From the Canaries to Christmas at Cape Verde
Once upon a time, I yearned to voyage across the Atlantic aboard a cruise full of nomads. I completed that journey, stopping in the Canary Islands and Cape Verde before crossing the ocean and docking in Brazil.
In the age of covid-1984, it is only natural that I again sail across the Atlantic. But this time aboard the SY Staatenlos with sails proudly displaying the messages of Taxation is Theft, Liberty or Death and Don’t Tread on Me.
There will be no rainbow nomads on this Atlantic voyage, nor any covid sheep. But there will be return trips to the Canaries, Cape Verde and eventually Brazil. Let’s get started.
Recollecting our escape from continental Europe
Our four-month journey sailing around the Mediterranean was a grand adventure that ended in a narrow escape from mainland Spain moments before the borders closed due to another twist in the covid plandemic. We left minutes before midnight from Andalusia, saw the sunrise over the rock of Gibraltar, and powered through to the Canary Islands.
Short and Sweet in the Canaries
In the Canary Islands, we docked in Las Palmas of Gran Canaria. There we brought aboard three new crew members who would sail south with us to Cape Verde. We picked up a Dutch guy, a French girl, and Corinne, an Italian girl, who is still with us today. You will soon be able to read about all our Canarian adventures as well here.
While in the Canary Islands, we installed new motors and did some shopping for the journey ahead. We also ate a few good meals, some of which were prepared specially on board by the new (unfortunately vegan) chef on our crew.
We finally successfully installed the bowsprit, thus ending a three-month saga of struggling with it all the way from Montenegro to mainland Spain. Seeing the bowsprit finally properly installed on the SY Staatenlos was a small victory.
We also installed a Nintendo Switch on the boat while we were there, which enabled us to enjoy playing Super Mario Kart and Super Mario Party while we sailed. This turned out to be an excellent investment to keep up the crew’s morale during long days at sea.
We left the Canary Islands for Cape Verde on December 18th, just six days before Christmas. We meant to leave early that morning, but we encountered some problems with our new motors. Luckily, the mechanic was able to come to us and fix the problem so that we could finally leave Las Palmas.
It took six days to sail from the Canaries across the Atlantic Ocean to Cape Verde. We left just in time to sail off into a beautiful sunset as the night followed closely behind.
That night, the weather was rough, and the boat was rocked by fairly big waves, which made it difficult to sleep. The weather was still unpleasant the next day, but after that, it started to settle down.
The rest of the days, we were lucky to have nice weather. We were accompanied by a gentle wind and had a great time sailing down to Cape Verde. Of course, it helped to be able to play video games as we sailed. 😆
We also enjoyed daily visits from wild dolphins, which were amazing to see playing alongside our boat.
One day there were about twenty of them just swimming along next to us just below the net, and we actually managed to touch them! We took turns laying down at the front of the boat, secured by the other crew members holding us by the ankles so that we could reach down and touch these magnificent creatures.
One day we even swam right in the Atlantic, only secured by a rope with 4,000 meters of the open ocean below us. Everyone enjoyed a nice dip in the ocean, even though no dolphins came to play with us this time. Overall, it was a great trip sailing.
Problems in Paradise
One day, however, we experienced an unpleasant surprise. Our beautiful gennaker sail that proudly read “Taxation is Theft” broke. At first, it wasn’t actually the sail that had broken, but the rope that held it in place. It was such a shock because the conditions were fine and there wasn’t much wind, but apparently, the rope was being steadily worn down by a sharp edge of the boat. At some point, the rope broke, and the sail started to fly away. It was still secured to the boat by two other ropes, but the upper rope broke away and the sail landed in the water.
It was a nasty surprise, and there were a few hectic minutes as the crew scrambled to pull the sail back in. I think the sail itself was still intact until that point, but it became damaged when we had to drag it out of the water. Maybe it came across a sharp edge on the boat as well, or even the rudder.
We thought everything was fine at that point, so we just rinsed it off with fresh water, packed it away, and hoped for the best. But when we arrived in Cape Verde a few days later, we discovered there were holes in the gennaker. Once there’s a hole in the sail, it becomes basically unusable, so we were not happy about that.
Now we were in a position where we needed both a new gennaker sail and a Code Zero sail to make it to Brazil. We had ordered the Code Zero sail a while back, but the measurements had gotten fucked up in Montenegro and there was no time to fix it before the Canary Islands, so we left it behind.
They tried to fix it in Las Palmas, but we said we’d just order a new one and a gennaker from our sailmaker in Croatia, who works very efficiently. He said that he could make us both of the sails within two to three weeks, so our new crew brought them along later to sail with us from Cape Verde to Brazil. Luckily, everything worked out in the end.
Merry Christmas aboard the SY Staatenlos
We spent six days sailing. After the first day, we didn’t even pass by any other boats until Christmas Eve. We had hoped to reach Mindelo, a port city on the island of São Vincente in Cape Verde, by Christmas Eve, but it was not meant to be.
On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, we saw a boat on the horizon that was faster than us. It came nearer and nearer until it was only about ten meters away from us. We all said hello and wished each other a Merry Christmas, which was really nice. The next day, we would meet them again in the marina of Mindelo.
At sunrise on December 25th, after over six days at sea, we finally saw land again in the form of the 2,000 meter mountains of Santo Antão, the second-largest island of Cape Verde. The weather was foggy but fresh as we sailed past Santo Antão on our way to dock in the port city of Mindelo on the “sister island” of São Vincente.
It was quiet as we sailed into the bay of Mindelo. We enjoyed beautiful weather that Christmas day and were happy to be on dry land once again. Unlike my last time arriving here, I would have more than seven hours to explore the island of São Vincente and the country of Cape Verde.
Mandates in Mindelo
While São Vincente is only the fourth largest island, its port city of Mindelo is basically the cultural capital of Cape Verde. It feels somewhat European, as it has some fairly nice restaurants, and it has the only yachting marina in all of the Cape Verde islands. That makes it a typical stop-off point for many transatlantic sailors, as I was previously and would soon be again.
At the marina, we took care of the necessary formalities, which are a little “special” in Cape Verde, maybe because the Americans are involved. The law mandates any new boat to register its arrival to any island in Cape Verde. So whichever island you land on, you have to give your papers to the police, which are only returned to you when you’re leaving the island. Apparently, these rules have been established to reduce drug trafficking but it seems like a bunch of useless bureaucracy to me.
The other formality we had to take care of is specific to covid-1984. Some islands require a negative antigen test before you’re permitted to depart, but we didn’t have to deal with that yet because we were just arriving. Instead, we had to confirm that we had all tested negative for covid before arrival. This was no trouble because we had already taken PCR tests before we left the Canary Islands. The tests had been done just with saliva by spitting it into a sample cup. There was nothing inserted into either our noses nor our mouths. We were all relieved that it felt like a very harmless way of taking the PCR test.
Once we were settled down in Mindelo, we tidied up the boat and hired some African guys, including one named Kevin, to clean the algae, barnacles, and whatever else from underneath the hulls.
We enjoyed spending time around Mindelo, and I even managed to have a fleeting (and ultimately failed) romance during the short time I was there. I met this Dutch girl named Linda on a dating app, and she wanted to come to stay with me in my cabin on the boat.
Long story short, she left after only a couple of days because she had some issues. She didn’t even stay long enough to come sailing with us. Anyway, we did spend a couple of days together exploring Mindelo.
One day we went to something of a natural swimming pool, or maybe it’s better described as lagoons that open up to the sea. The swell is quite rough in São Vincente, but we enjoyed swimming around and had a good time.
On the way back, we drove to the highest mountain of São Vincente to take in the view from a military station up there. We enjoyed looking down over the city of Mindelo, taking in lovely views of the island and the sunset.
Another day we went to the airport beach. They call it that because airplanes would usually fly very low over the beach on their way to land at the airport. At the moment, there weren’t many planes around, but the real reason we went to that beach was actually to see the large loggerhead turtles that live there.
A local boat brought us to a spot offshore, where we could see, feed, and snorkel with the turtles. It wasn’t my first time doing something like that, but it is always nice to swim with such impressive creatures.
After our time with the turtles, we chilled for a little while at the beach before going back to the marina.
Danger in town
We had some good dinners those evenings in Mindelo. However, other than a couple of nice restaurants and colonial buildings, the city is quite shabby.
The girls from our boat actually got attacked on our first day in town by a kid who screamed and ran at them with a knife or something. They were very scared and didn’t even want to leave the marina again after that incident.
In the end, we were able to convince them to come along for a nice pizza dinner to celebrate our successful crossing to Cape Verde. All in all, the crew and I had a good time in Mindelo, stocked up on provisions, and then went off to explore the sister island of Santo Antão just a few days before New Year’s Eve.
Unlike the Nomad Cruise voyage, more exploration of Cape Verde awaits…