Rallies are fabulous opportunities for sailors to enjoy the camaraderie of a passage and share the enjoyment of a new place. This rally, the Azores Pursuit Rally, organized by the OCC (Ocean Cruising Club), was unusual, as it had no specific starting place. Unlike most rallies, it was a bit of a race, with an ending spot and time. You “won” if you crossed the line at the Horta harbor entrance at exactly noon on July 18th. Some of the rules included having traveled at least 500 miles, and using no engine power for the last hour. Since we all had traveled so far, the timing of the endpoint was hard to pin down, resulting in many boats arriving days, even weeks, in advance, and some boats arriving days late or not even making it all. At least one boat turned around due to lack of wind and flew to Horta instead!
We arrived two days early, and chose to take a berth on the wall rather than wander around in the ocean for the proper arrival time. This gave us a chance to clear customs, find the Peter Café Sport (where much of the Rally would take place), hang our fathers’ day flags, go for a swim, do laundry, explore the town, and rest before the festivities began.
And what festivities! A full five days of dining, biking, hiking, busing, whale watching, and making new friends was organized to fill each day.
We cheered the boats coming across the finish line at the proper time and feasted on a classic Azores BBQ at a castle the first day.
The second day we all worked on our paintings on the wall
before enjoying a special dinner at Peter Café Sport.
The third day we rode bikes down from a volcano, all the way back into Horta.
The fourth day was a ferry ride to the nearby island of Pico and a hike to the top. This is the highest point in all of Portugal, and quite challenging, so many chose to stay on the bus and enjoy a tour of the island instead. A fancy dinner was a lovely conclusion to this day. The final day was an exciting whale watching tour.
We saw many breaching whales and came close enough to feel like they were playing with us. On the return trip, we entered some caves where birds nested. For our last evening, there was a grand dinner at an elegant club and prizes for all sorts of reasons were delivered to great rounds of applause.
Final speeches were delivered to thank all of the people who pulled this large group together so thoughtfully. José Azevedo, the proprietor of Peter Café Sport, was properly thanked for his tireless hours of organization (and reorganization when things went haywire!) and his generosity with many meals, tours, gifts, and time. Jenny Crickmore Thompson was also thanked for her excellent leadership from the initial organization, through the final festivities.
When the rally was over, we remained in Horta for another hike up Pico
, more exploration of the welcoming town, and the final touches on our painting on the wall.
We also helped a rally member sew his torn genoa.
The local sailmaker was so busy with repairs from the many arriving boats, causing the queue to be many weeks! This particular captain was in a hurry to get to the UK to visit his mom who was unwell. How could I refuse to help him??
We bid farewell to many boats who left, and were grateful that we were not in a hurry to depart.
I had a flight home to Maine in a few days, so Bill was lucky enough to enjoy Horta for another week. I half wondered if he would purchase real estate here; we could see calling this fabulous island our second home.