8th - 28th December
The night crossing to Sao Nicolao was unexpectedly fast - we arrived at 4am to a coast that was so dark there was no discernible difference between sea, land and cloudy sky. We kept a safe distance from shore and sailed past our destination - opting to heave to and gently forereach offshore to get a better angle to sail in on first light. The passage had been rough with a boisterous cross seas.
At first light we headed in to Carrical - a tiny fishing village on an otherwise uninhabited South East coast. As were were about to chicken out of anchoring in the tiny slit of a bay some local fishermen directed us to a spot to anchor. After checking transits it was off to bed for a nap.
Carrical turned out to be a hidden gem. Despite accidentally paying €50 instead of €5 for a lobster we had a good time. (50 CVE = 5 euro, if you multiply instead of divide in a sleepy haze then you end up with 500CVE, 50€…) Happy fisherman got a Christmas bonus! Even with our generous hand out the locals didn't pester us, they just regarded us with a friendly curiosity of people getting on with day to day life: a nice change from the more toruisty islands to the east.
We spent a few days wandering around the martian landscape and the green ravine that make up this end of Sao Nicolau. Not much was happening, there were a dozen or so small fishing boats going out everyday to fish for tuna by hand. No rods, no reels just handlines! In the abandoned tuna factory someone was sheathing a wooden fishing boat in fiberglass, the delicious toxic smell of resin wafted over to us occasionally. We frequented a new restaurant that had been set up to cater to visiting boats. It seemed a good way to support this small village (apart from overpaying for lobster 🤦♂️).
Photos from Carrical...theres quite a lot! A sure sign we had a nice time :)
There wasn’t potable water, or a cash machine - so with liquidity being an issue, we set off for bigger towns. Not before attempting to explore some of the smaller coves on the southern coast. There were strong winds blowing over the island, bringing with it a fine red dust from the Sahara. These winds tumbled down over the hillsides and hit the water with a splat before running out of steam a mile or so offshore. Our first attempt at anchoring in a bay wasn’t so good, the steep drop off gave us no where for the anchor to bite even if we were out of the wind under the cliff. Onwards with the pressure of sunset we moved a mile up the road, so to speak, and crept into a tiny bay with room for one.
The wind was funnelling out of the gorge that led into this horseshoe bay, and stopped us from swinging at all. Ellie barely waited for the anchor to be set before diving in to check out the underwater world. The anchor was dug deep into the black sand, with John refusing to leave the boat Ellie had to make do with swimming, although the ravine was tempting to explore. Having been spoilt for snorkelling in Boa Vista we’d missed swimming off the boat in Carrical. This bay did not disappoint, Ellie happily would have spent days here, but we were down to our emergency water - so had to press on after only one blustery night, despite wanting to stay for longer.
The sail to Tarrafal was fast, right up to the last 3 miles where we were caught in a wind hole behind the mountains. We put the motor on anchored right off the black sand beach at Tarrafal. We had a good view of the tuna factories Christmas decoration being constructed. A conical pyramid of bright yellow, 25ltr jerry cans. In the early evening the partially constructed monument was lit up with arcs from the welders fashioning the re-bar supports. Beautiful, surreal and strangely festive.
Photos from Soa Nicaloa after Carrical
Our priorities in Tarrafal were cash, water, food , checking in with the police (honestly she is just a slow boat and it took 4 days to cover the distance from Boa Vista...not that they asked where we had been!) and getting out of there back to what looked like an idyllic bay a few miles further south. We got the number for the man with a bowser and with the help of Google translate and wild gestures unseen by either party on the phone managed to fill up our tanks, every jerry can or bucket and soak ourselves in the process!. Food and veg were purchased from the shops and 48 hours later - we were anchored in our idyllic spot. A pure white sand beach, crystal clear waters, two small reefs to chose from for snorkelling on, and no one else to be seen! Perfect.
Looking at the boat from the bow we realized that it had taken on an orange-pink hue from the Saharan dust. Any forward facing surface was being caked in a thick layer of fine dust. Rainfall being non-existent in the Cape Verde islands we’d have to wait for the Atlantic crossing for a wash off.
In this bay we spent 3 days snorkelling until we were cold through, basking on deck to warm up and then jumping in again for a second round. Life was good. We left too many small bays on the south coats un-explored and headed back to Tarrafal conscious of the march of time - and the need to prepare for our Atlantic crossing. Once again we vowed to be back and even checked out charter boat options in Mindelo...
We took a day trip to Ribiera Brava, Soa Nicaloa's capital nestled in the mountains. Built close to water and safely away from pirates or anyone else looking to make a quick raid it made for another exciting Alguer adventure cramed in like sardines watching the stunning sceanery wizz by! We picked up armfulls of fresh fruit and veg, some delicious local jams from Papaya, Passion fruit and Guava.
We set off for Mindelo on St. Vincent late in the morning - having no intention of making it the whole way, we planned to anchor overnight and possibly visit St Luzia an uninhabited island about half way there. We’d been trying to trace the boats tendancy to give us a little electric shock when the decks were wet for a few weeks. Just a little tingle that wasn’t enough to know for sure what was happening. This sail was breezy (20-25 knots), on the wind, and with big waves and chop: our decks were soaked. The lifelines were giving us a proper belt every time we touched them, you had to chose between getting a zap or potentially falling off the boat… Suddenly finding the stray current became a bit more of a priority!
We arrived at St. Luzia an hour before sunset and found a spot that was out of the worst of the breakers and in as much of the lee as we could find. None of our charts, paper or electronic had a small oflying island in the right place! Sadly the surf was too much for our tiny inflatable so we stayed on the boat. Only diving on the anchor to make sure it was set quickly and hoping the pod of dolphins that accompanied us into the bay didn't want to investigate the stranger (incindently, a squeeky winch sounds alot like a dolphin squeek under water- Ellie had never swum as quick as she did to get back onboard)
Photos from the sail to Mindelo, including beautiful St Luzia
The next morning we set off, sighting another yacht to the south making towards the St Luzia chanel as well. True to form, Ellie decided that we probably didn’t need to reef as much as we had the previous day. The wind was blowing the same strength… The hand bearing compass was dug out of the chart table and we made sure they didn’t make any ground on us. In the channel we dodged several small open fishing boats, some moving surpisingly fast with only a lateen rig. After clering up which headland we should be rounding all was good onboard and we barreled in to Mindelo harbour taking a slip at the marina.
After the joy of having our first real showers in over a month, the reality of being cooped up in a marina was a disappointment. Still, we had jobs to do and this was the place to do them. We handed off our broken bow platform to the machine shop for repair (this collapsed in Curral Velho as we hauled up the anchor in the nasty short chop) . Washed the boat, inside and out. Took an inventory of stores and planned christmas dinner. It was go go go.
We had wanted to visit the southern islands of Fogo and Brava, but with no place to checkout and conscious of having enough time decided that a weekend trip to Santo Antao would make up for it. There are no good anchorages for small boats, so we booked into a small hotel and took the ferry. Ellie, true to form sat near a liferaft ( recently serviced she pointed out), and John smugly read his phone as all around us people quickly fell seasick as the coastal sized ferry traversed an ocean sized swell in the channel between the islands.
We took a local minibus to Ribiera Grande on the north of the island, and halfway there the arid martian landscape gaveway to lush green valleys with farmers terraces hanging over them. Our overnight stay was in a villa with pool which was surrounded by a small fruit farm. Bananna trees, almonds and breadfruits surrounded the house. We slept in a real rectangular bed that didn’t move and had hot running water from the shower that we didn’t need to keep pressing a button every 30 seconds for. Truly luxurious living. In the evening we ate pizza and drank poncha (cane rum, sweetened with mollases) and took another shower because we could!
Photos from Mindelo and our trip to Soa Antoa
For the trip back to the ferry we hired a taxi and went over the mountains through all the farm land stopping regularly for photos. The roads were ballance precariously on ridges and curved round the preciptous drops like some kind of fairgroud ride. The sceanery was truely breathtaking and all the more spectacular for it's contrast to the south of the island. Another island added to the ever growing list of places we want to go back to!
Back in Mindelo we cracked on with the list of jobs to prepare for our Atlantic crossing. Christmas was a pleasant distraction - and the much anticipated Christmas cake was taken out of storage! After an english breakfast we headed off to the beach, our Christmas day swim was probably a bit easier than anyone braving it in the UK!
The following days were filled with a desperate search for Meths for our stove and multiple trips to the markets and supermarkets to fill the boat up with as many provisions as possible. On the 28th we were ready to leave by 10am. Ready except for one small part from the machine shop, which had been on it’s way to us for few days. It turned up eventually and we spent our last Escudios at the bar with good wifi, calling home and filling up on podcasts and films for the crossing.
At 3:30pm we slipped our mooring lines and left Mindelo harbour, the St Vincent channel was delightfully tame compared to our last visit. We set off on the longest leg of our adventure to date - destination Grenada 🇬🇩.