The first island we visit in Cabo Verde is a ground burnt by the sun and swept by the wind, where nothing grows. Yet it’s a welcoming place where we could imagine staying for weeks or months…
More pictures of empty nature and populated seas on our page "Pictures".
It was dark when we first dropped the anchor, yet we have been lucky to pick a good spot and the anchorage holds up in 25kts wind gusts that morning (and every following morning, the wind blows to wake you up after 7). Numerous yachts are told to drift once or twice before getting good holding on the sand ground, so we appreciate our luck even more and decide to stay here, even if it’s a bit far from the quay. In the daylight we see countless buoys and lighting lines around us in the water, we really got lucky not to get stuck in anything last night!
First things first: we hop in the tender for a morning coffee onboard of SterVraz :o) Good to see them again. Our friends have been here a week and tell us everything we need to know for a successful first day in the island: it starts with changing money in Caixa Economica (green building) in front of the blue church of Espargos (7km, 50 euro cent p.p in “aluguer”). “Aluguers” are vans or trucks: the driver shouts a destination, people get in and it leaves when it’s full. 50 cent to Espargos, 1 euro to Santa Maria. Or 100 escudos. As we soon figure out locals use euros as well as escudos on Sal, and they give the change back in both currencies mixed up (1 euro = 100 escudos on the street, official rate being 1:110). One country, two currencies – Never seen that before…
The blue church in Espargos
Second stop: the police. Entry formalities for the boat as well as for the passengers can be done in the office of Palmeira. The officer will keep the boat’s papers during your stay on the island and give them back with the exit clearance to the next island. The immigration officers come from the airport once a day (around 4 pm) to stamp your passports and give a visa (5 euros / boat). Caution for a bigger crew: there seems to be a confusion between “crew” and “skipper’s family”, crewmembers unrelated to the skipper have been charged the 25 euros rate applicable to tourists landing by plane
Laure on the cyber-bank
Last stop of the day: the municipal showers on the quay are basic but clean and with more pressure than we had enjoyed since La Gomera! (25 escudos). Then we find the cyber-spot of the village: the bank in the middle of the place is where free wifi reception is the best (better in the morning, in the evening young locals come in groups and spend hours on youtube and facebook).
Another good surprise: no mosquito on the island! But nothing’s perfect: lots of big black red-eyed flies buzz around in the boat as soon as the sun is up. Unexpected way to practice the badminton moves with the flyswatter: good balance on the legs, everything is in the wrist!
In the evening we have a first drink on Saltimbanque before getting to shore in SterVraz’s brand new tender. We sit at Arminda’s, the favorite bar in town where you find good grog (rum from the sugarcane grown on the other islands). Mmm the “cortados” (sweeter) and “pontch” (with fruits) are yummy. Then we realize the price: 30 eurocents!! What a nice country… we indulge in another glass, or two, or more. It’s easy to drink and very dangerous, as we saw later when meeting a couple of “grog-addicts” on the streets.
Palmeira is a little fishing village: 3 streets, 1 square, 2 bars, 1 mini-mercado, 1 tiny baker that sells gas bottles, fishing nets on the street, 3 hens running about and 10 dogs – that’s all. There’s almost nothing, yet it looks clean and the cobbled streets are not filled with dust like in Africa. The houses are rough but painted and well kept, nobody seems to live in a tent or shack on the street. People are extremely nice and friendly. They are curious but not intruding, they speak easily (some in French, others in our basic Portuguese). There is no hidden agenda, little flirting and no begging. It feels so safe and friendly, we appreciate it all the more coming from Dakar where money has a color: not dollar-green, but toubab-white. Unlike there, people here seem to talk with us for their pleasure and curiosity, waiting for nothing in exchange.
A street in Palmeira
Here’s an anecdote. One evening we were updating the blog on the cyber-bank. A young boy (8-10 years) comes along and watches the screen.
“Bonsoir” he says in French
“Boa tarde” we replies
“Boa noite!” he corrects with a smile (right, it’s 6.15pm and dark already…)
OK, there’s no fooling that little guy…
On our screen a picture of Saltimbanque sailing into the Vlieland, Netherlands. He asks “´chat Palmeira?”
“Não, it’s not Palmeira, it’s in Holland, very far from here!”
We show him on our charts where it is.
“See here, Cabo Verde, e aqui, Hollanda”
“Sim! E aqui Portugal, Angola, Brazil, Senegal, Dakar…” so he goes, naming the Cape Verdes one by one, all the neighbourhing countries and Portuguese-speaking countries of the world. He tells us that there’s a big world map in his school and he knows it by heart! After 5 minutes he has enough, shouts “Ciao” and runs away to play with friends. That’s Cabo Verde for you!
Yes we made it ourselves !
The country is poor but seems on a upwards slope. People are clean and smiling. Some troubling contrasts: mobile phones, laptops and tablets seem common, while basic food is scarce and limited (you fond only potatoes and eggs in Palmeira, and a couple of bananas if you’re lucky). Fruits and veggies are imported and over-priced (4 euros/kg for apples!): people must not eat so well here. We make do onboard with some stocks and we even have two culinary successes: one nice bread (nice and round at last) and sweet potatoes-fries. Mmm fresh breads smells good…
One evening we were having a grog at Arminda’s with other sailors when we met Paul. He builds boats and speaks very good French. “I play the guitar” he says. “Good, me too” Camille replies. No sooner said than done, he goes back to his home at the other end of the village and comes back 3 minutes later with a guitar. So begins a music night in Cabo Verde (playing music in Cabo Verde! We must be dreaming! But no, it’s true…). Paul plays Cape Verdean songs and some he composed himself, Camille plays Cesario Evora and sailors’ songs: other sailors sing along… That’s Cabo Verde again :o)
Of course we keep taking care of the boat, it keeps Laure busy while Camille is stuck in bed by a nasty tummy-bug :oS But there is not much left to do, we did some good work in Dakar. Making windows waterproof, fixing some clothes, something on the engine as well (the breather leaks oil). One last screw to turn on the breather and… the screw breaks. Damn! That’s the proof: you can never get to the bottom of a todo list!
Once Camille is back on foot (thank God for Immodium), we head to Santa Maria. This is a splendid white sand beach on the Southern point of the island. Natural beauty unfortunately attracted promoters here that turned this little paradise into a “Beachy-Land”: blocks of skyscrapers now rise in the middle of the dry nothingness. It’s an all-inclusive resort where groups of German, French, English tourists flock together. Only white tourists walk around here, of course followed by a few Senegalese jumping on you and asking how-you-are-thanks-I’m-fine-and-you-how-you-are-and-the-family-how-you-are…. Help!!! That’s when we become aware of how lucky we are to be here with our floating home and free to get wherever whenever, not stuck in those cardboard-like walls...
Santa-Maria resort, not yet finished but already occupied...
Yet not everything is bad in Santa Maria: we eat a good “cachupa” (typical dish of boiled corn, peas, fish, chorizo, and pretty much anything that´s left in the kitchen at the end of the week!). We contemplate the turquoise water. Laure takes a kitesurf lesson. While she’s being rolled over by waves trying to control the kite with her hands and the board with her third hand, Camille simply enjoys being here and swimming in bright blue 25 degree water… life is not so bad :o)
We have to admit that the beach has something of a paradise...
Nicer than Scheveningen to learn kiting !
Typical landscape flat and dry, a tree bent by the wind and an old volcano in the background
On the next day Camille sets off to walk around: the natural swimming pools of Buracona are not interesting at all, but walking through a dry and flat desert is quite impressive. Laure goes back to Santa Maria to get another try at taming that damn stubborn board. Nice coincidence: her teacher at “Surf Zone” is a nice smiling guy we met in the aluguer before, who speaks every language. This time goes better: the board keeps out of the water more than 5 sec and Laure can even ride a couple of tacks at high speed (almost) without falling! Yeepeeeee!!! Now just need practicing the balance…
The environment is favorable and we could even feel some baby-roots sprouting under our feet as quick as the barnacles on the hull… in a survival reflex we tear ourselves from Palmeira to sail around the point and see what’s on the other side. It’s a short and inefficient trip (8 miles on the ground while the chart says 3 – and no there was no grog abuse last night). We arrive in the Mordeira bay. On the Northern side a sand beach offers some mixed sand and rocks grounds to anchor. 5m deep. For once we are happy to have our lighting line.
Into the Bay of Mordeira – focused…
There is nothing above the water, but plenty below!! Bright, friendly, quick the fishes swim amongst the corals. Images tell better than words…
Meeting the underwater world
A few hours of happiness later the sun starts to drop and we set sails again to the West.
20-21 November, Sal – Sao Nicolau (99 miles)
After careful thinking and wise calculations we decide to pass on the North of the Sao Nicolau island in order to avoid local wind effects and reach Tarrafal on the Western side with the wind on the back. The route is a bit longer, but it goes smoothly during the night with the front sail only. In the morning we experience none of the gusts we had grown used to and have to hoist up the main sail (with two reefs). Sao Nicolau is very different from its neighbor: high and tortuous, the summits are lost in the clouds while green valleys let us dream of fruits – at last!
Passing the Northern point Espechim is no issue. Yet around the Western point the sea starts boiling in from of the boat. A gust, a high bank? Nope, simply some tidal current, 2 knots, in our nose suddenly and against the wind and swell… it goes much slower against the tide… then the sea changes again to become flat as a mirror. No wind! Just the time for us to start the engine and we feel a feeble breeze picking up again… from the South West !! (that is, the opposite direction from the stable trade winds that prevail on the islands).
Seen from the Northeast
Only a couple of miles to go...
All sails up we make the last miles against the current to the harbor of Tarrafal. It’s noon and in the daylight (good timing!) we take our time to choose our spot not too far from the quay. 8m deep, good holding sand grounds. We put a lighting line to the anchor first but remove it as quickly: the boats are turning in all directions and the line could cause more damage than good. The famous gusts from the North East suddenly blowing down the valley sweep on the anchorage mainly at night. In the day the boats are constantly turning around on their anchor in light variable winds. Tenders can be attached to the quay, where they are welcomed by groups of kids playing and shouting, insisting to take the line off your hands and “watch the tender”. We get away with a smile and a joke and attach the tender long at the end of the quay not to be in the way of the fishing boats that use the stairs as well.
First impressions of Tarrafal
The sunset sheds a bright light on the vivid colors around us and the painted boats on the dark sand, while the mighty Monte Gordo salutes amongst the clouds, calling us to discover this new island…
Djeni - 28/11/2011 11:29:09 Wat is het mooi om te zien hoe jullie Cabo Verde ervaren!
Hervé - 27/11/2011 16:30:24 Super journal de bord et ca donne envie d'aller voir les plages tropicales plutôt que la Chine du nord :-). Je ne peux être que sans voix à lire ce récit piquant et salé. Bonne Nav et à bientôt. Hélène & Thierry - 26/11/2011 05:59:14 Toujours bien écris, toujours passionnant, vous nous faites envie les filles, envie de voir que vous, vous y êtes allé.....
Bon vent, bonne route, donnez nous souvent des nouvelles
Hélène et Thierry SuDad - 25/11/2011 20:06:36 Qui a dit que je bégaie ? SuDad - 25/11/2011 20:03:45 Pourquoi mes yeux se dressent-ils quand je lis les péripéties mécaniques, des boulons défaillants et de la pâte à joint salvatrice ? Façon d'exagérer, parce que TOUT le récit, de bout en bout, est fascinant. Comme d'habitude. Vous avez le plaisir de vivre. Et nous de revivre, grâce à vos textes vivants et vos photos spectaculaires. Eh ouais, on n'en finira pas de se répéterPourquoi mes yeux se dressent-ils quand je lis les péripéties mécaniques, des boulons défaillants et de la pâte à joint salvatrice ? Façon d'exagérer, parce que TOUT le récit, de bout en bout, est fascinant. Comme d'habitude. Vous avez le plais. Mais c'est ce qu'on ressent et qu'on exprime spontanément. Profitez bien des grogs et des soirées guitares. Allez, on va se remettre un p'tit coup de Césaria Evora... Sylvia - 24/11/2011 22:11:02 Sounds nice. Wij vertrekken morgen naar Teneriffe voor 1 week. Ik ben benieuwd en hoop dat we eindelijk ook wat zon en warmte voelen. Voor het eerst sinds een heel lange tijd. Groetjes la mamou - 23/11/2011 22:38:14 dans la grisaille de l'après midi , je me disais qu'un nouvel article serait le bienvenu ... et voilà que ce soir nous nous endormirons avec du bonheur turquoise plein les mirettes ;-))) merci les filles ! Kariine - 23/11/2011 22:03:28 Euh,là, plage paradisiaque... le mot est faible :o) quel bleu !!