Finally we could set off for the Azores. The weather window was right and we had a last coffee with our Dutch friends on board in the morning. The plan was to spend a night at anchor off the harbor so I could get used to the motion of the boat. As we left the berth John heard the engine alarm and saw the red oil light.
A quick inspection revealed the entire oil content of the engine was no longer in the engine, but underneath it. So much for the quiet afternoon, instead we laboriously pumped the leaked oil back into the engine (twice!) with a hand pump after John had found the cause. A broken rubber seal on the oil filter.
A new filter was fitted, the oil topped up and then we just had to clean up the remaining oil mess from under the engine. It’s amazing what baby nappies can be used for – three of these were placed under the engine and left to do their work.
Our friends were already asking if we wanted to come back. But we kept on with our plan and left early(ish) in the morning. Two other boats also set off with us but slightly earlier.
A good sailing wind (Beaufort F5) accompanied us for the first 6 hours, but then the weather deteriorated and developed into a real storm with gale-force winds (Beaufort F9) and towering waves up to 3m. It poured in torrents and finally we had no choice but to furl all sails. Our faithful companions on the other boats were no longer visible due to the poor visibility. We had not expected such a storm and the weather forecast had not indicated it either. We sat in the salon and hoped that the storm would soon subside.
After about 20 hours the storm calmed down but the high waves remained and rolled “Maya” from one side to the other. And of course I got seasick again but after the storm subsided I felt much better.
Later, with a steady wind of F5-6, we made good progress and Maya glided over the waves. Occasionally a heavy cloud bank would come along with heavy rain and strong wind underneath (known as a “squall”) would come along and remind us of the storm.
Once we saw a waterspout forming within one of the squalls. The very distinctive funnel shaped cloud making us both a little anxious. Luckily it stayed away and seemed to dissipate.
There were beautiful sunsets and except for two tankers we saw no other boats. Our two companion boats could no longer be seen. Shortly after the storm we had managed to contact by VHF Achim (on “Jojo”), who told us he was OK, but something had broken on his mainsail. We offered to sail back to him but he said he would be OK.
After 4 days the wind died complete and we had to go under engine for the last 7 hours with absolute calm and mirror-smooth Atlantic to the island Santa Maria.
It was a great feeling to see land again and the island welcomed us with open arms in beautiful sunshine. We were totally happy and one storm experience richer.
We had also beaten the other two boats by nearly a day. John was particularly pleased as one boat was about our size and crewed by a French crew. The French tend to be very competitive and sail really fast – well done “Maya”.
Santa Maria is a very small island with only 16 km length and 10 km width and was discovered as the first island of the Azores in 1427. Even Christopher Columbus stopped here in 1493 and there is a huge airport built in 1944 by the American forces as a supply base and fueling stop for aircraft. The aircraft of the time were incapable of a non-stop transatlantic flight.
We had to dock at the special quarantine Pantoon C in the port of Vila do Porto and a PCR test was performed in the afternoon. Since the Covid 19 crisis worldwide, in Portugal you have to have 3 PCR tests within 12 days to be allowed to move freely on the islands and between them. I doubt Christopher Columbus had these problems…
Thanks to the stay in Germany and my work in my former practice and in the vaccination center in Hamburg and good friends, we were both fully vaccinated. It was a really good feeling knowing that.
In Portugal, as well as in Spain, a mask is compulsory in public at the moment.
After our PCR test which is provided free (result was negative, as expected) we were allowed to leave the boat.
We stayed on Santa Maria for about 10 days and were very enthusiastic about the island.
It is a small paradise, absolutely green and many flowering hydrangeas and other flowers lining the streets. The locals are very friendly and helpful people. Most people here live from agriculture as tourism is not a big thing [yet].
The marina staff especially Henrique were especially helpful and very nice. We had two great hikes and anchored in two magical bays.
The weather here in the Azores is very changeable. The Azores high is often replaced by passing lows with enormous wind speeds, high waves and rain.