16:53.28N 25:00.06W Written from Mindelo

Sat 19 Dec 2015 10:56
Night 7 We met the NE Trades which will carry us the rest of the way across the North Atlantic from about the 28th, but for now we cross them to spend Christmas tied alongside in Mindelo. Zoonie perked up to six knots in response.
Two beautiful flying fish landed on deck. The first Rob spotted when it was too late to return him live to his home. But the second flopped so loudly onto the side deck just behind Rob’s ear his on board experience was a short one. Funny, we have caught two big fish on this trip, enough for four evening meals, but would we consider frying a flying fish, not as yet.
We have the company of another yacht heading the same way and have seen our first ship in 6 days.
Sitting star gazing I wondered how the little gull fared after we returned it to its home and left him floating as normal with his head up. I held it as Rob gently released the hook from its neck. Its dome of soft white feathers, pale yellow beak, black beady eyes and black webbed feet to match. I hoped he didn’t pay with his life for his understandable mistake. We felt bad but the fishing goes on.
04.00am We passed the latitude 019’N at which Kerry and I and the rest of the ships crew aboard the Stavvy turned for Barbados on 24.01.04.
Day 8 17th December and we must think about our landfall. The pilot warns against nocturnal landfalls and indeed wrecks, some afloat and some sunk, still dot the harbour at Mindelo and although anchored ships are lit, the wrecks are not. It is best to treat the bay as if bordered with reefs, enter in the day and keep sharp lookout.
99 miles to go and we have to SLOW ZOONIE DOWN. She won’t like that. More than four knots of speed and we may have to turn around for a while. The main and genoa looked uncanny, reefed in a light wind. The rolling sea was a taste of what was to come with our crossing but Zoonie’s roll is more extreme than uncomfortable.
I cut non-slip matting from a roll and lay it on the galley surface areas. Bliss, and control.
Day 9 Rob sees the peak of Pico da Cruz (1584m) on San Antao, the island to the west of Sao Vicente (Mindelo) where we are heading. We are only five miles from shore and all we can see is a mountain peak above the haze formed by dust from the African interior blown on a hot dry wind of 17 knots plus and known as the Harmattan. This wind can extend for 600 miles and reduce visibility here to 50 metres, in our case 2 miles. The pilot says the islands never have fog, because fog is cloud at ground level and there are rarely any clouds around here. The wind is known to funnel down between the islands at up to 40 knots, but we experienced little increase from 15 knots we had been getting.
Sailing in on a bearing of 215’ we turned left in towards the anchored freighters and the very visible white cruise liner and slowly all was revealed. Two marineros in a red boat came out to us and when Rob mentioned Zoonie was unladylike in reverse they let us moor alongside in exactly the same corner berth we had occupied in the Challenger a few years before when Charly and Jonty were with us.
Marina formalities were soon completed and as we walked ashore along the wide concrete pier Umberto (Self employed gopher) came to meet us. This is the form because many young men are unemployed and one way of earning money is to guide newcomers. He showed us the Immigration office and the Maritime Police Office next door and when we returned to the pier end he met us again and took us around the main town area. Umberto showed us food shops, restaurants and bars and as I type his mum is doing our not inconsiderable pile of washing, supposedly using only a wash board! Watch this space on the results!
We had a tasty lunch in Club Nautico then returned for a rest aboard.
Our trip brought us 858 miles DOG (distance over the ground) from the satellite and 834 through the water so we obviously had 24 miles free from the Canaries Current. Our maximum wind had been 20 knots briefly. The engine was on for 19 hours mostly out of gear for manouvering and battery charging purposes. We loved the trip because the winds were fair, the weather beautiful, and we had plenty of opportunity to fly the spinnaker and chute.