Tuesday 23 June 2009

When the boat comes in

Last time I explained (in unecessary detail) about getting to this island on aeroplanes. This time, I'm going to tell you about the ships that come to Flores. If you're not getting a Windows "Your computer may be at risk" warning by now, then you should review your firewall settings - make sure you've checked "parental guidance advised" and "coastal shipping anorak".

OK. Three of the Grupo Central islands of the Azores (Faial, Pico & São Jorge) are linked by passenger ferries year round. In summer, the frequency increases to include Terceira and fast catamarans are also employed. Below is on the ferry from Faial (Horta) to Pico:

As for the ferries between the rest of the islands, these are in summer only when ships link all the islands in a leisurely cruise. Atlanticoline is wholly owned by the Azorean Regional Government (ARG) and their services have been a bit of a farce recently because they were supposed to be getting two brand new ships this year but the ARG refused to take delivery of them as they were not up to contract specification. Net upshot is Atlanticoline are continuing to operate with a chartered grotty ex-Channel car ferry long since pensioned off to the Aegean.

If I were an Azorean tax-payer I would say - hang on, I am an Azorean tax-payer, so I do say - I don't know why they bother with the inter-island car ferry services. People go on the plane. We went on the ferry from Flores to Faial (nearest island) for my birthday jolly in 2007 and there were about a dozen cars (max) and about 20 pax.

However I was speaking to a taxi driver recently and he said (in the way that taxi drivers do) that he stores all the problems with his car up until the summer and the car ferry when he can take it to São Miguel to get fixed.

And when we went on the ferry, there was a couple flitting to Terceira - it was Carol's hairdresser as it goes, whom she was very sorry to see leaving. There was discussion as to whether it would be OK to get Fatima to do a final cut on the ocean wave. Note to self to do blog entry about how all hairdressers on this island are called Fatima. Apart from the one called Dora. I digress. This sort of trade is not enough to sustain a car ferry service out here to Flores.

Oh dear, this is getting too long and boring. In another post I will tell you about the important ships that come to Flores - the fortnightly container ship that brings the stuff we take for granted on the shelves of the shops.


Kathie said...

I could never make up the following: I know an Azorean who gets seasick too easily to be able to ride the passenger ferry without heaving profusely! Worse yet, the kids inherited this trait -- something to do with a congenital inner-ear anomaly, perhaps? -- although the family can tolerate riding the auto-ferry since it's so much larger and more stable. I believe that in summer the auto-ferry serves all 9 islands, although for the central islands it's pricier and not as frequent as the passenger ferry:

My sea-legs (and -ears) are vastly superior to my friend's, however, so I've taken the passenger ferry (which is quite reasonably priced) several times among Faial, Pico and São Jorge. You can usually tell the tourists from the locals, because the former are generally the ones who sit on the outdoor upper deck snapping photos of one another in front of the breathtaking background scenery (not that there's anything wrong with that) -- whereas the latter (as well as more seasoned tourists, ahem!) ride downstairs out of the elements on comfy chairs in the indoor passenger section, chatting, reading or watching one of several TVs about the cabin.

The only semi-rough voyage I've had was going from Horta, Faial, to Velas, São Jorge, one gorgeously sunny and clear, but quite windy, afternoon: Everything was fine on the short jaunt between Horta and Madalena do Pico, then the sea got a little choppier as the ferry hewed to Pico's north shore heading for Cais do Pico (São Roque). By the time we left Cais headed across the channel in late afternoon, the headwinds and current were so strong that in order to make any progress the ferry's engines had to grind laboriously, and the sea was so choppy that even the members of a Velas youth group (otherwise seaworthy Azorean teenagers, accustomed to taking the passenger ferry) were lolling about like the proverbial limp dishrags; only the crew was still chipper, trotting up and down the stairs and around the boat unfazed. By the time my cab reached the hotel, I just wanted to crawl into bed and sleep off my queasiness till the next morning.

Fortunately, when I took the passenger ferry to Velas in May 2008, the seas were far calmer and the voyage much easier, so I was good to go exploring the festa preparations around town that evening. Passenger ferry info at:

Anonymous said...

To use ATLANTICOLINE.PT website one must be an advanced webmaster or a web programmer with 20+ years experience.... Plus, it is not completely foreign tourist friendly as it is incompletely written in English etc. Are their ferries up to a standard and are they safe? For some reason a LOT of Portuguese websites do not make sense or do not work properly.

Anonymous said...

I just emailed TRANSMACOR.PT to ask about HELP with my upcoming visit to the AZORES (complicated multi day travel by car by ferry etc.) and I had already bad feeling, in addition to reading that their ferries are way too old, which was just confirmed below by some nonsense returned and non-delivery message in return. It means their website does not work properly and their email is a joke, because they don't check it often and they have a too small inbox. I now CANCEL my trip to Azores and we are planning on flying to ISLAS CANARIAS instead. No wonder AZORES are still "undiscovered"! They don;t want to be discovered and I understand them well. I will not disturb their peace. I will try in 10 years again. See below what I received in response to my inquiry (I travel alone, no children! and I got no idea what that child status 100 means...):

child status 100...The e-mail message could not be delivered because the user's mailfolder is full."