16:53.00N 25:00.00W Mindelo Meanderings

Sat 26 Dec 2015 13:26
Flags from many countries flutter from foreign yachts in the generous winds as everyone awaits their chosen time to depart westwards. Every day, even on Christmas Day, full of water, food and fuel sailors leave with mixed minds. Barry and Wayne aboard their Sun Odysey achieved their Yachtmasters in Gibraltar earlier this year and set off full of optimism only to endure various failures on their yacht most especially the goose neck, where the boom attaches to the mast, breaking twice and the boom crashing to the deck.
When I asked them at our Christmas Eve dinner if they were looking forward to being back at sea they answered simultaneously, “No”. Their confidence had suffered a set back and I felt sorry for them. Rob and I said what we could to put a rosier perspective on their situation and their past instructor has done his bit too. They have just cast off and disappeared into the dusty mist that shrouds San Antao. I hope we see them again.
Strangely we have not felt like exploring beyond the town. With the visibility being so poor it seems hardly worth the taxi ride to the high peaks and there is so much going on in and around the town and harbour.
Local fishermen in their open boats come in to the wooden fish quay to unload. Their catch is washed, scaled and gutted on the concrete wall around the rainwater ditch that is conveniently washed clean by each high tide.
On entering the fish market our senses are mashed with the smells of fish, the sellers and buyers shouting loudly over the prices and the sight of piles of tuna, baths full of bright orange fish and the floor covered randomly with plastic troughs full with all shapes and sizes of marine creatures. I showed the lady the width of tuna steak we wanted and she carefully cut two, handed them to her friend on the till, who popped another piece on and charged us for 1KG. Its the same in the veg market where Andrea filled our bags with oranges, apples, bananas and salad veg, weighing different products together and charging by the kilo.
I spied second use whisky bottles filled with Ponche of different flavours. “What is this, Andrea?” “Punch!” She replied and let me have a smell. At 6 euros we thought we’d give the coconut flavoured one a try. Not at all bad once the solids are shaken into the white rum.
All around the town people of all ages are busy with their daily work. There are many tall and very slim folk, girls and young women clutching tiny, beautiful babies to their breasts, a funeral entourage for Maria, who judging by the tears, was a much loved lady. Lots of people are genuinely maimed, hobbling on crutches. But not so the lad who showed us an empty sleeve hoping Rob would take pity, and ambled off swinging his arms as we happened to look back over our shoulders.
Another boy approached us in good health and obvious maternal care and suddenly cupped his hands towards us with a pained _expression_ on his face. But there are many unemployed men and one just wishes an environmentally sound new industry could set up and suck up all those out of work who want a job.
Rather as people often talk about their ills together so mariners talk about the woes on board. We discovered when Rob filled up our fuel tank from our cans that we had used less than 40 ltrs of fuel in 19 hours of the motor being on. Less than 2 ltrs per hour and that was very pleasing. However, we also found the water-maker has for some time been sending all its fresh water overboard with the waste brine. So when we at sea and noted the tank did not appear to be filling the gauge was reading correctly. So when we cross the Atlantic it will be with a fixed and decreasing supply instead of an endlessly renewable supply. As long as we can sort it in Guadeloupe, where there are agents, before we enter the Pacific.
Rob found seawater was seeping under the shroud deck plates right into the cupboard in the saloon so he has cleaned out and re-bedded them with new sealant.
We were sitting in the cockpit, watching the osprey circling over us and the turtle bobbing his head up as he swims near us, waiting for the return of the washing. It is four days since Umberto took our motley collection to his mum. Just as we are about to venture ashore for a meal he returns full of apologies but his mum did not get electricity to do the ironing until that morning. The washing is all lovely and clean, and it wasn’t the fact that he charged us 30 euros for the job (three times more than the marina service) that troubled me but the fact he started off by charging us 20 and then saw the wad of notes in Rob’s wallet. And I thought I’d been cynical to think that at least I would have more room in my wardrobe if he didn’t return!
The meal was an experience of post colonial Mindelo. Step back 50 years to 1950’s decor in the Pensoa Chave D’Ouro boarding house, two men in the corner singing and playing guitars, the lofty room opening through double doors onto the narrow balcony above the busy street. Pictures of local people and reproductions of European hunting scenes hanging from the picture rail. Shiny cream fabric draped over arched door frames and an ancient waiter, from the period, carrying out his tasks with slow, methodical perfection, taking plates from the dumb waiter in a specific order.
The Maitre lady sat with her old friend in the corner keeping an eye on things in what for us was a charming experience was possibly for the young waiter in training very scary.
We have made contact with the Marina in Guadeloupe who look forward to our arrival sometime around the 16th of January and now are minds are turning towards our crossing. We are fuelled up, tanks of water full and fresh food shopping done.
In fact we did the latter on Christmas Eve and found eggs hard to find, it was no joke). The lady in the market had trays full but would not sell to us. Here supermarkets do not have the variety of produce they do in UK and shopping often means visiting them all. Still no eggs was not good. So we went back two hours later and she slid us a dozen, gesticulating that we were not to let on to them in the main market what she was doing. At a bar on the street I swapped them into our own boxes and hid them in my bag!
We had supper in the Marina Bar on Christmas Eve. They have a cook there who I think cooks her mum’s recipes. Rob had duck, churrizo and rice and my dish was flaked cod in cream with melted cheese on top. Just delicious. Pudding was bavaroise, a tasty mix of icecream, sorbet and fruit.
Christmas Day whizzed by with chats to the family and walks ashore with the hope of building up an appetite. I cooked all of the tuna so we could have some as salad and we had sauteed sweet potatoes with canary potatoes. Rob’s roast chicken in a bag was jazzed up with gravy and given a quick zap in the microwave. The bottled artichoke hearts got the same treatment and we sat in the cockpit for the feast, wondering where were our friends, Chris and Sandra on Deep Blue. The warm Christmas pud with brandy and squirty cream rounded off this year’s seasonal indulgence perfectly.
As I type Deep Blue is motoring in the present calm and should arrive tomorrow morning.