Follow by Email

Sunday, 14 April 2013


We left Gran Canaria from the anchorage at Amfi Del Mar, shortly after breakfast on the 12th of January 2013. Initially the wind was light, but by noon the forecast easterly was with us. Usually we seem to plan our crossing to coincide with the full moon, but this time was the exception. There is little more serenely beautiful than the starlit sky at night and the first evening the moon was a tiny crescent, a glimmering cuticle of light. By Sunday the wind had picked up and we had our fastest day’s run yet. (163 miles) 

The following sea

The cockpit got wet for the first time, but the wind was abaft the beam and the sailing was pleasant, although the speed caused some pounding. Pete was doing all the reefing and adjustment to the wind veins, to rest my shoulder, which was still problematic.


"Oryx" anchored in Palmeira


We arrived at the island of Sal and anchored in the harbour of Palmeira. Sal is one the “low lying” Cape Verde islands and the first surprise was how very African the landscape looked from “Oryx”. Thorn trees and a few palms fronted the brownish beach. The locals all seemed to be Black and as a Eur- African I felt a twinge of homesickness and when this abated, I felt as if I were at home. There were many boats at anchor. Some were cruisers, such as Heinz on “Lotte” with his dog “Bak”, but most were local and there were a couple of catamarans and a schooner to charter. These went out frequently filled with tourists.

Palmeira is a small village with several shops catering to the visitors, but there are no grocery stores of note. Pete managed to find a bread shop and there is a fresh water supply, which is open in the mornings. The locals are friendly and probably quite poor, but they are all fairly well dressed and are obviously making a reasonable living from the tourists.

Mural of the islands on a building in Palmeira

Tourists for Africa?

Patriotic bar and restaurant
One of the tourist tripper boats

Looking towards Palmeira village and beach from harbour


The main town of Espargo is a half an hour walk or ten minute bus ride. It is the capital of Sal and the traffic hub. There are a couple of reasonable size grocery stores with adequate supplies. On the outskirts of town there is a fish and fresh produce market, but the best supply of fruit and vegetables are from the street vendors. The airport is just beyond Espargo and Pete was sent there on the first day to clear into the Cape Verde islands, along with an aeroplane load of a Thomson’s charter. This, needless to say, took a fair amount of time. I manage to sew together our courtesy flag, whilst Pete was clearing in

Approaching Espargo from Palmeira

Typical street
One of the modern houses with offices below

Wonder why I was homesick?

Other than trips on catamarans and schooners one can see the island by 4X4.

There is not much to do on Sal and the wind blows fiercely, most of the time. 

Walking to Pedra de Lume


We took a long walk, via Espargo to the old salt loading facility on the eastern side of the island at Pedra de Lume. Just before reaching the village we found some derelict and abandoned tourist development houses on the outskirts. Sadly the economic crisis had affected the investors and someone’s dream castles were now little than a few ghost houses, slowing degrading into dust.

The village of Pedra de Lume itself has a few houses, a church on the hill and the skeletal remains of the salt loading facilities as well as a small harbour. We had our picnic on the grassy verge with some thatched umbrellas outside a lovely, but very shut restaurant. 

Catch of the day in small harbour of Pedra de Lume

Skeletal Salt loading facility
Abandoned restaurant

Picnic beach
Coral and shells for sale

Remains of the loading facilities

Pete's panorama of Pedra de Lume

The salt panning is still done on a small scale as a tourist attraction and the pans are in a volcanic crater. Here one can swim in the pools floating weightlessly in a Dead Sea of sorts and the site has its own restaurant, which probably took the trade from the beachfront place. We climbed the crater and had a beautiful view of the whole operation. Several minibuses of tourists arrived as we watched.

Salt mining for tourists these days.

Chapel near Pedra de Lume

On the way back we stopped in a small square in Espargo and drank some cold beer. We had noticed that most of the locals were wearing their flag colours and when chatting to a mildly inebriated gentleman we were told that Cape Verde Islands soccer team, who have amateur status were playing Bafana Bafana at that very moment! As we sat basking in the sun we heard roars and cheers and the entire island began celebrating. They had drawn their match against South Africa on Bafana Bafana’s home ground.


Another excursion by minibus took us to Santa Maria on the southern end of the island. This small town caters completely for the tourist and there are many hotels and holiday apartments. Both sides of the bay have splendid, long white beaches, whereas Palmeira has the more traditional volcanic blackish brown beaches. The holiday makers seem to make the most of the north easterly trade winds and kite boarding seems to be the favourite pastime, with wind surfing a close second. Apparently Sal is the top kite-boarding destination in the world with the brisk onshore wind blowing daily. The pier was teaming with tourists as local fishermen were displaying and selling their ‘catch of the day.’

Some pristine beaches make Santa Maria a popular destination

One of the many hotels

Some beautifully tended gardens

Catch of the day sold on the pier
How's this for size?

Kite boarding heaven.

We enjoyed our time on Sal, but were not inclined to swallow the anchor there, too much sand, too much wind and costly supplies all served as deterrents. We met up with an old friend called ‘Salomon’ a three masted topsail schooner of approximately 120’. We first encountered her in Bermuda when we explored the dockyard. Pete guessed that the boat served as a home to troubled teens, due to the crews’ rather severe haircuts. We met up with her again in Falmouth, both when we arrived in England on ‘Pelican’ and again when we left on ‘Oryx’. However our closest or most interesting encounter was in Palmeira, when some men in an RIB called us away from our movie. Two of the lads had jumped ship and we were warned to stay alert, as they were ‘dangerous’. We never heard more about what transpired, but we speculated about why anyone would jump ship on an island like Sal, as it is small, barren and without much scope as a hiding place.


Rusty ferry service runs daily.

Some upmarket houses along beach at Palmeira

Dry river bed and oasis near Palmeira

(Sal was my least favourite Cape Verde Island, but in preparing the blog, some of the photographs do look alluring, so I’ll include one of a dusty ‘Oryx’, just to remind myself.)

Reminder of the wind and sand - grime!
Hitch hiker


My favourite 'Sao Nicolau'
We left Palmeira at sunset on the 29th of January, as Sao Nicolau was about 70 miles away and we wanted to arrive in daylight. Once again it was a pleasant sail and we arrived to anchor in the next bay to the tiny village of Carrical. 


Sao Nicholau is a high island and cliffs surrounded us. We packed a picnic and rowed across to the village of Carrical, first exploring the far side of the bay with the cliffs overlooking ‘Oryx’, before heading for the village, which is little more than a hamlet. We found young boys climbing the palm trees to knock down the coconuts.

The bay had many small fishing boats and a French cruising boat
was anchored in the mouth of the bay, with lines running ashore. The village has no obvious shops, although there were several small schools. Once again there was evidence of money well spent on resurfacing the road and on building retaining walls. We took a long walk inland, following the road and enjoying our meal on a ledge overlooking a canyon. The road ends at the outskirts of the village and then there are merely footpaths and narrow cobbled or dirt roads stretching erratically between the houses.

Yacht in entrance to Carrical

Fertile valleys

Single room school house

Paved road to Carrical - a work in progress


We left Carrical in the mid afternoon and sailed along the coast exploring possible anchorages. The first option suggested by Donald Street in his guide proved too deep, except right below the cliffs, so we headed for the next cove, which proved to be a gem called Ponta de Ilheu. It had a narrowish inlet and was surrounded by towering cliffs on two sides. 

Lonely heaven.

A shingle beach led to caves in the cliffside and a deep ravine. We spent several days here.  There were a few goats and some sign of previous fishermen in the caves, but we spent four glorious days relaxing on board and ashore. We swam, Pete scrubbed the waterline, we explored the ravine, but it soon ended abruptly at what would be a magnificent waterfall, in the rainy season.

Working away

This looks like play, but Pete was untwisting the anchor rope!

This is my favourite place on Sao Nicholau. Pete remarked that it looked like the photos in “A Sheltering Desert” and it was a haven of solitude. Internet and cell phone connections belonged to another world. I think I could have stayed there indefinitely, until Pete pointed out that it would be a death trap in a southerly gale!

En route to Preguica


Approaching Preguica

 The next stop was Preguica, which lies on the lee side of the island. In the days of sail it was the main harbour, but since mechanisation has taken over, the windward harbour is the bigger. Preguica is fairly small, although there are some big houses on the front and there is evidence of building projects continuing. We landed at an old jetty and after realising that ‘Crake’ could get trapped underneath, we hauled her out with the aid of some eager young boys. It seems common for youngsters to vie with each other in offering to look after the dinghies, but Pete always just thanks them politely and says its not necessary and they seem happy with that.

There is a steep incline into the village and again there is a common water supply for the villagers and others again open in the mornings only.

From the jetty towards the town of Preguica

As we were returning from our walk two small local girls greeted us in English. We greeted them back and they followed us for a while, on a higher tier, erupting in giggles. Unfortunately, this lovely encounter was somewhat marred when one of the girls decided to pelt us with stones, amidst more giggles. A local man scolded them severely and we went on our way unscathed.

"Oryx" off Preguica

We noticed a boat being rebuilt on the beach below and we went to explore. The boat builder delighted in showing Pete his methods of construction and proudly posed for pictures.

Looking down on the jetty

Boat builders communicate without the need of translation.


Pete wearing his sailing sunglasses.
"Crake" on the beach at Baia de Fidalgo with "Oryx" in background

On the way to Tarrafal we stop in a bay called Baia de Fidalgo, which is uninhabited, but frequented by fishermen. We landed in a corner amidst the surf and explored the area.


Tarrafal, Sao Nicholau was a brisk few hours away and there were a few boats at anchor. On the far side of Tarrafal there are a couple of gated communities, with high fences.

Locally known as Auswitz (according to Donald Street)!

The town itself has a small harbour with a fish and vegetable market. Pete managed to buy water at a reasonable cost.  It has several small grocery stores and various Chinese shops, selling bread and supplies. There were a couple of Internet places, one with Skype. It has two computers, but only one was connected and we managed to call my daughter, after waiting for the computer to become available, but on subsequent visits, the place was either closed or the computers were down, so our communication was minimal.

Another quaint beach bar

Rehearsing for Carnival

Run down Tahiti ketch in Tarrafal harbour


We caught a minibus into Ribeira Brava, the capital of the island, which lies across the island and nestles in the mountains. The bus ride was spectacular as the road winds between the mountains and there are beautiful views all around. Mountaintops towered above and verdant green valleys lined the roadside below. The driver was obliging enough to stop and let us take photographs and the locals were very friendly and welcoming.

El Dorado in the mist

It seems that the Portuguese temperament and joie de vivre leaves carefree clusters of people. The locals of our age and perhaps a little older, have eyes that seem to reflect an innocence and depth that made me feel ashamed and superficial, as I met but couldn’t match their eyes and their smiles. We stopped frequently to collect or drop passengers, for the driver to make change or to top up his supplies of fresh fruit. In one of the valleys a beautiful small town nestled between clefts. Something within me yearned to go there, it seemed as alluring as El Dorado and I called it this when talking to Pete. He agreed that it looked enchanting, but we had places to go, so we stayed on the bus which eventually reached the windward coast, where the deep blue ocean pounded the cliff tops ceaselessly, before turning in land once more for our destination: Ribeiro Brava.

Church in the central square

Interior of the church

Ribeira Brava nestles in a valley between soaring mountains. It has narrow, winding streets and many colourful colonial buildings. We disembarked at the end of the line, which was essentially a central square within the town. We explored the town, bought fruit and veggies at the local market and found a small park to have our picnic lunch. Locals wandered by, wishing us bon appetite and exchanging smiles. We saw a handful of other tourists and there is a bed and breakfast just off the square. Apparently Sao Nicholau is popular amongst German hikers and there were evident in Ribeira Brava.

Popular bed and Breakfast place off central square and above bank


All around the streets the
children were gathering
with their costumes –
carnival was eminent.

We walked around the
rest of the old town,
before making our way
back to the bus.
The bus journey is about
27km and an hours ride
from Tarrafal and cost all
of €2.50!


Paper mache model drying

Trio electrico - almost to Brazilian standards.

The bus took a similar route back, but did a small detour to drop off some punters. Once again the scenery was spectacular and conveniently there were clusters of costumed children lining the pavements, ready to parade. I apologised to the young woman in front of me, in Portuguese, only to find her English fluent. She was born on Sao Nicholau, but lives in Holland and is currently studying there. She had come to Sao Nicholau to visit her grandparents and to participate in Carnival. When we exchanged brief synopses and she was in awe of our wayward life of travel.

Whilst talking to her, I pointed out El Dorado and made some wistful comments about wishing I could go there. I’m sure she suppressed a chuckle, before informing me that we had just come from El Dorado! The beautiful town that lies nestling in the valleys of green is none other than Ribeira Brava! Isn’t it ironic? Yearning to go somewhere seemingly remote and elusive when you’ve already been there and didn’t even realise!

Driving back to Tarrafal

Trusty S.T.M ferry leaving Tarrafal

Towards Sao Luzia


We enjoyed carnival from the cockpit of “Oryx” and left for the uninhabited island of Sao Luzia. We anchored in the lee of the island off a three mile white sandy beach. Sailing down, we had noticed a new wreck on the windward shore, so the next day we braved the surf and then hiked across mountains of shale and rock to valleys of sea sand, until we found the wreck. She seemed abandoned, although her flags were still in reasonable condition and a couple of boarding ladders were in situ. You’ll note that she is virtually new, unlike the rust bucket of an inter island ferry. We wondered what the story was and then assumed someone had relied too heavily on GPS.

Fishermen's camp in the uninhabited island of Santa Luzia

Terry Tres on the rocks

Santa Luzia has miles of pristine beaches

Terry Tres behind us as we picnic and swim.

Ready to picnic

 We picnicked on a nearby beach and skinny dipped briefly to remove the sand and grime. The island itself is delightful and we walked back to our bay, following the dry riverbed, which made the trip back easier. The only negative, is the litter left behind at the fishermen’s camp. There are many small birds near the camp and they are obviously unfazed by human contact and almost as curious as the Fairy terns on St. Helena.



Approaching Tarrafal, Santiago.

The following day after 1500 we sailed to our final island of Santiago. The wind was variable and for a while we were becalmed in the lee of Sao Nicholau and consequently the sail took a little longer than anticipated. We reached the second port also called Tarrafal and anchored just before sunset the next day. The Atlantic rollers were amazing to see, rolling into the harbour in enormous sets.

The anchorage, itself wasn’t uncomfortable, but I declined going ashore. Pete, as always, found a landing spot and did the necessary clearance and bought some fresh rolls.

Pete rowed ashore and landed behind this breakwater.

Tarrafal on Santiago

This gives you an idea of the breakers. Note the bar on the rocks!

On the Saturday morning we set out after breakfast, intending to take our time down the coast, but all the anchorages suggested by Donald Street in the guide, proved to be untenable. Most were just too deep to anchor safely (between 20 and 23m according to the log.) Ribeira Branca looked nice, but the fishing boats filled the shallows and there was no available anchorage, so we meandered down the coast. Porto Rincao, Baia de Infemo and Porto Mosquito, all looked alluring, but were just too deep. It was a perfect day, the sun was shining and the breeze was fresh and by 1620 we had anchored off Cidade Velho in 8m in to the western cove.

Spectacular coastline between Tarrafal and Cidade Velho

Ribeira Branca with fishing boats in the shallows

Gunk holing with "Oryx".


Approaching Cudade Velho

Cidade Velho is my favourite place on Santiago. We anchored in a shallow bay with a shingle beach nearby. Children fished and played on the rocks. Skin divers speared fish and lobster and we had a lovely fresh fish braai on our second night.

Fresh fish and lobster

 A couple of blow holes trumpeted and spurted at high tide. We initially landed at the nearest, deserted shingle beach, but we had to pull the dinghy high up over the stones and then cross a farmyard and a private hotel and restaurant’s grounds. On subsequent days we landed on the main beach, pulling the dinghy out of the fishermen’s way.

Open air church

Ruins of the first cathedral in West Africa

The village or old town is a World Heritage site and the fort on the hillside has been beautifully restored. It is obviously a tourist attractive and is floodlit at night. There is a ruin of the first cathedral in West Africa in the town and various other convents and churches originating many centuries ago.We spent a day exploring the town, with our usual picnic near the fort, high on a cliff overlooking a well-cultivated canyon, with the ocean behind us.

Magnificent view from the fort

Restored fort is a popular tourist attraction.

View from bar at fort

Solar street lights!

Note the friendly locals

Historical cottages can be rented

Spotted piglets


According to Donald Street’s guide one could leave the boat in the safe harbour of Cidade Velho and take a bus to Praia to clear out, which we duly did. The minibus drive takes about 30 minutes and it dropped us near the fresh fruit market. Pete knew his way around because of a previous visit and we took a long walk to the cruise ship harbour where we cleared immigration, but then we retraced our steps, clambering over submerged logs in a foul smelling and stagnant river to make our way to maritime police.

Fresh fish market near the cruise ship harbour

The maritime police however wanted to see our boat and because ‘Oryx’ was in Cidade Velho, refused to clear us out. We explored the upper part of the town, had a picnic in a little crowded park and then headed for the market, where we topped up our supplies for the crossing. We caught the bus back to Cidade Velho and spent the night there, before sailing to Praia harbour.

Praia harbour

Beach near the maritime police where I dinghy sat the following day.

Entrance to Praia harbour with dolosse

The sail across to Praia was only twelve nautical miles and I think Pete enjoyed himself because he did some tricky tacking into the harbour, driving up my adrenalin levels. The following morning we rowed ashore and I tended the tender, whilst Pete cleared out. We briefly spoke to the couple on “Lynne Rival” to exchange books. They are heading to Salvador and are also the unfortunate couple to be taken hostage by Somali pirates a few years ago. Good to see that they are still sailing!

Cruise ship entering Praia 

We left Praia after tea and set off for my fourth and Pete’s umpteenth Atlantic crossing. Pete had checked the forecast and initially we headed almost due south.

The passage was very pleasant, the sun baked down, dolphins became frequent companions and flocks of flying fish provided to be daily entertainment. Ships were scarce and we had some fast days (164 and 165 miles) and we entered the doldrums at about 3 degrees north of the equator. The doldrums were typical with light, very variable winds and fierce squalls and we spent about four days in them. One evening I spotted a nearby vessel and checked its position on the AIS, only to find it not listed. I took the binoculars and myself into the cockpit and kept a close eye on it. Eventually I decided to call Pete, because both port and starboard lights were visible and in that immense and isolated stretch of ocean, it seemed to be heading for us. I didn’t want to call Pete unnecessarily, so I switched on the AIS again, only to find that the boat was indeed on a collision as closest point of approach was 0.06miles and time about 15 minutes.

I woke Pete and he promptly put on the engine, (of course there was no wind and we were crawling along at about 2 knots!) Pete had no sooner changed course than the fishing boat did the same, causing Pete to go around in a circle. The only thing we can think of is that they were intrigued to find somebody out there and came to have a look.

The next bit of excitement was crossing the Equator, which we did around midnight on Pete’s watch. He woke me, per request and we each had a tot of fine rum, courtesy of Grahame and Monica. Thanks! We had a rum punch with our meal the following day, too. Fishing was a bit of a flop as we lost lure after lure and then when Pete doubled the tracer, caught nothing. Near the Equator we had torrential rain showers, which enabled us to shower in fresh water, collected in the dinghy and to do our laundry! What bliss to arrive at our destination with virtually no dirty laundry!

Watching the miles creep by as we near the Equator

Just beyond the Equator the wind filled in and we were off again. I actually enjoyed the doldrums, because at times I adjusted the sails and the wind vane self-steering and it worked! So, slowly, slowly I’m finding my feet on “Oryx”, just before Pete makes his changes!
The crossing took 17 days to cover 1725 miles. We make landfall at dusk and anchored off a beach in Cabedelo before sailing up river to Jacare where Pete’s friend, Brian Stevens still runs his boat yard and talks of retiring.

Post a Comment