Cape Verde Reflections

8th Apr 2003 I have now left the boat to do a bit of island exploration - to see some

more of the birdlife and climb the amazing looking volcano in Fogo. So a spot of reflection on the main business of the trip is timely.

It is now over 2 weeks since we sailed from the Canaries and my first

taste of open ocean sailing. I knew the first day or so would be a problem in terms of getting my sea-legs. At least I had no concerns on the sailing side. I had never met Joe, his son Matthew or Tony before, but they clearly worked well as a team managing the ´Anna M´ efficiently and safely.

Apart from the bird and dolphin encounters already described, the most wonderous moments without doubt were watching sunsets (who would see the ´green flash´ ? - we all did except Tony) and doing night shifts at the wheel (they trust me????). The combination of a night sky full of stars, a luminous milky way, phosphoresence of unknown beasts and the occassional visit by dolphins is indescribable - this was pure emotion.

Add to this the bizarre, and certainly new to me, pyramid of light which

appeared in the western sky after sunset - presumably something to do with the suns light being focused through the water (anyone know any different please write in) - so many aspects of nature that I had never seen before.

Time at sea went by remarkably quickly (unless it was rough - by my

standards any wave greater than 10cm high was reason enough to start moaning) - cooking, eating, washing, helping around the boat where I could, chatting (not easy once Tony started thinking documentary business or Joe became fixated on some aspect of the boat - thank heavens for Matthew, someone who had a fuller understanding of what conversation entails - a 2-way exchange lads) and snoozing filled the day - lots of the latter. An excellent way to occupy yourself if only someone else would pay the bills.

But there was discomfort - heavy seas making me wonder how the hell I could get off the boat and back to terra firma. Getting impromtu soakings with no easy way to really dry off gear. The rather restricted menu. The endless miles - hundreds of miles - of ocean to be gobbled up before destination Cape Verde came into view. When the call ´land ahoy´ was heard (Matthew is obviously a traditionalist in these matters) the change was remarkable - sadness that the open sea voyage was ending mixed with anticipation as the main task would now start. And a week at sea had dramatically changed my sense of smell - as we approached Sal I could definitely smell land - more maybe it was Simon waiting to meet us.

Getting over the initial shock of the bare bleakness of these islands took rather longer than dealing emotionally with the obvious poverty of many of the people. These are happy folk, smiling, waving, shaking your hand, always asking where you are from. And all genuine with very few people touching you for money, and these mainly in the bigger towns and, it must be admitted, even this was done with style. I am still not used to the bareness of most of the country - this brought home to me on the island of Fogo by two sights - one at a village with an irrigation scheme allowing year-round horticulture - I just stood and stared at a patch of greenery, feeling quite homesick. The other when watching a small herd of goats eating their way through a pile of empty cement bags just about sums up the grazing options.

Of course THE trip highlight has been finding so many humpbacks so quickly. As it turned out we were very lucky with the weather during that period, which partly explains why we had such a good initial run with the whales. When the winds picked up, to what were probably more typical conditions, it was time to wish I was elsewhere or dead.

Joe, Matthew, Simon and Tony will be carrying on the work over the next month and beyond. But when you read the updates do keep in mind the organisational effort that has gone into making this trip