On my way to Cape Verde
I managed to escape from Gran Canaria on the 11th of December, without any cockroaches or newborn baby stowaways. Ha!
While the forecast winds were in the right direction, they were too light for anything other than motor sailing, but that was fine with me because another monster low pressure system would reach the Canary Islands within 4 to 5 days, and I intended to be at least 400 miles further south to avoid its influence.
Isolated thunderstorms to the east and north made for an ominous departure but I needn’t have worried, winds stayed at under 10 knots for most of the journey and the seas were accommodating enough.
Sailing to the Cape Verde islands, there’s nothing to it…
Except, I’m really quite alone out here in the Atlantic.
When was the last time you can remember being totally alone, unable to see or talk with another person for days at a time?
While a few ships were visible on the horizon (or as dots on my AIS receiver) during the first half of my voyage, nothing, nada, niente, not a soul was in sight from the moment I reached Mauritanian waters. Perhaps it had something to do with the travel advisory for the country that read:
“We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Mauritania at this time due to the unpredictable security situation and high threat of terrorist attack including kidnapping.”
With the right technology you can always cheat loneliness by sending text messages to your friends, updating your facebook profile, calling mum or checking out prospective dates at your next port of call with satellite Internet broadband, but I don’t have any of that on board. I’m old school… ( a synonym for poverty stricken). The best I can do is listen in to other boats on my cheap Target HF radio receiver. So, how did I manage the isolation thus far?
To set the scene, I suggest the computer savvy follow this link for appropriate background music as I recount how I managed to do without all the modern conveniences used to make solo sailing merely single-handed sailing.
Rusty tack and water stain
Let me start by saying that there really isn’t much to do sailing wise on long passages. You set your sails, occasionally check your course, and watch the weather, but that still leaves plenty of time to fill. Time I passed entertaining myself by staring at the water stains on my ceiling lining and reminiscing.
It’s amazing what you can dredge up from the past to amuse yourself given enough time. I wonder if this is this how I’ll get to spend my twilight years while incarcerated in a nursing home…
I filled one day just reciting the TV advertising jingles absorbed as a youth in Australia.
Anyone out there remember….
“It was an extra big, extra large, sizzling hot, family size, ham and pine, extra fine, pepperoni, big salami , dripping cheese, if you please, super duper pizza, oh yeah…”
Or how about…
“Today’s the big surf carnival, so Ted’s big breakfast plan, are all those sweet sultanas in Kellogs Sultana Bran… well the race is on but there goes Ted… Hey where’re you going man….. Back for more sultanas in Kellogs Sultana Bran”
“Everybody loves a better biscuit,,, so Westons make them good as they can be… Young will puts them to the test, to make sure that you get the best, from the Westons better biscuit bakery…”
Don’t panic, I’ll spare you the rest of my comprehensive recital which includes an international and multi-lingual repertoire of television advertising trash.
Then of course I have time to ponder on all those things I might have done differently given a second chance. All two of them!
Memories become my treasured companion at sea because in truth, looking at clouds drifting by only manages to hold my attention for three to four hours at a time.
Snack time inadvertently becomes the focus of my day. Hobbit style, it makes for at least seven meals in a 24 hr period, and depending on the success of my culinary experiments, (bounded by strict rules such as: everything must be cooked in a single pan), varies from the simply delicious (French Toast for pre-breakfast), to almost inedible (a mash of choriso sausage, sauerkraut and powdered potatoes for a midnight snack).
And here’s what I look like after seven days of solitary confinement!
Going quite mad!
Makes you wonder what I’ll be like once reaching Brazil.
I tried to catch some fish on route but my only success was thwarted by a shark (honest!). I know it sounds a bit like the excuse that “my dog ate my homework”, but it’s true, “a shark ate my dinner”, just as I was hauling it aboard. I hope my favourite lure gives it indigestion, and so much for my idea of stopping Eileen for a refreshing swim!
But the most dramatic event on route has nothing whatsoever to do with me. On day 5, I decided to tune in on my HF receiver to the weather routing given by Herb daily on 12359kHz at 20:00 UTC. The idea was to eavesdrop on any boats in the vicinity receiving weather information. Sure enough, two yachts were within 40 nautical miles of my current position and one (called Connect4), was in trouble.
I listened as a very concerned father sought information on the best options for reaching an airport or medical facilities as his daughter was suffering extreme abdominal pain and suspected appendicitis. Nobody could give him a definite answer on whether Mauritania was a feasible destination to seek assistance, and as far as the other HF users were aware, only Mindelo in Sao Vincente or Dakar had appropriate medical facilities.
I had done my homework and as mentioned earlier, knew of the travel alert for Mauritania, but as I am only equipped with a VHF transceiver, I could not tell him. I was effectively mute, confined to my line of sight transmissions and unable to assist. What a relief when I heard that he had decided to opt for Cape Verde, but if only I could have told him that Isla Sal was a closer prospect and had equal if not better facilities at hand. I did try, repeatedly calling on VHF 16 for several hours, but to no avail. They were just too far away.
In later transmissions I heard that the girl was improving with antibiotics and that after consulting a doctor on another boat, appendicitis could be ruled out. I hope to hear if she made a full recovery when I reach Mindelo.
Arriving on Sal, Cape Verde
At sunset on Saturday the 18th of December to the sounds of music and merrymaking I finally arrived in Porto de Palmeira after seven days at sea. Just in time for another party!
PS: I did make myself considerably more presentable than the above photos suggest before rejoining civilization.