Mindelo - Ilha Sao Vicente

Sat 4 Apr 2009 11:30
Tarrafal to Mindelo, the port and capital of Sao Vicente, is a day-sail of about 45M past the uninhabited islands of Branco, Raso and Santa Luzia. Uninhabited by people but important breeding-sites for birds, notably the Raso lark - a species only found on Raso. All these islands are spiky and impressive, making for a spectacular sail. We found the wind and swell suddenly about 45 min after leaving Tarrafal, with the usual shambles while we got two reefs in quickly, put some genoa out and set up Monica, though some unaccountably found pleasure in holding the tiller!
The triangular rock in the distance is Ilheu dos Passegos, much bigger and further away than it looks. The entry to the sheltered harbour of Mindelo lies between this and the adjoining headland. We stowed our double-reefed main early as the strait between Sao Nicolau and Santo Antao is a notorious "venturi" in which NE winds can double in strength within a few seconds. Needless to say, this didn't happen to us so we entered harbour in no more than F4-5. This passage didn't deliver the goods in terms of whales or dolphins, but we've seen plenty of Portuguese Man o'War jellyfish.
Mindelo has the only marina in Cape Verde, but not exactly as the term is understood on the Hamble. A concrete jetty has been.extended by a long spine pontoon with six side-branches. Depending on which side of a spur pontoon one approaches, mooring is either by backing upwind to a pickup line (Med style) or by picking up a buoy, threading a line through its ring and letting the wind carry the stern round until pontoon cleats are in reach. We were directed to do the latter, which is fine provided that, once moored, one remembers to take the dinghy to the buoy and apply some heavyweight anti-chafe protection. It took us a few days to realise the danger (threaded 3-strand warp down to last strand) but dealt with it by using my "horse-collar" - a piece of anchor chain covered in tight-fitting plastic hose with heavy wire-reinforced sanitary hose around that. The technique is to thread this through the buoy ring, join the ends with a monster shackle, then tie port and starboard mooring lines to the shackle using anchor bends.
Mindelo is a very odd city. The large-scale problems described in the guides of pickpocketing, hassle on the streets etc aren't evident. Unlike the smaller places that we have been to, there is a clear middle class that uses restaurants, bars, luxury shops and so forth. Most things can be found by combing the supermarkets, and some of the restaurants are quite elegant in a post-colonial way and provide good food at reasonable prices. (Though yesterday we dined on a huge lobster bought live and pretty cheaply from a bloke touring the boats.) There are even oddities such as a French cafe (La Pergola) that houses the French Cultural Centre and the French Consulate.
More when we have got more of the feel of this strange but seductive place.