Captivating Cape Verde
”...navigated their way between black jagged rocks with roiling surf crashing either side of them as they steered through the narrow gap between rocks into the tiny shallow harbour.”
We are now anchored in Mindelo Harbour just outside the marina in front of a hulking wreck half poking out of the water like a beached whale. Our watermaker has now been installed after some hard work by Gilson and Edmar from BoatCV. Gilson also removed our old batteries which may have been draining our new batteries. You can hear about Gilson’s story and his thoughts on Cape Verde and how it has changed since his parents generation in our upcoming podcast. Go to the podcast section in the dropdown menu to access. Once the watermaker was installed, we were free to leave the marina and go out to anchor. The weather was looking good for a departure on Tuesday and we still had some sightseeing we wanted to do before leaving as we had had to stay on the boat while they were completing the work. You have to do this on a boat so you learn how the systems work and hopefully that can help you troubleshoot in the future. Before going to anchor we decided to head out into the open sea so that we could test out our watermaker. We tried for hours but couldn’t get more than drips from the machine. We eventually made our way back to the anchorage and watched some Youtube videos. This gave us some advice on first time usage which was not in the manual. We tried again the next day and it worked. This time we were able to produce drinking water from seawater! This is very exciting as we have been carrying the box around for months. It will mean that during our crossing we can produce water and it will also help us stay longer offshore, such as at remote anchorages in the future without having to go onshore. In communities with scarce water resources this will also mean we don’t need to take from a limited supply of local water.
We’ve also had some fun this week. We went paddleboarding at the beautiful Laginha Beach. We also took a ferry trip to the western most island of Santo Antão. This is actually the island where Gilson was born and his childhood friend gave us a tour of the island with another sailing couple we have met here. You can sail to Santo Antão, but it only has one anchorage which is in a remote location, so the 45 minute ferry journey made it an easy day trip. Gilson’s friend drove us all round the beautiful island. First, high up into the mountains where we looked a very long way down into the mouth of a volcanic crater in awe. The types of crater they have in Santo Antão are the more unusual type - Stratovolcanoes, which are much lower in comparison to their radius, compared to the more common shield volcanoes - think of the cone shaped Mt Etna for example. This means the craters are larger in area and flatter. As we looked down to the bottom, we could see the large scale of cultivation in the centre. Being mountainous, cultivation is done in terraces and hardy mountain goats and donkeys abound. The island is very varied with arid highlands and green valleys with the most amazing light. The coastline is formidable, with tubular waves on one rocky beach we saw. At another location, we watched in awe as the fishermen navigated their way between black jagged rocks with roiling surf crashing either side of them as they steered through the narrow gap between rocks into the tiny shallow harbour. There, they pull the little boats up the slope and the catch is taken about 10 metres to the waterside market. If you eat fish, you can’t get fresher than that.
We personally don’t eat fish, but there is far less to complain about in these small scale sustainable catches compared with the humungous trawler boats we have seen all over Europe with miles long nets which drag along the ocean floor and destroy the seagrass and habitats in which fish live and feed. Sustainability is close to the hearts of Cape Verdeans - we have seen lots of murals both on Santo Antão and São Vicente which publicise the importance of protecting sharks, turtles and preventing rubbish and deforestation. Children are also engaged in this with a huge mural completed by local children spreading across several walls in central Mindelo focusing on several different types of environmental issues and how people should act. You can hear about the work done by local activists to preserve the coastline in our podcast interview with Gilson, which will be available soon.
Back in Mindelo, we visited the Cesária Evora museum, which is housed in the People’s Palace. It’s a giant pink palace that before independence in 1975 was named Government Palace. It was built in 1874 when there were (later aborted) plans to move the capital of Cape Verde to Mindelo. The building is also host to a museum of Cape Verdean and African art. The Evora museum is the product of the lifelong collection of one man who grew up in the same neighbourhood as Cesária Evora. He has been collecting (in general) since the age of seven and followed Evora around the world, purchasing her dresses, magazines and art works. He even has her diplomatic passport on display. As you go round, her music plays and he personally tells you about her. She was known as the barefoot diva as she felt more natural without shoes. According to the museum owner, she sang from a young age, then stopped in her twenties and started drinking and smoking too much. She gave up the drinking and took up singing again and became famous worldwide from the age of 46. She never gave up smoking though. Amazingly, it doesn’t seem to have affected her voice! I have to confess that I hadn’t heard of Evora before coming here. She’s extremely famous in France, which she regarded as her second country and is where her surviving son and grandchildren live. Perhaps this says something about our lack of open mindedness to non English speaking culture. Although Netflix is doing a good job of starting to help change this with what we view on screens. If you haven’t heard her music before, I highly recommend checking her out.
We’ve also got some final tasks done that have been in the back of our heads. One of them was taking Chocolate Cat back to the vet. He finished all his treatment, but we wanted to get him checked over before the three week Atlantic crossing. The vet has given him the all clear. He’s in good health and hasn’t lost weight, so that’s a load off our minds. The other thing we did was to get our booster vaccination. We have been getting emails and texts from our GPs and the NHS to get our booster. We weren’t sure about getting it done in Cape Verde due to vaccine inequality - we’ve already had two doses. The vaccination rate here is just under 50% of people fully vaccinated. However, this is only 2% less than our next port of call, Barbados. Moreover, there are many people in the marina with confirmed cases of Covid, so for that reason we are at higher risk of catching it and passing it on to the local population, so we decided to get it done. We had Moderna and felt pretty ropey the day after.
So barring further unforeseen delays, we are hoping to leave for our Atlantic crossing on Tuesday. There’s a dead calm here right now and it looks like the wind will pick up a little on Tuesday to get us moving. All that remains is to stock up on our fresh food, check out of immigration and oh yes, a few more checks to the boat to be done. We’re so glad we stopped at Cape Verde, it’s such a beautiful country with such friendly people. Please follow our progress on our tracker. We'll be posting daily updates on there as we proceed towards Barbados on our first ever ocean crossing. Well...see you on the other side. Over and out.
This week's Vlog.