Over the past few months we have been sailing Islands in the Azores, Madeira, Canaries, and Cape Verde. In the Azores we experienced variable summer winds, and from Madeira southward were the Northeast Tradewinds. All in all, the sailing was quite lovely. Next, we’ll be crossing the Atlantic to South America.
Approaching 4 weeks in Mindelo and fully recovered from a stomach bug, we decided it was a good time to move. After scrubbing below the waterline and filling the water tanks, we checked out of Mindelo to sail 130 miles to Tarrafal on Santiago. The passage was short, under 30 hours, but proved to be exciting. Continue reading Fishing in Cape Verde
Saturday-December 3, 2016-Sao Vicente, Cape Verde
The sun is shining on Mindelo! After nearly two weeks of mostly gray skies and intermittent drizzling rain, our battery bank is now beginning to claw out of a deep solar deficit. At the dreariest times we were regularly seeing daily energy productions of only 4 amp hours. This is just enough electricity to power a single 100 watt lightbulb for 30 minutes, or an angle grinder for a mere 2 minutes. Typically we need 10-20 amp-hours in a day to meet our consumption levels. During the last 4 cycles, we have seen over 25 amp-hours/day generated. We are still a few cloudless days away from being fully recharged, but we can now loosen our miserly grip on energy conservation. Hence, the computer is now charged!
Once I fully recovered from a stomach virus, It was Debbie’s turn to be sick. Our staggered illnesses meant we have spent the majority of our time in Mindelo resting aboard Dawn Treader in the anchorage. This has given us plenty opportunity to observe the harbor traffics’ comings and goings.
Mindelo has a special sailor buzz much like Horta, Azores or St. George’s, Bermuda. The vast majority of sailboats had to make an 800 mile passage to get here and will be making an 1800 mile passage from here to the Caribbean. This must be a particularly busy year because the usually rock steady trade winds have been fickle, causing a bottle neck of weather waiting voyagers in an already crowded harbor. For example, many ARC boats embarking on non-stop passages from the Canaries to Caribbean, diverted to Mindelo to wait for stronger winds. Standing room only crowds at the floating marina bar/dinghy dock discussed chiefly their speculations of the wind’s whereabouts.
Now, with the sun, the winds have returned! Good strong NE’ly trades, predicted to continue through the run of the forecast, have eager sailors queuing their yachts in front of the fuel dock to top off their diesel and water tanks. The harbor is clearing out fast as cliques of voyagers informally organize into mini-regattas. Yesterday we watched the small boats leave. The day before it was the catamarans. This morning saw many french yachts depart, and some Brits are weighing anchor now, our friends aboard SY Florence amongst them.
We are thankful to have been a part of this caravan of camaraderie as we watch friends and almost friends disappear over the western horizon. Joining the European sailors in Porto Santo we became familiar with many boats as we transited the East Atlantic Islands. Even crews with whom we never spoke, felt like travel companions. Our divergent path is now apparent, they are westbound in a quest for longitude, and we are southbound in search of latitude. We wish them all safe passage. Perhaps we will meet again out there.
Monday-November 28, 2016-Sao Vicente, Cape Verde
Before expiring visas forced us to leave the Canaries, we crammed in as much hiking, swimming, and birthday party-ing as possible. Much of it was nostalgic as we remembered the same anchorages and walks from 2 years prior. It was then that Deb flew to meet me aboard Dawn Treader and assess what exactly she might be getting herself into. It was fun retracing our steps and we felt we were leaving a bit too soon, but there is no negotiating with immigration officials.
The Sail to Sao Vicente from La Gomera was fast by Dawn Treader’s standards. The wind started out light but filled in during the night and pushed us 113 miles the first day. The Northeasterly wind steadied at 20 knots the rest of the way and we saw daily runs of 141, 131, 128, 134, and 126 nautical miles.
The seas continuously grew and a handful of 15 footers rolled under our keel toward the end of the passage. We measure seas by standing in the cockpit and while in the trough we stare out to where the horizon should be. If the horizon barely disappears below the wave crest, we figure that’s about a 7 footer (I am 6 foot and standing 1 foot above sea level). If we stare out and only see halfway up the wave, then that’s about a 13 footer. We had a couple waves splash into the cockpit and fill the footwell with seawater. One wave even found its way into the cabin through the small hatch under the dinghy. That night I made a note to find a way to better shield the hatch from waves in Mindelo, as if I was going to forget the waterfall cascading onto my bunk.
The sailing was fantastically easy. Two weeks ago we arrived in Cape Verde and I can still clearly recall each time we made a sail or course adjustment on the entire passage. We set the Jib deeply furled on a pole to starboard and did not touch it until arrival. We jibed the triple reefed main only twice which is super easy with our dual boom vangs to port and starboard. As far a course changes go, there weren’t any. The windvane auto pilot course control gearing broke early in the voyage making it somewhat inconvenient to adjust course. So we left it as it was, and it steered us straight to Mindelo.
Once in Cape Verde, we were immediately taken by the vibrant people and their unique and beautiful music. Then I became ill with a stomach virus and Debbie cared for me aboard the Dawn Treader for 4 days. Slowly we are venturing out again and also squeezing in some chores and projects. Debbie cooked a wonderful and bountiful Thanksgiving dinner which we shared with friends Matt and Amy from SY Florence. Next we have our sights on Santiago to obtain our Brazilian visas.
Monday-October 31, 2016-La Palma and La Gomera, Canary Islands
Early in the week it rained as a weakening low pressure system slowly made its way over the area. We used the time to organize the Nav Station and get caught up on some cleaning. When we had breaks in the rain we walked around town. Santa Cruz de La Palma looks very different depending on the time of day and day of the week. During siesta it is quiet with hardly anyone about. On mornings a cruise ship is in port, the town almost feels like a tidy theme park. During the evenings most tourists are gone, and the cafes buzz with conversant locals and musicians. All of Santa Cruz’s aspects are pleasant and I do like the town.
Despite the attractiveness of La Palma, we felt quite ready to leave. We wanted to go somewhere we could anchor out and enjoy some quiet. Valle Gran Rey in La Gomera is that place. Friday, the lingering low had dissipated and the Southerly wind shifted slightly to the Southwest, just enough to give us a favorable tack. We left before the predicted calms settled the area Saturday.
We departed La Palma and had an exciting few hours close hauled in a Canary Island wind acceleration zone. These are areas where the gradient wind can be greatly increased do to the Islands’ topography. Many times these zones flank an island’s wind shadow making an obvious border between an area of calm and a zone of near gale force conditions.
A few hours out of La Palma we had transited the acceleration zone and were making good course in diminishing South Westerlies. It was an awesome starry night of sailing with La Palma dead astern, Tenerife fine on our Port bow, El Hierro broad to starboard, and La Gomera dead ahead. Though the sky was apparently clear of any clouds, heat lightning awed us throughout the night, first above Tenerife then La Gomera.
Saturday morning Dawn Treader was ghosting in light air and La Gomera stood 5 miles ahead. Through the morning our speed steadily dropped. 4 knots, then 3, then 2, 1, and finally we were becalmed, drifting half a knot in the South setting Canary Islands current. We tried to be patient with the wind, but after a few hours we decided to use our outboard engine to motor up to what appeared to be a patch of wind around La Gomera’s western promontory. I am still impressed with how well the 6hp engine pushes us along. At half throttle we made 5 knots. The patch of wind was the slightest of air and from astern, so not good for sailing. We continued to motor for an hour, and then the wind eventually filled in from the port quarter. We secured the engine and sailed the remaining 5 miles to Valle Gran Rey, first at 3 knots then 4, then 5.
The anchorage is wide open, and the conditions were about perfect for anchoring under sail. We approached on a port tack beam reach under reduced sail. When we reached the spot just downwind of where we wanted to anchor, we rounded up to stop the boat, and furled the headsail. I walked forward and took a sounding with the lead line while Debbie doused the Main. I sounded 25 feet of water, then let go the anchor and paid out 110 feet of chain. This all happened during the course of one exciting minute.
Now we are settled into La Gomera. We love it here and look forward exploring this beautiful island.
Sunday-October 16, 2016-Santa Cruz de La Palma, Canary Islands
In order to stay connected to family and friends, and engage anyone interested in long term cruising, we will begin making regular posts based on excerpts from my log. This will be a catch all space for the activities of Dawn Treader and her crew.
We split taxi fare with new friends Matt and Amy (SV Florence) to the top of La Palma, approximately 2,400 meters up. In the cab Amy commented on how peculiar it felt to be Continue reading in Santa Cruz de La Palma
Making landfall in Flores, Azores is special. The glorious, verdant island was a welcome sight after our 21 day passage from Bermuda. Even better, there are anchorages available, happy places for cruisers on a budget.
While in Lajes, we anchored in the best possible spot, right off the beach. This small area of the harbor only has enough room for a couple of cooperating boats; most vessels stay in the marina, or out beyond its walls. We set two anchors to keep our bow oriented to the occasional eastern swell that worked its way into our nook. We enjoyed three weeks in this setting. Lots of walking showed all of southern Flores, lots of bucket laundry helped us remember how to be good “housekeepers” aboard, and lots of time spent in one spot helped us make good friends on the island.
We slept regardless of the loud cries of mating shearwaters. We love these birds, their apparent strength always reassures us when on long ocean passages. Each night, they circled our mast, calling to each other, and nesting in the nearby cliff. One night we stirred to a new sound, rain, lots of rain, poured over Flores, but it was not the rain that woke us, but rapids. The tiny stream alongside the beach had transformed into a river, funneling out all the rainwater from the nearby peaks and their valley.
It was a good thing our stern anchor was our storm anchor, it was firmly dug in, and it kept us from being spun around into rocky surroundings by the rolling waves. However, our Fortress anchor became buried in a few feet of washed out sediment. Despite futile efforts to dig it out (these were mostly encouraged by stubborn Deb, who admitted defeat after a fun session of kicking and digging around the anchor chain with her sport sandals at low tide), it was stuck.
We left the anchor and it’s thirty feet of chain to sail around the island to Faja Grande. With an east wind this otherwise exposed anchorage was a wonderful place to walk from! We let out all our chain over the rocky bottom where our Rocna sat perched. After a few days of exploring up and around the cliffs of Faja Grande, we returned to Lajes, to our lost anchor, for one more reunion before parting ways forever.
Our stay in Horta, Faiel was also dictated by the wind. Ten days at the marina (anchoring was not allowed at the time, during Festival Semana de Mar), waiting for a bit of wind to take us further east. We made awesome new friends aboard a couple of sailboats, while trying to strike a budget balance. Marina fees plus proximity to town can likely equal overspending.
Terceira was our next stop. We anchored under sail in wide open space, enjoyed decent holding in sand, and returned to a rent free lifestyle. Two weeks there included swimming to the beach a good bit, a splurge to explore island caves with friends, and a bit of bussing around. We enjoyed having the boat in a good anchorage, and we felt free, until we didn’t. When we began to raise anchor, we suddenly felt stuck, because we were.
During our stay, we had spun around our anchor with shifting winds, causing the anchor chain to encircle a pipe the thickness of our mast. It randomly protruded about few feet from the bottom at a 45 degree angle. It was a bit deep to dive down and free the chain, so, we worked for a while with Brian in the water trying to free us, lifting a segment of our weighty chain with a buoy, Deb worked the windlass feeding chain in and out. Eventually, we abandoned this technique, and instead turned back time, driving the boat in two large counterclockwise circles with our outboard. Unwrapped, we moved on, thinking how much we enjoyed anchoring in the Azores. It made us feel good that we handled new challenges fairly well, and that we were able to stay at anchor so much in an island group where most skippers tend to choose marinas.