Wandering in the Realm of Dreams

Mar 23 2010

Magical Mystical Moments…

0127 hrs Dale, Steve and Tom on watch; we amble around in the half asleep doze/alert night-watch mode; 12-15 knots of North East Trades just hanging in there, 5 Degrees North of the equator, wind dropping ,fluking around, it’s time to pull in the staysail, roll away the no 1 Yankee , pull the mainsail across and whack on Mr. Perkins our faithful motor and gain some miles towards more favorable winds. Then, Steve moving forwards towards the bow screams;

Turn off the light! Turn off the light!

Tommy; What?

Steve; Turn off the light!He turned off the light.

Steve; Do you see that?

Tommy; What?

Steve; You honestly don’t see that?

Tommy; I’m clipping in. Ooooh faaaar out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

But hang on a second; I’m getting away on myself, we’ll get back to that. We’ve just left Mindelo,Sao Vicente 4 days out of the Cape Verdes heading down to the Island Paradise of Ilha Grande. The biggest of 365 Islands just south of Rio de Janeiro. Our scheduled 3-5 days in Mindelo stretched out to 9 days due to Saturday arrival; Customs & Immigration don’t work weekends (Island Time).Steve headed off to Praia, Santiago; the main Island in the Cape Verde Islands to sort out his Brazilian visa with Tommy in tow. Things always take longer in these small island nations. They didn’t get back until Friday evening so another wait till Monday morning for departure.
Meanwhile Captain “Bushy”, Elton the Bahamian Brother and myself nutted down to some hot ,hard work on the Sea Dragon; The galley completely pulled apart, cleaned, re-organized, labeled, any excess bits and pieces of food, binned or gifted to the local boys waiting at the gates of the Marina. Cape Verde has a high level of living compared to other African nations but there is poverty. Primary schooling is available free to all, but some of these kids don’t have even have food on their plates , so seeing them go through the rubbish bins at the expensive marina is a bit of an eye opener for people more fortunate in their place of birth who have never felt hunger, ever.

We checked everything on the Sea Dragon; a good few hours was spent hanging off the rigging, looking at everything with a fine tooth comb. Chafe leathers off the shrouds, every nut, screw and bolt checked for tightness and wear. These tedious jobs have to be done to ensure safe running of the vessel. The advantage of being aloft a 100 ft above the deck is the amazing views. Mindelo has a rich history from all the whaling and trading vessels passing through for centuries into its natural harbor. There is many a shadow of wrecks sunk into the bottom of the harbor. Probably breaking from their moorings from the wind which accelerates through the anchorage, doubling in speed from the wind out to sea, which also makes it interesting hanging in the rigging; getting whipped about like a twig.

We re-stocked the boat with all the essential stores, ready for the long 2600 mile voyage ahead. The advantage of speaking Spanish/ Portuguese is being able to converse with the local people which generally makes life easier at the time of shopping, getting better prices in the various food and vegetable markets. Some of the best deals being done on the side of road with beautiful ,colorfully dressed women selling products from their own gardens; herbs, sweet potatoes, lettuce, beetroot, papaya, lemons, tomatoes, watermelon, peppers, fresh home- made goats cheese and different types of fish. This all being the staple diet along with beans and rice. The people of Mindelo, Sao Vicente are incredibly attractive. Dark skinned, many with amazing green eyes, traces of past conquerors, traders perhaps. They pride themselves on their physical prowess, everyday at all hours there was someone running, young ripped men glimmering in the sun. At sunset and at evening; women, mothers and the older guys all using the simple chin up bars and exercise equipment provided in the streets and on the beaches. There is a strong police presence at all hours. These guys are seriously fit, no coffee and donuts for them. All this good food, sun and healthy activity make for very happy, friendly and helpful people.

Elton did some beach transects and found traces of plastics as is the norm now on all islands that we have visited in the Atlantic Ocean. There IS plastic out there floating around, without a doubt. The short time I’ve been aboard, seeing the results of the trawls and beach work you just don’t realize until you actually start looking. The beaches in Sao Vicente are clean. Rubbish bins are provided and emptied regularly, no one throws litter in the street, although we did see plastic shopping bags flying through the air and rubbish in the water at the marina. All this due to the strong wind I would imagine. Every-time you buy anything from any little shop they always want to give you a one use bag. Just on this little island there must be a phenomenal number of plastic bags and plastic water bottles thrown into landfills every day. What can be done about it? We do what we can by going shopping with our re-usable bags and use stainless steel water-bottles, every little bit counts. Monday came around quick, up early, all hands on deck. Clean everything inside and out.
Clean boat; Healthy boat.

Elton, Tom and I form the fresh veg hit squad. We know where we are going and for exactly how much. Re-usable bags at the ready we buy as much locally grown produce as possible and as fast as possible, fresh lasts longer.

Any imported fruit and veg such as oranges that have been refrigerated tend to go off very quickly in the tropics. On a long trip we need to ration out the fruit so we eat healthy the whole way. It’s my job to educate these young fella’s that life does not revolve around peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and other comfort food. Everyone has a turn at cooking and once a day we all sit together and eat. A joint time as a family much like people still do in Europe but has been forgotten in other modern cultures; which is eat as fast as possible, take-out food, or in front of the T.V or idiot box. If you’ve got any gripes, nows also the time to spit it out. Sea Dragon has a good vibe so all’s good aboard with a bit of healthy banter being thrown around. The young fellas are waiting for the equator to see what Neptune will be asking of them. The traditional offering to the Sea God must be performed. Let’s wait and see what will happen with that one…..

Shopping done. The Mighty Sea Dragon gets to slip her mooring lines for a short moment to move to the fuel dock. Almost a thousand litres of fuel goes in. I race off to spend the last of our Cape Verde Escudos; the lads all want more chocolate. Little do they know, I’ll be rationing chocolate on this one, otherwise it will disappear real fast and the guilty ones will soon be known with pimples popping out all over the place.

Sea Dragon is itching at the blocks, ready to get back out on the ocean which is where she likes to be, running wild.

We leave the Cape Verdes and can still see the Islands at Sunset. The next morning we have the island of Fogo in our sights. Fogo has the only active volcano in the Cape Verdes; a very fertile island that grows coffee , citrus fruit, vegetables, grapes and makes very good white wine .As Fogo(the island of fire ) fades into the distance ,with her cone slowly smoking away, we get into our watch routine; sleep, clean, cook, sail changes ;keep the boat moving at a good clip.7 Knots minimum, the wind has been constant around 15 knots. We get a visit from a pod of roughly 100 dolphins. It doesn’t matter how many times you see dolphins their joyful frolicking makes you happy. It’s as simple as that.

The wind is starting to back a bit ,we are just hanging on to the North East trade-winds, it’s like riding a continuous wave but instead of water; wind. We mold our sails to fit the moment. We change the No. 2 Yankee for the No.1, like changing gears in a car, gives us another knot. Every knot is a mile, that’s 24 miles in a day, that’s a quicker passage. That’s Ice-Cream and Pina Coladas in Brazil, sounds good to me.

We are getting as much west in as possible to be able to gibe back further down the line and put ourselves on a broad reach, our fastest point of sail and fly down the Brazilian Coast. We still have an ace up our sleeve when the wind dies down. We’ve got a huge Gennaker sitting in the sail locker ready to go.

The miles tick over. The big ships are starting to appear coming up from Brazil, loaded with their wares; The African Hawk churns past 2 miles ahead of us, not a soul in sight, and then slowly fades into the distance. The Growth Ring on its way to Rotterdam probably loaded with timber. Makes me wonder of traders from years gone by. We still follow the trade-wind routes of mariners long gone; the currents & winds were all discovered for their consistency at certain times of year. We have books & Movies aboard about Discoverers, Pioneers & Swashbucklers and I think we all like to dream a bit about the romantic side of our voyage, the arrival in a new country like Brazil after crossing an ocean, makes you stand tall, feel good. You’ve sailed to get there, fished, braved waves and rain squalls, watched dolphins play, whales pop by to say hello, and sea-birds come & go. You feel strong, tanned and a bit salty around the gills, you see things and experience moments you can only see out here on the ocean…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Then, Steve moving forwards towards the bow screams; Turn off the light! Turn off the light!

Tommy; What?

Steve; Turn off the light! He turned off the light.

Steve; Do you see that?

Tommy; What?

Steve; You honestly don’t see that?

Tommy; I’m clipping in. Ooooh faaaar out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I move forward to see what’s going on, then realize what’s happening; I’d told Steve about one of the most beautiful moments he would ever experience, but you don’t believe it until you see it for yourself. I watched as Tom on his first voyage and Steve now well salted; marveled, Ooohed & Aaahd at the sight of Dolphins swimming in the bow wake of the boat at night, the luminescence streaming off the perfection of their sleek bodies, lovingly kissing each other as they danced for us, painting star-dusted trails through the liquid medium of the ocean; mere words can’t describe the pure fantasy of what we were seeing. A unique memory to keep locked away forever………..

They say the first ocean voyagers, in the day when the oceans were still full of wildlife, abundant wildlife, used to see the marvel we were experiencing and throw themselves into the ocean thinking they were the most beautiful women, mermaids, calling to them……fantasy, pure fantasy, but real……… A magical , mystical moment, wandering in the realm of dreams……………………………………….