Monday and Tuesday
19 November 2013 | Mindelo, Sao Vicente, Cape Verde
You will be dying to know how we are getting on in the fleshpots of Mindelo and away from the rigours of the ocean, I'm sure.
We spent Sunday riding at anchor just outside the marina. Len did couple of repairs to the spray dodger and a sail bag, his sail maker's sewing machine whirring away in the cabin. Apart from that it was a quiet afternoon on board although very blustery with winds at Force 6, with occasional gusts of 7. Just after dark Len took the rest of us in the dinghy to the marina so that we could have supper ashore while he had an overdue quiet evening on his own on the boat.
Almost opposite the marina we went into an exhibition of photographs of Cape Verdeans and Cape Verdean life. They were the work of a young French photographer, Dominique Robelin, The photographs were of very high quality, in black and white and well framed. I was particularly taken by a portrait of a deeply wrinkled woman, probably in her late 80s, smoking a pipe. If there had been any realistic prospect of safely carrying it across the Atlantic and then back to England, I would have bought it. As it was, I made do with a copy of his book, which has that photograph in it, duly inscribed and signed.
The marina office had given Johnny recommendations for places for dinner, and we chose Casa Mindelo, not far away. It was simple and rather attractive. An enquiry as to what was typical local food brought the reply (not without attempts in more than one language) "cachupa" which we all ordered. it turned out to be a large plate of various beans and pulses with a few slices of chorizo (or similar) sausage and a fried egg on top. It was perfectly pleasant and filling, but one would almost certainly get bored with it if faced with it on a very regular basis! That, pudding, drinks and coffee brought the bill for the 3 of us to 25,000 CV Escudos which, being interpreted, means 25 Euros. We had a stroll round part of the town and then Len duly collected us and we were back on the boat for a comparatively early night - and no watches to do!
On Monday the 18th we took an early trip into town to go to the port authority office and immigration. No problems; one has to leave passports with them until shortly before departure. Then, having the chance to move into the marina proper for 40 Euros a day, we did so, leaving behind us a French ketch anchored nearby called Oh La La (surprise!) which had painted on each side of her "A Coeur Vaillant Rien D'Impossible" (which for the very young among you translates as "For the valiant heart, nothing is impossible" - remember that! The wind was still blowing strongly but we had some help from the marina staff in a dinghy to attached our bow mooring warps and we moored stern on, keeping well away from the pontoon to protect the Aries self-steering gear.
After lunch on board, we went into the town to deliver dirty washing to the laundrette (Sarah - naturally, Johnny's clothes hardly needed washing at all!) where the girl took 10 kilos of clothes and promised to have them washed, dried and folded within 24 hours. a couple of doors down in the same back street was a barber's shop. Well, to call it a shop may be overstating it a little. It was a space about 20 feet long by about 8 feet wide which had not seen paint, or any new fixtures or fittings for several decades. Len felt that a haircut was overdue. Being a brave man, he went in and began explaining what sort of cut he wanted. The young barber seemed keen and obliging and we left Len in the chair with a gown around his neck and the barber brandishing a pair of scissors. when we returned about half an hour later we saw that Len had been given a very good haircut indeed which would not have looked out of place in the West End of London.
We had already been having discussions about where we should eat but for the time being that came to nothing and we walked around looking at the town. There is some very attractive architecture - Portuguese, I imagine - handsome buildings. in the best tradition we stumbled on a lovely church with a service taking place and the church probably about two-thirds full and with the congregation actually singing. We stood at the back for a few minutes enjoying the calm and serene atmosphere.
The "where to eat" discussions continued as we walked around, but were interrupted when we found the Oasis 4 star hotel where we went for a drink. Johnny persuaded the delightful waiter to make him a tomato juice, something which had at first looked unlikely. A request, after it arrived, for Tabasco eventually produced a small saucer of a pepper sauce with the warning "Very hot". After that, the food discussions were resolved by the decision to go back to Casa Mindelo! This time we had meatier food which was OK but rather tough. the bill still came to 25,000 CV Escudos, but this time for 4.
A moment to give you an idea of the Cape Verdeans. I think we have all found the ones we have met or had dealings with to be absolutely delightful, charming and helpful. The people are attractive both physically and by character. Some of the girls and women are extremely pretty. I guess that they are largely a mixture of African and Portuguese and so are varying shades of brown. A few have an almost Polynesian look about them. There are a few people peddling T-shirts and cheap trinkets near the marina, and the occasional beggar, but they are not troublesome.
Tuesday 19th, There was a very strong wind during the night. We have double mooring warps out but the boats were all surging about even in the marina proper. Len discovered this morning that one of the surges had caused the starboard aluminium fairlead, which is set into the toerail, to be torn out of position peeling back the toerail for a few inches!
Richard and Johnny helped Len remove the mainsail and it was taken down to the sailmaker for the repair of a tear where it had been rubbing against the crosstrees on the passage down. It is promised for return tomorrow morning.
After that, Len and Richard went to the port authorities to recover passports in preparation for our planned departure tomorrow, while Johnny and I lazed about at "our club" (i.e. the bar by the marina office) and had fresh orange juice and coffee. Then we all went to a supermarket to stock up on non-perishables. You are not allowed into the shop with a bag, and so there is a bank of lockers in which to leave your bag while you shop; uniformed security men patrol the shop (which is not much bigger than a local Waitrose) as well.
After a light lunch on board Richard, Johnny and I took a taxi to have a look round the island and to find a beach for a swim. That was a partial success: instead of golden sands and gentle waves, the swimming took place in shallow water behind a breakwater while outside it large waves crashed onto rocks. Anyway, Johnny and Richard pronounced it a good swim. Our delightful taxi driver, who spoke a bit of French, persuaded us to go to the highest point on the island to look at the view. We then drove up and up and up to 2,000 metres where there are radio and TV masts and dishes and from where the view is absolutely spectacular. it was interesting to see that there was guard in military fatigues with an automatic rifle standing at the entrance to the communications station itself. Lots of photos taken - but not of the guard! The island is volcanic and very rocky and barren with few trees above the coastal area. There is, however, a lot of maize being grown even up to considerable heights, although the ground is so rough and rocky that planting and harvesting probably has to be done by hand.
As I write this on Tuesday evening, another surge has just caused a bow warp to break. The forecast is for the wind to ease tomorrow: fingers crossed! On the plus side, however, there is a marvellous smell of curry cooking away in the galley.