First Impressions – and beyond.

29th Apr 2003 Cabo Verde airlines flight 624 makes its final descent into Sal airport and I am mesmerised by this small brown rock that lies below us. Could I have taken the incorrect flight? Whoever named these islands all those years ago chose an incorrect title as there was nothing evidently verdant about Sal thus far. My guidebook painted an accurate picture as I could now see the devastating effect of the Harmattan winds that drag the sand off the Sahara desert – Cabo Verde is a marine extension of the Sahara and the ever-present North Easterly Trade winds were to play a major role in my presence on this beautiful arrow shaped archipelago.

Simon greets me in the arrivals lounge and we are off to Esparago to meet skipper Joe Aston and Tony Whelan. After stocking up on provisions we return to Palmeira where I get my first glimpse of the Anna M, anchored majestically in the bay. Simon had warned me that they had no whale sightings for the past 2 weeks and he was increasingly anxious to get some more fluke shots before he departed for home a week later. 6 am next morning, sails up and we are off in the direction of Boa Vista to the south, carried along gracefully by the following trade winds.

Matty puts out the fishing line and we are pushing through the surf at a steady 7 knots with all hands out on deck scouring for the elusive blows that will pinpoint our targets. 3 long hours later scorched by the relentless sun and howling winds I begin to think that we are not going to spot any today either when I notice that we are towing something on the end of our fishing line. Matty reels it in and I help him to land an impressive 30 lb blue marlin which keeps the barbeque charged for the next 4 days.

My first encounter with flying fish was awesome. One shot out of the water and glided gracefully for an eternity before disappearing beneath the surface again and other companions for the day included Cape Verdan shearwaters and the occasional, lone storm petrel. Suddenly Simon spots a blow and we come about and track back in that direction but after 2 hours scouring we head in to anchorage off the beach. Day 2 sees us plying back up towards Sal as this area provided a rich vein of sightings in early April and Simon was confident that there would still be humpbacks in the area. This was hard sailing, winds force 5/6 and tacking into a harsh sea tested my gastro constitution but it held firm and I spent some time listening to the eerie underwater sounds on our hydrophone hoping to pick up some whale vocalisation. A shout from Simon sends me scurrying up to the bow as we have a small school of rough toothed dolphins bow riding but they bore easily with the slow speed and do not remain long.

Soon a blow is spotted and we approach cautiously and then I catch glimpse of my first fluking. Soon this humpback was surfacing frequently and we were frantic to get as many pictures as possible while it lasted and Tony was busy filming at all angles. We were back in ‘Humpback Alley' and the omens looked good again and we tie up in the bay in Sal Rei and accompany skipper to Mass that was spiritually uplifting with lots of singing and congregation participation.

Easter Sunday was designated as a day of rest, chilling out and setting Tony on the shore while we sail by for some sail by shots. Simon spots a mother and soon a calf just off shore so we hastily pick up Tony and for the next 2 hours we pick up lots of good vocalisation and some marvellous sightings of this pair who seem to be obliging us with their performances and for the next 2 days we got some marvellous action from this pair including a spectacular breech just 50 metres off our stern which caught everybody by surprise. We decide to land on the little island off Sal Rei to investigate an osprey we spotted earlier and we find it's nest on top of the stanchion for the light that acts to warn passing ships of the rugged headland. Lots of little lizards abound and brown ravens and the shoreli