OFF WE GO TO THE CAPE VERDES
I had a difficult begin of 2021. My aunt’s death – with whom we fought cancer side by side – plunged me in deep despair and sadness. With the pandemics I couldn’t see her before her death. I focused on preparing preserves jars until I felt strong enough to leave.
19 - 26 January 2021
I left at 10:00 am from Tazacorte to the island of Sal, with all the friends that had supported me through these dark days, waving at me. I was emotional and looking forward to be on my own. I was anxious though, I knew the moving sea would bring back the sufferings until I would be able to let it free. I hesitated to go West to find wind at a distance of the island but felt better to motor on the flat sea towards El Hierro. Somehow I needed a smooth beginning. It was nice to contemplate the landscape and breathe through. With the help of Windy – I still had mobile access – I searched the best way to find the wind. In the night, I was just at the fringe of the shield of el Hierro and the acceleration zone just north of it. I didn’t take a chance and changed my course to the West to benefit it and switched the engine off. I took a wide berth of El Hierro to stay in the funneled breeze. I had a complicated night to stay in the wind and had to gybe a few times. When I saw I was far enough I took course to the Cape Verdes. I was proud of my tactic, at the end I just had had to motor 10 hours.
No wind gave me the opportunity to contemplate the unfolding landscape
I didn't know at that moment that my singing notebook and ukulele would become my best companions on this trip.
I connected the windvane and took a rest. The 2 meters waves were knocking Giulia’s side and as anticipated, I got seasick .
My day’s work – distance sailed in 24 hours – brought me a huge smile back though: I had hit all Giulia’s records with 144M. In the evening 20 dolphins came to visit us and played for an hour around and close to Giulia. I just sat in the bow full of awe, admiring them, swiftly surf with the bow waves, play to find the best positions, describe elegant S around Giulia and come back to the bow. I was excited and grateful that they were making my day, and even more when three dolphins jumped simultaneously out of the wave splashing from behind, as to say me goodbye.
There is a surprise :-)
The next days, weather conditions were alternating with at times strong winds and banging waves, and others, good winds on gentler seas. I wasn’t always feeling good because of the swinging movements and found a way to ease the discomfort by learning the song Violetta Parra's Gracias a la vida song by heart. Sometimes I just leaned on the sprayhood. Standing, looking in front of me and singing loud or playing it on the ukulele did calm me down then.
I spent also hours contemplating the magnetic ocean and saw much more and diverse wildlife than on previous passages. Seeing twice huge turtles pop out of the depth just behind Giulia soothed me, as the birds that followed Giulia dancing in the air.
I was also focusing my mind on observing the sky. By doing so I realized that stratocumulus stretching in the sky brought more wind. I could better anticipate the maneuvers afterwards. The difficult seas came with them as the NW swell crossed with the NE wind waves. Still every day I had incredible day’s work with once 145 M again, and the others above 140, this was not seen for Giulia. This made feel uttermost glad.
I was going too much to the East, and for me, too close to Mauritania where the waters are shallower and there is much more fishing. I decided to gybe. The angle to the waves was less comfortable but I felt better to be further at sea. At once the wind picked up and the windvane couldn’t hold Giulia on course. I was far enough to the west and gybed in these heavy conditions. I suddenly saw that the ring holding the lines to helm was much lower than it should. A closer check made me discover that it had unscrewed itself – probably with vibrations – and was about to fall off the support. I jumped inside Giulia for the tools and to put it back on place and tighten it. The windvane took over immediately, and the difficulty to stay on course was immediately solved. I just felt glad that I have such a good intuition. Somehow it made me have a closer look at this part and avoid a huge problem. I was also reassured that I remained alert even though I was dizzy.
I came back to life and found peace within me at the end, 100M to go to Sal, with good speed and more comfortable seas.
The night of the sixth day I crossed a cargo. We were closer to the island of Sal. I called him on the VHF to see what were his intentions. He would pass me aft. I went for a quick nap and was awaken by the voice of the man on watch asking “Madam what are your intentions?” I explained him that it was difficult to have a precise course with the windvane and changing winds. He thanked me for the explanation and took an even wider berth. I was laughing when I went back to sleep. It was a joke with the friends I met in Tazacorte, they never had heard this expression. It came them funny over that a woman would ask to a man what his intentions were… I could confirm it was an official way of asking in the maritime world.
I had a fabulous last day but still was worried I didn’t see land in the late afternoon. The visibility was so poor with the Calima that fills the air with sand that I didn’t discern the island of Sal. I would arrive at night and was afraid to hit land. The island appeared in the setting sun. I was reassured, even more when the full moon rose, as the sandy mountains shone in the silver light. After a short acceleration zone, the wind diminished to a perfect 16 knots. I had all the time to prepare Giulia for the arrival. A local called me on the VHF telling me he would help me. The entrance channel to Palmeira was straigthforward to find, and the guy was waiting for me at a buoy. The arrival was even easier than I thought.
I realized how good it was to be in Africa when the sun rose in the pale light.
I had sailed the distance in 6 days and a half with an average speed of 6,36 knots, the best I had achieved ever. I was jumping of joy to the sky and thanked my new guardian angel for a safe passage.