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A full bucket

Climbing in the mast of a sailing boat
Different paths
March 26, 2017
Captain with ear ring and cap
Dieter Unterhollenberg
April 13, 2017

24 februari - Harbour Mindelo

We visit two other islands before we continue our route to Gambia. The sailing trips in between the islands are maximum one day, so after one night off shore we can anchor the boat on the next place. The archipel of Cape Verde is well known for the strong winds. Up the wind and bumping against the waves we are several times splashed with a fresh salt shower, which makes sitting in the cockpit with four persons almost impossible. Even at anchorage the captain is always worried that the boat can drift away. The strong winds make that Margrit and Dieter have seen enough of Cape Verde and are planning the next crossing to Gambia. Olivier, on the other hand, is completely done with all the sailing. On both trips around the islands he was laying down in bed, with a bucket next to it, filling this up regularly. In eight hours time he empties his stomach ten times in the blue bucket. It are worrying times, he refuses to eat or drink and the slijm has changed to the darkest green. With a sad expression on his face, uitgeholde eyes and completely empty he arrives at our new anchorage.

The trip to Gambia can be the last drop, and possibly, he will get off.

Arriving and departing with a sailing boat is slightly different then arriving by plane. When you arrive in the harbour you ask permission to the Port Authority using the radio. The next step is finding a anchorage and then starts the visit to the different offices. Immigration always comes first. With the crew list and passports, this normally is an easy flick. It should be, but it still is Africa. A lot of times the immigration officer is not a his place, with an arguable reason he's having lunch or somewhere in town. “Maybe two hours” is getting usual. At the other office, the customs, you have to declare the sailing yacht. Here you hand over the ship papers, which you can recollect them when you leave. In some harbours you have to visit the Harbour Master, which almost makes this visitation round a full day task. Luckily for us, Dieter and Margrit, are skilled in this and have no problems adapting to the slow tempo. Sometimes, we join them to taste the experience or to skip some time, because without the permissions we cannot visit the island.

The islands look very similar, one might be a little greener than the rest, but clearly they are part of the same archipel. For us the islands are characterised by the cities where we arrive, Mindelo in Sao Vicente, Tarrafal in Sao Nicolau and Praia, the capital, in Santiago. Every time we are able to arrive on a Sunday or national holiday. At that time the cities are more quiet then whichever city in the Netherlands, everything is closed and the only available transport are some taxis. With Dieter and Margrit we agreed to change the watch on the boat. The plan is to stay for a short time on every island, so arriving on a holiday steals one day. On ‘our’ days we go for a hike. We take an aluguer to a central spot on the island and get an insight in the local culture. At lunch we usually eat in a local restaurant where they serve some delicious plates with rice and beans. At their day we stay on the boat, write a huge amount of blogs and Olivier plays football games with the locals on the beach. We try to stay fit with swimming, rowing and some fitness exercises, but you don’t want to sweat to hard because a salty shower is not that fresh. When we are expecting to leave, we don’t. The wind might not be good, so we wait day by day, which makes us spent a lot of time on the boat. When you ask a sailer when he will leave, he will never say Wednesday , but always “probably” Wednesday.

In the harbour of Praia we are the only sailing boat. The facility for sailing boats are limited and the anchorage is in the middle of the bay, so going on land takes a lot of effort and is a guarantee for a wet ride. It is Carnaval and all the streets are filled up with the rest of the city. On a African tempo, even slower then in Spain, the parade slowly passes by. It looks amazing, but even more special are all the people. Just like we do, they dress up in special costumes and the men dress up like women with a big butt. The next day another sailing boat appears, who announces itself over the radio “Daphne for Praia, Daphne for Praia”. We recognise the name of the boat from the jetty in Las Palmas. The last weeks we have seen more boats that we recognised from Las Palmas, we even applied to some of them. Daphne is a Danish boat with four young people. Zoë already predicted that the captain would be sportive girl. Last summer she participated in Rio at the Olympics as a wind surfer, and now she is sailing the Northern Atlantic with her boat. Her crew changes almost every month, mostly friends coming out of the water world. Together we go for a hike and enjoy to have a smooth conversation in English.

We needed to talk with other people about the life on board. Even with family and friends a sailing boat is a tiny place with no way out. With Dieter and Margrit we have a big difference in years, which makes us think in another way. Despite we have a huge amount of respect for our 75 year old captain and wife, the bucket sometimes reach its limit. We can live with each other in a good way and are able to communicate well if necessary, but sometimes we don’t understand each others logics, and we don’t talk about it until we are in the bedroom. Logically, both of us, need to ons hart luchten. The anchorages in Cape Verde have limited space for this. Olivier's the bucket is already filled with sea sickness and tensions. A couple of days before we leave to Gambia, he decides to spread his doubts. The trip to Gambia can be the last drop, and possibly, he will get off. The big crossing will no longer be on his bucket list.

After one month we say goodbye to Cape Verde. Land with too much wind, friendly people, huge diversity, aluguers, influences from Portugal, pumping beats, not real Africa, fresh fish, French tourists, limited choice in fruit and vegetables, safe travelling, hiking, sunbathing, surfing and so much more. Will we return? Probably not. It was worth it, but Cape Verde didn’t steal our heart. Let’s hope the crossing to the smiling coast of Africa will be quiet and relaxed! []

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