Friday, 17 August 2007

Santa Maria (Eulalia!)

Lovely little cruise to 'Sao Miguel's little sister', Santa Maria, but we're now slightly sleep-deprived.
It all started on Sunday, with a dawn departure from Ponta Delgada. Winds were light, so we had a smooth and relaxing motorsail the fifty-odd miles down. Curiously, given that there's plenty of EU money flowing into these islands, they don't appear to have heard of freedom of travel within the EU. I had to check out of Ponta Delgada before departure, then check in at Santa Maria, then check back in at Ponta Delgada when we returned. The process here in P. Delgada is reasonably streamlined, at least. In Vila do Porto, it was an entirely different matter. We arrived at around 1830 on Sunday evening and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Policia Maritim officers drove down to meet me when I landed (dinghy tied up to a slimy, rusty ladder attached to a sea urchin-encrusted wall). Those two characters were great - friendly, efficient and speaking good English. We completed the usual forms, document inspection, etc. and then they handed me over to the Guardia Civil do Republica. This chap was nice enough, but apallingly slow. He agonised over each entry on the form, pen hovering over the blank space while the precious minutes ticked by. That being completed, he then handed me another blank copy of the same form, to fill in for customs! 1 hour, killed.
The following morning, I made my way along to the Harbour Master's office. Here I handed over the documents to a man who disappeared for a good half hour before returning with a beautiful certificate and a bill for 2 Euros - lighthouse tax. Another hour killed.
We hauled anchor and sailed around the island to the truly spectacular anchorage at Sao Lourenco. It's half of a volcanic cone (not sure what happened to the other half - on the seafloor somewhere?), with lovely terraced vineyards rising up the steep slopes all round. We had a delightful couple of days there, snorkelling and exploring a sea-cave by dinghy. Then, on Tuesday night, the shit hit the fan.
To be continued (got to go snooze now)...


Marc said...

Wow, is that farming happening on that hillside, or are the walls for a rain/erosion break? That would be some hardcore farming in any case, and those walls must have been tough to build.

Those lava tubes look like proper pirate caves! Anything interesting turn up in the snorkeling?

Sonja said...

That's farming alright. Beautiful terraced vinyards. Very fertile volcanic soil.
The snorkelling was very good. Beautifully coloured wrasses and parrot-type fish. Jim saw quite a spectacular eel as well.