Passage Report No.109
Canary Islands, Cape Verde Islands, Atlantic
"Insulae Canium" - The Islands of Wild Dogs - Islas Canarias; describes 7 islands located some 70 nm off southern Morocco, Africa. Early inhabitants, called Guanches (mainly Tenerife) had links to the Moroccan Berber. Mummifying their dead and language roots suggest an Egyptian connection.
Early European visitors saw more than wild canines, called them the "Fortunate" islands. Valuable "aristocratic" purple dye (orchil) was traded (around 60 BC) with the Phoenicians and Romans.
Arab (999 AD) French, Geoese and Portuguese traders (13-14th centuries) were welcomed by satified, locals. Strangely, these cave dwelling people, comunicated by whistling and pole vaulting over the rocky, volcanic flows. They had no boats or navigation skills.
Their utopian existance was abruptly changed when in the 14th century, the Spanish Crown decided to invade. The islands became a stage post for voyages to the Americas. Englsh Admiral Nelson lost his arm in an attempted attack on Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
In 1823, the islands were integrated into Spain. European deforestation, over cultivation, lead to low rainfall so the less mountainous island, Fuerteventura is almost a desert and Lanzarotte nearly so.
The other islands are divided into green or desert zones depending on their high mountains.
Since the 1960's, sunshine and beaches have attracted millions of European tourists contributing to 60-65% of the economy.
Sahula was there for a few days - a staging post to the Cape Verdes Islands and Atlantic crossing.
Lanzarotte Marina's newness bristles in deserted high end shops, supermarket and restaurants awaiting the marina to fill, and local support. It is well run and friendly (20e all included).
Skipper visits other Safi Mafi yachts.
"...where is Equator (mainsail torn, two children aboard, borrowed yacht)..." is talk of the day.
A full gale, rain, proves the marina's security. Warmth, sunshine, blue skies are not the Canaries in late Autumn.
"...we have a car...welcome to join us to local music restaurant..." Pouring rain, soaked, locals direct us to a musical feast of 6 guitarists, singing traditional island and Spanish songs .
Skipper relaxes, crew arrives by plane, in two days. A pastel of Rabat fishing boats is started, colourful, bright unlike the day outside. Skipper has not met crew. He volunteered by email, after a friend referred him to Skipper's daughter's facebook asking for Sahula Atlantic crew
"...hello, I am Tobias...this is Mistride ( young, French girl)...I met her on the plane..." Skipper wonders, not having met crew before, is taken aback. "...welcome aboard..."
Crew is a pleasant, affable, relaxed, adventure keen, young German post graduate (Physics - sustainable science) student. Skipper is relieved - all seems well.
"...Mistride (pleasant French lady) is looking for a boat to the Caribbean..." "I am only taking one crew..."
Tobias stores his rucksack, views his small room in the bow cabin. He speaks good english, never sailed before, lives in Berlin (East German family), Germany with friends (who wonder at his decision to cross the Atlantic with an unknown skipper and boat) keen to be going, quickly fits into the Sahulian routines. Skipper marvels at how fortunate he has been in crew aboard Sahula!
"...Hello, you are the captain...we hear you're crossing...I was ship captain, etc etc...my wife and I like your boat, we would fit in well..." Skipper sceptical - wife looks like the suggestion is the last thing she wants "...I have a crew...good luck..." - with some relief. Skipper continues to have remarkable good fortune in Sahulian young, male, crew.
Atlantic crossing hopefuls ply the docks, mostly young, some alternative - Skipper wonders at the risk of taking dockside hopefuls.
The Safi Mafi (met in Safi, Morocco) congregate again in the Marina restaurant. Cards,Lanzarotte is a pleasant town, superb marina - ideal stopover port.
Fuel in, FW in, last farewell to other cruisers, Sahula and crew head out with "Jonathan" (57 foot S&S, Dutch owned (previously by Maersk, Danish shipping family), wooden, superb, classic sloop) to anchorages further south along Lanzarotte and Fuerteventura before crossing to Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. Crew will have three days to settle in.
Lanzarotte, brown, volcanic, rust, red, barron, treeless (unless in gardens), greenless, passes. Development is all low rise, white apartments. White towns spread from beaches to low, volcanic hills. Tourism and wine seem the only industry. Wine is grown by planting deep to conserve moisture.
Sahula anchors off a southern beach with Jonathan and Lalita. "Sundowners" aboard Jonathan.
Coasting Fuerteventura's, dry, volcanscape, red rust, yellow, brown, black, barren succession of cratered hills. The least populated island, most reside in Rosario (50,000). Tourism, minimal agriculture sustain an arid economy.
Wind increases rapidly, Sahula races before the increasing NE'ly into the acceleration zone (10-15 knot increase due to island shape). Anchorage off Morro Jable harbour. Early morning, sail to Las Palmas, Gran Granaria island.
Las Palmas marina (10e all inclusive) is the Canaries largest.
"...haven't you heard about the boat tax?...they don't tell you...300e for one month regardless how long in port..."
"...it starts at 12m..."
Crew has "survived" his first sail in good health - relief!
"...I wasn't sure..." on passage over - "...now very happy..."
Boat boy guides Sahula to a berth). Skipper refuses it (wind threatens to impale Sahula on superyacht bowspit) and moves to another alongside a new,towering, 57ft "Lagoon" luxury, catamaran.
"...Dad bought it...hydraulic self steering failed when 80 nm to go...new one coming..."
"...taking on four crew for the crossing to Florida..."
Skipper orders "Silent Wind - Blue Vanes" reputed to cut blade noise on the wind generator.
"...we have an invitation...my local friends (met at a bar) have offered a car tour of the island...I met them last night..."
A day of spectacular scenery: volcanic caldera, mountain villages, island peak, on a twisting precipitous road down, green plunging valley's.
"...over there is Tenerife...the peak above the clouds is Spain's highest..."
Dinner in a local village, family, restaurant; noisy, delicious, Canarian, food.
"...you must come to Santa Cruz (Tenerife island) to collect Blue Vanes...can't use (credit) card over phone..."
"...you're getting like other yachts..." Crew on Skipper's case of "port rot"
Jonathan's crew aboard for dinner. Crew is chef.
"...I have talked to a girl... crew are paying 700e to cross Atlantic...there are seven crew aboard...she says she doesn't pay 700e... Captain says he will look after me...no it is not like that!!"
In marina office, boat hitchhikers, "crew available" applications pile high, outside they adorn all notice boards.
Skipper pays marina fee - no tax added (applies after 12m. Tax is some 100e). Las Palmas marina is well run, inexpensive, facilities are good (hot showers!),very well serviced and close to the town.
Sahula enjoys a fast passage, 45 nm to Santa Cruz, Tenerife, Atlantico Marina (20e).
"..tonight, I am going to Salsa dance classes...Maria works there... I met her today..." crew has a skip to his step.
Crew hire a car (36e) to tour the Island.
Pico de Teide (3718m), a volcano, is snow capped. It surrounds are a moonscape of relatively recent lava flows, canyons and volcanic peaks.
It is Spain's highest mountain.
Spains oldest tree 4000years, 14th century botantical gardens established by Spain's monarch.
"...I want to show you Laguna (World Heritage listed) town..."- parking the car near the (Laguna) Salsa dance school to visit the beautiful, Canarian, medical student, Maria.
"...we may have to stay another day..." - Skipper decides to replace the Yankee (headsail) "Profurl" furler - it has twice failed. Nordest Chandlery, Riggers work into the night.
"...another day is ok by me..." - crew is in love.
"...I am going to the market...I need a walk..." (Maria has not replied to emails).
"...we have a special guest...for dinner..." Maria is welcomed aboard. "...I met her (by chance?) ashore...walking in town..." Crew happily, prepares a culinary delight.
Sahula departs beautiful Santa Cruz and Tenerife island. Less hectic than Las Palmas it provides a welcome respite before the long week passaging to the Cape Verde Islands, 800 nm south.
The Tenerife "Acceleration Zone" -18-27 knots - Valerie (Hydrovane wind, self steering works superbly) strains to steer before steep, breaking seas. Sahula is under two reefed main, furled, poled, headsail
The lights of Gomera, El Heiro guide Sahula south. It is crew's first full night at sea.
"...call me if needed..." Crew work three hour watches, sleeping on the saloon settee. Only imagination "sees" through the star lit darkness and rollers breaking in the remoteness, astern.
0200 slender moon sheds wave shimering silver till daybreak (0700).
Crew cooked delicious soup for three nights. Breakfast is muesli and fruit, lunch salemi tomato and cheese.
The acceleration zone extends some distance from the Canary island group. When free, the NE Trade Wind sets in at 15-20 knots on 2-3m swell and moderate seas. It is fine passaging.
Crew enthusiasticly, learns the ancient "art" of sailing. When running before a behind wind, small changes in direction may require shifting sails to the opposite side. Moving the headsail pole means Skipper must do so from the forward, "moving" deck.
Sails are continually adjusted to ensure a balanced sail rig that provides optimum conditions for Valerie's self steering.
Below, the orchestra of ever shifting, pots, plates, supplies. Crew place plastic bags in the myriad of crevices that encourage the cacophony. Gradually the "music" reduces to a lullaby.
Sundowners (fruit juice and chips) celebrates half way.
Skipper prepares a "Cranks Flan," crew makes bread. Sahula's crew dine well.
"...bang... " - a pulley block, shatters on the boom downhall (vang). Too light, it is upgraded - shackles are checked regularly, wear on ropes, sails is sought out.
Crew gains confidence, Skipper gains confidence in crew.
Skipper welcomes crew's wish to be involved in all decisions - learn as soon as possible to cope with sailings inevitable challenges.
"...I will have a bath..." Sahula's "patented" 2 liter fresh water, fruit juice container shower sooths salted bodies.
Sahula plays Russian Roulette with rain squalls. Finally, a dark rain squall (20-24 knots) Sahula races forward, headsail quickly reefed, mainsail let out, Valerie assisted by wheel adjustment.
As always crew are grateful for the permanent bimini and clear plastic side ensuring a dry, windfree cockpit.
A plane overhead would see a watery desert. Aboard Sahula's reality is of oceanic mountain peaks, precipitous hills between deep, long canyons and infinite valleys. Sahula rises and falls to every contour - slipping, sliding, racing down faces, climbing mountainously up, over, perhaps into a roaring, white, foaming, crest collapsing, driving her steely 10 tonnes, like flotsam, along her driven path - superbly designed to meet Neptunes challenges.
Crew "...wake up the dolphins are here..." A pod plays around the bow, "winking" at crew sitting, mesmerised, in the pulpit.
Flying fish flit lightly gliding from crest to crest. The ocean is awakening to natures southern warmth.
A lone seabird effortlessly, endlessly, glides the waves. No other yacht is sighted, three large ships pass in the distance.
Crew change from wool longs to cotton tee shirt, board shorts. 200 nm to go.
Skipper tries to use the HF radio and Pactor modem to send Winlink emails and receive grib weather files. Connection is made twice but grib files overtax the system.
Skipper prepares pancakes ( banana, honey or jam) for morning tea.
Odour in water tanks is raised by crew. It comes and goes. Solution required in port.
Wind Generator (AirX) is not creating power. Another issue for port.
First lights are sighted on Santo Antao, Cape Verde, 30 nm to go. Sahula will enter port in early morning darkness.
Entering the channel between Santo and Sao Vincente, wind acceleration loosely, wraps the headsail and sheets. Sail shakes violently while Skipper attempt to undo it.
Sahula slowly wends between many anchored Japanese fishing boats to the marina and yacht anchorage. A sleep then dinghy to marina to arrange a berth.
7 days have passed since Tenerife. It is crew's first ocean passage, Skippers longest since the Indian Ocean, 5 years ago. Sahula has performed well.
Dawn breaks over the distant brown, dry peaks of Mindelo, background to the busy city, Cape Verdes largest.
Cape Verde Islands are an independent nation. Government is divided into two sets of Islands. The Government is based in Santiago. Mindelo is a large city, port in the western islands. The people are mainly light skinned, proud and happy. Immigration from Africa provides a differing social mix. European tourism (particularly German and French) has discovered the "new Canaries" - less developed, more welcoming.
Skipper and crew clear the marina, immigration and customs. Sahula is secure in a marina pontoon berth (25e berth only, water and electricity extra, limited chandlery, surging pontoon berths).
The Marina and anchorage house a numerous, international communnity of Caribbean bound yachts. It is a different place to European marinas were the majority are not ocean passaging.
Alongside Sahula, a small coastal yacht, relates being knocked down in a strong squall, crew overboard and dismasted. Crew reports another being abandoned in the Atlantic after Gibraltar. Others report rough passages in larges seas and strong winds.
Sahula trouble free passage seems the exception.
Crew works on the wind generator. A electrical "brush" needs replacing delaying Sahula's departure till after Xmas.
"...I found this place when walking in the poorer area..." crew. A local, footpath, BBQ (fish and fowl)"restaurant", welcomes crew to join them. Happily crowded with males, young, old, over imbibers, children, baby carrying mothers, voluptuous women, all moving to the music, provides a welcome reality from the harbour side tourist strip.
"...please come back again... we welcome you... thanks for coming to us..."
"...you are welcome to join us at the Cafe Mindelo for Xmas eve dinner..." Italian musician, songwriter, world girdling sailor, partner and two musician sons. Superb night of good food and music.
Crew scale a high deserted peak behind Mindelo and further explore the less properous (tin huts, dusty, dirt streets, bare cement brick buildings, no trees, no green) parts of town. Music radiates throughout. Children, dressed in their best, excitedly wield their Xmas toys. Colourfully attired adults, families make their way to family gatherings.
These are a people that take a hard existance, easily, "happy in their skin", they smile, laugh at life, despite low incomes, poverty and minimal housing.
A luxury, white marbled, harbourside, shopping development houses a gallery of superb photographs of Cape Verde and its people.
"...you must come to my New Years party..." proprietor photographer.
"...I haven't been able to find the brushes (wind generator) yet...shops all open on Monday..." Electrican.
Sahula extends again the departure date.
Yachts are arriving departing. Skipper reviews the weather online. Monday looms as another "window" - how vital the wind generator? Skipper decides that if possible it is best to resolve it. New Year looms and the party!
Crew decide to visit neighbouring island Santo Antao.
"...It is more green, more beautiful...hire a car or take a taxi..."
"...it is only three hours, we can walk to the top (1500m)...there are villages...restaurants... in Pico da Cruz..."
Five hours later,over a stone dry, brown rock, coastal plain, to the sharp, gradually green ascent to the "top" - Skipper without food or water, exhausted, entered a Pico "shop" (house small room, stocked to the brim) grateful for fruit juice and sweet biscuits.
Rivived, crew rested soaking the mountain top view over cloud to the other peaks of the island. "...you can stay in our house..." (room, dinner, breakfast -hot water shower 20e)
Pre-dinner "grogue" (sugar cane liquer) in the local bar.
Revival complete; superb home cooked meal "...you like some Amelia (red wine)..." Skipper retired into welcome, exhausted slumber.
Breakfast, (bananas, sweet cake, biscuits, tea, coffee) walk to the "...best preserved crater" down, over the edge onto a gravity defying path, into the spectacular, precipitous verdant green valley joined by many German and French backpackers.
"...the sugar cane is refined into Grogue...maybe illegal..." On impossibly vertical valley side, terraces of sugar cane, pawpaws, bananas, mangoes corn..." provide the villagers subsistence or income - colourful brick, houses mingle with thatch roofed cottages.
Crew returned to Mindelo to prepare for departure. Daily yachts departed.
"...I will return the parts (electrical carbon "brushes")...go to these car repairers..." four days, frustrating, marina "assistance."
"...there are worse...one yacht took legal action, after long delays..."
Crew buys parts and installs new "brushes. Skipper grateful for Crew's electrical skills.
"...5-10 amps... 15-20knots (wind)..." Solar panels and wind generator provide Sahula's passaging, sustainable power.
Skipper buys an engine "cranking" battery (170e) after first signs of not starting "Tanya" (engine).
"...we are not invited... New Year party prior invite. Crew welcome in the New Year with thousands of joyous Cape Verdens, dancing to thunderously, loud music in the Mindelo city square and streets. Fireworks awe the crowds gathered around the harbour ushering in 2015.
The market provides "green" fruit and vegatables - a limited, supermarket other food. All is stored aboard,
Sahula prepares for departure after New Years day at rest, on Friday, 2nd January, 2015.
"...I always go in the early morning to ensure a full first day at sea... any problems are resolved..."
Skipper and crew have last contacts with family and friends. Sahula will have some 2-3 weeks at sea, sailing some 2000 nm to the Caribbean islands and landfall at Barbados or St Lucia.
Passage Weather online maps predict favourable north to east, Trade Winds.
Anchor is raised, mainsail up; Sahula commences her passage across the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean.
Cruising Note: Mindelo marina is very slow on repairs. Best done in the Canaries.
Next Report: Crossing the Atlantic: Cape Verdes to Caribbean.
Mindelo, Sao Vincente, Cape Verdes.