Mahina Expeditions offers offshore sail-training expeditions, offshore sailing seminars and boat purchase consultation.

Azores

Leg 8-2007
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 Marina

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.


Workmen cobbling Praia’s main street
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!


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.


Windy Angra
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.


Ahhhh quiet Madalena
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.

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,

‘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
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.

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.

Elizabeth Ells,
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 sailing@mahina.com or give us a ring on 1-360-378-6131.


Thanks – Amanda and John

 


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