The Corrals of Pico
Exploring Pico of the Azores!
Yesterday we left the Island of Faial to visit and explore the island of Pico.  We've been getting up later than normal due to the fact that we're 4 hours ahead of NE time.  So at about 8:45AM we realized that we would need to hurry to make the 10:00AM ferry. 

The day looked beautiful as I ran the dingy across the harbor to the ferry dock to procure tickets.  On the way back to the boat "Lady in Red", a Swan 72, was coming around the corner after having checked in with Customs.  I was tossed the spring and stern line and made them fast to the cleat.  The bow line followed, and LIR was secured on next to us.  That made 3 swans and Valsheeda (one of the most beautiful yachts afloat) all in a row, with Delphinus the pipsqueak of the bunch...still, what a thrill to be amongst so many well kept and beautiful yachts enroute to different ports across Europe.  Valsheeda was headed to England, and had departed before we returned.  Taipan to Palma, Lady in Red to Spain, and Delphinus to the Eastern Med.

A quick review of the foundational formulae for arriving at percentages of a whole and we were off and running around the harbor to the ferry terminal.  The Winds over the past few days were blowing 25-30 kts with seas in the channel 6-8 feet.  Today, however, the seas were calm, the skies clear, the wind blowing 5-10 kts and we had the top of Pico uncharacteristically in view.  There would be no rolling stomachs enroute to Pico! 

As we arrived in the harbor of Pico we were met with a somewhat similar scene to that of Flores though on a grander scale.  There were no docks to bring ones boat up to.  Just a 6 foot high cement wall.  The town however was small and quaint with a nice little cafe where we enjoyed a cup of coffee in the sun as we determined our course of action for the day.  As we left the ferry we were asked by a local cabbie if we needed a guided tour.  We told him we were considering it but had no plans at the moment.  Jose waited patiently while we came to the realization that a local English speaking guide would be perfect for the family exploration.  Having spent 5 years of his youth in Canada his English was wonderful and his local knowledge solid.

The next 4 hours were spent touring the countryside learning about the early whaling culture, wine making and cattle industry. We learned that the Pico winery's used to supply their produce to the Tsar's of Russia and the Kings of England. Interestingly Christopher Cunningham Abbott, who joined us on the voyage from Bermuda to the Azores, is related to the Dabney's/Cunningham's.  Their families were integral players in the trade of wine and other produce to the states years ago.  Jose, our cabbie related a story that his grandfather had told him as a child - that the Dabney's/Cunningham's had taken their ships back to Boston in the mid-1800's to load them with wheat to feed the people of the Azores years earlier when the vineyards, decimated by a series of infestations that ultimately wiped out the winemaking industry, had left them unable to buy food for their families.  Today there is still a street named after the Dabney's and a poem mentioning them in the guides one receives upon entering the harbor.  The population of Pico is growing rapidly (coincidentally, a large segment is of Russian decent...maybe they are looking for the Tsar's wines!) as is the wine industry.  A notable bottle is the Corral Atlantico which we sampled over a lunch of grilled chicken and rice.  Below are photo's of our excursion...
  The red roofs of Horta, Faial                                                                  Horta Fishing Boat  
  We passed Standing Rock and Lying Down Rock as we arrived in Pico  
The Pico Whaling Museum

Up until 1987 there were approximately 200 whales caught each year in small whaling boats as you will see below.
  Decorative whale tooth and nautilus shell.  
Whaling harpoon                                                                             Museum drawing of whaling
Outside the museum next to the whale blubber-cooking pots
Beef is a major export. 
Take a look at the bull and the leg irons and nose rings...almost brings you back to teenage MA!
  Huge volcanic crevasses on the sea (see the girls at the top of the stairs for scale)  
  Pico was formed by repeated eruptions creating a massive conical volcano or strato volcano. Pico mountain rises to 2,351m and is Portugal's highest mountain.   It is the youngest island of the Azores, only 300,000 years old! The above picture is a lava formation from one of the many eruptions.  
  Local Vineyard
Black stones make square walled enclosures called "corrals".  Lava was cleared from the soil to make farming easier.  The black rocks absorb heat during the day and acts as a wind block to keep the precious soil on the farm.  They also serve to keep vines warm at night. Many islanders make their own wine for their personal consumption.
400 year old Dragon Tree
      Wine press  

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