2012 May 6-12 – Days 56-62 – Horta, Faial, Azores to Ft. Lauderdale, FL

This was the last port of call on our 62-day Grand Mediterranean Voyage.  Once we left Horta we spent six days at sea before returning to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida where we caught our flight home.

All of the islands of the Azores, except one, have natural harbours.  Faial is northwest of São Miguel and considerably smaller.  Faial is mountainous, rising to 914 meters (3,000 feet) above sea level.  It is 23 kilometers (14 miles) long and 16 kilometers (10 miles) wide and is one of the favourite islands of the archipelago to visit.

Horta, the chief town and seaport, also has one of the main airports in the Azores.  Ferries run regularly between Faial and the nearby islands of São Jorge and Pico (shown below)We have been on several whale and dolphin watching trips.  Mostly you see a few fins or a distant tail going into the water, but we like to see if we can see critters when the opportunity presents itself.  We only saw two Sei Whales (third largest whale in the world) after our guides were told about them from spotters on whale tours out of Pico.

We chanced upon a large pod of dolphins on the way back to Horta at the end of the tour.  But, the best part of the entire day was the three hours we spent in the zodiac with six other people from the ship.  There were heavy, heaving seas and we were riding a roller-coaster the entire time. We estimate we went about 15 miles out to see looking for the whales and we slid into deep troughs and climbed out again, catching some ‘air time’ on the crest.  It was so much fun!  Fortunately we do not get sea sick so we could enjoy the bouncing, plunging waves.  For some other people the trip was not very much fun at all.  The lady sitting in front of me in the zodiak would not sit still. She kept leaning this way and that, grabbing the rope, letting it go, adjusting her hat, turn left, turn right, shift forward, shift back.  Drove me batty.  The worst part was that when we caught sight of the two whales she stuck her whole arm straight out and held it there pointing in the direction of the whales, which meant I could get no photos of them because her arm was always filling my viewfinder.  I asked her not to do it, and she tried to point with a bent arm, but it never lasted.  I did get some photos of the dolphins though. After we returned to Horta we walked around the town for an hour or so before going back on board in time for the Interdenominational Worship Service and our dinner. The sunset that evening as we sailed west was shades of gold.Our second night at sea was Pirate Night.  The islands off the coast of Portugal and western Africa were long used as pirate havens and re-stocking ports.  Since we were sailing in former ‘pirate waters’ the ship’s staff decorated the dining room and other public rooms with skulls and crossbones, treasure chests, and bootie.  We knew what the special theme nights were to be before we began the trip so we had packed some appropriate outfits and my tacky, curly, red wig got another wearing.

After breakfast, on the fifth day at sea on the way back to Florida, the Captain came on the ship’s intercom and said, “Here we go again.”  They had spotted the abandoned sailboat that we had stopped to investigate on the way across the Atlantic at the beginning of the cruise.  And here it was, 142 nautical miles from where we saw it before.  Maritime Law states that all vessels that do not respond to radio hails must be investigated.  So, we did a short course adjustment and the bridge confirmed it was the same abandoned boat and we were able to sail on.  The captain said it was probably a $100,000-$200,000 boat and he wouldn’t mind at all having it tied up at his place in Norway.  He reported it, again, to Bermuda Coast Guard and told them someone should go bring it in as it is a hazard to shipping vessels. Our last night on board was May 12 and we were blessed with a nice sunset to close the book on another fabulous holiday.  Thanks for sailing with us.  I hope you enjoyed the journey.

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