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Casting off to Tarrafal – same same but a little different!

This is the first time I got scared to loose Giulia!


I took advantage of the month and a half I stayed in Mindelo to check Giulia. With the help of a friend I cleaned the winches. At first, I was reluctant to do it, afraid I would brake more than I would take care of, but this task turned out to be very interesting. It was time-consuming though. I needed to carefully dismount the winches not to lose the parts, clean them and remount them. Their mechanic fascinated me. It was blowing quite hard, being focused on the job helped me forget about that discomfort. At the end it turned out as a good meditation with dirty hands at the end. In three days, I had cleaned the 8 winches.


After that job, I wanted to make cushions for the cockpit that is getting old and not so pretty. I first designed them. Then I found the filling and beautiful African fabrics. I could work on my friend’s sewing machine in his boat. It took me some time to figure out how to use it. Once I started I couldn’t stop. I know you don’t have to look at the details but I find it amusing to design something from scratch. I was very glad with the result that brought an exotic touch to the cockpit as some more comfort. I also sewed a new Belgian flag. As I said, it is probably the most luxurious flag on the market – if you count the hours it took me to sew it, the joy of seeing it blowing in the wind was greater then.


A friend replaced my anode that came loose and helped me to climb in the mast. He was the one who remarked that one of the spreaders was looser than the other. Except for that everything was fine. I was lucky the rigger could look at it quite quickly and find a solution. This took some more time that he first told me, and was somehow nerve consuming because he never came at the time they said. It was difficult for me to wait for him, not sure I could leave the day I thought. At the end all came good, he made a better fixation. I was glad though that I did it. I wouldn’t have felt very secure should I have waited. And it could only get worse. I also thanked the windy days that probably accentuated the problem provoking the vibrations of the mast.


At last I found a system-D to repair the broken fixation of the stick to the helm. It became a story as I like them. First, I had friends that gave me the idea to look for a ball-joint, another one told me where to buy it. At the shop, I found it. Yet I still needed a solution to fix it on the stick. The employee gave me the address of an industry where they could make it. It was in a no man’s land. We went with my Caboverdian lady friends in a taxi. The place is a place where you can make almost everything. It gives me a good feeling to know that these grounds where you still can repair almost everything, still exist in our “throw” society. They were very careful and I managed to explain them what I wanted in my simple kriol. A day later I had my funky piece.

And I took the opportunity of the waiting to send my book to other editors.

All this done, I was still on time to leave with a good weather forecast. I was very nervous though, more than other times, to cast off. I tried to calm me down remembering that I had already sailed that trip. I had decided to go upwind on the side of São Vicente, where I thought the current would be weaker and set us in the good direction.


I enjoyed my last day in Mindelo with friends and walking around the city. The officer at the office of the Policia maritima was very kind.

All was set to leave.


Saturday I cast off around 8:30. I hoisted the mainsail with two reefs and the Hi-Aspect, in front of the commercial harbour. Then I set course to come out of the bay, still with the engine on as a cargo was leaving at the same time. He was quicker than me and I could switch the engine off. I sailed past the jetty and set course between the Praia de Laginha and the Ilheu dos Passaros. The wind was constantly changing of strength and direction. Giuliacoursed slowly but securely. However, we were coming closer to the Ilheu dos Passaros and decided to tack. I wasn’t making good Vitesse as I almost ended up where I started. I tacked again. I had made some progress but was still too close to the Ilheu dos Passaros to my liking. I sailed as close to the islet as my nerves would let me, and tacked again. Back we were but a little less to the South. Next tack, I finally passed the islet.


With this experience I decided to do as the previous time and sail North towards Santo Antão instead of tacking on the side of São Vicente. The wind dropped. I was advancing very slowly with the Hi-Aspect and decided to unfurl the Genua instead. I found a way to drop the Hi-Aspect on deck while sailing with the Genua. I was making good speed again. I took care to leave the Genua sheet free when I attached the folded Hi-Aspect to the guardrail. I tacked when the North point of the Bay of Salamansa was to the east. I then realized that the sheet of the Genua was blocked by the ties of the Hi-Aspect: a beginner’s error. Without the Genua the speed dropped to a miserable 1 knots. It was impossible to tack. I was crossed at me. I decided to arrange everything on deck before tacking. Giulia’s bow plunged in the water, I got soaked. I managed to set the sheet free and a bit ashamed of myself, used the engine to tack. My mood was dropping. I was going slow. The current was setting me back and not allowing me to make a better course than 145 instead of the 100 I needed. At that moment a huge turtle came out of the water, cheering me a bit up, and I went on forgetting my sorrow.

As I was coming closer to the shore, I thought of switching the engine on to pass the head. At that same moment, came the image of the smile my friend had when we sailed very slowly and engineless on the Guadiana. He made me enjoy that slow pace. Remembering him, I accepted to be carried out by the soft and feeble wind. I took the time to think over how to tack without the engine. I realized that if I did it with the Genua still on, I would have enough speed, and the Genua would help me to tack. After that I just had to quickly furl the Genua, prepare the sheets properly and unfurl it on the other side. I would lose some height but at least I would not use the engine. It worked out perfectly. I set course again to the North - North-East. This time I waited until the head of Marigou was behind me, at an angle of 145. I tacked with the same technique as the previous time. I was very glad to notice that the current was weaker a bit more to the North of the channel, we were now heading at 125, well past the head.


The course was more comfortable and we sailed on a beam reach. At first not very fast advancing with 3 knots but on an almost flat sea. A premiere in Cabo Verde that I appreciated even more. I had plenty of time to eat and contemplate the North Coast of São Vicente and then of Santa Luzia.



As the sun set in a glorious show I was North of Ilheú Branco. The wind was filling in and we had gained speed on a comfortable sea. Perfect sailing conditions. I enjoyed the sunset, feeling privileged. The wind filled more as we were approaching Ilheu Raso, in the night now. The 25 knots at most were nothing compared to the 40knots I had had the previous trip. The seas were also quite gentle compared to what I had had. I saw Tarrafal’s light and the shadow of the islet to the South. I knew I was on the right course. As the other time the wind died past the line the lighthouse of Barril draws to the South. I still made Vitesse and enjoyed the calm. When the speed dropped below 1 knot, I switched on the engine, furled the Genua and dropped the mainsail. I prepared Giuliafor the arrival. Entering the bay I heard a blast. It was a whale. I couldn’t see her but because I perceived her blast twice further to the North, I think she was swimming in the opposite direction. I tried to light her with my flashlight, with no result.



I recognized the quay of Tarrafal at 23:00, and headed to the place where I wanted to anchor. I loosened the windlass to let the chain go, but it got blocked in the windlass. I unscrewed the cap to release the chain, which happened easily. By the time it was free again I was too close to the quay so I went back to the good spot. And again, the chain blocked. I unblocked it quickly and let the chain go, but I had anchored too close to the quay. It didn’t feel safe as there arrive cargos or ferries at night. I decided to lift the anchor and disengaged the engine to keep power without moving, the new batteries of the controller were already weak – probably because I had these batteries for a long time. The anchor chain blocked at the end when the anchor was almost on deck. I decided to go on like that. As I tried to engage the engine in forward, the handle wouldn’t unblock. I couldn’t move nor forward nor backward. I didn’t know what to do and luckily called my friends with whom I sailed. They had already arrived and offered to stay on watch on channel 72 should I need it. And I did. He answered with a sleepy voice, advising to try to clean the throttle with WD40. Nothing changed. He then told me to open the gearbox behind. I jumped inside, looked for the proper screwdrivers and wrench. It took me some time but I opened the box. The tide pushing me unto the quay but I kept focused on my job. More WD 40 behind didn’t help. I called again my friend, this time quite close to the huge concrete boulders protecting the quay. Last try was to softly tap on the gear with a hammer. This unblocked the throttle, just as I was to hit the boulders. Glad to have escaped the catastrophe I took a huge berth to the quay. I anchored at the place I wanted to, the chain blocked again. I took a deep breath and tried for a last time, guiding better the chain as she came out of the anchor locker, and not trying to clean it at the same time. Finally, all went well and I anchored exactly where I wanted. I needed to understand why it blocked. The windlass was clean. It was the chain that wasn’t. My error was – I think I still need to test – not to guide the chain properly from the anchor locker to the windlass.

I escaped losing my pretty boat and realized it fully the next day because at the moment itself I remained very calm, what probably saved us, with the help of my angel guardian too!

Or was it the whale?


I learned a lot though




It was the first time I really felt in danger, and hope is the last one.
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