Sailing Cape Verde – turtles, grog and big wind!

It’s Thursday 13th February and I’m standing at the airport on Sao Vincent island, Strong warm wind with salt air. I’m right here, jacket and sweat pants fly immediately into the suitcase and I’m sitting in a half broken yet restored Mercedes. The accommodation is just down from downtown Mindelo, I have a beautiful view of the centre of the marina from the terrace, a rare sight as it’s the only one in the Cape Verdes.
Heading out to check out the city and the beach, it’s striking how clean they are here, and the beach and the sea are both shining. I’m having coffee on the beach with sand between my toes and ask the lady on shore to watch my things because I can’t resist the water!

In the evening we meet Victoria, Danny and the previous skipper Petr and his crew who have spent 2 weeks sailing around the islands, they are full of stories of their adventures. I was told by Danny that I would not have a bad meal here, and he was right. Every restaurant plays great music and the food is incredible. Danny has a talent, find the worst hole that he can and eat there always with the locals. Mendez and Mendez was no exception, looking scary from the street and barely even noticeable as a restaurant, the old stone walls worn, the metal stairs creaking under foot, on the first floor is a hair dressers with 1980s style pink dryers, up another set of worn stairs to an open space with a view of the square, the food smell was intoxicating, we were guided into the kitchen area and on the large hob there was 3 pots. In a moment you have bliss on a plate!

Mopeds hired we all headed to San Pedro a village 12 Meters from the end of the world, between the houses that did not even look like houses and of course with no running water there is a ‘pub’ names Pastelaria eta Mundo Bom where we met a local named Julian. He introduced us to the whole family and all his friends in a second we were in the middle of a party of course with endless supply of local grog. After a late lunch of the freshest fish, and chicken he took us the 5 minute walk to the most beautiful beach and we all boarded his brightly coloured fishing boat and went to see the giant turtles, incredible creatures swimming in the water with us although they look pretty angry when they look at you! Jarda and family flew in around mid day the following day and we took them to Mendez and Mendez for more almost street food and back to show them the turtles, this time our host was Ziggy Marley, as you would expect a colourful character and not complete without his natural dreadlocks.
Different boat today, a ferry ride to Sao Antao, we took a mini bus and explored the larger side of the island. The windward side remains desert, something between Corsica, Canaries, and Aisa. The landscape is quite different, very green and fertile, with very steep slopes full of terraced farming fields. The road is cobbled, miles and miles of tiny cobbles which lead to breath-taking vantage points.
After exploring the bustleing charm of Mindello we are going sailing, boat restocked, crew ready and we are heading out. Our goal is Ilha Brava island. Ilha Brava is the most western island of Cape Verde, roughly 105 nm drom Sao Vincente. The forecast reports 25 – 35 however we got at least 10 more, North Star is flying. The strongest wind on the display was 52 kts, after a few hours the wind eased and the forecast started to make sense. It even dropped below 20 during my night watch and we enjoyed the night glow of the plankton in the water and the stars above our heads. In the morning we anchor in a bay near Faja d Agua a village under a cliff with a few beech style houses and an abandoned airport. Sad tale, the locals built the runway and the airport building but then after it was opened a few planes ended in the sea, the katabatic winds were too bad and it has lay empty since. The island now relies on ferry deliveries for supplies.
We rented a van and drove this small but very nice island. Beautiful views and especially the city of Nova Sintra with a square, which any country would be proud of , incredibly clean everywhere.
Dinner at the “restaurant” in our bay put us to sleep, the cruise on the dinghy in waves towards the boat again woke us up, the wind was blowing and the swell at the shore was fierce. Once all on board we were rocked to sleep for a few hours. Woken by Danny and Victoria on deck as there was strong wind around 3:50am which triggered the anchor alarm and we decided to leave sharply and continue to cruise the direction of Fogo island.

We anchor north of São Filipe, the bay we shared with local ferries which from time to time, no one knows exactly when, bring people, goods, cars and for example, a van on the back with a cow! Jorge the local helped us anchor, who immediately offered to take us to the volcano. The Island of Fogo is definitely one big volcano, on top of which is still and active volcano. Last time it erupted was in 2014, before 1995 and in 1951. It always resulted in flooding a few villages with lava. You can see the flowing stiff lava when climbing into the volcano Caldera, where the traces are most visible. At a height of 1600 m at the foot of Caldera, coffee and wine are grown, which thanks to the fertile ground and altitude are very tasty and exclusive. Tonight at the anchor was like a reward. We slept through to another beautiful day and for us there is a cruise to São Nicolau. Keep your fingers crossed!

Engine starts! What the heck is going on, it’s only 6:45. I walk into the salon and find out that our tour guide Jorge called Danny that the ferry would eventually come and we needed to move, we found ourselves as close to the rocky shore as we would possibly dare. Ferry arrived, we had breakfast, gradually jumped into the water, freshen up before the cruise, clean things up and head out direction of São Nicolau. It was clear from the beginning that it would not be and easy crossing and the approximately 130 nm against the wind will be one of the more challenging parts of our ocean cruise. I confess, I was green round the gills, but then I managed to stabilize my stomach and be a valid crew member. It was like a belt of wind and the night shift was one of the more adrenaline ones. After 30 hours and a total of 160 miles, we finally successfully docked in a nicely sheltered bay near Tarafal. Quick bathing and come to the capital of island called Ribeira Brava. Dingy and the ship was guarded by a local named Ruslan. The road to the city was again an experience. Views of the fertile valley of part of the island, where, despite the sun behind the island, the clouds held. The Toyota with at least million kilometers on the clock whined like a pup when she once again transported us over the hills up to 750 meters high. Surprisingly there was a carnival for kids at Ribeira Brava and we were just amazed at how people in this country can organize and have fun together. The parade went across the city and ended up in the square where they were still together. Wow! Before boarding, we stopped to restock and for a cake for a coffee shop near the harbor. When imagining the homemade cream yogurt and cake I ate there I will smile for a long time.

On the way to Mindelo, we passed another 3 islands, Santa Luzia, and two small pimples that are uninhabited nature reserves and anchoring is only allowed with special permission. Turtles and different kinds of birds found there.

After seeing 5 islands what amazed me is that all islands are so diverse. From north fertile, green and moist from the south inhospitable and dry. Well because of their height, moisture won’t get to the other side and accumulates on the windy side of the island. And since the flow is relatively stable as far as the direction is concerned…

Just before Mindelo we got into the so called nozzle again. Mindelo nozzle it should be called. We were greeted with up to 50 knots on arrival, lines tied, and it dropped to somewhere below 40.

Cape Verde is beautiful, amazing crew just made it stronger. Thanks to you Danny, Victoria, Petr, Jarda, Christine and Lily and most importantly Go West Sailing.

Uhhh and since I will be here for some time, let’s go to the Carnival!

Written by Boris Benedikovic friend and regular crew member of the Go West 🙂

 More information on sailing in Cape Verde here. 😉

Posted in Cape Verde, Sailing Stories.

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