In the week prior to setting off from the small harbour of Brava, Cape Verdes for Brazil our watermaker started producing increasingly salty water.  Not a good sign.  I did what I could to diagnose the source of the problem, and came down to two possibilities: the seals on the membrane that prevent brine from flowing into the product water have deteriorated, or the membrane itself has been damaged (possible If there were hydrocarbons in any of the sea water we have used, always a small risk).  We have a reasonable range of spares for the watermaker, but we have neither of these items. Something we will remedy in future. 

Our helpers in Brava, Cha and John, with the kid goat
So, in addition to the normal final provisioning of fresh vegetables and protein we needed to fill one of our tanks completely with fresh water from ashore, by jerry can. We also bought 70l of mineral water as a backup, and decided to have only saltwater showers until we were well over halfway (in fact we did so the whole way … saltwater showers are fine).  We do have a small handheld emergency watermaker in our abandon-ship barrels, but it takes one hour of hand pumping to make 1 liter of water: fine in a liferaft but not my idea of entertainment on a normal passage.
Our final provisioning of protein came in the form of a kid goat we bought, which was slaughtered and butchered for us the night before we departed.  Definitely fresh meat.
We set off just after midday on Saturday 10th May, and knew it would be a slow passage.  The wind should gradually reduce from normal NE trade winds in the Cape Verdes to flat calm in the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ, the doldrums), then SE trade winds after crossing the equator.  Currents make the passage a little more complicated, and our chosen route after much poring over pilot charts and sailing directions was to head almost straight south to cross the ITCZ at 26W, then turn SW on a close reach to 7S 30W, then ease off onto a reach (probably a beam reach because of the current) to go W to our chosen landfall of Cabedelo, Brazil.  That was the theory.
We had a few hours of lovely trade wind sailing before the wind started to moderate.  And moderate, and moderate, and moderate.   By dawn the next morning we were in a flat calm in gentle seas.

Day 3

We are moving along at between 1.5 and 2.5kts, with a true wind speed of 5-6kts and our gennaker and full main poled out wing on wing.  This is the equivalent of travelling across the Atlantic Ocean at walking speed.  The air temperature is getting warm and humid.  The sea is fairly flat, with a swell of perhaps 50cm, but with so little wind even this small swell rolls Otra Vida enough to be disrupting.
North Atlantic sunset
Our towed water turbine doesn’t produce any electricity below about 3kts, so that is now out of the water, and obviously our windgen is producing nothing either.  That leaves our solar panel array, which doesn’t produce enough alone to keep up with our usage, therefore the engine is on at present for a couple of hours to charge the batteries and to give us the sense of at least a little progress.
Because we have potentially several hundred miles of flat calms in the ITCZ area we don’t want to use the engine more than a minimum at this stage.  We have enough fuel for 600nm, so have a buffer of maybe 200nm beyond the ITCZ – moderate but not huge.
In preparation for possible thunderstorms in the ITCZ we got out our Faraday cage today (a simply constructed aluminium box with a ground wire) and put a two handheld GPS units, a PLB, a personal AIS and a handheld VHF in it.  Hopefully this is an unnecessary precaution.
We finished the goat today.  Boned legs stuffed with the loin, with garlic and Herbes de Provence, vacuum packed and slow cooked at about 68C for a few hours, then seared in butter.  Served with Otra Vida passage demi-glace, boiled potatoes and the last of our fresh green beans.  Nice.

Otra Vida Passage Demi-Glace

This isn’t even close to a real demi-glace (in fact it is technically a veloute) but when you are on passage and don’t have a convenient supply of veal bones and 8+ hours of spare gas to make a reduced veal stock this delivers a sauce that is acceptable for passage food.    

  • Rough chop one onion and one carrot.  Add dried thyme, white pepper, parsley, and 1 bay leaf.  Sweat in butter.
  • Deglaze with cognac.  At this point add whatever alcohol you need for the final sauce, e.g. red wine, madeira, port.  Pedro Ximinez is a favourite of ours for lamb/goat/duck and gives a rich sweetness to the sauce.
  • Boil off the alcohol, then add a cup of water and one Doble Caldo stock cube.
  • If you have any meat juices e.g. from roasting you can also add them.  Be careful about adding fat – pour the juices into a beaker and skim off the fat first.
  • Simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Mix in some xanthan to get the desired consistency and simmer a little more.   You could use other thickeners instead, e.g. roux, cornflour.  I prefer the texture of xanthan.
  • Strain the sauce and discard the veggies and herbs.  Then strain the sauce again through a very fine sieve or muslin.  Bring the sauce to the boil, and whisk in a teaspoon or two of butter.
  • Check and adjust the seasoning.  Note that stock cubes are dreadfully salty, and sometimes you will be using salted butter on passage, so don’t add any salt at all until the very end.

Day 5

That´s better … in the last 24 hours we have covered 139nm.  Gentle trade wind sailing, breeze on the port aft quarter about 12kts true, gennaker up, a warm breeze in the cockpit, t-shirt temperatures on the night watch.  A tropical wave is passing over us, just a slightly more cloudy sky, too early in its development to have thunderstorms.

Otra Vida is 9 degrees north of the equator.  As children we were taught about the Coriolis effect, and how you could see water swirling down a plughole anticlockwise in the northern hemisphere, clockwise in the south and straight down at the equator.  When we cross the equator I intend to check this out (using seawater, not freshwater, of course). 
I used to travel quite regularly for business to Singapore, which sits almost on the equator, but somehow never found the time to observe water in the hotel room sink – perhaps too much time sampling addictive street food at hawker stalls and hunting for the legendary SPGs.  Singapore : what a strange place – super-luxury business hotels, a mix of interesting cultures, and as Webb Chiles describes it “an unusually logical city” “not given to laughter, especially at itself”.  I certainly felt safe there, but am not sure I ever felt alive.   On board Otra Vida, out here in the Atlantic ocean hundreds of miles from land I feel both safe and alive. 
In between scanning the horizon for boats I am reading “Capital in the 21st Century”.  The book is a magisterial compendium of data-based insights on growth, capital, income and inequality over the last two centuries, engagingly written by a very smart French economist.  It covers so much ground that any quick summary will fail to do it justice.  For anyone interested in history, economics and politics it surely is a must-read. His extrapolations into the future are not pleasant reading, and his suggestions for action seem well founded, reasonable, and sadly unlikely to come to fruition.  My understanding of economics is too limited to be able to challenge his view, so I am looking forward to researching some intelligent critiques when I have internet access again.  At first glance it seems to me that he has lifted the veil on capitalism and provided solid and congruent data that confirms the core premise of Occupy a few years ago – that capitalism is (in general) good at creating wealth, but lousy at distributing it.  My friends on the right are not going to be happy about this book, not at all.


Day 7

The night is windless and warm, some 200nm north of the equator, and Otra Vida´s engine is pushing us south at 4.5kts, the slow speed being to conserve fuel.  First thing I did this morning on my 4am watch was a saltwater shower on deck.  The water temperature here is 29C, and a shower in the pre-dawn darkness is pleasant and refreshing.

This area of the ocean is called the Sargasso Sea, so named for the amount of Sargasso seaweed found here, ranging from individual plants to rafts as large as tennis courts.  It´s tough stuff and apparently gets caught on our rudder.  It took a little while for us to work out why we were going so slow, and now we put the engine in reverse every couple of hours to let the seaweed drop off.

The hitchhiking bird that joined us a day out from the Cape Verdes is still perched on the dinghy.  It would seem our friend is with us for the journey.

Day 8
Sargasso seaweed

We reached the half way point today : a half way cocktail to celebrate, our first alcohol since leaving the Cape Verdes.  We now have about another week to Cabedelo based on the forecast winds, and about 90nm to the equator.  The swell from the South Atlantic is noticeable already.
Our mainsail, hoisted to stabilise the boat in the swell while motoring, split at a seam overnight between the second and third reef points.   We now have a triple-reefed mainsail for the rest of the journey.  The sail is getting weak after 5 years and lots of sun in the Med and the Caribbean – Maret will repair it in Brazil and check and reinforce other seams as needed.  I hope it will be possible to patch this one together through the next year or so in the Caribbean, but for sure before setting off into the Pacific we will have a new mainsail made.
I also noticed that the AIS targets via our VHF radio were fewer than from our dedicated AIS transceiver.  It took me just minutes to alter the data connections for our AIS navigation instrument to use the AIS transceiver.  It means that the main VHF aerial (or much more likely the coaxial cable) has a leak and has corroded.  Eight days into the passage and this is only the second item added to the to-do list. 

Day 10

Speeding across the equator

We crossed the equator around noon.  To celebrate, as it is the first crossing on a boat for both of us, we offered generous glugs of Havana Club to Neptune, and made “equator cocktails” based on the longstanding nautical tradition: rum and seawater.  I added some ice, lime and a sprig of Sargasso seaweed.  The result was truly disgusting – not too much of a surprise.  We each managed a few mouthfuls, and the rest went over the side.  The nausea took a little longer to pass.  I´ll wager you won´t see that mixture on cocktail menus anytime soon.

Checked the swirl of seawater in the sink.  It seems to go straight down the plughole with no appreciable swirl either way, perhaps because the movement of the boat is more than the weak Coriolis force.

Don´t try this at home…
The cabin temperature is 32C, humidity 88%. It’s a month from mid-winter here.

Day 12

The South Atlantic trade winds arrived early this morning, bringing easy beam reach sailing with the gennaker up, 6+kts boat speed plus the 1kt or so favourable current.  It looks like we will make Cabedelo on Saturday, subject to the forecast being correct.
Our visiting bird has departed after 10 days of riding on Otra Vida´s dinghy.  After preening its feathers it did a final grandiose swooping circle around the boat before heading off to its next destination.  All that´s left now is the shit to be cleaned up.  Brings to mind a few executives I have known. 

Day 13

Out here on the ocean the idea of ownership, of possession, of accumulation seems so irrelevant. The human pretensions of permanence and control are seen for what they are.  How can you own the ocean?  The sky?  The clouds?  The questions are literally meaningless.  One can choose to experience the journey, or one can choose to endure the journey and focus only on the destination.  The sea and sky are benignly indifferent whatever the choice, but I think there is a qualitative difference in the experience.  Out here the journey is enough: the perpetual present moment, every second the same panorama of sea and sky, every second different.  The journey really is the destination.  Sure, it´s a cliché, but that doesn’t stop it being true.  There is a purity and a peace that blossoms on passage, a cleansing of the mind.  Perspective comes easily.  I like passage life.

Day 15

The SE trades are giving us a speedy and comfortable beam reach to Cabedelo.  Dawn is just 

Winter scene on our approach to Cabedelo 

breaking, and in 3 hours we will be tied up to a dock, in a new country, on a new continent.  Our traditional landfall bottle of cava is chilling in the fridge along with trout eggs which are becoming something of a tradition too.   The air temperature is 28C.  Not bad for winter.

What a lovely passage this has been.

Total distance: 1569nm.  Average speed: 4.7kts.  Freshwater used: about 130 litres.  Fish caught: 0 (again).

Santa Luzia, Dali and Shamans

Otra Vida at anchor, Santa Luzia

Santa Luzia is an unpopulated island, a rare thing indeed these days.  I don´t mean an unpopulated rock, of which there are plenty in the world, but a true island with hills, valleys, beaches.  People have lived here in the past, but life was hard due to limited fresh water, and the island was abandoned in the late 19th century with the population moving to other islands in the Cape Verdes. 

We anchored off Santa Luzia for five days.  Landing by dinghy is challenging due to the surf and we only did so once, anchoring the dinghy outside the surfline and swimming ashore.  I also snorkelled off a rocky outcrop near the boat which promised lobster and garoupa but delivered neither, and the spear gun remained in the dinghy.

Dali-esque dream landscape

With the warm sunshine and the moderate cooling breezes this was a special stop.  The hammock got plenty of use.  Late afternoon sun turned the slopes of the island into a Dali-esqe dreamscape of endless sand, boulders with long sharp shadows, and black folds of volcanic rock highlighted in the fading light. 

Strange clouds over Santa Luzia
There is a tangible familiarity to this view, a clear recognition of the forms and shapes and colours and shadows here in some of Dali´s paintings.  This comforting recognition will be familiar to anyone who has spent time in the Alt Emporda area – Dali´s paintings are peppered with iconic visual quotations from Port Lligat, Cadaques and Cabo de Creus – rocks, bays, fishing boats, the curve of a hill.  But there are other landscapes in Dali´s paintings too, and they are not from that area.  It is many years since I read a lot about Dali but as I recall he did little travel in his early life beyond his journeys to and from Paris, and I certainly can´t imagine him having made a journey to the Cape Verdes – in those days a considerable undertaking indeed.

Full moon rising over the island

Now Santa Luzia surely isn’t the only place in the world that has reddish-orange volcanic gravel, black volcanic hills, boulders, and an aspect open to the setting sun.  But the point is that the places Dali visited physically, as far as I know, have nothing close to such a landscape.  Where did it come from, and in such detail?  Dali, Breton, Bunuel and the other surrealists were trying to access dreams and report back what they found each in their own way.  Dali may not have visited these landscapes physically, but somehow in his dream life he did, and what he found in his dream life seems not to have been based on any likely experience he had in his waking life.  It came from somewhere else.

Watching the sun go down behind Sao Vicente

Jung would point to the collective unconscious.  Others would point to astral travel or any number of new age or ancient wisdom explanations.  There are interesting parallels between these concepts and the worldview of shamanic tribes that I am reading about in preparation for travel to the Amazon basin in the next months.  Oversimplifying considerably, our modern day western view of reality seems to offer two broad choices: the existentialist view of a dead universe of random combinations entirely without meaning, or the religious view of a supervised duality requiring uncritical subservience and largely dismissing direct experience.   The surrealists and the shamanic tribes both seem to point to a possible third choice.  It is shaping up to be an interesting few months.

The French Count´s Legacy

Pico de Fogo dominates the valley

Fogo is the highest island in the Cape Verdes, and naturally its volcano was on our hiking list.  There are no good anchorages around the island´s steep-to shores, and we left Otra Vida anchored in the small port of Furna on the adjacent island of Brava with a local person watching over her, and took the inter-island ferry to Sao Felipe, Fogo.  A pleasant treat to be on a boat knowing someone else is responsible for navigation.

Fogo has a unique settlement in the caldera of the volcano, founded by an interesting Frenchman, the Count de Montrond.  He arrived in 1870 in circumstances that remain vague – either he killed someone in France, or his lifestyle was too scandalous even for a French aristocrat.  Either way, his family decided that his monthly allowance was contingent on him remaining outside France.

The village, squeezed between lava flows and the caldera rim
Part of the vineyard in Cha de Caldeiras
Having decided to settle in the uninhabited caldera, far away from prying French eyes, he wasted no time sorting out life as he wanted it.  Vines were planted, coffee too, and winemaking and production of goat cheese started.  The Count also began his lifelong project of populating the valley with the help of the 47 wives he collected.  Most of the people in Cha de Caldeiras today are descended from the Count, some more directly than others, including the owner of the small guest house we stayed in, Cecilio Montrond.

Cecilio described the interesting family arrangements of the caldera, still influenced by the Count´s example.  Unlike his father (2 wives, 24 children), or his uncle (5 wives), Cecilio emphasised how modern he was, having “only” one wife.  Elena, as is typical in the caldera, has children by more than one man, and all six children (three by Cecilio) live together in Cecilio´s house.   Everyone seems to get along fine.

Early morning hike up the peak
Our guide for the hike up the volcano, Azuko, was born and raised in the caldera, and has African features and a noticeably pale skin.  His great-great-grandfather came up here to work for the Count … and somewhere along the line the Count’s genes got mixed in with one of his daughters.

After our early morning hike up the volcano and a wonderfully child-like descent in giant steps down steep volcanic sand we were keen to sample the local wines.  We saw what looked like stray vines growing in clusters on our drive up in an aluguer (shared pick-up truck) the previous day.  It took a little time to realise that these bush vines are actually part of the vineyard, along with some more densely planted areas, all impossibly green against the black volcanic sand background. 

Maret coming down the volcanic black sand, dust trail blazing behind.  Much, much steeper and more fun than this photo makes it look.
We sat at an outdoor table at one of the simple restaurants in the village and ordered the local red wine, Manecom.  The doce (sweet) version is preferred locally but the seco (dry) was more to our taste. It´s over-extracted, jammy, tannic, very minerally, and oxidised –  am I selling this well! – and perhaps it wouldn’t work outside the caldera, but here looking up at the volcano and surrounded by lava flows it goes down easily and is very agreeable indeed, especially with the caldera´s salty barnyardy quiejo fresco (fresh goats cheese).
Approaching the village

Soon a rather well served French guy who lives in the village started talking to us, the latest tourist novelties on the terrace.  His English and Spanish were even worse than my French, so the rhetoric he directed our way was aided by a good amount of gesticulation. He talked of England and how General de Gaulle spent time there which redeemed the country in his eyes.  Next up is Guy Debord whose name is on the T-shirt I am wearing.  Debord and the soixante-huitards are not to his taste … he wildly mimicks Debord as a charlatan and poseur, arms flying, eyes rolling.  After a few more glasses of wine he gets a little rowdy, running to the road shaking his fist and shouting in French at some American-Cape Verdians touring their ancestral country on quad bikes, equipped with imported impatience at a 30 minute wait for lunch, expensive sunglasses, youthful energy and designer t-shirts – an intrusion of reality into the Frenchman´s de Gaullian world of judgementalism, order and hierarchy. We learn little of him other than his politics and that he lives here now.

Casa Ramiro
After a pleasant lunch of cremated fish and smoky grilled chicken we stroll down the village´s only road to Casa Ramiro, a supply shop and bar run by another descendant of the Count, looking like a displaced Breton fisherman stranded in the mountains.  The bar is the local place for live music.  Among the patrons is a visitor from Paris, also part of the Count´s gene pool, with dreadlocks and sunglasses and the relaxed urbane sophistication of a successful musician returning home, playing guitar and singing impressively with a half dozen other local people on various instruments.  This is not a concert, just Sunday afternoon at the pub.  The music gets louder and more energetic, and people start dancing.  
As the afternoon sun gets low a white guy walks into the bar and starts a conversation with us.  He is vague on many things, and that is just fine – one´s past here is but a detail.  He finally admits he is Canadian, with the enigmatic comment “that is close enough”.  We talk about the Cape Verdes and then about South America and the Amazon and northern Brazil, looking for insights and tips for our travels in the next few months.  His answers continue to be rather non specific, like he doesn’t want to be tied down to having been in any particular place at any particular time.  He says he has never had to work for money (fortunate guy) and now travels.  I can´t help but feel that there is something more to his story, but am – as I´m sure he intended – no wiser as to what that is after an hour´s conversation.  After sunset he goes outside to stand on a wall and watch dusk.  A few minutes later he suddenly jumps down, sprints over to the window next to our table, and tells us we really must sail to Ushuaia for the scenery.
Sunday afternoon music

Walking back to our little pousada we come across Cecilio in another bar.  He is listening to a football match on a small radio, and relaying information on the eventual triumph of Benfica to others in the bar, along with talking with us in his rapid fire heavily accented English.  After talking for some time I realise that his understanding of English is far more limited than his ability to speak it, and he is finally surprised to learn that we live on a boat … the comprehension only coming when I press my shoddy French into service.  He plys us with more beer and grogue, stories of the village and the volcano, and lots of laughter.  He is the living incarnation of the spirit of the Count, slightly crazy, piratical in demeanour, high energy, unique.
After the hike

The village has no grid electricity or mains water.  Water is collected as run off from the surrounding hills, and what electricity there is comes from small generators run for a few hours in the early evening at a handful of the places in the village, including our pousada.  There is, however, good cellphone coverage and with that good internet access.  I ask Cecilio about the electricity situation and he says it is all about politics.  One can easily imagine why: a French Count arrived in a barren valley, helped himself generously to the local female population, created a tribe, and lived differently.  Life up here continues to be different from life elsewhere in the Cape Verdes.  There is no evidence of police or any of the standard accoutrements of society.  One gets the impression that they do their own thing in the Caldera to their own rules, and the Cape Verdians do their own thing everywhere else, and neither interact much.  Not that there is any obvious tension, rather just that this little community is independent, like a mini country.  It seems like it would be an excellent place to disappear into, and perhaps like the Count that is what some of the people we met here are doing.

The butter hasn´t melted yet…

Normally we like to set off on multi-day passages in the morning, giving us plenty of time to navigate away from land, get into clean air, and get the sails set before dark.  Leaving Tenerife we only got started at 5pm, and motored south in the windshadow of Mount Teide.  The current and the swell collide around the bottom of the island.  Add in very local southerly winds, then the NE trades a little further on, and conditions were uncomfortable to say the least.  Wild rolling, short steep waves from different directions, wind and waves in opposition at times – seasickness conditions par excellence, although with the help of Dramamine this time fortunately neither of us became ill.  It took us about 3 hours to get to relatively orderly waters and more stable winds, by which time it was twilight, so only the genoa went up.  By midnight the sea conditions were normal, and we were into trade wind sailing.  We were both extremely tired though, and getting through each watch was hard work – straight into the starboard passage bunk the minute the other had vacated it. 

The anchorage at Palmeira

By lunchtime we were awake enough to sort out our sails properly and to try a new approach to downwind sailing inspired in part by an idea in Don Street´s Cape Verde pilot.  The 150% roller-reefing genoa is fully extended, and sheeted through a large snatch block on the end of the boom.  On the inner forestay we hoisted our “get us home” jib, a relatively small jib that I had made a few years ago as a backup sail in the event of dismasting – slightly heavier sailcloth, flattish cut, hank on luff.  The jib is poled out slightly forward of the beam using our shorter spinnaker pole.  Both sails were sheeted quite flat and led back to the blocks near the stern we use for gennaker sheets. 

The smaller jib seems to materially reduce induced roll, as well as giving us an extra half knot or so.  The idea with this set up is also that we can reduce sail quite easily if the wind pipes up – just roller-reef the genoa to reduce sail area.  The jib would be fine in a lot of wind … I think 45kts, maybe more … so if we were caught in a nasty squall by rolling the genoa all the way in we have a manageable amount of sail area.

Fresh garoupa
Our speed on the passage averaged 6.7kts, a very respectable performance for Otra Vida, with classic trade winds of 16-28 kts true at our backs.  We felt that we were speeding towards a small new beginning: when landfall came we would no longer be in Europe. When will Otra Vida next see Europe?  I have no idea.  Perhaps 5 years, perhaps 20 years.  There is, literally, a whole world in front of us.  After the Cape Verdes group we’ll cross to northern Brazil – a new continent, new countries, new cultures, new people to meet, new food to eat.   So much to learn, so much to revel in.

3 ½ days into our passage we passed 20N, for me the mental delimiter of the tropics.  At 4.30am it didn´t feel tropical, with an air temperature of about 20C, although the humidity in the cabin notched up from 72% to 80% and cushions felt slightly wet to the touch.  The old sailing directions for crossing the Atlantic to the Caribbean are to sail south until the butter melts, then turn right.  The butter is still solid, and shorts-and-t-shirt night watches haven´t arrived yet, but they are not far away. 

It felt like our first proper ocean passage since returning from the Caribbean.  The difference is the remoteness.  From Rabat to the Canaries we sailed about 500nm, but the route parallels the coast of Morocco some 20-30nm offshore for the first third, and on that portion you can see lighthouses and city lights at night.  This passage, on the other hand, was 200nm+ offshore for the whole of its 760nm – definitely an ocean passage between islands.

We saw almost no traffic.   Just one freighter and one large passenger liner, and nothing else showed up on AIS at 48nm range the whole time.  We became a bit lazier in our watchkeeping, setting the radar on a 20 minute schedule scanning an 8nm radius from us.  We still kept our 100% live watch regime (of course) but the quick scan of radar every time it beeps to life was the norm, with occasional visual lookouts.  There was just nothing out there.  Quite different from the last time I was in this approximate area, crossing the Atlantic as part of the ARC, when I knew there were another 250 or so pleasure boats reasonably close by.

Late night music in the salt pans
The trade wind sailing was easy and lovely. With the new downwind sail approach it was even more comfortable, and maybe half the time the main cabin was so calm it felt like being at anchor, even though we were speeding along at close to 7 knots.  The other half of the time we had some rolling, and it seemed to be caused by apparently random changes in the wave patterns.  I say apparently random because I suspect it might have been related to tidal flow, or perhaps a slight difference in wind angle, or wind intensity.  Even still, the rolling was not so bad – we´ve been in worse anchorages.

Talking of anchorages, a big step forwards in comfort in the Canaries was the use of flopper stoppers.  These are devices that reduce rolling at anchor considerably by providing resistance in one direction only.  We started experimenting with the standard minimum, a bucket filled with water suspended from the boom just at sea level.  When the boat heels away from the bucket, the bucket and water are lifted out, providing say 10kg of weight, whereas when the boat heels towards the bucket, the bucket is submerged and is almost neutral in weight.  Even this has a good effect on rolling.  There are a few designs of flopper stoppers that build on this concept, including a triangle weighted at the tip that dives down, an ingenious proprietary metal folding device, a milk crate with a plastic flap on the bottom, and a metal grid with a plastic flap on top.   After building and testing several options we settled on getting two quite large metal grids fabricated, and covered them with mesh and plastic fabric with two slits.  The result is remarkable.  Untenably swelly anchorages suddenly become acceptable – not just tolerable, but acceptable.  I don’t know how we survived for so long without them.

The view of the fish dock from our favourite bar
We arrived in Palmeira, Sal at 10am local time, a passage of just 4 days 18h for 762nm.  The port is wonderfully sheltered from the swell and waves generated by the trade winds, but the wind itself blows over the low island and across the beach to where Otra Vida is gently swinging to her anchor.   The water is green, the sky blue, a rusty freighter is being unloaded at the dock by stevedores, the watermaker is happily chirping away, our dinghy bobs around behind the boat, nothing much is going on and that is just how it should be.  We went ashore to sort out formalities: finding the port policeman, who was apparently cycling around the town, and then to the airport for immigration and visa stamps.  Coming back we stopped at a bar on the waterfront – a wonderful melange of yachties, travellers, fishermen and local people.   The French guy living on a boat here with his Cape Verdian girlfriend and young kids, who came here a few years ago on another sailboat, didn’t get on with the captain, and decided to stay.  A Cape Verdian women born in Rotterdam, very sociable and somewhat drunk by noon, talking with everyone and anyone.  A Catalan delivery skipper, Rafa, taking a Janneau to northern Columbia for a season.  A local Rasta fisherman speaking good Spanish, giving us advice on where to catch fish.  Two French twenty-somethings, Tif and Clement, who drove down to Dakar and came here on a sailboat, now looking for a ride to the Caribbean.  A Dutch guy living on his boat here when he has money, and returning to Zeeland to work when the money runs out.  And a Brit and an Estonian sipping landfall drinks and soaking it all in.

There’s a feeling of welcome here.  The sea and sky welcome us, the stars shine more brightly in the nighttime tropical sky.  It’s good to be in the tropics again!


Steamed Garoupa

  • Clean the fish, cut incisions into the flesh diagonally, rub with salt.  Place ginger and salt in the stomach cavity.
  • Lay the fish on top of spring onions and coriander stalks.  Steam to a core temperature of 45C.
  • Remove the fish and glaze with hot vegetable oil.
  • Make a sauce of rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar and white pepper. Heat to just boiling then pour over the fish.
  • Garnish with julienne ginger, coriander leaves, finely sliced spring onion, julienne chilli.

Serve with steamed rice.