In the early afternoon yesterday, National Geographic Endurance welcomed newly arriving guests at the port of Ponta Delgada. The ensuing voyage to the Azorean archipelago is the first voyage in the Northern Hemisphere season. Having traveled from the tip of South America up the Atlantic, the officers, crew, and staff were anxious to again welcome guests and start a voyage to this wonderful and distant group of islands in the mid-Atlantic. This voyage has not been done for many years.
Today’s planned destination was the island of Pico. Unfortunately, the wind continued to blow strongly from the northwest, creating a swell and choppy waves along the southern coast. Just before breakfast, expedition leader Andy launched a scout boat to assess sea conditions in the area where the ship would be positioned in a small harbor off the island. He and the accompanying staff determined that the waves and swells were not suitable or safe enough for getting ashore using Zodiacs. The ship navigated toward another small harbor at the western end of the island that offered a potential alternative for getting ashore. En route to the alternative landing along the Pico coast, we were treated to a program on expedition photography and some helpful instructions on how to best capture images during our voyage. As the second location proved even less protected with many swells breaking along the shore, another adjustment was required. The revised plan was to go directly to the port of Horta on Faial, where we were scheduled to arrive later in the afternoon.
Arriving and docking in Horta a few hours early offered us a great opportunity to walk around and explore this beautiful community. We had the choice to either walk on a promenade along the edge of the harbor or take a short Zodiac shuttle to the central part of the community. The lovely village is adorned by mosaic sidewalks, white-washed buildings with red tile roofs, and immaculate, narrow streets. One of the famous local spots in Horta is the pub and small eatery of Cafe Sport. Over the years, sailors from all over the globe have visited Horta and Cafe Sport. Memorabilia, old photos, and boat flags decorating the walls and ceiling make for an iconic maritime atmosphere. It is the perfect location to sip a special gin and tonic.
After we returned to the ship late in the afternoon, Captain Aaron Wood hosted a welcome cocktail gathering and introduced guests to the ship and to some of his key officers. Following a wonderful dinner, we had the opportunity to learn about and listen to a traditional Azores musical experience. Three guitarists and two vocalists gave us an excellent performance of Fado. This unique Portuguese art form is sometimes mournful and sometimes lighthearted. The music represents the feelings and emotions of ordinary day-to-day life. This provided a fitting end to our first day in the remarkable group of islands that are the Azores.