Video: Sailing the East Atlantic Islands

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.

Fishing in Cape Verde

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

Energy, Illness and Farewells in Mindelo Harbor

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!

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Good sun juice

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.

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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.

 

From La Gomera, Canary Islands to Sao Vicente, Cape Verde

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.

Hello from Cape Verde

Tuesday-November 22, 2016-Sao Vicente, Cape Verde

We arrived in Cape Verde a week ago after a fast sail from La Gomera. Cliff shadows in La Gomera, sail shadows en route to Cape Verde, and overcast skies here in Mindelo have us watching our solar meter. We have ideas for blog posts (and internet!) but are hesitant to charge the computer. For now, in brief, we are enjoying our time in Cape Verde, and slowly getting into work mode to prepare Dawn Treader for her anticipated 2017 Atlantic crossing. This week, we may be the only ones in the anchorage celebrating Thanksgiving, but we think it will be a good one nevertheless. Happy Thanksgiving to all our family and friends back in the USA!

This week…sailing to La Gomera

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.