”It was cheering to see the establishment didn’t mind at all and everyone enjoyed the talented backing dancers as much as the music.”
We’ve been in Mindelo, São Vicente island, Cape Verde this last week enjoying all the culture and conveniences of a marina in the city before we head out for our three weeks crossing the Atlantic. We bought a watermaker a while back, but because everywhere has been so busy with boats, especially the Canary Islands, we haven’t yet had a chance to install it. Here though, we are told they can do it next week, so Luciano has been spending the weekend epoxying a wooden backing plate for it to sit on low down the hull under the bed in the bow. The other work we had wanted to do was to fix our fridge - while out at sea on passage to Cape Verde, we noticed our batteries had been draining overnight and it turned out to be that the fridge, which should turn itself off for 45 minutes in every hour once the cool temperature has been attained, was on constantly. A problem at night when we don’t have extra power coming through our solar panels. We think the problem is that the thermostat needs to be replaced. The only trouble is that here in Cape Verde, some parts are very expensive as they often have to wait four months for things to be ordered in. In the case of the thermostat, something which would cost £10 online in the UK, here it is €216 in the chandlery. Clearly that’s not a price we’re prepared to pay, so we’re turning it on and off manually in the evenings and then it has to stay off at night completely while we’re sleeping - yes we have unfortunately lost some of our frozen food this way. We’re hoping we will be able to buy a new thermostat at a more reasonable price once we reach the Caribbean.
We’ve been really impressed with Mindelo so far - not only the attractive town, but also the friendly people and the impressive healthcare. Back in the UK while reinforcing the underside of our deck with fibreglass to provide more strength to support our solar panel arch, Luciano got some fibreglass stuck in the underside of his big toe. He has been ignoring it, hoping it would eventually be expelled. However, more recently it has turned black and has started to cause pain in other areas of his foot. He decided that he really needed to see a doctor. We went to a clinic. We passed by a pharmacy to ask where there was a clinic. There was a queue of people outside. Everyone wanted to help us out. When we needed directions again when we got a bit closer, we asked another group of people and again, everyone wanted to help us. This kind of civic helpfulness really reminds me of my bike trip in Ireland - when I got a puncture, almost every car that went past stopped to check if I was Ok or needed help. So we found the clinic and took a number to wait. We were probably expecting a repeat of my experience of the healthcare system in Portugal - a seven and a half hour wait and a doctor that shouts at you. But the wait was surprisingly short. We had to pay a €50 fixed fee to have a consultation with a specialist orthopedic doctor after the affected area was cleaned up. He recommended an x-ray and an ultrasound. “Oh dear” we thought, “this is going to cost a fortune.” But the price for both was €50 - they must have a fixed fee system. Luciano was very impressed with the attitude of the doctor, who didn’t talk down to him, which hasn’t always been his experience in the UK. It was good news about his foot, the fibreglass has fragmented and is being expelled so no further action is needed. Obviously we had to pay as we are foreigners, but the clinic was for everyone. The World Health Organisation wrote in 2019 of the remarkable progress made by Cape Verde in healthcare. In 1975 the average life expectancy was 56 and there were only 13 doctors on the islands. In 2016 life expectancy was 79 for women and 71 for men. It has made such progress, even compared to larger and richer African countries because of its focus on equality - basic healthcare is available to all for free and medicines and treatments are heavily subsidised. In addition, regional equity, decentralisation of healthcentres, telemedicine and the high literacy rate have all contributed as well.*
One of the areas of healthcare that still needs work is the issue of breastfeeding. On our way to the supermarket soon after arriving we were approached by a flanelinha - this is a Portuguese term for people who clean and guard cars for a living. He followed us in and said he wanted us to buy him powdered milk. We thought he wanted it to eat and bought it for him. The next day we saw him again and he again asked for the powdered milk - this time he mentioned he wanted it for his son. Some of you may recall there was a big scandal in the 1970s and 1980s with Nestlé marketing its formula milk in Africa and other less economically developed regions. This sadly led to the malnutrition and deaths of many babies. Mothers were aggressively targeted by milk salespeople masquerading as healthcare professionals inside and outside healthcare clinics. Once they tried the formula, their breastmilk would dry up. Often the powdered milk was mixed with water that hadn’t been boiled because they couldn’t afford the firewood, or it would be watered down so as to render it nutritionally inadequate due to the high cost of the product. I wondered if this young man’s insistence on buying powdered milk for his son was a legacy of this practice of viewing powdered milk as superior to mother’s milk. Today only 60% of Cape Verde babies are exclusively breastfed from birth until age 5 months** and the Nestlé website states that its ‘mission’ in the Central and West Africa Region is to ‘enhance people’s quality of life with science-based nutrition and health solution for all stages of life’ and to ‘help people care for themselves and their families’*** I’m amazed that they are using the term ‘mission’ given its colonial connotations and the scandal which Nestlé has been embroiled in - most recently in 2018 in its deficient infant milk formulations it was marketing in South Africa.
The weather here is warm and windy. When we first arrived it was sweltering and we had to take shelter under our cockpit tent. The wind really picked up this week though (unsurprisingly given we are in the tradewind belt - which will help us cross the Atlantic). The boats have all been swinging around on their moorings. One night we heard a thump as our Hydrovane hit the dock despite being quite far from it and covered in fenders. We had to tighten the lines at the front so we are even further from the dock. This means perfect timing and a leap of faith to get from the back of the boat to the pontoon. Luciano has taken to standing on one of the Hydrovane joints to jump which gives the bonus of being able to jump down rather than up. I’ve had a couple of close calls but haven’t yet fallen in the water. We have made the most of the warm weather and visited Laginha beach. This beach is something else. The water is aquamarine and the beach is white sand - picture perfect. We could almost be in the Caribbean already. The city of Mindelo is very attractive with colourful buildings in the Portuguese colonial style. A large pink palace is home to a museum of African art and to Cape Verde’s most famous person - the singer Cesaria Evora. On one of the walls in one of the plazas is an amazing picture of her made entirely from bits of stucco chipped off the concrete. It really is impressive. Mindelo is famous for its music and we had a special treat of visiting the world’s best-named jazz bar - “Jazzy bird”. We sat outside in the warm air drinking a beer as the music played. We were joined in our appreciation by a couple of local drunks, bottles of spirits in their pockets disguised as water bottles, dancing along, eyes closed in the street. It was cheering to see the establishment didn’t mind at all and everyone enjoyed the talented backing dancers as much as the music.
This week's Vlog.