Captain's Log, 12 September 1998
Position: 39d 36m north, 31d 7m west (passing between Corvo and Flores)
We have spread our wings again, after a delightful stay on the island of Flores. We had intended to make a brief pit stop here, but it was so beautiful, and the people so friendly, that we stayed 5 days. The harbor of Lajes is nestled within 300' cliffs to the north and west, hence our inability to get any kind of radio signal out.
Flores is one of those end-of-the-earth kinds of places, the westernmost point of Europe. 3000 people live here, on an island so craggy and wildly volcanic in origin as to be almost unbelievable. Tiny communities, some with as few as 50 people, have sprung up wherever there was enough of a flat spot for dirt to form. In 3 places, rudimentary ports huddle behind breakwaters, providing just enough shelter for fishermen to launch small boats. Seven large caldeiras, each with its own beautiful lake, crown the top of the island, which is almost permanently shrouded in a cloud cap. Those who do not fish, eke out a living raising cattle and goats. The cattle are genetically adapted to the 45 degree slopes on which they must graze, some with shortened left legs, who munch counterclockwise around the hills, and some with short right legs, who go the other way. Ha, ha, gotcha!
It is a magical place, just being discovered by Europe, but still holding on to its unique identity. There is now a small airport, and the port of Lajes is being enlarged, courtesy of EU funds. So, eventually, it will become a major tourist destination. But we were one of only 2 visiting boats, and if there were tourists they were well hidden. The other vessel, belonging to an American couple, arrived in July, intending to stay a few days. They never left, have bought a house and land, and are in the process of "going native". It is a place that exerts that kind of magnetism.
None of our crew has jumped ship, thankfully, and we are all well rested and fed. We hooked up with a local fisherman, Jose, who showed us around. Joel went fishing for tuna with him one day. Joel has become our resident fisherman; he caught a fine dorado a couple of days out from the Azores, and today caught a 10-lb bonito which we will have for dinner. Blackberry picking was at its peak while we were there, and Shifra made some outrageous blackberry tarts, which we shared with our boat neighbors.
Now we are headed for Horta, where we will visit the legendary Cafe Sport, get some sail repairs done, and hopefully get the hardware items we need for our other repairs. There was a major eruption and earthquake elsewhere on the island of Faial a month ago, and we should also get a chance to see the effects of that. Probably we will head south to Madeira after that, as the weather in the Azores gets pretty unsettled toward the end of September.