Tall Ship Sailing in Cape Verde
The Cape Verde (Cabo Verde) are a tropical island group are well south of the Canaries on about the same latitude as St Lucia in the Caribbean. They lie off the West African coast of Senegal and slap bang in the North East trade wind belt. Hot sun, a constant strong breeze (typically force 4-7) and a mix of islands - some of which are 100 miles apart and others only half a day distant, creates a world class cruising ground for those who prefer anchorages and islands to explore without hordes of tourists.
Sensational Blue Water Sailing Conditions
The inhabited islands include Brava, Fogo, Santiago, Maio, Sal, Boa Vista, Sao Nicholau, Sao Antao and Sao Vincente in two distinct groups - windward and leeward islands. The Cape Verde islands are out in the ocean for real blue water cruising and are just about perfect for an island hopping holiday on a ocean tall ship like Oosterschelde. Sal has hosted world kite surfing and Boa Vista is well known as a windsurfing blast spot. Cape Verde is a real mecca all year round for those who like it windy and sunny, with warm seas to swim in.
Wahoo, Flying Fish & breeding Turtles
The seas are rich with fish like wahoo and tuna and the locals still sail in and out the surf in small boats with lug sails. Flying fish skip between the wave crests and you may see whales or dolphins. We saw an osprey on Sao Nicholau and spiders webs span whole streets between telegraph poles ! The islands are one of the most important breeding sites for turtles in the world with active conservation projects to protect them. Among the visitors are loggerhead, hawksbill, leatherback and green turtles.
Unspoilt Alternative to the Caribbean
The tropical climate is similar to the Caribbean but drier. Cape Verde has suffered many droughts so rain is very rare. Average monthly temperatures in January and February are around 23 degrees Centigrade (74 F) and the sea is a balmy 23 degrees C average too. In these months the rainfall average is 2mm for the month, so considerably drier than the Caribbean and almost free of mosquitos, which can often spoil a tropical paradise.
The sea is rich in wahoo, tuna and in every port you see small boats unloading daily and wheel barrow loads of fresh fish or seafood trundling down the jetties. Some islands are quite flat and barren with beaches stretching for miles like Sal and Boa Vista. Others are more typically volcanic with lush soils, moisture giving trade wind clouds over mountain peaks and craters, gorges and terraced slopes full of banana, coffee, sugar cane and all sorts of crops. The locals brew a dangerous rum grog which together with their soulful folk music are a heady combination.
Taste of Africa
Cape Verde has a dark past as Portuguese colony and holding station for the African slave trade. Miles of cobbled mountain roads were built by slaves. There is a rich culture, awareness of their past and hauntingly beautiful music and singing, telling the tales of the islands and fight against slavery. Today many Cape Verdeans work abroad and send money back to this proud but poor independant African Nation. The islands without international airports are as yet unspoilt by tourism, but cruise ship berths are just beginning to be built on islands like Santiago, so don't leave it too long to visit these unique islands.
Trade Winds & Tropical Winter Sun for Christmas and New Year
Classic Sailing directors Adam and Debbie took our Christmas Holiday on Oosterschelde in Cape Verde Christmas 2011 and have been raving about Cape Verde ever since. Read about our favourite walk from crater to sea on Sao Antao, a banquet of 6 courses whilst at sea, music and dancing in Mindelo for New Year, local meals like Catchpa Stew and the hospitality of the locals.
Impressive three masted topsail schooner Oosterschelde is our Cape Verde specialist. Oosterscheldewas in the Antarctic for the winter of 2013 - 2014, but will return to her usual winter home in the Cape Verde islands, this year (Dec 2014). This will be her 5th season island hopping and exploring this stunning archipelago. She originally decided to over winter in Cabo Verde as the husband of a past Captain of Oosterschelde was a Cape Verdean, and the ship had visited the isles on her first circumnavigation of the world in 1996 and thought they were a bit of an unknown treasure.
Sense of History on Real Sailing Ship
Oosterschelde is a 1917 historic tall ship that once carried cargoes around Europe and Africa. Oosterschelde has sailed as far as the Arctic and Antarctica and sailed around the world twice, including a rounding of Cape Horn purely under sail in 2013. The ship is the only remaining example of a large fleet of schooners that sailed under the Dutch flag at the beginning of the last century. Oosterschelde was built in 1917 as a cargo carrying sailing ship and continued to trade under sail in Northern European Waters, the Mediterranean and the North Coast of Africa under until the 1930s when she was converted into a modern coaster. A charitable foundation restored her to sail and she is now registered as a 'historic national monument' by the Dutch Government. Classic Sailing now have four ships that are registered historic ships in their own country, but earn their living at sea as adventure charter vessels.
Although she is still owned by a Dutch Foundation, the professional crew are often a mix of nationalities and the working language on board is English.
Local Cape Verdean Guide & Jeep Safaris
Oosterschelde generally hires a local guide as a deckhand, and to act as a guide ashore. Ario was our guide in 2011 and he arranged some great all day jeep safaris, mountain walks, meals in the homes of locals and much more. Nothing ashore was compulsory and the costs were shared by those who signed up. Typically around £8-£10 for a jeep safari to explore an island with stops for big and small walks, national park visits, camel rides, local meals or swims in the sea and rockpools.
Oosterschelde - Spacious and Stylish Below Decks
She has extremely elegant accommodation for a sail training ship, including a huge saloon with a piano, library and bar. In the tropics she has a ventilation system and all cabins have big skylights you can open for a cooling breeze through the ship. There are 6-7 professional crew and 24 guest berths so there is a great ratio of staff to guest voyage crew to learn about traditional sailing, navigation and ocean wildlife. The ships wheel is beautiful and there is nothing to beat helming at 11-12 knots in brilliant blue seas in shorts and t shirt on a 300 ton schooner. Oosterschelde carries 3 square sails and her masts have very steep ratlines so there is plenty of challenge if you want to work aloft...or climb up for the view.
You do not need any sailing experience to join Oosterschelde for a sailing expedition in Cape Verde as the ships crew will teach you how to set sails or steer the ship. There are good trade winds and plenty of open ocean between islands so there is no much tacking or gybing to do once the ship is going fast, so lap up the sun, read a book, or wander below and see what the chef is cooking.
Typical Itinerary on a 12 day Cape Verde Expedition
Sal to Santiago & perhaps Fogo
The first sail usually starts with100 miles downwind with a day and night passage to Tarafal on Santiago to find your sea legs. Sal has amazing white beaches and turquiose seas and the cross shore winds on the beach at Santa Maria is becoming a mecca for kite surfers. Santiago in the leeward islands is a total contrast with high mountains and cobbled mountain roads. A full day exploring the interior by jeep and mountain walking on foot can be arranged (jeep excursion costs were very cheap and split amongst the guest crew - approx £8-10 a head)
Sao Vincente & Sao Antao
Sailing close hauled and 130 miles to make North westwards to Ilha da Sao Vincente gives plenty of sailing action for those who want to set lots of huge sails. For others the simple pleasure of reading a book in hot sun on deck, with a cooling breeze and the odd dollop of sea spray is enough activity. Steering the ship with Grayhound's big tiller and watching the ship rising and crashing though the ocean swell with 'a bone in her teeth.'
Mindelo is the largest harbour of the Cape Verde, and the town has restaurants, cafes and souvenir shops. Some of the anchorages have strong currents and swell but Mindelo has a good beach for swimming. Live Cape Verdean traditional music at Club Nautico is worth an evening dinghy ride.
Accross a 7 mile strait is Santo Antao. The greenest and maybe the most beautiful island of the archipelago. A perfect island to explore on foot with volcanic craters swirling in trade wind clouds, zig zagging paths between villages and terraced fields, often with spectacular views revealed.
Sao Nicolau & Boa Vista
Sail past the uninhabited island of Santa Luzia, and if swell permits the ship may anchor and run a trip ashore. The waters around the island are rich in fish so it may be worth staying on board with a fishing line. Swimming is not recommended due to the large number of sharks, but watching these menacing beauties is a novel treat for wildlife lovers.
Sao Nicolau is our guide Ario's home island and a jeep safari accross the mountains to the wild windward coastline is spectacular. Swim in the wildest natural infinity pool ever - if you dare - with waves crashing against the vertical cliffs below.
The last island is usually Boa Vista and back to an up and coming watersports destination- with its massive desert dunes, date palms, camels and white, white beaches. A great place to hire a windsurfer if you are into wave sailing or blasts. A short hop brings the ship back to Sal.
Direct Flights from the UK
Thomson fly cheap weekly charter flights (approx 5 hours direct) from London Gatwick, Birmingham or Manchester direct to Sal, but you may need to find holiday accommodation in Santa Maria for a few days either side of your voyage (plenty of cheap B&B or hotels you can book on the internet). Alternatively TAP airline flys scheduled flights to Sal daily. A Cape Verde visa for UK citizens can be bought on arrival but check current regulations.
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