Being Elite - Spring 2013 travel blog

Punta Delgada

in the fog


The Azores are in the middle of nowhere, on the same latitude as Washington, DC and 800 miles west of Lisbon. There are nine islands altogether; the tops of volcanoes which still exhibit plenty of geothermal activity. In the Days of Exploration, when brave and foolhardy sailors from Portugal, Spain, Holland and England were sailing to the edge of the world, the Azores came in mighty handy as spots to take on fresh food and water before making the final push to wherever it was they thought they were going. In both world wars the islands became valuable way stations again for their naval and air stations. The Germans had hoped to conquer them to send aircraft to bomb US east coast cities. These days life is much quieter and various agricultural pursuits do well in the rich, volcanic soil. Pineapples, which are all grown in hot houses, are of gourmet quality and price. How do I know these things? I read them in the port guide.

Ponta Delgada, the Azores; Belfast, Northern Ireland; Reykjavik, Iceland; Ushuaia, Argentina (where people leave to go to the Antarctic); the Great Barrier Reef, Australia - what do all these places have in common? They were ports we were supposed to visit on cruises, but never did. In each case we sailed right up to them and could see the buildings on shore, but weather conditions made coming in and tying up impossible. Sitting there on the bobbing waves looking at them from a distance is a vivid memory for each of these ports.

After six days at sea and the fact that this was the only destination on the cruise that we had never been to, made the disappointment especially sharp. After six partly sunny days with moderate seas, the place was socked in with fog and the vigorous winds made getting the ship to the pier and tied up an iffy proposition. Our fellow passengers took this news with resignation and understanding. That cruise ship laying on its side with a long gash down the hull is not a news story you forget quickly. Landing here was not worth the risk.

We are disappointed, but for the crew this missed port has caused many problems. SATA, the local air carrier is on strike, and special arrangements had been made to get the performers we’ve enjoyed the last week off the ship and on with their schedules. They were to be replaced by a new set of entertainers and the port lecturerer. We were especially looking forward to him, since we want to learn all we can about the ports we are about to visit. We saw the pilot boat put on and take off the pilot, but apparently everyone else is stuck in place. The cruise director rushed to get a line up of activities organized and the schedule put out once again, but it’s a good thing that we still have so many of the books, magazines and movies we brought from home to enjoy. We doubt that much was going to be taken onboard in terms of supplies. We don’t know how they do it, but after a week underway, the berries are still fresh, salads still crisp, and flowers still beautiful in their vases.

In three more days we will try to dock in Cork, Ireland after nine days at sea. Fingers crossed!

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