Travelers --- not Tourists
Shoot Low Harry

Finally! Ilheu de Vila Franca

IMG_5023Throughout the Azorean summer, we didn’t swim at all. Not once. First, I didn’t have my suit with me on the drive in Sao Jorge. Then, it rained. Or EW didn’t feel like swimming and I didn’t want to go alone. Or something. When we left Pico without trying out one of their natural pools I told EW that we were going to swim at Ilheu de Vila Franca, no ifs, ands, or buts!

I took the above photo from land on our car trip with Jose, who reinforced my desire to swim there.

This aerial photo below is from Câmara Municipal de Vila Franca do Campo. Oh. My.

ileau da vila franco

Our cruising guide calls this “the best natural swimming pool in the Azores”. 

No kidding

Cruisers (see the sailboat?) can anchor in 20 feet of water and dinghy to the stone quay. Mere mortals can pay 5 Euro for a ride from the marina at Vila Franca do Campo. We left the dock and checked out of Ponta Delgada and sailed 12 miles south, with the intention of anchoring off the beach at Vila Franca do Campo. We were going to spend a few days there, see the ilheu, visit the town, and take a taxi to the Furnas where they cook your lunch in hot springs.

IMG_6232Unfortunately, while this rainbow may have promised a treasured adventure, the anchorage wasn’t comfortable at all, with the light winds from the southeast resulting in an obnoxious roll. (Winds from the north – as predicted – would have been fine.) We didn’t’ sleep and were tired and grouchy the next day, and EW didn’t want to take the boat into the marina as it is a very small marina with few slips for large transient boats. They do have a mooring system outside of the inner break wall, but we just weren’t comfortable with that idea.

First, we hauled anchor. Then we had breakfast as we discovered that there was no wind for sailing, just wind for creating a roll. We had no intention of motoring all the way to Santa Maria, and I didn’t think the wind was going to change any time soon. Plus there was that rainbow …

So, we motored back to the ilheu, dropped the hook, blew up the dinghy, and donned our swimsuits.

IMG_6247It was totally, totally worth it. A few tourist couples had gotten rides from the town, but we were largely alone on the island. (According to Trip Advisor it can be very crowded in season. Our guide suggests cruisers opt for weekdays when the locals will be at work.)

IMG_6263This is a magical place, with mostly shallow to chest high water, a sandy bottom, snorkeling, rocks to climb, and a large red crab.

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EW climbed the cliffs to the step just below the tree line. I took photos.

 

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Back aboard La Luna, I made a hearty lunch, we napped and rested, and the wind obliged us by increasing just enough from the right direction. Just before dark we hauled anchor and I took the first watch on a lovely overnight sail to Santa Maria.

Perfection.

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