Monday, 28 January 2013

Cabo Verde

We’ve had a fantastic time in the Cape Verdes.  We were nearly put off coming to Mindelo after hearing various horror stories of muggings and theft, but It’s all been very hassle-free.  If you’re anchored off, as we are, you can pay a few euros a day to leave a dinghy in the marina, so there are no worries about it disappearing, and we’ve had no qualms about coming back to the boat after dark.  The people seem universally friendly, and used to visitors in the best possible way: you’re not ignored, but neither do you feel out of place.  The only downside has been the extremely windy and sometimes rolly anchorage.  The channel between Sao Vicente and Santo Antao form an acceleration zone which, combined with katabatic winds from the hills above Mindelo, has sent regular gusts of 40 knots or even more across the anchorage.   Combined with some swell coming in, it hasn’t made for quiet nights.  Fortunately the holding for the anchor seems to be very good, but we’ve got pretty wet going ashore in the inflatable!

Limbo anchored off Mindelo

We spent a couple of days exploring Mindelo , which has some real history to it.  It was a major coaling station for refuelling steam ships and then a hub for transatlantic cables, so has always had more importance than its remoteness might suggest.  Nowadays, it feels lively and prosperous, but still very African.  Street sellers offer fish and bananas, lazy dogs lie on the pavements and makeshift cafes offer Strela, the local beer, in faintly colonial surroundings.  The climate is extremely pleasant, with constant mid-twenties temperatures but little humidity (at this time of year, at least!).  We swum from the town beach, where we spent a while watching the impressive acrobatics of some local guys, a half-buried buoy creating a makeshift trampoline.

The beach, a 15 minute walk from our anchorage
Beach acrobatics!
55-footer Lochmarin arrived shortly after us.  We got to know Phil and Sara in Gran Tarajal, and it was great to see them again, now sailing with their transatlantic crew, father and son Steve and Ben.  They have a washing machine on board -untold luxury!- and very kindly put it at our disposal (actually, it was even better than that; Sara did our washing for us and even dried some of it, saving us at least half a day of traipsing to a town launderette).  We joined them for a day trip across to Santo Antao, normally visible a few miles across the strait from Mindelo.  On some days it disappears completely in the dusty haze, while on others you can make out most of the detail on the craggy southern side.  Getting there involved an early start then a horribly rolly ride across the swell on a rusty ferry (give me Limbo’s motion any day!). The first thing they did was hand out the sick bags, which is always encouraging..

On the ferry
On arrival in Porto Novo we hired a minibus to take us over the hills (and up into the clouds) along the old cobbled road.  There was an impressive contrast between the dusty northern slopes of the island (very like Fuerteventura) and the much greener, lusher southern side with deep, terraced valleys and craggy peaks.

The impressive landscape of Santo Antao
In the clouds
Watching fishing boats enter Ponta do Sol, a tiny fishing harbour, in a big swell was a real experience – only expert timing ensured they kept off the rocks.  We also visited a Grogue factory , where oxen walk in circles to power the sugar cane press to create a powerful (if somewhat rustic…) spirit.

Entering Ponta do Sol. Verging on the suicidal..
Fishing boats hauled out of the water
The end product!
It’s also been good to meet the similarly-aged crews of some more small boats.  We’d heard about Emma and Stuart on Amorosa, a Sadler 25, from both Phil and Sara and our friends on Selkie, so had been looking forward to catching up.  We found them anchored behind us one morning.  We all went for drinks and live music at the Club Nautico, a nearby open-air bar and sailors’ meeting place, and enjoyed swapping experiences.  They’re heading for the Caribbean too, and leaving at about the same time, so we should be able to keep in touch by VHF for at least some of the crossing and we're looking forward to seeing them again soon.

While sailing sub-26 foot boats across oceans might seem reasonably minimalist (Limbo is actually 25’10’’!), we’re cruising in lavish surroundings compared to Capucine and Maxim on Tari Tari - a Bangladeshi fishing boat, almost as long as Limbo, but not much more than a canoe, and made from a jute-based resin.  At supper on Lochmarin, we heard that sailing her involves constant wetness, lukewarm food (you have to hold the stove in one hand and the pan in the other..) and the threat of being rolled over;  Capucine described how the mast had been in the water at least 5 times on the trip over here.  She knows what she’s doing, having sailed Mini Transats and Class 40s, but it’s still an awesome undertaking.   Tari Tari was originally sailed from Bangladesh to France by a friend, and Capucine took on the challenge of taking her back, increasing awareness of how jute might be sustainably used as a boat-building material.  Her blog: http://www.whereistaratari.blogspot.co.uk/


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