The alarm goes of at 5am and rain is tap dancing on the forehatch above me. The skipper says something to the effect of ‘front passing over – alarm for 6:30’. And I fall back asleep.

I wake up again at 6am and all is calm and quiet. I’m cosy, so cosy but I know that the later I get up, the later we’ll set off and the later we’ll arrive. I don’t like arriving in new places in the dark. I get out of bed.

Sunrise is at 0630 here even though it’s 1st June. I had it in mind that it would rise at 0500 or something but of course, we are further south. Closer to the equator with its 12 hour days and 12 hours nights.

We prepped the boat last night and there’s nothing to do but make coffee and cast off. We’re out of our berth and raising the mainsail by 0630. Dawn chases us down the coast as we gybe with the acceleration zone that spins around this circular island.

It doesn’t take long to reach split rock, a huge sunlit monolith that rises up out of the sea in front of the city Angra. Surging gently down rolling swell and racing along with full sail and a knot of current, the boat feels alive.

Blue water, green islands

An exhalation abeam and a small pod of pilot whales trundle past, blasé about our presence, their attitude unlike their common dolphin cousins. I feel the inevitable twinge of seasickness and head below for a nap.

Within an hour I’m back out in full sunshine, a lumpy beam swell shoving its way between the islands Terceira and Sao Jorge. It’s sickening but also necessary, I need to remember what this feels like for the two week passage that looms on my horizon.

Angra do Heroismo

Shearwaters follow the boat, curious about the fishing lures spinning a hundred metres off the back. We pull them in for a while, don’t want to catch one of those chatty birds. I try to eat something and keep it down.

Sao Jorge’s skyhigh cliffs can be seen from a long way away. When we reach along their sides, we’re still in hundreds, if not thousands of meters of water. And yet there is land, right there. This island is just the tip of a preposterously enormous formation. This lush, green land is the earthly offering of a sulking volcano. The long island is just a line of volcanic cones with cows grazing peacefully in their mists. And midsts.

São Jorge – Ihla Vermelha

Waterfalls crash down the abrupt cliffs and we sail along in gusts and wallow in lulls. I’m looking forward to arriving, I’ve not been to this island in a year and it’s one of my favourites in this archipelago. It’s an easy place to be with its seabirds, dairy cows and friendly people. Traveller throws that word around wherever they go but it’s true here, the Azoreans are friendly. Relaxed, unhurried and always friendly.

I’m looking forward to seeing Pico in her full glory. She’s a perfect volcano. Perfect. She’s a child’s drawing of a volcano and she reaches skyward opposite Velas, the town we’re sailing to. She’s always there across the water, often in cloud but sometimes her summit rises from the top like the Land of Green Ginger. Maybe I’m not remembering that right. But the volcano remains.

sailing in the azores

We arrive having done 63.7 nautical miles in 11 1/2 hours. Velas glows in the late afternoon sun and I’m relieved to be back here. It feels fresher than Terceira with its sandy, dusty tendencies.

Tying up the boat, I look down into the clear water below. There’s no better feeling that the feeling of arriving after a sail, even a relatively short one like this. There’s no sleep more restful than that had after sailing. No beer more refreshing that that at anchor or tied up to the pontoon.