On passage

Atlantic sunset en route to the Cape Verdes

It seems ages since I did this: I’m sitting on the lee berth, laptop on my knees, feet braced against the windward – the hatch is just managing to keep the sun off the screen.

Dyna-mite by Mud is playing on Spotify and the beer in the little electric cooler I picked up second hand in Las Palmas is down to 10°C which is a lot cooler than it would be in the bilges, given that the water temperature is 26°C.

Normally, I  would open the beer at 1200 and it’s now 1130, but I might delay that if the writing goes well – anyway, breakfast was late because I didn’t feel like getting up. Why should I? There was nothing that I had to do.

Welcome to the seagoing lifestyle three days into the passage from The Gambia to Sal in the Cape Verde Islands.

Yes, there has been a change of plan. I was going to set off for the Caribbean directly from Africa but what good is cruising if you can’t change your mind?

Anyway, there was the little matter of provisioning in Banjul market: what I thought were potatoes weren’t potatoes at all – not even sweet potatoes. I don’t know what they were but they had the consistency of stone and a bitter taste that suggested they might have been medicinal.

Also, The Gambia being a predominantly Moslem country, beer was a problem and I won’t sail anywhere without beer. Eventually, I found an Indian shop with something called Cody’s. It said it was imported from Germany (possibly because the German’s refused to drink it).

No, much better to stock up in the Cape Verdes – the supermarket in Mindelo is 536 miles to the northwest but that is a mere detail when all you have to do is haul up the anchor and set the sails.

As the crews of Ceruean and Ruffian explained over Christmas lunch, if you check in at Sal, you can sail downwind through islands with sand dunes, pristine beaches and groves of date palms. This also avoids going to Praia.

Praia, on the island of Santiago has always had a dodgy reputation: Don’t just lock up your dinghy at night, lock yourself in the cabin as well. In Cerulean’s cockpit, I met Peter, the German skipper who had called there in the spring with a medical emergency. After depositing his crewmember in the local hospital, and returning to the boat, he woke up in the middle of the night to find himself facing five guys with machetes.

They tied him up, ransacked the boat, held a knife to his throat until he gave them his internet passwords…

Later, monitoring the emails they were sending using his address, he discovered they were trying to buy a car from his bank account  – a transaction that required a photo of the buyer’s passport.

Since Peter happened to be a retired Hamburg policeman, he recognised a clue when it smacked him over the head. Gleefully, he passed the photo on to the Praia police department – apparently, he is still waiting to hear what they’ve done about it.

So, don’t go there.

But Sal is alright. Sal is just fine – best of all, the course puts the trade wind free enough to carry the spinnaker.

This is kind of weird because, along with the enormous, diaphanous spinny, I have hoisted the trysail, the tiny, tough bright-orange storm sail. This is because, on the first day out from the Canaries en route to The Gambia, I contrived to break the gooseneck so, ever since, the boom has been lashed on deck while I look at options for getting it fixed in Grenada.

At the moment the best seems to be a Facebook friend sending me his old one – but finding out if he could get it off the boom wasn’t the top priority in the middle of a family Christmas. So that’s another reason for delaying the crossing.

Meanwhile, we’re still doing five knots in the right direction, the temperature in the cabin is up to 27°C and the beer is still down at 10°C

Even if it is the awful Cody’s stuff.

Spinnaker and trysail – an odd combination.

18 Responses to On passage

  • I enjoy your blog and I ve also read your book which is great
    I have been diagnosed lately with failing eyesight so although i am sailing down the Aegean Sea with my Nordship 32 I dont know how long i would be able to do so( Iam 67) so please keep sailing

  • Good stuff, keep it flowing, am putting together your latest videos

  • I’ve worked a lot of hours often two full time jobs. Hit 65 and turned to my wife and said its now or never. We often dreamed of sailing but life kids and work always got in the way. My wife looked at me and said NOW! We bought a 36 foot Bristol built in 1975. A beautiful boat that was meticulously cared for. We took sailing lessons in Florida and then moored our boat on the Hudson river. We spent our first season sailing just to learn and get a feel for the boat. It was just so rewarding. 2022 will be the year we stretch our sails a bit and start traveling. Montauk, Block Island, maybe a trip to Maine. After a day of sailing the muscles sometimes ache but the heart has soared. I have never seen my wife happier.

  • John enjoyed your book many thanks and safe travels

    • Thank you for your kind words. May I ask a favour? If you haven’t done so already, would you leave some Amazon stars? They’re so important. You can do this by going to your Amazon account and finding the book in “My Orders”. I should add that I am trying to light up all the stars by getting the average over 4.75 – so, if you feel the book merits it, five stars would help to do that. Thank you.

  • Great stuff, John. You wrote “…Cody’s. It said it was imported from Germany (possibly because the German’s refused to drink it).” Reminds me of France years ago when every visitor was offered a Gauloise cigarette which were pretty foul – it was considered that the French were trying to get everyone to smoke the fags in order to get rid of them!

    • Pierre Helias

    • Hello, of course I am French, and the Gauloise cigarette is the cigarette you have to smoke if you want to have any kind of discussion, the smoke is blue in color and putrid, but it’s what it is. Not for the timid. The P4, pack of 4, (sold to 12 years old in the sixties) which is made for left over of Gauloise manufacturing is what you smoke. Camel without filter is close.
      I stop smoking 32 years ago….

  • Hi John, I enjoy reading your blog. Hats off for going on these adventures. I am new to sailing and really enjoy saling around here in Cape Town, South Africa on my Peterson/Contention 33.

    Keep the posts and photos coming, I have told many of my locals of you and your website. Keep it up and be safe.

    Corné Els

  • Hi John
    I just saw a picture of a guy enjoying a pint in the Gambia !!!!
    Keep the blogs coming. Cheers John Wilky

  • Not sure you are fully equipped if you don’t have a case of Adnams with you.safe trip and fair winds.

  • Still folliwing the blog JP.
    Have a great trip to the supermarket.
    A couple of days should do it!

  • Love your blog, detailing your adventures, would love to go, but cannot pluck up the courage

  • Such a joy reading your blogs.

  • I so enjoy reading your blog! Thank you! From a cold snowy N.Ireland

  • Another cracking instalment! Was this sent from the Maldives??

  • Morning John, we snapped our gooseneck and had a very successful welding job job done on a Caribbean island but I’m sure someone out there has a tig welder for a few beers? Double bonus as rids you of the beer also..!