Click on chart to view at full resolutionFlores is the western most island in the Azores Group.  Indeed the island promotes itself as the western most point in Europe.  Although it is the closest of the islands to the U.S. mainland most cruisers bypass Flores.  Those heading to Europe from the states generally head straight for Horta on Faial where the yachting services are located.  Once bypassed on an east bound voyage, Flores would be rarely visited as it would require sailing back 130 nm from Horta, generally against headwinds.

Cruising boats heading to the U.S. or the Caribbean from Europe are more likely to stop at Flores, but most will press on without stopping having provisioned in Horta and not wanting to use up those provisions at anchor before they start the transatlantic voyage.

Below is a 5 minute video clip of our landfall on Flores and then anchoring in the harbor at Lajes on the southern end of the island.  You can see that this can be a very rolly anchorage.
One of many pleasant surprises on Flores was the almost total lack of sticker shock on any of our purchases.  This in spite of the terrible currency conversion (for us) between USD and Euros.  Of course, if we had come directly to Flores from the states, rather than stop in the Bahamas and Bermuda enroute, the prices might not have seemed so reasonable.
Among the reasons Flores is often bypassed are the lack of a yachting infrastructure and the less than ideal quality of the anchorage at Lajes, shown below.
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The Harbor at Lajes das Flores

The harbor at Lajes (picture above) is an open bay with a large mole/breakwater (center of the picture) running along the eastern side.  The mole serves primarily as a dock for the inter-island ferries and the freighter and tankers that provide the island with fuel and supplies.  Unfortunately the harbor is wide open to the NE and the shape of the island north of the harbor reflects any seas from the east into the harbor.  During the time we were anchored in Lajes we never stopped rolling while the wind shifted from north to southwest.  With the SW winds we should have been better protected, but the sea continued to run into the harbor from the NE.  The westerly wind with a NE swell in the harbor made the anchorage even more uncomfortable as Sarah rode at anchor pointed into the wind with the swell coming abeam.  One day later the seas in the harbor were down a great deal, but it was still not a comfortable anchorage.

It would have been possible to minimize the rolling in the anchorage by setting a stern anchor to hold the bow into the swell rather than the wind.  We didn't do this for several reasons, the most important being I have never used a stern anchor on Sarah and the kedge anchor I would use is buried at the bottom of the port side cockpit locker.  The other reason is that the anchorage was always fairly full most of the time we were there, with several yachts coming and going each day.  Consequently it would have been difficult to maintain separation in the anchorage with Sarah riding to the swell and the other yachts riding to the wind.  It was apparent that several of the yachts in the harbor had been here for awhile and had gotten some advise from the locals.  They anchored just off the quay at the base of the mole and took a stern line ashore to a bollard on the quay.  That kept their bows into the swell without any danger of another yacht swinging into them should the wind shift significantly.  Were I to return to Lajes I would attempt to anchor in that fashion.

There are very few facilities for yachts in Lajes, beyond the less than ideal anchorage.  Water and fuel are difficult to obtain.  Most of the town of Lajes, including the Supermercados, Pharmacia and other shops are located at least halfway up the 600M hill on which the town is located.  Fortunately when you are returning to the boat with your arms full the trip is all down hill.  Anne Hammick's cruising guide to the Atlantic Islands states that there is a tourist office just above the harbor.  We found the Tourismo signs pointing the way, but we could not find an office.  When we inquired at the small open-air bar nearby we were told it was closed.  Since we spoke almost no Portuguese and the bar tender no more English we were unable to determine if the Tourismo office still exists or just has limited hours.  As far as we could tell it no longer exists.

Halfway up the hill overlooking Lajes Harbor is the Ponta das Lajes Lighthouse.  Most of the town is further up this hill.
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The local library (Biblioteca) in Lajes has an Internet Club, which is free and self service.  Mike is trying to catch up on over 2 weeks of emails. Click on picture to view a full resolution image
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The primary hangout for cruisers in Lajes is Paula's Place (picture above).  Paula and her husband, Ermelindo,  both emigrated to the U.S. for several years then returned to the Azores to start businesses.  Paula runs the restaurant and Ermelindo runs a gas station on the outskirts of Lajes.  When we first met Ermelindo and asked his name he said Andrade, their last name.  I'm not sure if he prefers to be called by his last name or it was just one of those little language things, but we called him Andrade for our entire visit.  It wasn't until I read an SSCA account of another boat's visit to Flores than I learned his real first name.  Anyway he wasn't offended if we miss-understood, and was of great help to all of us while we were on Flores  Both Ermelindo and Paula go out of their way to help cruisers.  Ermelindo sold fuel to us as well as three Canadian boats from Quebec by transporting  a number of jerry cans between his station and the harbor quay.  One of the pleasant surprises in Flores is that fuel is subsidized by the EU and the Portuguese Government through the elimination of tax on gasoline and diesel fuel.  The diesel fuel we purchased from Ermelindo will likely be the least expensive (at Є0.72/liter) I will encounter for most of my stay in European waters.

That subsidy may no longer be in place in 2011.

Ermelindo also arranged for taxis to take the crews of all four boats on a tour of the island, pictures from which are included below.  Of course we also ate a number of excellent meals at Paul's Place (officially called Beira Mar).  In addition to complete dinners Paula serves very good pizza.

Pictured on the right are Ermelindo and Paula at the restaurant.  Also in the picture is a sober and and introverted cruising sailor of the type that frequents Paula's Place. 
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Photo by Mike Repass.
Click on picture to view at full resolution Mike and Jean Gilles Lemieux, a single-hander from Quebec who we met in Lajes, enjoy a lunch at Paula's Place
The crews from all three Quebec boats and Mike finishing lunch at Paula's Place. Click on picture to view at full resolution
Click on picture to view at full resolution The taxis Ermelindo arranged took us completely around the island stopped at a number of dramatic overlooks and waterfalls.  Here some of the gang on the tour are viewing one of the overlooks.

Flores means flower in Portuguese and the island is covered with them. 

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Click on picture to view at full resolution Hortensia, which are an introduced plant - not indigenous to the Azores, are the most common of the flowers and cover much of the island.
Many of the farm fields are separated by stone fences covered by Hortensia (picture on bottom, right) Click on picture to view at full resolution
Flores, like all of the Azores, was formed by volcanoes.  This provides for some dramatic vistas

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Nearly the entire population of the island (approximately 4,000 people) live in a few villages along the coast.  Santa Cruz is the only municipality that would qualify as a city.  In the picture on the right is a small village not far from Lajes. Click on picture to view at full resolution
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Another village along the Flores coast.


One of the many rock outcroppings in Flores.


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There are a number of craters from the extinct volcanoes on Flores, each of which has become a spring-fed lake.  These lakes are left pristine and not used by the residents of Flores as water sources and for only very limited recreation, primarily fishing on some lakes that were stocked with trout.  They are able to do this because of the abundance of natural springs throughout the island.

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This is a view of a church near Santa Cruz.


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Click on picture to view at full resolution Just north of Flores is the small island of Corvo, here covered with clouds.
Santa Cruz is the capitol and only city on Flores.  It also has the island airport.  No one in Santa Cruz has to travel far to get to the airport.

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Click on picture to view at full resolution On the north end of Santa Cruz is the old whaling factory, which has been shut down since Portugal ceased whaling in the 1980s.
Before the breakwater was built at Lajes the only harbor on Flores was at Santa Cruz.  As you can see it is a very limited and exposed anchorage.  With Lajes becoming the principal harbor for Flores, very few yachts call on Santa Cruz.  One of the Quebec couples on the tour with us had sailed to Flores twice before and both times anchored in this harbor.  They are very glad that the harbor at Lajes is now available.

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Seeing Santa Cruz made us appreciate the protection provided at Lajes, in spite of our previous discomfort with the seas that run into that harbor.
Below is a short video of the taxi tour described above.
The day after touring Flores together in taxis, our group decided to have a picnic on the beach in Lajes.  Jean Gilles arranged to buy a large fish, Leo, Diane & Indi prepared vegetables, while Clermont and Pierrette prepared some rice.  Mike & I basically brought ourselves.  The fish was stuffed with garlic and herbs and placed on a grill over charcoal.
Photo by Mike Repass

Photo by Mike Repass

Jean Gilles Lemieux opening another bottle of his (and my) favorite Portuguese wine - Vinho Verde.
Diane & Leo Noel enjoying the fire after dinner.
Photo by Mike Repass
Clermont & Pierrette with Indi Noel
Photo by Mike Repass
Indi with the remains of the feast.  I never got the correct name for the type of fish, except that it is a local favorite.  Before being cooked and then devoured it resembled the Red Fish or Red Drum common on the U.S. East and Gulf Coasts.  It was delicious.
Photo by Mike Repass
Jean Gilles and I enjoying after dinner cigars.
Photo by Mike Repass
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Departing Lajes
After nearly a week in Flores Mike and  I departed for Horta on Faial.  We had planned to depart around noon on Saturday, July 23.  However an approaching weather system motivated us to move our departure up to early morning.  We had the anchor up around 8:00 AM and headed ESE toward Horta.  Behind Mike in the picture on the left is the town of Lajes.
2011 Update on Flores
In 2011 friends spent two days on Flores on the way to the Med and gave me an update on the harbor at Lajes.  A small marina has been constructed at the head of the harbor.  With an internal breakwater this should provide some protection from the seas that roll into this harbor anytime the wind has an easterly component.  It won't provide  much protection from the surge, and may have increased it within the marina area.  Still, it eliminates the need to anchor in over 15M of water, should reduce the rolling when seas enter the harbor, and you can walk ashore rather than launch the dinghy.
Photo by Banu Oney
I've also learned from other cruisers that Paula and Ermelindo have left Flores.  Paula's Place is closed, but the restaurant may still  be in operation.