We approached Ilha De Sao Miguel, on which Ponta Delgado lies in the early morning of the 22nd. I had asked for an early call, although it was not really necessary. I had slept fitfully, the movement of the ship in the large swell and the howl of the wind outside my cabin window was a portent of the weather outside.
I had been expecting it of course, the forecast had been promising a westerly gale and, unfortunately, it had been far too accurate. Delgado lies on the south side of the island, the harbour lies in a shallow bay, more of a small indentation in the coastline than a bay and, similar to many of these Azores ports, was protected to some extent by a breakwater. Unfortunately, with the wind direction as it was, there was little shelter from buildings, it was coming straight into the harbour. Outside, on the breakwater, the large swell was breaking, sending towering spray over the top and dissipating in the wind.
The orange glow of the town lights lit the darkness and the flashing red, at the end of the breakwater made a good reference for our approach. Nothing fancy here, if we followed our intended track, we would put the wind on our beam and drift sideways like a train, so instead I kept it ‘flat’, keeping the red light fine on the bow and using the wind to set me into the harbour.
During all this, we tried to embark our compulsory pilot, however it took an age due to the waves and wind; I concentrated on the approach, while Friso kept me informed on our pilot’s progress. He eventually reached the Bridge when I was almost in.
We wallowed in the swell, even though I kept a stabiliser out and the Quartermaster was having a hard time steering; then, mercifully, we were in and now I had to stop her, we had needed the speed to steer her in, now the dock was a ship’s length ahead. Switching to joystick, (she stops faster using it), I slowed her down, still keeping head to wind as much as I could and slowly worked her over towards the dock, adjusting the heading until parallel and then pushing her on, as the wind was now on our starboard side. All fast, the swell manages to penetrate the harbour and we found ourselves ‘ranging’ up and down under its effect. We put out ropes in a veritable knitting pattern 😯 , we had 48 hours here and the weather would not abate.
We watched the “Island Princess”, making an unscheduled stop, having to back into the harbour and an admirable job that the Captain accomplished too. Coming astern through that swell, one could only imagine the ‘thumps’ and flexing that must have been felt, until she was inside.
Being an inaugural call, I attended a plaque exchange ceremony with local dignitaries and then a jaunt ashore for photos. It’s a lovely town, surrounded by rolling hills. It is famous for its cheeses and the island exports and supplies 40% of Portugal’s milk, 40 containers of the stuff leave every week .
The island is famous for its scenic volcanic craters and the black & white inlaid streets.
It is 5 hours until we sail, the wind hasn’t abated and the seas outside the breakwater are still rough. I expect a bumpy ride until tomorrow lunch time and we are taking precautions for securing our ship. There are a series of weather depressions rolling across the Atlantic, my work is cut-out to try and avoid the worst of them……