The Repair of Mr. Perkins

14th Apr 2003 Simon figured that there was something a little too good to be true about our first brilliant couple of days whale-watching. He was right. We did see a scatter of whales on the 1st April, but they were much quieter than they had been and were not vocalising. Anyway we were due to make contact with the Oceanographic Institute in Mindelo that week, and needed to replenish our water tanks, and what is more Mr Perkins was getting hard to start and appeared to have water in his sump. Fortunately it's not hard to sail to Mindelo from here in Boavista; we eased the sheets that evening and roared off westwards.

The next day gave us a sparkling sail past Sao Nicolao, the Ilheus Raso and Branco, Santa Luzia and the south coast of Sao Vicente. Rounding Punta Machado, we faced a stiff beat up the Canal de Sao Vicente, down which the trade wind whistles between it and the mountains of Santo Antao. Luckily we hit it around high water, which is the time when the prevailing south-westerly current slackens, but still it was dark when we entered the wide bay of Mindelo and, ducking behind the great break-water of Porto Grande, fetched up alongside a convenient tug without problem, even though this time at last Mr Perkins had finally thrown in the towel.

Next day we weren't long in meeting an interesting spectrum of the human race. Tony has described some. I was particularly interested in two single-hander casualties of the winter Atlantic-crossing season; an Argentinian who was re-rigging a Gib-sea sloop, whose rig had come down about 140 miles off so that he had had to cut it away and motor in, and a Canadian lady, who had put into Mindelo with minor engine trouble on a windy night and unfortunately ended up on the beach. They both seemed to rate my chances of fixing the engine promptly very low indeed, or indeed at all if I was rash enough to depend upon a local.

Rounding Punta MachadoNothing daunted I headed for the south beach where there were a couple of slips with fishing-boats on them, found a couple of lads working in a container fitted out as a metal workshop and asked for a mechanic. The result was one Humberto Elisio Lima Lopez, otherwise known as ‘O Parakeet'. I think of him as another kind of winged creature, a very angel of the Lord, for with tremendous patience and good-humour, he doggedly worked away, identified the problem as a fracture in the exhaust pipe that let cooling water back into the engine, and gave the engine a good overhaul in the process of fixing it. If you should ever need a mechanic in Mindelo, ring 957934 for Humberto.

Nonetheless it was a traumatic business that involved a few days of very difficult living aboard. Fortunately Simon and Tony had their business at the Oceanographic Institute to attend to, so with that and a trip to Santo Antao kept themselves occupied. There is a lot I could write about Mindelo, but suffice to say I am very glad of my first little exposure to Africa. The good humour with which the people address the problems of living in this harsh environment is humbling and touching.

Fish is evidently a principal resource here, but a little look around reveals the usual problems. Probably as a result of well-meaning development aid, there are 5 fine new tuna boats tied up in Mindelo, where they have been for about a year without doing anything, as is a modern Icelandic stern trawler. Portugese LonglinerI am told they are the property of the Government here. There are however a couple of able 40footers also built in Iceland, that seem to be doing well ringing for cavalho, that looks much like our crake herring, and some very battered old wooden boats, usually patched with fibr