We spent a few relaxing weeks in Cabo Verde licking our wounds and enjoying the exotic weirdness of what was once essentially a slave-trading post, and eventually our one month head start on the Brazilian Carneval had melted down to a mere 16 days. I picked up two German cyclists, Arne and Jo [their blog, German], mainly to make our watches more comfortable, since the charming Cecilie had decided to take the sensible route to Brazil (by airplane).
We tried to hoist the troubled Genoa in Mindelo, but had to abandon our attempt due to the vicious katabatic winds in the harbour. I decided to set off without the Genoa with the intention of hoisting it in the middle somewhere. We had strong winds for the first few days, and the nights were still a bit chilly. My Starbucks cup, which I had once stolen myself, died somewhere off Guinea-Bissau; we jettisoned its remains without much ado. We also managed to catch our first fish around this time also; a beautiful, albeit smallish Dorade. These pelagic predators shine in the most beautiful colours, as did ours, until I saw it off with a winch handle. I asked fishy for forgiveness, and we BBQed the poor beast right then and there.
We were slowly approaching the equator, it was finally getting hotter, and the water turned a tropical dark blue, artificial-looking in its intensity; in fact, the only thing I could compare it to is the packaging of Nivea skin cream. The winds got weaker, just as indicated by our weather forecast. Thanks to the US taxpayer by the way, now just stop funding war on the civilian population of Palestine and we’ll be best buddies. We managed to hoist the 80 sqm Genoa on the fourth attempt, an essential tool for driving 25 tons of steel at 8 knots of wind.
As the degrees and miles towards the equator were melting away, I started having the most bizarre dreams, commonly involving old acquaintances I haven’t seen, let alone thought of, in years. Among them a an entirely lucid recollection of an implausibly pretty hippy girl called Emma I’d met on Nottingham campus back in the day; she was sitting at her dorm window, I invited her to “come out and play”, initiating an afternoon of playing childish games around campus. I also spent much of my time daydreaming, extensively planning a tour on my childhood stomping ground of the Grevelingen sea and Oosterschelde delta for next summer, anchoring around the little islands and sailing on swell-less, lake-like inland seas on the family’s boat with a better half (TBA) in a miniature, harmless version of our global ambitions.
Both swell and wind died down as we entered the inter-tropical convergence zone, a bizarre, windless strip of calms just by the equator, with mild swell coming from both the Northern and Southern hemisphere. The squalls are not subject to any wind shear, and sit just above the water with huge castles of steam towering above them. On came the engine, I packed away the backup GPS in the safe in case of lightning, and we jogged along at a lazy 3 knots for an entire two days. The squalls never turned out as viciously as expected and brought us a welcome fresh water shower.
We also went swimming, and I used my snorkelling gear to stare deeper down into 3,000 something metres of that strong blue. The crew got silly euphoric on this event. We had grown into a superb combo, and this passage was actually a rather smooth operation. The elite of Kyle and Timo were on top form, and I went around fixing things with Jo “MacGuyver”, doing up corroded cables and attempting to fix the pressure switch of the drinking water pump. I felt rather stoic on this voyage, just regarding it as my job to keep the show on the road.
There was a bit of a nervous moment when we had a major leak of the hydraulic system a few hundred miles of the coast, and as we were drifting backwards at 2 knots, with the vessel technically “not under command”. Or when the starter motor just kept clicking, luckily I had already learned a stuck starter motor relay just needs a firm hammering. At times I felt haunted by the endless series of minor and major breakages, but, as an atheist, there is no good or bad luck or indeed any causality in my universe. Just a series of sometimes shitty random events.
We crossed the equator, narrowly avoided the rocks of St Peter and Paul, Brazilian territory in mid-Atlantic, and went on a bearing of 220 towards Pernambuco. We calculated our average speed time and again, trying to work out whether we were going to make the Carneval. I also had a EUR 100 bet with Timo going on on that front. Arne proved to be an excellent chef, somehow turning the durable foodstuff we were reduced to in week two into edible meals time and again. Which was just as well, since we started running out of things; first, it was chocolate and snacks, meaning we could only eat at mealtimes, next came the methanol crisis (which I use as cooking fuel). Luckily Cecilie had purchased lots of charcoal, so we started cooking anything from coffee to pasta on the BBQ.
As we were approaching South America, I thought of Alvares Cabral. He was headed further south to find lands in the half of the globe assigned to the Portuguese by his Popeness. Even though Columbus felt he had reached India and thus demonstrated that the world is round, the Popists couldn’t accept this for obvious reasons, and divided up the newly discovered bits into bits for the powers that be. Ironically, the Christians were sort of accidentally correct on this occasion.
We arrived just in time for the Onlinda Carneval, the biggest welcome party/docking lager celebrations yet, in the company of Cecilie, her friend Alice, as well as newcomer Swedish Niklas. Happy days!