2nd January 2022
Banjul, Gambia – Baia de Murdeira, Sal Cape Verde via Palmeira, Sal, Cape Verde
When we prepare for any offshore passage the advice of ‘Prepare for the worst, while hoping for the best’ rings in our ears. In case the worst happens; hatches are battened down, everything is stowed securely and we have a safety first mindset. In leaving The Gambia we’ve once again prepped for the worst but have been given the best.
Leaving the smiling Gambia behind was tough but it was all smiles of Ruffian as the seas were flat, the breeze was in the right direct and there was a distinct lack of fishermen. Heading offshore however the fishermen started to come thick and fast.
The further offshore we went, the more we encountered. Once again Ruffian was driving an invisible slalom, avoiding nets and keeping on the sight side of the fishermen. Then we thought that disaster had struck.
Far from the sight of land a fishing boat gave chase and their synchronised paddling was no match from Ruffians sails. Soon they were alongside, but now they were up close there was no malice, no drama, they were simply happy to see us. The happiness then went off the scale as we gave them chilled water and sweet biscuits. It was clear that these guys hadn’t prepared for the worst, in fact it seemed they hadn’t prepared for anything, but they had just been given the best.
Finally, free of traffic we could settle into our offshore miles and Ruffian sailed along in silence. No waves rocked her, no water splashed on deck, bowls full of flour for bread making didn’t threaten to spill everywhere and we could stroll around like we were on land. Ruffian looked after herself as the autopilot steered to the sails, Ampie’s new propellor spun filling the batteries and the sun shone for day after day.
As is Ruffian’s habit, one of the key activities of sailing offshore is reading books while facing backwards* and along with Cerulean we created a little offshore book club. We’d been recommended a book that would give us a philosophical deep dive into how the international drug trade could be controlled and so we got ready for some heavy reading. Pages were turned at a furious pace and thankfully the book turned out to be more ‘splatto’ that ‘Plato’. In place of philosophical nuance, we had fighter planes and where we might have had to tackle complex socioeconomic causes, we had SWAT teams and all this was discussed as we sailed on the high seas.
In these perfect conditions Cerulean had speed on us and as they slowly crept over the horizon, they won the race on the ocean. Approaching the moonscape landscape of Sal another race was about to ensue. This was the race to check-in before the new year holidays when everything would shut down.
To enter the Cape Verde islands everyone has to see health, the port police, and immigration and they were all closing down at 1pm. To compound matters we had an ETA of 12.45 but still had to anchor. We hoped to make the deadline but then we came into the harbour at Palmeira and faced a whole new challenge.
The harbour was tiny, full of mooring balls and full of boats. Everyone was so close, just weaving our way through them was a challenge and so finding somewhere to put the anchor was a step above. Time after time we tried, and time after time, we either found ourselves to close to other boats, drifting into the policed channel or dangerously close to sharp pointy rocks. With time ticking away we were sure that the nurses and police would be seeing the new year in while confining us to stay on board Ruffian.
Throwing caution to the wind we took local advice, picked up a sketchy looking mooring ball with an even sketchier amount of space and scope, tied off and headed ashore at light speed to complete the formalities. Light speed in this case was a slow walking pace as Thug and his little outboard were order of the day.
Inside an Army tent in to corner of the port a nurse greeted us with a beaming smile and quickly stuck a stick so far up our noses that it tickled the back of our brains. The policeman then escorted us on his 1980’s mountain bike, complete with bar ends and snazzy garish graphics, through town, to the police station. Pulling out his best pen he completed reams of forms with a smile that only got wider as we wished him a happy new year. We were in and had won our very own little race.
The best offshore sail did however have a darker side. After 3 months, 2000 miles, unforgettable hikes**, countless epic adventures and happy days galore, we were parting ways with Cerulean. Together we’d prepared for the worst, but we’d also hoped for the best and in every way being with Cerulean has been, the best.
* Although we can now face forwards with our revolutionary passage making seat.
** Where, according to Steve, Iain has ‘form’ in describing what he wants to do as ‘amazing, life changing and epic’ and the things he doesn’t want to do as ‘soul destroying, dull, and as painful as driving rusty nails into his eyes’.
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