Leaving Mindelo for Grenada
Friday 23 December, Departing Mindelo
We left Mindelo, 16:53.10N 25:00.00W, at midday on Friday 23rd and are heading to our first Atlantic waypoint about 500 miles west, and the first of four waypoints at approximately 500 mile intervals that describe a great circle between Mindelo and Grenada. The great circles are like stretching a string around a globe forming the shortest distance between two points on the surface of the earth.
Since we left Palmeira on Sal on Dec 16th, we have been to the island of Boa Vista which was a passage of about 45miles. There is no marina or harbour for yachts there and the only anchorage is in the lee of a small island called Sal Rei close to the main island in quite shallow water with a bit of swell coming both ways around the small island. However, the holding was good in firm sand, and we were happy to leave the boat. The entire anchorage was probably ten miles across, surrounded by blindingly white sand backed by dunes, and only had five other yachts at anchor. There were lots of foiling kite boarders. We ferried ourselves to the small island in the afternoon for a walk encountering a dry ‘moonscape’ interior which was uninhabited and walked over to a ruined building we had seen on the way down the coast returning via a ruined fort. The ruined building turned out be an old chapel with an separate bell tower (no bell) with exterior steps – we just hadto climb it for sefies. We dingied ashore in the evening for a beer and something to eat and again the following morning to clear in (and out) with the maritime police. This was the first place our documents had been scrutiniused carefully, so it was just as well that Brian had gone back out to the boat for his passport.
On Sunday we left at midday for the Ihla Sao Nicoloau about two thirds of the way to Mindelo and calculated that we should leave at 2pm to arrive at first light. In fact, with a good breeze on a useful point of sail we romped the 90 miles arriving at about 3 in the morning so had to work into the anchorage in the dark. In the morning we were nicely placed relative to other the boats. Perhaps there is an advantage in anchoring in the dark? Arriving on the beach in the harbour by dinghy, we were ‘claimed’ by 10-year-old Pedro who would look after out boat for 3 euros. Since the local kids had jumped all over our dinghy on Boa Vista leaving a pile of sand in it, we thought this would be a good deal. We dealt with the formalities, and then took a mini-bus to the Portuguese colonial- legacy town of Ribeira Brava, a tortuous and spectacular journey. The town was on the cooler, greener northern side of the island nestled in a valley so steep that the surrounding volcanic mountains loomed like vertical walls inland. Ribeira was pleasant, unspoiled and not geared for tourism, but it did have a municipal garden with a bandstand and shade and free wifi outdoors.
Back at the dock in the town of Tarrafal in the evening we took advantage of the public shower block – only one working shower in the two blocks (ostensibly his and hers) so we took turns to use the one facility. In the evening we ran into Steve Maltby from the R.Yealm on ‘Magic Dragon’ with his crewmates, Angus and Helen (Lawson?) – previous owners of Ayesha, who had just sailed from Tenarife. We had a drink with them and then headed back out to the beach to see if Pedro was as good as his word. The dinghy was there, no Pedro by the way, and the dinghy was covered inside with fine, black, wind-blown sand off the beach. The following morning we got the dinghy cleaned up and put way and set sail in very strong gusts of wind funnelling down valleys from the mountains; we then had a fast (wet - lots of spray) passage around the north of Sao Vicente to Mindelo in company with Magic Dragon -actually, they caught us up and overtook us but with the Hydrovane steering we were not overloading our sailplan.
Mindelo marina was a pleasure after several days at anchor and the town was buzzy and sophisticated – it had busses with destination boards, lots of live music, bars restaurants and shops, and avenues with trees. We cleared in on the first morning with the maritime police and had to collect our papers and get passports stamped out the next morning because the office was closing for Christmas. The first day was taken up with some maintenance, I replaced the headsail furling line which was looking feeble and frayed and may not have withstood a good blow when it was needed most. I also put some oil in the generator and checked our steering cables were all tight. The second day we focussed on shopping for fresh fruit and vegetables which were eye-wateringly expensive, and bottled water because the tap water which we filled one tank with is not recommended for drinking.
We ate the second evening in a busy restaurant -rather than eating our stock on the boat – and it was fine except that the wait for the main course was an age – staff were packing up for the night and lights being turned off before we were served. The funny bit was when the bill arrived, no big deal except that they billed us for six small beers instead of four and had forgotten two ice-creams. The waiter was flummoxed and his only remedy to rectify the bill was to try to make us drink two more beers! In the end, and much against company policy, they subtracted two beers from the ice-cream bill.
On the 23rd we got the boat tidied up for sea, did our last-minute pre-Christmas wifi messages with family and friends and slipped from the marina around midday. After topping up diesel with our remaining local currency, we set a full sail and headed west in a gentle breeze from the north. We were all impressed by Mindelo.
Belated Festive greetings, Tony, Brian and Morag.