Wednesday 30th December 2015 to Monday 4th January 2016
We met Steve at Sal international airport on Wednesday 30th at 4.20pm, bundled him into a taxi to Palmeira, onto the water taxi across the harbour to Vega and by 5.50pm we had weighed anchor and set out for the 120 mile trip to Mindelo, on the island of Sao Vicente. Steve was bubbling with excitement at the prospect of sailing across the Atlantic.
I have been dreading the Atlantic crossing. I had been reassured that on long passages, after the first couple of nights, I would ‘get into the swing of things’ which I understand means managing to snatch a good couple of hours sleep in between watches and feel wonderful. This describes Hugh’s attitude to sailing and I had hoped that with time this would apply to me too. In case you don’t know Hugh he has the ability to fall asleep in any circumstances and can be snoring within 10 seconds of his head hitting the pillow. I do not exaggerate. On the 8 day crossing from the Canaries to Dakar I continued to find sleep elusive and felt ill with exhaustion much of the time. The trip from The Gambia to Cape Verde was particularly bad. The rolling motion of the boat felt like being on a three day fairground ride, desperate to get off but unable to, the boat rolling from side to side I was tossed back and forth across the bed, whilst the boat pushed on, driven forward by the wind, occasionally the bow lifting and slamming back down violently, all the time the noise of water rushing and bashing past the hull. I lay wide awake, wondering how I could persuade Hugh that it would be much better if he and Steve crossed the Atlantic by themselves whilst I took the more sensible route and joined them in Antigua by plane. It wouldn’t be at all fair to them if I got very depressed at sea and that would clearly spoil their enjoyment of the trip. I might even be like one person I had read about who had taken up position on the pulpit and threatened to throw himself overboard if anyone came near him. Hugh did not seem convinced.
On the fourth night I gave myself a good talking to. I had to do it. There was no way out. And if I didn’t do it then I would be disappointed in myself. It was only about 17 days and I would get through it.
On the 120 mile voyage from Palmeira to Mindelo we averaged over 6 knots in force 5 to 6 winds and despite a big rolly sea and poor sleep it didn’t seem quite so unbearable and I didn’t feel sick. I started to feel more positive about the Atlantic crossing. Hugh slept the sleep of the innocent when not on watch and Steve, after recovering from some initial sea sickness started to relax into the voyage and looked extremely happy. Steve is another man who has the ability to fall asleep at the dinner table.
We arrived in Mindelo just after midday on New Years Eve. Mindelo is an attractive town set around a bay and port, with the only marina in the Cape Verde islands. The houses are painted in bright colours, the Palacio de Presidente being a particularly pretty shade of pink, and there is a feeling of prosperity. Whereas much of Cape Verde seems more like Brazil than Africa, Mindelo is almost Mediterranean. The rest of the island of Sao Vicente appears stark and barren with a mountainous landscape.
We spent New Years Eve eating in a restaurant on the harbour which was catering for tourists by offering a set meal and providing entertainment in the form of an excellent guitarist and a singer playing wonderful Cape Verdean music. We wandered to the main square where a band was doing a sound check and a few other lost souls were milling around, but at 11pm it all felt very quiet with nothing much going on, so we went back to Vega. At midnight the place exploded with a noisy firework display. The harbour front was packed with a huge crowd shouting their approval and, after the fireworks finished, dancing as the music continued throughout the night until dawn. We listened from the boat, the music interweaving my dreams, as we were too exhausted to go back to join in.
The last couple of days we’ve spent stocking up for the Atlantic crossing from the supermarkets and markets here, refilling the water and diesel tanks and gaz bottles. Hugh and I also caught the ferry across to the neighbouring island of Santo Antao yesterday, an hour away across the straits. It is scenery-wise probably the most spectacular of the islands, with high mountains, pine forests and a cobbled road that runs across the island, crossing high ridges with dizzying drops on either side. It is a destination to come for hiking, and for the keen walkers amongst you I would definitely recommend Santa Antao. Hugh and I agree that Cabo Verde has been the highlight of our trip so far, with sensational scenery, a vibrant but laid-back people who seem a mixture of Portuguese, South American and African, and relatively few tourists.
So we are off later today and my next post will be from Antigua, I hope. In the meantime Hugh will continue to blog and by following the link at the top right you can get the Captain’s view of life. The 2100 miles should take us 14 to 18 days and although it is very windy today and predicted to be up to 30 knots, the wind should ease later in the week.