June 13, 2015
We arrived yesterday at Santa Maria island – our last stop in the Azores before the 850 mile push across the remainder of the Atlantic to Portugal, which starts tomorrow morning.
Summing up our experience in the Azores is hard, but a few highlights: None of us had any idea what to expect, and the islands have been an unalloyed pleasure. They are green, which was a surprise to me, at least. They seem sparsely populated, except for Sao Miguel, the largest island with about 150,000 inhabitants. But even Sao Miguel is mostly open green space, including farms, vineyards and wild hillsides. The islands themselves are quite beautiful, sometimes with severe volcanic landscapes, and other times lush with emerald farms and wild vegetation.
The social atmosphere is the most striking. This is a very low stress part of the world, at least that’s the general impression. The Azores are far from the rest of the world, tourism is relatively minimal, and prices are astonishingly low, for everything, from good wine at 3 euros a bottle to fresh vegetables in the public markets, to good restaurant meals, often focused on the abundant fish supplies around the islands.
We could see this as a lovely spot to retire – Social Security would go a long ways. The language is a bit of an obstacle, since, although Portuguese is closely related to Spanish, even a fluent Spanish speaker would have trouble making heads or tails out of the spoken language. There would be a definite learning curve.
I have no idea why everything is so cheap. Think about Hawaii – similarly isolated – where everything is so expensive because, we are told, it has to be shipped in. Maybe part of the answer is that there is real agriculture on the Azores, including meat, milk, cheese, fish, and of course, wine. Whatever the reasons, the people are generally kind and friendly, walking through the towns, parts of which are ancient, is always a pleasure, and there is almost always something natural to please the eye.
Just a couple other things before we head off for Portugal: One big recent event is that Hannah departed from the boat yesterday to head back to the US and then Alaska for work. It is a shock to our systems not to have her on the boat! Here’s what appears in the log for yesterday: “Hannah, on the dock, cast off the lines this morning as we departed for Santa Maria. What a gift it has been to have her on the boat for almost four months of this trip. Serafina just won’t be the same without her bravery, good humor and intelligence.” We will miss her, and we’re enormously grateful for the time she made available to share this adventure.
And then, as promised, here’s a photo of the crazed bird attack on Dan’s iPad!
The “Fleet Tracker” will be on again as of tomorrow. Next update from Lagos, Portugal – Neptune willing!