May 18th. 2018
Yesterday morning we entered Horta harbour. Along the way we had seen a number of fast whale-watching RIBs, but were sorry not to spot a whale.The final miles we flew at our maximum speed of 23 knots. This we have to do every now and then to keep the turbos clean; they are idle at our usual cruising speed of about 8 knots.
This isn’t a thing we do often. At this speed the engines use 220 litres of diesel an hour.
We arrive together with a number of sailing vessels, most of them coming in from the West as we have done; Bermuda, Key West and St. Maarten.
It is busy in the harbour and it will going to take a while before we have cleared customs. This is a Port of Entry for the European Union.
We can wait. In our motor boat we stand out from the sailing crowd. Leonardo, a fourteen year old lad, and his father are among those to help us with our lines.
His father explains that Leonardo lives for the sea. He had followed us in on the AIS. We give him a Four Seasons colour brochure and let him sit in the Captain’s chair. This makes his day.
By now it is our turn at the Customs Office. We have to visit four offices, arranged in a square facing each other in pairs. We start with the Harbourmaster, who allocates us a berth. We take his filled in forms to the Marine Police accross the way. The same forms then have to be taken to the Customs officials before finishing up at the Marine Authority, where we pay 2 euros for the final stamps, this going towards the upkeep of the lighthouse.
We are advised to keep the paperwork safe as it is valid for six months and in all of the harbours on the Azores. That is good news indeed.
My good mood disappears as, leaving the office, I catch sight of the noticeboard.
Two very experienced Italian sailors, 53 and 30 years old and both born at sea, have been missing since May 2nd. after leaving Horta in their sailboat Bright, bound for Gibraltar. Between Ponto Delgada on São Miguel, our next port of call, and Gibraltar their EPIRB sent out a short alarm message. Though their location came through they disappeared without trace.
After learning that the Portuguese search had given up after three days, the desperate families were able to convince the Italian Navy to take on a more thorough search. This resulted in the wreck and a number of lifejackets being found but of the sailors there is still no trace.
This leaves me speechless.
We take Four Seasons to her berth and go ashore to explore the island.
Horta is a hub in the network of international communication and undersea cables and is also a famous stopping place for sailors making an Atlantic crossing. Once famous for its whaling industry, now tourists come to watch the whales.
There are two places every sailor must visit. First is the harbour wall where over the years visiting sailors have made thousands of paintings, leaving proof of their visit. Not for us, we are not sailors after all.
The second spot is Peter’s Sport Café, one of the world’s most famous sailors bars. Here you can see flags, plaques and burgees from the thousands of yachts that have visited Horta over the years.
We were worried that we and our motor boat would be unwelcome here but the present owner and grandson of the founder welcomed us with open arms and insisted on a photo as we handed him a No Limit Ships flag and a pair of Dutch clogs. That was a first for him.
Our plans to cross to the island of Pico, accross from Horta, have changed. Low hanging clouds were not at all inviting and the forecast wasn’t good so we have chosen to go straight to Ponta Delgada on São Miguel.
I will tell you about that trip next time.
Skipper of Four Seasons