Posted by: adorsk | October 4, 2008

Cape Verde

Entering Cape Verde

I first saw Cape Verde on 2008-09-03 after 30 days at sea. I stepped outside after dinner and there were the islands.

the first sight of Cape Verde (photo by RF)

The first sight of Cape Verde (photo by RF)

The sight of land usually throws me, even when I know it’s coming. Land means change. People leaving, things to pack, things to throw out. New schedules, new worries. Of course land also means new opportunities, new places to see, new people. But my first feeling is often one of deep sadness. Land seems to say to me “This cruise is done. Time has passed and is gone forever.”

I felt this way very strongly when I first saw the islands. To me they looked like crocodiles. Dark, jagged, malevolent. A cold and relentless wind was blowing through the channel. Night was falling. There were no signs of life.

this picture probably best shows how I feel when I see land (photo by RF)

I see the islands for the first time (photo by RF)

I sat on the flying bridge and watched the islands for an hour, trying to get the idea of land into my head. A few lights twinkled into existence along the coast, then some on top of the ridges. Soon I could see the lights of Porto Grande where the ship would be docking. I began to feel better.

In the morning we met the pilot boat and steamed into port. A good night’s sleep had processed whatever despair I felt the night before. Now I felt excited about entering port. The sun burned off the clouds and revealed the city. Houses and buildings in various states of completion jumbled up the hillsides. Rusting Chinese ships lay at anchor in the harbor. I could see cars moving on the streets.

The Cape Verdean pilot boat w/ our oncoming captain D

The Cape Verdean pilot boat w/ our oncoming captain D

Coming into the harbor

Coming into the harbor

Chinese fishing boats at Cape Verde

Chinese fishing boats at Cape Verde

Approaching the dock

Approaching the dock

We docked without incident and laid out the gangway. The ship had arrived in Porto Grande, Cape Verde.

The Dock

Porto Grande, Cape Verde

Porto Grande, Cape Verde

The dock itself merits description. All along the pier there were images of ships that had come and gone. Vietnamese ships, Turkish ships, the U.S. navy. It’s as if the merchant marine fleets of the world were engaged in giant graffitti tag war. I found the images fascinating and a touch eerie. Who painted them? Where did those people go? The images are like ancient ruins, the remnants of a people who have vanished without a trace.

Pictures at the dock

Pictures at the dock

Pictures at the dock

Pictures at the dock

Pictures at the dock

Pictures at the dock

But enough of the port. Let us go past the crumbling concrete, out of the urine miasma, and away from the grinding machinery. Go past the man crouching on the dock who claims he can get you anything — whiskey, drugs, women, lobster — for a can of paint. Exit the gate and walk to town.

The Town

I went for a walk with J, the steward, after the ship cleared customs. The first thing we saw as we left the port was the ‘impressao artistica’. I have dubbed it the ‘apocalypse gallery’.

The Apocalypse Gallery

The Apocalypse Gallery

It was an assemblage of wall murals that depicted the various ecological challenges facing the islands. There were charming scenes like ‘Inundacion!’ (a flood sweeping away a village) and ‘Inferno!’ (a gasoline fire burning down a forest). Cape Verde has had a rough time of it.

One of the nicer scenes from the Apocalypse Gallery

One of the nicer scenes from the Apocalypse Gallery

It was about a five minute walk to Mindelo, the city proper. Mindelo seemed poor (by U.S. standards), but not miserably so. Some buildings were falling apart but there were also several new buildings on the way up. The cobblestone streets were in good shape. There were only two or three dogs with astounding genitalia. The post office was spotless. In general things seemed to be in order.

A typical street in Mindelo (photo by J)

A typical street in Mindelo (photo by J)

Most of the people I saw were reserved but not unfriendly. J & I stopped to ask for directions a few times. A security guard at a bank helped us find an ATM. A shopkeeper patiently deciphered my pidgin portuguese and helped J find a phone.

We walked all around the town. We went to some of the public squares and to the fish market. We saw tall cactus plants and creeping flowery vines, and bees the size of crab apples. In front of many stores there were sand bags (Inundacion!). Stores were generally well-kept and a had a hodge-podge of goods. One thing that struck me was that there were a fair number of Chinese stores and restaurants.

Fish at the fish market (photo by J)

Fish at the fish market (photo by J)

Later we walked up to the old jail that overlooked the harbor. At first we couldn’t find the path. A friendly Cape Verdean soldier in camo gear on his way home drew us a map to the top. “Ahhh, the small path that we walked by twice. Yes, we see now. Obrigado.” The view from the top was excellent.

View of the city from the old jail (photo by J)

View of the city from the old jail (photo by J)

View of the harbor from the old jail

View of the harbor from the old jail (photo by J)

That night I went out to dinner w/ J, and P, S, and M from the off-going science party. It was an superb dinner (Nella’s, if you’re ever in Mindelo) with great company. Tuna ceviche, portuguese chorizo, crusty bread & olive oil. Soft, easy Cape Verdean music in the background. I remember biting into an apple slice. Delicious. After 30 days at sea, it’s the simple things that are the best.

A Fine Time in Port, then Back Out

There were three more days in port before sailing day. On the second day I mostly walked around town with the off-going science party and got ready for the next cruise. A few sensors to install here, some computer work to do there.

On the third day I went hiking with J. The hike was so incredible that it needs its own post (see my next post).

On the fourth day I walked around a little, but mostly stayed on the ship. I like to spend the last day getting mentally ready for the next cruise.

And then it was time to go. The new science party had arrived and unpacked, the ship was refueled and restocked. I was ready to get back out to sea.

There were some last minute delays as science waited to for customs to clear their equipment, but then ship pulled out around mid-day. The day was clear and soon there was nothing but horizon and the Canary Islands ahead.

Pictures from Cape Verde

Sunrise on the way into Cape Verde

Sunrise on the way into Cape Verde

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Looking for a papaya and a sumo wrestler? Mssrs. Gomes and Rosario can meet your needs.

View of the city from the old jail

View of the city from the old jail

View of the city from the old jail

View of the city from the old jail

J & the mountains

J & the mountains

Names on the wall of the old jail

Names on the wall of the old jail

The black sand of Cape Verde

The black sand of Cape Verde

A cool graphic on the dock

A cool graphic on the dock

The ship at the dock

The ship at the dock

The ship with sunrise on Cape Verde

The ship with sunrise on Cape Verde

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