Ferdinand Magellan and me (55)

Stormy Weather

On the way to the Cape Verde Islands we had steady NE trade winds and clear blue skies. On days like this you don’t want to be anywhere else than in a boat in the middle of the ocean, but the jib halyard had somehow got jammed at the top of the mast. We headed in to Sal, the northernmost of the islands, and anchored in relatively smooth water so I could climb the mast without getting flung overboard. Years before, I had been in Darwin when a cruising yacht arrived in harbour with a man up the mast in a bosun’s chair. He had been dead for several days. His distraught wife was unable to get him down but she managed to get the boat safely to port. I gave Helen careful instructions on how to get me down and how to reach the nearest port, Puerto de Praia, but fortunately the precautions were not needed.

There were only about ten trees visible on this barren rock and the islands looked like industrial slag heaps. I could see no reason to stay at Sal and headed south for the main island, Santiago. The wind blew up and the barometer was dropping so I looked forward to making harbour, but soon we were slammed by a violent wind and heavy rain just on nightfall. I got the yankee down before it hit but the mainsail blew out. The weather was so bad I was beginning to think we had got tangled up with a baby hurricane. According to the sailing directions, the area is a breeding ground for them in August and September. I tried to call the harbour on VHF radio but instead got in touch with a ship called Afro Star, which had just cleared out of there. ‘No shelter in that harbour,’ the skipper warned.

We hove to under storm sails and spent the night at sea in continuous heavy rain, rough sea and violent squalls. Helen had a grim look on her face but she was made of good tough stuff. I was only grateful we were in Wathara and not any one of Magellan’s ships. No ship is unsinkable despite what the captain of the Titanic claimed, but I had no fears for our safety. It was just a very miserable night. Being cold and wet for hours makes hands white and crinkly and feet almost too painful to walk.

The weather moderated a little in the morning and I mentally tossed up whether to head into San Felipe and decided bugger it. We got up a bit more sail and squared away for Brazil along the route followed by Magellan.

    storm at sea


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Sailor from wayback with a Master's degree in Technology Management. Prefer classical music to rap and chicken curry to steak.

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