Sunday, June 12, 2011


Horta, Faial, Azores – From white sand beaches to black volcanic rock; from warm, crystalline waters to deep dark blue cold waters; from sundresses and sandals to long pants, shoes and socks…. we have all finally arrived in this beautiful archipelago of the Azores!  After a long voyage for Sebastian by boat, and me with the kids from Saint Martin we are finally together again.
There are nine total islands, and the island of Faial, where Horta is the main city and has the only marina on the island, is where the majority of sailors first make landfall.  The islands are an autonomous territory of Portugal, so Portuguese is the language spoken here.  Faial is not the biggest of the Azores, but is one of the most western ones where Sebastian and crew arrived a week ago.  This is a frequent stopover for boats crossing the Atlantic since the Azores are located about ¾ of the way across the Atlantic en route to Europe, from the Caribbean or from Bermuda.   The month of May is the “weather window” when most boats leave the Americas, so by June of every year, Horta is packed.  We are now about 3-4 boats thick across the marina wall, making for a very social environment, as we have to climb over all the boats tied up beside us to get to the dock.  Many of these sailors also passed through Bermuda, like Sebas, so it is yet another place for everyone to reunite, compare notes and anecdotes. 
The islands are volcanic making for very interesting landscape of high mountain peaks offset by green hills full of cattle and goats.  The Portuguese are well known for their dairy prowess, so we have been enjoying many local cheeses and milk.  The Azoreans specifically are known for their whale-fishing prowess, and although whale fishing has been banned for a couple of decades now, Horta at least, is very focused on the whaling culture, with a museum dedicated to the industry as well as various scrimshaw (the art of carving and painting designs onto whales’ teeth) shops around town.
The first day we arrived, we went to the whaling museum (= “school field trip” for the kids!) where we learned about how whaling was done here throughout the centuries.  There actually was a man here in Horta whose sole job was to climb up onto a hilltop, where he had a chair and a pair of binoculars - and a telephone!-  to watch for whales all day.  If he saw one, he would use that phone and call another guy down in the village, who would then set off a rocket/firecracker to alert all whale-fishers that a whale had been sighted and to run to the marina with their wooden boat to catch it. Since whales were not spotted every day, these fishermen held other jobs but would be allowed to leave them to catch whales when necessary.  The fishermen would use small wooden boats which they would row out toward the whale: no motors so as not to scare the whale away!  Each of the 8 or so crew had a very specific job: one was to place the rope of the spear into a very neat spiral (if not, the rope could knot up or catch itself on something which would ruin the catch), another’s role was to spear the whale, etc.  It is amazing when you compare the sizes, that a man with a spear and a wooden boat could actually kill a beast of this size.  And, it is difficult to believe that this tradition had been practiced in this archaic fashion (except for the telephone of course!), exactly how I am relating it to you now, up until about 25 years ago.
The kids enjoyed this whaling “lesson” but we swear Sofia is going to end up as president of Green Peace or something after this trip (she could not stand to see the pictures of the whales actually getting killed).  On the bright side, this experience inspired her to rewrite the story of Hermann Melville’s “Moby Dick.”  But instead of about Ishmael, her story is about Ishmael  - and Max (after her uncle, my brother) and how they both got stuck in the whale’s mouth, and then somehow Moby Dick morphs into Dumbo…. That’s my girl - very creative!
Now our life aboard has a very different focus.  Many sailors who have done this trip have told us the Caribbean is more about sailing and frolicking in the water, whereas from the Azores on, the trip is more about wearing real clothes and sightseeing.  The cold and the rain here is a welcomed change from the life we have lived for the past six months, but it also has made a little less motivated to get right up and at ‘em in the morning and get outside.  This is fine since the kids and I are basically moving back into the boat after the five weeks in Saint Martin; so we have been pulling out all the homeschooling books again and now getting out all the colder weather clothes, reorganizing, etc.  We are also still on the Americas time zone (Kimberly, my sister-in-law, will get a kick out of this!), so we are all going to sleep after midnight and not waking up until after 9am!  It really doesn’t get dark until 9:30/10pm so we are really off.

I keep saying that he world is getting smaller… Sebastian actually ran into a guy he knows from the sailing community in Argentina and they spent the afternoon today drinking “mate” and catching up on old times.  We also finally met, in person, the people from the boat PRATI who are originally from Spain and have been participating in the same daily radio net we participate in also.  We felt like we already knew then since we have been communicating with them since back in Puerto Rico... and ran into them here.

Our proposed itinerary may be changing from here on out in the big picture, and it is not clear exactly where we will be and when.  In talking with sailors here, many of whom have done his trip before, some say the Mediterranean (or “The Med” as they all refer to it), is extremely expensive for sailors with some marinas charging 300s euro per night especially in the summer months, and others say not to worry that there are many anchorages available for free where one can go.  In order to avoid the Med, a thought was to spend our time on the west coast of Africa.  But again, you find people who say it’s too dangerous and poor, and others who say it’s not dangerous at all, in fact it’s beautiful and very inexpensive.  So we have a lot of researching and planning to do….

What we do know for a fact is that we will wait here in Horta to meet up with Aurora, the Argentinean woman travelling solo, who is to arrive on Tuesday.  Then to spend time around other island of the Azores for the next two weeks or so, and then onto the mainland, to Galicia, Spain, with the idea to head south down the Portuguese Coast from there.
That’s all folks!
Aerial view of the town and marina of Horta on Faial Island in the Azores.

Que tul, Begonita!

The traditional paintings of sailors from all over the world who have passed through this Mid-Atlantic port.  The boaters paint directly on the walls and floor of the marina boardwalk.

Horta Marina with Pico mountain, of Pico Island, in the background.  This is the highest point of all the Portuguese territories.

Busy marina with boats tied up 3-4 in a row.

Horta street scene.

Another view of the town.

The beginnings of a masterpiece.

Who would have thought?  Little Sofia in the middle of the Atlantic! 

Work in Progress.

Ta-da-da!  Couldn't be left behind... had to leave our mark.

Welcoming Aurora, first Argentinean woman to cross the Atlantic solo!
By the way, she proudly states her age of 66! Unbelieveable! Only a few more nautical miles to go and she will reach her goal to arrive in Portugal.

Ready to dock after 22 days at sea from Bermuda.

Part of the welcoming committee.

Helping Aurora clean and dry out her cabin cushions on Begonia.... everything gets salty and damp during a long passage.  Aurora is tied up next to us in the marina.

Is that Henry the Navigator!?

Sebastian and Enrique Celesias, a sailing friend from back home.

The kids get creative with their cabin spaces!

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FOUNTAINE PAJOT ATHENA 38 CATAMARAN FOR SALE – After our wonderful experience, BEGONIA is ready for its next sailing family – with or without children!  Please contact for more information.

Friday, June 10, 2011


Horta, Faial, Azores


Hola todos nuevamente, hace rato que no escribo, con lo cual hay un monton de historias para contar.  Tratare de acordarme de casi todas. Empezare con el cruce del Atlantico, saliendo desde St. Martin.

Tuvimos la visita de Pablo Nepo y su familia, ellos alquilaron un dpto. en Oyster Pond, que queda en la costa este de la isla justo en la frontera entre el lado Frances y el Holandes. El lugar muy lindo, el complejo donde se estaban quedando tambien, y la combinacion entre tener casa y barco es perfecta, especialmente teniendo dos familias con hijos de estas edades.

Hicimos un monton de asados (Pablo los hizo, la gente que me conoce sabe de mis hablidades culinarias) nadamos en la pileta, caminamos mucho con los ninios, salimos con el barco para hacer snorkeling, pescamos, para resumir, pasamos unos muy lindos dias con Pablo, Nicole, Lucas y Sebastian. Ni hablar de lo bien que se llevaron los chicos y todo lo que jugaron.  

Aprovechamos la ayuda de Pablito y Nicole, para dejar los chicos y buscar una vivienda para Karlita y los chicos para su estadia en la isla mientras yo cruzaba. Fue bastante facil a pesar de nuestra falta de idioma, ya que Karlita se queria quedar en el lado Frances y mandar los ninios a la escuela por un mes.

Despues de cinco dias, llegaron JC Lamas y Daniel Resnik, que se sumarian a la tripulacion para el cruce. Tambien pasamos muy lindos dias, muy lindo estar con amigos de tantos anios, despues de tanto tiempo y ponernos al dia con las historias de nuestras vidas.

Despues de algunos dias llego el resto de la tripulacion, Lula Meani y Malena Mieres, las dos argentinas tambien, y de los pagos de Puerto Madryn.

Empezamos a planear el viaje, la comida, el agua, combustible, roles para la travesia y a preparar el barco para tantos dias de mar. Hicimos varios viajes al super, casas de nautica, estacion de servicio, etc.

Que caro que es todo aca en las islas!!! Por eso dicen que navegar es para la gente que tiene dinero, no como nosotros!!!

Salimos el 06 de mayo, en la maniana, con un dia de sol barbaro, con viento del cuadrante perfecto y con muchas ganas de ver esto del cruce del Atlantico, que tanto lei, y tantas ganas tenia de hacer.  Como augurio de buen viaje pescamos un Mahi-mahi (dorado) el cual JC se declaro jefe de la operacion y ningunos de nosotros nos atrevimos a discutir la estrategia.  Los que han pescado con JC saben de lo que hablo.  Cocinamos en la parrilla y disfrutamos  de una cena con uno de los pescados mas ricos que he comido.

Los dias pasaban, las guardias se sucedian y el clima acompaniandonos, prometia ser un cruce muy facil, seco y sin novedades.  La gente que navega sabe este sentimiento, y tambien sabe que es lo que viene despues de sentir esto. Yo tambien lo se, con lo cual estaba esperando que empiece el ventilador, y de proa como no podia ser de otra manera.  Por fin el viento llego, de PROA y entre los 25 y 30 nudos.

Estabamos a unos 350 millas de Bermuda y a unas 1800 de Azores.  Momento de tomar una decision, y de donde ir, con unos de los tripulantes no en servicio para decirlo de una manera, la decision fue mas facil y pusimos la proa hacia el norte para llegar a Bermuda en los proximos tres dias.

Navegacion incomoda, el barco humedeciendose cada vez mas, la comida siendo cada vez mas basica y la vida a bordo reducida a la cabina principal, estabamos bastante ansiosos de llegar a St. Georges, el Puerto de entrada de la isla de Bermuda.

Llegamos a Bermuda el dia 13 de mayo despues de 6 dias y medio, entramos en la madrugada , hicimos los papeles, que las autoridades nos convencieron que era barbaro hacerlo apenas uno llega en vez de tirar el ancla, descansar , y al otro dia ir a migraciones y aduana.  Creo que casi me tienen convencido que es una muy buena idea.

Al otro dia limpiamos todo el barco, secamos todo lo mojado (que parece ser un ritual de entrada a puerto) armamos el bote y nos fuimos a conocer esta maravilla de isla, tan distinta a todo lo que hemos visto en el caribe hasta ahora. 

A los pocos dias de pasear, conocer y charlar con otras tripulaciones, llego nuestra amiga Aurora en su barco SHIPPING, que habia salido de St. Martin unos dias antes que nosotros y que a esta altura pensabamos que habia cambiado de idea y habia ido directo a Azores en vez de parar en Bermuda. En el muelle estaban esperando un grupo de Argentinos que viven en la isla y que estaban en contacto con Aurora por satelital. Entre ellos Roberta y su marido y Sebastian, que nos cocino uno de los asados mas ricos que hemos comido con molleja y todo!Pasamos unos dias muy lindos con toda esta gente, nos llevaron por todos lados y la ventaja de pasear con “locales” y gente que sabe donde ir.

Despues de algunos dias , JC y Dani decidieron que no tenian tiempo suficiente para el resto del viaje, y compraron pasajes para volver a Argentina, lo cual sin VISA para EEUU o Canada la unica manera de salir de esta isla, es a travez de Europa, que mirando el mapa ya se imaginaran el precio de los pasajes. Pero bueno con tal de navegar uno gasta la que no tiene!!!

Zarpamos de Bermuda el dia 19 de mayo, con Lula y Malena solamente con una linda brisa del SW y haciendo un monton de millas en los primeros dias. Salimos con unos cinco barcos todos juntos, mirandonos las caras, y en el termino de 12 horas estabamos solos en el medio del Atlantico sin ver a nadie y ni siquiera con alcance de VHF.

Este parrafo se lo voy a dedicar a Alejandro, de la rueda Argentina de BLU. Alejandro brinda un servicio se pronostico y apollo a los navegantes que no tiene precio. La buena onda de esta persona que algun dia me gustaria conocer, es dificil de explicar. El estuvo ahi cada noche durante los 14 dias del viaje, dandonos todo tipo de informacion, desde clima, viento, hasta info de puertos y procedimento de entrada a Puerto. Tambien conocimos otra gente a travez de la rueda, que nos encontramos en Horta cuando arrivamos. GRACIAS ALE!!!

El cruce fue sin novedad, el barco se porto muy bien, con problemitas menores que fui arreglando a medida que pasaban ( filtros, battens, etc.) La comida estuvo muy bien, y los calculos funcionaron. Tuvimos comida fresca y fruta hasta un dia antes de entrar a Puerto. El resto muy bien, pudimos baniarnos con agua caliente cada dos dias lo cual es un lujo para mi, despues de navegar en barcos por 10 dias sin ningun tipo de hygiene personal, el famoso olor a OSO!!!

Arribamos a Horta en la Isla de Faial, depues de 13 dias y 16 horas. Llegamos a las 6 de la maniana, atracamos en el muelle de recepcion junto con barcos que conocimos en Bermuda, barcos que habian salido un dia antes que nosotros!

Fui a un internet cafĂ©, hable con Karlita, planeamos su  viaje en avion que no es directo ni barato, y me relaje sabiendo que llegaban en los proximos dias. Proximo plan, limpiar, limpiar y limpiar…

Pablito y JC navegando en St. Martin despues de 15 anios

Que junta!!!

Cena en St. Martin noche de despedida

Toda la tripulacion del "Begonia"

Vida dura en el atlantico norte

Jefe de pesca y su trofeo

JC me deja tenerlo para la foto!

Mar para valientes unicamente

Nuestro proximo barco

Sebastian, pero este sabe hacer asado!

Cena en la casa de Rberta y Peter, con Aurora.
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FOUNTAINE PAJOT ATHENA 38 CATAMARAN FOR SALE – After our wonderful experience, BEGONIA is ready for its next sailing family – with or without children!  Please contact for more information.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Au Revoir Saint Martin, Bom Dia Horta!

Baie Nettle, Marigot, Saint Martin - No chance to write a long blog entry... the latest is that Sebastian arrived in Horta, Azores on Thursday.  Since we now know that he's arrived, I booked my ticket for the kids and me to travel to Horta o meet him there.  We are leaving this Sunday, one week earlier than planned.  We are in overdrive cleaning and packing.  It's amazing what one can accumulate in a 5-week period!  Will write more from Horta, but we had a fantastic time here in Saint Martin and will miss all our friends.  Great memories.

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FOUNTAINE PAJOT ATHENA 38 CATAMARAN FOR SALE – After our wonderful experience, BEGONIA is ready for its next sailing family – with or without children!  Please contact for more information.