Cape Verde Islands

When we took first sight of the Cape Verde Islands, it was a thin line of sparsely grouped lights of the islands Sao Antao and Sao Vicente, half way through the night. Early morning light unveiled misty mountains, steep, not too high, somehow magic. They were just there, as ever since, certainly not waiting for us.

After another couple of hours we arrived and set into the harbor, first to the fuel dock, then into the well managed Marina, manager from Northern Europe. All staff greeted us with ‘Welcome to Cape Verde!’. It was lovely to be welcomed into a new country after several days on sea.

Now we had our feet on African soil, this time also politically African. We found a clean town with a couple of ATM’s around the corner and a the mobile communications company selling 3G SIM cards for 2.50 Euro, 3.5 Gigabytes included. So far so good!

The standard of living is definitely a different one here compared to what we are known from Northern Europe. This was a good exercise for our kids as well. Next to seeing what’s going on in the streets, one can easily spot that buying things goes with a different logic. Samples? As most people have no fridge at home, no fresh butter or yoghurt is available in the shops.
Or: As people want to consume fancy products but have only little money, soft drinks are sold in very small bottles, and cigarettes can be bought by the single piece.

A local helped us with finding fresh bread on a Sunday morning. We were glad when he offered to show us the bakery. Finally it was a 1.5km run to the other side of Mindelo and the bread was not really great. I offered to buy some bread for him as well, but he preferred to receive a large box of dried milk powder for his baby twins at a price he couldn’t have afforded. We went into further social engagements. Expecting some gratitude from the receivers usually turned out to be wrong. It may be like that.

Being asked whether independence from Portugal was a good thing, the milk powder man says that he sees economic disadvantages in the now globalized world. But he would also mention that his grandfather still likes the independence since locals felt treated incorrectly those days. Today, the relation between Cape Verde and Portugal seems to be quite friendly.

Low standard of living means low cost for basic things of daily live. This attracted a good dozen of old sailing boats and crews who dropped anchors around the Marina. The boat names tell about dreams which have run out of fuel, and those boats lousy poor appearance tell about the sailors who didn’t manage to find the way back into Northern civilization.

One of our better day trips so far happened in the Cape Verde Islands. We used the ferry to go to Sao Vicente island. We were rewarded with absolutely stunning views, see picture. As much as the Eastern side of the island is dry and brown, the Western side is humid and green. There are sugar canes grown as much as avocados, grape fruits, or papayas.

Back in Mindelo, we find the perhaps safest playground in the world. An armed watchmen would guard the playing children. His job description unfortunately also includes to tell the kids continuously what not to do. It was not appreciated when kids were running too fast, hanging head over on a wooden beam, or if only two kids would sit on a swing which was designed for four kids.

Now we are done with all preparations for crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Yuana is ready again and lots of fruits and veggies are washed and individually wrapped in paper towels. That’s the way how to keep them fresh for a long time on sea. Feelings are like ‘When can we finally go?’. All four weather models predict light winds in right direction all the way to Barbados. So at least the first couple of days should be an easy go. Markus’ brother Joe is now also on board and we are ready for departure tomorrow Thursday November 23rd.

Good bye, Africa!

Young visitors

Blue water cruisers by definition visit many places all around the globe. Sometimes we find ourselves in a place we would attribute with the word paradise. This may be our impression when we spot the most beautiful beaches, rock formations or palm trees. But those palm trees or the roof of the hut behind the beach may cover poverty and anything else than paradise. And as often in such situations, the weakest are the ones which starve the most.

So it would be nothing else but human to meet these people and try to give them some comfort. This is many times easier said than done. Cornell Sailing offered us the opportunity to cover a bit of our responsibility by bringing us together with the kids from the local SOS Children Village. Ahead of that event, the crews from our rally donated money to buy a trumpet, an e-piano and an accordion for the local kids music group.

When Saturday came, drums on the pontoon would announce a crowd of girls and boys from that SOS Children’s village. They were given the possibility to meet us on the boats. We welcomed four of them aboard Yuana. As soon as I indicated that four is a good number to start with, one girl on deck and on one left on the pontoon started to cry and calling each other to come. They seemed to be sisters who were very much afraid from being separated from each other. Who knows that they had to experience earlier in their lives? So we weren’t hesitating to have the sister on board as well.

Inside the boat, our son would invite them to play with the paper roller coaster he developed over the past days. He would give them the balls made of crumpled aluminum foil. Everybody enjoyed playing the game. The daughter would take them into the sleeping room and suddenly now eight kids were sitting on the beds, wondering how soft a bed can be. We gave some finger rings and necklaces as a present. Back they went with a warm souled woman they would call ‘Mama’. Together we went to the big gathering for some culinary refreshments and local music. This was also there the music instruments were handed over.

Cornell Sailing made it a tradition for many years that the sailors of their Rallies can contribute directly to local aid projects. Taking into account the number of rallies throughout the year and contributors year after year, one would expect that this engagement makes a difference for the receivers. We saw many happy children’s eyes.

Lissabon to Madeira – Tag 3

Afrika ist schön, denn man kann jetzt auch nachts mit Shorts und ohne Socken draussen sitzen, ohne zu frieren! Auch das Meerwasser kommt mit 22 Grad langsam auf eine angenehme Temperatur.

Überraschenderweise haben wir plötzlich zwei zusätzliche Passagiere an Bord:

Gemeinsam schwirren ein kleiner Vogel und ein grosser Falter um unser Schiff, mehr als 300km vom nächsten Land weg?! Der Falter sieht im Flug wie ein Kolibri aus. Beide machen eine Weile Rast bei uns, der Falter verkriecht sich gar in der Schweizerflagge an unserem Heck.

Unterwegs ist kaum Verkehr. Lediglich spätabends am dritten Tag sind plötzlich drei andere Segler um ums, wohl alle mit demselben Ziel. Zwei davon haben keinen Transponder (sendet automatisch Positionsdaten etc.). Wir erkennen diese lediglich an ihren Lichtern. Man darf sich also nicht zu fest auf die elektronischen Helfer verlassen, sonst verpasst man vielleicht etwas wichtiges. Das bedeutet auch, dass stets jemand im Cockpit auf Nachtwache sein muss. Wir wechseln uns so ab, wie es gerade passt.

Ausserdem begegnen wir dem Kreuzfahrtschiff ‘Monarch’. Es ist mit 15 Knoten auf dem Weg nach Funchal. Einige Frachtschiffe und Tanker geben als Zielorte beispielsweise USA, Kolumbien, Gibraltar oder Spanien an. Sie fahren mit 10-15 Knoten meist langsamer als sie könnten. Das hängt mit der grossen Überkapazität von Seeschiffen zusammen. Diese sollen nicht unbedingt möglichst schnell am Ziel sein, sondern möglichst wenig kosten. Dazu gehört auch, dass der Treibstoffverbrauch optimiert wird.

Der dritte Tag ist schwachwindig. Unsere Maschine läuft fast den ganzen Tag. Mittwochs um 1550 haben wir ein Etmal von 148 nautischen Meilen.

+ + +

Mittwochnachmittags – der vierte Reisetag fängt gerade an – da tauchen zunächst Madeira und dann das vorgelagerte kleinere Porto Santo auf. Bis Sonnenuntergang werden wir irgendwo den Anker werfen. Seit Lissabon haben wir 495 nautische Meilen auf See zurück gelegt (etwa 920 Kilometer).

Ein Segelschiff ist bekanntlich ein eher langsames Fahrzeug. Trotzdem kommt man damit in überschaubarer Zeit weit, weil man rund um die Uhr unterwegs ist. Das Schiff wird dabei praktisch immer vom Autopilot gesteuert.

So, nun freuen wir uns über die gelungene Überfahrt, und auf Porto Santo und Madeira!

Lisbon to Madeira – 2nd day

There swims a fish wish bloody lips through Atlantic Ocean. His problem actually started because he was strong enough to bend back two of the three hooks on our new 20cm fishing lure. At least he could free him before ending up in sushi rolls. More important is that we are now closer to Morocco’s coast than to European main land. So it seems that we are in Africa, at least geologically. “Hello Africa, here we come, with joyful minds…!”

The night was very dark. It was not possible to distinguish a line between water and the cloudy sky. We felt a bit alone out there. Nightly winds were low again. As our speed dropped below 4 knots for some time we fired up the engine. Around noon the light half wind (straight from the side) still remains at 6 knots. Perhaps this would be the time to hoist the light wind sail. But to be honest, I think that I should stay at the fishing line, and keep the engine going.

Everybody had a good sleep. It seems that we are slowly adapting to the new conditions on the big blue around the clock. This is good news as everybody felt a bit shaky by yesterday evening. We exchanged our morning coffees against vitamin C for the last couple of days. Some say that this helps to avoid sea sickness, and we went well with this recommendation so far.

Apropos ‘big blue’: Do you know why Ocean sailors call themselves ‘blue water sailors’? Having the sun in the back, one can see it, the deeply shining fancy blue color of the water in the open sea. Even though we heard about this marvelous tone of blue and have seen Oceans many times from air planes, we couldn’t imagine how blue it really looks from a boat. Why don’t they paint cars like that? Everybody would want to have one!

And yes, it feels great to be South of Turkey, South of Sicilly, South of Gibraltar. By tomorrow evening, we should even be South of Casablanca! The water gets bluer, and a tasty smell of African herbed chicken escapes from the galley (ships kitchen). Life is so good these days!

At 1550 board time our past 24 hour traveling distance is again 151 nautical miles.

Surprising Portugal

We have visited only two places in Portugal, which was Porto and Lisbon, plus we have followed approximately half of Portugals coast line. Not enough to tell about? Perhaps not. But still, we leave Portugal’s main land with lots of vivid impressions.

Surprise number 1 is the town of Porto, where the famous port wine is traded. The colorful little old town houses at river Duoro and the bold bridges across the river invite to use the camera around every corner. Uphills, long building fronts with richly decorated stone carvings line up along wide avenues. The town is dotted with many Churches, courageous modern architecture, and lots of green. We stayed at the Duoro Marina and visited the town at the first day of the RedBull Air Race. I wouldn’t have thought so, but I started to like the crazy guys who do all kinds of fancy things with their little aircrafts. They race above the river, in between the town buildings, at 400 km/h.

Surprise number 2 comes as we round the the sister capes Cabo da Roca and Cabo da Rosa. First we find ourselves in fog, then we run into gale wind forces which form around the two capes. Shortly after Cabo da Rosa when reaching the (wind) shadow of the capes, temperature is suddenly raised and one needs to relieve himself from three of four layers of clothing. Sea is now flat and a gentle light wind carries marvelous scents from the flours on land over the sea. We came out of a mess and into a new world within minutes only.

Surprise number 3: It was targeted for more than one year that we could meet our parents in Lisbon, after their hiking holiday in Galicia. However and until few days before, it isn’t clear at all whether or not they can make it, due to some special circumstances. Finally it works out and it is so great to be with them for some time. Having been away from home for a long time, each personal contact becomes a very special moment.

Surprise number 4: YESSS, finally KID BOATS…;-)!!! It took two month to bump into other kid boats with kids of similar age. Now they are here and we are, too. For all three families its great that the horde of kids can play with each other and enjoy themselves. All of them show each others boats, they have fun on the playground, at the table tennis, or in a movie session on one of the boats. It seems that we will meet a couple of times during the next weeks, perhaps even month!

Surprise number 5 is the fantastic Park of Nations area of Lisbon. It encompasses a vast area including the Marina, an Oceanum, a Science House, outdoor parks, creative water fountains, playgrounds, museums, business places, apartments. The mile long seaside area provides stunning views to the Ponte Vasco da Gamma. 25 years back, this was a rundown dock area. Everything was made new for the EXPO 1998. Different to other EXPO places, this one was built to last for future. It does, and they keep and maintain everything very well.

Surprise number 6 was that same Parque das Naçoes offers us such a rich environment that (you won’t believe it!) we don’t feel the need to explore the old town (and we know it’s worth it from a visit one decade before).

Any other surprises? Yes, as we are there, famous singer Madonna announces that she will move here residence to Lisbon. That’s at least what we understand from local radio stations. Yes, it is a place to be!

More surprises: Quite unexpectedly, Portugal becomes the most expensive country on our trip so far. Some maintenance and repair isn’t cheap at all, particularly the parts are more than double price, compared to Northern Europe. The VAT of 23% also was not very helpful. Labor on the other side is very cheap. Then we went to the sports shop to stock up functional wear plus a Stand Up Paddle for Caribbean seas!

Once again, we as sailors cannot talk about Portugal without mentioning King Enrique the Seafarer and his visionary investments into sea expeditions, half a millennium ago. Within a few decades, they encountered the coast of the African continent, then the route by sea to India and beyond. What an achievement, in those early days of offshore navigation. A huge memorial at river Tejo tells stories of great seamanship, boldness and glory of the conquistadors and flourishing Portugal as such. Saying this, one should not forget poorest condition on some of the ship, including hunger, sickness, and death.

Now we are about to leave the European Continent as well, with best navigation tools available, some knowledge gathered, feeling ok to go, still not forgetting that we are still a bit greenhornish as we do that first time.