John Log 9 – Flores

Posted by John Newhoff on Friday, June 15th, 2007 at 4:47 am

38 deg, 50 min north latitude, 29 deg, 38 min west longitude.

I just woke up from a couple of hours of sleeping for the 12:00am to 2:00am watch, my first watch in four nights. It was awfully nice to sleep through the night in a largely unmoving bed for the three nights we were anchored in the harbor of Lajes des Flores.

We left Ihla de las Flores, Azores yesterday at about 1:00pm local time, which is also 1:00pm UTC, since we’re in the same time zone of the prime meridian. That’s plus eight hours from Seattle.

It should be about a 20 hour passage from Flores to Faile, the next island in the Azores chain that we’re stopping at. The Azores are divided into three groups: east, central, and west. Flores is the largest island in the west group and Faile is the most populous island in the central group.

Its mostly cloudy, but Cassiopiea is visible on the horizon off the port side of the boat. As you would expect, the milky way is spectacular from out in the open ocean, especially right now with the moon being in the new phase. The bimini that provides rain and sun protection to the cockpit of the boat makes it a bit hard to star gaze. You have to sort of hang out the side and twist your next to look up.

Bio-luminescent plankton is sparkling in the boats wake. It mostly sparkles in the white froth at the leading edge of the wake. Its not really bright, even the glow from the laptop LCD screen is enough to decrease my night vision to the point that I can’t really see it. But if I close the laptop, there it is again. It varies from area to area. The highest concentration thus far was a week or so ago during a time when we were in the middle of a glassy sea with no wind, though I have no idea if the two are related.

Back to Ihla de las Flores….

We arrived on the evening of the 11th and were able to anchor close in near a small beach at back of the harbor, not too far from the quay and completely inside the protection of the breakwater.

Tni opened a bottle of wine and we toasted our landfall, after 18 days at sea. All much relieved to be finished with the long passage.

David and Tni went ashore to clear with the local customs office. Jeff and I stayed on board. I ran up the quarantine flag and scrounged up the Portugal flag. You’re supposed to fly the quarantine flag until you’ve finished with customs and then you’re supposed to fly the flag of the host country. The quarantine flag lets everyone know that they should stay away for now, their might be plague on board.

Once finished with customs, we all piled into the dinghy and got ashore to have our first dinner on land since Bermuda. Lajes de Flores, the town in which we found ourselves, is fairly small and not really a tourist town, but it has a couple of restaurants and we went to the one recommended by the cusoms officer. I had a pretty tasty fried fish dish with a side of boiled potatoes. It was already getting late, so we headed back to the boat after dinner.

The first night in almost three weeks without night watches lead to everyone sleeping in. I don’t think anyone got out of bed before 10:00 the next morning. By the time we had some breakfast and rowed to shore, it was noon.

We spent the rest of the day walking and exploring. The town stretches up from the harbor for a mile or so and has mostly white stucco buildings with red tile roofs. There is one gas station, two small grocery stores, a couple of restaurants, one bank, and the usual municapl services.

Interspersed with the white stucco houses are a few older buildings with stone walls. Some of these are occupied, but many are tumbled down. Throughout the town, small plots in between the houses are planted in vegetable gardens. Many of these were planted all in potatoes, but quite a few also had onions, cabbage, corn, and a few other vegetables in smaller quantities. A good number of homes had dogs tied out on a rope or chain. Virtually all of these barked at us and did not seem overly friendly, but then we didn’t test this theory.

As you get out of the town of Lajes in the direction we were walking, it becomes mostly a series of small pastures separated by rock walls. Many of these pastures were empty, but some had cows in them. We ran across a field hand in one pasture that was milking the dozen or so cows there. They had a small but reasonably modern looking milking machine connected up to one cows udders. She was chewing away on her lunch as she was being milked while the other cows waited their turns.

The hillsides with their rock wall separated pastures reminded my very much of the south of Ireland, though a bit more hilly. Also, whereas in south Ireland a lot of the rock walls and roadsides are covered with a species of fuschia, Hydrangea fills the same niche on Flores in many places.

We walked out to a beautiful small park at the top of a cliff where a trail lead steeply down to the beach. It was getting a bit late in the day, so we passed on the walk down to the beach. Jeff continued up the hill while David, Tni, and I sat in the park chatting for a bit before walking back into town.

It had been foggy and misty all day and also rained a bit now and then, so the roads were wet, and as we got back into tow, I slipped on bit of mossy pavement at the margin of the road. Unfortunately, there was an inconviently placed un-convered drainage hole right there and I basically fell into it and hit my thigh against the side of it in the process. Needless to say, this hurt. I hauled myself out of the hole (around 4.5 feet deep), and managed ot hobble over to a rock wall and sit down. I guess I experienced a bit of shock and blacked out momentarily, scaring David and Tni ( and me too, I suppose). They waved down a passing police car and they called an ambulance. By the time the ambulance arrived and they finished doing their thing, I was feeling better, but all concerned felt I should go ahead to the health center and see a doctor. David and Tni were afraid I might have hit my head or hurt my back.

So, David and I enjoyed a 20 minute ambulance ride on an impressively bumpy road to Santa Cruz, the largest community on the island, where a doctor asked me a few questions, poked and prodded a little, gave me some Ibuprofen, and suggested a restaurant for dinner.

I got to speak a little french with the nurse who didn’t speak any english and I was very impressed with the fact that I didn’t have to fill out a single form or do any paperwork of any kind. On top of that, they didn’t charge me a dime. I think the nurse-in-training who took my temperature and blood pressure and put a bandage on my leg must have been something like sixteen!

The doctor called us a cab and we made the reverse journy back to Lajes where we met Tni and Jeff at the 2nd restaurant in town where we had some pizza for dinner.

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