Memories from the Azores
As I sit here trying to recall the memories of our stay thus far, I am struggling to remember the day that we arrived – actually, Im struggling to remember what day it is today, and this has been the case since we left. It almost feels as though the calendar has, for us, fallen away and with it, all of the items on it. From the “to do” list of items left on the complete by dates to the wonderful activities that we write there designed to enhance our lives but in actuality mostly result in yet one more item on the list and the attendant several things that accompany it. A perfect example of this is Father’s day. I had dutifully purchased most of the cards for most of the events that we knew were coming up and for which we would need presents. Some of these include Jack’s birthday (4th July) and Christmas – these of course, were the most important gifts to be purchased. There was also Alec’s birthday which occurred on the Florida-Bermuda leg. But while I had purchased a card for Father’s day, I had forgotten a gift. I was vaguely aware that Father’s day was approaching and I had it in my mind that I needed to prepare for it but I had totally and completely forgotten that it was Sunday much less Father’s day the day that it occurred. Such is life on the boat (Sorry Alec). But the really wonderful thing is that for me at least, it was the most wonderful Father’s day ever and if it was Mother’s Day, it would have been the most wonderful of that too. Recognizing that it was Father’s day, we let the Dads on board (Michael is still here) choose the movie. We let them have first dibs on dessert. We had a wonderful meal and thanked God for their presence in our lives and Alec, Jack and I spent hours playing monopoly on the salon floor. We were together, We were grateful, and we celebrated a very wonderful day together of family.
We had another equally jarring realization yesterday when Jack, talking with a new friend, discussed his age. He said he was 8. His new friend (9) commented that he seemed like he was 9. Jack replied “Thanks”. As I overheard this exchange, it dawned on me that in fact, Jack was nearly 9 and would be so in 2 weeks. It sort of shocked me that all of this time passed without me even being vaguely aware. In the airline business the passage of time was very much marked by “bid sheets”. The schedules that we would bid for and which dictated most of what would rule our lives for the next month. Im sure that most businesses have a similar predictability and order to the passage of time. After we retired, we “fell into” a new ordered schedule – that of the school and church calendar with the attendant dates to be scheduled including the numerous birthdays, holidays and celebrations. It is odd to me so soon after we left (only 1 month now) that these “hard and fast dates” on the calendar have become so quickly superfluous.
But back to our time here. For starters, we are extending our visit here as the weather doesn’t look suitable (to our comfort anyway) for the next week or so headed North. When we arrived and before Jack and Janie got here, Elizabeth had hoped to climb Mt. Pico. Sounded good to me! Lets go! So before Jack and Janie got here, we took the dinghy over to Pico and had a hike. HA! So we thought! So this trip highlighted 2 very large shortcomings of mine. 1) Im not a great researcher. Im more of a jump in and figure it out kinda person. 2) When a challenge is dropped in my lap, I lack the forethought to do the aforementioned research and I lack the prudence to drop out. So there we were, at about 5K feet with 3K feet to go to the top when Alec, Michael and Sally, having none of my issues with dropping out, bagged it. If I have issues with completing tasks I set out to complete, Elizabeth has issues with being a “spoil sport”. A perfect storm:-) To say that this was a harrowing climb would be an understatement. We took 3 hours to complete the climb to the top and another 4 hours to come down. During that time and for the final 30 minutes, it was a scramble over rocks with us clutching the side of the mountain wondering whose idea was this anyway and would I end up on one of those stretchers carried off the mountain. We each fell no less than 12 times and we were so delirious we were laughing though nearly all of it. A taxi returned to take us back down to the marina (Alec, Sally and Michael had enjoyed a lovely lunch and day in town waiting for us) and we came back and soaked our feet in the 65 degree water off the swim platform of Gratitude. Our bodies felt very battered and bruised but our spirits could not have been higher having accomplished the climb.
Other highlights of Pico are for one, the vineyards. A UNESCO heritage site, the acres of vineyards are the result of volcanic rock being piled into little plots. The rocks needed to be cleared anyway but they serve the important purpose of protecting the precious vines from the wind and cold.
We continue to enjoy the good fortune of arriving in towns with holidays. Espiritu de Santo or the feast of the Holy Spirit is celebrated widely on these islands. At home we celebrate the Pentecost at the same time but here it is a much larger celebration. A very religious people having experienced pirates, volcanoes and earth quakes, roughly 90% of the inhabitants are Catholic according to the driver we had. The celebration lasts for several days and is spread out over the island each Parish having their own party. The custom is for a family or group of families from the parish to make several loaves of bread which they then share with everyone along with a bowl of soup. This is given freely and generously to anyone attending the celebration. The bread is amazing. It is more like a sweet bread -think Bahamian – to all of our boating friends. The first picture is taken during the day in Pico and the second picture is taken after Janie, Lizzie Sally and I decided to get off the boat while everyone was headed to bed to enjoy our local celebration. Notice the baskets of bread – artfully displayed in each basket with beautiful handmade lace doilies.
Without a doubt, a highlight of these islands is the paintings left behind by the boats who made the trip. It is customary after traveling from afar (everyone arriving here has traveled from afar) to leave behind a painting celebrating their journey. This is the one notable exception for most boaters whose motto is to leave behind little evidence of their visit. A further caveat is that doing so will ensure a safe subsequent passage. It goes without saying that this is one superstition nobody wants to ignore. Below is the beautiful labor of love created by Sally Hastings to celebrate our passage. Even though some of our names arrived or departed by plane and others never made it to the Azores, we believed that the spirit of every name represented made this possible for us and deserved a mention on the picture, not the least of whom was the paw prints of our loved Pratt and Whitney who have been real troopers on this passage.
As we move into a more relaxed time on board with guests having departed and most of the touring complete, we find that this time is as special as the sightseeing and excitement of the arrival – just totally different. We are settling into a bit of a routine, Jack with school and us with boat chores and maintenance while we await the weather to depart. One of my greatest concerns was would Jack find companions. As I write this he is currently on a neighbor boat playing with no less than 6 other children from no less than 4 other countries speaking 4 other languages (none of them our current host country tongue of Portuguese). To say it is the loveliest thing ever would be a gross understatement and though this appears last in this posting, it should really have appeared first. Having our child laughing with friends and running up and down the dock exploring independently and joyfully has lifted up the hearts and souls of everyone on board – actually it has been enjoyed by all of the boats in our vicinity with or without children, and has continued to bring to me lessons that I am here to learn.
As always, thanks for reading and sharing the adventure with us.
Love, Laurie, Alec and Jack