Passage to Cape Verde and Mindelo by Lochlann

Passage Canaries to Cape Verde, January 2015

There was a lot of discussion in the family before leaving Las Palmas.  We talked about sailing back to Cornwall after the Caribbean, then renting out the house and leaving again as soon as possible. But first we had to get to the Carribean ASAP, ensuring that we could spend the maximum time there.
Sailing along towards the Cape Verde, on the last day as conditions moderate.

Just when we had decided to skip the Cape Verde islands and head straight off, Mum took Finbar and me on a fatal excursion to an Internet Cafe.  As we sat there staring at our respective 'i-things', I noticed Mum's face grow grimmer and grimmer. Finally after five minutes of this I tentatively risked the parental ire.
"Mum? What's up?"
A growl cam from the figure across the table. This was not encouraging, but I pressed boldly onward.
" Hey Mum. Why the long face?"
"Oh.... I've just found out that Finbar has a new TMA (tutor marked assignment) that needs to be submitted right when we are going to be in the middle of the Atlantic!"
"We have to go to the Cape Verde!"
I went back to talking with my cousin Kesha. There was nothing wrong with going to the Cape Verde, except it messed up our plans and shortened our time in the Caribbean.
So, stuffed full of provisions, we left the disgusting , smelly, polluted dock of Las Palmas (Gran Canaria) and winged our way to the southern sun like moths to a flame.
The annoying thing about long passages is the infuriating combination of peace and commotion that pervades the ship. Just as you come off watch and sit down to relax, you are thrown into the saloon table as the boat heaves underneath your feet.  When you sleep you have to lie on your stomach otherwise you slowly revolve on your bunk.
It took us 7 days to get to the Cape Verde islands, and each day got longer than the last.  One day I thought to myself, what if we were on an epic journey or quest? I figured we would be much more heroic! Then I went back to bed.
Land Ho!
We got to Mindelo, the biggest port in the Cape Verde islands, two days after I decided to go mad. So, recuperating was harder than usual. But, because I was in a heroic mood, I put on my pirate stuff as we came into the harbour - up the mast on the crosstrees.
After our seven-day passage, I was trying to feel refreshed and invigorated, and failing miserably. The port of Mindelo is situated on the island of Sao Vincente in the north of the Cape Verde island chain. The mountains were stunning, dwarfing the town, huge jagged peaks with gullies riddling their bases.
Sao Vincente used to be Portugeuse, but as it is off the coast of Africa most of the population comes from there. It felt really strange when we went ashore. I stand out a little anyway with my hair (long, curly and red) and it felt quite uncomfortable to be stared at so much, but I got used to it.
The town was such a mixture of beautiful old, multi-coloured buildings and also unfinished concrete structures with doors leading into space where a second floor should have been built..
We had to pay to put our dinghy on the pontoon, so when dad went ashore on his own to go for a walk, he left the dinghy on the beach (so as not to have to pay). A man told dad that he would keep an eye on the dinghy and dad went off. We were on the boat in the anchorage and mum was keeping an eye on the dinghy through the binoculars. We were dancing around on deck as we watched the man, who was supposedly looking after it, search the dinghy and take out our anchor. He hid it under a fishing boat a little way up the beach and then walked off. We phoned dad and told him to hurry back to retrieve it, but the man reappeared with a plastic bag, picked up the anchor, walked out of view and then returned. Dad arrived and talked to him but he denied the whole thing. It was so frustrating to watch but not be able to do anything. Dad kept checking round all the street traders for the rest of our stay to see if he could retrieve the anchor, but he never saw it again.
The first of the beautiful creatures we saw in Mindelo was a turtle that seemed to live in the anchorage. We saw it on our first day as we were anchoring. Fin and I immediately grabbed our snorkeling gear to get a closer look, but it dived down out of sight. Next we saw an Osprey with a fish in its claws flying across the anchorage. We saw it several times more because, like the turtle, it seemed to live close by. On one of his walks dad found a beach covered in Portuguese Man of War, the deadliest jellyfish in the world. They are amazing creatures, they inflate a buoyancy pouch that shows above the water and they sail with it!
After a couple of days, our friend Nick Skeates arrived on Wylo II, along with Ben and Phillipa on their boat, Dhanu, with their two young daughters, Olive and Alfie. In Las Palmas we had met Jabez and Anneleize, the first other sailing kids on our whole trip, and they also arrived in Mindelo a few days after us. Their boat is called Abracadabra, and they, and their parents, have sailed round the world. On board, they had an Optimist sailing dinghy, so we put the rig on our dinghy, Swiftlet, and had fun sailing in the anchorage. Nick proposed a race round the boats and got his rig up. I lost spectacularly because of the Optimist’s ability to sail upwind so well. I had a go in it and was amazed at how fast and maneuverable it was.
Mardi Gras carnival was approaching. The music was getting louder every night, and on the 7th February we sat in a large tree to watch the floats go past. The floats were huge and quite inventive, but all in all, it seemed to me like a load of people going by in sparkly costumes, trying to be louder and more colourful than the last. They also played a single tune over and over and over again, throughout the whole week of carnival!!! I will recognize that tune forever now.

After the carnival we started to get ready to take that momentous jump and cross the Atlantic. Abracadabra left first, with much honking of foghorns and blowing of bugles. We left on the 23rd February, saying goodbye to Nick on the way past, and waving to Ben, Phillipa, Olive and Alfie on the pontoon. We were setting out to cross the Atlantic – this was the voyage we had dreamed about.

Written by Lochlann, February 2015

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