We are approaching Ilho Da Sal, one of the islands of Cap Verde and where we will be announcing our entrance. All the guides say that to go to Cap Verde is to travel in Africa. Though literacy and life expectancy are much higher than in Western Africa, the islands are very poor and thievery is common. They also write about the lack of proper signals for mariners along its coast and in its ports. They highly recommend we do no reach our destination at night time to avoid crashing into unmarked difficulties. Case in point, the port where we are headed, Baja Da Palmeira, has 2 shipwrecks in the port! One is submerged while the other can be spotted by its 2 masts that still reach out of water.
Force 4 winds are blowing favorably and Slow Motion is doing what she does best: picking up speed. We have brought in all sails except the main sail, which we have reduced as much as possible (3 ris). Still, we are advancing at 5 knots. Our ETA is 5 AM, a good 3 hours before the sun rises. Apart from bringing in the main sail and using only a fraction of the geneker, we don’t know how to go much slower.
There are 2 crescents of luminosity to the south where cities must be. Were it day time we would already see land. As it is, I see on starboard the light of a sailboat going in the same direction as us, the light of a tanker far behind us, and numerous stars. As we are approaching the coast, we must be especially vigilant of potential vessels out at sea with no AIS signal, particularly fishing boats. We changed our shift to accommodate our landing. Indeed, this night will be a short one for both of us as all hands – all 4 of them! – will be on deck for our arrival.
A flying fish just flew on deck! The waters in these parts are full of them. They fly out of water to escape predators and can skim the surface for many meters. Sometimes our boat ends up in their trajectory. Yesterday morning a dried up flying fish was stuck in front of the seat of manning station. This one flew right into our cockpit. It wouldn’t let me touch it – or I am not very capable of handling a flopping suffocating fish – so I took out our fishing net, captured it, and plopped it back at sea. Moody appeared at the door with a questioning look in his eyes only once my little operation was done. I can stand watching him amuse himself hunting down insects, but not fish. Two days ago Pierrick caught a “corifène”, a large beautiful specimen. As he wheeled it in, two other fishes of the same species swam along side it. Maybe they were looking to catch the tasty treat their friend had caught, but I like to believe they were accompanying him in his struggle, ready to attack if only they knew what to attack. I like to believe they were his family, being by his side.
So far in our travels we have explored Spain, from Catalonia to the Canary Islands. I have seen and learned a lot and have fallen in love with Andalusia, yet we have never really left our comfort zone. Cap Verde, Africa, will be our first step into foreign land. Even the Caribbean, which has a highly developed tourist and boating industry, seems less foreign than this country where there is only one port, in Mindelo, with actual pontoons. In the others, we must anchor as in a bay and use our dinghy to get to land. Apparently mostly French and Dutch mariners even go so far south. The “anglo-saxons” tend to cross the Atlantic from the Canary Islands, even if they must dip southwards to catch the westward winds.
As we approach land, the wind is getting strong and the sea feels more agitated. I look forward to sunrise so I can see this land and maybe get a better idea of what awaits.