Friday, November 18, 2011


Day 14

It’s a strange feeling, Watching the sunset behind the last hills for at least 3 weeks, while directly opposite a massive purplish moon, perfectly full tonight, rises out of the ocean. 

Nature puts on the farewell fireworks.

It’s been a wicked ride so far, and I already have so much to digest, notwithstanding Herve’s  fantastic olive oil and garlic-saturated cooking. Though it’s a journey of a different kind from here on in. Wind, wave, weather wise what will wappen will wappen (just couldn't resist getting some more 'w's in there). Lliterally all we can do is ‘ride it out’. We’re heading south, hoping to come across the slightly stronger winds closer to the Saharan coast. We’ll probably go as far south as the Cape Verde Islands, maybe even stop there (Africa!) before swinging westward with the trade winds, eventually complete the 3,000 mile ark by curving north past Trinidad and Tobago to Antigua, where we will sit on the beach, snorkel, fish, drink rum, call loved ones and try to remember how to walk on hard ground that doesn’t move beneath our feet. Until then though it’s hopefully some solid winds, a couple of big fish and no cyclones. I never thought I’d be doing this…

Day 17
Is this wind the beginning of the Trades? Hope so! Made a flying entry into the tropics (22 degrees North) early this morning, reaching speeds of ten knots in the darkness. Great fun! Our 4th day at sea on this leg. Just as the Passageweather software predicted, the wind picked up yesterday about midday after a couple of slow days and as I type we a doing an average of 7 or so knots for the Cape Verde Islands, where Cap’n decided to make an impromptu landfall because a) when else are we gonna get this close to the Verdes!? And b) we forgot to buy his favorite fruit yoghurt in the Canaries.
Harry Hydrovane (wind-powered self-steering system: basically a small sail that connects to it’s own rudder at the stern and steers for us) has undergone several DIY improvements involving weights, plastic bottles and gladwrap. He is faring somewhat better, but needs to sack up a bit if this is the kind of wind we are in for. Still too much zigzagging and not enough straight up the guts.
A couple of fish have shown interest, including one massive bugger that chomped our biggest lure (RIP monster killer). I pretty much ran out of line so he decided to bite through it and be on his way. Herve thought it might’ve been a marlon, and according to him he’s not often wrong. A second spate of repairs to our beloved, tow generator-mangled Magnum DeepdiverÔ lure proved fruitless (he just won’t dive for us anymore) and a burial at sea is planned complete with a 13 gun salute later this afternoon.
Herve’s cooking is as always exceptional. Roast Chicken, Roast pork, Fresh bread etc. We must’ve gone through litres of olive oil and a couple of kilos of garlic so far, no doubt this has something to do with the copious amounts amount of wind being generated and what I’ve fondly coined the “Herve Winds” or “Herves” for short –  currently around 5 to 7 knots and strengthening.
Hope to reach the Verdes by Thursday AM. We need a fish or two.

Day 20
Been at sea a week now. It’s very difficult to capture open ocean sailing with words or even photos. The ocean is around 4 km deep in some parts, and we have sailed over underwater seamounts higher than Mt. Fuji. The winds have largely settled in to 20 knots of nor easterly and we hadn’t changed the sails for 3 days until we jibed on our final approach to the Capes Verdes. Yep, going to Africa! Eta is around 11pm tonight. Good sailing all round so far with the odd broadside by the solid Atlantic swells to keep us on our toes and tightly gripping our sunset whiskeys. Averaging about 8 knots which is too fast for fishing but can’t complain as the water rushes by us sending the flying fish scattering, including a couple on our deck . I’m just about to shove some wire down the length of one, connect a big hook and see if I can’t catch something bigger with it. A couple of really big dolphins (I thought they were whales) gave us a good show as they launched out of the water a few times on their way past, probably checking us out as we were them. Belly smackers to be proud of.
Day 21: Mindelo!
We had an interesting time coming in last night with the strongest winds of the trip so far at 30 knots in the pitch black passage towards the anchorage between , Fogo and St. Vicentethe two islands where we are currently at anchor. Mindelo is the capital of St. Vicente, a town of Portugese heritage who speak an amazing Portugese Creole language. My impression at the one hour mark is  volcanic landscapes covered in tropical flora and fauna, inhabited by laid back people with big smiles. 

That thar be a foine Spanish galleon me mateys! Aarrrgh! Harbor in Mindelo.

I have been here one hour and already I know that our stay here won’t be long enough. I also realised that in the tropics the moon waxes/wanes horizontally, with a top half and a bottom half. It was a bottom half moon tonight, a Cheshire Cat smile.  Is only the top half full on some nights? To me the fact that people for centuries have looked at the sky and used the information obtained to navigate across expanses of ocean of which I’ve still only seen a very small portion, is astounding and awe inspiring. You set a course and sail as close as you can in that direction allowing for variances in wind.  It was a good feeling when the Verdes rolled over the horizon after a week at sea. Glad we have GPS etc., I’d be shithouse with a sextant.

Day 22: Le petit Jesus un culotte du velours!
This is French. Literally it means “Little Jesus wearing velvet knickerbockers” and it is used to refer to something as being pretty bloody special, as indeed the sight of a mini Jesus wearing said costume would be. Mindelo is pretty bloody special. I love this place for reasons that I will never be able to fully convey here. The fact that it’s in the middle of nowhere means that it is not touristy at all. 

Enough said.

You step off the boat straight into the real deal. The language is Portugese officially but everyone speaks a kind of Creole. We found an amazing little place for lunch which had one dish one the menu, coral trout Creole style. 

Mut Zapp! (Bloody delicious!) 

Then we commandeered a bloke with a ute full of potatoes and onions and headed off over the volcanos to a few of the beaches, past ladies carrying big loads of bananas on their heads, through little villages of run down stone huts, kids playing in the dust and washing hanging among corn fields dotted with windmills, none of which seemed to be turning despite the decent wind. No seemed to mind either. 

Onion truck island tours inc.

There is very little money, and the harbor full of yachts is an easy target for people trying to make a buck in pretty much anyway you can imagine, but in my very limited experience of the place I’d say the people are happy. Definitely friendly.
Ponche! (Rum punch) or Groque (grog) are the two local tipples, and they kick your arse in a good way. The punch is the authentic stuff, made with lots of molasses (a kickback to the sugarcane slavery of the islands’ history) and limes. 5 bucks will get you 1.5L. I could go on and on, but we’re about to leave and I have to wash clothes and buy food (and punch). So here are some photos. Definitely no more stops between here and the Caribbean, more than 2,000 miles straight west.

Cheap rum punch and veggie market. 


  1. Bloody hell some of the photos didn't stay in there box. Oh well.

  2. Goodness gracious. Too much profundity to digest. Point form a) Cricket: Wanderers - S/A vs. AUS - 2nd test - Stein approach. Lilly rec...stop...Aus 251/6 needing 4 runs in 1st innings..stop. Fucked basically...stop.
    2) Hawaiians/Pac. Islanders say -- in the waning gibous, rest your testicles on the most solid part of the boat...stop
    3) Don't stop
    4) Fare thee well Muchacho

  3. Hi Luke-san,
    it's been a more than 22 days since starting sailing, hasn't it !
    It's to read your journey.
    Pls enjoy rest of the journey.
    Caribian sea is waiting for you !