Cape Verde and onwards
23 November 2018
We spent the early part of the week in Mindelo, the major town on Sao Vincente, one of the inhabited islands of the Cape Verdes. Whilst it's not the capital it does have a wonderful natural harbour, formed by the collapsed rim of a volcanic crater. It was a strategic port leased by the British as a bunkering centre, holding imported coal to refuel ships plying the African coast before the switch to oil. It also has a modern marina which can cater for several hundred yachts; the port manager also does basic sail repairs and helpfully repaired the mainsail stack pack which we had torn whilst reefing then sail on the passage down from Las Palmas and there is a tiny chandlery (aka the sweetie shop as we can't ever pass one without popping in to buy something). Mindelo is therefore the obvious stop for yachts crossing the Atlantic, unless going direct from the Canaries (as the main ARC fleet will do in a week or so).
Apart from the port and marina we came to the conclusion that the Sao Vincente wouldn't be top of the list of places to visit again. It's a barren place; volcanic and no surface water, the island is poor but not poverty stricken. The island has an airport and is trying to develop a tourist industry as a cheap winter sun destination. It's certainly hot in November!
On Monday we took a half day tour of the island but minibus with other ARC+ competitors. There is a great camaraderie developing amongst the fleet and several boats we are getting to know very well... LaDiala, Mango, Rokhea, Lallona, La Boheme, Malisa, The Project and many others. We stopped at the highest peak on the island with spectacular views of the bay, visited some amazing dunes with white sand carried across the ocean from the Sahara and crossed miles of bleak country side with interesting attempts as commerce ( a massive shrimp farm under development, a failed water entertainment park etc.), we also saw a few fishing villages, catching fish in traditional ways from small sailing dhows.
On Tuesday we also visited a local charity which rescues boys from the streets. There is a lot of begging in the town, which we'd been warned about on arrival, many young lads are on the streets and suffering from drug and alcohol addition, the charity provides a recovery centre with some success, although many boys "escape". It was shocking to hear how many of the boys had been abandoned by their families, often children of teenage mums.
Wednesday was departure day, we completed the checkout formalities and we amongst the first to leave the dock a couple of hours before the start. We anchored in the bay, swam and took the opportunity to make fresh water from our watermaker to replace the water from the dock which we were unsure about drinking despite adding purifying chemicals. We decided to keep one tank of dock water for washing and showers which we replaced with watermaker water after a day at sea, but had a whole tank of watermaker water before we set off.
The start and first day were challenging, we really wanted to do the leg without motoring, but the weather conspired against us with only 4 to 7 knots at the start. The majority of the fleet charged off under motor within minutes of the start. We sailed for a couple of hours then took what has become known as the "flyer", we headed south in the light breeze, partially avoiding the large wind hole by the neighbouring island, whilst the majority of the fleet motored due west. This left us some 30 miles behind the fleet in terms of the direct route to the finish, which you will see on the tracker, but we think we have motored considerably less than that leading group which should get addressed on the handicap later. It has to be said there is a view on board that my decision to sail south was a cock-up! It's done now, so time will tell, but we have been the quickest multihull over the last few checkpoints.
The last 24 hours have been somewhat demanding as the wind built: Thursday afternoon saw us screaming along with the furling code 0 but as night fell we ended up have to reduce sail three times ( furled the zero then put reefs one then two into the mainsail) all between midnight and 3am. For any work on the foredeck we get the whole crew out of bed. Reefing the main is easier as we can do this from the cockpit but we always have three up for this to handle the lines.
Yesterday was a bit of a sleigh ride, high speeds up to 13 kts surfing down the large waves as the wind held between 25 kts and 30 kts all day. We are out of sight of the rest of the fleet but passed a lone French yacht "Nomade" late in the afternoon and had a chat on the VHF radio, they are heading for Martinique, one of the many yachts crossing the Atlantic on their own.
It's now 0200 on Saturday, we put the third reef in the main a few hours ago as the breeze was back at 30 kts and there were lots of squalls visible on the radar, so now have a very small amount of sail up. This is giving everyone a chance to catch up on sleep and the wind has moderated slightly. We'll probably put more sail up in the morning. We are expecting the wind to stay strong for another 36 hours but then ease to a gentler 15-20 knots.
Keep posting the comments and sending the emails we are enjoying your views on our progress!!