RTW (Round the World) December 2013

16th to A-Day Minus 1

As we put on the blog, Sunday’s sail from Sao Nicolau to Mindelo was yet another challenging one for the crew of Ocean Rainbow – do note, Ocean Rainbow, as usual, took everything in her stride.   We left our anchorage expecting the winds to die off as the day progressed.   Sadly this wasn’t to happen and they continued to gust up to 40 knots which meant we had the tiniest bit of yankee out as we headed west.  We did try a double-reefed main at the start of the trip but it soon became apparent that even heavily reefed it was too much for the conditions.   The downside of the high winds was the steep seas; with only a little bit of sail out it was slow going as the biggest of the waves just stopped OR in her stride and we then had to build up speed again.   However, the final part of the trip was another story!   As we rounded the top of Sao Vicente the wind was from behind and we had 3 knots of current pushing us along – the conditions were such that Humphrey was allowed a rest and the Skipper took over.  We were very pleased once we’d anchored safely in Mindelo harbour and settled down to supper and a glass of wine!

We had a good night’s sleep with minimal rolling and noise so we were ready early to set up Puddle for the trip ashore and the investigation of the town.   Mindelo is much larger than anywhere we have seen elsewhere in the Cape Verdes but it is not very much more advanced!   In fact it could be said that it is behind the times as all access to WiFi has to be purchased – except if you sit in the town’s park and use Konekt, which is free but also very, very slow!   We investigated various cafes and bars and decided that the French Club is the best place to go, especially as it has the added advantage of conducting business in French which always helps us!    The markets are colourful, fish is exceedingly cheap and the fresh fruit and veg are in good supply although the prices are high – but we did expect that.  The weather has been really peculiar all week with a sea mist, heavy rain (at times) and high winds.  Not good conditions to set off across the Atlantic.   Mind you, we are not intending to head off until Hecla has joined us so, in the meantime, we have been busy with small admin jobs.   James got himself the sharpest haircut ever!   As he paid 2 Euros, expectations weren’t high! ….but the end result is actually really respectable; however it is short – as James indicated the amount he wanted to have chopped off to the barber who then translated that as the amount that he wanted to have left!!   Charades can be quite a problem!   James then went along to customs and immigration where everyone was very friendly and we are now checked into and out of Mindelo!   It was such a long wait that James did both at the same time – just hope it all works.

We met up with Bert from Queen B (last seen in Palmeira, Sal) and were invited on board for a drink.   What a fortuitous meeting that was.  We have been pondering deeply on best use of our charts across the Atlantic and after long discussions with Bert about Gnomic and Mercator charts, routes and tactics to cross the Atlantic we reckon we had got things about right and as sorted as we can at this stage!  It is always good to have your ideas confirmed by another party – it’s also good to have a chance to see another boat’s layout and discuss preparations for the crossing.      We had been discussing moving into the marina to pick up fuel and fresh water and provisioning when alongside a pontoon but after spending a couple of hours on Queen B who is medi-moored to a “swinging” pontoon we have decided to stay out in the harbour at anchor.   When the swell comes into the marina all the yachts surge and snatch at the pontoons which makes for a very uncomfortable and noisy mooring, and also creates serious wear and tear on the wharps etc.   We managed to get our laundry done which was all very successful – a whole bag washed and dried for 1800 Escudos (approx. 18 Euros).   We’ve bought and stowed all the veg and fruit we need; a little fresh meat (mince and the inevitable chicken!!) is tucked away in the fridge; drinking water is up to maximum levels again and all we need to do now is buy some bread for the start of the trip and then it’s down to Claire’s Bakery.   The disaster of the week has been the mincemeat shortbread.   A whole jar of mincemeat was used to make what should have been totally delicious treats for Christmas but on having a sneak taste on Claire’s birthday we decided that the whole lot had to go over the side – the mincemeat was rancid!!!    However the upside is that we now have a lot of brandy butter to eat with our Christmas pudding – unless Claire finds enough enthusiasm to have another attempt at mincemeat shortbread (there is another jar of mincemeat on board (stowed below then water line) which hopefully won’t have suffered the same fate as the first jar!).


The rains have continued and we were almost flooded out of the French Club on Wednesday with 6” of rain collecting in Puddle in a couple of hours!   Thursday was Claire’s birthday so James decorated the boat with bunting and Claire dutifully wore the Birthday Girl badge!   The children had managed a bit of advance planning (I think it’s the wonderful wives they have found themselves!!) so there were cards and presents to open as well.    We went ashore and had lunch in Café Mindelo – a little bar near the front – and then we were going to have folk on board for drinks but that was a bit of a disaster as they cancelled at the last minute so we were home alone!   Still with a lovely bottle of red wine and some good music, we partied on our own!

Friday morning Hecla arrived and has anchored behind us.   Now we are really on the countdown.  All we need to do is refuel and fill the water tanks and then we are ready to go.   The winds are due to die down tonight so we set sail tomorrow all being well.


8th – 15th December

Tig & Steve Santa Maria 019A rather long period between blogs due to poor internet connection but these notes should fill the gaps!    After the Skipper’s safe arrival home on 7th Dec (which meant First Mate could stand down from her sole responsibility for Ocean Rainbow!) and a veritable feast on sausages from that notable supermarket, we set about getting ready to leave Palmeira,  welcome guests on board and sail down to Santa Maria with Tig and Steve Holt, who duly arrived on Sunday morning (loaded with goodies from the hotel to supplement our rather meagre fruit rations!).  We had a lovely day with them: lunch on the move, tea at anchor in Santa Maria and then James took them ashore in Puddle so they could return to their sumptuous hotel complex for supper on terra firma.   We then spent an amazingly rolly night at anchor – not for the feint hearted!   On Monday we took Puddle ashore –had a look around the town and then joined Tig and Steve for a drink at the local WiFi café before a picnic lunch on the beach with an invigorating swim!     Once again they came loaded with goodies  … it was like Christmas … grated carrot in the buns, apples, two absolutely delicious pears, tea bags and peanuts!    What fab friends!!   It was just so good to see them and all the more special as it wasn’t a planned rendezvous.    On Tuesday 10th we left rolly Santa Maria and headed for Boa Vista and the town of Sal Rei.   An interesting little sail where we were somewhat confused by our chart plotter which showed us sailing across land at 4knots!   We had read about the magnetic anomalies in the area so we had back up in the form of James’ iPad and Navionics (luckily more accurate!).    We also have paper charts but in reality it is eyeball pilotage that counts – hence not arriving in the dark is wise, if you can possibly help it!

On our arrival, we were a little put off by a local fisherman who indicated that we should weigh anchor and go elsewhere as the spot we had chosen wasn’t safe.   After a bit of discussion we decided that the fisherman was after some extra shekels and there was nothing wrong with the spot we had chosen.    Seems we were right as he soon pushed off and we spent a very agreeable night at anchor with minimal rolling!   Bliss after Santa Maria!     Shortly after our arrival we launched Puddle and James went ashore to do a quick recce.   He soon came beetling back (I’m sure Puddle can beetle, even if other dinghies can’t!) and loaded me up to take me to see a MARKET!!!  Fruit and veg all lined up in a row!   We made it just before they shut the stalls and I was able to buy a few goodies for our supplies.   We then had a quick beer at a WiFi café and headed back to the boat before dark set in – we’d left OR without lights and we were anchored some distancefrom the town because of the reef and shallow water.

Just in case you are wondering why we spend so much of our time ashore chasing WiFi when most people go sightseeing – it’s because weather is crucial in our plans to sail around the world safely!   To get an accurate weather forecast we need internet and preferably WiFi so that we can capture the weather images on the iPad!    Our quick WiFi visit in Sal Rei didn’t bring good news on the weather front.   Strong winds coming in over the next 4 days which meant that we decided to head off for Sao Nicolau the next day in search of a safe anchorage rather than spend another day in Boa Vista.   A wise decision as it turned out.

Wednesday 10th we weighed anchor and set off for the island of Sao Nicolau – approximately 75 nm from Boa Vista.   It turned out that we set off rather too early for the wind conditions and this was compounded by the fact that we hadn’t made sufficient allowance for the Atlantic current which ran at almost 2knots for the trip!   We therefore arrived off the island of Sao Nicolau in the dark!  Not ideal.  However, this time we didn’t appear to have any magnetic anomalies, both our electronic devices showed us in the same place and we were confident enough to drop anchor in 12m of water in the Baie do Sao Jorge near Porto Velho.   We did take the precaution of having an electronic anchor watch as well as the human one – James!   In the morning we found that we were anchored on a really barren shore with not a house, human or animal in sight.   In view of the bad weather coming in we decided to move somewhere slightly more hospitable so weighed anchor and set off for Tarrafal on the south west of the island.   This was definitely a harbour and we found two other yachts already moored there which was reassuring!    This is where we stayed for the next 3 days.

Tarrafal is a very quiet town that spreads along the shore line and up into the hills.   There are a lot of half- finished buildings and what appears to be an unfinished holiday complex at the far west end of the bay.    It was easy enough to find bread, fruit , veg, fish, eggs and frozen chicken but we thought we would take a trip over the mountains to see if what was on offer on the other side of the island there was of a better quality.    It strikes us that whilst always appreciating what we have on offer in UK, we have still become incredibly spoilt with our endless supply of fruit and veg at any time of the year.    In a perverse way it is almost fun to go back to such limited supplies – it certainly makes the galley wench’s life easier without so many choices!

Our trip to Ribeira Brava was great fun.   The Aluguers (local mjnibuses) provide really good value transport and we sat in relative comfort for the 26km trip.   The route took us way up into the mountains and over the other side to the north coast and then we headed east along the coast before going back into the mountains to Ribeira Brava.   The streets are cobbled, wiggly and very narrow and all the entrances to the houses and shops are raised from street level by a good 10inches.   We made the assumption that this was because of flooding during the rainy months.   The shops were well stocked, clean and we could happily have restocked Ocean Rainbow had that been necessary – mind you it would have cost a fair amount!   We had a great tuna Panini for lunch in what looked like the only café and then we returned to the town square to catch our transport back.   We were duly loaded onto the Aluguer and set off – but not far!  We went up a steep hill then reversed into a very narrow street and stopped outside the bank.   There was much tooting of horns and then the driver got out and peered through the bank windows.   Next he sent his mate in.   Eventually a lady and child appeared, she got into the front with the driver and his mate and the child was loaded into the back to sit on a rucksack (no seats left!).    We set off again.   The driver stops, starts, reverses and sets off again always checking for potential passengers – even when the bus is full!   The funniest part of the trip was the delivery of the pig’s head.   When we got in the bus we noticed a snout poking out of a bucket covered in a scrumpled piece of sack.   After further investigation we discovered it was a pig’s head.  This, we thought, belonged to a lady seated at the back of the bus.  However, it turned out she was only looking after it and when it came for the “head” to be delivered it was the bus driver who went out and knocked on a door.  When no one answered he progressed through the block of flats until he was able to leave the head with someone.  While this was going on the bus was alive with helpful comments and encouragement.    People got off and wandered around and all done with great good humour.   We’re not sure this would happen in the UK – although we think local Monmouth buses might be an exception judging by Claire’s father’s tales!  We then progressed a distance further until we stopped for the lady in the front of the bus to hop off and go to her home to collect her mobile phone and then back on again until it was time for her drop off at the side of the road with nothing more than a goat track to follow.   None of this would be surprising but she was wearing smart town clothes with a pashmina and it was a very hot day!   Suffice to say we had a great outing from start to finish.

5th – 7th December

The period of being home alone is about to end as James is on his way back from the UK, due in Palmeira around midday.   It’s been a funny old week as bobbing at anchor is not quite the social experience of sitting on a pontoon surrounded by other yachts.   Nor can time be whiled away by drifting through the shops and contemplating a few additions to your wardrobe!  And you certainly can’t do food shopping!  So what have I been doing for the last couple of days?  Definitely not living the high life!    I’ve swabbed down the decks, cleaned and pumped up Puddle, cleaned the solar panel (involves a serious balancing act for a little stumpy person like me!), cleaned a few marks off the coach roof – still a few more to try and remove – and been swimming.  In an idle moment I decided to see just how much plastic from a well-known mail order company I had on board!   The photo says it all – I should have taken out shares!!   On Thursday it was Faye’s birthday so I baked a few cookies and the girls swam across for a birthday coffee morning complete with bunting and ‘Birthday Girl’ badge. In the afternoon I had organised for ‘Joseph’ to deliver diesel to both Swallow and Ocean Rainbow.  Swallow needed rather more than us so Joseph went to her first to fill her tanks and then it was my turn.   Elliot came over to give me a hand with the jerry cans – well, actually, he came over and sorted it all out as there was no way I could lift the diesel and operate the pump etc.  He brought his supersonic filter so the diesel that has gone into the tanks is definitely clean.  After that it was time to go ashore and collect my laundry.

I turned up at the Yacht Club to find that Nellie (lovely French lady who used to live on a boat herself) hadn’t quite got around to collecting it so she invited me to sit down and enjoy a glass of wine while she popped off to get it.   I caught up on emails and the progress of the yachts on the ARC and Atlantic Odyssey and had a very nice relaxing time in the ‘yet to be opened’ Yacht Club.   On her return, Nellie offered me something to eat so I had an amazing fried egg with goat’s cheese and freshly baked bread!   Very tasty and saved me having to cook that evening.   I paid 10 Euros for the washing which I reckon represents extremely good value for money when you consider the wine and food thrown in as well!   I had to return to Ocean Rainbow pretty swiftly as, by this time, it was getting dark and, much as my dinghy skills have improved, my eyesight can’t  quite cope with lines in the water in the dark and steering Puddle!

Our picnic on the quayside

Our picnic on the quayside

The Espargos Express

Friday was a fun day as Tig (old College friend) and Steve had arrived out for their two week winter holiday in the south of the island.   Swallow wanted to see the south of the island so we travelled together in the local Alugueiras.  Palmeiro to Espargos was 50 escudos (50p) and then Espargos to Santa Maria for 100 escudos – a lot cheaper than 15Euros for a taxi and just as fast!   I managed to find Tig and Steve is their amazing complex on the outskirts of the town and we even managed to smuggle me into the pool area for a drink and a chat!   We then wandered along the beach and sat at the quay to munch our buns – made in the Club dining room and then smuggled out!   Bless them, they also donated some apples to the diminishing fruit supplies on Ocean Rainbow and, while we were walking to the bus stop, we spied a fruit and veg shop which actually had a good selection of fairly fresh veg so I bought some stocks and returned to Palmeira with a very heavy backpack filled with goodies.   A highly satisfying day out.   Now all that remains is to try and get Tig and Steve up to this end for a meal on Ocean Rainbow, or even better, take Ocean Rainbow to them.   We shall have to see what the Skipper suggests!

One little addendum to the notes – what I didn’t mention earlier was the fact that the day James left for UK a frenchman on a catamaran came around all the boats in the harbour to warn us that he had been boarded the night before and had his arm cut for his troubles!   As a result we put in a number of trip hazards to ward off intruders and took extra precautions to ensure that Puddle was secure and no on could nab her!   And inside the boat … well, even the SAS couldn’t have got on board without me knowing about it!   All was well, the intruder alarms were not needed and I am safe and well to tell the tale!

1st – 4th December

Saturday 30th November – We’re in the Cape Verdes!   Despite feeling fairly shattered we decided that it would be best to get all the formalities sorted out as soon as possible, leaving James time to get himself organised to get back to UK.   So, having anchored in Palmeira harbour and had a quick lunch we got out Puddle and went through the whole rigmarole of making her seaworthy and then James went ashore.  He checked out the facilities (such as they are), chatted up the locals and found that the best way to clear customs and immigration was to go to the airport.   He took a local bus but as he was the only passenger it became his personal taxi with the driver so helpful he actually took James in to see the officials – the whole process was over and done in no time at all with James back on board within an hour!    Brilliant.    With James away at the airport, Claire returned Ocean Rainbow to  ‘home’ mode rather than ‘sea’ mode, the pot plant came out along with Lallydog and the fruit bowl;  the water proof seat covers, lifeline, life jackets and oilies were returned to the wet locker having had time to dry out.   The wet and windy crossing quickly becoming a distant memory!    Sunday 1st December dawned bright and balmy – another month begins with the grand total of 3500nm under Ocean Rainbow’s belt.

Palmeira is a strange experience.   The town is very simple with basic facilities but exceptionally friendly and helpful people.   There is a very modern restaurant/café – ‘Cantinho’ – WiFi and a loo with washbasin, soap and towel!   There is also a Yacht Club but this is not operational at the moment – still awaiting papers from officialdom!  Once up and running the Club will also offer WiFi, meals and all the services yachties like to have handy (laundry, hot showers, fuel and drinking water).   Lack of papers has not stopped the owner from giving out information and offering a laundry service – a report will follow in due course as we are in the process of trying this out!  The supermarkets, such as they are, have a very limited supply of tinned goods, toiletries and drinks.  In the shops with a freezer there are chicken pieces and frozen peas.  Fresh food is extremely limited and you are left wondering what on earth is being prepared as the family meal when the only ingredients purchased amount to one tomato, half a green pepper and two potatoes.   Re-stocking Ocean Rainbow’s fresh ingredients here is not going to be an option!

On Monday morning we were delighted to see Swallow arriving in the harbour.  They had had engine problems with a failed water pump however, Elliott had managed to jury rig a salt water pump which Vicky valiantly operated while Elliott steered Swallow to a safe anchorage.    Not sure we would have been quite so successful but you never know until you try!   They are here for a few days which will be great with James away in the UK.  Always good to have English speaking experts on hand.   Once Swallow had sorted themselves out we all went to the airport where James pointed them in the right direction for customs and immigration clearance while he went on his merry way back to England.   Our transport to the airport was in the back of an open truck which was a cool way to travel in the heat of the day.     We came back in a rather more conventional taxi!   So it’s home alone time again for Claire!   The dinghy skills are improving with no complaints from Swallow who have not, as yet, pumped up their dinghy.   That evening Swallow came on board for supper and Claire acted as chauffer – confidence is growing!

Tuesday was spent investigating Palmeiro and enjoying the slow pace of life.   The public ablutions block was tried out – very successful shower (30p) with lots of water, even if it was cold!   Wednesday was rather more industrious; a waterproof cover was made for the bench seat that got a little wet in the last crossing, clothes cupboards were emptied out and checked for mould, one of the store cupboards appeared to have a damp patch so that was dried out – it’s a mystery how water manages to get into a boat.  There is no sign of any entry point but there were definitely a few drops of salt water on the bottom of a plastic bag containing flour.  Then it was a trip ashore to take the laundry to the Marie at the Yacht Club, the waterproof cover to the tailor and get a couple of things done on the internet before heading off to Espargos with Vicky and Faye (guest on Swallow).    It was a lovely outing but there really isn’t much in Espargos and we all decided we preferred Palmeiro.  We then finished up in Cantinho where we discovered that the wine was cheaper than water so we had a couple of glasses (seemed rude not to!).   It was late afternoon by the time we headed back to the boats.     To round off a lovely day Claire had supper on board Swallow – the most scrummy chickpea curry.   Vicky has promised to share the recipe.