Cape Verdean New Years greetings from the "Aracanga" crew! From southern Germany via the French canals and rivers, through the Mediterranean Sea and Morocco and the Canaries, Riki and Martin have now reached the Cape Verde archipelago with their small yacht. The islands, surrounded by the constant trade wind, offer a lot, from dreamy sandy beaches on the uninhabited island of SantLuzibis to the lush green hiking paradise of Santo Antao. Anyone who sails here and only bunkers water and diesel in Mindelo has not seen Cape Verde. You should take the time to get to know the islands, the country and the people. It is worth it..
We have been on the road for almost half a year, and our "Aracanga", who until last year knew nothing but Lake Constance, is now sailing between the Cape Verde Islands off the west coast of Africa after logging over 3,000 miles. The 800 nautical miles long crossing from the Canary Islands to Cape Verde was the highlight of the trip so far in terms of sailing technology: at first calm, then rough and later just gorgeous.
Lots of wind from behind
After two relaxed days of sailing, the wind picks up a little and pushes us strongly to the south. It's relatively warm - around 25 degrees - even if the strong wind makes it feel significantly cooler. With the wind, the wave has increased to two and a half meters, and there are always large breakers with a height of four meters in between.
Our little "Aracanga" is shaken up quite a bit and lies far from left to right and back again. We have only rolled out part of the Genu. That's enough to keep the boat on course at four to six knots.
A few days ago you could still stand comfortably in the cockpit, one foot on the left and one foot on the right bench and lean forward on the sprayhood with a cup of tea, at the moment you can no longer think about it. Sitting, wedging, supporting and holding on is the order of the day so as not to tumble through the cockpit or cabin. We still have 320 nautical miles to the northeastern Cape Verde island of Sal, and well over half of the total of 800 nautical miles are in our wake.
Log entry from December 1st, 2018:
During the night it was windy and wavy, the wind picked up to about 25 knots from astern, and we repeatedly surfed down high, breaking waves. Top speed: 10.7 knots. The "Aracanga" and the Aries wind vane control do a great job, we don't have to intervene once to keep the boat on course. The big one has been down since the beginning of the crossing, we only vary the size of the genoa. On average we do about 4.5 knots and over 100 miles every day, which is a good Etmal for our little one.
December 5, 2018: The last few days the crossing has become a real dream. It's warm, even really hot during the day, the wind and waves have decreased, and the water is slowly getting warmer. The short wave has given way to a long, pleasant Atlantic swell, and the wind blows steadily at 15 to 20 knots from astern.
Ahead the Southern Cross
At night we have a starry sky, we don't see any strange boats in the night watch, but the Southern Cross in front of us and the big wagon and the Pole Star behind us. If we saw next to no animals until the day before yesterday, we are now regularly accompanied by dolphins, who play in our bow wave and, at night, pull glittering tracks behind them in the glow of the sea.
The "Aracanga" also paints a glittering trail into the sea, which is lost again in the waves a few meters behind the boat. There are a few birds on the way, mainly water striders and brown boobies, and we have also spotted a few large sea turtles. When we sail past them, they curiously lift their heads out of the water and look after us, just as we then curiously stand at the railing until the animal continues its journey and disappears again in one of the next waves.
Turtles, dolphins and flying fish
In the water, which is getting warmer every day, we see flying fish again. The fish "fly" on the run from a predator in daylight just above the water surface for sometimes several hundred meters, at night they shoot straight up out of the water, which now and then ends with a crash landing on deck. Last night a specimen about ten centimeters long landed a particularly clean emergency landing, namely in one of the pockets next to the companionway and there upside down in Riki's empty coffee cup, where he drew attention to himself with a lot of noise until we got him out of his have got rid of the predicament.
We don't find some of our not-so-happy colleagues dried up on deck until the next morning. Likewise, small squids, which, if you wouldn't trust them, can apparently jump out of the water quite high. But by far the most impressive encounter was a mighty sperm whale, significantly larger than the "Aracanga". The whale swam past us calmly just a meter away and examined us with curiosity. A little behind our boat, he stretched his fluke in the air and dived.
Arrival on St. Nicholas Day
On St. Nicholas Day, our anchor drops in time for sunrise to six meters of water in the Bay of Palmeira. We have arrived in Cape Verde. While it is Riki’s first visit to the islands, I’m here for the third time and this time again I’m excited about the group of islands.
Outdoor fish market
In addition to Sal, we visit the northern part of Cape Verde, the islands of São Nicolau, SantLuzia, São Vicente and Santo Antão, whereby we go to the latter by ferry due to the poor anchorage bays. The islands couldn't be more different. While Sal is a piece of Saharan in the Atlantic that offers hardly any sights, but a great atmosphere in the small, sleepy town of Palmeir, São Nicolau and Santo Antão are lush green and a dream for every hiker.
Cape Verde is our second destination outside of Europe, and as soon as we enter the port of Sal, we have the feeling that we are very far away. The colorful town of Palmeir quickly casts a spell over you with its fun-loving spirit and the typical Cape Verdean no-stress mentality. The dock is also a playground, fishing port, fish market, shipyard and general meeting point. Here we are expected by a handful of guys who all earn a few cents and want to take care of our dinghy. "Me Alessandro, me watch your dinghy" - "Okay."
Clearing in is quick and easy. In addition to the two larger cities of Mindelo and Praider, Palmeir is the third official Port of Entry in Cape Verde and is actually known for the fact that the entry formalities here can sometimes take a few hours longer. We are lucky and after a quarter of an hour the stamps in our passports.
After the work is done, the immigration officer has a coffee break with a long chat at the harbor bar, and the French single-handed sailor, who arrived shortly after us, has to come back in the afternoon to take care of the immigration formalities. "No stress, it's Cabo Verde."
Pure joie de vivre
Palmeir is great, the joy of life and the hospitality of the Cape Verdeans as well as the many music and the colorful houses are unique, and for that reason alone the island is worth a visit. Jay, a local, is a self-proclaimed harbor master and has made it his job to look after the sailors and, where necessary, to deliver water and diesel for a small fee with his small fishing boat, to take laundry and rubbish with him or just for a coffee or a beer or drop by for a chat. He also knows where to find local food and live music every day.
"Aracanga" in front of SantLuzia
Apart from the few cruising sailors anchored here and a few pick-up trucks with visitors every morning, Palmeir is not a tourist spot. The evening music sessions are not staged for vacationers, but simple and genuine, and nobody is bothered by defective boxes or bright neon lights. You can quickly find your way around and soon know which day is being cooked in which house and when and where you can get cachupa, rice with fish or rice with chicken for 250 escudos (approx. 2.50 euros).
Here in Palmeir we felt more than welcome and safe at all times. It is part of the process of handing one of the boys at the harbor a few escudos to watch out for the dinghy, but that is more of a nice gesture than a need for security, because you often run into the same child half an hour later playing a game in the Roads again.
Course for Mindelo
A few planned days on Sal have turned into ten days at anchor, and we're blaming it again on the weather, because for four days it was blowing properly, a five meter high swell has built up outside and the wind has our entire boat with one fine layer of red-brown sand covered. But at some point the anchor is up and course west is the order of the day.
Next island, next happiness
The island of São Nicolau is 90 nautical miles west of Sal, where after 20 hours of sailing with a steady shifting wind, the anchor drops in front of the town of Tarafal. São Nicolau is a mountainous island with barren, volcanic rocks on the coast and a green island interior. The island is rarely visited by tourists and has retained its original character, which you can already tell when you put the dinghy at the landing site at the fishing port of the small town of Tarrafal. Here, large tuna and mahi mahis are brought in by small, partly non-motorized fishing boats, cut up and sold right on the quay. Next door is the fruit and vegetable market, which sells bananas, papayas and all the fruit that grows on the island.
Green Santo Antão
However, we only stay three nights on São Nicolau, because we have arranged a date with our friends from the "Streuner" on the neighboring island of SantLuzia. So the next day we go over to the uninhabited island. The short crossing is windy with a short, steep wave from the side, but only 25 nautical miles long. After a good five hours of sailing and a magnificent mahi mahi on the fishing rod, we anchor in front of the long sandy beach at a depth of six meters.
The island offers us good protection from the waves, but the jagged rocks and valleys reinforce the wind, which blows down the slopes with gusts of up to 45 knots. We give a lot of anchor chain, and our new bow anchor has proven itself here again very well. In the evening our friends serve and after three weeks there is a big reunion with freshly caught fish and cold beer.
Fed up with fish
SantLuzi not only has a great beach with crystal clear water and great rocks for snorkeling, but is also popular with local fishermen because of its abundance of fish. While we climb back into our dinghy after snorkeling and row back to our boats, one of the friendly fishermen appears next to us and throws us two freshly harpooned, still wriggling perch into the boat, grinning. Before we can say thank you, he went underground again.
From SantLuzin to São Vicente we have perfect sailing conditions for our little ones. With a reef in the large and the slightly reefed enough, it goes through the wind with sometimes three knots of countercurrent between the two islands, then with a strong push current along the north coast of the island and into the large bay of Porto Grande, Mindelo.
Sailing here is a little bit like coming home. In 2010 I was in Mindelo before we started with the "Ivalu" from here across the Atlantic, and in 2013 our course crossed here for the first time and thus completed the circumnavigation.
On Cape Verde you have to clear in and clear out on every island, and after an unsuccessful attempt to clear in Mindelo - "That's not possible, it's Friday afternoon, then it's weekend and afterwards it's Christmas. Come back next week …" - we have plunged into city life, met old friends again after many years and made Mindelo unsafe with its many bars, the colorful markets and the omnipresent live music.
It's nice to be back here. In Mindelo we celebrate Christmas and New Year's Eve together with thousands of people and loud live music in a lively atmosphere on the street and soak up the lifestyle to the full.
The town of Mindelo and its anchorage are reasonably safe, but break-ins and thefts do occur from time to time, and the usual caution is required, just as in any other major city in the world. The dinghy should be hooked up or, even better, on deck at night, the outboard motor locked, and gold chains and wristwatches stay on board. The same applies to Prai in the south of Cape Verde. As an alternative to the anchor bay, there is the only Marinder Cape Verde here in Mindelo, where you can leave your boat safely.
From Mindelo, the island of Santo Antão is only a stone's throw away. Due to the poor anchorage, we leave the "Aracanga" in Mindelo and take the ferry to the neighboring island. Santo Antão is lush green, mountainous and is an insider tip among hikers. Sugar cane, papaya, mango, breadfruit, corn, yams, agave, bananas, cabbage, carrots, apples and countless other plants are cultivated in terraces here. Even areas that are barely accessible and only a few square meters are used for growing fruit and vegetables.
Green Santo Antão
We stay two days on the spectacular, green island, and two long hikes and many meters in altitude later, all you have to do is put your feet up - after such a long time on board you can tell that the calves could use a little more training.
Anchor up, course to Africa
For us the days "anchor up" and for a change "course east" are announced: Instead of sailing from here to the west into the Caribbean, our next destinations are Senegal and Gambia. We are very excited to see what awaits us there. It then crosses the Atlantic towards February or March with the destination South America.
The "Aracanga" crew, Riki and Martin, wishes a good start into a great new year and always "fair winds and following waves".
More information, pictures and articles about the journey of the "Aracanga" at Ahoi.blog
Santa Claus in Cape Verdean