Wednesday and Thursday the 21st
21 November 2013 | Just west of Santo Antao, Cape Verde
I bet you thought that by this time (1600 Thursday) we would be 24 hours out into the Atlantic. So did we! Unfortunately, things didn't turn out like that. After what we thought would be our last breakfast on dry land, Lenny, Richard and I left Johnny (now known by some of us as Butch) to wash down the boat while we went into town to go to the open air fruit and vegetable market. It's a buzzing, colourful market with all the sellers making determined efforts to get you to buy from them, even if they can see that you have already bought an item from someone else. The market had more of an African look and feel to it than other aspects of island life. There was a pretty good selection of produce, some of which was of better quality than others. We bought lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pineapple, melon, spring onions, herbs, grapes, celery and a hand of bananas - out of which fell a small cockroach. As a result, when we got back to the boat all the produce was washed in a dilute solution of bleach and then sprayed off with fresh water as, hopefully, protection against unwanted bugs and infections. We also needed some provisions from the supermarket, so we went there and walked back with Richard carrying 12 x 1.5 litre bottles of water in a box on his shoulder. Some of the C Verdeans would have carried it on their head!
We had already collected the repaired mainsail from the sailmaker. Having stowed the morning purchases, we set about moving the boat out of the marina so that we could re-attach the Aries self-steering gear, bend on the sail, stow the dinghy and leave. High winds made leaving the pontoon quite difficult and the variable nature of the ground outside it meant that we had to drop and then raise the anchor a couple of times before we found good holding ground. Finally, with the boat firmly anchored, Lenny set about re-assembling the Aries. It soon became clear that, despite extensive precautions to protect it while in the marina, the massive surge which had caused damage to the fairlead and toerail had also damaged the gearing on the Aries. It took a while to work out exactly what the problem was and then what do do about it. Lenny and Richard took the relevant part ashore and found a machine shop willing and able to repair it. It was done and ready for collection within about an hour. On getting it back on board and re-assembling it, Lenny found that one of the spacers was now binding when the mechanism moved and so he had to reduce the thickness of the spacer by 0.5 millimetre - which he patiently and duly did. By this time, there was no question of leaving on Wednesday and so we resolved to spend the night at our anchorage and to leave first thing in the morning,
Not even that worked as planned. The Aries had been returned to working order (and probably better working order than before) and had been re-installed to its rightful position, and it was time to bend on the mainsail. In the course of doing that Johnny spotted another small tear in it which needed patching before we could leave. Lenny and Butch dealt with that, with one each side of the sail pushing the needle and thread through from his side. It took a while but it had to be done. Then there was just the dinghy to deflate and stow, but with it floating alongside the boat and the marina bar winking at us not far away, it seemed silly not to go and have a last breakfast - again! - so we did, Richard and Lenny having "the full English" and Butch and I making do with a ham and cheese omelette and toast. The orange juice was delicious. This trip to the bar gave me the chance to spot, written on the whiteboard at the entrance, that they were offering something really tempting called "Hot Smacks"! Despite the obvious temptation, we didn't avail ourselves of the offer. For those who were interested but who perhaps felt that that would be altogether too much of a good thing at breakfast time, they also offered "Cold Smacks". Somehow, that didn't have quite the same allure!
So, we returned to the boat without smacks of any kind, and deflated and stowed the dinghy, Just a little more tidying away and up came the anchor. Finally, 24 hours later than intended, we were off at 1145 local in bright, hot sunshine with barely a cloud to be seen. The mainsail went up quickly and we moved from the aquamarine waters of the harbour to the mid-blue of the waters offshore and with the dark blue waters of the ocean awaiting us. The wind picked up to a Force 6 as we were free of the harbour and we had a splendid sail downwind at 7 to 9 knots with the island of Santo Antao on our starboard side.
As we cleared the western end of Santo Antao at 1415 local, we came into the island's wind shadow, and the wind dropped and became so variable in direction that it became impossible to steer the boat, either by Aries or manually, to any consistent bearing. Lenny therefore started the engine and for the last three hours we have been motorsailing, mostly dead into the wind curiously enough, with one reef in the main and the working jib sheeted right in. At about a mile or two west of the island we ran into a race with very confused seas. Nothing dangerous but awkward and uncomfortable. During the afternoon Lenny also managed to trace and repair a loose connection affecting the electric Autohelm self-steering. It's a great relief to know that we have that as a back-up should Aries be taken ill at any time, Failing that, we have all been doing some helming, but the prospect of having to do that for very extended periods would be daunting.
We all seem to be in pretty good shape and looking forward to the passage. Morale, as they say, is high. We are beginning to look tanned and lovely (well, tanned anyway) and no-one has yet suffered sunburn. A few bumps and bruises.
The engine is now off, The wind is blowing steadily again at 15+ knots and we are hustling along at a shade under 8 knots. It's 1800 local and the light is beginning to fade. The weather forecast for the next few days looks good with Force 4 north-easterly winds.
We will post another blog tomorrow or the next day, but until then we all send much love to those who would like to have it and would appreciate it, and our best wishes to everyone else.