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Sailing the Azores

We have been so fortunate to have great crew for all our passages, family and friends that were not only knowledgeable in sailing, but even more importantly they have all had the ability to stay good humored when everyone's spirits are down and the seas are high. Not everyone has been so lucky, sometimes crew members and captains have major differences and after a few weeks in confined quarters crew jump ship when those differences can't be reconciled. Tony and I were planning on sailing in the Azores and onto Portugal with just the two of us on board, but when a couple of young guys we had befriended back in the BVI's chose to leave their boat after the Atlantic crossing we happily invited them to join us. Our crew of two suddenly became four, and we are so much better for it. We'll have the chance to test the boundaries of our relationship on minimal sleep another time. It's great to have the opportunity to meet so many new people, both in the ports and among crew on the boats, there's so much to learn from other people's stories. Our new crew, Skyler and Pascal, have already introduced us to new music, shared lessons in photography and languages, and bonus, they both like to cook! It's always interesting to see the world through a different set of eyes and so enlightening to have a new perspective.

After spending weeks with activities confined to the small space on board, it seemed there were endless possibilities when exploring the islands. While in the Azores for two weeks we visited the islands of Faial, Terceira, Sao Miguel and Santa Maria, soaking up as much as we could in the short time we had. In Horta on Faial we celebrated our Atlantic crossing with old friends and new at historic Peter's Sports Café, left our mark on the dock with a Spindrift painting by the crew (an age old tradition complicated by the fact that no one on board is particularly artistic), celebrated Tony's birthday with a rowdy international mix of friends singing renditions of Scotch, English, Italian, Finnish and Swiss tunes, visited volcanic craters hidden in the clouds and between these fun times made numerous trips to the chandlery to fix what had broken on the boat on our passage. There is a saying "Horta hurts", and after five days of celebrating our passage we needed to move on.

On Terceira we walked through the cobblestone streets of the quaint sea side port of Angra do Heroismo, a UNESCO World Heritage site, crawled through underground volcanic caves and witnessed the running of the bulls down the small village streets while drinking mini Bock beers and eating pork sandwiches sold in neighborhood garages.

There were yet more volcanoes to visit on Sao Miguel. We drove around the island on roads shared with countless dairy cows being moved to pasture, swam in hot spring Jacuzzi's, toured a historic tea factory, added to our Portuguese vocabulary while trying to figure out uses for the traditional blue and white painted china at the small pottery factory, and got beaten by the Europeans in that favorite American competitive sport of bowling. And we kept our energy up by eating amazingly cheap, good local food, like the traditional cozida, a dish cooked for hours in a clay pot buried in the warm dirt surrounding the hot springs, while washing it all down with the local green wine. Our last stop was Santa Maria, the tiniest and oldest island where we celebrated the end of this leg of our journey, toasting friends before we said good bye to those sailing on to the UK before we left for mainland Portugal.

While in the Azores we met so many friendly residents. People would stop us in the streets to welcome us and give us tips on where to go and what to eat, they always seemed to know we were not locals. When our taxi driver forgot about us after the running of the bulls, there is no Uber to call, a local fisherman gladly offered to squeeze us into his car and drive us all the way back to the boat refusing any type of payment. And when walking up a long, steep hill into town a man stopped unsolicited to offer us a ride to the top. World peace seems like such a simple concept when confronted with so many people in our travels that are willing to share their culture, food and cars so readily with us.

We're leaving the Azores behind but managing to bring many fond memories with us, along with a fair share of the local produce, cheese, honey, tea and wine, and the determination to return some day to enjoy the islands at a slower pace. The Azoreans want us to share with family and friends back home all the islands have to offer, selfishly I hesitate to do so. Part of the charm of these islands is that they haven't been spoiled by tourism, they have managed to stay self sufficient without the intrusion of the outside world.

We are now on the last leg of our journey with young crew aboard to share the passage. Our refrigerator is again stocked and all the repairs have been made, we're so happy to enjoy the present while looking forward to the what the future will bring.

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