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Azores for Island Hopping
The Azores has welcomed Ocean travellers and sailors for centuries, nowadays you can have a modern adventure sailing holiday on our traditional sailing ships. It is a unique place and will bring out the explorer in you. The ports on each island are fairly small and with ocean swell it is often too wearing on a wooden ship to be alongside a stone quay for long. Therefore the majority of stops will be anchorages so you need to be fairly agile with a sense of adventure for these voyages. Sea passages between islands like Sao Miguel and Pico are nearly 150 miles so you will be doing some night passages and watch keeping.
The Azores has welcomed Ocean travellers and sailors for centuries, and the founders of Grayhound Sailing Lugger Project Marcus and Freya have spent many months in these islands during their various ocean wandering. They look forward to taking their new boat to one of their favourite groups of islands.
"We love this archipelago. Friendly locals, old fashioned ways, fruitful unspoilt lands. The weather is fresh and the waters cool. There are volcanoes to climb, hot thermal waterfalls, lots of grape vines and black soil. We plan to do lots of exploration ashore as well as sailing through the islands and enjoying the plentiful wild life." Freya
The Azores are Portuguese, and there are 9 islands in 3 distinct groups – all volcanic with ancient Caldera craters. Only Pico still has an original cone over 2351m high. From June – October the weather is dominated by the Azores High. Summer temperatures typically reach 23 degrees centigrade. Evenings are cooler than the Caribbean. The shorelines are often steep cliffs and the vegetation is lush with much tropical fruit as well as fresh dairy products.
Fishing, green tourism and whale watching are an important part of their economy today . Whale hunting was historically a major source of income in the Azores. The local island communities continue to reap the benefits of being on the migration trail but now they have turned to whale watching replacing their bloodier past. A tall ship has a great advantage over island boats for cetacean spotting – A 'crows nest' vantage point. we challenge you to resist that tempting "thar she blows, Captain Ahab"
Spring is a good time to see humpback whales as they migrate past the islands.
photo: Sao Jorge
The Eastern Atlantic Islands of The Azores, lies at just far enough north to catch the prevailing SW wind and carry sailing ships towards Europe and the English Channel. Thus they have been a staging posts for square rig sailors and yachtsmen through the centuries, these mountainous island landfalls with lush vegetation are a welcome reward on our 10-14 day ocean passages.
There is more to becoming a blue water sailor than swapping oilskins for shorts, but a winter suntan certainly helps. Ocean sailors happily adapt to a watch routine and the constant motion of the ship day and night. Experience all the ships moods from glassy calms to white capped swells launching flying fish from crest to crest.
Whale hunting was historically a major source of income in the Azores. The local island communities continue to reap the benefits of being on the migration trail but now they have turned to whale watching and cetacean research, replacing their bloodier past. A tall ship (like a whaling ship) has a great advantage over island boats for cetacean spotting – a crows nest vantage point. If you are on the royal yard and you see a pod of whales spouting, we don't think you will be able to resist the Captain Ahab / Moby Dick moment. Yes, both Classic Sailing directors have been caught shouting "Thar she blows !"
March April is a good time to be in the Azores as Humpback whales pass through the islands on their annual migration. The more time you can spend at sea in deep oceanic waters, the more chance you have of spotting whales and dolphins. Large sperm whales have also been regularly sighted off the islands.
The Azores have been a staging post for sailors for centuries and several of our vessels are carrying on that tradition, as they stop in Horta or Ponta Delgada for a crew change. Why not sail to the Azores on a tall ship and combine with a holiday ashore in the Azores. Alternatively you could plan to arrive a few days early and then sail back from the Azores to Europe. Ships that regularly use the Azores as a staging post as they head from Southern Hemisphere, Caribbean or Mediterranean are Bark Europa, Oosterschelde, Lord Nelson, Tenacious, Grayhound.
Sailing from the Azores to Europe is well over 1000 nautical miles and covers some of the best* places in the world to see dolphins and whales (* as recommended by the Dolphin & Whale Conservation Society) . The voyage starts off as a true blue water passage with ocean swells and a nice climate and chance to gain a tan. The ship may stop somewhere like Cadiz or Lisbon or anchor in one of the deep rias off the North Portuguese coast but it all depends on the winds.
Crossing the Bay of Biscay is a bit more notorious but it is not always rough. When you reach the continental shelf the currents from the deep ocean upwell creating a rich source of plankton from the depths feeding all levels of marine life. Off the North Coast of Spain, is another hotspot for Dolphins. You will experience many hours night sailing under incredibly bright stars in unpolluted dark night skies, and you can even spot dolphins at night in calm weather as they leave a glowing trail of phosphorescence.
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