Incarceration. Inclines. Isolation. Inclusion. Inoculation.

Who needs high modulus sails when rice bags will do.

13th January 2022

Tarrafal, Sao Nicolau, Cape Verde – Mindelo, Sao Vincent, Cape Verde via Ponta da Cruz, Santa Luzia, Cape Verde

It’s not often we can describe all our activities starting with a single letter but this week we can. We’ve been incarcerated on board Ruffian; Inclines have featured on every hike; Splendid isolation has been sought and found; New friends have included us on their adventures and in our bid for increasing freedom we’ve had yet more inoculations.

As the wind started to howl in Tarrafal so started our enforced incarceration on Ruffian. Gusts of wind fell off the high hills buffeting Ruffian in every direction. As the spray was picked up in the anchorage the sun shone through it surrounding us in little rainbows making us feel that treasure was always within sight but always out of reach.

The wind wasn’t the only thing moving at breakneck speed. While Iain watched the weather unfold and hoped to see a leprechaun, the sewing machines needle zipped up and down. The fabric we’d bought in Gambia was transformed from something simple and flat into curtains and a bedspread for our master cabin. We always said that living on Ruffian shouldn’t be like camping and you don’t often find curtains of bedspreads in a tent!

Finally, the wind dropped and our incarceration came to an end.  Our day was about to be full of inclines. Those inclines became apparent even before we were decanted off our bus in the middle of nowhere. Up the side of an impossibly steep hill snaked a path moving the gradient from impossible to improbable. Putting foot in front of foot we scaled the first incline, only to be rewarded with a view into the chasm far below us and yet more includes waiting to inflict their toll on our legs.

This ragged and wild landscape had taken its toll on the local population as we carefully picked our way along paths with precipitous drops which snaked their way through abandoned villages, vacant houses and terraced fields that had once been worked were now abandoned.

While we carefully trod making sure that every foothold was sure and that we’d not be plunged to our doom the exuberant local children exhibited none of our caution. These hills were the children’s playground and pantry. They bounded their way up cliffs being towed by donkeys and ran downhill with the confidence of mountain goats, never putting a foot wrong and once they reached their quarry they harvested the fields and did everything in reverse, but now with bundles of provisions on their heads.

Getting back to sea level our little walk had a sting in the tail, one final climb back into civilisation, where we’d leave the isolated valleys and their impoverished villages behind. Snaking our way up all we could do to take our minds off our shaking and painful legs was think about was the next challenge of finding a bus home; on a Sunday, away from main roads and late in the afternoon. Magically as we crested the hill, there just waiting for us was a bus, complete with comfy seats, revving engine, friendly driver and bargain fare.

Waving good bye to St Nicolau we went looking for splendid isolation and anchored in a near deserted bay, on an uninhabited island, where we only had fish for company and stars for lighting. Far into the distance the uninterrupted sandy beach stretched which sat under hills that looked like they’d just been formed and we could have been the first people to have ever been here. Our isolation was only interrupted by the passing of local fishing boats, whose sails were made of rice bags and inhabitants full of smiles.

Leaving isolation behind we were heading for the big town of Mindelo which not only sports institutions of every type and mainstream stores of every flavour, but also a Raymarine dealer. After using up all our autopilot spares over the previous thousands of miles we had a whole new set of gears clutches, belts, and motors waiting for us, these emptied our wallets (it’s Raymarine after all) of cash but filled Ruffian with piece of mind for the next big trip.

In Mindelo we also found our new friends on Matsudona and thoughtfully they wanted to include us in their land based expedition of San Antonio. San Antonio is not somewhere to leave a boat, with no safe anchorages, hills whose air falls off them at random times and no protection from swell.

Stepping onboard the ferry as the sun rose over the horizon the allure of San Antonio only increased as it was shrouded in mist, but ashore, as we hopped into the open back of a pickup, we quickly rose above it and penetrated the interior of this incredible island.

The stifling heat of the shore was quickly replaced by the cool atmosphere of altitude as we snaked our way across arid prehistoric landscapes that could have been formed yesterday, around volcano craters that plunged far below us and through pine forests that caught any moisture that was in the air. Row after row of mountain range extended far into the distance while far below the fertile valleys on the windward side produced an abundance of produce that kept the island well fed.

The sea was also producing its bounty, but to land the bounty the fishermen had to have the courage of lions and hearts of steel. We watched as they weaved their way around rocks surrounded by white water and into the harbours whose surge landed them high and dry if their timing was perfect or broken and battered if there was any misjudgement. Once ashore fish were disgorged from their holds to the welcome gasps of the assembled crowds.

After a day of being wowed by the natural beauty of San Antonio, the friendliness of its people and the ruggedness of its landscape we had to retuned to Mindelo where fingers crossed an inoculation waited for us.

Queueing up outside the local health centre we’d heard that they were distributing the 3rd Covid19 inoculation and knowing about its 100% efficacy rate in gaining access to countries we were keen to get it. After Luciano from Matsudona who, thanks to his Brazilian Portuguese, had made friends with just about every health worker in Mindelo, we were ushered into a treatment room, our sleaves rolled up, jabs were administered and most importantly for us, inoculation certificates issued.

Being incarcerated on Ruffian is usual in boat life, the inclines of Sao Nicolau tested our muscles and our resolve, finding isolation after so much time with others was a joy, being included by Matsudona on their adventure was amazing and getting inoculated has been a huge bonus, but the I’s are to be replaced by P’s. Now we’re getting ready for our first ocean crossing in Ruffian where Pre Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance.

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Author: Iain & Fiona Lewis

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