By Sheryl Shard, copyright 2015. All rights reserved.
Sheryl and Paul at the waterfall at Poco do Balcalhau, Flores
"Flores is the most beautiful of all the islands of the Azores!"
This is the comment we hear time and time again about the island of Flores (meaning “flowers” in Portuguese) from sailors and other visitors familiar with the Azores and also from many Azoreans who have to made the trip out to the most western island in the Azores Archipelago. We had stopped here briefly in 1997 to catch our breath after a previous transatlantic crossing and since then have longed to return to spend more time discovering the island's charms.
Arrival at Porto das Lajes Marina
This year's passage from St. Maarten in the Caribbean with just the two of us on board took us seventeen leisurely days (see links to blogs below) but regardless of the gentle conditions it is still always a delight to reach land and a safe harbour. The fact that our landfall was in the beautiful island of Flores just added to our anticipation to reach this distant shores!
Anchorage and harbour at Lajes das Flores on the southeast coast
Since our 1997 visit to Flores, a small marina has been built in Lajes on the southeast corner of the islands but there is still lots of room to anchor outside if there isn't space inside the tiny harbour when you arrive although there is always a bit of a roll but you also find that inside the marina. The entrance to the marina is a bit tight and it is recommended that you go in slowly prepared to back out if the slips are full.
Small marina in Lajes das Flores.
Fortunately, I had the mobile phone number of the marina manager, Tiego Pimentel,
which Paul had found in the online update to our Imray RCC Pilot Guide to the Atlantic Islands by Anne Hammick, so I made a call from sea using our IridiumGO! satphone connection to learn the status before we arrived. You can also call on VHF 16, working channel 10, but Tiego is not always at the harbour or near a radio. The marina email address is also in the guide.
Distant Shores II at the marina in Lajes das Flores
Tiego speaks excellent English and let us know that, at that moment, the T-head at the end of the main pontoon was available with lots of space for our 15 m Southerly 49 to tie alongside since a group of boats had just left for Faial. We were very fortunate! When we arrived sailors from boats already secured came out to help us with lines and greet us. Several of the crews we knew from St. Maarten but there we boats there that had arrived from all parts of the globe. Everyone had all been at sea for weeks themselves so realized how much it meant to be welcomed and safely tied to a dock. When you go cruising on your own boat, you become part of an international brotherhood of sailors that look out for one another. A very nice community to belong to!
Clearing in is easy in Flores. The marina manager, Tiego, can do all the paperwork right in the marina office and often will come to your boat when you arrive. Later you will receive a visit to your boat from the Guardia to check your paperwork, but despite the initial seriousness of these officers they are all very friendly and welcoming to visiting sailors.
Guardia checks over our papers
Paperwork completed, we walked up the hill to the Clube Naval (a bit of a challenge to our wobbly land legs after being at sea for over two weeks) to satisfy our cravings for French Fries and ice cream. We smiled when we saw the crew of the Dutch yacht "White Witch in Blue" who arrived just before us enjoying the same menu. We eat well at sea but there are a few things you just can't do easily on a moving sailboat. A little further up the hill towards town is the sailors bar and local restaurant, Beira Mar. The owners speak good English making it easy to order their delicious but affordable meals of meat, fish, omelettes and pizza.
There are only a couple of other harbours in Flores. They are rarely used by cruising sailors and only in the most calm of conditions. These are:
The old harbour at Santa Cruz
The tiny harbour at Ponta Delgada, Flores, on the north coast
Although we longed for a day of sleep and boat-tidying after our arrival, the weather for the next couple of days was going to be extremely clear and perfect for filming so the Flores Tourist Board, who we were working with to produce a new episode of Distant Shores, had organized a guide and driver for us first thing the next morning. We were up early (and in fine shape since we were still in the rhythm of keeping watches) to meet with Silvio Medina, owner of Tours of Flores, a knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide who, after having lived in Boston for many years, speaks excellent English. He has several vehicles including two vans so can accommodate groups of sailors and other visitors for cost-effective and enjoyable tours. He also works with tour operators organizing hiking vacations for which Flores is a great destination we were soon to discover.
There can often be mist or fog for parts of the day in Flores especially at the top of the island where the main attractions of the Sete Lagoas (Seven Lakes) filling the islands' seven inactive volcanic craters as well as several interesting volcanic rock formations are located so Silvio whisked us up there at 8:00 AM to take in the spectacular views. The roads are all newly paved and in beautiful condition so it was a very comfortable ride.
The Morro das Frades look like 2 monks at a monastery.
The vertical basaltic columns Rocha dos Bordōes called the Walking Sticks by the islanders and Pipe Organ by tourists.
There are 7 inactive volcanic craters on Flores that are now lakes.
Lagoa Funda and Lagoa Rasa are close but at different altitudes.
Flores has many waterfalls and beautiful flowers.
This modernized cottage Moinha da Cascada (Waterfall Mill) is available for rent for 80 euros per night in the high season and is near the natural seaside bathing pools at Faja Grande.
If you needed to get off the boat for a few nights, Moinha da Cascada would be a great retreat!
There are few beaches in Flores but these natural seaside pools are popular swimming holes in summertime.
Picnic area at Ponta Delgada, Flores
At many of the seaside villages in Flores there are fabulous public picnic areas with wood-stocked BBQ's, clean bathrooms and showers like this one at Ponta Delgada. If you love outdoor activities, Flores is a tranquil place to get away from it all.
BBQ with sink and counters ready for woodfire cooking
We had a full but extremely pleasant working day filming around Flores on Day One which concluded with the 500th Anniversary of the Parish of Lajes and a procession at the church in town. We marvelled at the loving preparation of the flower carpets leading up to the church. Unfortunately it rained for the procession but that didn't deter anyone and following the ceremony we crashed into our berth to get up early again the next morning to continue our tour and to experience one of the islands most beautiful coastal hikes.
Islander preparing flower carpet for the procession and 500th Anniversary celebrations of Lajes das Flores
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Passage to Azores Part 1 - Week One
Passage to Azores Part 2 - Arriving
Sheryl and Paul Shard have now been cruising internationally for 25 years. They are sailing authors, instructors/consultants and the fun-loving hosts of the Distant Shores sailing adventure TV series (AWE TV, Vimeo on Demand). The Distant Shores series profiles the world's best sailing destinations and provides insights into the joys and challenges of living aboard a cruising sailboat. The shows are also available on DVD and as HD downloads.