Cruising people suffer from an illusion. The future is unrealistically close; the present loses definition and the past quickly fades. I remember vividly our first long passage across the Atlantic - I wrote about it – after two days we had forgotten La Gomera, after a week that seemed like a month all we could see in our imagination were palm trees, golden sands, blue seas and St Lucia. Then a brief study of the chart brought the realisation that we were not yet half way. It has been the same on every passage since. Three days ago, on the ferry crossing from Santo Antao, I spotted through the saloon windows a familiar rock outside Mindelo and the large white buildings round the harbour. I was already mentally walking down the ramp on to the dock when I glanced at my watch; we were 25 minutes into an hour-long journey. It’s a very powerful illusion.
At the time of our little mains’l drama, five miles out of here, we were fully focused on the marina at Horta and Dartmouth Castle. All that had happened to us over the past seven years had become blurred in the memory, two long passages still to come were in soft focus. Our eyes were on distant horizons; we were nearly home. Now we have drifted back into regular cruising mode. We live from day to day keeping up with the shopping and the laundry, chasing suppliers, chivvying workmen, commiserating with others in a worse position than ourselves, cheering Andy Murray, groaning at the Lions, celebrating other people’s birthdays, slipping over on the dock and giving ourselves a spectacular bruise, seeking diversion in distant restaurants and taking a couple of days break on a nearby island. It’s all good fun but we are making no serious preparations for departure and have no clear idea when that will be. We are dawdling.
Marina Mindelo, where we are dawdling.
To be frank, there are mixed feelings among the clientele gathered round the floating bar. This is a rather poor country with limited resources and the local people have little appreciation of the value of time. We ourselves have been well served when it mattered but others are less happy. Some get angry in their frustration and there have been reports even of fisticuffs. Gentle pressure may help, at least our own peace of mind, but losing one’s cool rarely does any good. Those of us who have been at it for several years and have seen a good few out-of-the-way places have learnt that the only sensible approach is to just let it all wash over.
Our two days on Santo Antao were certainly interesting and the excursion provided a welcome break. The story is best told through the pictures – it is difficult to describe the dramatic scenery and resourceful agriculture of the people. The island is higher than most in the archipelago, it pokes up into the clouds and the eastern end is wet in season. The higher we climbed the greener the scene. But underneath it is a miserable lump of grey volcanic rock, jagged peaks separated by steep-sided valleys. The wonderfully ingenious people grow a great variety of vegetables on vertiginous terraces a few metres wide. They plant when the rains come and harvest four to six months later. One of the more extensive crops is sugar cane, used only for making an excellent rum, known locally as grog. Even the dry river beds are cultivated. Once the floods have subsided each eligible family sows in the damp places between the rocks and harvests a great variety of produce before the rains come again. When they do come many tons of soft grey rock are washed down into the ocean. In another million years the island is going to look very different.
The sail was finished on Friday and will be shipped on Monday, via Air Angola to Praia on Santiago and thence by the local carrier to Sao Vicente. That is if everybody can be persuaded to play their part. We live in hope.
1. Our guest house with a substantial extension being built below.
2. Women carrying the sand. There is no possibility of motorised transport to the construction site and the path to our guest house is “interesting”.
View down the valley of Paúl from our guest house in Cha de Manuel do Santos
The distillery. It was the bulls’ rest day but this is the old authentic grog-making press.
The municipal piggery outside Ponta do Sol. Families with a pig or two rent a sty. What view!
Astonishing terracing, spectacular even in the dry season.
Bringing home the catch at 1200 in Ponta do Sol
The volcano’s crater, intensively cultivated
Shared labour. Water carriers, man and beast.