This next phase of our journey was to explore a few of the Cape Verde Islands and we managed to visit quite a few – Sao Vincente, Santo Antao, Santa Luzia, Sao Nicolau, Boavista, Maio and Santiago which proved to be a fascinating, and at times, challenging journey.
Our stay in Mindelo on Sao Vincente, ended up being much longer than originally planned as we had quite a few repairs to do to the boat after our sail from the Canary Islands. We had to fix the main and genoa, the water system including cleaning oil from the water tanks, fixing a leak in the fuel tank and unblocking the forward heads – yuk! The joys of sailing!!
Scrubbing out the water tanks
Three heads are better than one
5 days of sail mending by Ray and Sim.
All of this took two weeks of fairly constant toil, however, in the middle of our stay we did take one day off for good behaviour to explore Santo Antao which proved to be an island of spectacular scenery and, to Sim’s horror, high mountainous hairpin tracks taken at speed by our local driver. On the other hand everyone enjoyed the local grogue tasting and of course we had to buy a bottle of this fiery rum-like hooch for the boat’s stores (Gill’s private preserve to ease the pain of sailing with three guys!)
Beautiful scenery on San Antao
During our stay in Mindelo we had plenty of opportunity to meet the locals who were always friendly and charming. It was amazing in such a small community to find our problems solved by just asking around in markets or on the streets, somebody always knew somebody who would be able to help with mending broken parts, replacing lost fishing gear or, in one case, fashioning a marlin spike from an old screwdriver by grinding it down in an old Aladdin’s cave of a shed. We also made some great friends at the local fish market where we were on kissing terms with the local fishwives!
One of the unexpected aspects of the marina in Mindelo were the strong gusting winds sweeping down from the mountains reaching speeds of 40-50 knots which at times made the whole boat shake and broke one of the mooring buoys and both snubbers attaching the boat to the pontoon and breaking a cleat off the pontoon. Fortunately we were able to re-attach the lines elsewhere in the nick of time.
A friendly local
One of the features of the marina was the ever popular marina bar and if Gill was ever looking for the guys, it wasn’t hard to guess where to find them. However, tragedy struck and the boat bringing the beer from Praia in Santiago ran aground and this bunch of would be drunken sailors drank the bar dry (Gill’s words).
The bar in Mindelo Marina
After two weeks in Mindelo, the crew was getting harbour rot and all agreed it was time to leave for our next destination which was for the little island of Santa Luzia about 20 miles north-east of Mindelo. The sail proved to be a challenging one with very strong gusts of wind coming down the valleys as we passed along the south side of Sao Vincente forcing us to reef heavily and slow the boat down from 9 to 6 knots. Someone forgot to close the galley seacocks resulting in a flood of water combined with diesel oil which had leaked from the fuel tank and providing a skating rink, albeit at a 45 degree angle, in the galley. Gill heroically scooped bottle after bottle of greasy water mix to be passed up to the cockpit for disposal before realising that the seacocks were still partially open! Lovely job in difficult conditions but her skin definitely benefitted from the diesel scrub. We arrived at sunset in a beautiful anchorage on the south side of Santa Luzia, tired but pleased to be safely at anchor although we were still plagued by very strong katabatic winds sweeping down the mountains and a wind generator that sounded like an aircraft about to take off. The anchor held well in these strong winds although this wasn’t to be one of our most restful nights.
The next day we sailed to the port of Tarrafal in Sao Nicholau in a good force 5, making for a lively beat. The following day we hired a minibus to tour the island, starting with a steep climb on narrow tracks up the volcano Monte Gordo in the cloud which eased mine and Sim’s vertigo problems.
The steep track up Monte Gordo
We then descended down through spectacular rugged scenery to the charming main town of Ribiera Brava which was hidden up a valley to avoid attack by pirates in the middle ages. The following day we left at 6pm for an overnight sail to Boa Vista which proved to be one of the most uncomfortable sails todate, making sleep impossible as we were bounced around our bunks on a very confused sea.
The beach at Boa Vista
We were all grateful to arrive in the bay off Sal Rei, the main town on Boa Vista in a relatively quiet anchorage. The next day after checking in the outboard failed on the way back out to the boat and as we were anchored 1 mile off the beach this was to cause us a problem. Meanwhile Sim had left the boat to join wife Nancy who had flown out to spend a week in a rented apartment just outside the town and that evening the rest of the crew were due to join them for dinner.
Gill, Sim and Nancy in Sal Rei
Just a little refreshment in the local at San Rei
This meant a long row against strong head winds back to shore. A great night ensued and needless to say we didn’t make it back to the boat until the following day. On the way back we asked around the town if anyone could fix our outboard and sure enough in a bar we found the right fixer and after 15 minutes in a local house/workshop the engine was operational again for the princely sum of £5.
We left Sim to his comfortable bed and running water and Ray, Gill and I motored to the next island – Maio and dropped the hook off the main town of Porto Maio in a lovely anchorage 100 yards off a pure white sandy beach with a couple of beach shacks on it. The down side and there always is one, was the surf breaking on the beach – how we laughed when a dinghy off a French boat turned turtle and dumped its crew fully clothed into the foaming sea. Then it was our turn, we didn’t get turned over but we did get a good soaking as waves broke over the boat. Ashore was a real Shirley Valentine moment, sitting on the beach with a drink watching an amazing sunset followed by a nice meal – this is what it’s all about!
Playing football for the Cape Verde team!!!!!
Getting back to the boat in the dark proved equally challenging with me pushing the dinghy, Ray and Gill out through the surf and Ray rowing the dinghy clear and towing me while Gill bailed out the boat, character forming stuff and good fun.
They’re Gill’s beers!!!
After a couple of great days on Maio we motored the 15 miles to Praia on Santiago and the capital of the Cape Verdes where we picked up Sim after his flight from Boa Vista. This was our worst experience of the Cape Verdes and we were warned by the local police to park the boat just off the police station and employ someone to guard it while we went ashore. The local policeman checked out our guard and made it clear we and our boat were under police protection. Not a nice last stop here but fantastic police service.
Ray is leaving the boat here and going to join another in Mindelo for a crossing to Barbados and Gill, Sim and I will continue to sail the boat across the Atlantic.
Tomorrow and Sunday we will provision the boat for the Atlantic crossing, refuel and top up our water tanks so all those who complained about the time between this blog and the last – it will be 3 to four weeks before we land in Antigua which is now our destination in the Caribbean and the posting of our blog “Across the Pond.”