their own time and in their own way here. Paulo the friendly harbour master had advised me for peace of mind to pay the lighthouse tax, which almost no visiting yachtsman does. So I summoned Heldeberto the taxi and we set off arriving a little after the end of lunch hour, but the officials had obviously shifted the goal posts and arrived in their own time. They mainly deal with 20,000 ton ships and my request to pay light house dues for my 8 ton visiting boat seemed to puzzle them. Taking advantage of their confusion I thrust my passport and ships registration document at them, along with a small wad of notes, assuring them that that is all they needed, whilst Hildeberto translated. Umpteen photocopies, several signatures and much confused head scratching later, I had my requisite pieces of paper – job done, and another little experience filed away.
Meanwhile Justin was making good progress towards home and I kept in touch by Garmin Inreach – someone said the Jesters were of a certain age, which is true (40s to 72), and of course of a certain mind set. Unconventional might be a reasonable description; for example, there are no lawyers, accountants, or bank managers among us, which probably says something. Retirees, sea gypsy, ex soldiers, ex Police, civil servant, engineering business proprietor – this is the mix of our little group, the smallest Azores Challenge possibly ever and the only one where every boat finished, a point I am proud to repeat.
As my departure draws nearer, I confess to feeling more anxiety than when sailing here, for I have not kept up with the bewildering requirements for travel in this Covid age, but Angie patiently inducted me into the welter of dos and don’ts and I dutifully trotted off to book a pre-departure Covid Test at the laboratory in town. Hopefully I won’t be seeing the inside of a Portuguese jail, or be at the wrong end of a hefty fine during my journey.
Meanwhile its time to begin getting things ship shape, so Pippin is festooned with washing – naturally the signal for a nasty squall and torrential rain! C’est la vie – at least its warm and will be of short duration and the sun will re-dry my clothes later.
Here I’ll leave you, the end of my Azores journey, and the beginning of my journey home.
(which I am told is Portugese for goodbye)