Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Cape Verde rest stop


As we approached the first islands of Cape Verde, the early morning sun was making its presence, showing us, in profile, just how mountainous these islands are. We soon rounded the point and headed in to a large bay where Mindelo, the second largest town of the islands is nestled on the slopes.

We could see masts poking up behind the breakwater making the anchorage obvious so we headed there past junk freighters and fishboats. We anchored between the marina and a half submerged wreck lying on its side, returning to the elements from which it came, the sight of which was a realization of how apt the term "keeled over" was (N16°53.016' W024°59.595').

We shared the anchorage with about 25 other sailboats, most of them like us making this their last rest stop before the jump across the pond. This was Sao Vicente, 1 of the 10 islands that make up this African nation of Cape Verde.

Check in was friendly and easy at Immigration and Police, both a short walk away from where we left the dinghy securely at the marina. As we strolled around, we could see that here had a more "African" feel compared to the Canaries.

In the past if you asked us what we would expect Cape Verde to be like, we would have thought verdant landscape, as in "verde" as in "green". However, the arid climate has left a landscape void of greenery. Did the authors of the name want to conceal the fact that their land was lacking vegetation so they used an antonym as did those who named Greenland. A totally reasonable approach, considering alternatives such as "Cape Browness" or "Cape Dusty" which would not work in tourist promotions. Well as it turned out there are some areas of the Islands that contrast what we saw with forests and streams in spectacular surroundings. Unfortunately we missed those parts.

Minute dust particles in the air are blown across from the deserts of western Africa and on the way collect moisture creating a pervading haze over the islands, reducing visibility at times to a few miles or less. Those conditions don't seem to leave dust on deck any more than the busy traffic of any town would. In any event, there is a rugged beauty to behold.

Many hazy days

This country with a relatively recent gain of independence is making great strides at improving conditions for its people. With endeavours such as encouraging tourism, capitalizing on their strong fishing industry, making education mandatory, and other promotions, it has lifted their standard of living well above the rest of most of the African nations.

Locally made boats

They also proudly produce a national liquor as strong as paint stripper made from nearly all of the sugarcane called Grogue. We tried this neat but it was much better in our cappuccino. The other local sampling was their national dish called Cachupa which is similar to a delicious stew. These 2 delights were enjoyed 1 evening at an excellent restaurant bar while listening to a couple of talents play and sing Cape Verdean songs.

Over all we found Cape Verdeans to be very pleasant and happy and it was not uncommon to see striking beauty in their dark features.

Of interest to yachties, the word was to be a little more vigilant about protecting against boat theft but other than that we felt safe. Basic supermarket provisioning is available and the local open markets provide a good selection of produce, as well as several sidewalk vendors lining the streets with their supply. The fish market is a bustling affair with a prodigious amount of large pelagic fish such as Tuna, Wahoo, etc.

To market, to market

Catch for sale

We were pleasantly surprised to be able to get our spare propane tank filled quickly and easily even though it is an American fitting and the tank is out of date by European law. The last available fill up for us was when we were in Gibraltar and it cost us over $100 CAD. Here is was about $11 CAD!

Now with the bottom scrubbed and provisions topped up we are ready to make the jump to cross the pond. Oh yes, also with a prudent weather forecast check and our respects paid to the Sea and Wind for a safe passage.

See you on the other side!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

CAPE VERDE is calling

Preceding the departure of a passage, there is always a certain measure of healthy trepidation that swells up in a sailor's blood regardless of the amount of courage that runs through the veins. Prudent weather analysis helps to quell that uneasiness, however, the sailor with any amount of distant sailing under his keel has learned that the sea, and its accomplice the wind, can conspire to teach a lesson to those who pass through their domain with a lack of respect for their potential powers.

And so, once again, after a close watch on forecasts and to assuage the sea and wind with a tithing of respect in exchange for safe passage, we left Canary Islands in the early afternoon under sunny skies.

Next morning's sunrise

It was a comparatively short passage of 8 days that took us south, brushing the shoulder of west Africa past Dakar and the shores of west Sahara to the Cape Verde Islands.

Even though we were about 80 NM off the coast, the Sahara reminded us how close we were with a faint terrestrial scent that wafted over the waves and broke the monotony of the night watch. A mysterious foreign scent that conjured images of bygone years of a silhouette of a chain of camels in a ghostly caravan trekking along the ridges of those endless and great barren desert dunes of the Sahara.

And today, that same age-old broad band of dunes now lay as just one major obstacle for those desperately fleeing pitiable conditions of regions in the south on their attempted journey to asylum in the dreamland of the north.

More than once I have been alerted by an earthy scent that landfall, not yet within sight, was imminent. For the ancient sailor, this sense was just one of their "aids to navigation". Obviously today a full advantage should be taken of our modern advancements for marine safety, however as a result, I think to some degree, the modern day mariner allows the atrophy of his instincts and replaces intuition with tech dependency. And that is a shame.

Having said that, we have embraced yet another system. To those unfamiliar with the Garmin InReach system, it is a satellite communication allowing SOS, texting, and emails and is well worth considering. We had Adam Wanczura, an associate member of Bluewater Cruising Association back home act as our weather guru sifting through weather data over the internet and who kept us up to date through this new system with what to expect along the way. It worked great. Thank you Adam! (Link: https://www.bluewatercruising.org/)

For passages, it is just Judy and me aboard. There are only a few welcomed exceptions to that and one is our friend the moon. He showed up in a majestic profile with a radiance that was more than adequate to spread a carpet of diamond sparkles over the waves ahead ushering us to a new land.

Another was a pod of unusually small dolphins. What was usual though was their gay cavorting in Sea Turtle's bow waves.

And yet on another occasion, this time at night after the moon abandoned us to chase the sun over the horizon and left us in an inky darkness, they came like a naval attack in a bio-illuminate spectacle. I only took notice because while on my night watch and when I went up to do my regular groggy 360° visual, I had to do a second take at a bizarre sight that I couldn't at first comprehend.

It was as though there was a rapid fire of silver bullets streaking across our bow and out into a black starboard oblivion. Adding to that surreal display were curious trails of light from things zipping erratically through the water, occasionally breaking the surface and barely missing our bow.

Were we under attack? Was I hallucinating? Was I not awake yet or so tired I was seeing things? I've read stories of sailors so deprived of sleep that they enter another dimension of reality.

Well fortunately this weird sight had the effect of jarring me quickly and fully awake faster than the strongest triple shot of Moroccan espresso.

What I was truly seeing were not errant torpedoes but those small exuberant dolphins and they came to not only play in our bow waves of phosphorescence but for a midnight snack. The bullets were actually flying fish not having such a gay old time. Not only were they also jarred awake from their aquatic slumber but this behemoth was roaring at them. And to make a bad night worse, they were being hunted.

As they catapulted themselves into flight in that blacker than black night, light from our various running lights was being reflected back from their large eyes, made even larger because of their predicament, which led their frantic trajectory with a bio-luminescence trailing in their slipstream.

Chanty, our cat, knowing that out on deck was a fish left from the night's encounter, was meowing like an addict needing a fix in the waking hours of the morning wanting out to get it. Relenting, we leashed her up and took her out. Now normally when she sees one, she dashes at it like a toad's tongue to a tick, but this time, she just halted dumbstruck as though glued to the combing, and when we looked out to see what it was, we saw dozens of flying fish who had closed their final flight plan on Sea Turtle's deck. Our reconnaissance and cleanup yielded 91 fish and 1 squid and a whole lot of scales. Of those, Chanty had her pick of the litter.

Small sample of flying fleet

Now I didn't need to be hit on the head with a boom to deduce that just maybe we were finally in waters that could have some catchable fish of the humanly edible type (sampling flying fish is not an option given their smell that only another fish would find delectable), so I dragged a line and lure. Well it wasn't 10 minutes before the bell on the end of the rod was a dingin' and the line was spoolin' out faster than shite off a shiny shovel.

As I wrestled the rod, I could see the whopper jumping and fighting which eventually got positive results for him and the "big one got away" from me. I think it was a Wahoo. One for the fish, zero for the fisherman.

So right away, out went the line for another try. And again, in just a few short minutes I got another hit. With Chanty encouraging me with her excited meows, I landed the fish, a nice Mahi Mahi, successfully. One for the fish, one for the fisherman.

One for the fisherman

We had a variety of weather and sea conditions along the way. The first day we ran downwind in brisk 30-knot winds flying a poled-out staysail to port and a poled-out genoa furled to a third on starboard as steep short waves kicked us along. After that, the winds died down; we gradually unfurled the genoa and continued all the rest of the way downwind enduring a sloppy roll for much of it and in a sea that transformed from short waves to long swells.

Converging on Cape Verde

So after we left an almost straight track of 892 NM (1,652 km), we pulled into the large bay of Porto Grande on the morning of the 8th day. We anchored in front of Mindelo, the capitol of the Cape Verde Island of Sao Vicente.

Passage from Canary Islands to Cape Verde Dec 11 to Dec 19
N16°53.016' W024°59.595' Dec 19 Sao Vicente (Porto Grande, Mindelo)

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Gran Canaria

The harbour at Las Palmas on the island of Gran Canaria to the west would take us about 11 hours to sail there from our anchorage at Fuerteventura, so we chose to get up early in the morning rather than doing an overnighter. We pulled anchor at 03:15 and headed out and had a great sail, arriving at 14:00 at Las Palmas, the northern tip of Gran Canaria of the Canary Islands (November 26th).

We planned our arrival after the last of the ARC Atlantic Rally boats had left leaving the rest of us with some space. Even though, there were still a lot of boats in the marina and in the adjacent anchorage where stern flags of countries from all over flew.

Swinging room was a concern because the anchorage was relatively deep, and in the calm, we couldn't determine where anchors lay. So we found a nice protected spot in behind the breakwater where we dropped the hook then ran a stern line to a large boulder on the breakwater, keeping us nice and secure in one spot (N28°07.788' W015°25.503').

On shore, we found lots of well equipped shops and services catering to the mariners, local, and transient alike. As you may have noticed in previous photos, our faded and patched sail cover told the tale of years of weather and wear. So we took advantage of the services of a sail loft here that did a quick job making a new one for us. It turned out great and looks so much better!

Spiffy cover

Jordan spent some time repairing the toe rail after our disastrous encounter with the Beast (fishboat) back at the end of November (see posting entitled Beauty and the Beast). Excellent job - can't even tell now!

Battered toe rail and bent chainplates

Beauty restored

We spent a day on a mountainous road trip of the island with a rental car. With map in hand, we traversed the numerous winding mountain roads through sleepy peaceful villages. Jordan was in his glory hitting the curves.

Small portion of the map

A Shangri-La setting

A cute village

Three famous landmarks include the La Fortaleza - a fortress - the last holdout where the Canarian aborigines eventually surrendered to invaders way back in 1483. This imposing natural structure can be hiked through.

La Fortaleza

Another, the Roque Nublo at 1,813 m was created 4.5 million years ago by volcanic eruption and the "hardening off of burning clouds following its formation and latter cooling off".

Roque Nublo

And finally the Pico de las Nieves where we made it all the way up to what is claimed as the highest point of the island at 1,949 m for amazing views of the roads and villages far below. Or is it the second highest as others claim?

Pico de las Nieves

Our next destination is the Cape Verde Islands, 800 nautical miles to the southwest where we expect to spend about a week before departing on our crossing of the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean. We have been experimenting with our Garmin InReach Explorer+, a relatively new product and service that allows us to communicate during the passage and have family and friends watch our progress. We are leaving December 11th from Gran Canaria.

By clicking on the website URL...
https://us0-share.inreach.garmin.com/seaturtleiv
...you can check our voyage. Don't forget to zoom in.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

South Fuerteventura

Leaving behind Puerto del Rosario (Canary Islands), we headed further south down the eastern coast of the island called Fuerteventura to another port, Gran Tarajal. Arriving about 5.5 hours later, we were surprised to discover we were the only boat in sight at anchorage; all others were in the marina.

Masts sticking up behind the breakwater

After a calm night at anchor, we continued our southern jaunt for the beaches that make this coastline the major attraction. We first dropped anchor in the emerald waters at Playa Sotavento (Jandia Beach) that ran for miles. We pulled the dinghy up onto the beautiful beach and strolled the sand which was variegated with colours of golden and coral with dramatic seams of black interspersed.

Nice beach for dinghy landing

Sea Turtle anchored at Jandia Beach

We then continued in calm seas to another area, 5 to 6 nautical miles further to Matorral Beach at the point of land that turned west. There we could see wind-driven chop around the corner so we prudently stayed back and anchored in calm for the night; the next night we rounded the corner to Morro Jable for a quiet stay before departing to another Canary Island, Gran Canaria.

Our final anchorages of Fuerteventura:
N28°12.355' W014°01.866' Nov 23 Gran Tarajal
N28°07.519' W014°14.736' Nov 24 Jandia Beach
N28°03.179' W014°18.961' Nov 24 Matorral Beach
N28°03.171' W014°22.075' Nov 25 Morro Jable

Friday, November 23, 2018

Beauty and the Beast

When we awoke in the morning anchored at Puerto del Rosario (N28°29.588' W013°51.572' Fuerteventura, Canary Islands), Jordan said he wished it would rain to wash off all the salt from yesterday's blow. Be careful what you wish for!

All of a sudden there was a blast of wind from a squall and with it came torrential downpour. Sea Turtle was quickly stretched out on its chain and was being swung right around towards a small local moored fishboat (that we will call the Beast) and it became dreadfully apparent that it didn't have near the scope that Sea Turtle (that we will call Beauty) had laid down. We were quickly pinned up against the side of the Beast that was now rocking violently in the chop.

The Beast

We were both desperately trying to hold the Beast off but it was impossible. Jordan went forward to bring in more anchor chain to pull us away, leaving me to do the best that I could fending off the Beast with a big bumper.

The squall soon passed but not before leaving some battle scars. Claiming a victory, the Beast suffered only minor scrapes on its wooden rail but the teak toe rail of Beauty was damaged and 2 thick metal chainplates were bent inwards from the wild action. The combined power of the howling wind and the stormy seawater was unbelievable.

Battle scars

Finally secured but battered and bruised, we retreated below to a hot chocolate and cognac to warm our shivering bodies. On the bright side, the next day and another night was spent in peace and quiet.