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The Sailing for Sustainability Campaign - Week 3
Dear Friends:
I am writing to you from Mindelo, on the island of Sao Vicente in the Cape Verde Islands. I have good news. The parts for the engine and the generator arrived on Thursday via DHL. On Friday, Ed and Robert repaired the engine and generator, Gene and I bought additional food and water for our journey, and we filled our fuel tanks. Today we are completing our final preparations - doing routine maintenance for the generator and engine, stowing vegetables, repairing our depth sounder, doing laundry, and taking showers (while we still are connected to shore power and can make the extra water with our water maker).
We are eager to go. We have had a good ten days in the Cape Verde islands. Our boat is berthed at a small marina called boatCV in the city of Mindelo. Mindelo is the second largest city in the Cape Verde islands, and has a population of about 60,000. The people are primarily of African descent, but the genetic influence of the British, the Portugese and of visiting sailors is evident. The town's colonial history is also reflected in its architecture. The town still has many of the original British and Portugese buildings standing, painted in pastel colors, while newer cement houses and apartment buildings can be seen spreading up the surrounding hills. There are small plazas where people gather, and several open air public markets. The people are very friendly and kind.
There is a generous, easy way of living here that the Cape Verdans call morabeza ~ living the good or beautiful life.
We took one day to travel around Sao Vicente, visiting pristine sandy beaches (with sand blown here from the Sahara desert), the top of the tallest mountain, volcanos (last eruption 100 years ago), and new (tourist) beach communities. This island is extremely dry. 90 percent of the water here comes from a desalinization plant owned by the Portugese. As we drove up the side of Monte Verde, our guide pointed out rocky terraces lining the side of the mountain, and said that 50 years ago when there was more rain that all of it was planted. Now it is just dry dusty rock. It was eerie to see the abandoned farms and plantations. Now they get up to one week of rain a year. They say that droughts come in 50 year cycles, so they are hoping the rains will return.
The highlight of our vist here, though, was our two trips to the neighboring island of Santo Antao. Robert and I travelled there for three days, and then returned there for two days with our crew mate Gene. Each time, we took a ferry from Mindelo to the port of Porto Novo on Santo Antao. We then took a collective taxi (an alhuegar) to the town of Ribiera Grande on the other side of the island. The drive was fantastic. We traveled from sea level up to 4,000 feet and down again to sea level, on a 35 km cobble stone road. The eastern side of the island was desert, but as we rose to the summit (a volcanic crater) we discovered pine trees, plants and flowers! The western side of the mountain has steep mountains, sheer cliffs rising thousands of feet above the valley floor, and volcanic stone spires. The valleys and hill sides were green from recent rains, with terraced farms stretching up the mountain sides. The people live in houses made of stone, thatch and cement blocks, perched up the mountainsides. It was incredibly beautiful, and the people were warm and friendly.
Our spirits are good, and we are looking forward to being on our way again. We plan to depart for St. Lucia this afternoon.
Warm wishes to you all.
Nina and the Speranza Crew
P.S. I am also attaching a more extensive journal entry written by Robert Williams, one of our crew members which provides more detail on our adventures.
December 9, 2005
Mindelo Bay, Sao Vicente
Cape Verde Islands
Good news; The parts that we have been waiting for arrived yesterday. It has been about 10 days since we arrived in Mindelo and began the supposed 5 day wait for our parts to arrive via DHL from Sweden. The Halberg Rassy people have been fairly supportive and they shipped parts that they removed from boats in production so we would get them sooner than we would have otherwise. They did fall short of our dream in which they would fly a technician down to fix our boat. The had done just that for another boat in the Canary Islands. In any case, the parts did arrive yesterday and Ed spent all day installing the water pump, the new regulator and most of the wiring harness that had burnt. Ed and I finished working on the wiring harness today and when we turned the key the engine started right up. What a great sound. We had made 30 new wire connections and found a fault in the original Halberg Rassy wiring. We motored over to the fuel dock and toped off our tanks and stowed the new food and water that Gene and Nina had bought. We are scheduled to set sail once more tomorrow afternoon. The rest of our journey should take a few weeks and we should arrive (weather permitting) around X-mas. The ARC officially ends on the 17th of December so we will miss the parties and the hoopla but that's life.
The Hallbert Rassy guys had warned us that Cape Verde was a "Hell hole" and it may be just that in terms of getting parts and getting boats repaired. Some new friends from Brazil on a catamaran have spent over a month waiting for parts and repair. However, Nina and I have found a beautiful side to CV. Instead of waiting impatiently in the harbor we jumped ship for a few days and went to a neighboring island named Sao Antao. We had no idea what to expect but we thought we could handle anything for 2 nights. Most of our clothes were being cleaned so we went with just backpacks and pretty much the clothes on our backs. We had a great time.
The side of the island nearest to the harbor where our boat is located is pretty much desert. We arrived via ferry at a fairly new town which has grown to be the biggest city on the island because of its new ferry port. It is called Porto Novo. We were greeted at the dock by no less than 50 people. Nina commented that it was interesting that so many people were meeting their friends but then noticed that they were all men. In fact they were all vying to get our business for a ride in their ahlugar (privately owned mini busses). One of the drivers caught our eye and before we were off of the ferry we had made a deal for a ride to the other side of the island. The ahlugar ride over to the other side of the island was worth the trip on its own. We drove on the new road from Porto novo to Ribiera Grande. The road was completed in the 1980s after being in construction for twenty years. This 35 kilometer road is made entirely of cobblestones. Rocks on this island are a natural resource. It is a volcanic island and the mountains in the center are at least 4000 feet of jagged breathtaking scenery. In 35 kilometers of road one goes from sea level up 4,000 feet and back down to sea level. All of the bridges and the construction that allows this road to cling to the cliffs are also made of hand placed rock with no concrete whatsoever.
We drove up the road and into the clouds and thence back down to the other side. The west side of the island is a great contrast to the east side and is much greener. Every conceivable piece of land that can be planted is planted. The mountain sides are terraced to allow farming and the terraces extend to amazing heights. It is truly an awesome site to see what determined people can do.
The pension (hotel) that we stayed at in Porto do Sol was very nice with hot running water which we took advantage of right away. After a couple of weeks of bathing infrequently and with an absolute minimum of water, using more than a gallon was absolute luxury. The first day there we waked to a town about one hour away and found a town perched on a mountainside overlooking a valley with terraces above and below. This town had probably 10 houses and as the sun set it felt like we were in an African version of Elvindaill. The next day we walked through the only valley that has water all year around (called Paul). The water is supplied by the clouds that form at the top of the mountain and provide rain. It was lush and beautiful. The farmers in the valley lived in a varying array of houses. Some in thatch houses, some in rock houses with thatched roofs and some in newly constructed houses made of concrete blocks. Most of these are in some stage of construction. As the farmers get more money they buy more blocks and build a little more. The outsides are generally left as unfinished concrete. The valley was verdant green planted in yams, bananas, sugar cane (for the making of grogue or rum), mango, papaya, sweet potato, manyok, corn, carrots, tomatoes, guava, and potatoes; all planted on small terraces as small as 2 feet wide that extend up the steep mountain sides.
On the third day we had a car drive us as far a it could take us toward XOXO (pronounced sho sho). The road was washed out from the recent rains. This year it only rained for three day instead of the normal 7 days but apparently when it rains it rains hard, and every year it washes out all of the roads that are built in the flood plains and along the coast that cross the rivers. So they take a bulldozer and rebuild them. After being let off we walked up a fabulous valley. As we waked by a house and said boa dia (good morning). They asked us to come in for coffee. Unfortunately we couldn't stop as we had to get back to Porto Novo and thence to our boat to see if the parts had arrived. It was a fabulous three days.
When we got home (to the boat) we found that the parts hand not arrived. However we convinced our crew member Gene to come with us back to the island of Sao Antao for two days. He found it to be just as amazing as we did. We did a hike from the top of the mountain, down into a volcanic crater and thence down about 3000 feet on switchback cobbled footpaths. down into the valley of Paul that Nina and I had walked on the previous trip. It was totally amazing and Gene says that even though he is in total pain from the hike down it was totally worth it.
When we arrived back from our second trip with Gene, the parts had arrived and we went into a flurry of activity. The genset and the motor are fixed, the provisions laid in, bunkers taken on and we are leaving on the tenth of December about noon.