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Tour of Cape Verde Islands

Sal

After an exhilarating and fast passage from the Canaries we use the engine for the first time in four days to pull into the port and anchorage of Palmeira on Sal. Contrary to my expectation this presents no problem at all due to the almost full moon and clear sky. The next day we immediately notice how murky the air is here. We are on the leeward side of the island and the strong wind carries the fine dust from the volcanic island to form a gritty layer of reddish dust on everything aboard. Our first venture ashore confirms what we have read about these islands. They are definitely more African than European. Most inhabitants are of African descent and speak creole, some Portuguese, and a few some English. But all are very curious and friendly and we manage. Life is very simple here and it must be hard to eke out a living.

 

Boa Vista

On Boa Vista we anchor south of the main town Sal Rei between the small off-lying island in turquoise waters and in front of a yellow-white beach. Here we are somewhat protected from the Atlantic swells. We lower the dinghy into the water but no one is particularly motivated to go ashore. We have procured ourselves with local SIM cards with data. We have everything to surf - the internet. Were there any other reasons to venture on land?

Consequently, the dinghy stays in the water overnight. But unfortunately it unties itself (or was it helped by somebody?). It is on course to the Caribbean prematurely… At 11pm I notice the escapist and we go anchor up in pursuit armed with two high-beam spotlights. But to look for a dinghy on the open ocean at night must be the nautical equivalent to the proverbial needle in the haystack.

Unfortunate and upset about my own carelessness the next day we wave to a passing inflatable from the local kite surfing school to take us ashore. We want to file a report at the local police station. After waiting around for an hour and a half I grow anxious. I have no idea how they operate here. I finally address the one police man that speaks English. After some back and forth he is helpful and willing to take our report. But he does not want to give me a copy of the report and neither can I take a picture of the form with my smart phone. This is exactly what I need to file a claim with my insurance, go figure!

The next day the whole crew takes kite surfing lessons ashore. After some initial difficulty we all manage to control the kite standing on the beach. Next time we will be ready to head out on water! It is astonishing how little force and how much dexterity is needed to fly and steer the kite. After a complete beach day including a visit to the beach restaurant we return to Moira with a big smile on our faces. The crew decides to make an overnight passage to Sao Nicolau, the next island in a westerly direction. The waves have diminished a bit and the constant north-easterly blows us across with an average of 7 knots.

 

Sao Nicolau

Shortly before rounding the central southern cape to turn into the anchorage before the village of Taraffal we are greeted by a grandiose sunrise. While the crew are sleeping in I can hitch a ride with a dinghy of another yacht to clear in at the local police station and to clear out for the next morning at the same time. In each of these islands visiting yachts must follow the same procedure: Find the port police, whose duties are sometimes fulfilled by the local police in another office, which nobody tells you. Then hope that the other office is open and actually manned and, lastly, that you do not have to wait for too long. Waiting has been elevated to an art form here, it seems. A good exercise in patience for us highly-strung Europeans.

I am also able to organize an ‚Aluguer’ (port. rent), a driver with an open pick-up with home made benches on the side who will take us across the island in the afternoon and I also find a fisherman who is willing to take me back to Moira and promises to pick us all up at noon again. Being without your own dinghy to go ashore is very cumbersome here in the Cape Verdes as there are virtually no harbors where you can directly tie to a pier or dock.

 

Sao Vicente

Having said that, the only exception and a proper marina at that is located in Mindelo including a floating bar. Sailors of all sorts and all on the way to somewhere. A motley bunch from the long-bearded salty dog past 70 and a t-shirt to match to the logo-ed polo shirt dressed super yacht crew all are to be found. We take possession of our new dinghy and outboard motor and change crew. Red bearded Alex leaves us here and Elisabet and Anton, a medical doctor and a big data analyst for Spotify from Stockholm complete our Atlantic crossing crew. After a number of boat jobs and shopping trips completed including a newly sanded teak toe rail we set off. We want to arrive pretty in the Caribbean!

 

Fogo

The overnight sail takes us in a direct course line to Fogo. On this mighty volcanic island there is but a small (!) harbor for rather large (!) cargo ships and ferries. We anchor off to the side in front of the beach. First moment of horror: The land line of a large motor yacht breaks and she drifts towards us and comes to a standstill over our anchor - we are caught and cannot escape. While we wait for the owner to arrive and solve the situation a large Greek charter motor yacht enters but is not allowed to tie up as the ferry is expected. Second moment of horror: The captain (not sure this title is deserved) wants to turn his ship in the tiny harbor by going astern straight towards us and almost runs into us had it not been for some fenders we stuck in between just in time! The arrival of the ferry and its professional captain shows us how to back a ship into the harbor. No stress! As they like to say here. 

The next morning at seven we are woken up by loud whistling from the shore. Horror moment number three: Just outside the harbor looms a large freighter waiting to enter and dock and we are expected to go anchor up and make room. Incredible to watch how the captain slowly manages to tie his monster alongside the pier and unload the goods.

Now we are clear to go ashore to visit this beautiful island. We hire a man to watch both our sailboat and the new dinghy with outboard on the beach all day. While we take a trip in Papinha’s minibus up to the volcano. In the caldera we can witness the power of the earth. In 2014 lava flowed for three months out of several side craters. The vineyards and most of the houses in this high valley were buried. But their inhabitants are not giving up and the street and many houses have already been rebuilt right on top of the frozen lava!

 

Brava

In the afternoon we sail the short distance to Brava with the wind on the beam. The breeze blows at over 30 knots or force 7 to 8 in the acceleration zone between these two high islands. The short and tall waves make steering a real workout and a wet pleasure. Having arrived in the sheltered bay of Porto da Furna we lay the bow anchor and tie to shore with two stern lines. This maneuver involves the whole crew, the dinghy and two helpful locals ashore for a half hour. This harbor beer has been earned!

The next day we ride in one of the ubiquitous minibuses up to Nova Sintra. Together with two sweaty fishermen and two buckets full of tuna fish which are delivered to housewives more or less along the intended route with much shouting back and forth. The whole episode is an olfactory attack of sorts not even the dozen or so scented trees on the rear view mirror of the driver can compete against.

The main town is really quite pretty with a lot of flowers and beautifully renovated houses in Portuguese colonial style and a black and white cobble stoned plaza. To drink an espresso we are sent to the local gas station which is also a hardware store plus a minimarket and tucked away in a corner there is a real Italian espresso machine.

For three hours we hike on the cobble stoned street to the next village named Faja de Agua. This handful of houses is located down in a beautiful bay with dramatic vistas and a French sailboat at anchor. The more remote and adventurous the better for the French!

Back on Moira all are busy with last preparations for our Atlantic crossing. 2100 nautical miles or 3800 kilometers or a bout two weeks at sea await us to get to Barbados where we want to arrive before Christmas!

 

See pictures here

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