Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Pigs in a Poke - Laugh or Cry 1

2011 08 02

Angra Da Heroismo, Terceira, Azores

  38 39N  027 13W

Ponta da Barca
From the south you must round this rock at the Point

Some days a bad mood just gets worse.

Night before last Meredith and crew sailed from Horta to Graciosa.  Although called the "White Island" by its Portuguese discoverers this is a tiny  jewel of an island, emerald in the ring of gems that comprise the Azorean crown.
Cool Trick, Eh?

Graciosa had much to offer:  a mile wide caldeira lake, descent into a caldeiran cave with peekhole views of molten bubbling magma just below the surface but and most importantly bucolic placidity.

Graciosa may well offer all of those things but she delivered naught to the crew of Meredith.  Nor to the crews of the other two boats arriving at Praia the same day.

There are three stories in the naked island.  These are all three.


A day of frustrating sailing in light shifting winds saw Meredith make the anchorage at Praia, Graciosa in late afternoon.

Unaware there was a marina there, a marina whose construction had wiped out the entire public anchorage available for transient cruising boats we made entry, heartened at the unexpected boon of electric and water and a secure mooring.  Not so lucky,  As with most of the marinas in the Azores, and far too many we hear about in the rest of the Mediterranean we found no room at the inn as every slot was taken with a locally owned boat.

The marinas here were built with loans from an EU development fund intended to boost flagging local economies.  As described to us the terms of the loan were that repayment did not have to be made until the project was completed.  Guess what?  There are unfinished marinas dotting the coasts of most Med countries, none of them being paid for save by the inland taxpayer.  You have appreciate the sophistication of a fully developed bureaucracy, non?

So the anchorage was gone, consumed to build a marina for the transients which marina cannot be used by transients because the locals have filled it.  The rates at this marina - it is free.  Not to be put off by lack of anchorage or marina we scoped out a two thousand foot long commercial wall outside the town.  One other sailing yacht was tied to the closest end of that wall and we decided to join her.

Closing the 200 metres from the unusable marina we noted the wall was formidably high.  Arriving at the wall we confirmed its height and realized we could not get off our boat on the wall without benefit of a long stepladder.  We did not have a long stepladder, or even a short one.

Tieing up would be interesting as there were bollards for this purpose set in the concrete but the bollards were a good six feet overhead a concern as we were at half tide falling, and they were spaced about 35 metres apart.

Ever resourceful we tied, using bowline knots, enormous twenty five foot lassoos in our longest dock lines, lines a good hundred twenty feet each in length and with good luck and some boat hook assist threw our lines over the bollard from down below - first the bow and reversing, the stern.  The enormous loops would allow us to untie and slip the docklines next morning and depart without having to climb the eight or ten feet of concrete wall.  Getting back on the boat from such a wall was maybe worse than getting on the wall in the first place.

Smugly satisfied with  ourselves we waved our compliments to the boat ahead of us and had them returned readily enough.

Customs and Immigration in the person of a handsome young man with a great sense of humour, came to us on the wall as we could not go to him.  Delivering our papers up the now seven foot difference in elevation was accomplished by heaving a line to the official, tying it to our canvass bucket and putting passports and clearances in the bucket.

A local citizen happened along and with little hesitation sat with her feet over the wall and engaged us in a delightful chat for half an hour or so, she being a single hander with her own 27 foot boat which she had brought to Graciosa only a year earlier.

The harbour master followed all, apologizing for the lack of space at the marina. He asked us if we would please move our boat forward a half boat length.  We did not have to do so right then, tomorrow morning would be fine.  He then spoke with the boat ahead.

As the sun completed its descent we supped on bread and cheese with a bottle of my favourite white from Pico - Terres da Lava.  It's a pricey wine coming in at $2.50 canadian a litre - in a corked glass bottle.

As we enjoyed our sundowner repast the crew of the boat ahead spent an hour tying and retying lines, moving the boat, untying and retying lines, moving the boat in an endless cycle, each oscillation performed by a different member of the five man crew.  Each oscillation also put the boat closer to our bow.  Beginning a good boatlength ahead of us by the time we headed below for sleep the boat ahead of us was right on our bow.  There was no more room for them to move.

Just as we headed below a third boat came into the "anchorage" at Praia and was forced in the growing dim to drop his hook off the wall just about in rocky shallows.

Gerard on the Boat Ahead of Meredith:

We came into Praia late in the afternoon.  Anticipating there would be room at the marina we entered without hesitation.  This was a huge mistake.  There were no berths but also there was no room to manoeuver.  The slipways were very narrow and once in  a boat could not turn.  We were forced to back out of the slipway and the marina against a 15 knot wind and cross waves.

A local citizen told us to tie up to the commercial wall and we did.  It was very difficult as the wall was very high and we had to climb several feet of chain to get off the boat to set our lines.

As the tide went out we became very worried.  The wall was actually a concrete floor poured on pillars in the water.   When the tide was out two feet the wall ran out and there was a big cave created by the space  under the floor and between each pillar.  The  echo of the waves was very horrible and we became afraid if the tide went out too far we would find our boat washed under the concrete floor and into the caves.  My boat was brand new.  We were very worried and we had to set many lines to save the boat.

Unknown single handed sailor on the Green Hulled Boat.

It is a long sail from Sao Miguel to Graciosa and I arrived sunbaked and tired.  The sail was difficult in wind that never stopped moving so I had to change the sail trim constantly.

There was supposed to be an anchorage in Graciosa but that had obviously been chewed up long ago.  Typical of these islanders: take away a good anchorage and never tell anyone about it.  Naturally there was no room at the marina the town built over the old anchorage - there never is.  The locals fill up there tourist marinas every time.  When in England I voted for free trade with Europe but I never agreed to let the bastards make legislation to control me.  What happened there.


The first attack came at midnight.  Klaxons braying at the moon, lights blazing a false dawn, a huge car carrying ferry pulled into the dock right behind us and offloaded not only cars but a couple hundred drunk islanders.  Our deck was sprayed with gravel and detritus thrown off the wall by unthinking and pretty much insensible partiers walking home from the dock.  We were just glad no one felt the need to relieve themselves.

Gerard on the Boat Ahead of Us:

Mon Dieu.  That ferry rocked our boat up and down like a mad man.  It was just past low tide and we were all awake and pushing like madmen ourselves to save my new boat.  Bastards.  And then the people from the ferry.  Laughing at us and mocking us.  They treat us like dogs.

Unknown single handed sailor on the Green Hulled Boat:

Typical bloody Portuguese seamanship.  A Portuguese captain could not pilot a rowboat without a mishap.  They don't have to take any competency exam to be skipper, they just marry the owner's ugly daughter and are given a ship.

A hundred tons and his to command
and he never having left the land.

That ferry came in pushing a bow wave five feet high.  It hit my boat like a Tsunami and knocked my anchor right out of the bottom.  I was asleep of course and by the time I figured out what was going on I had been washed almost all the way in to the breakwall.  Bloody asses.  I pulled up my rode and hightailed it out of there.

Better tired and on the seas
than in port with the Portuguese.


The Budget Committee noticed the boat at anchor was dragging and got out the air horn and search light to wake the crew of that boat.  Just as she was ready to give a blast on the horn the skipper emerged from the salon and got his diesel going.

An hour or so later peace was restored and the ferry out to sea.

Until 3:00 a.m. That is when the pig boat arrived.  Pigs and goats actually.  This transport did not wake us with its noise or lights.  It was the smell what got us guv'nor.

This transport, name of Spiritos Santos, apparently took umbrage with our being located on "his" wall and pulled so far ahead that his prow was over our cockpit.  When we woke in the morning we found a huge shadow blotting the sun from our cockpit resulting from the overhanging prow covering our stern.  Our deck was covered in black spots of odiferous and odious muck apparently sprayed onto our deck when they washed the pig manure from the deck of Spiritos Santos.

And that was when the bad mood started.

The day grew worse as  I will tell next time.

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