Saturday, December 11, 2010

Sailing in the Trades

Puffy cumulus dot the sky and break up the uniformity of another bluebird day. The 10-15 foot seas continue to roll in from the northern Atlantic which DK climbs up and over like rolling foothills that stretch into the horizon. The wind blows from behind at 15-20+ knots, a nice broad reach sail, pushing us to the west just like Columbus and the old clipper ships did for centuries as they headed for the Caribbean and the Americas. Our Monitor windvane holds the course and our newly replaced KISS wind generator spins effortlessly trickling the energy juice into our batteries. We have finally found the trade winds.

It's the morning of Day 11 for us since leaving the Canary Islands. We are indeed back in the tropics. Clothing is minimal, sunblock liberally applied, and a cold drink always appreciated. Dead flying fish lie as casualties on our deck from last night's starry ride, a thick layer of salt covers our dodger, and lines seem to web through our boat in every direction connecting sails, blocks, and our telescoped whisker pole standing ready for action off our starboard side. The main is reefed, the staysail taught, and our genoa partially furled up, all in sync to find the perfect balance of comfort and speed.

We did manage a quick stop-over at Mindelo harbor, in the dramatically beautiful Cape Verde Islands. We sailed in the morning of Day 8 and after circling the fuel dock for 4 hours waiting in line for diesel, we finally squeezed in between 2 100'+ mega-yachts to top up our tanks. The luxury mega-sailing yacht in front of us put in over 6000 liters (1500 gallons), which took over 3 hours to fill and almost caused a riot with all the small boats like us trying to do a quick fill of 100-300 liters each so they could slip out and away quickly. No luck, and some boat captains were fuming. The whole ordeal was painful, but by the mid-afternoon we were successful, yet exhausted and sun-baked, and tied up safely to the marina dock for an early restful night's sleep.

The Cape Verdes...a French protectorate, but more of it's "own" country, similar to "Hawaii" in the U.S. The people are mixed African and speak a local creole language. The landscape is jagged and raw, volcanic in nature, with beautiful verdant hills and peaks rising up from the sea. Cinder cones dot the landscape and clouds hang motionless up in the heights with lingering rainbows and fog settling overnight in the valleys.

There is life here. The islands are sparsely populated and much subsistence living occurs. Even though pretty poor, the people seem friendly and in our quick, less then 24 hour stay, we felt very welcome. In the Sea, there are abundant fish and they still have sharks. Big sharks. Unfortunately, times are quickly changing, as we sailed away we saw two big Japanese long-lining fishing boats coming into the harbor...so the fish and sharks are probably on their way out.

From a water-man perspective the Cape Verdes are a gem. The islands are compared to Hawaii for it's legendary surf breaks, the kite surfing on some of the islands is supposedly world class, and underwater scuba diving you can see just about every big pelagic in the ocean.

It's a shame that we can't do these islands justice. It's the only place we have stopped for such a short time, but one of those special spots you are happy to have discovered. We'll keep it on the radar for another time and day.

We untied the dock lines in the early afternoon, along with our friends, Uwe, Anne, and their daughter, Kara, on the San Francisco-based sailboat, Magnum, who were tied up right next to us. We spent the morning with them perusing the local open air market filling up once again with some fresh green spinach, fragrant fresh cilantro and mint, carrots, a papaya, and more bananas. We enjoyed a tasty coffee (my first since the Canaries) and had a local lunch together of a Cape Verdean mix of spiced rice and chicken at a downtown cafe. Big early Xmas hugs all around, as we are heading to different islands in the Caribbean and most likely won't run into each other again until Panama, a couple of months down the road.

Nic and I have decided to make landfall at Bequia, in the Grenadine island chain of the southern Caribbean. As I write this, we have 1850 more miles to go and we have already travelled approximately 1200 since leaving the Canary Islands. If all goes well we should arrive on either December 23, 24, or on Xmas day. In the meantime, we'll keep spending our time watching the ocean, thumbing through another book, and eating and sleeping the hours away.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

i love to visit this place. this is my best time which i have spend with Yacht Charter Dubai