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The harbour of Horta

There is a very special time of year in Faial, and one that is unique in the Azores, when a sharp bay, naturally protected from winds and waves, begins to welcome visitors from all corners of the North Atlantic. This privileged location is in the city of Horta, a meeting point for sailors in the middle of the ocean, like an oasis. This is the first safe harbour for those who sail with the trade winds.

It all starts in February. The days slowly get longer, the sun and the good weather that augurs spring bring joy to a land that suffers a lot from the harsh winter rains. The first boats begin to arrive, bringing with them other colours, new faces, experiences and stories from different parts of the world. Fresh air floods the city, which is rejuvenated.
Initially, we find the larger and more resistant boats, which can withstand the force and energy of the “rough” and wintry sea. Among these are the lucky ones who managed to find a window of good weather to sail to Horta.

The school boats are a regular presence between March, April and May, with their large crews bringing movement to the harbour. It’s that time of year when it feels like we’re back in the days of the Portuguese caravels. School ships are a great opportunity for students to learn about specific topics related to navigation, astronomy, repair and maintenance, knots, and more. In addition, they have the opportunity to live in a confined space with other people: the ship.

Unfortunately, only a few sailing ships dock carrying goods. They bring aromas to the island from other lands, the smell of coffee, cocoa and rum from the Caribbean seas. These boats have no date for arriving at the harbour where they unload the cargo they have collected during their journey guided by the trade winds. It’s a case of “only the wind will tell”. And when a boat without an engine arrives in the bay of Horta, it’s a time for celebration, especially if it arrives on a stormy day, accompanied by strong winds, where only the strength of the three anchors on board can bring it to a halt in the middle of the bay, far away from other boats, to avoid accidents.

Many captains have passed through the harbour of Horta dozens of times during their careers, between summers in the Mediterranean and warm, calm winters in the Caribbean. Some of them fell in love with Horta and stayed here, enjoying their retirement close to the sea and the international harbour that welcomed them so many times.

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