We had arrived in Mindello, island of Sao Vicente, Cape Verde, on Friday 22nd. Christmas was on Monday so we had a busy day checking in, changing some local currency and shopping for food and internet data. First we paid up for the marina, which worked out at €28/day including electricity and a100 litre water ration. Then we had to check in with the immigration office and port police (who hung on to our ships registration). Then we went in search of a bank. They were all crammed with queues in the street – probably the Christmas rush we thought. An ATM worked but there was a big charge on withdrawal, so we gave up. In practice the supermarkets accepted Euros and gave change in CV Escudos, so we got local currency enough for the markets that way. R had trouble getting a data card for internet access (roaming rates were extortionate). Buying one was easy (€18 for 6Gb) but it took 3 visits to get it to work, each with a long wait. This was alleviated by local Xmas singers who came into the shop to entertain the queue!
Xmas singers in the phone shop
Next we paid a visit to the fish market, which even late in the day had a good range of produce. It quickly became apparent that we were lambs to the slaughter, the prices asked for seemed high and you had to pay both the stallholder and the person who cleaned the fish, plus a few cents for a bag. The produce spilled onto the street where vendors with bowls or wheelbarrows of fish hawked them to passers-by, joining others selling salads and vegetables. Both the supermarkets and the street vendors continued trading all weekend, so we need not have worried about getting enough supplies!
The town near the waterfront was full of mostly cheerful people buying or selling, queuing, or just hanging out. Traffic was busy with cars and trucks often bulging with people and goods on the move. Some of the vehicles looked a little worse for wear, but were driven with consideration. The ferry port too was crowded, people waiting with boxes and bags full of produce. We wanted to take the ferry to one of the neighbouring islands, but did not fit this into our schedule. North of the town is a fine beach, but with the harmattan blowing all week it felt too cold for swimming!
Mindello anchorage from the beach
On the passage SW from the Canaries, when using the engine in any sort of swell, there had been a lot of noise from the prop shaft and worse than usual water ingress from the lip seal. There was clearly too much play in the cutlass bearing, which needed to be replaced. This can only be done with the boat out of the water, so we approached the local charter and boat servicing company, BoatCV. The answer was not encouraging, no space on the local boatyard and prohibitive cost at the shipyard. We postponed further enquiries until after Christmas, but also emailed some yards in the Caribbean.
Back at the boat, another UK yacht, Bella Vista, was mooring next to us, and others were on the same pontoon. The Bella Vista crew had the idea of reserving a section of the marina bar for Christmas day, and we booked a place at the party. We also met up with Aland Islander S (whom we had met at Pasito Blanco). We had brought two little boxes of tinsel and baubles, and some early cards brought from home, so the cabin and cockpit were duly decorated on Christmas Eve. A long strip of LED lights was installed under the hood, making a bright cockpit in the evening. A shout from Bella Vista gathered the crews together for an evening at the bar.
Xmas lunch at the floating bar
Christmas morning was enlivened by an exchange of Whatsapp messages and photos from the family. Then we all gathered at a long table in the floating bar, bought our drinks and laid out the food we had all brought along. The BVs were joined by crews from German yacht Zanzibar, Contessa 32 Jingo from Falmouth, and at least three other boats. The food was excellent and we had a most convivial lunch together. In the late afternoon some of the others joined us aboard Ambition II for tea and some Christmas cake from Jenny at home (which went down very well). After everyone had departed there was time for a Whatsapp voice chat with the family in London, to complete the day.
Next day the shops were open and street sellers in business as usual. There was one more possibility to get Ambition II hauled out to see to the noisy prop shaft, so we walked around the bay North of the city to the Cabnave shipyard. However they were still closed so we walked out again next day, and succeeded in getting an interview with the manager. He was very helpful but said we would have to hire a crane for the lift out, and book space on the quay when it was free. This was all feasible but expensive and likely to delay us. In the meantime, we had made enquiries with yards in the Caribbean, and although we would be unable to use the engine at sea, we decided to postpone the job until we could get a conventional haul-out.
The Atlantic Islands Bird book recommended a visit to the Mindello Sewage Works (yummy) – or rather the surrounding marshes – as a site for many rare birds. This was a 3km walk along the bay to the south, past the smaller boatyard full of rusting hulks, and along the beach where another sunken ship lies. There were some curlew on the beach, and several egrets searching the few damp puddles in the saltmarsh. But the area was very dry at this time, and encrusted with salt. All we found were some probable locusts and some big spiders! On the walk back, a possible Egyptian Vulture flew over the suburbs, and at the marina, a young Greenshank took up residence along the shore.
One of several wrecks in the bay
Our journey Westward beckoned. R went up the mast to check the rig, and found a split pin missing from the jumper shroud (so had to climb again to replace it)! Visits to the supermarket, butcher, vegetable market and street vendors stocked up our fresh food supplies, and 4 meat meals were cooked to store in the fridge for the start of the voyage (after that it would be tins!). Tomatoes, peppers, oranges, apples and bananas (green and yellow) went in the fruit net, salads in the fridge. Potatoes, onions, sweet potatoes and carrots (wrapped in tissue) were under a seat. On 28th December we exchanged contact details with our new friends and visited the police, immigration and marina offices to check out. Having carefully un-moored the boat in the usual strong wind, we motored out to the anchorage for final preparations…
Mindello marina and town (masthead view)