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  • ggiannoccaro


Aggiornamento: 12 set 2023

After visiting Sal and Boavista I thought that the name Cabo Verde could not be less appropriate. But having had the opportunity to visit the other islands I had to change my mind .

Not only this archipelago is really very green, but nature as a whole is thriving, bursting in all its manifestations.

We stayed longer than expected and would have stayed even longer if we had not friends waiting for us in St Martin.

A month and a half has flown by and we were not even able to visit all the islands. Santiago, Maio and Santo Antao are still missing.

We left Sal at dawn. The idea was to fish over the 20 miles which separate Sal from Boavista.

I am not a great fisherman but in Cabo Verde I had my chance.

We anchored in Sal Rei, the largest town on the island. A dream anchorage. A large natural bay surrounded by beaches and protected by high dunes which shelter the bay from the incessant trade winds.

Across the Bay the bottom is sandy with 3 meters of depth. Ovcer the week we spent in Boa Vista at most we had 6 boats at anchor simultaneously.

Boa Vista alike Sal is an extremely dry island, but its beaches and dunes are spectacular. Tourism has arrived, but in a discreet way.

In the past it must have been a rich island, it can be deduced by observing the historical center of Sal Rei. Although it is yet to be restored, there is a richness in the architecture of these ruins, witness of a past far more wealthy of the present .

In Boa Vista we team up again with Manuel and Nuria, a Spanish couple we met in Sal and from there onwards we have been sailing together.

Police in CaboVerde requires yachts transiting the islands, to visit the offices of the maritime police to present their papers, which are held until departure. All this comes with a modest tax, regardless of length of stay and size of the boat.

In Sal Rei, the offices of the maritime police are housed within the new commercial port, away from the harbor where normally yachts are anchored.

Upon our arrival we went to the harbor, but the Police office was closed. We then went to the police office in the village, but we were told to go at the port the next day. So the next day another walk to the harbor. But the office of the maritime police was still closed. We then returned to the village, where a zealous agent told us to try again in the afternoon. Armed with good patience we tried again in mid-afternoon, but still nobody there. Se we returned to the police office in the village, this time asking to speak with an officer.

We could not talk with the officer, but we heard her screams. It was a woman, apparently very, very authoritative (and authoritarian ) and it was clear that her irritation was due to the stry made to her by his subordinate about our repeated pilgrimages to the offices of the port.

After the screaming was over, the agent has asked us to return to the port where we would have found someone waiting for us.

In fact, the " office " of the port, a room no bigger than 10 square meters , was open and the agent waiting for us apologized for at least 10 minutes, up to a poiny where he offered to give us his private cell phone in order to call him before going back to the port to pick up our documents at the departure.

From Boavista we sailed to Sao Nicolao, definitely the most surprising among the islands we visited. We anchored in Tarrafal, a small town on the southeastern coast , grown a lot since the early 60's when Gesualdo Fiorini, a monk, raised some money in Rome for the construction of a series of accommodations that gave birth to the community we know today.

From the sea Sao Nicolao appears an island with very steep and barren coast, almost like Arizona in the sea. But it is the interior of the island that leaves speechless. Beyond these steep and barren hillsides, the view opens to lush green valleys, nestled between even higher slopes, but this time anything but dry. A real Machu Green!

The surrounding sea reserve many surprises as well. The amount of fish that crosses these waters is impressive. But mostly groupers and lobsters have been our passion. I did some sparefishing to fill up the freezer before the Atlantic Crossing and the results were beyond all expectations .

In Tarrafal we also met a number of other boaters at anchor, all families in transit to the Caribbean.

The Filao, with their aluminum monohull. Giulien and Cecile have already passed by Cabo Verde 10 years ago during their first Atlantic crossing. Today they have 3 children and they decided to take a sabbatic year to travel with them.

Francois and Sofie de Chezelles that for some tome were planning a good sabbatical year at the turn of 2013 and 2014, to sail with their two little puppies. But then came Nora to enlarge the little family. So instead of giving up on the project, they made out of Nora (who is just 9 months old) one of the youngest sailor ever.

Erwan and Dominique Leon also on board with their kids and a genesis of this sabbatical to be told.

They have been victims of abuse building. They filed a court case against, blocking the construction subject of the abuse. The constructor trying to unlock the project, essentially asked what they would consider as a fare transaction to find a deal? They asked for a catamaran and all expenses to sail one year with the entire family!

In life we need luck, however I might add that it is also as much important how to make the best out of it and Erwan definitely could not use better this chance.

The French Ministry of Education support a  distance learning program based on internet which allows children to continue their studies even while traveling with the help of their parents.

In Italy we do not have these types of supports, however the would be useless since it never happen to me to meet a family who had taken a sabbatical year to go sailing around the world.

The 10 days spent in Tarrafal have really flown, and we are getting closer and closer to the departure date  our ocean crossing. So December 16th we moved to Mindelo in Sao Vicente, the most developed city of the archipelago .

Mindelo looks totally different from the other Verdian’s towns. It has nothing to do with decadence. On the contrary, it is a small town in full growth. An endogenous growth and only marginally related to tourism. Trade, services and some small industrial activity are fueling the entire local economy, the results of which are clearly evident .

Mindelo is very well kept, in colors reminiscent of the Caribbean islands. It is also very " cultured ". Music, exhibitions, cinema, poetry and all, or nearly all, free.

We obviously took advantage, enjoying a couple of concerts and two photographic exhibitions .

Mindelo The bay is a huge natural harbor, protected from winds of all quadrants. But Mindelo also has a nice marina, this season full of boats waiting to cross. At the bar you can listen the strangest stories of the sea. The intensity of the strangeness is usually function of the number of bottles of beer on the table of the narrator. A truly magic place .

In Mindelo our small community was joined by 2 Spaniards. Gonzalo and Ana. Traveling on their sloop for 25 years! If you need information on a remote island in any corner of the globe ask to Gonzalo .

Particularly conducted on any cultural event is celebrated around him as long as it relentlessly and democratically free !

Great Gonzalo .

Ana is definitely a superior being, with a smile that comes from her eyes even before her lips. A natural artist,  who recites and sings even when conversing. Not to forget when playing her little ukulele, which she pretend to still learning, enchanting you with her gypsy melodies. Great Ana.

On November 1, from Lanzarote in the Canary Islands departed Atlantic Odyssey, a rally for families organized by a famous British journalist and author of many pilot books, Jim Cornell .

At the rally also participates Marco Polo, the Outremer 55 Light belonging to Jean Michel and Anne our Brazilian friends met last spring in La Grande Motte.

Before their departure we agreed that we would have traded daily each other's positions. The route that leads from the Canaries to the Caribbean goes about 100 miles north of Mindelo and thanks to the fact that our departure from the Cabo Verde was planned for November 22, we would have ended pretty close.

So from 17th November we started to follow Marco Polo.

The weather forecast downloaded on November 21 informed us of an area of instability which would have affected a large area of the Atlantic between the 28th and November 30th and that would cross our course. This area would have resulted in a variety of weather situations, strong squalls and wind squalls, headwinds and especially more days of calm.

For this reason we decided to postpone the start, waiting for the passage of this phenomenon. We decided also, to give immediate notice of the situation to our friends of Marco Polo, now at sea.

Received our message Marco Polo, at that time heading the fleet, got in contact with the organizers to see if they too had the same scenario that we had communicated. At first the answer was negative so the Brazilian friends continued on their way .

But the next day, after an email from us describing the weather pattern even in a more persuasive way, Michelle Jean and Anne again contacted the organizers asking more insistently confirmation or denial. At this point the organizers informed that the forecast were precisely as depicted by us.

Marco Polo then decided to bow to Cabo Verde (with almost 2 days and 400 miles later than our first communication). Following the decision of Marco Polo, other boats at the Atlantic Odyssey decided to head to Mindelo .

The arrival of Marco Polo in Mindelo, exponentially increased the ability to revel in the consolidation of the Clan Tarrafal. Appetizers at the bar of the marina and dinner on board followed one another at a rapid pace for the rest of your stay.

Never the less the weather disturbance had now passed and we all wanted to go.

The problem was that not all of us were heading to the same destination .

Not to mention the large difference in speed between our boats .

It was therefore time to say arrivederci .

All " sabbatical " crews predict a return to Europe for the start of next summer, crossing from the north part of the Caribbean to the Azores.

Since we have decided to spend this first season in the tropics in the north of the Caribbean, we are confident that we will have other opportunities to embrace the Filao, the Leon, the Chezelles .

Something different appliy to Manolo and Nuria. Unfortunately, Golden Dragon, their Ketch, it's really too slow compared to Angelique II.  She requires at least 20 knots of true wind to sail downwind. For these reasons Manolo decided to wait for further re-establishment of the trade winds. The appointment with them is in St.Kitts on time to celebrate the New Year together and then continue at least until the Dominican Republic.

November 30th so we weighed our anchor and we set sails to Fogo about 80 miles south of Sao Vicente which would allow us to find the best wind on our route to St. Martin .

With us, Marco Polo and Shazam , a Bavaria 44 with 3 very nice "post- middle-aged " Israelis on board, who left Telaviv last summer for their sabbatic year .

Fogo is substantially a large Stromboli. Really beautiful scenery and landscapes, perhaps only diminished by the fact that the undersigned has grown in the shade of the highest volcano in Europe .

Fogo has only a small shelter, a narrow bay sheltered by a breakwater that can accommodate no more than 3/4 boats.

At Fogo Jean Michel has proven its ability as an organizer  staging an unforgettable barbecue on the beach with lots of live local music and tuna kindly offered by Shazam 1!

The next day a van was waiting for us for a visit to the "Parc Natural de Fogo " . Remained in the boat just our friend Leontis , absorbed in the newly discovered e-books and Francoise, a fellow crossing on board of Marco Polo.

The day ended with a stop in Sao Felipe, the capital of Fogo, for the last supplies before the big crossing.

I think we were still paying for our last minute shopping when a call reached the cell phone of Jean Michel .

Francoise was informing him that a strong gust of wind had dropped the moorings of Marco Polo and Shazam 1. Francoise had turned on the engine and Marco Polo brought out of the harbor , while Shazam 1 was slashed  on the beach and was recovered by local fishermen.

A ride down the slopes of Fogo brought us back to the harbor.

Angelique II was safely at anchor where we left her. Marco Polo was just outside the port Shazam and 1, like nothing had happened, was comfortably moored on the quay reserved for large cargo .

Francoise, in an obvious state of great agitation  he could not communicate with us and continued to motoring Marco Polo in the waters off the port . The dinghy were all on board their boats, so the only way to reach the boats was swimming .

I do not know why I had the distinct feeling that everyone was waiting for me. So I put myself in my underwear and did a nice swim up to Marco Polo.

Once on the boat I took the controls of the engines, I asked Francoise to move to the bow, I motor Marco Polo inside of the breakwaters, I gave anchor with all chain available, thus ensuring a safe anchorage to the boat.

Then I reached Angelique II where I asked Leontis to tell me what had happened.

A few hours before our arrival a strong gust of wind struck the anchors.

Marco Polo has the same anchor which I had found aboard Angelique II when I bought her. A 20 kg Danfort , which made me spend a few sleepless night last year when I arrived in Greece after which I immediately decided to change. As my old dear friend Mehmet use to say, anchor is the only true insurance of a boat.

Unfortunately, Marco Polo did not resist the squall of wind and just the fortuitous presence on board of Francoise had avoided the worst.

For Shazam 1 the story was slightly different .

The boat,  by the skipper 's own admission had only 15 meters of chain, at a depth of about 4 meters; decidedly short. Furthermore Shazam 1 also had a line ashore from the stern.

In this situation, if a boat is hit by a strong crosswind, not being able to pivoting on the anchor because it is held ashore by the stern line, loose its anchor and pivoting on its stern will inexorably end ashore!

This is what happened to Shazam 1.

Fortunately downwind of the stern there was a beach where we had done the previous evening barbecue .

So the boat was resting on a sandy bottom with no damage to the hull .

A group of fishermen immediately noticed the situation and with the help of three boats operated the rescue bringing Shazam 1 back on safe water. Good job.

It is certain that even in Cabo Verde this situation is defined as a rescue of a boat in imminent risk of loss allowing those who had saved the boat the right to ask for a reward up to a value equal to half the value of the boat.

A difficult negotiation for our friends Shazam 1.

This situation opened a long negotiating table where on one side we had a group of young local fishermen and on the other the owner os Shazam 1 with Jean Michel and myself who acted as interpreters.

The Israeli owner referring to me its objections in English which I would translate into Italian to Jean Michel who would translate in Portuguese for the fishermen. And vice versa for the objection against biased.

A nice Babilon Tower.

The fishermen demanded compensation (fair in my honest opinion) of 1.000 € , found disproportionately by the owner.

The matter was compounded by the fact that from the boat of our friends, it seems, was missing an iPad.

Indirectly, therefore, the owner was accusing the rescuers of stealing the iPad.

The young fishermen, shure of their behaviour, called the local police who arrived within few minutes confirming the following.

The fishermen once become aware of the situation they immediately called the police who arrived at the port immediately and gave them the order to proceed with the rescue of the boat.

The police oversaw all phases of the recovery and at completion of the rescue  all rescuers were searched to make sure that nothing had been removed from the boat.

At this point, any direct or indirect accusation to the rescuers appeared not only unfounded but also offensive .

The police, apparently annoyed by the behavior of the owner, made all effort to mediate a satisfactory solution to both parties. The incident ended with the payment of € 500 for the services performed by the ( honest and respectable I might add) rescuers.

Closed this story we had no mood to spend another night in that anchorage. We decided to head to Brava, the westernmost islands of Cabo Verde.

We arrived at Brava Raja de Agua, which was already very dark but having studied the maps well before the start I knew that we would not encounter any problem in  anchoring.

There we found the Filao family and the Outremer 45 owned by Willy David. A catamaran as fantastic as its owner. Willy because of an accident is confined to a wheelchair. But this did not stop him to sail

He had modified his Outrmer (among other things a real war machine with carbon mast and boom, spinnaker and spinnaker on board) to enable him to manage the boat by himself.

The next day, December 3 at 12:00 the two monohulls Filao and Shazam 1 set their sails for the crossing followed 3 hours later by the three beautiful Outremer .

I just have one last comment to make.

All pilot books I've read on Cabo Verde were referring to a widespread delinquency from which to defend themselves. Well lock yourself in a boat, enrolled guardians , watch out for the streets.

In the past month and a half in Cabo Verde we only had to defend ourselves from the smiles, and kindnesses of locals and maybe some marketing technique too much "push" for the most part , the latter, by the ubiquitous Senegalese merchants .

I would recommend to correct these pilot books !

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