Microdocs Season 1

port of horta

It is with great pleasure that Our island presents on December 5, 2017 the first episode of a series of short documentaries, which we call Microdocs.

Microdocs first season has 8 episodes with about 5 minutes each, subtitled in english. We will publish one episode every week starting on Tuesday, December 5, and they will be available on Vimeo and YouTube. They are also available on our website – Filmmaking.

Our island is committed to sustainability. Through active tourism and cultural tourism we promote a small-scale tourism with longer stays, developing programs that provide an immersive experience into the tradition to those who visit us.

We believe that the greatest value of the islands has been left to us by our ancestors throughout tradition, history and heritage. We believe this heritage is paramount to build the future of Our island, for we can only find identity in what makes us unique. Thus, it is imperative to protect our cultural and natural heritage so that we can share it with those who visit us for many years.

We blend tourism with the passion for Azorean history and culture. And now we’ve added to the mix our filmmaking motivation.

Many know that our team has training in film and audiovisual. Luís stands out as a director who already has an interesting and relevant filmography for the region. Rita is the cinematography specialist and the executive producer for this project, she was central in the improvement and execution of ideas. Pedro is a creative force of nature, and the special way he looks at things is always giving us new ideas. Maria is the newest member on Our island team and we are blessed with all her dedication and motivation during the editing and post-production of the Microdocs.

So, it’s only natural for us to give this step, differentiating ourselves and establishing Our island as an ambassador for the Azores culture. We want to make an important contribution to the discussion and sharing of history and stories of Faial, Pico and São Jorge.

Our island team

Wooden Boats of Santo Amaro

Culture of the azores.

Located on the north coast in the island of Pico, facing São Jorge island, we have Santo Amaro, the land of boats. This parish did not have a bay or a naturally sheltered harbor. It also did not have a good ramp for the larger boats that were made there. However, for many years, the knowledge, the entrepreneurship and the hands needed for shipbuilding in wood were concentrated there. Santo Amaro is the great reference in the archipelago of the Azores when it comes to the craft of ships.

But the labor force, the men who for years had cut the trees and made the boats, were not all from Santo Amaro. Many came from other places of Pico island and also from the nearby island of São Jorge. Like master João Alberto das Neves, born in São Jorge, who came very early to work for Santo Amaro in the shipyards of master José Costa.

Today, Santo Amaro is no longer the land of shipbuilding from other times. The construction of wooden boats was deferred by the use of fiberglass construction boats and series production: cheaper and faster. The local production of boats was reduced to small fishing boats or to the maintenance of whaling boats.

Everything that master João Alberto learned was in Santo Amaro. He learned from other masters older than him. And he insists on teaching us this accumulated empirical knowledge, always mentioning his masters. He tells us that he learned “this” with master Januário de São Roque, “that” with master Gambão das Velas, and “more this” with master Rachinha da Calheta. And so on …

Today, he is the last master to own a shipyard that lived the heyday of shipbuilding in Santo Amaro. In the days when the famous “Blue Fleet” was built, the master built from scratch nine tuna vessels, about 30 meters long each (98 feet), such as the “Falcão do mar”, the “Pérola de Santa Cruz”, “Balaia “and the “Flor do Pico”. But he didn’t build them alone and once again he reminds all the men who worked with him in the different specialties.

Today, the master is building an extraordinary piece: a tuna boat on the 1:10 scale. It is a replica of the “Balaia”, as if it were a real ship. Thus, he is able to explain how boats were built in Santo Amaro, from the applied techniques, to the improvements introduced over time.

The four tuna boats mentioned above and built at master Joao Alberto’s shipyard continue to sail and fish in these seas.

Luís Bicudo, Our island Guide

Culture of the azores.
Culture of the azores.
culture of the azores
Culture of the azores.

Living in the Azores

The Azores is a region that faithfully respects its culture and its language.

I’ve been trying to figure out what is so special about these islands that once you step on them you wish to stay. After 18 months living in the Azores, I think I finally have the answer. 

I grew up in a village in the east coast of Spain. From my window, you can spot the sea. I spent my childhood playing on the countryside, running after the chickens, stealing peaches and figs, swimming in the river, sleeping under shady trees. 

By living in the Azores, I realised how much it resembles my homeland.

In the first place, being surrounded by nature we feel committed to care for it and conserve its richness. Nature is one of the main treasures of the islands. People from all over the globe came to hike through the mountains and swim in the Atlantic crystal clear water. 

living in the azores

Azoreans are kind and friendly, always willing to offer a seat at the table and a good story to tell.

On July 20, 1997, a Spanish magazine publish an article titled “Azores, hidden by the ocean“. The article focuses on the experience of a journalist and a photographer as they travel the islands. What amazes me about this article is that it could have been written today. 21 years later, you can still smell the tender grass of the fields, see the clouds running at lightning speed and cryptomerias dancing with the wind. 

Although uncontrolled human intrusion is damaging the ecosystem, there is people concerned and willing to protect it. Not an easy task, that’s for sure, but a necessary one in order to preserve the biodiversity of the islands for those who come.

Travel around the archipelago has not only given me the opportunity to learn about the relationship between people and the environment but also about the way of living. Azoreans are kind and friendly, always willing to offer a seat at the table and a good story to tell. I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by wonderful people. People who work for a better future of the islands, to achieve a sustainable economic and environmental development. 

The Azores is also a region that faithfully respects its culture and its language. Where I come from, expressing our identity as a region is often confused with nationalism. I haven’t met people as passionate as the Azoreans for their heritage and their traditions. Doesn’t matter if it’s about sailing the sea on a whaleboat or walking down to the chapel in procession. I admire the way they come together, whether to celebrate or to help each other when needed.

Although I’m not a child anymore, I feel like I’ve grown somehow. Living in the Azores has taught me to be grateful for the day-to-day and to value life through its little things.

Here every day is worth celebrating. This is, in essence, what made me feel like home, even being thousands of miles away. 

I’m sure lots of things change since 97, but most still the same. The truth is people keep coming and they always find a reason to stay. Whoever I ask, the answer is the same: “because life is better around here”.

by Maria Vicent (from Valencia)
– media manager at Our island

living in the azores

Canyoning in Faial island waterlines

Our island had a partnership with Tobogã Azores, company that provides Canyoning experiences in Faial island. We loved to take our guests on these incredible adventures with the amazing Tobogã Guides that always made us feel very comfortable and safe.

Bruno, the owner of the company, is also a local guide whom we always like to work with. He’s a great professional that looks out for our customers safety and well being. Besides his professionalism, Bruno is someone with who is always fun to explore the island and whiling to offer us incredible experiences.

Canyoning provides a unique way to explore the Azorean forest. During the activity we can see different endemic species, such has Azores juniper (Juniperus Brevifolia) White wood (Picconia Azorica), Azores blueberry (Vaccinium Cylindraceum) and Azorean holly (Ilex Perado). The waterlines that we cross during the activity are in most part places inaccessible in any other way.

Canyoning in the Azores means to enjoy the true contact with the nature of the islands.

your shoes in our steps

On our way to Caldeira de Santo Cristo

During one of our Hiking trips we’ve cover almost 100km of hiking trails across the triangle islands. On the peculiar island of São Jorge we walked down the trail that takes us through incredible landscapes before we reach Caldeira de Santo Cristo.

The Fajã da Caldeira de Santo Cristo is a very special place. It has become incrinsing popular in recent years and, although the Fajã changed a bit with the pressure of local tourism, it continues to be “a must do” activity: to hike our way there.

After the Caldeira de Santo Cristo we’ve continued to end the day at Fajã dos Cubres. It’s rewarding to finish the activity on a classified Wetland of International Importance (Ramsar). The amazing ocean lagoon that we can find there is of great importance to sea birds like the Cory’s shearwater (Calonectris diomedea), Common Tern (Sterna hirundo), Roseate Tern (Sterna dougallii), Sooty tern (Sterna fuscata), Euroasian woodcock (Scolopax rusticola), Red-billed tropicbird (Phaethon aethereus), Common snipe (Gallinago gallinago), etc.

São Jorge is one of the few privileged Azores islands that have permanent flows of pure water creeks, so we’ve decided to take a swim on one of the waterfalls. Depending on the time of the year this water can be really cold but it will always be a comforting experience.

your shoes in our steps

Trail running up and down “fajãs”

In the 53km long and 8km wide island of São Jorge we can find about 80 “fajãs” along its coast. We call “fajãs” to small sea level flat areas located at the feet of the island’s high cliffs. These “fajãs” may be the result of lava flows caused by volcanic eruptions or the result of accumulation of debris caused by landslides.

Trail running is a sport practiced more and more on the islands. It has seen the number of races and athletes grow year over year and today we can see many locals practicing it in the middle of the azorean Nature. In the triangle islands there are two important events where both local and foreign people participate. The Azores Trail Run is a race on the island of Faial that integrates 4 distinct events (70km, 48km, 22km, 10km) and results in an excellent experience because besides crossing the island from one end to the other, it is a route with very different kinds of landscapes until you reach the amazing finish line in the west end of the island: the Capelinhos volcano. The Azores Triangle Adventure is a race held in the three islands of the triangle, 100km in 3 days of testing terrain, 1 day in each island.

The island of São Jorge presents excellent conditions for the practice of trail running, since there are several trails (some are marked) that pass through several “fajãs”, where you can run with incredible views: from one side you have the mountain, on the other the sea.

Timeless port of call

I was born on Faial Island, from the central Azores. The American whalers used to call here the “western islands”. Horta has always been a port city, sailors call for the azores since men dominated the wind, their endeavours though have change along the centuries: discovery and exploration; whaling and fisheries; piracy and war; trade and commerce; communication and tourism; or the simple pleasure of sailing. A lot of change happen on more than 500 years of History, but some things are constant to this day, and one of that things is that now and then a sail is spotted on the horizon coming in to find shelter at Horta’s bay. It’s like “Fado”, the sailor changes his reasons, alternates his ship but he is always called or pushed by the wind towards here.

The Azores is a place of strong traditions, and this doesn’t mean we are somewhat stuck in the past, it’s much the opposite, there’s no tradition without modification. We are people of strong identity, for most of our 500 years of history we were autosuficient sustainable farmers and fisherman. Isolated in the middle of the north atlantic ocean, stuck between mountains and the sea. The azorean always have this paradox view of the ocean: it is at the same time what inprison us and also an opportunity to escape.

It’s maybe because all of these that some of us feel that the Azorean Whaling culture is one of the biggest identity traces of our culture. this might sound horrific for “save the whale” enthusiasts or activists, but see, there’s no simple narrative about this kind of whaling: There is no more whaling here since 1984, but until then, the sperm whale was hunt using open wooden boats with hand thrown harpoons. An activity that lasted in the islands for almost 150 years and that marked so much the social and economical scene.

We see our whaler ancestors has heroes, for the risk they’ve take for such and endeavour, to hunt the giant sperm whale with the same technics used on Melville’s Moby Dick. And the boats were launched from the land, so you see, this men weren’t only whalers, they were farmers, fishermans, stonemasons, etc, the whole community and family was involved. The activity embraced the live here in so many ways, inspired so many people, how many people were born because of Azores whaling? how many love stories, books, poetry, films? in the hand to hand fight to the death with the sperm whale, our community learned a lot about humanity.

Whale watching now kind of replaces the whale hunt, the first whale watchers here learned with whalers, the look outs are still of paramount importance to spot the whales from the distance, the boats are different, the reasons are others, but sailors and sea dynamics are the same. Skippers still compete to see which is the more sea worthy, look outs still work to be the first to see whales each day

And this is yet only one more example of how our heritage perpetuate. We don’t hunt whales any more, but still sail the beautiful Azores Whaleboat, for pleasure and sport, during the the summer regatta season. A boat unique of it’s kind, and I can’t stop to shiver when I sail it or when I see it sailing, it’s like I’m seeing my ancestors. Like I’m seeing my young grandfather, a whaler, a hunter that was born after his father met his mother during a whaling season of on another island.

In a world that keeps telling us the importance of the instant, of the moment, The Azores is a place where that notion is left in pause. Here I feel the weigh of the centuries, the relative impression of time. there’s a very thin line between now and then.

by Luís Bicudo – Our island Guide
for the Azores Trade Winds blog

Recycled Christmas

Knowing that the 8th Waste Week of the Azores is here, and that Christmas is coming, we want to keep in mind how important it is to reuse, decreasing our waste production.

During our childhood, the first weekend of December was dedicated to make the long-awaited Christmas tree. We would spent the day putting the tree together, putting the decorations on it and at the end came our favorite part: putting the lights all around the tree. It was undoubtedly a very joyful day and we, as children, loved this time together with our parents.

The only drawback , which at the time we didn’t think of and our parents did not either, was the tree itself. Either it was a pine tree or a japanese cedar chopped out from the land or a plastic tree from any store. Also the colored balls were plastic and every year we wanted new balls to have something different.

Given the times of plastic abuse that our society lives in, why not to raise awareness for this issue and offer alternatives to this consumerism Christmas?!

We know that tradition is sometimes difficult to break, but in this particular case, we are sure that it is worth pursuing a more sustainable alternative.

Any child would love to spend the day building their own Christmas tree from scratch. It would be quality time spent as a family and while reusing old pieces and materials in a beautiful Christmas tree. Also the tree decoration would be fun, different and unique – there will be no other wooden star just like the one they did with such enthusiasm!

So we launch the challenge for this Christmas, and we post some inspiring images in the hope that families will adopt this idea in the following years.

We are already thinking about our Christmas tree too!
– Our island team

Summer family time

Summer is the best time of the year

When I was a child it meant endless hours spent by the sea. Fishing, swimming and exploring sea bottom with the help of the dive mask my grandparents had offered me.

I learned how to swim at the Fajã beach, Eira harbor and at the natural pools of Varadouro. Always with my head under water, hopping from a tidal pool to another, contemplating the sea life in all its variety and splendor. That is how I came to know fish as Caboz or Peixe Rei.

Throughout my childhood, I learned how to fish, to catch limpets and edible algae and to appreciate life.

I grew up with a cut here, a bruise there and many falls from my bike, in the never ending summer days.

Now that I am not a child anymore, I like to share my experiences with the families that visit us. This way we can show to children how it is to grow up in the Azores.

Pedro Escobar – Our island guide